What is a Structural Engineer?
A structural engineer is an individual who is registered or licensed to practice structural engineering as defined by the statutory requirements of the professional registration laws of the state or jurisdiction in which the project is to be constructed.
A structural engineer utilizes mathematics and engineering principles to analyze and design a wide variety of buildings and structures.A structural engineer references a model building code to perform structural calculations, which are used to confirm code compliance in design and ensure structural safety. The model building code provides all the design requirements and guidelines needed by a structural engineer to perform their work, as it governs the analysis and design of all buildings and structures.
Becoming a structural engineer requires several years of education and training, as well as passing professional examinations administered by NCEES. Each state has minimum requirements that must be met prior to taking the Professional Engineering (PE) examination. In Arizona, the basic requirements are as follows:
1. Obtain a 4-year Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering from an ABET accredited college or university.
2. Take and pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, which is a 6 hour computerized exam. This exam was formerly known as the Engineer-in-Training (EIT) exam.
3. Acquire 4 years of work experience under the direct supervision of a registered structural engineer, which is verified through submission of Certificate of Experience and Reference Forms. This requirement is reduced to 3 years if an individual possesses an advanced degree from an ABET accredited school, such as a Master of Science Degree in Civil Engineering.
What is a model building code?
A model building code is a building code developed by an independent agency under no direct jurisdiction. State and local jurisdictions typically adopt a model building code in lieu of developing their own building code, as it is very cost prohibitive to do so.
If changes to the model building code are desired, local jurisdictions can incorporate amendments to the adopted building code.
The International Building Code (IBC) is the current model building code adopted throughout the majority of the United States. It was developed to provide the minimum design requirements to safeguard the public health, safety, and general welfare of the occupants of new and existing buildings and structures.
Section 105 of the International Building Code (IBC) outlines the type of work requiring permit. It also includes work that is exempt from permit. In general, any work regulated by the IBC that alters the occupancy of a building or structure requires a permit.
Work exempt from permit for building include structures of a minor nature, such as small sheds, fences, short retaining walls, small water tanks, sidewalks and driveways, painting, cabinets, flooring, playground equipment, etc. See Section 105.2 of the 2012 IBC for a complete list of work exempt from permit. Also, be sure to check with your local jurisdiction for their specific requirements.
Fees for consulting structural engineering vary by project, geographic location, and by an engineering firm’s level of expertise. In general, complex and sophisticated architectural designs warrant higher fees due to the higher level of expertise needed to perform the structural design. Fees also increase for specialty services such as forensics, expert witness, and structural strengthening and rehabilitation, where specialized or advanced training is necessary to perform the work.
Generally, consulting structural engineering fees can be negotiated on an hourly rate basis, a total fee basis or a combination of the two. Expert witness fees, for example, are typically negotiated on an hourly rate basis. In contrast, office building design fees are typically negotiated as a total fee based on a percentage of the building’s construction costs, with construction administration fees negotiated as a total fee or as an hourly rate fee.
Hourly rates vary based on the type of work being performed and the geographic region where the work is being performed. In general, expect hourly fees to be around $100/hr-$200/hr, with increases to $400/hr or greater for more highly sophisticated work.