Embarking on a self-build project is an exciting endeavour that requires careful planning and the involvement of various professionals. Among these experts, a structural engineer plays a crucial role in ensuring the success and safety of your construction project. This article will explore a structural engineer’s responsibilities, expertise, and significance for your self-build project, backed by information from credible sources and industry insights.

What is the role of a Structural Engineer?

A structural engineer specialises in designing and analysing structures to ensure their strength, stability, and durability. The Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) deals with the scientific design, construction, and erection of structures made from various materials.

They look at an Architect’s designs, materials and the site, and design a structural support system that fits your design. They work with your architects to ensure the house is fit for purpose and acceptable to Building Control. 

They also play a vital role in the technical and structural analysis, deriving loads, and assessing stresses a building will encounter during its lifespan.

Finding the Right Structural Engineer?

Membership in reputable institutions such as the IStructE or the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) is an indication of their competence and adherence to industry standards. Utilising online directories, seeking recommendations from architects, builders, or self-build associations, and conducting interviews can help you find the right structural engineer for your project.

ACS are members of both these institutions with multiple team members working towards Chartership. 

At What Stage of the Project Do You Need a Structural Engineer?

The involvement of a structural engineer is essential from the early stages of your self-build project. They assess site-specific factors such as ground conditions, water table, flood risk, adjacent trees, and site access to advise on the most suitable construction approach. This includes evaluating options such as timber frame, Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs), or Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF). Their expertise in addressing these considerations helps optimise resources, provide cost certainty, and minimise design-led changes.

What services do you provide at ACS?

ACS provide complete structural engineering services, from the foundations to the roof of your self-build project. This service will include structural drawings, with plans and details showing the frameworks and giving your builders the details they need to build a robust, long-lasting house. This service would also include design calculations and ensure compliance with building regulations. In England, these calculations go to building control for checking and approval.

In Scotland, ACS are members of the SER Scheme and provide a SER certificate for building control, demonstrating that the building has been properly designed. ACS also advise on and checks the suitability of ‘bought-in’ elements, such as balustrades and glazing.  

In the early stages of the project, ACS will review the publicly available records of your plot, including historical and geological records, from which we will give you an outline site assessment and guide you through any more detailed Site Investigation requirements and comment on these where required.

As well as New Build structures, your engineer should provide:

  • engineering expertise,
  • design for extensions and refurbishments,
  • structural inspection services, and
  • reporting for existing buildings.

Attending sites during construction works ensures that your structural engineer can advise clients on problems that may arise, check that works are progressing according to the design, and design any remedials required.

How do structural engineers collaborate with other professionals in a construction project?

Structural engineers collaborate with architects, civil engineers, building services engineers and specialist designers to ensure that the building elements fit together as efficiently as possible.

Engineers work together to ensure that the building can efficiently accommodate the pipes, ducts and cables without damaging the aesthetics.

At ACS, we coordinate with architects to ensure the structure is either hidden or looks good on display, such as an exposed timber roof truss or a steel balcony structure. 

How does the role of a structural Engineer vary in different industries or sectors?

All structural engineering fulfils the same primary function of assessing existing and proposed structures and ensuring they are sound and fit for purpose. The type and scale of structures vary, and engineers learn clients’ preferred solutions in each area.

Allan Corfield Structures (ACS) works with a wide range of architects and clients and our sister company, Allan Corfield Architects. We specialise in private housing, but our engineers have a wide range of experience from the smallest (steel signs on big buildings) to the largest (big buildings! Along with bridges and industrial work) and in all the traditional forms of construction and more modern methods. 

In particular, ACS provides engineering design expertise in modern high energy efficiency and low carbon, low- environmental building methods. These include Insulated concrete formwork (ICF), Structural insulated panel systems (SIPS) and timber frame. 

At ACS, we work closely with the architects to advise on what materials and specifications best suit the client’s requirements and the form of the proposed house.

ACS always advise engaging with the structural engineer as early in your self-build journey as possible, ideally at the same time your architect starts detailed design. This can lead to considerable cost savings and greater energy efficiency. Something as simple as moving a doorway can help provide a clean line from the roof to the foundations for a support column, reducing the structural frame’s complexity and size.

Understanding the Cost of a Structural Engineer

The cost of hiring a structural engineer can vary depending on factors such as the complexity of the project, the engineer’s experience, and the scope of work involved. According to HomeOwners Alliance, fees for structural engineering services can range from 1% to 5% of the total construction cost. It is important to obtain multiple quotes, discuss the services provided, and ensure that the fees align with your budget and project requirements.

Collaboration between Structural Engineer and Architect

While architects focus on the overall design, aesthetics, and functionality of the structure, structural engineers ensure its stability, strength, and compliance with safety standards. Their collaboration is crucial to achieve a harmonious integration of architectural vision and structural feasibility. Regular communication and coordination between these professionals help balance creative aspirations with practical engineering solutions, resulting in a successful self-build project.

Structural Engineering at ACS and ACA

The role of a structural engineer is fundamental to the success of your self-build project. Their expertise ensures that your structure is safe, resilient, and capable of withstanding various loads and external forces. By engaging a structural engineer early in the process, considering site-specific factors, and fostering effective collaboration with other professionals, you can navigate your self-build journey with confidence, knowing that your dream home is backed by solid engineering principles. If you have any questions regarding your project, feel free to contact us!

Do you have any question regarding your project?

Contact us, and we will help you move on with your Self Build dream!