Civil Engineer as a Project Manager: Cementing Organisational Bricks

09 Jun 2023

The design, construction, and maintenance of projects, like roads, bridges, canals, dams, airports, sewage systems, water supply pipelines, structural design of buildings and railways, etc., in physical and naturally built environments fall in the domain of the professional engineering discipline, known as civil engineering. It is the branch that enables you to give your aspirations wings.

The journey of four years as you start studying civil engineering subjects culminates when you are ready to launch yourself. In due course, you learn techniques, understand various software, undergo training, visit sites, and a lot more while sailing through to join the nation-building team. A student not only builds a solid foundation in maths, physics, and chemistry but also equips himself with discipline-specific knowledge during the 4-year B.Tech Civil Engineering program.

The population across the globe has been continuously increasing which has led to a rise in the need to provide basic life support systems, i.e. dwelling spaces, water, roads, etc. Humanity has been using natural resources for their varied uses across the globe. Rapid, revolutionary, and disruptive technological developments over the last two decades have changed society and economies worldwide. These quantum leaps may have created many opportunities, but they have also brought unanticipated consequences. Civil engineering experts must adapt and innovate to handle the increased burden of raising standards and promoting sustainability in the modern world. The race against time calls for delivering projects in a shorter period; sustainability is the buzzword in the backdrop. Thought leaders say that the nations can ensure an environment that's cleaner, housing that's affordable, and an economy that provides more jobs if they invest in building communities that are sustainable.

Creating infrastructure that leaves a lasting impression on the world requires meticulous planning, technical expertise, collaborative working, and an interdisciplinary, multi-disciplinary approach to creating the marvels. For example, the Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt (2490 BC); the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Iraq (600 B.C), The lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt (280 B.C); the Statue of Liberty, USA (1886); Eiffel Tower, France (1889), Panama Canal, (1914), Millau Viaduct, France (2004), The Bailong Elevator, China (2002), The Large Hadron Collider, Switzerland (2008) and many others, speak volumes about the challenges that the civil engineers as planners and designers have handled in making these marvels stand where they are today. They are an outcome of brainstorming sessions lasting from minutes to hours between the planning, designing, engineering, and construction teams to address the minor issues arising from time to time.

Civil engineers have to make judgments with uncertain consequences for even the simplest of projects. The assessments need to revolve around the ethical realms, including but not limited to:

  • Maintaining public safety
  • Ringing the bell timely as and when required
  • Delivering only the highest caliber work at all times
  • Extending services only in their area of competence
  • Being truthful and sincere

Civil Engineer as Project Manager:

Projects are getting more complicated, and the project management team has to cater to social considerations and environmental restrictions besides exercising control over natural resources, costs, etc.

Another feather in the cap is added when civil engineers can cater to the diversified needs of project management, a familiarity with the concept of structuring the project requirement from inception till handing over and many times operating the project for a pre-defined duration of time is included in the scope of civil engineering firms. It takes a lot of hustling to reach the finishing line of the task or assignment. It might be challenging to balance everything, from deadlines to team members. Still, it is a challenge to be accepted, a commitment to be executed from project inception till completion, for every project brings a unique set of challenges to address.

Civil engineers are also required to manage large construction projects as project managers. They must supervise the execution of these projects because of their technical proficiency and comprehension of engineering principles. They are often simultaneously working on multiple projects to meet not only the strict timelines but also maintaining quality. A smooth coordination with diverse stakeholders and varied technical considerations with the knowledge gained in the academic progression is further strengthened with every accomplished project.

As project managers, civil engineers are required to optimize the utilization of resources in different arenas of a project. It entails an excellent understanding of conserving resources and reducing waste generation during project development. Effective resource management strategies further help deliver sustainable projects and minimize the negative impacts of construction activities.

Whether you're constructing power plants, oil and gas refineries, or cutting-edge buildings, a project manager could assist in achieving success. It assists in the productivity of the procedure of construction on schedule, from planning and design to resource management, budget allocation, and much more.

Whether it is the construction of new infrastructure or the renovation of existing facilities, the expertise of civil engineers as project managers is tested in varied landscapes. Building new homes, bridges, airports, and other vital infrastructure is necessary as societies develop and expand. When planning and building such projects, civil engineers play a pivotal role in ensuring adherence to the requirements for durability, functionality, and safety within the given timeframe and budget.

To increase the infrastructure's resilience and adaptability to changing needs, civil engineers also help retrofit and rehabilitate old infrastructure. However, throughout their service life, the health of structures is affected owing to aging, fatigue, corrosion, and even natural disasters. The cumulative deterioration reduces the structures' ability to withstand disasters and occasionally causes partial failure, failure, or even total collapse of the arrangements. The possibility of such mishaps directly threatens the safety of both persons and properties. With these growing concerns, health monitoring and rehabilitation technology of structures has been an area civil engineers as professionals/researchers have been working on in recent years.

