What is a Civil Engineer?

If you have a problem on a commercial construction project, who are you going to call? Usually, a civil engineer. These problem solvers work closely with contractors and supervisors to ensure your project is done in a timely, legal manner. But what is a civil engineer and why exactly does your commercial building project need one?

What is a Civil Engineer?

Civil engineers are highly trained professionals who implement projects and supervise their progress. While architects draw up plans, civil engineers bring those plans into reality. They play a hands-on role in ensuring your project is completed safely and accurately. Construction projects have many moving parts, and civil engineers bring them all together, coordinating with various contractors.

As the head of the construction team, civil engineers meet with contractors and supervisors and answer any questions they have. They supervise the construction and correct any errors. In addition, they inspect the project for safety and quality.

Civil engineers are also the problem solvers. Often, project plans look good to architects and clients, but they have not considered several principles of sound construction. When this occurs, the civil engineer knows how to alter the construction to both meet key standards and achieve the plan’s goals.   

Why Are Civil Engineers Especially Important on Commercial Projects?

Commercial projects include the construction of structures and facilities for private businesses or public works. Examples include retail shops, restaurants, hotels, medical buildings, hospitals, industrial shops, and office buildings.

Commercial projects are far more complex than residential ones. The building must comply with tighter regulations and gaining government approval is far more challenging. Civil engineers manage these complexities. Without them, commercial projects would lack the much-needed extra attention to detail.

Examples of Civil Engineer Responsibilities on Commercial Building Projects:

  • Creating an environmental mitigation plan

  • Helping a contractor apply for the right permits and ensuring those permits are granted in a timely manner

  • Supervising a project to make sure zoning laws are followed

Key Responsibilities of Civil Engineers:

Environmental Mitigation

Civil engineers study plans and the construction site to determine how to implement the project with minimum pollution and hazards. They create a plan for environmental mitigation and ensure it is followed.

Cost Minimization

Reducing costs is important. For example, a project may be less expensive if a certain material is chosen. But would that choice negatively impact the quality of construction or violate building codes? Civil engineers have the training and experience to answer these questions accurately so that the cost of the project can be as low as possible.

Legal Compliance

Civil engineers ensure compliance with local and state zoning laws. They understand how to achieve the project’s goals while adhering to legal standards. This is especially important to avoid litigation. 


Civil engineers implement the project by determining how to make the plans a reality. They supervise the construction to ensure that standards of quality and safety are met. 

You need a civil engineer for your commercial project when the plan has complications that cannot be overcome by a good contractor. In addition, civil engineers are needed for most commercial projects because they can navigate the complex regulations for commercial buildings. 

Carlton Building Services in Hampton Roads Virginia

Carlton Building Services specializes in repairs, maintenance, renovations, remodelings and build-outs for a variety of clients in Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach, and Chesapeake areas. We have years of experience handling projects in the retail, office, and healthcare space and would love to work with you on your next project!

To learn more about our services, check out past project highlights or contact Carlton Building Services to see how we can help with your next project. 

JP Carlton

J.P. Carlton

J.P. Carlton is the founder of Carlton Building Services, a Hampton Roads-based construction company.