What Is Structural Engineering?

free essayStructural engineering is a branch of civil engineering which core function is the design of support systems for structures such as earth works, bridges, buildings, and industrial structures. The main focus is put on supporting that these structures bear, and it relies on the concepts of mathematics and physics. The modern times are defined by increasing complex designs, and this has made the licensing boards and universities to come up with separate certifications and programs for structural engineers. These are essential in demarcating the line between structural engineering and other specializations in civil engineering. Numerous complex tasks are often carried out by structural engineers all of which culminate into the development of support systems that allow structures to stand safely with minimal chances of collapsing.

Structural engineering is one of the engineering specializations that started sometime in 2700 BC. The first engineer to be known by name was Imhotep who built the step pyramid for pharaoh. The pyramids are some of the famous buildings that structural engineers pride themselves for due to the fact that their structural form is intrinsically stable to the point where they can be almost scaled infinitely. This sets the pyramids apart from most of the ancient structural forms that cannot facilitate a linear increase in size in proportion to the increased loads. The structures and designs that were put up in ancient and medieval history were mainly based on what had worked before rather than on empirical evidence (Mills & Lin, 2009). Thus, most of the time, there were replication of structures with minimal increase in scale from what had been put up before.

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The advent of the structural engineering specialization, industrial revolution, and concrete re-invention brought about rapid changes in terms of structural development. The structural engineers are mainly motivated by the ingenious manipulation of forms and materials coupled with the fundamental principles of mathematics and physics. This culminates into structures that fulfill their core functional requirements. The structures are also safe since they can bear different types of loads. While striving for ensuring that these structures are put up successfully, the engineers still manage to be economical (Mills & Lin, 2009). Thus, the end result is not only artistic, aesthetic, and functional but also safe, economical, and realistic to be performed.

In most of the building projects, the architect assumes lead role of the designer. In such instances, the structural engineer assumes the role of a sub-consultant. This will always be the scenario only when the projects are structurally simple such as residential establishments and multi-storey offices. However, when the structure in question greatly relies on its form for strength, then the structural engineer has a greater influence on the form and aesthetics than the architect. Such structures include grid shells and shells that are mainly governed by tensile forces (Bai & Bai, 2012). Thus, the successful implementation of complex projects is mainly credited to the structural engineer even when the architect is the lead contractor.

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Structural engineering plays a crucial role in contributing to the growth, expansion, and advancement of nations. In any developing nation, the structural engineering forms like nuclear and thermal power plants, bridges, and multi-storey edifices play important role in strengthening the economy. For instance, when the engineers construct such structures as bridges, the country’s economy and resources are marketed to the whole world right from the design phase to the final implementation. Through this, they contribute to the growth of the economy (Thorby, 2008). When the engineers go to extremes in ensuring that a structure is successfully put up, they get to integrate either directly or indirectly some of the life skills such as management and marketing, which are not taught in school to be put into practice.

Some other engineering specializations such as hydraulics and geotechnical engineering can effectively implement processes through pure trial and error techniques in instances where the whole design is not dependent on the built conditions. However, the credibility of any structural engineering form is rarely questioned since it is based on the strict adherence to the requirements of the standard codes. However, the structural engineer get to master the art to the point in time. Here, he or she can follow all the stipulations and manage to put up the predefined structure within the time frame and with high accuracy levels (Bai & Bai, 2012).

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Structural engineering is basically a specialization of civil engineering. However, these engineers get to apply the knowledge acquired within a vast field that encompasses almost all key engineering designs. The knowledge of these specialists is not just confined to buildings and other complex structures. These engineers can also take up roles that involve designing machinery in the instances where the structural reliability of the design item impacts its durability and safety (Mills & Lin, 2009). Thus, the engineers’ competence, decisiveness, efficiency, and quick decisions come to play in such situations since they always have to guarantee that the final product is safe and economical.

Structural engineers are also credited for the high levels of safety that they strive for ensuring since they hold the lives of other people in their hands. The engineers have to design structures that are physically able to resist specific forces and pressures. Thus, they take up one of the most significant roles in the field of construction. The expertise and technical knowledge of structural engineers have ensured that the buildings that people live or work in and spend practically the majority of their days does not expose them to serious injury or even death (Mills & Lin, 2009). During the lifetime of any structure, it will be subjected to numerous strains and stresses. The structural engineers ensure that the buildings remain flexible and robust enough to maintain safety and solidity. Without the contribution of structural engineers, buildings may vibrate, bend, or twist in a manner that can result in loss of human lives and structural damage (Thorby, 2008). The engineers also take the initiative of ensuring that old buildings still remain safe and strong.

