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The University of Southampton

CENV1027 Civil Engineering Fundamentals

Module Overview

This module presents knowledge and skills specific to civil/environmental engineering, in three areas: Chemistry and Geology for Engineers and in Construction. It complements the more general engineering science knowledge and understanding covered in the modules FEEG1002 and FEEG1003, and the civil engineering specific skills and knowledge with focus on design in the module CENV1026 in the first year of the civil and environmental engineering degree programmes. The skills and knowledge gained in this module are applicable across many areas of the programme, in modules involving design/manufacture and in individual and group research and development projects. 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

• To give a fundamental background in the chemical and biological principles applicable to civil and environmental engineering • To explore the application of chemical and biological systems to engineering design for pollution and corrosion control. • To give an appreciation of the importance of environmental sustainability. • To introduce the approach of life cycle assessment in civil and environmental engineering practice. • To introduce Geology with an emphasis on understanding its importance to ground construction. • To define the main geological processes. • To give an appreciation of geohazards and geotechnical risks. Of the formation and variability of geotechnical materials and the importance of ground water. • To introduce fundamental soil and rock properties in the context of basic soil mechanics. • To provide a wide ranging experience of quantitative, qualitative, analytical and physical processes and skills required to develop and realise engineering design and construction. • Introduce you to the skills, techniques and processes required to effectively communicate your ideas to team members, professionals and lay persons.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • Describe the major elemental (e.g. carbon and nitrogen) cycle and water cycle .
  • Outline the importance of geology to civil engineering.
  • Define the principles and techniques of basic land surveying.
  • Explain procedures for setting up and using surveying instruments.
  • Detail methods of assessing the accuracy in surveying.
  • Define common types of loading on structures and structural forms suitable to resist them.
  • Model real structures to enable calculation of structural adequacy.
  • Select common site operations with due regard for their capabilities and limitations.
  • Understand importance of team working, leadership and communication in construction.
  • Detail the principles of environmental sustainability and life cycle assessment .
  • Show knowledge of the chemical and biological theories that influence civil and environmental engineering.
  • Define sources of major environmental pollution and describe basic principles on their control and treatment.
  • Explain chemical and biological processes of corrosion formation and measures applied for corrosion control.
  • Describe geohazards and geotechnical risks.
  • Describe geological materials, their origins, distribution and uses.
  • Explain the importance of groundwater.
  • Explain plate tectonics and the structure of the Earth.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Explain the procedures used to calculate carbon footprint, water footprint and embodied energy of construction materials.
  • Identify and quantify chemical reactions needed for environmental engineering.
  • Outline the impact of major environmental pollutants and engineering considerations on their treatment processes.
  • Determine normal total and effective stresses, shear stresses and failure planes for simple situations.
  • Describe a range of technical issues associated with geology and geotechnics.
  • Analyse a soil profile and calculate effective stresses in drained and undrained conditions.
  • Evaluate the role of geological processes in ground engineering.
  • Appraise technical drawings and their engineering implications.
  • Report progress and expenditure of resources during a construction project.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Time management.
  • Communication of ideas.
  • Leadership.
  • Numeracy-data interpretation.
  • Independent learning.
  • Apply critical analysis and judgement.
  • Presentation of data and analysis results.
  • Decision making.
  • Exercising of independent judgment.
  • Planning and time management.
  • Group working.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Work Safely.
  • Carry out basic soil and rock description.
  • Identify geological features seen on field visits.
  • Identify areas of pre-existing slope instability.
  • 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.


