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Structural engineering is essential for construction industry

Date. 1st May 2021

Structural Engineering


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

Most competent structural engineers have a degree and at least four years' training, but a lot is learned in this industry through experience, which is very important where your cost and safety lives are concerned

Importance of Structural Engineering

Structural engineers work on a very wide range of projects including buildings, infrastructure and other structures. It is both a technical and creative role that involve close collaboration with professionals from other disciplines.

The scope of services provided by a structural engineer might include the following below.

Site appraisals and surveys.

Geotechnical and geological investigations.

The preparation of briefing documents, feasibility studies and options appraisals.

The preparation of tender documentation and the assessment of tenders.

Assessment and integration of work by specialists.

Environmental studies.

Material investigations.

Ground improvement studies.

The structural design and detailing of foundations, retaining walls buildings, roads, bridges and others.

Assessment of special loads.

Fire protection of structures.

Demolition assessment and design.

Building regulations submissions.

Risk assessment.

Value management.

On-site inspection and testing.

Defect assessments and the development of remediation solutions.

Expert witness testimony for courts and insurance purposes.

Structural failure can be dangerous

It is important therefore to select an individual or company that has a good track record and experience in structurally similar projects. Suitably qualified professionals will generally be Chartered or Incorporated Engineers who are members of the Institution of Civil Engineers and or the Institution of Structural Engineers.

Members of such institutes will generally be required to maintain their professional competence through an ongoing programme of continued professional development, to hold professional indemnity insurance and to comply with a code of practice.

It is good practice to employ a structural engineer based on their capability competence and quality rather than simply by the lowest fee. A good design that explores a wide variety of options to find the best solution can save significant costs over the life of a building.

John Nolan, Institution of Structural Engineers President 2012 said in his Presidential Address; 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 6 x 3m x 12m modules and founded on prefabricated foundations. This concept has since saved hundreds of millions of pounds worldwide. This concept is in use now by the structural engineers.

Structural Methods

Within the context of the built environment, the term structure refers to anything that is constructed or built from different interrelated parts with a fixed location on the ground. The structure is responsible for maintaining the shape and form under the influence of subjected forces.


It is important that the strength and stability of a structure and its individual components must be considered. Structural analysis is used to calculate the effects of the forces acting on any component and on the structure overall.

Three are three main properties of forces that should be considered.


The size of the force.


The direction in which the force is acting.


The position on which the force acts.

Isaac Newton developed three laws of motion

First law

An object will remain at rest or in uniform motion unless compelled to do otherwise by some external force acting on it.

Second law

A force is caused by an acceleration acting on an object.

Third law

Action and reaction are equal and opposite.

One of the main structural principles is that elements such as the roof, floor and walls must remain stationary. For this to happen, there needs to be an equilibrium of forces, when the forces acting on them are equal and opposite. Under loading, some deflection and deformation in the form of bending, buckling may occur and if this movement is not allowed for, then structural failure may be the result.

Therefore, a principle of structures is that they be designed to maintain a state of equilibrium, resisting external loads without moving.

The study of the causes and effects of stationary forces acting on rigid objects is statics. When a structure is stationary or in equilibrium, it is a static body. For a structure to remain static, three basic equations must hold true

Sum of all vertical forces must be zero.

Sum of all horizontal forces must be zero.

Sum of all bending forces, or moments, must be zero.


Another principle is that the structure should be capable of withstanding the most severe combination of forces that are likely to be applied. This is determined by the geolocation relevant to the structure, such as in places where strong winds or heavy rain are common weather conditions.

The main types of load which a structure must be able to resist are:

Dead loads: Such as the fixtures and structural elements.

Live loads: Such as occupants, furniture, traffic.

Environmental loads: Such as wind, snow, earthquake, settlement.

For more information, see Types of structural load.


The effectiveness of a structure depends on the mechanical properties of the materials from which it is constructed.

These properties include the following.


Structural members

They are the primary load bearing components of a building, and each have their own structural properties which need to be considered. Such members includes the following.


Horizontal members which transfer loads to supports.


Vertical members which transfer compressive loads to the ground.


Members that interconnect and stiffen columns and beams.

Roof trusses

Load-bearing frames constructed of connected triangular shapes.

Retaining walls

Support soil where a sloping site requires excavation.

Concrete slabs

Span horizontally between supports, used as floors and sometimes as roof systems.


Transfer load from the structure to the foundations.


The concept of structural engineering is an essential discipline in construction industry Structural engineers are the persons that is responsible for ensuring all materials used in a structure follow certain standard crucial for the overall construction. From the type of the reinforcing bars, the strength of concrete, roof types and members, overall aesthetics required for the project. They promote economic materials without compromising quality. They ensure function and safety without increasing any unnecessary costs.

Finally, be aware that whilst the engineer may have been around for some time. Ensure that the structural engineer or company you employed should have the necessary experience. So, scrutinise the individual structural engineer as well as the overall company.

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Jewel Cameron Sign


Construction- Quantity Surveyor- Valuer/ Appraiser. Project Management

37 PattensenTurkeyen, Dennis Street, Georgetown, Guyana