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The Essential Qualities of a Structural Engineer

Posted On : Feb-12-2018 | seen (208) times | Article Word Count : 2455 |

NRM Consultants provides Structural engineering in Mandurah WA for both Local, State and National clientele.
NRM Consultants provides Structural engineering in Mandurah WA for both Local, State and National clientele. But what does structural engineering involve? In principle, structural engineering involves the designing of structures, be it buildings, towers, residential et al, that can withstand operational and environmental conditions pre- specified by the Client or project stakeholders. These design considerations may include but not exclusively, operational requirements, performance requirements, capacity requirements and other constraints. The client may specify a desire for a specific use of construction materials, they may specify environmental and green construction criteria, they may specify specific lifetime performance requirements. But equally, they want this service and design provided in a manner that provide values for money, a guaranteed performance, reduced waste and green credentials and in a timely manner.

Many projects cannot achieve completion on their own. Therefore, from the onset to the completion of a project, structural engineers work closely and holistically with other professionals in the construction industry. This holistic team may include other engineering disciplines, such as mechanical, chemical or process engineers. They may include Architects or building designers, they may include other project specialists such as system manufacturers or suppliers. Or for smaller projects the team may just be the Structural Engineer providing a bespoke project for a local client requiring specific design input.

So, the Structural Engineer, must be able to complete work to the required time frame, and to competent standards and national / international best practise. They must be a problem solver to provide the solution in an efficient way that is cost effective and easy to build. This buildability of a structural design is important to reduce construction issues, because construction issues can lead to cost back to the client/stakeholder. If the design is over complicated, then the cost increases and potential issues on site can increase due to misunderstanding or none standard techniques for construction adopted. That is why Structural engineers must also be good at communication, their ideas must be clear and unambiguous to the stakeholder team. Effective communication leads to reduced errors, improve holistic performance of the team and realisation by all stakeholders the issues and the methods adopted to achieve the design parameters.


Creativity is a quality a structural engineer must possess to create structures that are safe, functional, cost-effective and to meet all the performance and operational criteria laid down by the client/stakeholder. Admittedly, sometimes creativity is not required as many engineering solutions are off the shelf solutions. Where the solutions are off the shelf, this reduces engineering cost and increases effectiveness of the design. However, where more bespoke solutions are required to meet a wider range of design parameters or a more unique design, creativity is a key to providing inventive and appropriateness for use solutions that consider cost, operation use, life time usage and buildability.

Team Player

When working on a project, a structural engineer has to work alongside a team of other construction professionals such as architects, civil engineers, and engineers of other disciplines. From the start to the finish of the project, they must work together and have cordial relations. So, a good structural engineer can communicate effectively with the design team; they should have a reasonable understanding of the other disciplines. They should have respect for the other disciplines. All this helps in making an effective team that work for the good of the client and their stakeholders, rather than working as individuals working for only themselves. A good team, builds effectiveness in design ethos and engineering solutions, it improves the communication in the team and in important builds trust with the client. The last thing a client wants is a team that for some reason is at logger heads or disagrees on the overall solution or plan. There usually is a project lead driving the team, this could be an architect or project manager. They will rely the client parameters to the design team, and then equality, the design team discuss the solution to the client through the project lead. The structural engineer is an important cog in this design wheel. Sometimes, depending on the type of project, the input of the structural engineer could be minimal, and in other situations they may constitute the largest design service provider. Whatever the project requirements are, whatever, the effort required, the Structural engineer will provide the client with an effective appraisal and feasibility of the required design from their structural perspective. This design process could involve several iterative engineered solutions, but rest assured the structural engineer will continue to provide effect team input to meet the client requirements.

Problem Solving Abilities

In the course of any given project, the Structural Engineer may come across various problematic design constraints such as,

- Durability; Salt lakes, marine, submerged designs
- Vibration loads, heavy dynamic loadings, crowd loadings
- Buildability and construction assess issues including time for construction;
- Existing structural framing and working to the strength of the existing framing

A good structural engineer should be able to analyse the constraint of any existing structure or environment or load requirement and work within designated parameters to achieve the clients design requirements. One example was the development of Adelaide University hub project, where a two-storey steel structure was to be built upon an existing 4 storey Reinforced Concrete frame, which was part of the existing university facility. The structural Engineer in this case (Dr Nicholas Mills) was to analyse the existing strength capacity reserve in the existing structure to determine the weight limits and design limitations for the additional two storey construction. In addition to the this the existing structural frame had to be modified and assessed for the earthquake loads imparted on the lower structure from the newer two storey building component. The original construction was not originally designed for earthquake, so the existing building underwent a rigorous earth design and the client / stakeholder advised accordingly of this assessment.

