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Whether you’re familiar with capital projects and construction or this is a foreign topic to you, it’s sometimes easy to limit what is understood as a capital project to the infrastructure and buildings you see around you day to day. 

So here are some unique and interesting examples of capital projects to help illustrate things and maybe pique your interest in a related career!

What Is A Capital Project?

Construction, real estate development, creating physical products, enhancing our natural environment; all these are examples of a capital project! Capital improvement to an existing asset, like renovations, also counts. 

Generally, we’re talking about significant capital budgeting and expenditures, multi-year timeframes and broad stakeholder groups, in terms of planning and executing this type of project.

Project costs are capitalized into tangible capital assets (the resulting products) with a useful life of multiple years. 

Check out this article on capital project management for a primer, or this post to understand the difference between capital projects and non-capital projects.

9 Examples Of A Capital Project

Below, I’ve outlined a pretty diverse set of examples of capital projects that you can easily manage using capital project management software. Some of these are purely man-made and others relate to supporting the natural environment.

Regardless, they are all large scale and feature common attributes such as high capital investment and a similar high-level project life cycle, as well as result in a permanent capital asset.

1. Construction of an Underwater Research Laboratory

Picture this: a remarkable underwater research laboratory designed to unravel the mysteries of the deep sea. Equipped with cutting-edge technology, this capital project enables scientists to delve into marine life, ecosystems, and underwater geology, all while braving the challenges of the ocean's depths.

The facility would have unique features such as pressure-resistant materials, specialized diving systems, and high-tech monitoring equipment to withstand the challenging underwater environment. Check out the Aquarius Reef Base for a cool real-life example!

Key Consideration: Stakeholder Engagement

This is crucial as the project involves collaboration with marine scientists, research institutions, and environmental organizations to ensure the research conducted aligns with their goals and priorities.

Corresponding Digital Project

A unique digital project that complements a construction project involving an underwater research laboratory could be the development of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) with advanced imaging and data collection capabilities. 

These ROVs would enable scientists to explore the depths of the ocean and gather visual and environmental data in real-time.

Additionally, a digital platform could be created to centralize and analyze the vast amounts of data collected during research expeditions, facilitating collaboration among researchers, and enhancing our understanding of marine ecosystems.

2. Development of a Vertical Farming Skyscraper

Imagine a vertical farming skyscraper, rising high above an urban landscape. This capital project focuses on constructing a vertical farming skyscraper in an urban area with limited arable land.

The skyscraper would utilize innovative vertical farming techniques, incorporating hydroponics and aeroponics, to grow a variety of crops within its multi-story structure. 

The building would have cutting-edge automated systems for temperature, lighting, and nutrient control; optimizing plant growth; and minimizing environmental impact.

Its unique attribute lies in revolutionizing urban agriculture and providing sustainable food production in densely populated cities.

This sustainable marvel revolutionizes urban agriculture, bringing fresh produce closer to city dwellers while minimizing our ecological footprint. Here’s some great research on the viability of such a capital project.

Key Consideration: Cost

The financial feasibility of constructing and operating the vertical farming skyscraper will determine its long-term viability and accessibility to urban communities. Both capital and operating expenditures are key to analyze, as well as funding sources, in assessing the feasibility of this capital investment.

You may also have to reserve some budget for specialty architectural software and/or construction project management tools to get the job done.

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Corresponding Digital Project

To support the vertical farming skyscraper, a digital project could involve the creation of a smart farming management system.

This system would integrate sensors, automation, and machine learning algorithms to monitor and optimize crop growth conditions such as lighting, temperature, humidity, and nutrient levels. 

By providing real-time data and insights, this digital platform would assist farmers in maximizing crop yields, minimizing resource usage, and ensuring efficient operations within the vertical farming environment.

3. Creation of an Earthquake-Resistant Bridge 

In regions prone to seismic activity, an earthquake-resistant bridge emerges as a marvel of engineering. 

This civil engineering capital project would incorporate advanced engineering techniques, such as base isolation systems and flexible support structures, to withstand strong seismic forces.

It would have sensors embedded throughout the structure to monitor and respond to ground motion in real-time, ensuring the safety of commuters. 

This infrastructure project’s unique attribute lies in providing a critical infrastructure solution for regions prone to earthquakes, minimizing damage and improving transportation resilience, underscoring its critical role in resilient infrastructure.

Take a look at this great YouTube video on the Akashi-Kaikyo bridge in Japan.

