Building engineers are structural engineers who specialize in buildings. Buildings need to be able to hold up under all types of loading, including the weight of the building, the weight of the people and other things inside the building, and natural forces such as wind, gravity, snow, and earthquakes. A building engineer will consider all these forces and design the building to be structurally sound.
Differences between engineers, architects, and contractors
- Building engineers look at supports, loads, and building materials. During the building process, they review and evaluate plans as well as inspect the structure and its surroundings.
Architects focus mainly on the planning phase. They focus on aesthetics, design, and functionality of a building.
Contractors focus on the construction phase. They are the ones who follow the plans and bring designs to life.
When and why should you hire a building engineer?
A construction project will almost always require a building engineer, and the more complex a project gets, the more you will need one. Besides evaluating plans and checking for structural soundness, a building engineer will perform additional functions depending on the needs of different projects.
Building a new home
When building a new home from scratch, a building engineer essentially ensures that your home can resist the elements. They review proposed plans and make sure they follow building codes and regulations. They will also check the lot and surroundings of your proposed home, to ensure your plans integrate factors such as slope, existing features, and the surrounding environment.
Adding or remodeling rooms
When adding extra rooms to your home or expanding a room, the load that your house must carry will change. A building engineer will be able to tell you how your house and its foundation will be affected by the added weight of a new room, a second story, or an expanded room, as well as solutions for your unique situation.
When remodeling, a building engineer can tell you if the wall you’re planning to knock down is load-bearing or not, and suggest what to do if it is. They can tell you how your remodeling will affect the structural integrity of your house, and what steps you can take to strengthen your home.
Installing alternate power sources
When installing power sources like solar panels, a building engineer is a huge asset. Many roofs aren’t designed to hold the weight of solar panels, so a building engineer can tell you if the panels you’re thinking of installing will work for your roof.
Noticing structural damage
An inspector may find an indication of structural damage to your home, or you may notice some warning signs yourself. Some warning signs include cracks in the walls or foundation, sticking doors and windows, sagging or uneven floors, and persistent moisture, puddles, or humidity. Any of these could point to an issue with the foundation or structural supports. In this case, it would be prudent to contact a building engineer to inspect your home and identify the cause of the damage. They can also provide solutions to fix the problem in an unbiased, objective way. This can be particularly useful when you are buying or selling a home or building, as a structural problem may be discovered during an inspection. Hiring a building engineer to verify the damage and propose solutions can streamline the process and save money in the long run.
Damage from the elements
Besides damage to the structure of your home, your house is subject to nature, weather, and the elements. Strong winds, like the Santa Ana winds, can subtly damage your home’s exterior. Fire damage, whether from a kitchen fire or wildfire, can weaken the structure of your home. Floods can compromise your foundation and induce mold growth. Earthquakes and other natural disasters can demolish houses. A building engineer can come in after the damage and assess how severe it was, recommend ways to fix it, and figure out if the damage occurred before or after an incident for investigators or insurance. They can also come in before potential damage and recommend ways to reinforce the house against particular disasters such as earthquakes.
Building engineers are good at what they do
At minimum, a building engineer must have a bachelor’s degree in engineering to receive a license. They have to have graduated from an accredited engineering program, have an additional four years of working experience, and have taken the licensing exam(s).
To work as an engineer, a building engineer must be licensed. In some states, they also require continuing education every year in order to renew a license. A good building engineer will be able to accurately identify issues as soon as they see your home for the first time. Having a building engineer as an extra set of eyes to inspect your home is always beneficial and adds to the safety and integrity of the building.
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