The Structural Engineer’s Role in Construction: From Design through CASep 10 2015 · 0 comments · Construction Administration, Nishkian Chamberlain ·0
The design has been worked on for months, perhaps years. The engineers have completed their extensive analysis on the structure. The drawings have reached 100% CD’s. The building department has completed their review and is now ready to issue a permit for construction. The SE’s role is done, right? On to the next project!
In reality, only design work is essentially complete while the enormous task of actually constructing the project is just beginning. The Structural Engineer plays a vital part to the successful completion of a project through construction and their involvement during construction with the Owner, Architect, other design consultants, and contractor is critical.
A Structural Engineer provides a key link for the Contractor during construction, but the SE’s role and connection with construction of the project starts well before the first shovel hits dirt. Coordination of a well-planned and detailed set of construction documents is a critical first step. Unforeseen site conditions are costly enough, however, without this first step, a project can get lost in request for information (RFI’s) or confusing drawings. A well-coordinated set of documents includes coordination among the many design disciplines. This involves checks between different consultant drawings and collaboration of design team members during meetings to resolve challenges during design and before construction.
On many projects, a general contractor may be involved early in a pre-construction role or on a Design-Build project. This provides a great opportunity to coordinate and collaborate during design with the entity that is going to build the structure. There are many different ideas on the best methods to construct and working together during design should greatly enhance the ability of the project to be built.
There may be no more critical time period for a project schedule than during construction and within the construction period one could argue that completion of the building structure is quite possibly the most critical. While other phases of construction may allow for multiple trades to be working on site, the building structure physically supports all other elements and must be completed first before others begin. Keeping the structure schedule on track is critically important and the SE needs to keep up with the pace of the Contractor. Beyond responding to RFI’s and submittals as quickly as possible (which should go without saying) and at most no more than the time allotted by the project specifications, projects that allow for regular site visits with the Contractor to answer questions and provide clarification go a long way to keeping job sites busy and productive.
This last item is a key and critical point to providing construction administration for the Structural Engineer. Site visits and Code required Structural Observations are necessary for the success of virtually all projects. Below is the description of Structural Observation from the City of Los Angeles DBS Structural Observation Form:
“STRUCTURAL OBSERVATION means the visual observation of the structural system, for general conformance to the approved plans and specifications, at significant construction stages and at completion of the structural system. Structural observation does not include or waive the responsibility for the inspections required by Section 108, 1701 or other sections of the code.”
Site visits and observations go hand in hand with other disciplines and help to provide checks and balances during construction as noted above. Inspections by third party inspectors provide specific review of the contractors work and provide the SE with information on the quantity and quality of constructed material. The SE works in conjunction with the inspection team and the Contractors to verify the structure is being constructed in conformance with the approved construction documents.
With a strong team of Owners, Contractors, and Designers, construction of a project can and should go smoothly. The Structural Engineer plays a critical role in its success and this responsibility starts early in design and extends into and through construction. Only when construction is done can we truly say, “On to the next project!”
Our engineers understand the critical nature of developing cost effective structural solutions while considering all aspects of the design through the final piece of the structure being placed. If you would like to learn more about our work, visit our Portfolio page. And do not hesitate to contact any of our offices should you have a need for a structural consultant that works diligently through the completion of your project.