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Location, Location, Location

Okay so maybe those are the three rules for real estate but a structural engineer is very interested in the location of the project.  So, why does the structural engineer want to know where the project is located?  Are they going to make a house call?  No they are not going to show up at your house; they actually use this information when they design the building.

The structural engineer is looking for the physical address of the project.  They are going to use this information.  Please provide it.  Other information that works is the map and parcel number and even the longitude and latitude of the job site works.  Seems fairly simple right?  Oh, the following is a list of answers that will get you another call from the engineer:

  • Just give the state that the project is located (i.e. – New York, Iowa, etc.)
  • General directions (i.e. – 55 west of Albany, 1.5 hours south of Manchester, etc.)
  • The architects or contractor office address

The location will determine the magnitude of the natural forces acting on the building.

Depending on where you live in the United States (or in the world) the loading requirements will vary.  Here in the mountains snow loading is a large factor in the design.  With timber frames, unbalanced snow likes to control the design.  There are maps and charts that layout the snow loads for towns across the U.S.  Even the general chart for the U.S. has some areas labeled as case study areas.  These are areas that the snow loading really varies.  Case study areas are typically located in areas of mountain ranges.  The elevation of the mountain affects the amount of snow load on the building.  To address this some states have put together their snow loading maps and if they haven’t the building department for the town needs to be called.

If you are closer to the coast, in the eastern U.S., high winds from hurricanes need to be accounted for.  If you are out west, wind isn’t an issue but earthquakes are.  The proximity of a building to a fault line can really affect the lateral loading.  The engineer doesn’t want your house to walk off the foundation.  But more on lateral loading when we talk about the “Where are the windows and doors going to be located?”

Another thing that structural engineers have to think about is flood zones, especially in coastal areas.  Depending on the flood zone that you’re building is in will affect the design of the house.  The building codes have specific requirements on building systems like mechanical, electrical and even the material that are used if you are listed in an A or V zone.

The location of the building is important information to a structural engineer.  With this information they can accurately put together the loading that is required for that specific building location.  This can lead to a more economical design and less changes in the long run.

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  1. Andrew
    April 12, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    It’s great to get a better idea of what you do at Vermont Timber Works. Well done. And great pictures of timber frames in that beautiful barn.

    • April 12, 2012 at 1:51 pm

      Thank you for your comments Andrew, much appreciated. How are things are your side of the world?

  2. tomvtw
    April 12, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    With all of that snow it has to add to the R-Value!

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