Structural Engineer

     From the desk of Colm Dillon ...

    Author of "Residential Development Made Easy"


Without a Structural Engineer our modern life style would not exist.

The structure of a building is like the skeleton of our body. Without it a building could not stand upright and without a skeleton, we would be a blob of flesh on the ground.

So just like I said in an earlier article, if the Hydraulic Engineer did not get water to the 2nd level of a house or the 30th floor of an apartment building, there would not be much point in constructing the building in the first place.

So all these professions link together in a co-dependent relationship when creating a modern building.

Just think about the last tall building you saw. Now think about all the forces that come into play. The obvious one it the weight of the concrete and steel. Then of course is the weight of all the equipment, furniture, windows, cars and personal possessions of the occupants.

All of this weight has a vertical impact and must be calculated by the structural designer, so that the foundations are of sufficient strength and are founded on some solid sub-strata natural material, like rock.

How does the structural engineer handle this weight if there is no rock, say 20 metres under the building. Can you see how things can get complicated?

OK, the weight factor is an obvious one. But what about 'wind?' This building that is being designed will be sticking up in the air, say 150 metres.

Imagine a strong wind of 100 miles (km) an hour hits the southern facade of the building or any of the other three sides. If you were living inside, you would not like to feel the building move - not even a fraction of an inch, would you?

If the wind is a hale or rain storm and the wind carrying it is swirling around and not coming from a fixed direction, the building may be experiencing a 'twisting' motion. Once again, you would not like to feel the building move a fraction of an inch.

What about if the building is going to be erected on an absolute beach front location. What happens if the sea invades inland in storm force gales and erodes a great deal of the sand from around the foundations and also has the forces I described above.

These are just some of the forces the Structural Engineer must allow for in his/her design. The design, not only takes these forces and conditions into account, but must also take account of the historical precedent of past major storms or floods.

You may have heard people talk of the Flood of 1974 (my region) of the Hurricanes of 2004 in Florida. Well, all of these must be recorded and added to the history of floods and storms of 50 - 100 years ago (or longer) that may have occurred in your area of interest.

Having taken all this into account, the Structural Engineer, must design a structure that in his/her opinion is safe for the citizens as well as the occupants.

It may be of interest to readers that one of the roles of the Local Authority's Building Department is to check that the calculations are correct.

Now, not all of us are going to build high rise buildings, but I hope it is easier to understand the forces at play on a big building and then relate them to a smaller structure most individual developers with build.

Your two or four story residential development structure has all the same forces and must be allowed for in the design of the structure. If you are a resident of the State of Florida in the United States, you will know first hand the effect these forces can have on the community's homes and commercial buildings.

Now as a developer, you personally will not be involved in any of these calculations, but you should understand that only a Trained Professional Structural Engineer is capable of doing this work.

So make sure you are engaging a trained and qualified structureal engineer for the work and that they have knowledge of the area in which you develop.

You may have seen a recent series of TV programs where teams of specialist demolish buildings in a spectacular way using a series of charges. These tend to be old buildings built in the forties and fifties.

However with the advent of reinforced concrete building frames and pre-stressed concrete as are used in todays modern high rise buildings, you will rarelt see these buildings ever being demolished.

They are just so strong and the reinforcing steele so well designed that it will be cheaper to completely renovate the building, than demolish and re-build.

One other aspect that may prevent demolishing taking place is to do with changing site development capacity by the Local Authority. The current Regulations may not allow a building as big as is currently on the site, being build again.

Civil Engineers

Within construction engineering there are two specialities; Structural Engineers, as described above, and Civil Engineers.

Civil engineering is concerned with the design of roads and bridges. I only mention this so that you are not confused if someone asks you what kind of engineers you are looking for and you don't know that there are two types of specialization.

Both Structural and Civil engineers belong to the same Professional Association. As I explained in my other articles, when you want to find a structural engineer, you can contact their Professional Association in your country and then be directed to the local Chapter of the area of your interest.

Here are some of the links:

. The Institution of Engineers Australia, trading as ENGINEERS AUSTRALIA

. The American Institute of Engineers, Inc

. UK The Institution of Structural Engineers

. South African Association of Consultying Engineers

. Singapore Institution of Engineers

. The Hong Kong Institution of Structural Engineers

. New Zealand - The Institution of Structural Engineers

If your country's Institute of Structural Engineers is not listed just go to : Google Search and type in the Search Box; "Institute of Structural Engineers"

Author of "Residential Real Estate Development Made Easy"

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