Construction Engineering Construction Engineering

What is Construction Engineering? | Beginners Guide

Construction projects require a well-coordinated workforce. Builders and experienced tradespeople must lay bricks, build frames, install plumbing and electrical systems, and finish many other tasks. Construction engineering oversees complex projects strategically.

Construction engineers design and implement complex building plans for huge construction projects. They may also manage highways, bridges, dams, and water supply.

Construction engineers impact all areas of the building process and can lead a project to completion on time, on budget, and to specifications. Construction engineers oversee design and construction best practices. They inform stakeholders of project progress and setbacks. Construction engineers ensure building projects are executed safely, efficiently, and cost-effectively.

What is construction engineering?

Construction engineering is a subfield of engineering that entails the design, development, and supervision of a city or region’s buildings, roadways, and power infrastructure. It includes roads, railroads, bridges, tunnels, facilities, airports, harbors, dams, and other utilities. Similar to civil engineering, which also concentrates on infrastructure design and development, construction engineering places a greater emphasis on managing the construction process on project sites. Due to this, construction management is frequently viewed as a combination of construction management and the design aspects of civil engineering.

Learn More What is Civil Engineering?

Construction engineering is essential because it ensures that structures are safe, well-built, and reliable. In addition, it ensures that construction projects are completed on time and according to stringent plans and building codes.


Types of Construction Projects

Important Differences for Owners and Contractors

Typically, construction projects are classified based on their size, the categories of structures being constructed, and their intended use (also known as “end use” or “land use”). Residential, commercial, institutional, mixed-use, industrial, and heavy civil construction projects are the six broad categories of construction projects.

Urban planners frequently classify projects according to their “end use” to ensure that development projects meet the diverse requirements of the communities in which they are constructed. Describing construction project categories by their use can also assist project owners and contractors in comprehending legal requirements, such as compliance with zoning ordinances and building codes, as well as anticipating the engineering requirements and environmental impacts of the project.

Due to the vast differences in scope, scale, cost, engineering requirements, equipment, and building material requirements, developers and contractors frequently specialize in a particular type of construction project (or several categories that are closely related). Some contractors may also structure their organizational chart to include distinct business units, each of which specializes in a particular form of construction.

Construction Project categories


1. Residential projects

Residential construction refers to constructions designed for human occupancy. This category is further subdivided into single-family and multi-family construction. Even so, the term “multi-family” is frequently too broad to accurately characterize a project’s demands and considerations.

Consider the difference between the construction of a duplex and a condominium complex. While both are essentially multi-family units, the scale, cost, building materials, and engineering requirements differ significantly. Construction of a high-density residential project (such as a high-rise apartment building) is more similar to a commercial project than other types of residential projects, according to both owners and contractors.

2. Commercial projects

Commercial construction is a large area that encompasses many different types of corporate facilities. These include office buildings, retail stores, shopping malls, hotels, and other commercial structures.

Commercial projects are significantly more difficult than residential construction. Commercial developers and designers must take into account a wide range of requirements, such as function, safety, the environment, energy efficiency, and accessibility, to name a few.

The price tags on commercial projects typically demand contractors and subcontractors to meet tighter prequalification standards than residential contractors, such as bonding ability to cover the contract amounts.

The substantial increase in financial risk, particularly during the predevelopment phase, widens the difference between residential and commercial construction. Project owners will almost probably require approval from a governing body or council to proceed; otherwise, they will be unable to qualify for the funding required to undertake the project.

Commercial construction projects must adhere to certain building norms and standards addressing public safety (such as fire-resistant materials, fire protection systems, and emergency exits) as well as energy efficiency. Accessibility elements that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are also frequently required in commercial buildings.


3. mixed-use construction

Mixed-use construction projects incorporate many types of construction and land usage into a single complex or location. Mixed-use developments are intended to produce more efficient and integrated communities by bringing together a variety of functions nearby. To create dynamic, convenient urban or suburban areas, they frequently incorporate a mix of residential and commercial units, recreational facilities, green space, and public services.

