The University of Southampton

CENV1023 Construction, Design and Materials

Module Overview

This module introduces the processes of design and construction that are relevant to the creation of projects in the built environment. It incorporates the design skills and processes, materials science, quantitative structural design and implementation of construction processes (the latter including land surveying, setting out, planning, construction management and practical site operations). At the end of the module, students should have experienced the distinct design and construction process as is commonly applied in the civil engineering industry and have an understanding of the materials and structural forms used, and gained an appreciation of the roles and responsibilities of the main parties involved. The module comprises three main elements – construction, design and materials science, In materials science, students receive a basic understanding of the properties of engineering materials based on fundamental scientific principles, to enable a sound rationale for selection and use of materials in civil engineering. In design, students gain knowledge and skills in design by tackling a range of problems during the two January design weeks, culminating in a Design Project that runs through semester 2. Design representation through sketching, technical drawing, modelmaking and prototyping is taught as a key part of the design process as well as for final communication of output. Students have access to e-learning materials for familiarisation with AutoCAD for 2D and 3D design and visualisation, and are inducted into using the equipment in the design studios. Design lectures encompass the history of engineering and architecture (showing how the design of structures has developed over time, referring constantly to cultural and technological developments) and on structural form and its relationship to material choice. In construction, students are first introduced to surveying, becoming conversant with modern surveying and construction techniques and develop surveying and setting out skills based on practical tasks undertaken around the campus. These skills will then be applied as a very important element of the construction of structures during the Constructionarium, which is a week-long residential field course activity in the final teaching week of semester 2. This tests awareness and knowledge of engineering processes in solving a series of practical construction tasks using the common civil engineering materials, steel, timber and reinforced concrete. Preparing for the Constructionarium is a major activity in semester 2, in which students work in groups to develop project plans, method statements and formwork/temporary works designs. A parallel activity in Semester 2 uses knowledge gained in the Mechanics, Structures and Materials module on the theoretical behaviour of structures to undertake numerical calculations to assess the performance of the Constructionarium structures, through a structural design exercise that includes sketching of load paths and structural form and understanding of loading, structural stability and structural element behaviour.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• Provide you with a wide ranging experience of quantitative, qualitative, analytical and physical processes and skills required to develop and realise engineering design and construction. • Provide you with a sound understanding of the historical and professional context of the design and construction of the built environment, including the modern sustainability agenda. • Provide you with a fundamental understanding of the science of materials used in civil and environmental engineering, and its relationship to the material properties used in design. • Introduce you to the skills, techniques and processes required to effectively communicate your ideas to team members, professionals and lay persons. • Offer you individual and group projects to stimulate individual innovation, self-assessment and teamwork skills required in engineering

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The historical context of Civil Engineering and Architecture.
  • Common types of loading on structures
  • The idealisation of real structures to enable calculation of structural adequacy
  • The importance of health, safety, welfare and the environment in construction
  • The capabilities and limitations of common site operations
  • The importance of team working, leadership and communication in construction
  • Freehand sketching techniques.
  • Drawing setting out and orthographic projection techniques
  • Effective communication of design ideas
  • The physical origins of properties of materials and their control.
  • Ways in which properties of materials govern their selection in engineering applications.
  • The principles of basic land surveying
  • Procedures for setting up and using surveying instruments
  • Methods of assessing the accuracy in surveying
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Creative thinking
  • Communication of ideas
  • Leadership
  • Communicating by sketching
  • Problem solving
  • CAD-IT
  • Decision making
  • Critical appraisal
  • Exercising of independent judgement
  • Planning and time management
  • Group working
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Draw freehand conceptual and freehand sketches
  • Use AutoCAD software for technical drawings: line styles and drawing conventions, scaling, sections and construction detailing
  • Carry out basic surveying techniques including the use of a level to establish a site datum and use a Total Station for surveying and the basic setting of a site.
  • Compile a method statement for a model construction project and manage the tasks and processes of a construction project.
  • Perform a variety of basic construction tasks.
  • Effectively communicate using a range of media and methods.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Illustrate design intent and develop ideas through simple sketches and descriptions
  • Recognise how the principles of structural mechanics are used in structural design
  • Use ‘design, build, test’ techniques to confirm the viability of simple structural designs
  • Use reference material in new design situations
  • Apply the theoretical principles of land surveying to a practical situation
  • Appraise technical drawings and their engineering implications
  • Plan and programme a construction project
  • Report progress during a construction project
  • Appraise the health and safety hazards due to planned construction activities


