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					                                            CHAPTER 2

                                       CIVIL ENGINEERS

2.1    Introduction

       This chapter highlights on the definition of engineering, civil engineering and
further narrows down to civil engineers in the construction sector; design engineers and
site engineer. This chapter also briefly focuses on the abilities of civil engineers.

2.2     Engineering

       Engineers are someone who is in charge of developing and building something
such as a house, an airplane, a vehicle, a mechanical component of air condition and so
on. Previously in the medieval times, engineers play an important role as an advisor to
the king. Engineers develop catapults, battle ram, castle, fort and so on. In China,

engineers' role date way before the birth of Christ such as building arch bridge
construction, battle ships, forts, and surprisingly, the first seismograph ever in the world.
It can be said that of all engineering disciplines, civil engineers are the oldest.

        According to Branigan (2004), engineering is defined as " profession devoted to
designing, construction and operating the structures, machines and other devices of
industry and everyday life". From the definition above, it can be said that engineers make
our lives better. They improve our lives in term of designing new electronic gadgets, new
vehicle, better infrastructures, better buildings and so on.

        According to Cywinski (2001), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE
1996) defines civil engineering as ‘‘the profession in which a knowledge of the
mathematical and physical sciences gained by study, experience, and practice is applied
with judgment to develop ways to utilize, economically, the materials and forces of
nature for the progressive well-being of humanity in creating, improving and protecting
the environment, in providing facilities for community living, industry and transportation,
and in providing structures for the use of mankind.’’

        Engineering is further divided into several disciplines, such as civil engineering,
electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, aeronautical and
space engineering, and the list goes on. Of all the disciplines, civil engineering is the
oldest and the most comprehensive discipline of engineering. Table 2.1 below is a time
line of civilization and the achievements in the field of engineering.

Table 2.1: Timeline of Engineering
       Civilisation                            Achievement
       Babylonia and Assyria         Canals, dams, levees, and roads. First bridge
                                     constructed over Euphrates River on 6 B.C.
       Egypt                         Great Pyramids, Temple of Amon-Ra, causeways
                                     and roads.
       Greece                        Introduction of engineering theories.
                                     Introduction of Architekton, who is a designer
                                     and builder of architectural and construction
       Rome (2 AD)                   Construction of arch.
                                     Architectus, designs and construct bridges,
                                     aqueducts, highways and buildings.
                                     Aqueducts, tunnels, harbours, docks, lighthouses.
       Medieval and Renaissance Bridges, cathedrals and castles. Old London
       Europe                        Bridge
       France (17th -18th century)   France pioneer in civil engineering during this
                                     time. Bridges, canals, roads, water supply
       Britain                       The first institution for engineers was established,
                                     The Institution of Civil Engineers in 1818. Civil
                                     Engineering and architecture is defined as two
                                     separate     professions.   Architects   are   into
                                     aesthetical aspect of a structure, while engineers
                                     are into developing a scientific and rational
       United States                 The establishment of American Society of Civil
                                     Engineers in 1852. Building canals, railroad,
                                     developing water power.

       In Malaysia, engineers are governed by the Board of Engineers Malaysia and also
Institute of Engineers Malaysia. While Board of Engineers Malaysia is formed by the
Government, Institute of Engineers Malaysia is a private institution. It is mandatory that a
Professional Engineer, an engineer needs to be registered with Board of Engineers
Malaysia upon graduation from technical institution.

       According to Philips (2003) engineers can be classified into 11 types, according
to the kind of work they do—construction, consulting, design, development, teaching,
planning (also called applications engineers), production, research, sales, service, and test

2.3    Civil Engineering

       Civil engineering is a branch of engineering and by far, the oldest. In Malaysia
alone, more than half of the engineers are civil engineers (Gue, 1996). Basically civil
engineers are involved in the design, construction and management of turning a drawing
into a tangible object. Just by saying that about civil engineers is simply not enough.
However, the definition of civil engineers does not stop here. They are people, with vast
knowledge in mathematics and science and not only do they construct, but they have to
do it in an economically manner. For example, if a layman can build a house at the cost
of RM 10,000, then a civil engineer should be able to build a safe structure at RM 5,000.

