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Structural engineering focuses on a building's load-bearing capabilities so that the structure can withstand its intended use. A structural engineer formulates innovative solutions to problems that arise and places great emphasis on safety. The job also requires creativity because structural engineers work with the aesthetic aspects of a project.
Structural engineering is a more advanced subdivision of civil engineering. Both types of engineering work to build structures. However, the primary difference is that the structural engineer works closely with the load-bearing materials and determines how they will perform their intended duties. In contrast, a civil engineer focuses primarily on the design elements of the project.
Structural engineers are helpful in just about every facet of the building process. They can evaluate the construction plans for any possible issues. Once a structure is erected, they can perform inspections on the property to determine any fundamental problems. These professionals are commonly in demand if there is damage to a home, such as from a fire or storm.
The expertise of a structural engineer is used on a variety of building projects. Anything that involves load-bearing walls or foundations may require a structural engineer’s input. Some project examples include:
Building a new deck or replacing an existing deck
Building an addition to a home, such as a sunroom, additional story, or bump out
Inspecting a home after a fire or storm to determine how much structural damage is present
Planning or installation of solar panels or other weighted objects
A structural engineer determines whether the wall being removed is load-bearing or not. If the wall is load-bearing, the structural engineer comes up with a plan to support the load during and after the project. When adding a wall, these professionals can ensure it supports any weight placed on it.
The location and type of crack determine the need for a structural engineer. If it is a cosmetic crack, a structural engineer probably isn’t necessary. Cracks that impact the integrity of a property need a structural engineer. Cracks that are 1/8-inch wide and stair-step cracks are examples that require a structural engineer.
An architect works on the design and layout elements of construction. The structural engineer works to ensure that the structure is going to remain standing with normal use. In short, the architect is responsible for how the rooms look and the flow of the building. The structural engineer checks the integrity of the design and can inspect the structure after any potential damage.
It takes an average of 8 to 10 years to become a licensed structural engineer. The individual must have a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering, which takes approximately four to five years. They also need approximately five years of apprenticeship work with a Professional Engineer. The person then has to pass the required licensing examinations for the states they plan to work in.
Structural engineers need a license to work in every state. The exact type of license varies from one state to another. Some require a specialized structural engineer license, while others require only a basic engineering license. In some states, a specialized license is necessary to work on specific types of structures, such as hazardous material facilities, hospitals, or schools.