What is structural engineering?
Structural engineering involves the analysis and design of structures such as buildings, bridges, towers, marine structures, dams, tunnels, retaining walls and other infrastructure. Structural engineering underpins and sustains the built environment, where structures must be safe, serviceable, durable, aesthetically pleasing and economical.
Structural engineering applies maths and physics to traditional construction materials such as concrete, stone, steel, timber and glass and innovative engineering materials, including aluminium, polymers and carbon fibre.
Structural design determines the type of structure that is suitable for a particular purpose, the materials to be used, the loads and other actions that the structure must sustain, and the arrangement, layout and dimensions of its various components.
Structural design involves detailed calculations to ensure that:
• the structure is stable
• all parts have adequate strength to resist the design loads
• the structure as a whole will remain serviceable throughout its design life and able to perform its intended function.
Finally, structural design involves the careful preparation of drawings that will communicate the engineering design to the contractors who will build the structure.
Structural analysis is an integral part of structural design. It involves the calculation of the response of the structure to the design loads and imposed deformations that it will be required to resist during its lifetime. In structural engineering, ‘deformation’ refers to when an object is changed temporarily or permanently due to applied force. These calculations allow structural engineers to select the right materials for the structure, and to ensure that it will be suitable for the purpose for which it is being built.