Structural engineering can be an art as much as it is a science. Much of the distinction comes from how a problem or project is perceived. For example, if an engineering firm sees a problem, it will fix the problem. But if they take a holistic look at the problem, the structures surrounding it, the environment it sits it, the business that is being conducted within it, and the owner’s goals, it may take a different approach all together.
This holistic approach to structural engineering is what separates good engineering firms from great ones. Great firms understand that a structure is one part of an entire system and that in approaching a project, they need to consider a practical structural concept, a suitable design, the economical impact, the ease of constructability, and the operations within the structure. They will analyze minute details such as what equipment will be located there, how operators move within the structure, and how the equipment fits into the overall process being conducted.
This is where art enters the process. In order to consider all of the factors above and achieve optimal results, a firm needs the creativity to develop innovative solutions. Any certified engineer can be somewhat effective, but what sets the best ones apart is their ability to look beyond the basics and think out-of-the-box. Innovation leads to designs that maximize the potential of the equipment, keep workers comfortable and safe, and help the plant operate as efficiently as possible.
As the firm moves through this process from analysis to design, it must also take into account the constructability of the design. Although the firm is not always responsible for physically building the structure, it is imperative that they understand the construction process. Doing so ensures that the structure will be buildable, the cost can be controlled and that the engineer can effectively oversee the project.
Ultimately, the approach taken to solve a problem or build a new facility will determine the overall success of the project. A holistic approach that takes an all-encompassing view of the facility, is innovative in its problem solving and design, and ensures constructability will result in a high performing plant and a satisfied client.