Structural Engineer vs Architect – Design Meeting


Structural Engineer vs Architect – Design Meeting

A structural engineer is a part of the design team for all my residential work in the studio. In this video you’ll join me for the kick-off meeting with my structural engineer as we begin developing the structural design for the Outpost project. You’ll see how we choose a foundation strategy, work through framing + detail ideas, and understand how lateral loads are transferred and how they affect the materials we choose to build with. The professional tug-of-war between engineer and architect isn’t adversarial, rather it’s collaborative and makes for a better, more efficient project.

The most interesting part of our dialogue begins around minute eighteen where I ask Albert to comment on one of the most common objections I hear from contractors in the field: “This structure is way over-engineered.” His answer illuminates how a structural engineer can complement the architectural design process in ways you may not have anticipated. Not only do engineers help us to efficiently size structural members and optimize the design, but their practical building knowledge and field experience can prove invaluable.

Because an engineer’s work is smaller in scope, (their fee is typically about 10% of an architectural fee), they must secure 10X the number of commissions to make a comparable income. This naturally exposes them to many more projects (in theory 10X), ideas, and failures than an architect would typically see. And, it’s those failures that are the most instructive. This symbiotic relationship between architect and engineer has benefitted my practice and my clients in ways that are difficult to calculate but that surely far exceed the engineering fees invested.

Structural engineering is more than sizing beams, designing connections and specifying concrete mixes, it’s an allied discipline which helps to make our jobs as architects easier and to deliver a home that meets (and often exceeds) our client’s expectations.

Although this footage is but a small sampling of our conversation, you can appreciate the give and take that a typical design collaboration entails. As professionals, we rely on the expertise of many consultants to realize our architectural goals.

This is a long video, here’s a few timestamps to guide you:

0:30 ** General Site + Foundation Considerations
4:05 ** Architectural Goals
5:02 ** Roof Design + Framing
6:36 ** Eave Detail
8:55 ** Possible vs. Practical
10:00 ** Designing for Lateral Loads
13:24 **Transferring the loads: bracing (wood vs. steel)
18:12 ** “This feels over-engineered” – The most common complaint I hear from contractors in the field (DON’T MISS THIS SECTION)
22:09 ** Value of engineers from an Architect’s perspective
23:43 ** 10X Projects, 10X Failures, 10X Knowledge (a convincing case for collaborating with engineers)
25:10 ** Engineer’s steel manual vs. Architect’s steel manual


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  1. Wow i love this, very interesting. Architecture and structural is a great combo, i mean as an architect structural engineer plays an important role turning this building into reality that is structuraly sound.

  2. this was the most interesting conversation i have heard in my life. i actuallu understand every single thing they are talking about, i love how they seem to be intrigued by each others ways of doing their job.
    fucking love it, intellectuals are interesting conversations. i dont meet too many in my trade

  3. Awesome, I'm a civil engineer student, and the thing we can learn here and it's a advice for the young guys and girls who wants starting a career in the field is: The most important thing as a engineer is not doing calculations, off course the structure needs to be stable and you need to do multiple calculations for assegure this, but what really matter are your expertise and ability to interact and solve problems in a creative way using science and practical knowledge. And the combination of the architect and civil engineer really make something work and beautiful because of the different perspectives of the professionals. I don't write very well on english(I'm from brazil), sorry if i made some mistakes haha

  4. The question asked to an engineer why do I need engineer if general contractor can build house which works fine is almost every where. The engineer , he replied so perfectly…

  5. As an aspiring structural engineer, I have to say this is one of my favorite videos of @30X40 Design Workshop! This engineer is so well spoken and the visuals help explain the details discussed in this meeting.

  6. It's refreshing to see structural engineering being highlighted in an architectural design video. I think most people don't realize how crucial it is to have an engineer involved in the process. You can't just have a pretty house that will only last for a year or two. And yes, you can always size building elements yourself but will it be enough to make the building safe and be cost-efficient at the same time.

    I've talked too much. 😂

  7. Hi Mr. Eric, I hope you're still doing great and read these comments. At first I want to say thank you very much for spending your time sharing these process and knowledge with us and I hope to see more videos on these collaboration between other industries like this in the future. I have a question that I think it would be so much grateful to receive your advice: Which books on structure do you recommend for young/ starting architects? I have been searching some which are informative, general, easy to understand on the concept of how buildings stand from all the active forces rather than ones that contain too much detail formulas, calculations or charts for structural engineers for a while but the results are very limited.

    Sorry for bothering you if my English is not good enough. Once again, thank you very much!

  8. Many years ago I began studying architecture, because I loved it. But I found that most courses didn't explain to my satisfaction WHAT could actually be built, and WHY structures and load members did what they did. So then I switched majors to Engineering. I now have worked many years as an engineer (soon retiring), but my love of architecture has not diminished. Which is why I'm here. Great video!


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