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Module title Construction, Design and Materials
Module code CENV1023
Module lead

David Richards

Module lead profile url:
External Examiner: Professor Zoran Kapelan - University of Exeter
Faculty Engineering & the Environment
Academic unit CivEng and the Env
Academic session first offered 201213
Credit Points ECTS 15
Level Undergraduate
When will the module be taught Full Academic Year
Pre-requisite and/or co-requisite modules
Programmes in which the module is core
Programmes in which the module is compulsory BEng Civil Eng with Architect (year 1)
BEng Civil Engineering (year 1)
MEng Civil Eng w Placement (year 1)
MEng Civ Env Eng w Placement (year 1)
MEng Civil & Environmental Eng (year 1)
MEng Civil Eng w Yr in Indust (year 1)
MEng Civil Engineering (year 1)
MEng Civil Eng & Architecture (year 1)
MEng Civ Eng Arch w Placement (year 1)
Programmes in which the module is optional
Date of last edit 13th Sep 2016 - 3:29pm

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, model making 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 learning outcomes


Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to:

  • 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.

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.
  • 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
  • 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

Subject Specific Intellectual

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

Transferable and Generic

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to:

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

Subject Specific Practical

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.

Graduate Attributes

Graduate Attributes are the personal qualities, skills and understandings that University of Southampton students have the opportunity to develop. They include but extend beyond subject-specific knowledge of an academic discipline and its technical proficiencies. The Graduate Attributes are achieved through the successful attainment of the learning outcomes of the programmes, and successful engagement with the University’s co-curriculum e.g. the Graduate Passport.

A checklist for embedding the graduate attributes is available at:

Summary of syllabus content



  • 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).


  • 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.


(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.

Summary of 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 (Week 2)


  • 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).


  • 11 x 45min lectures introducing the development and evolution of building and structural desig 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).


  • 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


  • 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 design 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))


  • 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)

Study time allocation

Contact hours: 265 hours

Private Study hours: 35 hours

Total study time: 300 hours


Summary of assessment and Feedback methods

Assessment Method Number % contribution to final mark Final assessment (✔)
Compulsory surveying exercise on campus (3-hrs, levelling) Pairs or small group assessment, Formative. (Weeks 5-7) 0%
Computer-based workshop (3-hrs) on Materials Science, with Individual online student assessment, Summative. (Weeks 5, 6) 3%
Laboratory (3-hrs) on Materials Science with multiple-choice individual student assessment, Summative. (Weeks 8-10) 3%
Completion of AutoCad e-learning package. Individual online assessment, Formative. (Weeks 1-12 (1-11, 15)). It is compulsory for all students to complete the AutoCad e-learning package prior to the end of week 12. This element of the module does not count directly towards the final assessment of the module, but the drawing skills developed are required to complete assessed elements. 0%
Coursework submission. Design Project Interim Drawing Review. Group assessment, Formative. (Week 2 (19)) 0%
Presentation. Design Project Concept Presentation. Group assessment, Formative. (Week 4 (21) 0%
Compulsory coursework submission. Constructionarium preparatory task (covering take-off of quantities, estimating, sketching, design and AutoCAD drawing of formwork). Group assessment, for sub-group of Constructionarium project team, Formative. (Week 8 (25)) 0%
Surveying exercise (2 days, traverse survey). Group assessment, for sub-group of Constructionarium project team, summative (Last week of Easter vacation (29). 10%
Compulsory coursework submission. Design calculations relating to Constructionarium structures and temporary works. Individual assessment, Formative. (Week 9 (30)) 0%
Coursework submission. Design Project. Group assessment, summative. (Week 10 (31)) 25%
Presentation. Design Project Final Presentation. Group assessment, summative. (Week 10 (31)) 10%
Field course – Constructionarium. Group assessment with weighting for individual contribution, (Week 12 (33)), together with individual student reflection (Week 14 (35)), Summative 25%
Completion of workshop training (2 days). Compulsory attendance at workshop training at City College, Southampton. This element of the module does not count directly towards the final assessment of the module, but the skills developed are required to complete assessed elements in future years of the programme, Formative. (Weeks 15-16 (36-37)) 0%
Exam      (Duration:1.5 hours) 24%

Other Assessment Notes

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.


