Structural engineers have the task of helping an architect design a structure that will resist the forces of nature, remain stable and dissipate energy appropriately. This task is often made easier by the use of computer assisted design and special calculating programs. With today’s technology, nearly any design problem can be solved by a structural engineer.
These technological advances have resulted in amazing and unusual architectural designs that would not have been possible 50 years ago. Continuing advances in the field of structural engineering allow architects to continue to push the envelope for innovative building designs.
When constructing a basic design for any structure, the structural engineer and the architect must consider the affects the forces of nature have on a building. High winds, heavy rainfall and intense heat from the sun can all affect the stability of a building. In some cases, buildings are designed to withstand earthquakes, tsunamis and terrorist attacks.
These forces, along with the affects of gravity itself, all must by calculated using the laws of physics in order to create a stable structure strong enough to withstand the elements for many years. All public buildings must be built to withstand certain capacity loads that will be present once furniture, equipment and people are habiting the building. Public buildings must also be constructed in a way that limits the spread of fire and provides for emergency exits from every floor.
The strength of a structure is described as the ability of the individual structural elements to withstand the load that is applied. These structural elements comprise the structural system. The stability of a structure is the capability of a structural system to transmit the energy of various loads safely to the ground.
Strength and stability are the two key elements of any structure. If a flaw is calculated into the design of a building, strength and stability will be compromised and the structure may come crashing down. By properly spacing support beams, bracing angles and anchoring the structure to the earth, strength and stability are added.
Perfection during the construction period is equally as important as the design of a building. One miscalculated floor beam span, two missing anchor bolts or a single missing support beam can weaken the structure to failure. The construction crew must complete the building of the structure precisely, in accordance with the architect’s plans.
Cooperation of experienced individuals must take place from design to construction for a structure to remain stable and strong. This combined effort has resulted in some truly magnificent architectural creations around the world.