Mixed-use complexes are popular among developers because they allow them to diversify their portfolio within the same building while reducing financial risk. If demand for office space falls (for example, due to a pandemic), the residential and retail units may assist the owner in mitigating their losses. However, supporting numerous end uses within a single development increases project complexity at practically all phases of the project – and thus operational risk.

While there are almost infinite permutations, four major types of mixed-use construction projects exist vertical mixed-use, horizontal mixed-use, transit-oriented developments, and live-work-play communities.

Vertical mixed-use

A vertical mixed-use project combines many ends uses within a single structure, such as retail spaces on the bottom floor, office spaces on the middle floors, and residential apartments on the upper floors. They are frequent in densely populated locations, particularly in urban infills where space is limited.


Horizontal mixed-use

Horizontal mixed-use developments expand where vertical mixed-use projects build up. As a result, this type of project is more prevalent in suburban areas where space is less expensive and more easily available. Individual buildings within the development are usually assigned specific uses.

Transit-oriented construction

To reduce reliance on private vehicles, transit-oriented developments (TODs) incorporate a variety of facilities (residential units, office space, retail establishments, and public amenities) located within walking distance of public transit hubs (e.g., railway stations or bus terminals). Vertical and horizontal mixed-use developments are frequently combined in these projects.

TODs may be developed to coincide with the opening of a new transit station or to revitalize the utilization of an existing but underutilized hub. Developers are frequently eligible for federal or state incentives designated to encourage investment in transit-oriented developments, which promote higher ridership and improvements in community connectedness and accessibility.


Live-work-play communities

Live-work-play communities are intended to provide a variety of opportunities for residents to live, work, and engage in leisure or recreational activities all within the same community. Live-work-play communities, which are often planned as horizontal projects covering numerous blocks or even acres, are becoming more widespread in suburban areas.

4. Institutional projects

Institutional construction typically refers to public-use initiatives, including educational institutions, hospitals, government buildings, and other public service facilities. This form of the project is essentially a “public” version of a commercial one.

Many institutional initiatives are public (i.e., they are owned by a government agency), but they may also be privately developed, owned, and/or operated. As a result, commercial and institutional construction share overlapping design requirements, building materials, and equipment requirements.


5. Industrial projects

Industrial construction refers to the building of structures for industrial use, such as factories, warehouses, and power facilities. factories, chemical processing facilities, and hydrocarbon refineries are examples.

Frequently, industrial initiatives are subject to stricter government regulation, particularly in terms of environmental impact. Typically, these types of projects require a high level of specialized engineering, as well as material specifications that are uncommon in other construction projects.

Read a Guide How to Become an Industrial Engineer: Ultimate Guide to Career

6. Heavy civil construction projects

Large-scale engineering undertakings typically associated with infrastructure or public works are referred to as heavy civil construction. Transportation systems (e.g., highways, bridges, tunnels, railways, airports), utilities (e.g., water and sewage systems, communication and power distribution networks), and other large-scale public works initiatives are included.

Typically, civil and infrastructure projects are highly engineered and feature intricate designs. Consequently, the predevelopment and preconstruction phases can be extraordinarily lengthy. It is not unusual for the preconstruction phase of a civil project to last several years.

The contractor pool available to agencies working on civil or infrastructure projects is typically much smaller than for other categories of projects. This is due in significant part to the high entry barriers: Heavy civil construction projects frequently necessitate the use of specialized heavy equipment and a track record of delivering unique project specifications.

Before submitting bids for larger government contracts, many contractors begin by subcontracting on smaller civil projects to develop their resumes and network. Others may form a partnership with an existing government contractor to gain the requisite civil construction experience for open bidding.

Also, Read How to Become a Quantity Surveyor: The Ultimate Guide


Regulatory and safety considerations affecting project types

Categorizing a construction project according to its final use can provide owners, engineers, and contractors with valuable information about the project’s scope, material, and equipment requirements, and contractor qualifications necessary to complete it. However, state and local governments classify projects in a variety of ways, frequently based on building codes and other safety requirements, which can impact the project’s specifications, cost, and schedule.

