Civil construction has shaped the world around us–it’s accountable for most of the public structures we use. From walkway construction to massive bridges for transportation to wastewater treatment centers to dams, civil engineering encompasses some of the most important building projects in our world completed annually. The sector truly helps the human civilization get where they want to be and give them what they need.
Given the highly complicated nature of its logistics, civil construction projects are commonly over schedule and budget. Numerous civil construction projects run into these types of problems due to the complexity of designing and constructing massive and extensive public buildings with so many stakeholders involved. Nevertheless, this guide will break down the difficulties that civil construction companies face and highlight how they can deliver infrastructures on time and under budget.
What is Heavy Civil Construction?
Instead of being considered a general branch of construction, civil projects are usually classified under the big umbrella that is civil engineering. This is due to the need for comprehensive planning and coordination between various structural engineers and design specialists before any construction can occur.
Generally, civil construction companies do more than build buildings. They’re also experienced in handling existing environments and nature like hillsides, mountain ridges, and water reservoirs, in addition to other aspects that interface with human-made infrastructure. General contractors bidding on civil projects need to know about erosion control, grading, public impact, legal regulations, access rights, and much more to understand the scope in any given request and work. If the general contractor can’t handle all the steps themselves, they must know how to hire and subcontract properly to manage all of the other trades involved in completing the project.
What Types of Projects are Handled by the Heavy Civil Sector?
Typically, civil construction often involves structures like public libraries or city halls, but the heavy civil sector takes designing and construction to another level. Here are some of the most commonly handled projects by the heavy civil sector include the following:
- Roadways, ranging from basic residential streets to complex overpasses and underground tunnels.
- Railroads, including tracks for light and high-speed vehicles and streetcar systems.
- Bridges, from simple-level roadway crossings to the massive bridges that connect two cities.
- Earthwork projects like building new levees, reshaping flood-prone areas, and capping landfills.
- Dams and reservoir tanks or lakes, including water systems designed for power or electricity generation.
- Wastewater treatment plants, settlement ponds, holding tanks, and other essential water processing structures.
- River and canal stabilization or widening projects for both shipping purposes and recreational goals.
- Water Ports, Airports, and other major transportation hubs.
Other Heavy Civil Works:
- Pre-cast Roadway Concrete Technology
- Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan
- Concrete Barrier
- Commercial Retrofit
- Rapid Set Roadway Concrete Technology
- Construction Site Remediation
- Subgrade and Roadbed
- Soil Stabilization
- Site Demolition
- Landscaping & Beautification
- – Trucking & Hauling
- – Sub-Grade & Sub-Ballast Prep
- Site Clearing
- Slope Protection & Erosion Control
- Rail Track Removal & Salvage
- Steel Casing
- Street Sweeping Grading
How Could a Civil Construction Improve Infrastructure for The Future?
Many of the country’s roads, tunnels, bridges, and other infrastructure projects are full of unforeseen obstacles and challenges, creating significant budget and schedule overruns. But these overruns impact more than the construction buildings.
Delays in renovating and building infrastructure not only costs the contractor companies doing the work but also burdens the local taxpayers who need to access and use these essential structures every day. Street potholes, closed roadways, and overcrowded airports cost the average household around $3,400 a year in lost disposable income. From the wasted time lost during inefficient public commutes to higher than usual electricity costs, aging public infrastructure affects everyone in a community.
Poorly kept roads and dangerous bridges can directly damage both vehicles and public transportation in general. The Committee for Economic Development estimates that motorists in the United States spend almost $112 billion per year on vehicle repairs due to poor road conditions. Moreover, road congestion alone from a lack of new road lanes wasted over three billion gallons of fuel in a single year in the United States.
Contractors that can deliver new roadway, bridges, tunnel, and other public infrastructure projects within a fixed budget and timeline constraints not only stand to see a higher return of investment (ROI)–they also enrich and help the communities in which they’re working. In turn, these communities attract and open more businesses, which will trigger the need for more civil structures in the future—a win-win for all involved.