The problem solving adopted by the structural engineer will provide solutions to Australian Standards and appropriate design and engineering techniques and practises.


Many engineering solutions, require the structural engineer to drill down to a level of detail and accuracy to provide a considered solution to the problem. The engineer should consider the outcome from their solutions and consider the future performance of their solutions. The solutions should be checked and meticulous to avoid complication or compounding errors on site.

Continuous Learning

A competent structural engineer is always under the process of continuous learning. We recognise that people with high level degrees can make good engineers but without continual improvement or learning, their knowledge will soon become outdated and less effective. The structural engineer will be aware on the current trends for design practises, they will utilise the latest software and design techniques to complete their designs. Just like everybody else, we like to make engineering as cost effective and quick as possible. It saves the engineer time and money, but in the process, provides the engineer a need to continually improve to be aware of the current design technology the use of new materials or techniques. As a summary, examples of continuous learning may encompass: -

- As part of the requirements for the engineering institution, it is incumbent on the engineer to undergo a process of self-learning and improvement. We are required to undertake continual personnel development in recognised areas of engineering practise that not only encompass engineering but materials, project management and other engineering facets;
- Using computer software to design structure models. These computer programmes can develop designs quicker and more efficient that a structural engineer, however, an engineer still requires appropriate competence to review the outputs from any software;
- Keep up to date with current health and safety regulations, and other regulations, include green standards, and changes in design standards;
- Information on new technology and research in reinforced concrete, or steel design. Benchmark against current projects and attend seminars on existing or completed project.

Structural consultants in Mandurah with all the above qualities will exploit their talents and endeavour in their career.

Author Bio:

The author of this article is the leading structural engineer in Mandurah WA with nearly two decades of experience in the industry. In this article, he describes the essential qualities of a structural engineer. Visit for more information.


- Doctor of Philosophy (Structural Engineering), University of Cardiff, School of Engineering, Wales, UK.
- Bachelor of Engineering (Civil), 1st Class (Hons), University of Cardiff, Sch. of Eng., Wales, UK.

Key Skills and Experience:

Dr Mills has over 19 years’ experience in structural engineering. Dr Mills has held various senior positions within various organisations. He was previously Chief Engineer at the UK’s largest precast concrete company before becoming a Senior Structural Engineer at KBR. Dr Mills then moved to WML Consultants working on medium to small projects for a various number of clients. Dr Mills has wide ranging structural design experience; in particular, the design of new structures for industrial, commercial and institutional projects. Dr Mills has driven many projects from concept to completion adopting a holistic approach to design.

Dr Mills’ responsibilities at KBR included the assessment of existing buildings for seismic performance, RC/PC and Post Tension Design, Steelwork design and concrete remediation. Dr Mills was also subject matter expert for Precast/RC Concrete and Concrete Sustainability.

Previously, Dr Mills was Chief Engineer with Bison Concrete Products in the UK. He worked on pre-cast cross wall construction projects, namely the Aberdeen schools contract, Gatwick Hotel and the Aurora Hotel at Heathrow Terminal T5 in London. His role included providing engineering control within the drawing office and production facilities; design of bespoke/ancillary precast and prestressed proprietary products; design guidance on issues on thermal/sound and disproportionate collapse provision; and finite element and computer modelling of concrete elements.

Dr Mills has considerable structural experience in the use of concrete in structures. Strengths include Prestressing / Post Tensioning concrete, RC concrete and Precast Concrete, and durability of concrete structures in a marine and industrial environment. Dr Mills also has significant experience in steel structures and the analysis of existing concrete structures for earthquake provision.

Dr Mills has strong engineering management abilities, including mentoring, project delivery and site supervision. Dr Mills has also developed a number of concept designs for pricing and as part of the tendering process.

