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March 3-7, 2026

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Save Time and Money During Civil Engineering Projects with Community Engagement



There's the familiar saying that all politics are local. Well, that's mostly true for civil construction projects, as well. While the federal and state levels of government set some building and construction guidelines (environmental and worker safety regulations, for example), most civil construction projects are primarily regulated at the local level. This is where the hard science of civil engineering meets the soft science of politics. Experienced engineers understand the importance of the latter throughout all phases of a project.

For civil engineering firms, developing relationships and maintaining communications at the local level have always been part of any project. But local relations – with both the community at large and the local government officials – are becoming more important and more complex. The reasons include a growing voice of residents and community groups, and the increasingly complex building regulations in many towns and cities.


Starting off on the right foot with a project means engaging with the community many months before the project breaks ground. Neighbors that abut the project, as well as other community members, need to be informed about its goals and its impacts, and they also need to be heard regarding their concerns, which could involve everything from NIMBY (not in my backyard) complaints to environmental concerns and explaining how construction might slow or reroute traffic through their neighborhoods. This type of community engagement often involves much more than simply holding a few community meetings to discuss the project, but the benefits of fostering goodwill in the community can be significant for preserving the project's schedule and budget.


Compass Group, a construction company based in Fernandina, Fla., suggests three ways to increase community support for your projects.

The first is to find those in the community who support the project, which will help shape broader community opinion.

The second is to develop a communications plan that will address how your firm handles community relations "every step of the way." This includes "everything from community meetings, newsletters, proactive and reactive social media, and media relations."

Finally, the article explains the importance of being responsive and approachable. "Despite best efforts to communicate, misinformation spreads like wildfire in the age of social media. And misinformation can be your worst enemy when you’re dealing with NIMBYs.

By monitoring media and social media, participating in community forums, and having an outlet for people to reach you with concerns, you’ll be able to ensure accurate information is out there, and you reduce the amount of misinformation people share. It’s helpful to identify one or two project spokespersons to serve as the face of the project at meetings, in media interviews, and in one-on-one communications."


In addition to community engagement, it is also important to develop communications and relationships with the elected officials and the team of local government officials who will be reviewing and approving your project. Depending on the type of project, a civil construction project must shepherd its submittal through an approval process that typically includes the zoning department, building department, water and sewer department, engineering department and any other officials who must review, comment or approve any aspect of the project.

For the civil construction firm, developing a solid understanding of the town's or city's approval process and how the local government team works together within that process can minimize delays and help control cost overruns for your project. The proposal team should identify some of the potential problems or questions that might arise in the approval process and the firm's responses to them. "Being prepared for potential challenges demonstrates foresight and a commitment to overcoming obstacles, fostering a more favorable environment for approval," states a January blog post from FieldInsight Inc. titled "Strategies for Faster Approval in Civil Engineering." Beyond the initial submittal, developing these relationships also helps when unforeseen circumstances require changes in the project that need speedy approval.


The bottom line is that project delays in civil construction can be tremendously expensive. Developing strong relationships with the local community and government officials can help to smooth the approval process, preserve the project schedule and make sure it gets done within the cost estimate. This requires additional time, planning and resources from the civil construction firm, but it can save your project much more on the back end.


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