Are you unsure whether hiring a structural engineer is worth it?
If you’re starting a construction project, you’re likely scrutinizing every cost item in your budget. With average design fees adding up to a major chunk of costs, you may question the value of a structural engineer’s involvement in your project. To make an informed decision, get to know what services these professionals provide, and how they may apply to your project.
Structural engineers are professionals who design support systems for buildings and assess structural plans. They also have the authority to inspect buildings and advise architects, contractors, and owners on their projects’ structural design requirements. The title “Structural Engineer” is granted to Civil Engineers who earn it through their education and work experience.
A building’s structure is designed to interface with its architectural features, which is why structural engineers join the effort after the architectural drawings are ready. Architects plan the building’s appearance and use of space, then engineers design the supporting structure - foundations, columns, beams, slabs, and other load-bearing elements.
In California, most projects’ plans need a structural or civil engineer’s stamp to qualify for a building permit. Across the state, building officials have the final word in requiring an engineer’s stamp and deciding the scope of their involvement.
If you are planning a residential project, the California Business & Professions Code (CBPC) requires it to be designed by a Civil or Structural Engineer, if:
Wood frame single-family homes lower than 2 stories and a basement may be designed by a non-licensed person, as long as they conform to the local adaptation of Division IV of Chapter 23 of the California Building Code. In theory, this means that you may hire an unlicensed designer to draft your drawings, or even try it yourself.
If your project is exempt from mandatory engineering approval, taking a DIY approach may seem like a cost-effective way to design your dream home. Before you do, consider this - your building official may send your plans back for a licensed engineer’s review after you apply for a permit.
There are plenty of reasons why building officials may do so. These include, but are not limited to, code compliance issues, seismic concerns, and the need for roof snow load calculations.
The CBPC requires your plans to conform to the building code, but other codes and statutes also regulate residential construction, for example:
Unless your design complies with all the codes and regulations listed above, the local Building Department must refer you to a licensed design professional.
While no part of California is safe from earthquakes, some areas suffer from notably strong ground motion. Regions close to active fault lines, such as the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area or the San Francisco Bay Area, may experience shaking strong enough to destroy even earthquake-resistant structures. If your home is located in such an area, getting your building plans stamped by a professional engineer becomes even more important.
Most of California enjoys a Mediterranean climate and is spared the headaches of winter weather. However, some mountainous regions can get up to 210 inches of snowfall every year; if you’re building in these areas, your roof structure must be designed to resist snow loads. Building officials will want to see your roof load calculations and might ask you to get these done by a licensed engineer.
If you are tempted to avoid engineering design costs, remember: building departments tend to err on the side of caution, and your project may get delayed if plans are sent back for a licensed engineer’s review. To avert permitting delays, get a licensed engineer’s input on your project before you submit your application.
Is your project nonresidential? A licensed engineer or a registered architect must prepare your plans unless the work is limited to:
The plans must conform to local adaptations of all relevant codes, and building officials may require a licensed engineer to review them.
If your building shows signs of structural deterioration such as foundation cracks, you should have the damage professionally evaluated. Likewise, if you are planning to buy a building, it’s a good idea to confirm that it’s in good repair before you sign the check.
A licensed engineer’s structural on-site evaluation can put your mind at ease by assessing the condition of the building’s structural elements. The inspection typically comprises an assessment of the foundation, framing, shear walls, load-bearing walls, and the building’s envelope. Once the inspection is complete, you will get a report stating any issues and recommended next steps.
A Structural Observation is defined as “a visual observation of the structural system by a registered design professional for general conformance to the approved construction documents”. Structural observations are performed separately from building department inspections. They occur at the completion of a project’s milestones, once the structure is erected, and prior to finishes being placed.
In California, structural observations are required for projects that are:
Projects that are exempt from mandatory structural observations may be ordered to have one at the discretion of the local building department.
Whether you’re planning a ground-up construction project, remodel, or need a licensed engineer’s review for a part of your plans, our team is here to give you a hand. We can also offer you peace of mind by assessing your structure while it’s built and evaluating your existing building’s state of repair.
For more information about Design Everest’s full range of civil and structural engineering services and a FREE quote, call us at (877) 892-0288.
Design Everest is OPEN! We work remotely and are fully committed to taking on and delivering projects.
Design Everest’s remote working model can safely take-up and deliver your projects within the current government guidelines on COVID-19 (a.k.a Coronavirus). This applies to many of our project scopes, including architecture, civil engineering, structural engineering, and construction administration across California.
Design Everest is set up to remotely leverage digital platforms (virtual meetings, calls, emails etc.) in client-facing and internal operations. Over the years, we have advanced this ability to the extent that we can continue supporting new and existing clients across many of our projects. Even projects that need an on-site visit can be fulfilled safely via video calls or in-person visits, where permitted.
Note that the present government guidelines permit the delivery of essential services, including those related to construction.
YES, Design Everest's remote working model enables us to work safely with all clients, suppliers, industry partners, and internal staff as per government guidelines.
Design Everest can still support many of our types of projects (new or ongoing) safely. For example, new custom homes, accessory dwelling units, civil plans etc. We are committed to delivering these remotely and safely as per the current government guidelines. In case of any external dependency that is unavoidable/unavailable, your assigned Custom Success Manager or Project Manager will keep you posted on it and try their best to keep your plans in-progress.
YES, our remote working model enables us to be fully committed to ongoing projects. In case of any external dependency that is unavoidable, unavailable or unsafe, your assigned Custom Success Manager or Project Manager will keep you updated and try their best to keep your plans in-progress. If an on-site visit is not feasible via a video call, we will try our best to fulfill the visit safely, where permitted.
Some of our clients are already going ahead with their projects with us via video calls or virtual meetings. Your assigned Customer Success Manager or Project Manager is happy to help you with this, where needed.
There are multiple reasons for this. It's typical to plan the construction step in the summer. So, clients get started on the pre-construction steps (architecture, engineering, and construction admin) in winter or spring to stick to planned timelines.
Projects such as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and Additions/Remodels enable clients to rent/resale and generate revenue. Meanwhile, many clients are concerned about protecting their families and businesses against earthquakes by retrofitting their homes and buildings. These are just a few of the various reasons why it’s still reasonable for clients to stick to their construction plans.
Feel free to phone us at (888) 311-3015 Alternatively, you may contact your assigned Custom Success Manager or Project Manager directly via phone, email or virtual meetings.
To summarize, Design Everest is OPEN and able to serve new and existing clients, affiliates, suppliers, and industry partners.
Stay safe and rest assured that Design Everest can help you go ahead with your plans as per the recommended safety guidelines!