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What Is the Role of a Civil Engineer?

Anytime a new building or structure, whether commercial or residential, is constructed, a number of different steps must be taken during the process. It takes a team of professionals to take a building from conception to construction. A civil engineer is usually among those professionals. Whether you are planning to build a multi-million dollar commercial office park, or just your dream home, you may need to employ the services of a civil engineer.

According to the U.S Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, civil engineers “design, construct, supervise, operate, and maintain large construction projects and systems, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment. Many civil engineers work in design, construction, research, and education.” While civil engineers are typically needed for large scale construction projects, you may also need a civil engineer when designing or remodeling a residential property to make sure that your intended design is sound from an engineering perspective. For example, if you plan to take out a load-bearing wall, you may need a civil engineer to review the renovation plans and determine what type of beam you will need to install to carry the load that the wall was carrying.

Other common functions of a civil engineer include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Analyze survey reports, maps, and other data during the planning stages of a project
  • Conduct risk analysis
  • Prepare and submit applications for permits that require verification that a project complies with local, state, and federal regulations
  • Determine the strength of foundations by conducting soil testing
  • Conduct tests of building materials intended to be used in a project
  • Determine the economic feasibility of a project by studying cost estimates
  • Study potential environmental hazards as they relate to a planned project
  • Oversee the repair, maintenance, and replacement of public and private infrastructure
  • Survey a proposed site to establish grades and elevations for a project
  • Utilize computer design software

A civil engineer can be found in an office studying plans for a proposed project or on-site, studying a proposed or existing building or structure. Whenever there is a question regarding the feasibility of a design, whether for a new structure or the remodeling of an existing structure, it is always best to consult a civil engineer to ensure that the proposed design is safe and stable.