Structural engineering is a sub-discipline of civil engineering that deals with the analysis and design of structures that support or resist loads. Its theory is based upon physical laws and empirical knowledge of the structural
Structural engineering is a sub-discipline of civil engineering that deals with the analysis and design of
structures that support or resist loads. Its theory is based upon physical laws and empirical knowledge of
the structural performance of different materials and geometries. This is necessary to ensure that the
structural designs satisfy the necessary building design criterion.
Structural engineering is a specialized field which is concerned with the planning, analysis, design,
construction, inspection, monitoring, maintenance and demolition of permanent and temporary
structures, and also the research into the behavior of structural systems and their components. The
structures can include residential and industrial buildings, bridges, tunnels, microwave towers,
chimneys, water tanks, silos, bunkers, domes, cooling towers, offshore platforms etc. They may be
composed of any structural material such as stone, wood, steel, concrete, plastic, aluminum,
composites, etc. Structural engineering considers the technical, economic, environmental, aesthetic and
social aspects of such structures.
A number of simple structural elements are utilized to build complex structural systems in structural
engineering design. The structural design explains how the elements of the structure are to be
proportioned and joined together in such a way that they will be able to withstand all the load effects
that are likely to act on it, during its service life, without excessive deformation.
The technical side of structural engineering is mainly concerned about comparing demand with supply.
On the demand side, loads are calculated based on previous research. These loads would include the
effect of people, furniture, wind, earthquakes, weight of the structure itself, etc. which the structure
needs to hold up. On the capacity site, plans and designs are made to include both the right strength
and the right serviceability to come up with a structure that has the capacity to bear the loads. The
capacity is calculated using material science and mechanics. Loads are usually over-estimated and
structural capacity under-estimated as a safety or precautionary measure, in order to account for any
mistakes in construction that may occur.
Structural engineers study about the physics of nature such as the effects of wind, water, snow, gravity,
etc, and the effects of the weight of the structure itself. They also study about the known longevity of
materials and their impact on the environment, known as the life cycle assessment or LCA. LCA plays an
important role in structural engineering, as it allows the builder to select the most environmentally
friendly option in building materials and also helps in increasing the longevity of the structure in the
given climate and environment.
The primary responsibility of structural engineers is ensuring the safety and serviceability of structures.
A large majority of them work as consultants to architects or design-build contractors, who come up
with the building layout. The structural engineer then calculates the loads, fit the structure to the
architecture, and decide on what structural systems and materials to use. They are sometimes also
involved in the demolition or dismantling of structures, either permanently or in order to repair it.
Structural engineers ensure that the structures built safely resists loads using appropriate construction
materials (such as steel, concrete or wood) and designs. Ideally, the engineer collaborates and interacts
with the owner, architect and contractor on a regular basis to conceive, develop, design and build the
structure in an efficient manner. They ensure that the structure is going to be safe, stable, economical,
aesthetic, environment friendly, sustainable and capable of fulfilling their intended functions and also
possible future challenges.
Duties coming under structural engineering:
Some of the duties and tasks that come under structural engineering include:
Identification of intended use and occupancy of a structure.
Coordinating structural designs with Arch drawings/models and mechanical, electrical and
Verification of design and providing technical advice.
Making calculations about loads and stresses.
Analysis of the structure to determine member and connection design forces.
Structural analysis and design via spreadsheets, handcalcs, or 3D software.
Selecting appropriate construction materials.
Obtaining planning and/or building regulations approval and other construction related
Reviewing and sending out proposals, contracts and reports, and making comments on
Managing projects and monitoring and inspecting the work undertaken by contractors.
Structural engineering basics are a wonder to behold. Suspension bridges, skyscrapers and artistic
buildings are all examples of the wonder and awe that structural engineers can evoke.