Structural engineering is a field of engineering dealing with the analysis and design of structures that support or resist loads. It is a sub-discipline of civil engineering in which structural engineers are trained to design the ‘bones and muscles’ that create the form and shape of man-made structures. It is among the oldest types of engineering, dating back to the first instance of tree branches being lashed together with vines to make a shelter. This theory is based on physical laws and empirical knowledge of the structural performance of different materials and geometries. The names of the earliest practitioners of structural engineering are lost to antiquity. We will never know who designed the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Parthenon, or the aqueducts of the Roman Empire.
“Structural engineering design uses a number of relatively simple structural concepts to build complex structural systems.”
Structural engineering applies maths and physics to traditional construction materials such as concrete, stone, steel, timber and glass and innovative engineering materials, including aluminum, polymers, and carbon fiber. Structural engineers need to understand and calculate the stability, strength and rigidity, and earthquake of built structures for buildings and nonbuilding structures. Structures must be able to deal with the conditions in which they are built. The structural designs are integrated with those of other designers such as architects and building services engineers and often supervise the construction of projects by contractors on site. They can also be involved in the design of machinery, medical equipment, and vehicles where structural integrity affects functioning and safety. Structural engineering depends upon a detailed knowledge of applied mechanics, materials science, and applied mathematics to understand and predict how structures support and resist self-weight and imposed loads. Since the 1990s, specialist software has become available to aid in the design of structures, with the functionality to assist in the drawing, analyzing, and designing of structures with maximum precision; examples include AutoCAD, StaadPro, ETABS, Prokon, Revit Structure, etc.
Structural engineering theory is based upon applied physical laws and empirical knowledge of the structural performance of different materials and geometries. Critical skills that a person needs in structural engineering include an in-depth understanding of physics and mathematics. Structural engineering design uses a number of relatively simple structural concepts to build complex structural systems. A structural engineer must also know the properties of various materials, such as their density, hardness, tensile strength, bulk modulus, and bending strength. Structural engineers are responsible for making creative and efficient use of funds, structural elements, and materials to achieve these goals. 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.