Construction & Civil Engineering Projects: A Guide

heavy civil construction infrastructure

Humans have been using their intelligence for centuries to solve everyday problems and make life easier. Civil engineering involves the conception, design, and construction of things that solve life’s issues and transform the world as we know it.  

Civil engineering entails designing and constructing structures such as dams, bridges, airports, sewerage, and commercial projects in the physical environment. This article will discuss the different kinds of projects in civil engineering.  

What we cover:

What is civil engineering?

Civil engineering is an engineering discipline that deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of the built environment. The structures involved include roads, canals, bridges, sewerage systems, buildings, and airports.  

Civil engineering is considered the oldest engineering discipline. Consider the fact that the first person ever to lay a tree trunk across a river to act as a bridge applied civil engineering to that idea. Civil engineering is dated as early as when someone built a roof over their head.  

Modern civilization is built around the built environment. Buildings and constructions are thus the first things that come to mind when the average person thinks about civil engineering. However, civil engineering is not limited to magnificent buildings like the Central Park Tower and the Shanghai Tower or Japan’s Akashi Kaikyo bridge.  

Civil engineers are familiar with the construction industry because they design and construct buildings. However, they also operate in other sectors such as the power, automotive, aerospace, shipbuilding, and transportation industries, to name a few. Civil engineers also play the role of construction managers, planning and overseeing construction in various facilities. 

Different types of civil engineering

Civil engineering involves more than constructing roads and bridges. It encompasses the construction of subway systems, roads, airports, and railways. Civil engineering makes it possible to get water from a faucet and pour it down the drain without flooding your house. There are several types of civil engineering. These are:

types of civil engineering

Water engineering

Water engineering is the sub-discipline of civil engineering that deals with water-based projects. Water engineering covers water treatment, wastewater management, and water infrastructure development. Water engineering is significant because water sustains all life, and protecting natural water resources is key to earth’s sustainability: humans and nature cannot survive without water.  

Water engineering is critical in today’s world because it provides the expertise and innovation needed to mitigate the challenges presented by climate change and an aging population. There are a lot of exciting water engineering projects that have made and will continue to make a real impact on the survival of the planet.  

Construction and management engineering

Construction and management engineering is a fusion of engineering and construction management. It is, therefore, the sub-discipline of civil engineering that provides oversight on actual construction. It deals with applying technical and scientific knowledge to infrastructure construction projects.  

Construction and management engineering aims to apply critical thinking in the technical field to enhance a construction project. Construction and management engineers are strategic leaders who design and execute innovative solutions to solve challenges and boost efficiency. They not only increase productivity but also help avert risks during construction.  

Geotechnical engineering

Geotechnical engineering is the sub-discipline of civil engineering that deals with the soil’s strength and deformation properties. Geotechnical engineers study sand, clay, rocks, silt, and snow. This field involves collecting samples from and analyzing the physical properties of the ground to be used in building and construction.  

Geotechnical engineering is helpful in the transport industry as geotechnics is a critical consideration when planning the construction of roads and tunnels. Similarly, geotechnics is applied when planning the construction of buildings and other structures (such as bridges) both on land and water.  

geotechnical engineering

Transport engineering

Transportation engineering deals with the planning, design, operation, and maintenance of transport systems. Transport systems include railways, oil pipelines, automated transport systems, roads, and traffic control systems. Transportation engineering builds and maintains any system that allows the movement of people or goods from one place to another. 

Infrastructure engineering  

Infrastructure engineering deals with IT infrastructure to ensure IT systems’ robustness, efficiency, and sustainability. IT infrastructure relies on the underlying physical environment. Infrastructure engineers are responsible for ensuring that the physical environment supports the resources, processes, and operators required to develop, operate, integrate, and sustain IT applications and services. 

How could a civil construction boom improve infrastructure?

Many of the country’s bridges, roads, tunnels and other infrastructure projects are full of unforeseen hurdles and challenges, creating significant cost and schedule overruns. But these overruns impact more than the construction companies building.

