Understanding the Different Players in the Industry – Civil Engineers

The construction industry is made up of a series of relationships with architects; designers; engineers; contractors; sub-contractors all working together to meet the needs of the client. This blog is the second in the series looking at the different players in the industry. The aim of this series is to provide a clearer view of the complex construction industry and how the different members of the project team work together. In this blog we review the role of the Engineer, focusing on the Civil Engineer.


The Civil Engineer – a brief history

Civil engineering may have commenced between 4000 and 2000 BC in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia (Ancient Iraq) when humans abandoned nomadic life and started to construct dwellings.

  • Prior to the 18th Century most engineers were military men
  • 1729 “La Science des Ingénieurs” published. Written by French engineer Belidor it was the first published study of the science of structure
  • 1760’s Canal building requires new engineering skills
  • 1771 Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers formed by John Smeaton the first self-proclaimed civil engineer
  • 1790’s Cast iron begins to be used
  • 1794 Portland cement patented
  • 1830’s The railway age commences requiring a broad range of engineering skills
  • 1818 Institute of Civil Engineers founded
  • 1820 Thomas Telford becomes president of the Institute of Civil Engineers
  • 1828 Royal Charter granted to the Institute of Civil Engineers
  • 1860’s Major sewer building programme commences
  • 1901 Engineering Standards Committee formed with BS1 for tramways the first standard
  • 1982 The Thames Flood Barrier becomes operational
  • 1986 Eurotunnel formed. The tunnel opens in 1994
  • 2001 Cross London Rail Links Ltd formed
  • 2002 Falkirk Wheel completed the world’s first and only rotating boat lift
  • 2004 The Milau Viaduct, with the highest bridge piers in the world, opened to traffic


The role of the Civil Engineer

Civil engineering is the oldest engineering discipline, it was originally defined to distinguish non-military engineering from military engineering. Nowadays the role is central to ensuring the safe and timely completion of many projects in areas such as; highway construction, waste management, energy generation, coastal development and geotechnical engineering.

Civil engineers work closely with surveyors and specialized civil engineers to deliver infrastructure, including projects like roads, bridges, canals, dams, and buildings. They consider the design and implementation of grading, drainage, paving, water supply, sewer service, electric and communications supply and land division.

Civil engineers spend much of their time visiting project sites, developing community consensus, and preparing construction plans. They work on residential, commercial, industrial and public works projects of all sizes and levels of construction.

The Institute of Civil Engineers currently has more than 80,000 members worldwide.


Communicating with Civil Engineers

Civil Engineers often spend time on site, bearing this in mind it‘s important to deliver information in a format that suits. Like architects, what engineers want is good quality technical advice. It is also important to remember that specifiers in general are short on time and will not respond well to ‘spin’. What specifiers want is technical information and advice, they will be happy to deal with a manufacturer or supplier who can provide good quality, comprehensive information on demand.

Our research, Construction Media Index 2013 indicates that readership of trade journals by Civil Engineers remains strong. eNews readership is on the increase and social networks are being accepted as a work tool, often to keep up to date with industry news or find out about events. Video and webinar are popular and the brochure, in both digital and hardcopy format, is still in demand. When looking to manufacturers for technical support most Civil Engineers see sample specifications as important and although NBS is intended primarily for architects, it is regularly used by a quarter of Civil Engineers. BIM objects are also important being required by most Civil Engineers regardless of the size of practice.



The Civil Engineer is an important influencer for most types of project. Like all of us in the construction industry they suffer time constraints and readership behavior is changing. Although online information is an important resource this is probably being used selectively to maximize productivity, so  choose your channels of communication carefully and present the appropriate product information in an easy to access format.


Further reading