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What does a structural engineer do in construction?

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A structural engineer is concerned with planning, designing, and obviously the constructing of buildings. His objective is to ensure the buildings are safe and erected properly. His goal is to ensure that the building can withstand adverse climatic conditions. A structural engineer’s job is interrelated with civil engineers. Usually a structural engineer works either for construction or engineering consultancies. He focuses on coming up with a structural design if he works in an office and he would focus on overseeing construction if he is deployed on site.

Most of the structural engineers specialize in a particular structure such as bridges, buildings, etc. It all comes down to personal interest as to which specific field you will go into. Some decide to go with bridges since this is what their professors or other peers have done, while others may chose highways for personal reasons. It is up to you and your personal preferences which path as a structural engineer you take.

Some of the main tasks of a structural engineer are as follows. Remember this is not a full list of their capabilities as there is much more in the job scope of a structural engineer. We just want to highlight some of the more common and well known aspects.

  • Preparing designs: A structural engineer has to draw up a design that ensures safety and maximizes the structural integrity of the buildings. He also estimates calculations regarding stresses and loads. He decides which material needs to be used depending on the strength of the material. Different buildings demand different kinds of material. They also need to create a plan on how the support beams would be incorporated.
  • Investigation: Before starting with the construction work, structural engineer needs to go to the site and take a survey. He has to investigate the site so as to determine whether the site is suitable for the upcoming project.
  • Prepare reports: Structural engineers need to prepare various reports and inform his superiors of the progress. You must be precise and detailed with your numbers as being off even by a fraction of a percentage can have huge implications with the structural foundation and safety of everyone. This is one of the more important aspects of being a structural engineer.
  • Advice:  A structural engineer provides technical advice to his sub-ordinates. He also has to solve issues and difficulties that the workers and technicians face during construction activities.
  • Structural engineers should be good at physics, 3D conceptualization, and problem solving ability. He should not only possess wide knowledge but also know how to apply the knowledge in constructing sustainable and safe buildings. 
  • Communication: Structural engineers are required to consult and co-ordinate with histeam which includes environmental scientists, engineers, landscape architects, and architects. They also have to communicate with the statutory bodies for permissions. This is a vital part of any job, but should be extremely important for a structural engineer. Without good communication messages will slip through the cracks, which can result in design flaws. This all can be avoided with good communication.
  • Management: A structural engineer isresponsible for the delivery of equipment and materials for consumption in the construction project. He also supervises and manages on-site laborers for achieving efficiency.

A structural engineer’s job requires dedication and hard work. Even after becoming a structural engineer, one needs to keep updating himself and learn new methods and technologies that are developed in this industry. It is good to have a mentor or mentee to help you stay sharp and understand new advancements and changes in the field.

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