Delays in fixing and building infrastructure not only costs the companies doing the work, but it also burdens the taxpayers who need and use these features every day. Poorly maintained roads and dangerous bridges or overpasses can directly damage both vehicles and public transportation. The Committee for Economic Development estimates that US motorists spend $112 billion per year on car and vehicle repairs due to poor road conditions. Potholes alone were estimated to cost drivers over $26 billion annually

Companies that can deliver new roadway, tunnel, bridges and other infrastructure projects within strict budget and time frame constraints not only stand to see higher returns on profits–they also enrich the communities in which they’re working. In turn, these communities attract more businesses, which will drive the need for more civil construction in the future. A win-win for all involved.

4 ways construction companies can succeed on civil construction projects

Knowing where to look for new opportunities and how to stay on top of complex civil projects is essential for capturing a piece of the pie.

1. Build public-private partnerships

External contractors and subcontractors have always played some role in civil construction projects, but now public-private partnerships (P3) are getting them even more involved. A P3 arrangement allows a state or federal body to authorize a civil project that is managed and even financed by private companies rather than public services.

As of now, 38 US states allow for this kind of arrangement, and many others are actively considering changing their laws regarding private-public arrangements. Successful P3 projects include the George Deukmejian Courthouse in California and an I-595 lane expansion in Florida.

2. Develop projects with low tax investment

While many U.S. residents know they need their roads repaired, they don’t necessarily want to pay higher taxes to cover the costs. This leads to one of the most compelling benefits of the P3 structure, which is the opportunity for infrastructure improvements with little to no cost to local taxpayers.

The I-270 expressway project in Maryland is an excellent example of this in practice. Despite the widening of four new toll lanes that will cost a projected $9 billion, the taxpayers of Maryland will pay precisely $0. Private investors are financing the work in exchange for repayment through a percentage of collected tolls. The rest of the tolls will go to the state, generating a steady source of new income.

3. Explore and embrace new digital technologies

Since heavy civil projects are so much more complicated than other forms of construction, you need to embrace the latest digital technologies to keep everyone on the same page. An entire team of different professionals and subcontractors is needed on a civil job, and keeping them all in touch with a range of stakeholders can seem impossible.

Collaboration software that is tailored to the needs of the construction industry prevents information gaps and communication breakdown. Software that relies on the cloud to remotely store all the relevant documents, plans, meeting notes, and other pertinent information allows everyone to access what they need at any time. This speeds up construction, prevents delays, keeps everyone under budget and helps you catch mistakes before they’re expensive to fix.


4. Improve internal processes

Don’t stop at collaboration and communication software when optimizing your construction company’s approach to civil construction projects. There are plenty of ways to simplify the design and site prep process without investing in expensive new equipment. For example, geotagging is a tool that has been available for years to indicate exactly where photos were taken. When you’re working on laying out a road, bridge or other structure without any unique visual markers, it can be challenging to determine where a progress photo or video was captured. GPS-linked and geotagged photos and documents specify the exact placement of structures and access points for fewer costly mistakes during construction.


Civil engineering is responsible for most of the structures we see daily. The most popular subdivision of civil engineering is structural engineering because this is the subdivision that designs and constructs buildings and bridges.  

The other main types of civil engineering are water engineering, transport engineering, construction, and management engineering, geotechnical engineering, and infrastructure engineering. Civil engineering is a part of our daily lives, from the water faucet in the kitchen and the roads we use to get to work to the majestic Central Park Tower.


Grace Ellis

As Manager of Content Marketing Strategy at Autodesk and Editor in Chief of the Digital Builder Blog, Grace has nearly 15 years of experience creating world-class content for technology firms. She has been working within the construction technology space for the last 6+ years and is passionate about empowering industry professionals with cutting-edge tools and leading strategies that improve the quality of their jobs and lives.