How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Civil Engineer?

A Civil Engineer often carries out the design of construction projects such as land development, subsurface sewage disposal systems (septic systems) or house building. Instinctively, since the design is not as tangible as the construction itself, people tend to try to save money on that part in order to keep more for the actual construction. As a rule of thumb, the design part of a project consists of approximately 5-20% of the budget while the actual construction uses the rest of the budget.

Let’s take a quick example of a $100,000 project where 10% is used for the design.  So, if you are shopping to get a 10% reduction on the engineering, you could save $1,000. If you spend your time shopping to get a 10% reduction on your contractor, you could save $9,000. While that small example speaks for itself, there is actually much more at stake. A well thought out proper site design can save a developer more on construction costs than the fees the engineer may charge.

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What Affects the Cost To Hire A Civil Engineer?

The first thing that will affect the cost of hiring a Civil Engineer is the type of your project: residential, commercial or governmental. A Civil Engineer is often mandatory for the design of governmental, industrial and commercial projects. Yet, an engineer’s approval may also be required for most residential projects in Connecticut.

A good practice would be to hire a Civil Engineer to assess your residential project before the beginning so you can identify for which elements you need a professional’s expertise (land surveying, septic system, home improvements etc.).  Here are some examples of why and when you should hire a Civil Engineer. Finally, this best practice method is going to help you prevent unforeseen problems and help you save time and money.

The project’s size and the technical difficulties associated with it will also affect the cost of the engineering.  For example, if you want to build a multi-level commercial building you will need a specialist in structural engineering for your steel and/or concrete construction.  Governmental projects such as dams, roads, and sewage treatment plant will also require specialized Civil Engineers for each type of construction.

The more technical your project is, the more likely you will need an experienced civil engineer. The fees for a recently graduated Civil engineer versus one with 10-years of experience can be significantly higher. Finally, the percentage of the budget allowed for the project’s design will be higher for those types of project.

In summary, for any type of project, it usually will cost more on the design side if you hire a good firm who is reliable and well recognized.  Yet, a good engineer would identify problems before they hit you and it’s always better to anticipate than to adapt. By choosing a more experienced and qualified civil engineer, it won’t be difficult to see a return on your investment.

Why Would One Engineer be Cheaper than Another?

As we mentioned in the previous section, the cost of an engineer will depend on his experience, his specialty, his reputation and the project’s type.  It is also important to mention that regulations vary from state to state and even between cities.  

Then, it is also important to hire a civil engineer who has a good working knowledge of the State of Connecticut’s regulations as well as the local municipality.

By hiring an engineer at the beginning of your project, he can help you establish the physical and the monetary boundaries for your project. A good reputable land surveyor will create a legal description of the property and determine if there are special land concerns. This will insure that no legal issues arise later on.

By analyzing and/or designing your building site plans the engineer can make sure that your project is not too ambitious and can fit in your budget range.  A cost benefit analysis will also be done to determine where changes can be made to lower the total cost of the project. Furthermore, a good firm will have a broad network in the construction industry and can assist you choosing the best construction companies. They may even have better purchasing options as well. Finally, here are some more examples of how a civil engineer can make you reduce construction costs in Connecticut and help you save thousands of dollars.

Case Study

The typical case study that every Construction engineer learns about during his degree is the famous Tower of Pisa in Italy.  The Tower of Pisa is 60 meters high, 16 meters in diameter and weighs approximately 14,500 tons. It was built in three phases between the 12th and 14th century. The tower had an inclination of 5,5 degrees at its worst which corresponds to an overhang of 6 meters.  The lean started at the end of the first phase in 1178 and is due to a 3 meters foundation set in weak and unstable subsoil. So, the mistake was actually at the design part of the construction.  

With time, the building became an emblem for the city and the whole world; there was no destruction or rebuilding possible.  So, the builders had to adjust to make horizontal floors in the following stages. Also, foundation’s adjustments were made in the 1990’s with modern technology to re-adjust the inclination of the tower to keep it safe.  Even though this is an old building, this example is still applicable to modern projects to understand how important is the foundation’s design.  

Finally, you can compare that to a house with an expensive interior design set on a bad foundation, it can lose its value in a couple of years only.


In conclusion, when you compare civil engineering firms, it is essential to compare your savings to the overall cost of the construction project, not just the cost of the engineering. Furthermore, hiring a civil engineer before the beginning of your construction project will help you identify your needs, insure the good quality of your project and save money. Have a look at this free e-book to learn more about why you should hire a civil engineer for your home project.