What Does a Structural Designer Do?

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  • Written By: Nick Mann
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2019
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A structural designer is a person who ensures the safety of things like buildings and bridges. Basically, these individuals make sure that these structures are designed to withstand both the elements and human use. Even though the types of projects that a structural designer may work on can differ, he has five primary responsibilities. These include checking the safety of architectural designs, choosing building materials, identifying collapse risks, checking foundation location and communicating with contractors.

Before construction ever begins on a new building or structure, a structural designer must check the safety of the design. This typically involves working alongside an architect during the design phase. It's the responsibility of a structural designer to perform calculations to determine how safe a structure will be for humans to use upon completion. To be sure of safety, he must be certain that elements like wind and rain won't compromise the building's structural integrity. In addition, he must ensure that the building is capable of withstanding the weight of humans and objects that will be placed in or on it.


Choosing the ideal building materials is another important part of this job. To ensure a strong structure that will withstand the test of time, a structural designer must select a material that is both sturdy and meets a project's budget. For example, if he is working on an inner city skyscraper, he may choose steel beams for the building's construction. Consequently, he must have an in-depth knowledge of different construction materials and their strength levels.

Another critical duty is identifying the risk of collapse for a building. The main goal here for a structural designer is to ensure the smallest percentage of risk that a building will collapse over time. This practice is especially important in places that are prone to earthquakes and tectonic shifts. To assess the risk of collapse, the designer will usually perform calculations, like analyzing the amount of pressure that will be placed on the beams of a building.

Prior to beginning construction, he must also check the location of a structure's foundation. For example, a structural designer may perform a soil test to make sure that the ground is capable of withstanding the pressure of a building. This practice is essential for keeping a building erect and avoiding shifting or leaning later on.

In addition, a structural designer will usually communicate with contractors throughout the process of a building's construction. During this time, he may inspect the building's foundation or the evenness of beams to ensure the design is properly implemented. If he finds structural flaws, adjustments must be made to ensure that the building is safe for human use.


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