Construction - Surveying • Map projections and datums • Levelling • Use of theodolites. • Total station and distance measurements. • Setting out. Construction - Quantitative design, related to Constructionarium • Common types of loading on structures. • Idealisation of real structures to enable calculation. • Calculation of structural adequacy of steel and reinforced concrete structures and shallow foundations Construction - Constructionarium field course • Interpreting drawings, including taking off quantities. • Construction planning (method statements, task lists, programming). • Health, safety, welfare and the environment in construction. • Construction practice (excavation, reinforcement, formwork, concrete, steel erection, final finishing, temporary works). • Project management techniques (cost estimates, monitoring progress against plan, adapting plan to unforeseen events). Design • Design process; concept generation, design refinement and prototyping. • Design context (including history of architecture and the built environment from its beginnings through to contemporary themes and their relationship to culture and sustainability). • Observation, analysis and interpretation. Judgement. • Materials, material behaviour, and associated manufacturing processes. • Load paths, structural form, proportion, efficiency and qualitative analysis of structural behaviour. • Structural connections. • Learning from structural failures: Safe structures. Design communication and representation • Freehand sketching and model making. • Presentation skills (verbal, visual). • Drawing in plan, section, elevation, axonometric, isometric and perspective. • AutoDesk AutoCAD software package. • Professional technical drawing conventions related to Civil • Engineering including; scale, setting out grids, line types and weights, dimensioning, annotation, and title blocks. Materials (Specific materials science for civil and environmental engineers) • Introduction and Materials in Engineering: Introduction to the course, materials in civil engineering, aims/objectives. • Fundamentals: Atomic structure and interatomic bonding; electrons, atoms and molecules; the • Periodic table; bonding and interatomic forces; the structure of crystalline solids; basic structures, unit cells; holes and lattices; imperfections in solids; point, linear, planar and volume defects; diffusion. • Ceramics and Concrete: Ceramics and glasses; main classes, properties and uses; Concrete: introduction, constituent materials, durability of reinforced concrete structures. • Mechanical properties and Microstructure Control: Stress and strain; elasticity; tensile properties; hardness; strengthening mechanisms; recovery, recrystallisation and grain growth, phase diagrams; thermal processing. • Failure of metals: Failure; fracture, brittle and ductile failure; impact and fracture toughness; fatigue; creep; corrosion. • Polymers and composites: Polymers; basic structures and bonding; polymerisation; cross linking; thermoplastics and thermosets; composites; main classes, properties and uses, wood as a composite example. • Revision/Case studies: Case studies and revision.

Special Features

Special features of this module are: • The Constructionarium field course. • The opportunity to practically apply knowledge to design, build and test a structure in relation to an engineering brief and a real site. • Guest critics from industry are invited to design presentations to provide insight and feedback. On the Constructionarium field course and other practical activities taking place on/ off campus, every effort will be made to accommodate students with special needs. If this cannot be achieved, then an experience with equivalent learning outcomes will be offered.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