Referral Method

See notes below

Surveying: Analyse traverse survey data. Individual written submission (on-line). Summative. = 1 x 15%

Constructionarium: Quantitative design/capacity calculations relating to a Constructionarium structure. Individual written submission (on-line). Summative. = 1 x 20%

Design Project: Individual submission (on-line). Summative. =1 x 35%

Materials: Open book examination. On-line submission. Summative. = 1 x 30%

Method of Repeat Year

Repeat year internally

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 Resources

Resource type: Teaching space, layout and equipment required
  • Design Studios
  • Workshops
  • Computing facilities
  • Constructionarium: Controlled construction site at National Construction College (East), Bircham Newton, Norfolk (with associated travel and accommodation provided)

Resource type: Software requirements
AutoCAD AutoDesk Revit,
AutoCAD AutoDesk Revit, Students are provided with introductory training as part of this module and are provided with a licensed student version for home use.

Resource type: Other

Module teaching notes for lectures and other supporting material provided on Blackboard. For materials, skeleton lecture notes and a coursebook for the tutorials and laboratories are issued as hard copy booklets at the start of the course.

Resource type: Background textbook
ISBN: 0-582-30249-8

Surveying (7th Ed). Bannister, A., Raymond, S. & Baker, R. Prentice Hall

Resource type: Background textbook
ISBN: 0-415-33623-6

Building Structures: From concepts to design (2nd Ed). Millais, M. Taylor Francis

Resource type: Background textbook
ISBN: 0-141-02209-4

Sennett, R (2009). The Craftsman. London: Penguin Books. All pages.

Resource type: Background textbook
ISBN: 3-791-34731-8

Tonks, N (2012). Ove Arup Philosophy of Design: Selected essays (1st Ed). London: Prestel.

Resource type: Background textbook
ISBN: 3-034-60585-4

Zumthor, Peter (2010). Thinking Architecture (3rd Ed). Germany: Birkhauser GmbH. All pages.

Resource type: Background textbook
ISBN: 1-899-85811-3

Rice, Peter (1996). An Engineer Imagines (3rd Ed) London: Ellipsis London. All pages

Resource type: Background textbook
ISBN: 0-471-32013-7

Materials Science and Engineering, an Introduction (6th Ed). William D. Callister (2002). Wiley

Resource type: Background textbook
ISBN: 0-333-63683-X

Civil Engineering Materials (5th Ed). Jackson, N. and Dhir, R. K. (1997). Palgrave Macmillan

Health and Safety

Key considerations are:

  • A specific Risk Assessment will be required for the Constructionarium field course. This will consist of a Risk Assessment in University format which will refer to Risk Assessments of other organisations involved in the activity such as the National Construction College and contractors. In addition, students will develop their own task-based Risk Assessments which will require written approval from the Project Leader before the students commence work on the task(s) referred to. A permit system will also be operated on site for critical operations such as excavation, hot works and lifting.
  • Risk Assessments are required for surveying exercises and City College workshop training.

Cost Implications

Cost implications to students are as follows:

    • 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.
    • 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. 
    • A range of standard construction materials are provided to support the Design Project within this module. However, students are encouraged to develop unique designs and choose alternative materials, the costs of which will be covered by the Faculty should they be deemed appropriate and clearly presented by a given cut-off date.  The costs of additional materials and components identified after this date would be borne by the student group. 
    • Students are expected to cover the costs associated with the printing of drawings and graphic presentations. These are typically expected to be of the order of £50 per group (typically three students per group), also depending on the quality of printing chosen. 

Appendix: KIS hours

Contact hours for Teaching:Hours
Seminars (including sessions with outside speakers)0
Practical Classes and Workshops (including Boat work)0
Project supervision0
Demonstration Sessions0
Supervised time in studios/workshops/laboratories0
External Visits0
Summer Workshops0
Work Based Learning0
Independent studyHours
Preparation for scheduled sessions29.5
Follow-up work29.5
Wider reading or practice-9.5
Completion of assessment task-27.5
Placement Hours0
Year Placement0
6 Month Placement0