How It Works

Structural engineering encompasses the probable changes that may need to be incorporated in the future by ensuring that these structures can safely withstand all the forces. The structures that they put up are designed to adequately meet their main goal and still serve the intended purpose throughout their lifetime. Thus, they not only invest in the immediate demands and loads but in the future ones as well. This is an exciting and thoughtful prospect that can result in rapid development due to the reduction in the amount of time spent on expanding or correcting structures every few years. The resources that would have otherwise been used on one project for extended periods are maximally allocated, and the given nation gets to experience tremendous growth. This concept also enables structural engineers to act in every stage of the project since their innovation and creativity make them come up with sustainable solutions to some of the major problems encountered during implementation (Thorby, 2008).

The work of structural engineers is not confined to an office, it includes visiting construction site too. The design and calculations can be done in the office. However, they still go to the construction site to check the site conditions, the dimensions, the progress and so on. All of this is done within the standard working hours. In the initial stages of the project, the engineer has to visit the site to determine the accessible area, the height limitations, and many other factors that are crucial in ascertaining the feasibility of the project. However, once all the measurements have been done, they go back to the office work and occasionally visit the site to check the progress and areas that need amendments (Bai & Bai, 2012). This flexibility enables them to handle more than one project at a time.

The modern world is characterized by an ever increasing quest for rapid expansion by taking up large-scale projects. Even when there is a recession, the opportunities will always be there for structural engineers during the recovery process. This happens owing to the fact that the specialization provides some of the most important requirements for modern society. That is, people will always need a place to live, safe water supplies, waste treatment, and disposal facilities. The services of these professionals will always be in constant demand. For instance, transportation plays an important role in any major civilization. Even when few structures and roads are likely to be constructed, the existing ones have to maintain the smooth flow to be uninterrupted. Structural engineers have to carry out assessments of these buildings from time to time in a bid to come up with ways of extending safe working conditions (Mills & Lin, 2009). Thus, even when the need for new structures reduces, the need for refurbishing the existing ones increases.

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In this specialization of civil engineering, a career provides a platform from which the specialists can play a part in shaping the world. The career also provides them with a great opportunity for challenges stimulating creativity. Moreover, the career provides the needed platform for these engineers to play a role in altering the surroundings. The profession also offers a chance to work in challenging environments, which culminates into creative and greatly rewarding satisfaction (Thorby, 2008). The structural engineer may choose to work with the local authority, a consultant, a contractor, or choose to delve into research work and teaching. Most people perceive that structural engineer culminates into the one assuming the role of a resident specialist with limited opportunities to work in other areas.

Structural engineers can also find employment in numerous agencies since their specialization is centered upon almost every aspect of the construction sector. The impact of the activities that they carry out is not only confined to the organizations or entities that they work for. The effect is felt by individuals, communities, and nations throughout the world. Numerous organization that deal with industrial construction, mechanical structures, pipelines, buildings, bridges, and many more require the input of structural engineers. Such organizations include automotive companies, federal and central government agencies, utility companies, local authorities, contractors, and consulting companies (Thorby, 2008). There are also numerous opportunities for these engineers to work abroad since their gained knowledge qualifies them to work in numerous locations all over the world.

Structural engineers are some of the highest paid people in the corporate world because their work involves the application of cost reduction techniques and cutting edge technologies. The world is constantly evolving, and this calls for the need for countries to outdo each other by boosting their economies based on the infrastructure they put in place. Countries are driven by the quest for creating something new each time in a bid to market their economies as a preferred destination. Thus, the specialized technologies have been introduced this fact, and they have played a great role in broadening the scope of the structural engineering profession. They have also made the engineers in this specialty to be highly marketable with their salaries to be continually on the increase (Bai & Bai, 2012). Thus, when these engineers transit to higher roles, they experience a great upturn in salary.

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Some people may say that they just landed into their given professions; however, for structural engineers, several factors drive them to pursue that course. For instance, when the news headline has something to do with natural disasters, then an individual is compelled to think of how important it is to have safe and solid structures. The scope of work involves deadlines that have to be met, budgets that have to be adhered to, challenges that may arise at any stage of the construction, and the new building codes that one has to familiarize him/herself with every time time (Thorby, 2008). All of these may make the everyday work to be somewhat difficult. However, at the end of each day, the engineer still gets the satisfaction of knowing that everything that he or she does really matters since numerous things including human life depend on it.

The ancient world had intelligent and creative thinkers who came up with solutions for the problems of their times. This is the concept that engineering is based on. As a structural engineer, one is always called upon answering difficult structural problems all of which require creative solutions that need invention and innovation. These engineers simply think differently compared to many other professionals. Structural engineers have different mind-sets and opinions from those of managers, and this difference may sometimes create conflict. However, most people in all professions eventually learn to work around the creative nature and imaginative sense of engineers and even empower them to imagine, innovate, and invent. Structural engineers are indeed important since they make the world habitable, solve problems, contribute to economic growth, and get paid sufficiently while doing it.

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