What exactly is a civil engineer?

Following what was the apparently entertaining broadcast this week of “Masterchef: The Professionals” from the HQ of the Institution of Civil Engineers in London, a number of people have asked me “what exactly is a civil engineer?”
The stock response about “…the art of directing the great sources of power in nature”, hasn’t been going down very well. So rather than Tredgold’s words from 1828, I’ve been quoting a more recent, very wise man, “A civil engineer is a person who solves problems you did not know you had, using methods you don’t understand”.
Perhaps surprisingly, most people seem to get it.

The UK Construction Skills Shortage

Many suspect that there is an imminent skill shortage in the UK construction industry but it’s discussed only infrequently.

It was therefore encouraging to see the publication this week of a detailed and extensive report from Arcadis, whose conclusions included,

“Britain must recruit over 400,000 people each year to deliver in line with housing and infrastructure need, equivalent of one person every 77 seconds”

Lets hope that this prompts a wider debate, within the industry and associated professions, with respect to education and training and that it places in context the contention that immigration should be reduced.


To view the Arcadis report see,


The Greatest British Engineer -Ever?

Out and about recently on an early Spring afternoon, I found myself underneath the Dean Bridge in Edinburgh.  While much less famous than the two (very nearly three) Forth bridges just along the road, the Dean Bridge is well known to the thousands of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians who cross it every day on their way to West End offices.  What is much less known to most of them is that it was one of the last two projects (the other being the Clyde Bridge in Glasgow) carried out by the man who was, arguably, the greatest British engineer ever.

Photo by permission of J Mungall

Thomas Telford, the civil engineer who designed and thereafter managed the construction of the bridge, was born in Glendinning just outside  Langholm in the Scottish Borders in 1757.   His shepherd father died when Telford was a boy and his childhood had many difficulties.   However, he overcame these and went on to design and manage the construction of an impressive array of projects including the Menai Suspension Bridge and 90 odd other large bridges along with many smaller ones.  His work also included numerous canals, docks and harbours and he was the engineer and entrepreneurial brain behind the Caledonian Canal.

He was one of the founding members of the Institution of Civil Engineers and in 1818, he was elected as its first President.   Almost 200 years later, in 2011, he was one of the seven inaugural inductees into the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame.

In a recently published biography of Telford*, the author and journalist Julian Glover describes him as “…the greatest engineer Britain has ever produced.”   That’s a big claim – but one with which I think I agree.


*  J Glover, Man of Iron, Thomas Telford and the Building of Britain (Bloomsbury, London 2017)





My name is Allan Mungall and I’m a chartered civil engineer, a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, a Fellow of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.

I founded my own engineering consultancy, Mungall Associates Ltd,  in 1992 and ran it successfully until 2016 when it was taken over by Cottus Consulting Ltd, a specialist project management consultancy.   Mungall Associates continues to trade and I now work for it as a part-time consultant, principally involved in some complex technical and contractual/commercial issues as well as progressing  a number of instructions as an expert witness or expert determiner.

To contact me, you can leave a message on this Blog, email me at allan@mungall.co.uk  or telephone on 44 (0)131 623 5000.