The word infrastructure has been used in English since 1887 and in French since 1875, originally meaning "The installations that form the basis for any operation or system".
The word was imported from French, where it means subgrade, the native material underneath a constructed pavement or railway. The word is a combination of the Latin prefix "infra", meaning "below", and "structure".
What does infrastructure engineering encompass?
Infrastructure refers to the fundamental facilities and systems serving a country, city, or area, including the services and facilities necessary for its economy to function. It typically characterises technical structures such as roads, bridges, tunnels, water supply, sewers, electrical grids, telecommunications, and so forth, and can be defined as "the physical components of interrelated systems providing commodities and services essential to enable, sustain, or enhance societal living conditions."
It encompasses both specific functional modes – highways, streets, roads, and bridges; mass transit; airports and airways; water supply and water resources; wastewater management; solid-waste treatment and disposal; electric power generation and transmission; telecommunications; and hazardous waste management – and the combined system these modal elements comprise. A comprehension of infrastructure spans not only these public works facilities, but also the operating procedures, management practices, and development policies that interact together with societal demand and the physical world to facilitate the transport of people and goods, provision of water for drinking and a variety of other uses, safe disposal of society's waste products, provision of energy where it is needed, and transmission of information within and between communities."
Why choose a career in Infrastructure engineering or construction?
The term infrastructure encompasses a wide range of industries and with a great deal of cross over into other industries within this website. The main industries or specialisms you could work in are:
- Airports: Typical projects involve modifying existing airports, including the runways and taxiways (‘airside infrastructure’), maintenance and cargo facilities (‘airside support services’), and terminal buildings.
- Bridges: Working closely with highways, geotechnical, railway and environmental engineers. In addition to contractors and consultants, specialist structural organisations are involved in the superstructure design. Geotechnical engineers advise on the substructure and foundations. Specialist subcontractors and suppliers focus on areas such as bearings or post-tensioning. Typical clients include the Highways Agency, Network Rail and local authorities.
- Buildings: Sustainability is often a key consideration. Civil engineers work with building services engineers and other specialists to ensure buildings are designed with climate change in mind and to meet ever-evolving regulations.
- Coastal and marine: Projects focus on protecting coastal communities against rising sea levels and erosion using sea defences – both hard defences, constructed from concrete, for example, and soft defences, which involve man-made or reconstructed beaches. Engineers may also be involved in building and maintaining ports, offshore wind farms and structures to harness tidal energy.
- Environmental: Engineers can become environmental consultants, a role in which they will ascertain and then reduce the impacts of a proposed project on the environment. They can specialise in specific areas, such as flood risk.
- Geotechnical: In this specialist area, engineers are responsible for the foundations of structures. They assess field data about the ground, soil, rock and boreholes, and find ways to make sure that foundations or slopes are safe and stable. They could specialise in completing site investigations, designing foundations or overseeing the on-site construction work. Specialist postgraduate study is often advantageous.
- Highways: This job involves overseeing temporary works and permanent works and finding ways to ease traffic congestion, lessen environmental impact and improve road safety.
- Rail: Engineers use their technical knowledge to design, build and maintain the railway system’s infrastructure, including tracks, earthworks and drainage, and telecoms and power.
- Tunnelling: This area chiefly calls on specialist structural and geotechnical knowledge but can also involve many elements of underground engineering – rock tunnels, shafts, caverns and stations, for example, may come under the remit of a tunnelling engineer. Engineers also take decisions on a project’s viability in terms of safety, location and cost, and ensure it has a limited impact on the environment and any buildings nearby.
- Water and public health: The ultimate objective of these projects is to provide clean drinking water and treat wastewater. Engineers might be involved in implementing sustainable water drainage systems, creating energy-efficient treatment plants or improving infrastructure to prevent urban flooding.
What personnel are in demand who should contact us?
There are a wide variety of infrastructure related jobs across a range of disciplines and services. Typically the following personnel can transfer with ease with a little assistance:
Project Managers, Project Engineers, Process engineers and designers, Piping engineers and designers, Electrical engineers and designers, Mechanical engineers and designers, Civil and Structural engineers and designers, Instrumentation engineers and designers, Safety personnel, Geotechnical personnel, Technical Safety engineers, planning engineers, document controllers, admin personnel.
There is also a demand for senior commercial and managerial roles (eg.. business development managers, country and sales managers, environmental impact assessment, government relations and project management.
In addition to this there is demand for HSE advisors. In most instances no training will be required prior to placement, but we are able to assist where required. We will put you in touch with employers happy to engage you with your current skills and qualifications.