Key Consideration: Risk

Risk assessment and mitigation are vital considerations to identify potential seismic hazards, evaluate the bridge's structural vulnerabilities, and implement measures to enhance its resilience and protect public safety.

Corresponding Digital Project

A corresponding digital project could focus on developing an advanced structural monitoring system for the earthquake-resistant bridge.

This system would utilize sensors embedded in the bridge's infrastructure to continuously monitor factors like vibrations, stresses, and structural integrity. 

The collected data would be processed in real-time, allowing engineers to detect any anomalies or potential issues promptly.

Such a digital solution would enhance the safety and reliability of the bridge, enabling proactive maintenance and ensuring the longevity of the structure.

4. Development of a Spaceport for Commercial Space Travel

Venture beyond our atmosphere to a spaceport tailor-made for tourism. This new construction capital project involves establishing a spaceport specifically designed for commercial space travel to the retail customer. The spaceport would feature launch facilities, landing pads, and state-of-the-art spacecraft infrastructure. 

It would offer unique amenities for space tourists, including zero-gravity training facilities, luxury accommodations, and observation decks. 

The project's distinct attribute is enabling private individuals to experience space travel and fostering the growth of the emerging space tourism industry and opening up the frontiers of space exploration to intrepid individuals. Spaceport America is the world’s first commercial spaceport.

Key Consideration: Quality

Quality assurance and safety measures are paramount to guarantee that the spaceport's infrastructure and operations meet rigorous standards, ensuring the safety and well-being of space tourists and personnel.

Corresponding Digital Project

Supporting the development of a spaceport for commercial space travel, a digital project could involve the creation of a comprehensive space tourism booking platform.

This platform would allow individuals to browse and reserve space travel experiences, providing information on available flights, destinations, and associated amenities. 

It could also include interactive features, such as virtual reality simulations, to offer customers a glimpse of the space travel experience. Additionally, the platform could integrate logistical elements, facilitating coordination between various service providers and ensuring a seamless journey for space tourists.

5. Construction of a Hyperloop Transportation System

Brace yourself for the hyperloop, an extraordinary transportation system that defies convention. This capital project focuses on building a futuristic hyperloop transportation system connecting major cities.

The hyperloop would utilize magnetic levitation and low-pressure tubes to propel passenger pods at high speeds, revolutionizing the concept of intercity travel. 

The system would boast unique features like ultra-fast travel times, energy efficiency, and reduced environmental impact. Its distinct attribute lies in providing a transformative mode of transportation, significantly reducing travel times between cities. Read more about hyperloop transportation here.

Key Consideration: Sustainability

Sustainability is a significant consideration, aiming to minimize the environmental impact of the hyperloop system by optimizing energy consumption, reducing emissions, and integrating renewable energy sources.

Learn more about project management careers in sustainability here.

Corresponding Digital Project

A digital project that would complement the hyperloop transportation system could involve the development of an intelligent traffic management system.

This system would utilize real-time data from sensors installed along the hyperloop infrastructure to monitor pod movement, passenger flow, and network capacity. 

By leveraging artificial intelligence and predictive algorithms, the digital platform would optimize pod scheduling, minimize congestion, and ensure efficient operations within the hyperloop network, offering passengers a seamless and reliable travel experience.

6. Restoration of a Wetland Ecosystem

Through careful nurturing, invasive species removal, and the reintroduction of native vegetation, this project breathes life back into a degraded wetland. 

This capital project involves the restoration and rehabilitation of a degraded wetland ecosystem. It would include activities such as removing invasive species, reintroducing native vegetation, and improving water quality through sustainable drainage systems. 

The project's unique attribute lies in its ecological significance, creating a habitat for diverse plant and animal species, enhancing water filtration capabilities, and providing valuable ecosystem services like flood mitigation and carbon sequestration, key to preserving our natural environments. 

Find out more about wetland restoration and protection from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Key Consideration: Biodiversity Conservation

This is crucial to maintain and restore the ecological balance of the wetland, ensuring the protection of diverse plant and animal species and the preservation of their habitats.

Corresponding Digital Project

For this capital project, a supporting digital project could involve the creation of a comprehensive wetland monitoring and management platform.

This platform would incorporate satellite imagery and remote sensing data, along with on-site sensors to gather information about water quality, vegetation health, and wildlife populations. 

Through fusion of these data sources and smart analysis, ecologists and conservationists can make informed decisions regarding wetland restoration strategies, habitat preservation, and the reintroduction of native species. This will help in ensuring the long-term health and sustainability of the ecosystem.

