How do I find a structural engineer?
What does a structural engineer do?
In simple terms, the structural integrity of a construction or building is evaluated by a structural engineer. This work is visible in any direction you look as these experts are the backbone behind all modern day buildings and structures. The role of a structural engineer largely surrounds a buildings safety and feasibility for the purpose it was intended to have.
Despite this very important role, many laypeople are still unsure what a structural engineer does, whether they need one for their project or how to go about finding out. Many people also confuse structural engineers with architects!
Before you understand how to find a structural engineer suited to your property needs, you must first understand why you need the expert in the first place.
When do I need a structural engineer?
There are 3 main reasons why you may need a structural engineer, these are renovation projects, structural inspections or to be an expert witness.
No matter the size of your renovation project a structural engineer may still be needed. Whether that’s for an internal or external renovation or even a loft conversion, any home modifications that affect stability should be first consulted by a structural engineer.
The dedicated expert can work with your architect and building contractor in offering information vital to the overall renovation project. This often includes calculations and structural drawings. This information is also important as often it is used to quote an accurate cost for the work and its labour. Also, it may also be necessary to obtain this information in order to gain planning permission or ensure you’re in line with building control regulations.
Often, whether a structural engineer is absolutely necessary in your renovation project will depend on specifics on the project in hand. The most likely renovation tasks a structural engineer would be necessary to include, solar panels, conversions, window and door adjustments, removing chimneys and extensions.
In a nutshell, any project in which the structure of the building is altered or building control approval is necessary. This is best left in the hands of an experienced structural engineer.
Aside from renovations, this type of expert could also carry out a survey of the property from a structural point of view. This involves closely inspecting the properties foundations and construction to understand whether there are any malfunctions such as sagging roofs and ceilings, or cracking walls
This role can sometimes be done by a chartered surveyor, but typically this professional would just highlight any structural issues, it would still then be the role of the structural engineer to inspect them more closely. It would be a structural engineer that could advise of these issues specifically as opposed to the chartered surveyor.
However, it also could be that you go directly to a structural engineer if you noticed cracks or other structural issues in your property that caused concern. A structural engineer would be able to identify such issues immediately and identify a cause and treatment.
The third reason why you may need a look for a structural engineer is to act for you as an expert witness. This would be necessary if you entered into a legal dispute regarding a structural issue such as a boundary dispute. The perspective that a structural engineer can offer is unbiased and extremely valuable.
In addition to boundary disputes, it may be necessary to involve a structural engineer for other construction based issues that relate to your property. From this the expert can also provide an independent report and tailored advice to your situation.
Similarly to structural inspections, a chartered surveyor could also provide an expert witness service for you. They could also provide a report which outlines their opinions. However it is widely agreed that a structural engineer can provide a more in depth perspective on these issues.
How do I find a good structural engineer?
Several architectural companies have associated structural engineers that they work or affiliate with. This would involve the structural engineer carrying out the work, including drawings and calculations on behalf of the architect. These professionals are a good place to start in terms of looking for recommendations.
However, it could be that you aren’t currently working with an architect. In this case, it may be worth asking your local community for recommendations. This is beneficial two fold as you will receive trustworthy contacts and the expert will likely be based in your local area. Also, it is likely you could save an introduction fee from an architects recommendation if you go straight to the structural engineer yourself.
When looking for a structural engineer you should be mindful that each expert will have more experience in a specific area of this industry. With a wide variety of structures that the engineer could have worked on it is important to hire an expert who is tailored to your needs. For example if you are completing a home renovation project, you will likely need a structural engineer with residential experience.
Another thing to consider when looking to hire a structural engineer is whether they’re a member of any regulating body such as the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE). Once you have found a structural engineer here’s how you can make sure they’re right for your project
How to know whether a structural engineer is right for your project?
Despite often all having the same qualifications, structural engineers provide different services and different opinions of similar issues relating to structural integrity. It is important that a structural engineer has the correct qualifications, but it is specifically important that they have the hands on experience and knowledge to apply this aspect of theory to your project.
By ensuring your structural engineer has both knowledge and skills, your project is significantly more likely to stand the test of time. When you are hiring this expert bear in mind the following 3 stage checklist, qualification and education, the scope of their previous work as well as how they propose to benefit your project.