Many of us have very little idea what the discipline of structural engineering involves and what the role of professionals working in this sector, structural engineers, is in relation to construction and property development projects.
Yet despite this lack of knowledge, the building and construction industry relies heavily on these highly skilled individuals and many building projects could not even get off the ground without such expertise… so what does it entail?
What is Structural Engineering?
Structural engineering is a specialist field of the wider discipline of engineering that deals primarily with the design, construction and analysis of load bearing structures including buildings, bridges and the like.
The Role of Structural Engineers
Structural engineers are highly qualified engineering professionals often involved in the design of buildings and large load bearing structures, although they can also become involved in the design of any objects where structural integrity affects functionality or safety.
Structural engineers are highly qualified engineering professionals involved in the design of buildings and load bearing structures.
Structural engineers need to ensure their engineering designs satisfy pre-determined criteria based on safety, serviceability and overall structural performance.
Many inexperienced property developers who have removed walls or take-out chimney breasts in their properties will have come across structural engineers, as it these professionals who can advise on whether it is safe to remove them without affecting foundations or the structural integrity of the property itself.
If you are considering making significant structural changes to a building but are concerned about the impact the alterations will have on the buildings structure, then it is always better to err on the side of caution and appoint a professional structural engineer to take a look at your proposals.
There would be nothing worse than making alterations to the building fabric and then realising that you have compromised the very security and stability of your property… the implications of getting it wrong could be disastrous!
Structural Engineers & Simple Building Projects
Generally speaking, for small or simple construction projects, a structural engineer would normally be required to visit site of the works once, possibly twice to allow them to carry out their inspection and understand your development proposals.
Following this they would then submit their formal recommendations which would usually detail whether or not it is safe to proceed with the work, and how best to go about it.
Large or Complex Development Projects
For more complex construction works, such as large scale new-builds, multi-storey buildings, removal of load-bearing walls, lowering floor levels, the design and construction of complex foundations, a professional structural engineer will have significantly more impact and influence and will usually be required to spend longer reviewing the site/building and your construction proposals.
Their involvement will probably require a number of site visits and meetings with you and your design team to allow them to fully assess what is required.
The engineers would then usually proceed to prepare detailed drawings, calculations, specifications and method statements as required, depending on the size and complexity of the development project.
Finding a Structural Engineer
There are many professional structural engineers from which to choose, so finding one for your project should not be too difficult.
However, never simply select the first name that you come across.
As with all construction projects, you should appoint professional advisors and contractors only if they have a good track-record and can provide a good portfolio of work that they have completed successfully.
Asking other property developers and builders for personal recommendations is also often a good way to find suitable engineers.
The Institution of Structural Engineers
The Institution of Structural Engineers is the world’s leading professional body for qualifications and standards in structural engineering and their website includes a good database of professional engineers from which to choose … engineering professionals →
Using the Institution of Structural Engineers website in this way is an excellent route to finding professionally qualified engineers and we would strongly recommend you review their website.
Structural Engineers Fees
Finally, you should also be aware of the professional fees involved in hiring a structural engineer.
Of course, experience, location and such-like will all have a bearing on what different firms and individuals charge, but it is thought that you should currently expect to pay in the region of £500 – £1000 per day for a professionally qualified, incorporated or chartered structural engineer.
This may prove to be expensive if you are undertaking a large project that requires significant input, site visits etc. so be prepared to negotiate a fixed fee or competitive daily rates when putting together your development appraisals and detailed budgets.
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More information about structural engineering issues and the role of structural engineers… here →
How to find a structural engineer using the Institution of Structural Engineers website… here →