Building occupancy

Local governments classify buildings by occupancy, which pertains to both their function and the number of occupants permitted. The type of occupancy is significant for project proprietors, architects, engineers, and contractors because it can impact both zoning and building codes. Each state establishes its building codes, and cities and towns may implement more stringent requirements. Numerous states base their local requirements on the International Building Code (IBC), which classifies buildings into 10 main categories based on occupancy.

Because the occupancy classification can determine the required design specifications for a construction project, all project stakeholders must understand and strictly adhere to these requirements.

Noncompliance at any stage of a project, from predevelopment to project completion, can result in unnecessary schedule delays and cost overruns.


Fire resistance

Buildings and the materials used in their construction are frequently classified by their fire resistance rating. This is a safety measure used to determine the structure’s fire resistance.

These standards can be found in the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Building Construction and Safety Code. Based on the materials used, fire resistance ratings can be assigned to specific materials or building elements, as well as to buildings as a whole.

Fire resistance

Fire resistance ratings apply to structural building materials such as exterior and interior bearing walls, columns, beams, girders, trusses, and arches, as well as floor, ceiling, and roof assemblies.

According to the fire resistance rating, there are five primary categories of buildings:

  • Type I: Fire-resistant. All building materials are non-combustible and provide three to four hours of fire resistance. High-rise structures, commercial ventures, and hospitals are examples of this sort of development.
  • Type II: Non-Combustible. All building materials are non-combustible and have a fire-resistance rating of 1-2 hours. This style of building is found in mid-rise business buildings, hotels, and schools.
  • Type III: Ordinary. Ordinary construction provides 0-2 hours of fire resistance. The exterior walls are made of noncombustible materials such as brick, however, the inside structural parts may be flammable. This is commonly found in warehouses and even private residences.
  • Type IV: Heavy wood. Heavy timber construction necessitates non-combustible outside walls that provide 2 hours of fire resistance, with the interior built of solid or laminated wood with no concealed spaces. This is frequently used in churches, modest commercial structures, and warehouses.
  • Type V: Wooden frame. Wood-framed buildings have wood walls, floors, and roofs, which offer little to no fire resistance. This style of building is widespread in American homes.

To meet the building rules applicable to the location and occupancy type, material fire resistance requirements are often established during the design phase of a project. Typically, the architect or engineer will specify any fire-resistant materials in the bid package specs.

During preconstruction, contractors must strictly adhere to these criteria. Material costs and availability can be significantly influenced by fire resistance requirements. If a contractor uses banned materials for cost savings or ease of use, they may violate the contract, be obliged to remedy their work, and possibly be liable for damages beyond corrective action.

What do construction engineers do?

Construction engineers work on practically every aspect of a construction project, from concept to completion. They oversee building projects and maintenance and are frequently on-site to supervise workers and activities. Construction engineers may work on the following projects and infrastructure:

  • Highways and roads
  • Bridges 
  • Tunnels
  • Railways
  • Housing Project
  • Energy sources, such as dams, include airports.
  • Wastewater treatment plants, for example.
  • Utilities
  • Sewerage and drainage systems
  • Hospitals and sports stadiums are examples of public structures.

Jobs Availability

Because of the wide range of projects that require the knowledge of construction engineers, these experts frequently specialize in a certain type of construction, such as electrical systems, mechanical systems, motorways, heavy construction, commercial housing, or business. While job tasks vary depending on project type, a construction engineer’s usual responsibilities include:

  • Creating a budget for each project by calculating the cost of inspections, testing, materials, equipment, and labor.
  • Managing funds effectively to stay within budget
  • Creating project designs and 3D models with computer tools and simulations.
  • Conducting risk analysis
  • Prospective construction sites are surveyed and layouts are planned.
  • preparing contractor bids and managing the contracting businesses they hire selecting and obtaining products and equipment
  • Recruiting, supervising, and scheduling employees
  • Making certain that projects adhere to environmental laws, government regulations, and building codes
  • Designing and supervising the construction of on-site temporary structures
  • Using technical and business expertise to tackle any building difficulties that may arise
  • Keeping up with the latest technologies, building codes, and construction methods

What skills should a building engineer have?

