Do You Need an Engineer to Build Your Steel Building?

Published February 27, 2017 by Whirlwind Team

steel engineer

Do you need an engineer to build your steel building? It depends on what you are putting up.

A small garden shed or simple steel warehouse, probably not.

Anything more complex, yes, an engineer should be involved at several levels of the project. A steel engineer has the knowledge of metallurgy and design to ensure the building design will work as intended and meet all codes.

We are talking like there is only one engineer, but really there is a wide variety of areas within the steel building industry in which an engineer should be involved.

GET A QUICK BUILDING QUOTE    DESIGN & PRICE YOUR METAL BUILDING INSTANTLY WITH OUR ONLINE TOOL »

Engineering roles in steel building construction

The Metal Building Manufacturers Association, MBMA, supports the role of engineers within the industry. They encourage engineers for metal-based building projects. They provide information about metal buildings and the industry around it.

The MBMA knows that an engineer has the right skill sets and knowledge to detect potential problems and so they promote information on roles for engineers to make the steel building industry a success.

A potential role for an engineer may be in the design of broad-based systems made up of modular components. Steel is the perfect material for modular custom designs that incorporate traditional and other materials into a project. Also, steel is highly appropriate for energy efficient and environmentally friendly building designs.

An engineer can also envision and design components and expansions that are not possible with traditional building materials and methods.

With steel buildings playing such a huge role in the industry, you will continue to need engineering expertise no matter whether you are building commercial, residential, or industrial. There are many opportunities and roles for engineers in metal building construction; you need to take advantage of their specialized expertise.

a look metal building structural engineers

Steel is a complex metal product. What other components besides iron and carbon are needed depends on how the steel must function in a particular situation.

A structural engineer knows the right type of steel for every use. Steel engineers are also designers capable of creating structures using the most appropriate types of steel:

  • Light steel to save weight
  • Heavier steel for strength
  • Addition of steel girders and struts to increase durability

Steel engineers are found in civil and structural engineering and focus on metallurgy as part of their education. Some of them work within architectural firms.

Structural engineers and the pre-engineered steel building

Steel has been a construction mainstay for decades. Now, pre-engineered steel buildings are making their mark in the industry. Early on, when they were typically used for basic warehouses, there was little need for extensive engineering.

Now, more sophisticated and complex pre-engineered buildings are moving into place. Builders like them because they are:

  • Easy to erect
  • Have open floor plans
  • Are more cost-effective than other materials

If you notice, the word engineer is right in the middle of pre-engineered steel building; there are several potential roles for engineers within the metal building manufacturing industry itself.

If you have a highly complex project, you may require an engineer to make certain everything is designed and built correctly and to code, even if pre-engineered buildings are part of the design.

An engineer can coordinate trades and other parties involved in the project and positively impact the successful construction of the building due to a deep understanding of the product, and its uses and capabilities.

With an engineer, you should have fewer conflicts in scheduling and coordination as well as less rework.

Some of the key items an engineer can and should take care of include:

  • Clear specifications
  • Drift requirements
  • Foundation design
  • Ornamental accessories

The engineer provides the exact location and type of wind bracing needed. Standard bracing may not be appropriate for some architectural elements. By ensuring proper placement, the engineer enhances the structural performance of the building.

Special lateral movement limitations, or drift requirements, may be necessary for brick veneer or connections between buildings.

Since the column reactions are unknown until after the bid is awarded, the contractor must hire a foundation design engineer. If lintels, facades, parapets, or additional supports are called for in the plans, an engineer needs to provide the load, layout, and configuration specifications for the building supplier. Otherwise, the bid may not be correct, and change orders will soon follow.

Engineers assist with the incorporation of specialty architectural items since most metal building kits do not always play well with these. The engineer must get the requirements to the manufacturer before the kit and specialty items are priced if structural performance will be impacted.

Once the building design is complete, the shop drawings need to be checked by someone familiar with the structures, and that usually means an engineer. The engineer is often the go-between for the building supplier and the architect, helping smooth communication and identifying potential problems before the components are fabricated.

An engineer is involved in almost every phase of design and preparation.

What is an engineer of record?

The engineer of record, or EOR, is the one whose tail is on the line if a structural failure should occur once the building is complete and signed off.

EORs are responsible for making sure all the components and specialty trades involved on the job are engineered to local building codes. They closely monitor the mechanics of the envelope and review all engineering done by the specialty trades. They won’t engineer anything unless hired to do so.

At the end of the day, it is the engineer of record's stamp that tells the world that the building is appropriately engineered and, hence, safe for occupancy. When would the EOR stamp be withheld?

The EOR has right of refusal anytime a system or building is not to code at any time. The EOR is the point of accountability for everything to do with the structure and must make certain everything is engineered to code and that the mechanics of the building flow properly.

Not all projects require an engineer of record - like simple structures such a big box project or a commercial project that a GC can handle. However, if the structure or structures are so complex or there are so many trades involved that a GC could never hope to corral them all to ensure code and mechanical compliance, an EOR should be hired to make sure all is well.

The GC may wish to hire the EOR to avoid conflicts with someone else’s hire. On the other hand, if you stick with reputable, highly rated and referred subs and an experienced general contractor, you may not need an EOR on your project.


Engineers figure in nearly every phase of a complex steel building project. Whether or not you need one on your job depends on the design and scope of the structure and the competency of the labor.

Quick Quote Generator

REQUEST MORE INFORMATION

   

Contact Us Now