Civil Engineering Project Management

Civil Engineering Project Management


Most civil engineering construction projects are completed to time and budget

but few get publicity for it. More often building projects are reported as exceeding
 time or budget because a building has to cater for the diverse needs of the
many users of the building which can be difficult to forecast or may change as
construction proceeds. In civil engineering, the principal hazards come from the
need to deal with below ground conditions, make structures out of re-assembled
soils or rocks, and to cater for the forces of impounded or flowing water. The
construction of roads, railways, tunnels, bridges, pipelines, dams, harbors,
canals and river training measures, flood and sea defenses, must all be tailored
to the conditions found on site as construction proceeds because it is not possible
 to foresee such conditions in every detail beforehand.

As a result the successful management of a civil engineering project
depends upon use of an appropriate contract for construction; the judgements
of the civil engineer in charge and his team of engineering advisers; the need
to arrange for supervision of the work of construction as it proceeds, and on
the competence of the contractor engaged to build the works and his engineers
and tradesmen.


One of the most frequently encountered risks in civil engineering construction
is that the ground conditions met during construction will not be as expected,
because trial boreholes and test pits cannot reveal the nature of every cubic
metre below ground level. This means that quantities of excavation, filling,

rock removal and concrete, etc., for such as the foundation of structures or lay-
ing of pipelines actually found necessary may differ from those estimated.

The risk that the promoter will need changes also arises from the relatively
long time it takes, often 2 years or more, to get a civil engineering project designed
and constructed. During this time it is always possible for newer processes
or equipment to be developed which the promoter needs to incorporate in the
works, or there may be revised forecasts of demand for the project output.
The traditional way of dealing with these risks of change is for the design of
the works to be completed first, and then to produce a construction contract for

which civil engineering contractors are invited to tender. The price bidders ten-
der for such a contract is based on a bill of quantities which lists the estimated

quantities of each type of work to be done, ‘taken off’ (i.e. measured) from the
completed drawings of the works required. Against each item a contractor bids
his price per unit quantity thereof, and these, multiplied by the estimated
quantity of work to be done under each item, when totalled form ‘the Contract
Sum’. This system permits the contractor to be paid pro rata to the amount of

work he actually does under each item, and also eases valuation of the payment 
due to the contractor for executing changes to the design of the works
during construction to overcome some unforeseen difficulty or make an add-
ition. The promoter can thus make reasonably small alterations or additions to
the works required during the construction period – provided these are not so
extensive as to ‘change the nature of the contract’.

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