4 Ways Contractors Can Succeed on Civil Construction Projects
Knowing where to look for new bidding opportunities and how to stay on top of complex civil construction projects is essential for getting a piece of the pie. Contractors vying for civil construction projects must invest in new techniques and technologies in order to address what it takes to build public infrastructures cost-effectively and efficiently.
1. Build Public-Private Partnerships
Private contractors and subcontractors have always played a significant role in civil construction projects, but currently, public-private partnerships are getting them even more involved in the operations. A P3 or a private-public partnership arrangement allows a federal body or a state to authorize a civil construction project that is managed and sometimes financed by private companies and corporations rather than public services.
As of now, 35 U.S. states allow for this P3 arrangement, and many other states are actively considering re-evaluating and changing their laws regarding the private-public arrangement.
2. Work With Projects with Low Tax Investment
While most U.S. residents know they need their roads and bridges repaired, it doesn’t mean that they would want to pay higher taxes to cover the costs. This leads to one of the most extensive benefits of the P3 structure: the vast opportunity for infrastructure renovations and improvements with little to no cost to local taxpayers.
In most cases, even outside the U.S., private investors and multi-national companies are financing the infrastructure improvements in exchange for repayment through a percentage of collected tolls for highways, for example. The rest of the tolls will go to the government funds, generating a steady source of new income.
3. Incorporate New Digital Solutions
Since heavy civil projects are ten times more complicated than other forms of civil construction, contractors need to embrace the latest digital technologies and follow the innovative industry trends to keep everyone on the same page. An entire team of different construction professionals and subcontractors is needed on a civil engineering job, and keeping them all in touch with various stakeholders can seem impossible at best.
Collaboration software, such as construction scheduling software tailored to the needs of the construction professionals, prevents information gaps between teams and communication breakdown with its members. Software that relies on the cloud and mobile technology to remotely store all the relevant project documents, plans, contracts, and other critical information allows every stakeholder to access what they need at any time, anywhere. This speeds up construction operations, prevents schedule delays, keeps everyone under the agreed budget, and helps you catch minor mistakes before they’re expensive to fix.
3. Re-evaluate and Improve Internal Processes
While collaboration and communication software is essential in optimizing your approach to managing construction for your company to grow, don’t stop there! There are plenty of ways to streamline the design and site preparation process without investing in expensive and trendy equipment. For example, geotagging is a dependable tool that has been available for years to locate precisely where photos were taken. When you’re working on laying out any structure without any visual markers provided, it can be challenging to determine where the images or video were captured. GPS-linked and geotagged documents specify the exact placement of structures and unique access points to reduce costly mistakes during construction.
4. Benchmark Bidding Cost with Competitors
Lastly, consider aligning your bidding cost structure with the segment of the infrastructure and construction companies you are competing with. Companies that build the longest-lasting and most technically complex projects can operate at more premium margins. Construction companies who make more common commodity-type or simple infrastructure yet try to operate at premium margins will nonetheless fail. There is room in the heavy civil construction industry for companies of all types. Still, vigilance regarding cost structures is critical, as problems arise for companies when the capabilities, cost structure, and positioning fall out of alignment.
Heavy Civil Construction: The Building of Generations
The heavy civil construction sector will always present plenty of challenges to the contractors working within it, but remember just as many opportunities for growth for your construction company and your professional team.
Moreover, building public infrastructures that our community truly needs can be incredibly rewarding and satisfying, especially when it comes to high extra costs to those who benefit from it daily. Consider upgrading your company’s approach to collaboration and communication technology to win more heavy civil infrastructure bids and keep your bids within the strict limitations for cost and time. Project management for construction will be light, even though heavy civil works are catered. Additionally, doing so will benefit your construction company in the long run and benefit communities for years beyond.
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