Construction engineers possess specific talents that enable them to efficiently construct and manage projects. They are often skilled at problem-solving in novel ways and have high analytical abilities. They use their maths and business skills to generate and manage budgets and costs. They must also be computer literate and understand how to use construction-specific design and modeling tools.

Construction engineers must be skilled managers and delegators because they are the leaders of a construction team. They should also have great time management skills to guarantee that projects are completed on schedule. They pay close attention to detail because worker and public safety are frequently at stake.

Construction engineers assemble and work with large teams of people. As a result, they must be excellent communicators with great interpersonal skills, Construction Intelligence, Contractors, subcontractors, construction businesses, government organizations, lawyers, business owners, and environmental associations are all common collaborators.


On-Site Management

It is critical to distinguish between the tasks of construction engineers and civil engineers. One of the primary distinctions is that civil engineers often concentrate on the design, analysis, and planning of construction projects. A construction engineer may be involved in this process, but their responsibilities are limited to on-site project management (i.e. execution). Construction engineers coordinate, organize, and supervise the day-to-day construction process while assuring design and plan compliance.

The following are some general areas of responsibility for a construction engineer.

  • Budgeting for the construction process
  • Putting together the appropriate equipment and resources
  • assembling and directing a construction and engineering team
  • Overseeing the progress and safety of the construction process and reporting to stakeholders
  • Using machines or other sophisticated tools
  • Using software to confirm or change design specifications

Finally, the construction engineer is in charge of the majority of what happens on-site, and so plays an important, hands-on role in the successful completion of large construction projects.

Read: The Importance of Geotechnical Engineering in Construction Projects

Improving the outcomes of any type of project

The type of construction project completed will have an impact on nearly every part of the development, including permitting and approvals, design specifications, contractor prequalification and selection, building material requirements, equipment, and so on.

As the complexity of a construction project increases, so does the number of stakeholders (architects, engineers, project managers, contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, and regulatory bodies). These projects require several interconnected tasks, strict deadlines, and large expenditures, which can be difficult to manage without efficient tools.

Project management software delivers a single source of truth for planning, execution, and monitoring, providing owners and contractors with real-time visibility into the data they need to better efficiently manage their resources. Advanced technologies can also interface with specialized platforms for tasks like building information modeling (BIM), cost calculation, and risk assessment, resulting in a holistic solution for managing a construction project’s whole lifespan.

Construction teams may ensure that complicated projects of any size are completed on time, under budget, and with the least amount of risks and disruptions by utilizing project management software.


Latest Trends in the construction industry

There are several latest trends in Construction Engineering, including the use of technology and sustainability.

  • Technology: Technology is playing an increasingly important role in Construction Engineering. Construction Engineers are using technology to improve the efficiency and safety of the construction process. For example, they are using drones to survey construction sites and robots to perform dangerous or repetitive tasks.
  • Sustainability: Sustainability is also a growing trend in Construction Engineering. Construction Engineers are designing and building structures that are environmentally friendly. They are using sustainable materials, such as recycled materials and renewable energy sources.

Careers in Construction Engineering

Construction engineers can pursue a variety of professional paths, including some within the area of construction engineering technology. This profession concentrates on the technical and inspection-based parts of construction site supervision, and they frequently use cutting-edge technologies to assure precision in their job.

Construction manager, cost estimator, and field engineer are three of the most typical job routes for persons interested in construction engineering technology.


Construction Manager

Construction managers are responsible for handling the administrative parts of a building project from start to finish. Common responsibilities include, for example, scheduling, budgeting, monitoring spending and construction progress, and ensuring subcontractors are performing properly.

The following are some critical talents for construction managers.

  • Team management
  • Delegation
  • Planning and organization
  • Management of the financial resources
  • Knowledge of cutting-edge construction techniques, tools, and technology

As of September 2020, the yearly median compensation for construction managers was roughly $77,000, according to PayScale data. Pay levels vary depending on criteria such as experience and completion of an advanced degree in a related field.

