Last edited 22 Mar 2018

Structural engineer

Structural engineers design, assess and inspect structures to ensure that they are efficient and stable. Structural engineering was traditionally considered a sub-discipline of civil engineering, however, as it has developed as an important and complex specialism it may now be considered an engineering discipline in its own right.

"Structural Engineers do for £100 what any fool could do for £1million" is often quoted to describe their work.

Structural engineers work on a very wide range of structures, including; buildings, bridges, oil rigs, ships and aircraft. It is both a technical and creative role that involves close collaboration with professionals from other disciplines.

The scope of services provided by a structural engineer might include:

A number for search engines are available to help clients find an appropriate structural engineer:

Structural failure can be devastating. It is therefore important to select an individual or company that has a good track record and experience in structurally similar projects. Suitably qualified people include Chartered and Incorporated Engineers who are members of the Institution of Civil Engineers and/or the Institution of Structural Engineers. The amount of professional indemnity insurance cover held by a consultancy must match the size and value of the undertaking.

NB: Now that clients are able to appoint approved inspectors to assess building regulations applications, they have an opportunity to double check engineering calculations and design.

It is good practice to employ a structural engineer based on the quality of their design rather than the lowest fee. A good design that explores a wide variety of options to find the best solution can save significant cost over the design life of a building. For example the experience of McDonalds:

"One thing I am particularly proud of from that time is the contribution we made in value engineering the now ubiquitous McDonald’s 'drive-thru' down to a third of the cost and a third of the construction time of the traditionally built design. We did this by standardising the design to a structure that could be factory engineered and fitted out, transported to site in x6 3m by 12m modules and founded on prefabricated foundations. This concept has since saved hundreds of millions of pounds worldwide."

John Nolan, Institution of Structural Engineers President 2012 (quote from his Presidential Address)

To see some of the modules studied as part of an engineering degree course, see Construction engineering management course essentials.

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