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Structural Designing-"The Role of a Structural Engineer"

"Engineering is the art of modelling materials we do not wholly understand, into shapes we cannot precisely analyse so as to withstand forces we cannot properly assess, in such a way that the public has no reason to suspect the extent of our ignorance."

A building, a house or any structure, in general, may be built in any way one desires. However, when the question of building a systematically planned structure arises:

  1. It should satisfy the functional requirements of the client and should be aesthetic, which needs an Architect or a Civil Engineer having experience can do it.

  2. It should be structurally safe so as to withstand the loads it has to bear, which needs a Civil Structural Engineer.

To achieve the best possible results, both have to work together. The functional design of the building consists of planning the areas in the forex, best possible way to obtain max usage and functions from the building. For a given residential bungalow, for, ex. this relates to the proper distribution of the areas to various rooms and placing them in the best possible way so that the users will get max output from the structure. The other services like water supply, plumbing, electrification, etc., also have to be properly planned. The functional design is thus concerned with overall functions and outlook of the structure. Most users of the structures are directly concerned with the functional design of the building. The structural design, on the other hand, is concerned with the strength of the building and its components.

By providing the functional design, the Architect or even the Civil Engineer prepares the useful and beautiful outlook of the structure whereas the structural engineer provides the design of the bones of the body of the structure. The structural engineer is concerned with the design of both the Superstructure and the Sub-Structure (i.e. foundations).


The general structural framework with which a structural engineer is concerned usually consists of load-bearing masonry structure, reinforced cement concrete frame, or a steel structure. Many other types of frames are also used. The choice of the type of framework depends on, on-site conditions, architectural planning of the building/structure, economy, and safety requirements. Building regulations and the client's desire also play an important role in framing the building. In any case, the safety of the building is the ruling factor for the structural design.

Both architect and the structural engineer work together to prepare drawings of the building or the structure.

The general works of the structural engineer are as follows :

  1. Finalizing the framework and tentative size of beams, columns, etc., considering the site conditions and structural requirements.

  2. Estimating the loads on the structure or a part of the structure by using available loading standards and his experience. For normal structural works the loading standard is IS : 875.

  3. Analyzing the structure for shear, moments, axial loads, deflection, etc.

  4. Designing the structural members using results from (3).

  5. Preparing the detailed structural drawings for the work at the site.

  6. Checking the work done by the contractor on sire when the work is in progress. In the interest of smooth and proper execution of work, it is essential for the contractor and the client to get the work checked by the structural engineer frequently.

The job of the structural engineer is challenging and carries a great deal of responsibility. Thorough knowledge of analysis and design of the structure with current codes of practice, creative ability, confidence and practical experience is, required to get a safe and economical design of the structure.


Also, the role of the contractor and his engineers are of paramount importance in the construction of the structure. The work of the contractor's site engineer is highly regarded as he has to construct the building from both the structural and architectural drawings.


Finally, it should be rightly understood that a building or any structure is the net result of the combined efforts of several professionals involved in the industry.

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