Civil engineers are essential to project supervisors in the building sector. They play a crucial role in the practical completion of infrastructure projects thanks to their technical proficiency, awareness of sustainable practices, and capacity to manage complicated tasks. The built environment is greatly influenced by civil engineers, who coordinate numerous projects, balance social and environmental concerns, and deal with the difficulties of retrofitting old structures. The need for project managers in the civil engineering field will only increase as the world's infrastructure needs change.

It's an all-encompassing exercise to complete tasks within the specified schedule and budget. This hour requires a paradigm shift in hiring professionals capable of working in multi-faceted environments and addressing complex problems. Competitive markets and competing timelines are litmus tests for working professionals in civil engineering.

Effective Project Management Skills:

There is no secret to project management success. Instead, success depends on knowing how to manage a project and efficiently foreseeing future obstacles. Formulating concise project plans and using appropriate tools for tracking project progress is effective for project management. Civil engineers are skilled in handling these tasks well. The most effective project managers can handle setbacks with an eye on the goals set by the company without compromising the workflow. For successful project management, the following tips are helpful:

  • Encouraging effective and clear communication
  • Formulating clear project goals
  • Using appropriate tools to keep an eye on project development
  • Ensuring the team possesses requisite skills to keep the boat sailing
  • Motivating the team
  • Recognizing and planning for risks/uncertainties
  • Moving forward and exhibiting progress.
  • Associating and interacting with key stakeholders

Fundamental Responsibilities:

As the torchbearer of the project, the civil project manager is required to:

  • Review land surveys, evaluate project finances and estimates, examine current structures, make design plans, and examine potential safety concerns.
  • Negotiate with all inducted subcontractors, have a dialogue with architects
  • Meet with the site engineers, and work with the vendors to schedule material deliveries.
  • Keep track of all promotion and development efforts for civil projects.
  • Manage all engineering staff's efficient operation, evaluate their performance, and train them to handle all projects effectively.
  • Determine the best course of action for all significant management problems by analyzing them, making recommendations, and conducting interviews with prospective applicants.
  • Evaluate all private and government projects, as the case may be, liaise with different departments to manage them, and provide technical reports for all engineering operations and presentations at different meetings.
  • Compile reports emphasizing costs, job status, and project progress.
  • Analyze, develop, and effectively implement all company policies and practices for various projects.

With the above responsibilities, the employability chances of civil engineers possessing project management skills are expected to be very high owing to the complexity of the construction process and technology in times to come.

Civil Engineering Versatility:

The disciplines of environmental engineering, geophysics, engineering for transportation, engineering for structural integrity, mapping, imagery collection & geographic computing, building administration, managing projects, hydraulics, and water resources networks, etc. are some of the numerous project types and micro-domains that fall under the broad heading of civil engineering. Whether in urban or rural settings, engineers in construction use their skills and expertise to address the issues in these regions. They also provide innovative answers to complex problems because of their adaptability and analytical skills.

New project dimensions arise as the construction sector digitizes and new technologies are developed to facilitate this change. Exercises in rehabilitation and retrofitting are carried out in challenging situations, and problem-solving abilities are evaluated in various environments. The drive to plan and build sustainable communities that not only provide social and economic equity but also maintain harmony with the natural environment is the first significant problem faced by the modern civil engineering world. It is the preamble behind sustainable construction.

A more significant population density in cities presents particular issues concerning urban planning and public transport, which civil engineers must deal with. Even though this historical change is expected to improve people's diversity and bring significant economic development benefits, civil engineers must think and act differently to carefully plan, build, and create an infrastructure that adapts to changing situations utilizing predictive techniques.

This branch's adaptability goes beyond the ground. Civil engineering can be found anywhere and everywhere, whether you are working above or below the ground; numerous problems ranging from more superficial to complex ones call for collaborative and innovative thinking. The onset of natural and artificial disasters in varying landscapes tests the problem-solving skills of civil engineers differently. Every time a disaster strikes, the infrastructure is affected, whether a building, road, bridge, treatment plant, highway, or any other such entity. It calls for reinstating the damaged system in the least possible time without compromising the quality. Due to this, efforts are being made to create resilient infrastructure to increase the existing infrastructure's design life and minimize the effects of disruptive events on it.

Civil engineers have responsibilities beyond simply delivering buildings and roads. In both the public and private sectors, they conceptualize, plan, design, build, run, and maintain infrastructure projects and systems. A wide array of opportunities awaits you, whether you choose to work from the convenience of your office or on-site, be it your endeavor, a private company, or a government position. A wide range of projects and specializations are covered in civil engineering.

Written By: -Dr. Sadiqa Abbas, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, FET, MRIIRS

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