Structural engineering – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Structural engineering is a field of engineering dealing with the analysis and design of structures that support or resist loads economically. Structural engineering is usually considered a specialty within civil engineering, but it can also be studied in its own right.[1]

Structural engineers are most commonly involved in the design of buildings and large nonbuilding structures[2] but they can also be involved in the design of machinery, medical equipment, vehicles or any item where structural integrity affects the item’s function or safety. Structural engineers must ensure their designs satisfy given design criteria, predicated on safety (e.g. structures must not collapse without due warning) or serviceability and performance (e.g. building sway must not cause discomfort to the occupants).

Structural engineering theory is based upon physical laws and empirical knowledge of the structural performance of different geometries and materials. Structural engineering design utilises a relatively small number of basic structural elements to build up structural systems that can be very complex. Structural engineers are responsible for making creative and efficient use of funds, structural elements and materials to achieve these goals.[2]

Structural failure

The history of structural engineering contains many collapses and failures. Sometimes this is due to obvious negligence, as in the case of the Pétionville school collapse, in which Rev. Fortin Augustin said that “he constructed the building all by himself, saying he didn’t need an engineer as he had good knowledge of construction” following a partial collapse of the three-story schoolhouse that sent neighbors fleeing.[7] The final collapse killed at least 94 people, mostly children.

In other cases structural failures require careful study, and the results of these inquiries have been improved practices and a greater understanding of the science of structural engineering.