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Why do I Need an Engineer?

A lender provides you with the financial means to fund your building project. A building designer or an architect paint you a picture of it. A good contractor makes the project a reality. The building inspector helps to ensure it complies with the approved plan set.
 
Where does the engineer fit in the picture? What exactly do they do? We all know they like to carry calculators, sit in front of the computer all day and read Dilbert comic strips. There must be more to their job than that.
 
The Structural Engineers Association International website provides the following definition for us: 
 
Structural engineering is the science and art of designing and making, with economy and elegance, buildings, bridges, frameworks and other similar structures so that they can safely resist the forces to which they may be subjected.        
 
An engineer provides the “backbone” for your building by calculating and detailing the key structural components. Gravity forces (i.e. snow on the roof, people walking on the floors, etc.) and lateral forces (earthquakes or wind) will act upon your building at some point during the course of its life. It’s the engineer’s job to make sure that it not only withstands these forces, but that it can do this with a reasonable amount of “economy and elegance”.
 
APA – The Engineered Wood Association has published a document entitled Introduction to Lateral Design. This document is a good reference for becoming acquainted with gravity and lateral forces, as well as the structural components of a building that serve to resist these forces. Adobe’s freely available Acrobat Reader is required to view this document.

Introduction to Lateral Design
(download now – 736 KB)