General Experience

Precast Concrete Projects

Ozone Building Eastern Tertiary Project – Melbourne: Precast concrete walls allowing for service openings, structural support, aesthetics and ease of erection/construction,

Subject matter Expert for Precast Construction, KBR: Concept design for precast concrete elements in structural design, including Acacia Prison, Melbourne water, western Perth highway precast et al,

Aurora Project – Heathrow London – UK: significant sized Heathrow Hotel for an international chain. Design of precast, flooring and roof elements, designed for sound robustness

Gatwick Hotel – Gatwick Airport – UK: Significant (5 storey structure) – coordination of precast concrete design and detailing, provision of specifications, quality plans and control of design team,

Precast Stadia Design and Detailing – UK: Design and coordination, site supervision - Precast terrace, walls and other precast; Wembley Stadium, Leicester Tigers East stand, Manchester United extensions, Burton Albion, Hull and Doncaster Stadiums et al

Sustainable Precast Systems – sandwich panels, Bubble deck and volumetric floor systems, lattice slabs, Insulated Hollowcore slab, hidden corbels, precast thermal bridging elements.

Heathrow terminal 5- Heathrow London– UK: - Bison representative for concept design, estimating and site liaison

Remediation / Durability Design

Modbury Hospital – Modbury Adelaide: 3-D dynamic modelling assessment of 10-storey RC concrete structure for earthquake. Building importance level 4 post disaster.

Hughes Plaza - Adelaide: Structural strengthening of RC concrete floor plate to accommodate additional structural loadings, including investigation of Carbon Fibre strengthening of core walls for strength,

Adelaide Quay – Adelaide: Remedial measure for cracked concrete slabs, structural assessment and report. Role included site supervision.

Pedestrian bridge remediation – Torrens River – Adelaide: Remediation proposals and investigation, pricing and concept design of remediation

Steelwork Projects

Adelaide Schools PPP - Adelaide: Structural design of significant steel structures for education institutions as part of the SA state response to the Global financial crisis.

Papua New Guinea community Centre Building: - Design of structural frame and suspended concrete floor around for new swimming pool and sports hall/gymnasium.

RAAF Edinburgh – 87 Squadron Building - Adelaide: Structural design/design coordination of significant steel frame for Australian Air-force.

RAAF Edinburgh – Steelwork Building - Adelaide: Structural design remediation of previously completed design by coordination of significant steel frame for Australian Air-force.

BHP Billiton – Hopes down Four – SA: Structural design of process infrastructure including chutes and conveyors using Finite element analysis and additional steelwork supports to chutes et al, Including durability of structures.

Rio Tinto Fuels Infrastructure Project – Port Headland - Western Australia: Structural design of significant steel structures for fuel infrastructure including fuelling and debunkering facilities, accommodation facilities and the autonomous handling building et al.

Concrete Projects

Stiffened Raft Slabs PPP - Adelaide: Structural design/coordination of concrete raft to take upper structures, Designed a majority of the slabs on the schools’ project,

Papua New Guinea Community Centre Building: Design of suspended concrete floor around for new swimming pool and sports hall / gymnasium. Corrosion and exposure conditions for concrete,

Gloucester Quay– Multi-storey Car-park Building – Gloucester UK: Structural coordination of precast flooring and walling in to main structural design,

Manchester Multi-storey Car-park – Manchester – UK: Structural concept design of precast multi-storey carpark,

Fire testing for BCCF - UK Billiton – Hopes down Four – SA: Coordination of committee design requirements for testing steel and Hollowcore frame against 2-hour fire. Work in conjunction with Building Research Establishment UK,

Verification of Precast designs – Adelaide: verification for New royal Adelaide hospital, Acacia Prison, Melbourne water, Clipsal 5000 et al,

Aberdeen Schools Project – Aberdeen – Scotland - UK: - Design of precast concrete floor and wall system linking to Delta-beam system. Design / Factory and Site coordination

Article Source : Essential Qualities of a Structural Engineer_321305.aspx

Author Resource :
Nicholas Mills

The author of this article is the leading structural engineer in Mandurah WA with nearly two decades of experience in the industry. In this article, he describes the essential qualities of a structural engineer. Visit for more information.

Keywords : Structural engineering in Mandurah WA, Structural consultants in Mandurah,

Category : Business : Business

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