When the preliminary design work is completed, the size and shape of the building is set and the finishes are selected, the structural engineer can begin the meat of his/her work. We tabulate the vertical loads from building materials, occupants and contents and select the appropriate sizes and strengths of supporting members. From roofs and floors to columns to footings, we trace the path of vertical loads until we deliver them safely to the supporting soils. We establish and design to limits which prevent the wall finishes and ceilings from cracking. We work with geotechnical engineers to limit the settlement of your home/building so your investment does not have that sinking feeling. We check for "bounce" in floors so you feel comfortable walking on them. Wood, Concrete, Masonry, Steel, Aluminum, Epoxies, Light-Gage Metals, Glass, Composites - are a few of the materials that structural engineers use in their practice.
While vertical loads are important, "lateral" loads from high winds, earthquakes or retained soil are where structural engineers earn their keep. Using the applicable building code(s), we match forces with resisting elements from the peak of the roof to the bottom of the footings. Walls are checked to assure they support both the load from floors above but also the gusts from severe storm winds. Structures are bolted to their foundations to resist the lateral sliding forces of earthquakes. Basement walls are designed to span between floor levels against the fluid pressure of the soil. Through calculations, a structure becomes a logical proof - where all forces cancel.
The structural engineer is responsible for translating his/her calculations into construction drawings for the contractor to use. Plan views of the individual building levels are developed. Details of the various connections are created and cited on these plans. Specifications for the structural materials and required inspections are added to complete the work. If the mechanical engineer places a large air conditioning unit on the roof, we plan for its support. If the architect would like skylights, we provide the openings. No variation which affects the performance of the building escapes the structural engineer.
In the field, structural engineers assist the contractor by accommodating his/her preferred construction methods. Although engineers endeavor to select the most efficient method(s) during design, field conditions and economic factors influence every project. Proposed alternates are reviewed against job requirements, calculations and codes, then approved or rejected on that basis. When problems or errors in assembly arise, the structural engineer reviews the on-site conditions then makes recommendations for corrections. Should a test from a material sample not come up to specifications, we decide if portions of the building should be reinforced or removed and replaced.
At the end of the job, the structural engineer has very little to look at. The design he/she created is now covered with finishes. Should it perform to expectations, his/her name will rarely be remembered. The satisfaction of transforming a concept into a tangible object which serves and shelters its occupants is our reward.
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