This module will be delivered through a combination of the following: • Lectures for the delivery of new material and concepts. • Tutorial sessions for the discussion of topics, support for student learning by means of examples, and to support project development. • Practical Classes, Workshops and Fieldwork to develop understanding and skills through practical application. • Student presentations to develop communication skills. • Self-paced/ online course material to support independent learning. • Individual and group work. The teaching pattern is summarised below: Semester 1 An introductory lecture to describe the module and explain how students may access the AutoCAD e-learning package will be given during Week 2) Construction: • 10 x 45min lectures on the theory and application of surveying. (Weeks 2-11) • 3 x 3-hr practical sessions on levelling and theodolite use (located on campus). The second practical session contains a formatively assessed exercise on levelling. (Weeks 2-10). Design: • 11 x 45min lectures introducing the development and evolution of building and structural design and the broad principles of design and structural form. (Weeks 2-11,15). • Two week (8 x 8hr) workshop sessions to introduce and apply design theories and to start the Design Project. (Weeks 16 and 17) Note: Design Project continues during semester 2. • An e-learning package will be made available to students to facilitate the teaching and learning of AutoDesk AutoCAD software. Students will be expected to complete the e-learning package by the end of Week 15 in Semester 1, i.e. just prior to the 2-week design workshop where AutoCAD outputs will be required. There are a number of embedded assessments within the e-learning package and students must pass all to complete the e-learning course. Additional staff support will be available and student progress through the e-learning tools will be tracked. Students will have the opportunity at the end of the second year to take the Autodesk AutoCAD Certified Professional examinations free of charge (but carrying no assessment weighting for their degree). Materials: • 22 x 45min lectures. (Weeks 2-11, 15) • 5 x 1hr tutorial sessions, covering i. Fundamentals, ii. Ceramics and concrete, iii. Mechanical properties and microstructures, iv. Failure of metals, v. Polymers and composites (Weeks 4, 6, 8, 10, 15) •1 x 3hr workshop session (computer based) on crystallography. (Weeks 5, 6) •1 x 3hr laboratory session consisting of an experiment of three parts; i. Tensile testing, ii, Concrete crushing, iii. Impact testing. (Weeks 8-10) Semester 2 Construction: • 8 x 45min lectures on the design of structures and foundations, with particular emphasis on the Constructionarium, associated with an assignment on the quantitative analysis and design of the Constructionarium structures. (Weeks 1-8 (18-25)) 8 x 45min lectures on construction methods and health and safety risk management, with particular emphasis on the Constructionarium. In the first lecture, the Constructionarium projects are introduced and the students given opportunity to express preference for a project or projects. Project groups are then allocated taking account of student preferences and other factors and announced in Week 1.(Weeks 1-8 (18-25) • 3 x 45min workshop sessions for developing of final plans and formwork designs for the Constructionarium (Weeks 9-11 (30-32)) • Two-day (2 x 7hrs) traverse survey and setting out exercise (trial set out of Constructionarium structure) carried out over a -day period at end of the Easter vacation at the Wide Lane Sports Centre. (Week 8 (29)) • 1-day (1 x 5hrs) COMPULSORY attendance at briefing session for the Constructionarium. Includes a health and safety briefing and students deciding their team roles and developing construction plans (Week 9 (30)) 5-day (5 x 8hrs) Constructionarium residential field course on a controlled building site in Norfolk (plus one day of travelling). (Week 12 (33)) Design: •10 x 1-day workshop sessions for the development of the Design Project. Note: 2 x 3hr laboratory sessions (morning and afternoon) are booked for the Friday of each week. (Weeks 1 (18) to 10 (31)) Workshop sessions are reserved for working on the Group Design Project within the Design Studios/ Workshops. Informal consultation opportunities with staff members are provided each week mainly within this time. Some sessions may clash with other timetabled activities, groups are to arrange alternative times to meet and manage their time accordingly. Groups can use the Design Studios/ Workshops in addition to timetabled sessions, during open access times. The reinforcement of skills in AutoCAD is grown through its application within the Design Project and in preparation for the Constructionarium (e.g. drawing formwork and sketches and schematics associated with temporary works to be used during the construction). • 2-day workshop skills training at City College, Southampton. Scheduled for after the examination period, in Week 36 or 37. Attendance is COMPULSORY. Gives skills in use of workshop tools and machinery manufacturing and fabrication in metal and plastic required to permit access to the student workshops to undertake assessed activities in future years of the programme. (Weeks 35-36)

Completion of assessment task15
Practical classes and workshops12
Supervised time in studio/workshop130
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Bannister, A., Raymond, S. & Baker, R.. Surveying. 

Umthor, Peter (2010). Thinking Architecture. 

William D. Callister (2002) (2002). Materials Science and Engineering, an Introduction. 

Sennett, R (2009). (2009). The Craftsman.. 

Rice, Peter (1996). An Engineer Imagines. 

Software. A range of resources are available in support of this module: Facilities: • Design Studios • Workshops • Computing facilities • Constructionarium: Controlled construction site at National Construction College (East), Bircham Newton, Norfolk (with associated travel and accommodation provided) Software: • AutoDesk AutoCAD. Students are given access to an e-learning package to enable self-paced learning as part of this module and may download a licensed student version for home use.

Tonks, N (2012). Ove Arup Philosophy of Design: Selected essays. 

Jackson, N. and Dhir, R. K. (1997). Civil Engineering Materials. 

Millais, M.. Building Structures: From concepts to design. 


Assessment Strategy

Overall breakdown assessment breakdown: 1. Construction (35%) 2. Design (35%) 3. Materials (30%) The Design Project will be an iterative process where verbal advice and feedback will be provided by your project tutor. Students are expected to record this in their Design Journals. Ad-hoc advice may also be supplied by your tutor outside of your weekly tutorials Compulsory elements do not contribute to the final mark. However, these elements must be completed to a satisfactory standard to qualify for attendance at the Constructionarium Field Course. Group marks are awarded to students for assessments as stated above. However, individual student marks can vary within a group should the assessors deem that there have been unequal contributions from the students within the group. In some situations, all students may complete a Group Assessment Form to comment on their and other group member’s contributions. In other situations, groups may be required to declare which elements of the submission were completed by which members of the group.




MethodPercentage contribution
Computer-based workshop  (180 minutes) 3%
Coursework 25%
Exam  (90 minutes) 24%
Field course 25%
Laboratory  (180 minutes) 3%
Oral presentation 10%
Surveying exercise 10%


MethodPercentage contribution
Design project 35%
Exam 30%
Quantitative practical write-up 20%
Surveying exercise 15%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

Students are provided with a sketch book and drawing equipment for design at the start of the year, but replacement costs are borne by the student.

Printing and Photocopying Costs

The costs associated with printing drawings and printing/ binding reports are to be covered by each student/ student group.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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