Structural Engineering for Architects: Things You Have To Know

Just like a human skeleton, a building may be viewed as a collection of separate yet interrelated parts whose purpose is to transmit externally imposed loads into the foundations in a systematic way. This foundation is known as a structure in engineering terms. 

The person who gives the shape of the structure is referred to as an architect. He provides services to give a design that is best suited for a specific infrastructure, by utilizing various software, hardware, and network applications. Therefore, he must know the structural engineering basics.    

Yet, people get confused between a structural engineer and an architect. After reading this piece of content, you will learn what it means by structural engineering is for architects.

What is a Structural Engineer?

Structural engineers are the ones who are in charge of structural analysis and design. Structural engineers with less experience may design particular structural components, such as a building’s columns and beams. Engineers with more expertise may be in charge of the integrity and structural design of a whole system, like a building.

If you are asking – “how to become a structural engineer?” Then, you must start your education on a similar track. You must prepare yourself to take admitted to a reputed engineering school and choose structural engineering as your major. Along with that, you may go through various structural engineering courses and obtain some structural engineering certificates to improve your skills. 

A structural engineer usually specializes in the following types of structures –

  • Building Structures – This area of structural engineering has a tight relationship with architecture. The blueprint for a structure must guarantee that it can stand tall and operate without experiencing too many interceptions.
  • Civil Engineering Structures – All construction processes pertaining to the built environment are considered to be civil structural engineering. The principal architect of a civil engineering structure is a structural engineer. The structural safety of such constructions is of the greatest priority.
  • Earthquake Engineering Structures – Structures designed to resist earthquakes are known as earthquake engineering structures. The basic goal of earthquake engineering is designing and building structures that will hold up during an earthquake. Understanding how buildings interact with trembling ground and predicting the effects of potential earthquakes are also related to this section.
  • In Medical Science – Medical equipment, commonly referred to as an “Armamentarium,” is made to help in the diagnosis, observation, or treatment of illnesses. The LASIK surgical machine is one of the numerous fundamental forms of diagnostic gear.
  • Mechanical Structures – Numerous mechanical constructions can benefit from structural engineering concepts. While moving structures must take stress into account, static structures are designed with the assumption that their shape would never change.
  • Nanoscale Structures – A nanostructure is a form that is smaller than a molecule but larger than microscopic structures. It is important to distinguish between the various dimensions of nanotechnology when defining nanostructures.
  • Aerospace Structures – Launch vehicles, hypersonic automobiles, missiles, combat planes, and passenger planes are examples of aerospace structural types.  

Architecture: An In-depth Discussion

Architects are qualified experts who contribute their construction expertise, project management skills, and understanding of building plans to a project. Architects employ original ideas to design the visions of their clients. 

To implement their idea, they use Computer-Aided Drawings (CAD). Additionally, they offer administrative support for scheduling, milestones, total expenditures, and budgeting. Due to design considerations, they are typically engaged alongside a civil engineer and alter the plan in response to complications that structural engineers find.  

What is an Architect?

Instead of thinking about “how to become an architect,” plan to attend a school that offers an architectural engineering program. Architecture students are different from typical engineering students. That is why there are schools dedicated to architecture students since this engineering profession applies both theoretical and practical knowledge to the design of structures and systems.

Architectural engineers are structural engineers who also practice architecture. According to Data USA

  • There are around 4.5 million workers who have degrees in architectural engineering. 

The idea is to connect the structural components of engineering with the design and production aspects of architecture. Architectural engineers are knowledgeable in the electrical, mechanical, and structural aspects of building design. They oversee projects that include organizing the building process.

Things to Know About Structural Engineering for Architects

Engineers who specialize in structural engineering are taught to develop the “bones and muscles” that give man-made structures their shape and design. Structural engineers must also be aware of the sustainability, resilience, stiffness, and seismicity of engineering infrastructure for both buildings and nonbuilding objects. 

As an architect, learning the concepts of structural engineering can add great value. Before knowing the advanced topics, a good architect should know the theory of structural engineering, some relevant software, and the elements of structural engineering.   

Theory of Structural Engineering –

Understanding a structure requires a comprehensive knowledge of applied mechanics, materials science, and applied mathematics. To properly use the information, a structural engineer often needs an in-depth understanding of essential empirical and theoretical design codes and structural analysis methodologies.

Based on this information, they can forecast how constructions will sustain and withstand their own weight and external loads. They also need to be aware of how well materials and buildings resist corrosion.