          Below is a definition of civil engineers.
          " A profession in which a knowledge of the mathematical and natural sciences
gained by study, experience and practice is applied with judgment to develop ways to
utilize, economically, the materials and forces of nature for the benefit of mankind" (from
the 1962 definition adopted by the Engineers' Council for Professional Development,
cited from Branigan 2004)

          Branigan (2004), further stated that civil engineering is " planning, designing,
construction and maintenance of structures and altering geography to suit human needs.
Some of the numerous sub structures are transportation (railroad facilities and highways),
hydraulics (river control, irrigation, swamp draining, water supply, sewage disposal) and
structures (bridges, tunnels, buildings)"

          Khurshid (2001) pointed out that civil engineering is "involved with the design
and construction of large buildings (skyscrapers), roads and traffic systems, railways,
mine sites, canals, waterways water supply and irrigation systems. Mainly the projects
tend to be large, costly infrastructure systems, involving teamwork and planning in
design and construction."

          According to Gue (1996), civil engineers have an important role to play in
advising policy makers and also contribute directly to the process of formulating,
planning, design and implementing infrastructure projects. There is also a need for civil
engineers to be aware of the importance of coordinated approach to long term planning
for adequate and efficient infrastructure.

          Abi-Karam (2000) noted the mission and identity of civil engineers in today's

" Our basic mission, as outlined in any number of mission statements, building codes, and
bylaws, is to protect life and safety, to address human needs, and to provide for those

          From the citations, it can be generalised that civil engineers are professionals
whose expertise may include planning, design, management and construction of civil
structures, for the purpose of mankind. It may ranges from houses to airport, water tower
to dock yard, canals to tunnels, highway to waste treatment.

          Civil engineering is further divided into several disciplines. Khurshid (2001)
stated that civil engineering is divided into construction engineering, geotechnical
engineering,      structural   engineering,   environmental     engineering,   transportation
engineering and water resources engineering.

   Kwaku (1985) generalised the responsibilities of a typical civil engineer in the
construction field. They are:
   1. Interpret the owner's needs into drawings and specifications. Responsible for
          providing drawings and specifications that do not contain conflicts, duplications
          or omissions
   2. Approves all manufacturer's and suppliers' materials and samples, and deals with
          all questions of substitution
   3. Provides on-site monitoring services and reviews all inspection reports and
          change orders
   4. Responsible for construction methods, costs, and schedules
   5. Through the contract requirements, an engineer has indirect responsibility to the
          general contractor, as does the general contractor to him.

   Randolph et al. (2003) came up with a more detailed the responsibilities of a typical
civil engineer. The responsibilities are:

   ■ Serves as technical advisor and supervisor for construction projects
   ■ Responsible for daily administration of project
   ■ Must create friendly relationship with both internal and external parties
   ■ Provides a wide range of engineering services such as design, contract
       preparations, bid evaluations, and inspections
   ■ Makes periodic reviews to ensure correctness of project records and adequacy of
       contract funds
   ■ Must be clear and concise on intentions for awarded project
   ■ Analyzes complex engineering projects and determines the best cost-effective
   ■ Develops, organizes, and analyzes engineering and financial data
   ■ Should have good communication with utility companies and other public
       agencies involved in the project, enabling all parties to schedule their work or
       services in the best interest of all concerned
   ■ Reviews and approves preliminary and final plans
   ■ Presents reports in written or oral formats to city council, various public
       organizations, and boards
   ■ Must establish proper contact with property owners adjacent to project site as they
       are the most affected by construction operations
   ■ Meets with designer as many times as needed to get a final product that meets
       expectations of all parties
   ■ Must have a good understanding of all plans and specifications governing the
   ■ Maintains records of correspondence and important discussions meetings
   ■ Must be readily available and willing to cooperate with contractors to provide
       timely and proper answers to all concerns and inquiries
   ■ Plans, schedules, and coordinates project activities

■ Prepares policies, procedures, specifications, and standards

■ Enforces quality control procedures
■ Budgets for personnel and other necessary resources
■ Reviews contractor’s claims and change orders
■ Implements and enforces all safety-related activities
■ Handles disputes and claims


                                   Design Development

                                Construction Documentation

                                  Bidding and Negotiation



                         Figure 2.1: Traditional Construction Process

       Figure 2.1 shows a typical construction process from the start till the end of a
project. Typically, a civil engineer is involved in the design stage as a design engineer, to
design the structure of a building. In the construction phase, the contractor ensures a
smooth flow of construction procedures to ensure the project is built within the scope,
budget, time and quality.
       A typical construction consists of three main parties. They are Client/ Developer,
Contractor and Designer. This is illustrated in Figure 2.2 below:


                   Designers                     Contractor

               Figure 2.2: Three Main Parties in Construction

       The developer may be an owner. According to Kwaku (1985) a developer is a real
estate practitioner who assembles various segments of a deal that ultimately ends with a
syndicated ownership of a property. The developer also decides with the engineer or
contractor on the type of facility to go on the site. Usually developer has its own in house
engineer and other construction professionals.

