Structural engineers use knowledge of applied mathematics and mechanics as well as materials science to determine how structures will cope under their own weight and any imposed loads. This requires structural analysis as well as the application of empirical and theoretical design codes. Structural engineers also need to be aware of corrosion resistance.
The work of structural engineers has been made easier through the development of specialist software that can help draw, design, and analyze structures with a high degree of precision.
Entry-level engineers may begin by working on particular elements of a structure, such as beams of columns, while more experienced engineers may be responsible for an entire structure. With more experience, structural engineers may specialize in certain types of structures, such as bridges or tunnels, while others will focus on particular construction materials, such as concrete, steel, or wood.
This field of engineering ensures that design structures are capable of withstanding pressures and stresses including gravity loads, earthquakes, and storms. Many structures, such as buildings, also need to conform to standards and building codes as well as being delivered on budget.
Structural engineers design buildings and other structures that are capable of handling different loads, able to resist environmental forces, and are safe for use. This involves problem-solving using maths and technologies to create structures that are fit for purpose yet use fewer materials and require less maintenance.
Structural engineers often work alongside civil engineers and architects as part of a larger team, with the Institution of Structural Engineers determining that, “if a structure was a human body, then the architect would be concerned with the body shape and appearance, and the structural engineer would be concerned with the skeleton and sinews.”