By Engineering Sydney / Aug 28, 2019

What Is Structural Engineering?

Quick summary

There are so many disciplines in the field of Engineering sometimes people get confused as to what exactly a Structural Engineer actually does!

There are so many disciplines in the field of Engineering sometimes people get confused as to what exactly a Structural Engineer actually does!

To begin, Structural engineering is a specialty within the field of civil engineering. Structural engineering primarily focuses on the framework of structures, and on designing those structures to withstand the stresses and pressures of their environment. A key component to structural engineering is safety! All structures must remain safe, stable and secure throughout their use. In simple terms, structural engineers ensure that buildings and infrastructure don’t collapse.

Structural engineering is among the oldest types of engineering! Sadly the names of the earliest practitioners of structural engineering are lost to the ages. We will never know who designed the the Parthenon, the aqueducts of the Roman Empire or even the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Some modern day structural engineers are known, although often not as well as the structures they designed for example Gustave Eiffel (Eiffel Tower & Statue of Liberty) and Eero Saarinen (Gateway Arch).

What exactly does a Structural Engineer do?

Most commonly, structural engineers often work alongside civil engineers and architects as part of a construction team. To summarise a quite complicated set of roles, a good analogy would be to imagine the human body as a structure. If this were the case, the structural engineer would be concerned with the skeleton and sinews.

Structures must be able to handle the conditions in which they are built. For example, unlike Australian houses, a house in Canada must have a roof that can bear the weight of heavy snow! When building bridges, structural engineers must take into account every variable possible such as the the conditions of terrain, wind, water and potential traffic volume. Structural engineers consider all of these factors and provide technical advice about the project.

What makes a good Structural Engineer?

To be a successful structural engineer, the individual must have an in-depth understanding of physics and mathematics. A structural engineer must also know the properties of various materials, such as their density, hardness, tensile strength, bulk modulus and bending strength. In conjunction with this, they need to be able to calculate how different materials will perform under stresses such as compression, tension, bending and twisting, as well as under various environmental conditions of temperature, pressure, corrosive gases and liquids, and even radiation.

They also need to be able to predict how these materials will perform over an extended period of time. With the evolution of modern technology such as computers and software programs, structural engineers rely increasingly on computer-aided design (CAD) systems. This speeds up the drafting process and allows for quick and easy modifications of designs and three-dimensional (3D) visualization of finished parts and assemblies.


Engineering Sydney are your professional Civil & Structural Engineering Consultants. Based in Sydney, we have over 20+ years experience in working for major engineering firms. We know all the ins and outs of both residential and commercial sized engineering projects and can easily assist you whatever your project may be. To speak to an engineering expert today please feel free to contact us on: 0412 229 988