Structural calculations look at every aspect of a build, from the foundation to the roof, and how they interact.
They help to determine if the proposed building or renovations will maintain structural integrity and safety.
They also assist in understanding necessary resources, potential costs, and any risks.
Traditionally, performing these calculations has fallen under the purview of civil engineering. But can architects perform them, too?
In this guide, you will learn more about how architects handle their structural responsibilities and how structural engineers perform their important tasks.
Architects have a wide breadth of knowledge and skill, allowing them to perform basic structural calculations.
If they are working on a project more extensive than a residential home, they will likely work with a structural engineer to accomplish this portion.
Structural engineers specialize in structural integrity, critical in renovations or large and complex builds.
Architects design and build buildings with both structure and aesthetic pleasure in mind.
They have an excellent understanding of structural concepts, and if they desire, they could develop their knowledge with further education or training.
That said, civil or structural engineers will typically perform structural calculations and design.
They verify the structure can handle the loads imposed upon it by the building materials, design, and outdoor conditions.
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When professionals design a building, one of the main objectives is to ensure the structure is stable, strong, and flexible or rigid enough to withstand a specific, calculated load and hold up for a certain number of years.
Architects may do general structural design; however, most teams bring a structural engineer on board.
They do this because the structural analysis must be accurate in order for the building to be safe and stable.
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Structural engineers are responsible for structural calculations.
They will analyze any existing building or foundation and look over an architect’s drafts to:
- Determine how to maintain a current structure
- Develop a safe and stable structure
- Accommodate changes or additions
- Choose proper materials
- Calculate how much weight a particular portion of the structure can hold
- Ensure the building can withstand weather conditions.
Structural engineers dedicate their entire education to math, physics, structural calculations, structural design, and structural analysis.
So, they can carry out structural calculations carefully and understand their broader implications for a building long term.
Most residential builds only require an architect, as architects have sufficient knowledge for simple structures such as houses.
If you have any aesthetic goals, you should hire an architect to ensure your dream designs come to life.
However, if you are developing any large structure or altering the integrity of a building, you should consider adding a structural engineer to the team.
Generally, most people will start with an architect to consider existing plans or goals and present design drafts.
If they need supplemental information, they will typically let you know if they need to work with a structural engineer on the project.
There are many advantages to hiring an architect, including:
- Consulting on design goals
- Providing numerous potential designs
- Managing the budget
- Meeting project requirements or limitations
- Respecting building codes, safety rules, and state laws
- Working with important team members to coordinate elements of the build, such as civil engineers, structural engineers, electricians, interior designers, and contractors
- Finding creative solutions to potential or existing problems
- Preserving historical elements or matching pre-established designs perfectly
- Understanding sustainable or environmentally friendly materials and builds
The main difference between an architect and a structural engineer is that an architect mainly focuses on the exterior look of a building.
A structural engineer concentrates on the stability of a building.
Structural engineers can also design larger projects than architects, such as industrial buildings, bridges, and dams because it relies heavily on the structure.
Career-wise, architects earn an average salary of $80,180, but they are not in high demand.
Across the United States, there are around 9,400 job openings per year.
Likely, there will not be a significant increase in job outlook.
In comparison, civil engineers, the umbrella above structural engineers, earn around $88,050 annually.
There are 25,000 job openings per year, and the job market should grow by 7% before 2030.
Accordingly, there is a higher need for structural engineers, mainly because they can work on more projects than architects.
Although many believe architects and structural engineers are interchangeable, they perform different tasks.
You cannot use a structural engineer instead of an architect unless building aesthetics is not a concern.
Structural engineers do not have formal training in creative conceptualization or design processes, nor do they focus their skills on aesthetic pleasure.
Furthermore, you cannot replace a structural engineer with an architect as they do not deep dive into structural components.
When looking for a good architect, keep the following checklist in mind:
- They have at least an undergraduate degree in architecture, preferably a graduate degree in the domain.
- They have industry experience and are willing to show you a portfolio of their best work.
- They passed the Architect Registration Exam (ARE).
- They are part of a professional organization for architects.
- They are willing to show you their references, or you found them via referral.
- They propose alternatives to unfeasible design goals.
- They provide a precise cost estimate and stay within budget limits.
If you are searching for the best structural engineer, make sure:
- They have at least an undergraduate degree in civil engineering or structural engineering or an apprenticeship in engineering.
- Their degree is from an accredited university.
- They have state-approved licenses or certificates, which may vary from state to state.
- They are a chartered member, technician, or associate member of the Institution of Structural Engineers.
- They are a part of the professional structural engineer association.
- They continuously improve their knowledge and skills and have certifications to prove it.
- They have experience in a project similar to yours.
- Their reports are clear, organized, and contain various information such as materials, costs, and risks.
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Architects and structural engineers are both critical and valuable professions.
They are both worthwhile investments for large, complex, or valuable projects.
However, if you have a particular focus for your build, you may wish to choose one for their specific expertise.