American Society of Civil Engineers

Civil Engineers as Master Builders and the Professionalization of Construction

by Zhigang Shen, Ph.D., Aff.M.ASCE and Wayne Jensen, Ph.D., M.ASCE

Leadership and Management in Engineering, Vol. 11, No. 2, April 2011, pp. 169-181, (doi:

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Document type: Feature Article
Special Issue: Moving toward Partnerships: The Challenge for Emerging Master Builder Engineers
Award Title: Best Feature Article in Leadership and Management in Engineering, 2011
Abstract: The introduction of new technology, depletion of natural resources, and aging infrastructure drive the need for innovation in project delivery systems within the architect, engineer, and contractor (AEC) community. Current practices of AEC industries will inevitably change as clients seek more innovative solutions and better services. How civil engineering’s current practices and future vision fit into that evolving reality remains a question. In ASCE’s Vision 2025, civil engineers will function as master builders, which raises several questions concerning what exactly it means to be a master builder in the context of current and future AEC practices and how an engineer serving as a master builder will affect other AEC practitioners. This paper discusses the master builder concept and its implications from the perspectives of (1) current AEC practices and business models, (2) bodies of knowledge, and (3) professionalization. The basic research approach includes a qualitative analysis of the AEC industry’s current professional and business practices and bodies of knowledge. In particular, the analysis focuses on comparisons between construction managers and civil engineers. Theoretical analyses of both professions are also conducted using professionalization theory.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Project delivery
Business management
Construction management
Professional development

Author Keywords:
Master builders
Vision 2025
Project delivery
Business model
Body of knowledge
Construction management