What is meant by construction?

In civil engineering, construction is the combination of art and science, to construct a physical and naturally built environment, starting from the design phase. The construction process falls under the area of building construction, which is a sub-branch of civil engineering. Hence, it is also sometimes called the design and build or design-build process. The work of construction is majorly carried out by civil engineers and design professionals along with a team of works consisting of contractors and subcontractors.

The construction process is associated with the design and building of buildings, structures, complexes, dams, bridges, and even demolishing old houses and building a new home. All these start with a construction project with the involvement of different professions, with the use of sophisticated and utility equipment.

A construction process undertaken by a construction worker
CC BY-SA 4.0 | Image credits: https://commons.wikimedia.org | Combustion2016

Individuals involved in construction

From the initial phase to the completion phase of the construction process, there are a variety of individuals involved. All these individuals, with their diversified backgrounds and skills ensure that the completion of the construction project follows strict timelines without compromising on quality.

Some of the important individuals who are primarily involved in the construction process are outlined below:


Engineers are the forefront individuals involved in any construction project. Engineers are primarily involved with the planning phase of the construction project, which is known as the pre-design phase. During the pre-design phase, they brainstorm different ideas about how to initiate the design and construction process. Engineers then perform design and analyze the design and prepare construction drawings, which are to be communicated with the contractors and subcontractors.

Engineers are then in-charge of the complete construction planning and minimization of construction costs.


Contractors are the individuals who are the prime base of different construction companies. Contractors upon agreement and signing of contract documents during the pre-construction phase, agree to provide service to a particular construction project by providing labor, works, materials, and equipment. During the term, contractors serve as the head of the construction project. Electrical works, masonry works, plumbing works, painting works, carpentry works, and plastering works are some of the works undertaken by a contractor. The term of the contractor ends with the completion of the construction project. The construction is paid the required amount as per the contract documents post-construction.


Subcontractors are the individuals who generally work under the contractors. Subcontractors play an important role in the construction project. The selection of subcontractors is vital for every construction project as the work of subcontractors decides the time of completion of the project, considering the utmost quality. There are some of the points which a contractor keeps in mind while selecting a subcontractor for a particular project, they are:

  • Past experience
  • Trustworthiness and dependability
  • Ability to relocate in a short span of time
  • Adherence to the project and sincerity in work
  • Availability of experienced and skillful staff and works
  • Availability of advanced and right construction equipment

Workers and laborers

Workers and laborers are the individuals who are responsible for the main construction work by their physical strength and stamina. The sole responsibility of these people is to carry and shift heavy materials, fitting works, and repair works. During the initial phase of construction, they are responsible for the availability of raw materials, preparation of mortars and concrete, cleaning the construction site, digging and leveling works.

The workers are skilled people who are trained to use different sophisticated equipment, power, and precision tools for construction-related works.

Steps taken before beginning a construction project

There are various steps that are considered before beginning the construction process, some of them are discussed below.

Site investigation

Site investigation is also known as soil exploration. Before a construction project can initiate the formation of the underlying foundation, complete knowledge of the soil properties and the materials beneath the soil needs to be determined. Assessment of the geo-technical and geo-environmental data, regarding the soil characteristics, is a crucial task for a strong foundation structure. Some of the points which cover the purpose of site preparation are:

  • Sequence and nature of strata
  • Ground flowability characteristics
  • Frequency and degree of the tectonic shift
  • Characteristics of the groundwater at the particular site
  • Strength and compressibility of rocks and soil
  • Chemical composition of the groundwater

Site preparation

After site investigation and recording of specific data, the process of site preparation is carried out. There are various activities that involve site preparation, some of them are:

  • Demolition of oil existing constructions to initiate a new home or building construction
  • Clearing of building debris
  • Clearing natural on-site materials including rocks, soil lumps, dead plants, and trees.
  • Underground preparation including tunneling and digging
  • Site surveying
  • Site mapping
  • Earthmoving and landfilling
  • Anti-pest and anti-termite treatment
  • Soil treatment to improve its strength and compressibility

These activities not only ensure a proper construction project completion but also ensure the safety of workers during caring out the construction.

After all these activities and analysis, the actual work of construction takes place.

Tools used in the construction process

Although there are different tools that are used during the process of construction, some of the basic and important tools are outlined below.


These are heavy machinery and tools whose prime purpose is to remove debris, rocks, soil lump, and other materials from the construction site. The primary job of earthmoving equipment involves digging, pushing, removing, and lifting various objects.

Surveying instruments

These instruments are primarily used by engineers to make precise measurements of the earth's surface. These instruments are of extensive use for determining property boundaries and the preparation of construction sites. Compass, clinometers, chains, tapes, theodolites, prisms, and reflectors are examples of some of the instruments.

Concrete mixers

A concrete mixer is a piece of sophisticated equipment that is used to prepare large quantities of concrete mixtures and mortars. These are characterized by a rotating hollow drum of large inside volume. The drum is usually located at the back of a truck and is powered by internal combustion engines. Workers dump rock pebbles, sand, and cement in the correct ratio to initiate mixing.

Context and Applications

This topic is extensively taught in various undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses like

  • Bachelors of Technology in Civil Engineering
  • Masters of Technology in Civil Engineering
  • Masters of Technology in Building Construction

Practice Problems

1. Which of the following is a piece of construction equipment?

  1. Earthmovers
  2. Jackhammer
  3. Compass and chains
  4. All of these

Answer: Option d

Explanation: Earthmovers, jackhammers, compasses, and chains are all used in the construction process.

2. Which of the following is an essential quality of a subcontractor?

  1. Past experience
  2. Trustworthiness
  3. Both a and b
  4. None of these

Answer: Option c

Explanation: A subcontractor must possess past experience and should be trustworthy for being suitable, to be hired by a contractor for a particular construction project.

3. Which of the following points fall under the category of site preparation?

  1. Tunneling
  2. Gathering soil data
  3. Gathering geo-technical data
  4. Surveying

Answer: Option a

Explanation: Tunneling is one of the important operations in site preparation for both the commercial construction process and structural construction processes.

4. What is the primary work of an earthmover?

  1. Preparation of the concrete mixture
  2. Site demolition
  3. Lifting and digging soil
  4. All of these

Answer: Option c

Explanation: The primary work of an earthmover is the alteration of soil like lifting and soil digging.

5. What is the major role played by engineers in a construction project?

  1. Design and analysis
  2. Shifting construction equipment
  3. Performing works that require physical strength and stamina
  4. None of these

Answer: Option a

Explanation: Design and analysis of buildings and building foundations are the important works of an engineer.

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