A Structural Engineer is an expert within Civil Engineering. In larger projects they are usually involved in many different projects including civil works, building construction, environmental assessment, fire protection, infrastructure improvement, earthworks, and building maintenance. These engineers plan and design the buildings and structures that support them. Structural engineers do calculations, draw plans and specifications, review work of others, and write technical reports and examinations on a variety of topics. In this article I will introduce you to some of the basic structural engineer responsibilities.
The primary duty of a structural engineer is to design buildings and structures that will be safe for people and/or animals using them. This is a very important responsibility since most construction projects have a human life at stake. Engineers have to take into consideration all aspects of a structure before it is built. For example a foundation must be strong enough to hold the building’s weight. They must also ensure the structural integrity of the building is not compromised by external forces.
Many structural engineers work on a variety of construction methods. One of the most popular construction methods today is what is called “off site” construction. This type of construction involves the erection of buildings and structures off-site in places such as parking structures, industrial complexes, or shipping yards where access is not possible. These structures are then put together on-site in a series of days to weeks. Off site construction methods often require special permits and can take longer then traditional site constructed construction methods.
Other structural engineers are involved in the analysis, designing, and implementation of building materials. One way they test the strength of a building is through the use of load cells. These test the strength of a beam by allowing a weight equal to the beam’s cross sectional area to be tugged. If the load cell pushes the beam to the limit it breaks, thus indicating the beam’s strength. Many structural engineers perform tests of building materials for both resistance to loads as well as buckling of beams.
A structural engineer also makes changes to a construction plan before it is implemented so that the changes go along with the local building codes. For example if the local building codes prohibit the use of a particular material a civil engineer makes changes to ensure the use of the proper material without violating the code. Civil engineers also use computer modeling and software to create the construction designs for building, structures, and environmental systems that are needed for any construction project.
Structural engineering is a critical process for the safety of buildings, communities, and individuals. When building a building the structural engineer takes many factors into consideration. These factors include: weather conditions, ground conditions, structural integrity, and aesthetics. It also takes into consideration the expected life span of the building, as well as its maintenance costs.
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