Home > Timber Frame Home > Structural Engineer! What’s that?

Structural Engineer! What’s that?

If you have ever built a commercial building or ordered trusses from a manufacturer then you might have come across structural engineers.  Actually, if you have built anything that was structural in nature then you might have wanted a structural engineer or should have had a structural engineer.  The structural engineer typically comes into a project with annoying questions like “What is this space going to be used for?” and “Where are the windows and doors going to be located?” and “Where is the project going to be located?”  All you are thinking when these are being asked is that these are just preliminary drawings and that everything might change in a week.  So who is this person and why do you need them on your job?  Well…

A structural engineer is responsible for the analysis and design of the support or framing system of a building.  I like to refer to it as the bones of the building.  While designing the building, the engineer will take safety and performance into consideration.  For performance or serviceability this is the design for vibrations from machinery, floor vibration or deflection that could cause discomfort, or even building deflection or sway.  The occupants of a building might feel uncomfortable if the building sways or moves too much, especially on the upper stories.

How can you check the qualification of your engineer?  The easiest thing to do is to check if the engineer has either a Professional Engineer (PE) license in civil engineering or their Structural Engineer (SE) license in the state which your project is being built.  Some states don’t offer a SE license so that is why there is a difference in the title.  There is no general licensing for engineers, it is state specific and each state has their own requirement to obtain and maintain their license.

The other thing that you can do is check references and talk with past client about their experience with this particular engineer.  It’s just like selecting an architect or contractor, do your homework and you should be able to put a design team together that meets your needs.

Okay, so that is a general definition of the responsibilities of a structural engineer, how does it pertain to timber framing?  Timber framing for engineers involves the same responsibilities and analysis but it all pertains to one specific material.  Not every structural engineer is familiar with heavy timber framing and traditional joinery.  So, if you have a heavy timber frame make sure that the engineer on the project has experience in this material and traditional joinery.

So what is the deal with those annoying questions anyway?  Now, that is just going to have to be another post on another day.

  1. April 3, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Welcome Jessie and thank you for your 1st guest post! The 1st of many, perhaps?

  2. jessievtw
    April 4, 2012 at 7:31 am

    I hope so but we’ll have to wait and see!

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