Structural engineering is a highly skilled profession. However, its complexities are only known in the construction industry in a limited way. There has been a less significant focus on structural engineering compared to other disciplines.
Structural engineers can drive the efficiency of a construction project, providing oversight. Providing a service, the structural engineer “ticks the box” to verify that a project is safe. There is only one profession that truly understands the structures – the mechanics, the inner mechanisms of a building. If you want to optimize the project for a particular usage, assembly, materials, and even time to completion, the structural engineer can determine these things. They are trained and equipped to think along these lines.
Unfortunately, structural engineers are not usually at the table when the architect, general contractor and other stakeholders decide what the project can and will look like. Through better use of technology, construction stakeholders could work together with structural engineers.
Because many of them are introverts, structural engineers are not necessarily strong at voicing their input into a project. It has been a challenge to bring in their perspective. Where architects, general contractors and MEP contractors have been stronger at promoting their services on various levels, “engineered by” is not a brand or logo feature we often see in relation to projects.
It’s important to realize and understand the benefits a structural engineer can bring to the table – ways their input can benefit the entire construction process. In reality, because of the complexity of their discipline, they should be part of the most important discussions.
If the structural engineer and the general contractor were to work together right from the start, more efficient buildings could be the result, built faster and more effectively using less material.
One major concern today is sustainability in constructing buildings, especially regarding usage of materials. There are ways to build buildings, and there are ways to use extra materials to build overly conservative. If you understand the structure like a structural engineer does, you can discern where the material usage is overly expensive. When you know how a structure behaves, there are both simple and complex ways to optimize. Notwithstanding environmental factors, there are always ways to improve the way a structure is built.
Historically, humanity built some very complex structures. It’s likely those structures were designed by the most learned, intelligent engineers of that time. Fantastic landmark structures were designed by the top five percent of engineers. Today, using technology, those types of landmark structures can be accomplished by a typical engineer in the industry.
Fortunately, having the technology-enabled engineering base that we have today alleviates the bottleneck for building the estimated 3,000 buildings a day needed to meet society’s anticipated demand. That ability enables mankind to meet and manage the challenge to build complex buildings efficiently. As a society, we must find ways to do more with what we possess in terms of workforce and natural resources.
Tune in to episode 220 of Bridging the Gap podcast to hear more of the discussion about the role structural engineers play in propelling the construction industry forward.