A civil engineer's training can provide an excellent basis for many careers, not only civil engineering. The reason for this is the breadth and depth of the skills acquired, which include design, construction and management, but more importantly, the ability to solve problems in an environment that involves complex interactions with other people, yet still meeting defined time, cost and quality parameters. Dene Warren's book, which is aimed at undergraduate civil engineering students, gives a good overview of basic civil engineering design and construction practice, but does not always bring home the complexities, challenges and frustrations all too often present in construction today.
The first chapters of the book deal with contract administration, project control and safety; the remaining seven chapters then explain a wide range of civil engineering design and construction techniques, from ground water control and earthworks through to structures, roads and drainage.
The sections on contract administration and management structure cover most forms of contract in use today, and mention is also made of the precontract, feasibility and town planning stages. When I first entered the industry I was unaware of the length of time these initial stages of a project can take; perhaps more could have been made of these aspects since they can often present a greater challenge than the implementation of the design and construction itself. Control of projects, particularly programming techniques, are then examined in some depth, with good clear explanations and many worked examples. The sections on financial controls and contractors' and clients' management structures were helpful, but did not necessarily reflect the common situation of a main contractor managing in the broadest sense, and then all labour and much of the supervision being provided by subcontractors responsible for specific sections or packages of work. I was pleased to see a comprehensive section on safety, followed by some interesting case studies.
The later chapters, which cover civil engineering design and construction, give a good, practical and readable overview of many areas of design and construction, aided by plenty of clear diagrams and simple worked examples. Groundwater control and earthworks are examined in detail as one would expect in a book such as this, and similar emphasis is given to retaining walls, basements, foundations and ground improvement methods. Many detailed examples of calculations are given, and these show well the basic techniques and assumptions. In practice, of course, when engineers prepare calculations and specifications they must follow detailed codes of practice, and so readers will need to refer to other sources before embarking on any real design. I only learnt about many of the basic practical design and construction techniques described by Warren once I started work; in the 1970s there was little such background reading recommended in my degree course.
The picture on the front cover of the book captures what many would imagine to be a classic civil engineering project, that of a cable-stayed bridge. Yet, there is no real mention of bridge design or construction in the book, other than to say that the design of superstructures is predominantly the domain of the structural engineer. Despite this disappointment, basic building superstructures are discussed and there are numerous diagrams, but example calculations are not developed to the same degree as in other sections of the book. The book concludes with chapters on drainage and highway design, again with worked examples.
Warren's book successfully provides undergraduates with a practical overview of civil engineering; as students progress in their studies the book may then not provide all the depth needed. Perhaps, for this reason, the book would also be of interest to architects, quantity surveyors and project managers who have been trained in building, but need further general background in areas of civil engineering.
Tony Forbat is apartner in the projectmanagement department, Fuller Peiser.
Civil Engineering Construction Design and Management
Author - Dene R. Warren
ISBN - 0 333 63682 1
Publisher - Macmillan
Price - £16.99
Pages - 258