Structural engineering is a foundational career that plays such a large part in supporting the foundation of today's society. From highways and railroads to homes and skyscrapers, structural engineers put their skills to work to make sure that plans are properly made and projects will last well into the future. Although the practice of structural engineering has been around as long as buildings themselves, the career didn’t become professionalized until the industrial revolution in the late 19th century. From how structural engineering began to how the job works, here are five things to know about structural engineering.
Structural engineers and architects work together on design.
In most cases, the structural engineer and architect work together on the initial design for a project. While architecture is more subtly concerned with the aesthetic enhancement of a building, a structural engineer is more focused on the stability and longevity of the structure. The weight each professional has in the decision-making process varies widely depending on the materials, use, and location of the building itself.
Imhotep was the first structural engineer.
The first structural engineer actually known by name was Imhotep, the builder of a step pyramid all the way back in 2700 B.C. Although most people assume pyramids are so resilient because they have such wide bases, their durability is actually due to the way each stone bears the weight of the one above it. In this sense, pyramids are almost imminently scalable depending on the strength of the material used to build them.
There are a multitude of structural engineering specialties.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of structural engineering specialties. Most structural engineers don’t just work on “buildings,” they work in specific areas like multi-family buildings, healthcare facilities, or skyscrapers. Some engineers, such as wind engineers and earthquake engineers, even work specifically to prevent building weak spots in the event of an emergency. Commercial structural engineers might work on warehouse-to-loft renovations or office complexes, a transportation structural engineer will focus on a specialty like bridges, dams or railways.
The job of a structural engineer doesn't stop when a project is completed.
Structural engineers aren’t just useful when buildings are first built. Forensic engineers can provide guidance on the best way to safely restore a failing structure by identifying weak spots. Structural analysis is important for aging or damaged buildings of any size as beams, trusses, roofs, and more elements degrade. Failing to perform a proper inspection can create unnecessary risks as structures age and degrade, often resulting in pricey repairs and occasionally in catastrophic disasters.
Technology has revolutionized structural design.
Today’s structural engineers have unlimited capacities for modeling and design thanks to technology. From conceptual sketches to full-blown building information modeling (BIM), structural engineers have more tools at their fingertips than ever. Thankfully, cloud computing technology also makes it easier to ensure safety and to cross-check potential engineering issues before they become problems.
If your project calls for the expertise of a team of qualified, knowledgeable structural engineers, contact Shield today. Our engineers have decades of combined experience in areas such as multi-story residential and civil engineering, and more. Shield Engineering is your one-stop shop from conceptual design to construction completion. Contact our team today.