Cost Estimator

Finishing a large building project is costly, and it is critical for investors and stakeholders that the project be completed as cheaply as feasible. This entails rigorous budget formulation and advanced financial forecasting.
Cost estimators are critical in this situation. Their primary purpose is to examine all aspects of a construction project and provide a complete analysis of the estimated costs for labor, materials, equipment, permitting, and other factors.

Cost estimators must have several critical talents.

  • Mathematical proficiency
  • Organization
  • Data gathering and analysis
  • Critical thinking
  • Time Management
  • Ability to communicate clearly

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the typical annual pay for a cost estimator in 2019 was $65,250. Specific wage ranges can be influenced by experience and education level.


Field Engineer

The function of a field engineer is to oversee and protect the equipment utilized on a construction project. They are accountable for the equipment’s integrity and safety and hence play an important role in keeping workers safe and efficient. Regular equipment testing is another responsibility of field engineers.

This position should possess a defined set of skills.

  • Problem-solving
  • Ability to communicate clearly
  • Critical and analytical thinking
  • Outstanding technical ability

According to PayScale, the median annual compensation for this role in September 2020 was roughly $64,000. Salary ranges can be heavily influenced by experience and education.

How to become a construction engineer?

To be successful in this sector, construction engineers must have a certain level of education and experience. Construction engineers can find work in a variety of industries after completing the necessary education, training, and licensing, including oil and gas, aviation, consulting and design, mechanical, electrical, renewable energy, general contracting, government, and others. Some may even go on to start their own construction companies.

Also, Read How to Become a Civil Engineer: A Step-by-Step Guide

If you want to work in one of those industries, you can take the following stages to become a construction engineer:


1. Improve your knowledge of applied science.

Strong maths and science skills are required to become a successful building engineer. You may have had these from a young age, but you might also develop them as you work towards your career objectives. Take appropriate high school and college classes that will help you develop your talents. You can also conduct research in your spare time and participate in extracurricular scientific and math activities such as joining honors organizations or clubs.

2. Obtain your bachelor’s degree

Construction engineers must hold a bachelor’s degree in construction or civil engineering from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)-an accredited college program. You will study math, engineering science, engineering mechanics, design, construction costs and procedures, and management over the course of four years.


3. Look for an entry-level job

Construction engineers with a bachelor’s degree can work as assistant project engineers and project engineers in a range of businesses. Their first responsibilities may include budgeting, report preparation, and material order processing.

4. Get a master’s degree

While a master’s degree in civil engineering, engineering management, or business administration is not required, some construction engineers will pursue one. This advanced degree can take up to two years to complete. It can help engineers who want to work in research, education, or leadership. It may also open up more work chances for them.


5. Obtain a license

Many firms prefer to hire construction engineers that are licensed as professional engineers (PE). To be licensed, you must first have an ABET-accredited bachelor’s degree and four years of work experience, followed by passing the PE exam. Construction engineers must be licensed in some states and for certain sorts of public projects.

In conclusion, construction engineering is a challenging and intricate discipline that necessitates a broad range of skills and knowledge. To design, build, and maintain infrastructure that is safe and efficient, construction engineers must be able to comprehend and implement engineering, economics, and management principles. In addition, they must be able to collaborate effectively with a wide range of stakeholders, including clients, contractors, and regulatory agencies.

Rising costs, labor shortages, and environmental regulations are a few of the challenges confronting the construction industry. However, construction engineers play a vital role in addressing these challenges and ensuring that our infrastructure continues to meet society’s requirements.

Here are a few of the most important insights from the article on construction engineering:

  • Construction engineering is a broad discipline that includes infrastructure design, construction, and maintenance.
  • Construction engineers must have an in-depth comprehension of engineering principles, economics, and management.
  • Engineers in the construction industry must be able to collaborate with a variety of stakeholders.
  • The construction industry faces several obstacles, but construction engineers play an essential role in overcoming them.

There are several things you can do to prepare for a career in construction engineering if you’re intrigued. You must first acquire a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or a related field. Through apprenticeships or part-time work, you should also gain experience in the construction industry. Once you have obtained the required education and experience, you can commence a career as a construction engineer.

Construction engineering is a rewarding profession that provides the opportunity to make a significant contribution to society. If you are looking for a career that is both challenging and exciting, construction engineering may be the perfect option for you.


