A structural engineer is tasked with determining whether an existing or planned building can support itself under different loads. They can perform inspections, provide guidance, or even design buildings and systems that are structurally sound.
But how do you know if your project requires a structural engineer? And what qualities should you look for when hiring?
Knowing the answer to these questions could have a significant impact on the safety, speed, and aesthetics of your new engineering project. So, without further ado, let’s dive in.
What Is a Structural Engineer
A structural engineer develops the design plans of new structural support systems for buildings, bridges, tunnels, retaining walls, foundations and other critical structures of infrastructure. Sometimes referred to as the Structural Engineer of Record (EOR), they’re typically enlisted early on in the construction design process to ensure the structural viability and safety of the build.
A Structural Engineer will leverage principles of mathematics, physics, and engineering to:
Analyze a structure’s gravity supports
Determine and calculate live loads
Design lateral force resistance
Conform to State and Federal Building Codes
This due diligence enables them to fit the structure to the architecture and best determine which structural systems to implement.
While most structural engineers are hired for new construction, they can also help with demolition, remediation and repair, or renovating and adding to existing structures.
What Qualities Should You Look for In a Structural Engineer?
As you begin the hiring process, you can’t be too careful about screening your structural engineering candidates. They will be the person tasked with the project’s structural adequacy after all, so you need to identify an expert that is qualified and trustworthy.
To that end, here are four of the primary hiring considerations you should account for:
#1: Are They Qualified?
The first level of screening involves checking their bona fides.
At the very least, a candidate should pass the minimum qualifications for licensing. Failure to properly screen for the candidate’s eligibility could not only jeopardize the project but also expose you to legal liability.
For instance, in New Jersey, to be licensed you must:
Hold a valid and current state license as a Civil Engineer specializing in Structural Engineering work
Have a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering
You should also ask whether they have memberships in industry-related associations.
#2: What Services Do They Offer?
Does the candidate have the experience and skills to provide the services the job requires?
There are dozens of engineering specialties. So, you need to find a candidate who understands how to execute your specific type of project, especially in terms of size, scope, and budget.
If you’re building a tunnel and they only have experience with bridges, that person may not be the optimal fit.
Top structural engineers should be able to offer the following services:
New building construction design
Renovation and addition building design
Structural condition evaluation and load rating
Structural demolition work plans
Structural rehabilitation, modification, and seismic reinforcing
Construction special inspections
They also must be knowledgeable in both above-ground structures (such as equipment platforms, single-span bridges, access bridges utility supports, sign structures, sound barrier walls, and ancillary structures) and under-ground structures (pump stations, drainage structures, shallow and deep foundations, and permanent and temporary earth retaining structures)
#3 Do They Have Legal Ordinance Knowledge?
In addition to having a strong understanding of engineering concepts and principles, there may be dozens upon dozens of regulations and building codes a structural engineer will have to follow on any given project.
Whether it’s federal or state building codes, your expert should emphasize the importance of maintaining compliance.
#4 Can They Back Up Their Claims?
Anyone can make promises, but backing up those promises is harder to do. One of the best ways to screen candidates is to ask for a portfolio of previous projects that they have successfully led.
To demonstrate that they’ve established a track record of high-quality work and strong client service, this should include:
Other forms of social proof
MFS Engineers—Structural Engineering Solutions for You
A structural engineer plays a vital role in any new construction project. They have the monumental task of ensuring that the build is safe and will remain functional for years to come.
But where can you find a structural engineer capable of handling your next project?
Enter MFS Engineers and Surveyors. Our team of veteran professionals knows exactly what it takes to design and implement safe, sustainable, and cost-effective builds.
If you need high-quality structural engineering services, contact our team today for a consultation.
SBC Magazine. The Structural Design Process of a Building. https://www.sbcmag.info/news/2019/jun/structural-design-process-building