Why do I need to hire a Structural Engineer?
Structural Engineers are needed to design the “bones” of the building. The architect decides the shape, size and appearance, but engineers design the structural systems.
What Structural Engineers provide:
• Expertise regarding the structural analysis and design of structures.
• Determination of lateral forces, such as wind and seismic, on structures.
• Selection of framing systems and recommendations for construction and economic feasibility.
• Assessments of existing building vulnerabilities.
• Knowledge of common construction materials such as steel, concrete, wood and masonry.
• Understanding how you can expect your structure to perform when subjected to the various uses and loading that the building will be exposed to during the life of the structure, including earthquake shaking and other extreme loading.
• Preparation of structural plans, calculations, specifications and reports, and coordination with the other building systems that will load the structure.
What can I/my company do to keep a project on track or within budget?
Structural Focus has the expertise and knowledge to advise the team about the structural implications and the construction costs involved in any proposed modifications as those decisions are being made. In order for the best solutions to be considered, we provide options and work with the cost estimator/contractor to present relative costs between each of the options.
What new rules or regulations are going to affect my project?
The building code is updated every three years, so changes are inevitable as the design professionals and the policy makers learn more about building systems and technology changes. These periodic code revisions generally do not have dramatic changes to the structural provisions, but new retrofit ordinances can have an obvious impact. One example of a substantial change is Los Angeles’ recently adopted ordinance for the retrofit of soft-story wood buildings and older non-ductile concrete buildings. Ordinance No. 183893, Mandatory Earthquake Hazard Reduction in Existing Wood-Frame Buildings with Soft, Weak or Open-Front Walls and Mandatory Earthquake Hazard Reduction in Existing Non-Ductile Concrete Buildings, requires that these buildings be retrofitted to at least a minimum level within 7 and 25 years, respectively.
Why do you think you’re the right firm for this project?
Structural Focus embraces the collaborative process of design through an ongoing, open, creative and clear dialogue between the team and owner. As evidenced by our long list of loyal clients, Structural Focus is committed to providing the highest level of service on every project. The biggest single reason that we have such loyal clients is our desire and ability to become their “trusted advisors.” We like to be involved very early in a project to help our client make informed decisions that will help provide the best project value for their money. Some of our competitors like to stay “at arm’s length” until the shape, size and appearance of the building is set and they can just take the CAD files and finish their design. We like to help impact the shape and size and structural system so that the project starts on the correct path from the very beginning.
Have you done similar projects to mine?
Our team has designed several million square feet of new structures, as well as rehabilitated hundreds of existing buildings, including nearly two dozen of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. Whether the projects involve historic restoration or detailed laboratories, acoustically-sensitive post-production facilities or performance spaces, educational structures or corporate headquarters, a comprehensive effort is provided by the Structural Focus team to achieve the project goals and create the envisioned facility on time and on budget. In summary, we are qualified to design many types of projects, and we won’t take on a project that we are not qualified to do. It’s not worth it to our client, or to us.
Can we save this building?
As an industry leader, David Cocke, SE has published several papers and participated in numerous presentations promoting the idea that the preservation of an existing structure and its embodied energy is the single most effective step in supporting sustainability. Many factors contribute to the feasibility of saving a building, including its condition, importance, the scope of the renovation, constructability of the work, timing, and others, but in reality, it’s up to the owner to decide whether they want to make the investment to do the work that we outline.
I’ve heard about this new (material, approach, etc.) Can we do that on our project?
We are constantly looking at new materials and new construction techniques. There are a lot of bright minds out there thinking about what can be done differently in the construction process, and we want to take advantage of that. For example, at a recent project start, an architect asked about the use of cross-laminated panels (CLT). We are familiar with them and are now seriously considering their use in a new building design that we are developing. We will look at structural applicability, at their expected durability, their structural performance, their price and their availability in the area. There are many considerations, but if we are satisfied, we will make the recommendation.
Do you prefer to work on Design/Build or Design/Bid/Build projects? Why?
We don’t have a preference for D/B or D/B/B projects, but there is definitely room for improvement in both processes. It is crucial for the structural engineer to be involved early in the project in order to provide expert information regarding important design decisions and advise the team and the owner about the costs involved. We have even developed our own ideas about an improved process that involves early participation by ALL consultants and focuses more on communicating criteria than producing schematic “drawings.” The coordination of the information is what is important, not sketches on a CAD file showing preliminary framing.
Once the design is complete, will you still be involved in the project?
We assign our staff to a project at the start according to expertise, availability, interest, and other factors. And once assigned, we want our staff to stay with the project. It is important to understand the intent of a design and that understanding is even more critical while providing construction administration services. During design, Structural Focus staff members remain in constant communication with the project team and inform all if, as the design develops, any significant changes to the structural scheme are required. Our attention to detail is reflected in the high-quality materials we produce including our construction documents which are always delivered on time. Of course, as trusted advisors to our clients, we are pleased to provide any follow-up services to the building owners, even after they have moved in. We understand that the needs of the owners and occupants change over time. It is preferable for the structural engineer to evaluate a proposed change to the structure instead of making a change that will cause problems in the future.