What Services Can A Structural Engineer Provide?

If you’ve just started a construction project, you’re probably going over your budget item by item, looking for ways to cut costs. It is possible that the engagement of a structural engineer in your project is not worth the money, given that average design fees constitute a significant portion of overall costs. Learn about the many services that these experts offer and how they could be relevant to the project you’re working on so that you can make an educated choice.

What Exactly are Structural Engineers Responsible for?

Professionals known as structural engineers are responsible for the design of support systems for buildings as well as the evaluation of structural plans. In addition to that, they are authorized to conduct building inspections and to offer guidance to owners, architects, and contractors regarding the structural design requirements of specific projects. Civil Engineers can qualify for the title of “Structural Engineer” by completing the necessary coursework and gaining the necessary amount of work experience.

Because the structure of a building is intended to interact with the building’s architectural aspects, structural engineers typically get involved in the project after the architectural plans are complete. Architects are responsible for planning the appearance of the building as well as the use of the space within it. Engineers are responsible for designing the supporting structure of the building, including the foundations, columns, beams, slabs, and other load-bearing elements.

To be eligible for a construction permit in the state of California, the majority of project drawings need to be stamped by a structural or civil engineer. Building officials around the state have the last say in determining whether or not an engineer’s stamp is required, as well as the extent of their own involvement in the process.

If any of the following apply to the residential project that you are considering, the California Business and Professions Code (CBPC) mandates that you must have it designed by a civil or structural engineer:

  • It’s a single-family dwelling with a basement, two stories, and a loft.
  • It’s a multi-family building with more than 4 apartments, over 2 floors, and a basement.
  • It’s a multi-family building with more than four apartments on one lot.

A non-licensed individual is permitted to design single-family homes with wood frames that are less than two stories tall and have a basement, so long as the homes are in compliance with the local adaption of Division IV of Chapter 23 of the California Building Code. In principle, this indicates that you have the option of either working with an unlicensed designer who can draft your drawings or attempting to do so yourself.

If the permission of an engineer is not required for the project you are working on, designing your dream home using a do-it-yourself strategy might not be the most cost-effective option. Take into consideration the following before you go any further: after you have applied for a permit, your building authority may send your designs back to be reviewed by a professional engineer.

There are a lot of different reasons why building officials may conduct something like this. Concerns about seismic activity, the necessity for roof snow load calculations, and code compliance challenges are some of them. However, this list is not exhaustive.

Code Compliance

Your plans must be in compliance with the building code in order to be approved by the CBPC; however, in addition to the building code, additional statutes and ordinances also regulate residential construction. For instance:

  • The California Residential Code is a statute that governs the minimum room sizes that must be present in residential dwellings. These minimum room sizes are not specified in the CBC.
  • The California Plumbing Code is a set of regulations that governs the installation of plumbing systems as well as their subsequent inspections.
  • Standards for the Energy Efficiency of Buildings Simply referred to as Title 24. This code addresses aspects of buildings that have an impact on how much energy is consumed.
  • CALGreens is a statute that was created with the intention of lowering the adverse effects that buildings have on the surrounding environment. Planning, design, energy efficiency, water conservation, material and resource conservation, and the quality of the environment are all governed by its regulations.
  • In the event that your plan does not adhere to each of the aforementioned standards and regulations, the local Building Department is obligated to provide you with the contact information of a licensed design professional.

Concerns About Earthquakes

Although there isn’t a sector of California that is immune to earthquakes, several regions experience particularly severe ground motion. Shaking severe enough to demolish even earthquake-resistant structures can occur in areas that are close to active fault lines, such as the Greater Los Angeles Area or the San Francisco Bay Area, for example. If your property is situated in such a region, having a licensed professional engineer review and approve your building plans takes on an even greater level of significance.

Calculations of the Roof’s Snow Load

The majority of the state of California benefits from having a climate more typical of the Mediterranean and is spared the difficulties of dealing with cold weather. Nevertheless, certain mountainous regions receive an annual snowfall of up to 510 centimeters (210 inches).

If you plan to construct a building in one of these areas, the roof structure needs to be constructed to withstand snow loads. The officials in charge of the building will want to see your roof load calculations, and they may require you to have them carried out by a registered professional engineer.

Remember that building departments have a tendency to err on the side of caution, and your project may get delayed if plans are sent back for a licensed engineer’s evaluation. If you are tempted to save the fees associated with engineering design, keep in mind the following: Before you send in your application for permission, you should acquire the opinion of a qualified engineer on your project. This will help you avoid any delays.

Is your project nonresidential? Your plans must be prepared by either a licensed engineer or a registered architect unless the work is confined to one of the following:

  • Storefronts that are not structural, interior modifications and additions, fixtures, furnishings, cabinet work, equipment, and appliances, as well as any non-structural work required to install them
  • Alterations to the buildings’ non-structural components are required in order to install the aforementioned agricultural and ranch structures of standard wood frame construction.
  • The plans need to be reviewed and approved by a qualified engineer, and they need to be in accordance with any locally applicable variations of nationally recognized building codes.

Structural On-Site Evaluations

You need to get a professional assessment of the damage done to your property if there is evidence that the structure of your building is deteriorating, such as fractures in the foundation. In a similar vein, if you are contemplating the purchase of a structure, you should make sure that it is in satisfactory condition before you write the check for the purchase price.

The on-site structural examination performed by a certified engineer can help set your mind at ease by determining the state in which the building’s structural elements are now. In most cases, the examination will include an analysis of the building’s foundation, framing, shear walls, load-bearing walls, and envelope. You will receive a report detailing any problems that were discovered as well as the actions that are suggested to take after the inspection is over.

Observations Regarding the Structure

“A visual examination of the structural system by a registered design expert for general compliance to the authorized construction documentation” is how one can define a structural observation. Separate from the inspections conducted by the building department, structural observations are carried out. They take place after the project’s milestones have been accomplished, after the structure has been erected, and before the finishing has been installed.

If you are interested in more articles like this, here’s one about 4 warning signs that your building needs structural maintenance.

David Brent
David Brent
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