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THE ENGINEER

The traditional role of a consulting civil/structural engineer in the residential building industry appears to be a thing of the past. While it is true that this sector of the building industry has never properly utilised the services of an engineer, the tendency these days is that the sub-contractor who offers a turnkey package of design and supply of suspended concrete slabs, generally accepts the responsibilities of the engineer. The client is therefore, and understandably so, reluctant to appoint an independent Consulting Engineer, at an additional cost to the project.

The Consulting Engineer will offer professional advice on the following aspects of a typical residential development:

  • An overview of the preliminary designs, offering guidance as to the economies of the ‘structural system’. These considerations are normally discussed with the architect/designer and client.
  • An evaluation of the founding conditions on the identified site, so that appropriate foundation design is taken into account at the planning stage. The services of a geotechnical engineer / engineering geologist are often utilised in this regard.

The design and detailing of the final ‘structural system’ of the residence. This will include the following:

  • Foundation design where ground conditions render conventional strip foundations inappropriate;
  • The design of the structural elements. In particular this refers to multi-storey dwellings where the design of reinforced concrete slabs, columns and beams are typically required. Alternative designs in structural steelwork or timber are also an option;
  • The design or general overview of external services such as storm-water management, roads (pavements), etc;
  • The supervision of all of the above mentioned aspects of work. During the supervision of the engineering related works, advice on other aspects of building can also be given.

The fee a Consulting Engineer will charge is directly related to the work and responsibility he will undertake. Ultimately, the client decides on the role of the engineer.

The experience of building a dream home can be extremely rewarding. Whatever course of action one chooses to follow, be it the old conventional method of appointing a contractor for the full assignment, or the more challenging and risky method of owner-building, be sure to utilise the sound advice of a professional. A Consulting Engineer can offer advice on all methods of construction and is not therefore married to a particular product or method. Don’t be fooled by the contractor offering a cost saving if a particular kind of suspended slab system is used. The advantages and disadvantages of all methods of construction must be explained to the client from an unbiased point of view, so that the client can make decisions according to his expectations.

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