The Guide to Understand the Building Process for Engineers

The creation of a building (e.g. hotel, office, residential) or structure (e.g. bridge, road) will involve a number of parties and different stages where each party involved will perform different tasks. Furthermore there are different models of the construction process where responsibilities can be distributed differently among the participants…

Before explaining the different stages and models it is important to know the parties which are usually involved in the process.

Participants in Building Process

1. In building process, Customer / Client is very important.

The customer is the person who wants to build a building or structure. This can be a person, company, organization or government. The customer will provide the project requirements and will finance the project in building process.

2. Architect role in building process

The architect is essentially the lead designer for the design of buildings. He will take the requirements from the customer and create a design of the building taking into consideration the legal regulations such as fire safety, etc. in building process.

3. Structural Engineer role in building process

The structural engineer will support the architect. His responsibility is to dimension the structural members and advise the architect which structure or material is best suitable for the intended purpose. Usually the architect will give his first design (schematic design) to the structural engineer. The engineer will then provide the architect the required dimensions for columns, beams and slab.

The structural engineer will provide structural drawings which the contractor can use to erect the structure. The drawings will show the dimensions of structural members, the material and the arrangement of steel bars in the concrete (rebars or reinforcement).The structural engineer will create layouts, sections and details in building process.

Usually the contractor will create so called shop drawings based on the drawings of the structural engineer. The shop drawings will contain all the relevant information for manufacturing each component e.g. each steel bar.

4. Civil Engineer

A civil engineer has the same educational background as a structural engineer but he is specialized on the design of infrastructure such as Bridges, Dams, Roads, Ports, etc.

Civil engineering is a professional engineering discipline that deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of the physical and naturally built environment, including public works such as roads, bridges, canals, dams, airports, sewerage systems, pipelines, structural components of buildings, and railways.

In most countries, a bachelor’s degree in engineering represents the first step towards professional certification, and a professional body certifies the degree program. After completing a certified degree program, the engineer must satisfy a range of requirements including work experience and exam requirements before being certified.

5. MEP Engineer

In building process, the MEP engineer will be responsible to design all the building services such as fresh water piping system, waste water piping system, heating and ventilation system, fire fighting system and electrical system. Usually the MEP engineer will request to make holes in the structure for pipes and ducts. He must therefore work closely with the structural engineer.

The MEP engineer will provide MEP drawings to the contractor. The drawings will show the layout, levels and dimensions of pipes, ducts and cables.
Usually the contractor will create so called shop drawings which will contain all the relevant information for manufacturing the piping and ducting system.

6. Geotechnical Engineer

The geotechnical engineer is the engineer who will assess the soil on the construction site and will recommend the type of foundation that is needed for the building or structure.

7. Quantity and Cost Surveyor

The quantity and cost surveyor will calculate all material quantities related to the project and calculate the estimated cost of the project. He will usually be involved during the design stage of the project to give the client information about the estimated cost of the project. 

For smaller projects this is usually done by the architect.

8. Contractor

The contractor is the company that will erect the building on site with workers. The contractor must read the drawings and create the building based on the requirements in the drawings and other requirements which are in his contract.

9. Project Manager

The project manager is an external consultant who will manage the interaction between the different participants and ensure the client receives his project on time and on budget. For small projects this will be done by the architect.

10. Site Supervisor

The site supervisor is an external consultant who will monitor the work of the contractor on site and will report to the client about the progress and quality on site.
Usually the contractor will also have his own site supervisor to manage the project on behalf of the contractor.

11. Tender Manager

The Tender Manager is the person who will manage the process of collecting bids from the contractors, negociating and awarding the contract.

Project Stages in Building Process

Each construction project will be divided into stages. Mainly the process can be divided into the following stages:

  1. Design
  2. Pre-design
  3. Schematic Design
  4. Design Development
  5. Detailed Design
  6. Tender / Bidding
  7. Construction

Project Delivery Methods in Building Process

1. Design - Bid – Build (DBB)

The Design – Bid – Build Method is probably still the common way for project delivery. In this Method the client or owner contracts an architect and engineers to design the building and create the documentation (drawings) and specification (e.g. which materials). Then a tender document is created which is distributed to contractors who would like to bid for this project. The bids are collected and a contractor is selected and awarded the contract for construction.

Benefits of design–bid–build

  • The design team looks out for the interests of the owner.
  • The design team prepares documents on which all general contractors place bids. With this in mind, the “cheaper is better” argument is rendered invalid since the bids are based on complete documents. Incomplete, incorrect or missed items are usually discovered and addressed during the bid process in the form of addenda.
  • Ensures fairness to potential bidders and improves decision making by the owner by providing a range of potential options. It also identifies new potential contractors.
  • Assists the owner in establishing reasonable prices for the project.
  • Uses competition both in the selection of the architect and the contractor to improve the efficiency and quality for owners.

2. Design Build (DB)

When choosing Design-Build Delivery Method usually the owner will create only a conceptual design. Based on this contractors will bid to design and build the project. This means the contractor will usually hire architects and engineers to detail the design or if it is a big contractor he might have architects and engineers in his own team.

Design Build (DB)-method

Three models of contractor-led design–build in building process – sources: wikipedia

Advantages for less-prescriptive projects in Building Process

Architect-led design–build is suited primarily to less prescriptive architectural projects (private residences, non-profit institutions, museums), for the efficiencies it yields and the sophisticated design interpretation it affords, particularly:

  • Where the primary project goals are design-driven or visionary rather than prescribed by budgetary constraint or functional requirements
  • Where the project is specifically “Capital A”-artistically/creatively driven, in a way that traditionally yields the highest level of cost overruns.
  • Where the efficiencies of design–build approach and an architect’s interpretive skill are equally important

These less prescriptive projects need not be stuck with the “broken buildings and busted budgets” described by Barry Lepatner. Rather, the less prescriptive the project, the more the client needs an architect to steward an emergent design from vision to completion. So it follows that for the broadest range of building projects, the rigors of architect-led design–build is compelling and preferable where design is of paramount importance to the client.

3. Design – Build – Operate – Maintain (DBOM)

DBOM takes DB one step further by including the operations and maintenance of the completed project in the same original contract.

4. Build Operate Transfer (BOT)

BOT represents complete integration of the project delivery: the same contract governs the design, construction, operations, maintenance and financing of the project. After some concessionary period, the facility is transferred back to the own

5. Public Private Partnerships (PPP)

A public–private partnership is a cooperative arrangement between one or more public entities (typically the owner) and another (typically private sector) entity to design, build, finance, and at times operate and maintain, the project for a specified period of time on behalf of the owner.

Sources: and others.