a. Chemistry for civil and environmental engineers Elemental cycles (carbon, nitrogen) and water cycle Environmental sustainability, carbon footprint, water footprint, and embodied energy of construction materials Principle of life cycle assessment Foundational principles in chemistry and biochemistry: Partial pressure of gases; aqueous solutions and concentration; Henry’s law; carbon dioxide, carboxylic acid and pH Reactions (neutralisation, oxidation-reduction, precipitation); balancing chemical equations • Reaction kinetics and thermodynamics; reversible reaction, i.e. Chatelier’s principle • Biochemistry and the function of organisms in elemental cycles • Enthalpy and free energy changes of reaction • Engineering considerations and calculations, flow rate, residence time Pollution and control • Air pollution (source, toxicity, fate, and control) • Water pollution (source, toxicity, fate, and control) • Solid and hazardous wastes (source, toxicity, fate, and control) Electrochemical and microbial corrosion of construction materials and its control b.. Geology for engineers The structure of the earth, plate tectonics, continental drift and their engineering implications Geohazards and geotechnical risks The origins, distribution and variability of a range of geomaterials Properties of geomaterials with importance for construction Groundwater Effective stress and Mohr’s circles Laboratory classes: Engineering description of soils and rocks; Classification of soils Field visits: Two full-day field trips will be organised to the Isle of Wight and the Dorset coast. c. Construction Surveying • Map projections and datums • Levelling • Use of theodolites. • Total station and distance measurements. • Setting out. 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 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).

Special Features

The geology element of this module includes two one-day field trips to the Isle of Wight and to Dorset. These trips include elements of traversing of difficult terrain. For students with mobility difficulties, alternative arrangements will be made to ensure an equivalent learning experience. The Constructionarium field course offers 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. • Field visits • Individual and group work. Chemistry: For Chemistry, teaching methods will involve lectures, tutorials and a laboratory class. Tutorial problems sheets will be issued in support of the course content, and formative feedback on the students’ work on these problem sheets will be given during tutorials. The laboratory class is assessed along with an activity that the students carry out on campus involving identifying and analysing cases of corrosion. Geology: For Geology, teaching methods will comprise lectures, supported by 2 one-day field visits and 2 laboratory classes. Students produce reports on the field visits and laboratory classes, which are assessed and on which feedback is given. Construction: You will start with a series of lectures and practical exercises in surveying. This key civil Engineering skill will be employed at the constructionarium later in the year. A series of lectures in semester 1 will give an overview of the constructionairum projects and associated tasks and skills required. You will also learn about more detailed structural form and key mechanical principles of each project. There will be a series of lectures on construction methods, health and safety risk management, with particular emphasis on the Constructionarium. Students will be given opportunity to express preference for a project or projects. Project groups are then allocated taking account of student preferences and other factors. Shortly before the constructionarium there will be the final set of tasks including a short course to learn how to set out your structures using a modern theodolite or total station. Finally there is a briefing day which includes a health and safety briefing, planning management and team working exercises to ensure you work effectively as a group. Attendance for this briefing day is COMPULSORY. The Constructionarium residential field course takes place at the end of semester 2 over 5 days (plus one day of travelling) at the National construction college at Bircham Newton in Norfolk.

Completion of assessment task48
Wider reading or practice20
Preparation for scheduled sessions32
Practical classes and workshops17
Supervised time in studio/workshop12
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Conoley, C. and Hills, P.  Chemistry. 

Ahmad Z. (2006). Principles of corrosion engineering and corrosion control. 

Sennett, R (2009). The Craftsman - all pages. 

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

Curran M. A. (2012). Life cycle assessment handbook: a guide for environmentally sustainable products. 

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

Weiner R. F. and Matthews R. A (2003). Environmental engineering. 

Waltham, T (2002). Foundations of Engineering Geology. 

Kearey, P. (2001). The Penguin Dictionary of Geology. 

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

Press, F. and Siever, R (2003). Understanding Earth. 

Rice, Peter (1996). An Engineer Imagines - all pages. 

Zumthor, Peter (2010). Thinking Architecture - all pages. 


Assessment Strategy

The learning outcomes of this module will be assessed under the Part I Assessment Schedule for FEE Engineering Programmes which forms an Appendix to your Programme Specification. Feedback will be available on the formative work undertaken during the module.


MethodPercentage contribution
Part I Assessment Schedule 100%


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:


For field trips, students will need to wear suitable clothing e.g. waterproofs and stout shoes. You can purchase these from any source. Travel for field trips will be provided. Students will be expected to bring or purchase their own lunch and any additional refreshments. Students are required to purchase their own safety boots for the Constructionarium. A budget cost of £40 should be allowed for. Information will be given on Blackboard about local suppliers with whom discounts have been negotiated.

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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