Structural engineers are highly skilled specialists hired only in cases where buildings must resist structural loads. Ordinary houses don't typically require their services because architects and general contractors can take care of demands.
So what are these structural loads and why do they need the assistance of structural engineers? Loads are nothing but forces that can cause a structure to deform or displace to the point where its structural integrity is compromised. Larger structures like bridges, dams and space stations have these loads that can cause unique stresses.
Ordinary houses are very small compared to structures these skilled professionals work on. Whatever loads exist are usually not enough to cause damage. Besides, other professionals like architects and general contractors know enough to deal with the stresses that might exist or form over time with houses.
The nature of structural engineering as a process is very complex and leaves no room for error. Hiring only highly skilled professionals is, therefore, important since most structures that need their expertise are large and accommodate a large number of people.
Where to find structural engineers?
Structural engineers can be referred by acquaintances and business associates who have recently had to hire them for a project. Recommendations from your general contractor and architect are also valuable. Naturally, those hired must be licensed and affiliated to governing bodies. Since the nature of the work involves precision and as mentioned, no room for error, care must be taken to ensure that the hired team delivers only the best results.
When to hire structural engineers?
How large the project is, what type of project it is, how complicated the structure is, and whether structural loads will affect the integrity of the structure will decide if you should hire structural engineers. The architect working on the building's design plan will be able to tell you if such help is needed.
Before hiring a team, consult with one. The money spent will be well worth it as safety will be increased. The consulting firm can be asked to find a team or if an in-house team exists, it can be used too.
How to hire structural engineers?
If you've skipped consulting and prefer to directly hire a company, narrow down structural engineering firms to two or three. References from past jobs similar to your project can be sought to see if they meet expectations. Speaking to past clients can also yield very positive results and can help you avoid making expensive mistakes.
Have engineers from the two or three firms visit the project site and submit a written proposal. You may have to pay for these preliminary visits though some firms don't charge. Go over the proposals with your architect and general contractor who'll have an idea of whether it fits into the project's requirements.
Once you've decided on a firm, it's time to talk payment, warranty, insurance etc. Payment will depend on the type of project, how complex the work is, and the reputation of the firm itself. Insurance goes without saying as does bond coverage. The final contract must contain details of the costs, fees, payment structure, items to be purchased, type of work to be performed, details of design approvals and permits, date of project completion, and compliance with building codes and quality standards.
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