How much field work vs desk work does a construction engineer do?

It depends! A construction engineer may spend anywhere from 100 percent of their time at a workstation performing pre-construction and bidding-related tasks to nearly 100 percent of their time on an active construction site. Many will have responsibilities that require them to spend some time in the office in addition to construction duties.

How has COVID affected the industries that CEM firms?

The construction industry has been resilient due to COVID. In the majority of regions, the construction industry was considered essential, so projects were not halted. In some instances, initiatives were expedited to take advantage of the reduced traffic volume.

If you have a major in CEM would you typically be more in the management position?

The majority of CEM alumni will pursue careers that lead to management positions. However, there are both in-field and out-of-field management positions, allowing career paths to be tailored to each individual.

Where do CEM engineers work outside of construction?

The majority of construction engineers concentrate on constructing infrastructure for general contractors or property owners. Working for an owner offers a wider range of employment opportunities, including Oil and Gas (ExxonMobil), Aerospace (Boeing), and Restaurants (McDonald’s), among others. Some CEM graduates have even branched out to become solicitors and enter other financial fields. Ultimately, a CEM degree will enable students to pursue a wide variety of careers based on their individual interests.

How many CEM graduates usually continue to graduate school?

5-15% of CEM graduates continue on to graduate education on average. Later on, however, a greater number of alumni return for graduate degrees such as MBAs.

Are there any Purdue CEM Alumni that have impacted the Construction industry greatly?

Through his participation in educational endeavors and training, Mike Kenig has been a significant contributor to the growth of the construction industry. Please visit this link for further information:

Anne Wilson has been an influential leader in Chicago and the construction industry for women. Since taking over the family business after her father’s untimely demise many years ago, she has an incredible story. Please refer to this link for further information:

What does the construction industry’s future look like?

The outlook for the construction industry is extremely optimistic. Across the nation, residential building construction and infrastructure improvement have increased. There are numerous options for finding a career path that matches your interests.

Which types of materials do you typically work with as a Construction Engineer?

Construction engineers utilize a wide variety of building materials. Depending on the undertaking or industry, they could range from asphalt, steel, and wood to tile for interior finishes.

What kind of interactions do you make day to day?

Depending on your employment responsibilities, you will engage in a variety of interactions. These may include communication with subcontractors, team meetings to address an ongoing issue, reporting to an owner’s representative, contacting design engineers to clarify a rendering, and many others.

How frequently do CEM engineers collaborate with civil and architectural engineers?

Construction engineers frequently collaborate with civil and architectural engineers to interpret engineering drawings while working on a construction project.  If they decide to pursue the design side of construction, construction engineers can also fulfill the traditional duties of a civil engineers on a project.

What proportion of students engages in construction as opposed to management?

It is difficult to estimate the proportion of students who labor in the field as opposed to management in the office. The majority of career paths will incorporate both!

What kind of companies looks for CEM graduates?

Numerous companies seek CEM graduates due to the unique nature of the degree, which integrates an ABET-accredited engineering degree with a management component. Our alumni have gone on to work for the companies listed below, which represent a wide variety of industries and career opportunities across the country.

How would you describe the typical work experience of a construction engineer?

There is no typical employment history for a construction engineer. Construction engineers can be involved in all phases of a project’s life cycle, from the initial conceptualization to the final handover. They can work for specialty subcontractors that concentrate on one aspect of the project (e.g., electrical or plumbing), for general contractors that coordinate the construction across multiple subcontractors, or for the owner who is funding the project and has a significant stake in the final outcome. Construction engineers operate in a multitude of industries, including roads and bridges, hospitals, nuclear power plants, wind farms, refineries, offshore platforms, schools, residential homes, commercial properties, college campuses, and sports stadiums.

Do most construction engineers live in big cities?

Construction engineers reside throughout the nation. While there are numerous initiatives in major metropolitan areas, there are also opportunities in smaller cities and even remote locations. In order to discover a company that matches their life goals, it is crucial for students to consider whether they wish to work nationally or regionally. Construction will occur wherever there are humans!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *