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Choosing a structural engineer for your construction project

How to choose a structural engineer

If you are planning significant construction work on any building, whether it’s a home or business, employing a structural engineer is essential to ensuring the project progresses safely, efficiently and cost effectively. Choosing the right engineer is crucial to the overall success of your project, but it can be a tricky task, especially if you have never hired one before. In this blog we look at five things you should consider before making your decision.

Check accreditations and qualifications

When employing a structural engineering firm, you should ensure it holds an accreditation from a respected professional body, such as the Institution of Structural Engineers or the Institution of Civil Engineers. If your engineer is a member of these institutions they will be chartered, which is a mark of their level of ability, experience and skill.

Ensure your engineer is insured

As well as having the right qualifications, it is vital your engineer has the correct insurance. They should hold a sufficient level of Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) to cover the cost of the structural components of your project, so you can rest assured that you are covered in the unlikely event that you encounter a problem.

Look at experience and past projects

Does your structural engineer have previous experience working on similar projects? It is always worth checking to see if you can find an engineer with specific expertise relevant to your requirements. Look at past projects on their website to get an idea of the type of work your engineer does best. You can see some of the projects we have worked on here.

Read customer reviews

You need to be able to rely on your structural engineer to communicate with you effectively, keep you updated, and deliver what has been promised on time to keep your project running smoothly. One of the best ways to get an idea of what you can expect from your engineer is by checking to see what their previous clients say.

Consider the deliverables – time and cost

The cost of hiring a structural engineer can vary greatly so it is important you know what you’re getting for your money and when it will be delivered. Make sure you establish what is included in the quote and check if there are likely to be any extra costs, e.g. additional site visits or drawings. Remember that the cheapest option may not be the best so you should weigh up the cost with other factors such as the reputation and experience of the firm and whether they can deliver your project on time.

Get in touch to find out more about our structural engineering services.

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Do I need a Clerk of Works?

Over the last few years, increasing concerns about building safety and stricter regulations have led many in the construction and architecture sectors to call for the use of more onsite Clerk of Works professionals. If you’re planning a construction project you might be considering whether you need a Clerk of Works on your site. In this blog we take a closer look at what the role involves and the benefits of this service, to help you decide.

What does a Clerk of Works’ role involve?

A Clerk of Works provides an independent assessment of building work undertaken, checking quality of materials and workmanship, M&E, structural and architectural works. As well as ensuring that the construction is taking place in accordance with the client’s specifications, they ensure that the projects conform with building regulations.

What are the benefits of employing a Clerk of Works?

  • A Clerk of Works acts as your eyes and ears on site, reviewing the work as it progresses and ensuring that it is on budget and on schedule, so you can reassure your client they are getting the best quality work and value for money.
  • They will look for any potential defects in the building and design, flagging any concerns during the construction process, so they can be addressed immediately, preventing delays and additional costs further down the line.
  • Often architects’ time spent on site is limited and they do not carry out site inspections unless paid to do so. A Clerk of Works ensures the building work is being completed to the design specification in their absence.
  • It is often unclear whether the responsibility of meeting building regulations lies with the client, designer or contractors. A Clerk of Works offer a designated person to take on this role, liaising with the relevant parties, to ensure standards are followed and quality is maintained

If you’re aiming for the highest quality standards on your construction project, a Clerk of Works should be an essential member of your site team.

At KTA Structures we value quality in construction. Our team of qualified and experienced surveyors provide a comprehensive Clerk of Works service, ranging from reviewing drawings and specifications to quality control monitoring on-site. Get in touch to find out more.

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The future of building design

The future of building design

New technologies and innovations are always being introduced in both building design and construction. However, thanks to recent events, whether it be the unforeseen impact of Covid-19 or the increasing concern over climate change, we could start to see significant changes in our living and working environments more rapidly than expected. In this blog we explore the factors affecting building design post-2020 and how these are likely to affect what our buildings look like in the years to come.

Sustainable buildings

One of the most notable changes in construction over the past decade has been a shift towards more sustainable building methods and design. Climate change is becoming an increasing concern, and the UK government have set a target to reach net zero by 2050. Construction is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and so there has been a significant change in both building methods and design, including the use of new sustainable and recycled materials and green technologies.

There are plenty of examples of steps being made to make buildings more eco-friendly. Features such as roof and wall insulation, LED lighting and double glazing all aim to limit the amount of energy wasted. However, with the aim for all buildings to become net-zero by 2050, more drastic changes will have to be made. Renewable energy technologies, like solar panels, look set to become more commonplace on the average new home. There are also the more unusual methods of energy generation, like the Biq House in Hamburg – the first building solely powered by algae – which may too become more widely seen in the future.

Weather-proofing

The increased frequency of natural disasters and extreme weather around the world is largely believed to be a consequence we are already seeing of climate change. Hurricanes, tsunamis, wildfires and earthquakes are all occurring more regularly across the globe. Even in the UK, extreme hot and cold temperatures, storms and flooding have gone from being a rare occurrence to an annual event in many areas. As this weather becomes more frequent, we are more likely to see old buildings being adapted and new buildings in ‘high risk’ areas with built-in design aspects to help them withstand extreme weather. These might include the use of water-resistant materials, superior drainage systems, and reinforced structures, all of which can help buildings better weather the storm.

Impact of Covid-19

Coronavirus is having an impact on virtually every aspect of human life, including the way that we live and work in, and interact with buildings. It is highly likely that we will see significant changes influenced by the events of 2020 reflected in our building designs in the future. Inside spaces are likely to be designed with social distancing in mind. Many current offices are open plan with employees working closely together, and smaller rooms often reserved for bosses and managers. We may see newly built offices with more small isolated areas to keep people apart. The 21st century trend for hot-desking is likely to become a thing of the past and common spaces will most likely be made larger.

Pre-Covid, automation was already a growing trend, but recent events are set to accelerate it. Touchless technology – automatic doors, voice-activated elevators, phone-controlled hotel room entry, hands-free light switches and temperature controls - are likely to become more widely used in building design. But that isn’t even as futuristic as it gets. The idea of using self-cleaning bathrooms and pod-like disinfecting rooms as part of your daily routine probably feels very alien, but it’s no longer an impossibility.

While we have seen some of these features creeping into our buildings in the last decade, recent events mean that environmental sustainability, weather-proofing and space and hygiene standards have becoming increasingly important in new building design, and we are likely to see this impact reflected for years to come in the buildings of our future.

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Structural elements and how they work

When it comes to constructing a new building, or refurbishing an existing one, consideration of the building structure and design is vital in ensuring your finished project is enduring and safe. Structural engineers use the laws of physics and knowledge of how different elements and materials work to advise on the required structural elements. No matter how complex the project may appear, most structural design can be achieved with a limited number of structural elements. We take a closer look at six of the most commonly used ones and how they work in this blog.

Columns

A column is a structural element that passes the weight of a structure above on to the structural elements below. Columns are often used to support beams or arches that hold up walls or ceilings. They are one of the oldest elements of building design, with some of the earliest examples in Ancient Egypt dating back to as early as 2600BC. They’re also prominent in Ancient Greek and Roman architecture, with famous examples on display at the Parthenon in Athens and Pantheon in Rome.

Beams

A beam is a horizontal structure supported at both ends, often used to support downward-bearing weights, such as floors, ceilings and roofs, by transferring the weight to a vertical structural element, i.e. a wall or column. As well as gravitational forces, beams can also provide support for horizontal forces, such as those created by earthquakes or strong wind.

Truss

A truss is a group of structural elements assembled to create a rigid structure. In fact, the word comes from the Old French trousse meaning “a collection of things bound together”. It is usually a collection of straight elements (beams, for example) connected at the joints, with the elements traditionally arranged in a triangle due to the shape’s structural stability.

Arches

An arch is a curved structure which carries a force in only one direction. Arches are sometimes used to support a horizontal weight above or used as decorative elements in building design. Their widespread use and popularity was spread by the Ancient Romans, who were the first to use them in a range of different structures. They are tricky to construct as they are supported by the weight of all the different elements. Construction can involve a frame for the underside of the arch, which the separate voussoirs are placed on top of, and which is then removed once they are all in place.

Shells

Shell structures are large structures made up of small thin, curved plate elements carrying compression forces in two directions. This structural element is often used to create the roofs for large buildings, including stadiums and airports. A well-known example is the famous lattice thin shell roof at the British Museum.

Catenaries

A catenary is a curve formed by its own weight which is supported at two ends. It creates a ‘U’ shape – for example, a chain hanging between two posts, or overhanging power lines. Catenary curves are used as guides in engineering and architecture to determine the shape of arches and bridges to ensure they will not bend. Catenaries can also be seen in suspension bridges – sometimes known as catenary bridges.

There are many different types of structural element and which ones are required in a construction project depends on the building design. We have a team of qualified, highly experienced structural engineers who will check loads, calculate the forces and stresses bearing on your structure and recommend the appropriate structural elements required to ensure your construction project is completed safely and is built to last for many years to come.

Find out more about our structural design services.

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Structural surveys: why structural health monitoring is important

Structural surveys are an important investment, as all building structures weaken over extended periods of time. A combination of factors can lead to the slow deterioration of a property these include extreme cold, salt and water corrosion or other destabilising events. Improper management can lead to catastrophic damage if detrimental changes to a structure’s stability go unnoticed.  

Why do I need a structural survey?

With more buildings in the UK suffering from the harsh effects of extreme weather and frequent flooding, structural surveys are increasingly important. Regular monitoring, evaluation and building maintenance can prevent costly disasters. Several types of surveys are available in the UK; however, a full structural survey offers a fully comprehensive inspection of a building structure and identifies its condition in greater detail than all others 

Numerous internal and external aspects are reviewed during the inspection of the property including walls, basements, roof space, conservatories, chimneys, drainage, boundaries, the list goes on. Depending on the size of the property the results of the survey will usually be delivered within a matter of days. 

Structural surveys are commonly carried out on: 

  • Buildings that are over 50 years old
  • Buildings that will undergo renovation or significant change 
  • Buildings that have undergone renovation or alteration in the past 
  • Buildings with unusual architectural structures
  • Statutory Listed Buildings – a structure that appears on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest 

What are the benefits of a structural survey?

When renovating, refurbishing or updating a property, structural surveys offer peace of mind and reassure owners that the building will remain intact many years laterThe findings of a structural survey provide clear insight into the health of a structure, while providing information that can assist with future maintenance expenditure plans.  

The surveyor not only highlights structural defects but will also offer effective solutions to fix the problem. Often, they will explain what may have triggered the structural defect in the first place. This is particularly useful for preventing repeated defects further down the line. Some repairs may require greater urgency than others, but the surveyor will guide you the most affordable resolution 

Advanced structural survey techniques 

Structural engineers are constantly searching for new methods to enhance longstanding practices and structural health monitoring (SHM) is one technique which has grown in prominence, due to the arrival of advanced technology. Structural engineers are now able to conduct deeper analyses of a structure’s health by consistently monitoring changes in structural movement and the building’s gradual deterioration. This can be extremely useful for monitoring changes to surrounding buildings, when demolition or construction work is taking place in proximity. 

Benefits of Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) 

By using state-of-the-art technology to record data from fixed reference points on a building, these advanced survey techniques can ensure that buildings maintain their structural integrity for a longer duration. Through Internet of thing (IOT), any changes to a building’s structure can be tracked in real-time and allow engineers to provide quick, cost-effective solutions to prevent further structural deviations and damage, if risks are detectedAlthough increased costs are involved with this approach, it provides detailed data which can aid the design of future construction projects.  

Our wealth of experience in providing comprehensive structural surveys for construction projects, guarantees a high level of professionalism and assurance from beginning to end. As chartered structural engineers, KTA Structures uses the best technology to help you to achieve optimum quality and customer satisfaction. 

If you’d like to learn more about our structural engineering services and how we can help you with an upcoming project, contact us hereFollow us on LinkedInandInstagram to see what we’ve been working on. 


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Artificial intelligence in structural engineering

Buildings of tomorrow rely on the interconnected relationship of several sectors of the construction industry, with structural engineering being one of the most crucial elements. Within the past decade, the construction sector has developed a favourable stance towards the implementation of artificial intelligence. While some individuals remain sceptical about the implementation of advanced AI technology, there is growing evidence of the benefits of AI in construction.

There are numerous concerns about the risks posed by new machinery and software. Professionals spend years obtaining the right qualifications and certifications to operate as structural engineers, raising the question: how will industry practices performed by AI technology will be regulated? Others question whether the in-depth knowledge and experience of an industry veteran can be compared to the amalgamated intel retained by machines.

The ability to optimise the design and build process to save time and fix common daily issues experienced during construction projects is highly effective. Structural engineers are able to collaborate with machine learning engineers to develop software that provides useful data to perform tasks more efficiently, such as in-depth structure analysis. Our team at KTA Structures are also exploring the use of drone technology to collect detailed imagery of project sites and locations.

As the UK seeks to reduce its contribution to global warming by 2050, sustainable construction and energy efficiency are of increasing importance to the construction sector. Precasting and 3D printing offer a cost-effective solution, while providing consistent high-quality building components within a shorter timeframe. 3D printing can help with fast and precise building modelling that structural engineers can use to design and test their solutions.

Innovative start-up organisation, MX3D, succeeded in 3D printing a pedestrian bridge using stainless steel, which allows pedestrians to cross one of the oldest canals in Amsterdam, the Oudezijds Achterburgwal. The cost of such innovative measures is often dependent on the materials used and the complexity of the design, however, many organisations are acknowledging the benefits of prefabricating and precasting components for construction projects.

AI applications are also being developed to monitor and detect problems to reduce issues associated with environmental hazards and weather-related risks that could compromise the integrity of the completed structure, such as corrosion and moisture intrusion. Cloud-based software is also helping the industry to manage financial transactions with ease.

As AI-assisted construction continues to gain prominence, future educational curriculums will need to adapt to ensure that the next generation of structural engineers are equipped with the necessary skills to provide the best solutions. Practicing structural engineers will also need to ensure that they continue to educate themselves about new, innovative tools to better serve their clients.

At KTA Structures, we keep a close eye on the latest innovations and implement the best technology, so we can continue to provide an effective and affordable service for our clients. Our wealth of experience means we’re well equipped to offer advice on forthcoming structural projects, from inception to completion - simply contact us here.

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