A structural engineer’s involvement in a project represents a substantial part of the building and can have an effect on cost, appearance, direction of the project, and schedule. Let’s explore three ways that a structural engineer can add value to a project.
As I wrote in a recent article, it is important that the engineer listens so that he can understand the project and the needs of the customer. For example, If I am designing an exposed structural member, it is vital to work with the architect to determine how the connections are going to be made. Another example is when an architect has a preference on how the floor is framed in order to accommodate other trades.
One way that a structural engineer can be innovative is by providing a creative framing system or design concept that reduces the project cost. For example, recently we had a project where much of the wood-framed first floor of a restaurant was damaged due to the heavy moisture in the kitchen. Our job was to design a repair for the damaged floor. Instead of using an elevated concrete slab or similar system, we worked with the architect and contractor to design a slab placed over Geofoam. This solution will save the project both time and construction cost.
Never Say Never Attitude
Architects and owners often want to make a statement with their building, and my job is to figure out a way to make the dream come true. In many cases, the value related to giving the customer what they want is more than it is about my design fee or the construction cost. Do you want to cantilever a wing of the building over your pool? Check! Do you want to design a roof that mimics a butterfly? Check! Do you want to design a project that can be fast-tracked? Check!
My opinion is that we can make anything work if it is truly wanted. Yes, we do have to follow the laws of physics, and there will be a related cost to the design solution, but within reason, we can make it happen.
There are a number of other ways that a structural engineer can bring value to a project. What are some things that you believe add value to a project?