The Civil Engineer and their influence on construction procurement

The Civil Engineer and their influence on construction procurement

Guest post provided by Chris Ashworth
There are a variety of engineering roles; Civil, Structural, Mechanical, Electrical. The Civil Engineer is probably the longest established of these, with the Institution of Civil Engineers founded in 1818.

Civil engineering is broken down into many sub-disciplines: architectural engineering, environmental, geotechnical engineering, geophysics, geodesy, control engineering, water resources engineering, structural engineering, earthquake engineering, transportation engineering, earth science, forensic engineering, urban engineering, materials engineering, offshore engineering, coastal engineering, atmospheric sciences, construction engineering and surveying. Working in these many disciplines, there are a wide variety of products that the civil engineer can influence the selection of, both directly and indirectly.

The role of the Civil Engineer

The qualified civil engineer can follow two broad employment routes. As a consulting engineer they will be responsible for project design. Or as a contracting engineer they will oversee project implementation.

An architectural engineer in a consulting role will be responsible for designing the building structure which supports many of the elements included in a building. A key aspect of this is the building load. So, although not directly responsible for non-structural components, it is important that the civil engineer is aware of these.

The civil engineer will start to be involved at Stage 2 (Concept Design) of the RIBA Plan of Work and continue that involvement through to Stage 5 (Construction).

As offsite manufacture is increasingly adopted in construction it will be the civil engineer who will be responsible for integrating the modules into the building’s design. This may be the relatively limited process of designing the foundations to take units. Or as new technology is adopted in future, defining where processes such as concrete printing will be applied.

For infrastructure projects, the civil engineer is the principal design role. Leading consultancies in this sector include Mott MacDonald, Aecom, Arup, WSP and Arcadis. There is a lot of cross-over between engineering disciplines and increasingly between design and construction. For example, Aecom are now offering Design, Build, Finance and Operate services.

Within the contractor organisation, a contracting engineer will be responsible for staff onsite. They are required to keep an open dialogue with architects, consultants and subcontractors so that should any issues arise, they can work with the rest of the project team to resolve them. This also means that they may have the role of ‘specification switcher’. This might be as a result of value engineering an alternative cost-effective solution to a construction challenge, or as a means of speeding up construction.

Unlike architects, engineers often prefer to work with performance specifications, generally feeling that they can specify the key criteria they require while giving the sub-contractor the flexibility to select brands. But they will use a brand or nominated specification if they consider it justified. Very often they will sign-off the sub-contractor’s installation, carrying the responsibility for any failure and thus making them vigilant about product selections.

Remember that typically the civil engineer’s personality style makes them a deliberate, constrained, logical listener who weigh alternatives. Which means they need to be provided with plenty of facts including test reports.

Make it easy to specify by providing both performance and nominated specifications along with BIM content available for download from your website. And support this with key technical data including test reports.

Competitive Advantage have developed a Understanding the Civil Engineer persona which is available for you to purchase and download.

Further Information
Promoting your company and building products with Barbour Product Search can help to increase your visibility to the full specification audience. Email for more information.

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Chris is a specialist in specification strategy and founder of Competitive Advantage Consultancy which specialises in market research and training for the construction industry. He is a member of the BIM4M2 steering group and Deputy Chair of the organising committee for CIMCIG, the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Construction Industry Group.

A strategy for communicating with specifiers [EVENT]
To learn more on how to develop effective construction personas then book a place on the upcoming seminar A Strategy for Communicating with Specifiers. The seminar is being held on the 22nd November at Cheshire Oaks. The seminar commences with an overview of the construction market and the drivers influencing industry specifiers. Going on to look in detail at the stages of the specification process, the decision makers involved and how to make effective use of the communication channels available. The seminar concludes by suggesting methodologies for implementing engagement strategies. Book your place online.

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