In the early 1900s, specialized software was made available to assist in structural engineering design. Some examples involve –

The above software has the capabilities to help in analyzing, drawing, and designing structures with the greatest degree of accuracy.

Elements in Structural Engineering –

To construct the above types of structures, some common elements like Beams, Columns, Arches, Catermaries, Plates, Shells, etc are used by engineers and architects. The elements of structural engineering are categorized based on dimensionality and form. 

Why Do Architects Need to Know Structural Engineering?

Architects can either include a structural engineer in their team or he should have a decent knowledge in structural engineering. Here is the importance of knowing structural engineering for an architect – 

  1. To Find the Best Foundation for a Building

It’s crucial to determine the right type of foundation for your building. Finding the ideal base for your design often presents some difficulties. The correct foundation will aid in your design’s ability to withstand vibration, insulate the building, and reduce dampness. If an architect has knowledge in structural engineering. An architect can facilitate the process If he has knowledge in structural engineering.

  1. For Advanced and Detailed Drawings

As an architect, you should do all in your power to ensure that the customers can see your vision come to reality. Providing your clients with a detailed drawing of the final result through a comprehensive design will assist you in meeting expectations. It can only be accomplished by an architect who is also knowledgeable in structural engineering.

  1. To Learn the Building Code While Construction

You may have to deal with codes and standards throughout the construction as an architect. If you have the necessary structural engineering skills, you can create the building codes if there isn’t a structural engineer on the job site. An architect may ensure his customer receives the greatest service while staying under budget and on schedule by doing this.

  1. To Turn the Proposed Design into Reality

The most intriguing architectural endeavors are motivational, at the same time challenging. Having knowledge of structural engineering might aid you in resolving challenging issues. Even in the absence of a team of structural engineers, it may help you realize your vision and find innovative solutions to your difficulties.  

Overall an architect should know at least

1. Earthquakes and ground shaking

2. How buildings resist earthquakes

3. Seismic design approaches

4. Horizontal structure

5. Vertical structure

6. Seismic design and architecture

7. Seismic foundation problems and solutions

8. Horizontal configuration

9. Vertical configuration

10. Non-structural elements

11. Earthquake architecture

Structural Engineer vs Architect

Since people first began to build their own homes, structural engineering has been around. Throughout the industrial revolution in the late 19th century, when architecture emerged as a separate profession from engineering, it took on more defined and structured characteristics. Up to that point, an architect and a structural engineer were often the same people. 

That is why people still ask – “Should I hire an architect if I have a structural engineer?” Well, they should because there are many dissimilarities between these 2 professions. We have drawn a table that shows the comparison between a structural engineer and an architect. It is much similar to civil engineering vs architecture.  

Structural EngineerArchitect
Education RequirementA minimum bachelor’s degreeA minimum bachelor’s degree
Responsibilities The safety of the structure is the prime concern for them. They choose the right materials that don’t bend or buckle easily. They advise their clients on the improvement of the projects so that they can become safer. Like architects, they can also produce drawings and blueprints of the project.  They need to focus on the physical structure as well as the aesthetics. They make sketches of technical drawings and model plans. Also, they discuss the requirements of the project with their clients. 
Work environment Depends on the organization they work for. They may either need to work in an office or go to the site. Sometimes, they may need to attend in both environments.Mostly in office
Increase in job opportunities 87% (between 2020 to 2030)3% (between 2020 to 2030)
Average pay scale (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics$ 71,890 (2022)$ 80,180 (2021)

Of course, there are significant similarities between both professions as we can see from the table. The main difference between a structural engineer and an architect is that fact that the tasks of structural engineers are a lot wider than architects. However, structural engineers can’t ensure the final design of the building.  

Perhaps, you can learn more about the differences between structural engineers and architects in the following video –

Final Verdict 

Both structural engineers and architects play crucial but distinct roles in the creation of a structure. The sustainability of the construction under various loading circumstances shows the structural engineer’s work. They must confirm the structure should remain intact, secure, and cozy for its residents regardless of how stormy the weather is outside or how shaking the ground is. 

If the building has a nice style and the interior spaces are welcoming and comfy, the architect most likely did a good job creating the structure. However, structural engineering for architects can be considered an additional experience. 

Thanks for reading the content, feel free to leave a comment if you have any particular questions regarding structural engineering for architects.   

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