7. Construction of a Renewable Energy Park

A capital project such as this focuses on developing a campus that combines multiple forms of clean energy generation. 

The park would feature wind turbines, solar panels, hydroelectric power, and potentially other innovative technologies such as wave or tidal energy. It would serve as a sustainable energy hub, providing electricity to surrounding communities while minimizing carbon emissions. 

A main feature of such a capital investment is how it supports the transition to a low-carbon economy by promoting renewable energy sources. Read about this proposed energy park in Calgary here.

Key Consideration: Community Infrastructure Integration

Grid integration is an essential consideration to effectively connect the renewable energy park to the existing power grid, enabling efficient transmission, distribution, and utilization of clean energy.

Corresponding Digital Project

A good digital project to complement this capital project could involve the design and implementation of an energy monitoring and control system. This system would integrate smart meters, sensors, and data analytics to monitor the generation, consumption, and storage of renewable energy within the park. 

It would provide real-time insights into energy production, grid integration, and efficiency, enabling operators to optimize the utilization of different energy sources, balance supply and demand, and enhance overall system performance.

8. Creation of a Coastal Protection System

This capital project aims to construct a comprehensive coastal protection system to safeguard vulnerable coastal areas from erosion and storm surge. Some of the key aspects would be building seawalls, artificial reefs, and dune restoration, along with implementing beach nourishment programs. 

The system would protect coastal communities, critical infrastructure, and natural habitats from the impacts of rising sea levels and extreme weather events. Its unique attribute lies in its adaptation measures to combat climate change and preserve coastal ecosystems. 

This adaptive measure exemplifies our commitment to combat climate change and safeguard our coastal heritage. Learn about some of the specific engineering structures involved in coastal protection capital projects.

Key Consideration: Future-Proofing

Adaptability and future-proofing are crucial considerations, accounting for projected sea level rise and changing climate conditions to design and implement coastal protection measures that can withstand long-term environmental challenges.

Corresponding Digital Project

Supporting the construction of a coastal protection system, a digital project could involve the development of a coastal monitoring and early warning system. This system would utilize satellite imagery, oceanographic data, and weather forecasts to monitor sea levels, wave patterns, and storm activity in real-time. 

By providing timely alerts and predictions, the digital platform would help coastal communities and authorities to prepare for and mitigate the impacts of coastal erosion, and other coastal hazards, such as storm surges, in order to protect life, infrastructure, and valuable ecosystems.

9. Construction of an Urban Green Space Network

The vision here is creating an interconnected network of urban green spaces, including parks, greenways, and community gardens. This capital investment aims to enhance the quality of urban life, improve air and water quality, and provide recreational opportunities for residents. 

The green space network would incorporate sustainable design elements such as rainwater harvesting systems, urban forests, and wildlife corridors, contributing to the overall well-being of the city and promoting sustainable urban development. 

Its unique attribute lies in its role in fostering biodiversity, improving urban resilience, and providing accessible nature within urban environments. Singapore, known as “the Garden City”, is a great example of this.

Key Consideration: Inclusivity

Inclusive design is an important element to ensure accessibility and equity. By providing amenities, infrastructure, and programming that cater to diverse communities, we can create welcoming spaces for people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds.

Corresponding Digital Project

To support this green space network, a digital project could involve the development of a mobile application or website that serves as a comprehensive guide to these green spaces. 

This digital platform would provide information about park amenities, walking or cycling trails, and upcoming events or activities. It might also include an Augmented Reality (AR) or Mixed Reality (MR) feature. 

The app could also facilitate community engagement by enabling users to share their experiences, post recommendations, and participate in virtual or in-person community initiatives aimed at preserving and enhancing these urban green spaces.

What’s Next?

There really is a huge range of what can be achieved with capital projects and thus, this multi-billion dollar (and growing) industry needs skilled and strategically-thinking capital project managers with excellent project management expertise to move such initiatives forward, resulting in new facilities and capital assets. 

Such leaders should be entrepreneurs at heart, and understand risk, capital budgeting, stakeholder engagement, and how to develop a solid project plan, as well as public funding models and private funding avenues. 

Hopefully some of these examples inspire you to seek out a career in this space! For regular insights and resources on project management, check out and subscribe to The Digital Project Manager newsletter.

Mark Machin
By Mark Machin

Based in Vancouver, BC, Mark leads the capital projects and infrastructure advisory practice with a major professional services firm. He brings 5+ years of experience in engineering and project management, and a passion for the natural and built environment. His work with projects has taken him all over the world.