What are the different responsiblities of a civil engineer, structural engineer or building services engineer?
We are talking about building things here. Huge things! Civil engineering involves the design, construction and maintenance of anything, from roads, canals and airports, to dams, bridges and buildings.
Structural engineering is often looked upon as a discipline within civil engineering, but it mainly concerns what are termed as ‘non-building structures’, i.e. structures that are not designed for continuous human occupancy.
On the other hand, building services engineering is concerned with what’s going on inside the building (a.k.a. the ‘internal environment’). They also focus on the environmental impact of a building during its construction and future use.
So many structures make the mind boggle as to how they could have possibly been constructed by human beings. Go to any city centre and you’re bound to find a building that is structurally hard to fathom! These buildings, ladies and gents, are created by the hard working people that pursue careers in this particular subsector. The Golden Gate Bridge, the London Eye, the Millennium Dome, Wembley, and any other structure of a similar magnitude was completed by a team of civil, structural and building services engineers.
Civil engineering has a variety of sub-disciplines ranging from environmental, geotechnical and urban, to materials, coastal and many others. As these sub-disciplines suggest, there are a huge variety of career paths that fall under the umbrella term ‘civil engineer’.
When it comes to building services engineering, it’s all about considering how these structures affect people. How will people interact inside? How is their safety ensured? And how will it all affect the environment? These engineers play a valuable role at all stages of the construction process, liaising with architects, surveyors, planners and the builders themselves.
Civil engineering: Consulting vs. Contracting
When it comes to civil engineering, there are two clear divisions: consulting and contracting. Consulting civil engineers are responsible for the design of the project, whilst contracting engineers create the structure itself.
A consulting engineer will work with the architect to develop detailed designs, investigate the proposed site, produce a risk assessment and any other things associated with the general project management of a construction project.
Contracting civil engineers take the plans from the architect and the consulting engineer and assess the feasibility of all aspects of the project. A lot of negotiation ensues at this stage, especially if you have an ambitious architect and a sceptical contracting engineer.
However, the main focus of a contracting engineer’s role is working out exactly how to do things. It’s comparatively easy to dream up a remarkably designed building, when compared to the realities of actually creating the structure.
What is the role of building services engineering?
Building services engineering is all about ensuring that any construction is safe, sustainable and environmentally friendly. Their role includes commissioning contractors, managing budgets, overseeing the installation of materials, and ensuring that the project is compliant with health and safety regulations.
If you are fascinated by the structures that surround us in our day-to-day lives then consider a role in civil, structural and building services engineering. After all, the only way is up!