       Designers usually involves architect and design engineer. Architect produces the
architectural drawings and specifications needed for the project. Design engineer
produces structural drawing to ensure the building is safe.

       Contractor is the party appointed by the owner or the developer to build a
particular project. Contractor is responsible for the performance of all work in accordance
with the contract documents that have been prepared by the designer. Contractor provides
labour, equipment, material and the necessary procedures to build a project. Contractors
usually have their own in house construction professionals such as engineers, architects
and quantity surveyors.

       In construction management, basically, there are two types of civil engineers
involved. First, it is the design engineer, or usually called consultant engineer. The
second type of civil engineer involved in construction is Site Engineer. However, in
Malaysia, there is no standardization in the usage of the word engineer or civil engineer.
Sometimes, an experience foreman is called an engineer, even he does not hold a degree
in civil engineer. The term civil engineer is used loosely, especially in construction. It can
be site engineer, site supervisor, project engineer, assistant project manager, client's
representatives or just the word contractor, if the engineer works for contractor.

       The field of ‘‘engineering’’ has many persons with ‘‘engineer’’ titles, who are not
professional engineers, as well as many who are trained in the engineering profession, but
are actually working as trainees, junior engineers or draftsmen. [29 C.F.R. § 541.308(b)],
cited from Mitchell and Eschenbach (1999). But for the purpose of this paper, only
technically qualified site engineer and design engineer in the field of construction are
taken into account.

2.3.1 Design Engineer

       A design engineer has the responsibility of converting an architectural drawing
into an engineering drawing. If the design engineer is a structural engineer, then he needs
to analyse and design the structure into structural drawing. Oberlender (1993) noted that a
design engineer is also responsible for producing design alternatives, computations,
drawings and specifications that meet the needs of the owner and the rules and regulation.
It also comprises site inspection and review of workshop drawings.

       Sometimes, they are called Structural Engineer or plainly as consultant engineer.
This is mainly because they deal with structural drawings. According to Cywinski
(2001), the definition of structural engineering (IABSE 1998), ‘‘is the science and art of
planning, design, construction, operation, monitoring and inspection, maintenance,
rehabilitation and preservation, demolishing and dismantling of structures, taking into
consideration technical, economic, environmental, aesthetic and social aspects.’’

       Basically, they transform architectural drawing into engineering drawing. Design
engineers main objective is to come up with a structural design that is safe and
economical. Even though most of design engineers' work as on computations, calculation
and drawing, they are needed to do routine site inspection of the project under them. This
is to ensure that whatever that is constructed on the site is in compliance to the
specification in the engineering drawing. Sometimes, a design engineer also advises the
client at the conceptual stage of the construction process.

       According to Mitchell and Eschenbach (1999), consulting engineers work under
constant pressure of meeting datelines. Their work sometimes may require them to work
more than 40 hours a week. In the light of modern technology, various engineering

software are available to help design engineer in their design, and also to be more

        According to Salter and Gann (2003), the engineering design process is
principally concerned with how things ought to be. One needs to think creatively in order
to solve design problems. This process of creation often involves developing new
combinations of existing technologies.

2.3.2 Site Engineer

        Site engineer, are engineers who are mostly based on the site. The term site
engineers are loosely used. Sometimes they are called Assistant Project Manager, Site
Supervisor, Construction Engineer or just plainly engineer. These types of engineers are
responsible of transforming drawings, into a tangible object through a systematically
planned construction procedures. The duties of site engineers include ensuring a smooth
flow of the construction phase of the project, procurement of materials, solving any
problems that occur at the site, to communicate with other construction parties and to
prepare any necessary reports. Not only do they need to be good in engineering skills,
they need to have good knowledge in management, finance, and planning (Khurshid,
2001). In Malaysia, Site Engineers usually work either for developers, or for contractors.

