When Do I Need a Structural Engineer?

You might have heard of a structural engineer but aren’t sure what the role entails or the circumstances in which one would be employed.

In our article, we explain what a structural engineer does and provide examples of the type of work they undertake. We will also discuss a bit more about the role in terms of the expertise required and why it is so important.

So whether you are a homeowner embarking on an extensive renovation project or in charge of a major commercial development, the chances are you will need the input of a structural engineer.

What is a structural engineer?

A structural engineer is an engineering specialist who oversees the planning, design and maintenance of a building or structure. They are chiefly responsible for ensuring that the structure can withstand the stresses and loads it was built to bear.  

Examples of stresses and loads include weight, gravity, heat, wind, snow, water and the impact of natural events, like earthquakes.

What does a structural engineer do?

A structural engineer will often be employed in a consultancy role, supporting a building contractor or an architect. Their duties typically entail site studies, diagrams and calculations, often in conjunction with design drawings supplied by others to make sure that a building or structure, such as a bridge, is structurally sound.

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What’s the difference between a structural engineer and an architect?

The roles of an architect and structural engineer may at times cross over, but they are also distinct from one another. Whereas an architect is focused on the functionality, design and aesthetic appeal of a building or structure, a structural engineer will be engaged in all aspects in which the structural integrity is either compromised or needs to be factored in. As such, the scope of the role can be extremely broad. Structural engineers can be involved in small residential modifications to complex commercial projects on a huge scale, with not only structural elements to consider but environmental ones too.

How does someone qualify to be a structural engineer?

Once regarded as a branch of civil engineering, structural engineering is now seen as a standalone discipline. Most structural engineers will have obtained a degree or Master’s degree in engineering or equivalent and will have a solid grounding in mathematics and the laws of physics.

Best suited to individuals passionate about structural integrity, rather than superficial appearance, the job requires strong analytical thinking, not to mention personal responsibility. The ability to solve complex problems, communicate effectively, keep calm under pressure and work as part of a team is essential, while safety and extensive knowledge of building laws and regulations is also paramount.

A structural engineer should be a member of the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) or the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) to ensure the highest standards are maintained at all times.

Do I need a Structural Engineer?

Below are a few common examples of when the services of a structural engineer might be sought:

  • Building additions
  • Modifying doors or windows
  • Loft conversions
  • Removing or altering internal/supporting walls
  • Underpinning foundations
  • Fitting solar panels
  • Chimney/roof repairs
  • New builds

A structural engineer will need to research and source the correct materials for the job at hand alongside providing calculations and diagrams to ensure any change to the structural load is supported. The findings may result in a change of design or the inclusion of additional structural elements like beams or joists.

Structural engineers can also work with surveyors to prepare structural reports on properties, such as to examine the effects of subsidence. Plus, structural engineers can assist with the application of planning permission by submitting structural drawings, often required for significant renovation work.

A structural engineer can also offer their services to help settle a dispute over structural issues or a boundary line by acting as an impartial 3rd party witness. Structural engineers are also available to carry out surveys to identify any structural vulnerabilities.

When Do I Need a Structural Engineer: Final thoughts

We hope this article has helped shed some light on the role of a structural engineer. So if you are still asking ‘Do I need a structural engineer’, speak to the team at Gyoury Self Partnership.

We are a leading engineering consultancy that provides services for both domestic and commercial customers. One of our key specialties includes structural engineering and we have years of experience both in the UK and overseas, working on projects of all scales. If you have any questions about your project and would like advice about the next steps – contact us today.  



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