        The nature of site engineers' work can be described as tough. They need to
coordinate with sub-contractors, engineers, architect, client, and also their superiors.
They also need to do daily inspection, to check the progress, and also to inspect that the
quality of work done at the site is of appropriate quality. Not only do they have to be

under the grueling weather most of the time, they are also the first in the line of fire, in
case of any errors occurred at the site.

       Besides that, they are also exposed to any probable dangers and risks at the
construction site. Thus, it can be said that site engineers bear a heavy responsibility that
comes at a rather hefty price. A site engineer, normally, works not only by using their
skill and thinking, but also their physical energy. Sometimes they need to travel to
remotely located sites. Although a civil engineer is a noble profession, at some times, it
may be very taxing due to the hectic, demanding nature of the work and unplanned event

       Typical work activities of a Site Engineer (taken from, 2004)

A site engineer acts as the prime technical adviser on a construction site for sub-
contractors, craftsmen and operatives.
The role typically includes the following tasks:
   ■ Setting out (marking the position of structures), surveying and levelling the site;
   ■ Checking drawings and quantities and ensuring that the calculations are accurate
     for the work;
   ■ Overseeing the selection and requisition of materials and plant for use in the
     construction, and agreeing prices for items;
   ■ Planning the work and efficiently organising the plant and site facilities in order
     to meet an agreed programme of deadlines;
   ■ Communicate and coordinate with any consultants and/or sub-contractors
     engaged in the project;
   ■ Attending regular meetings with clients, architects and consultants and keeping
     them informed of progress;
   ■ Supervising and monitoring the site labour force and subcontractors;
   ■ Overseeing quality control and safety matters on the site
   ■ Solving any unexpected technical difficulties and other problems that may arise.

2.4      Behaviour and Abilities of Civil Engineers

         It can be seen that civil engineers' jobs are demanding. Thus, in order to be a good
civil engineer, one needs to have an analytical mind, and also the ability to think out of
the box. To say that a civil engineer's needs are based solely on intelligence alone is an
understatement. A civil engineer needs to be able to communicate, write technical report,
manage people and as a team leader and player. In the nature of construction, civil
engineers are usually preferred to be an all rounder, not only in their expertise skills, but
also in other skills that may be appropriate in the nature of construction.

         Mitchell and Eschenbach (1995) noted that engineers should require ‘‘knowledge
of an advanced type in a field of science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged
course of specialized intellectual instruction and study’’ [29 C.F.R. § 541.3(a)(1)]. The
work must require ‘‘the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment in
its performance’’ [29 C.F.R. § 541.3(b)]

             Being a civil engineer, one should be a person through systematic training and
      education. For example, in design, engineers follow their design code and procedure
      step by step. In construction, engineers make sure the structural elements of a
      building are built systematically, one by one, step by step.

             Even though civil engineers are systematic in their thinking, this does not
      mean that they are trained to be like a robot. A civil engineer, or any type of
      engineers needs to think out of the box, to think creatively and analytically in order to
      overcome various types of problems. Thus, it can be said that engineers are problem
      solver. And most of the answers to the problems faced by engineers are not in the
      books. But answers are found due to their ability to think creatively and analytically.

        Due to their analytical mind, civil engineers are skeptical people. Whatever
they are designing there are some sense of sceptism involved such as "Why," "How",
and "What If". It is due to such sceptism, engineers are who they are today. Because
of their sceptism, they impose a higher safety factor in their design, assume a bigger
loading and assume a larger component for a building. And because of this sense of
sceptism, engineers tend to look for a better and refined solution.

        Even though civil engineers are heavily trained in terms of engineering
principles and knowledge, the learning life of a civil engineer does not stop the
moment he/she graduates from university. A civil engineer needs to upgrade their
engineering knowledge constantly, mainly because of the evolution of the
engineering world, in terms of new concepts, new construction techniques, new CAD
software and so on. It can be said that engineers evolve around science and

        According to Job Guide 2004, civil engineers generally have the following

■ able to identify, analyse and solve problems
■ good oral and written communication skills
■ aptitude for computing and design
■ practical and creative
■ able to work with little or without supervision
■ able to work as part of a team
■ able to accept responsibility
■ willing to contribute and adhere to the safety requirements of the engineering

       One of the greatest things about civil engineers is the sense of pride and
achievement from the structures , which they designed or constructed. The results of their
work, is something tangible, such as a highway, a building, a dam, and so on. This is
what makes civil engineering a noble profession. It gives a sense of responsibility, pride
and achievement from their contribution in their work.

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