Today it is one of the most photographed and best known buildings in the world, but before it was completed in 1973 the Sydney Opera House was source of much concern in the engineering and architecture worlds. Based on a design by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, the building is composed of a series of large precast concrete “shells” that form the roof of the structure.

But, in the 1960s and 70s, no one really knew if it would work or not.

The expensive project was plagued with problems. First the support columns under the building were not strong enough to support the concrete roof and had to be replaced. Then the original design of the roof shells themselves, which called for each unique shell to be cast on site, was found to be unworkable and prohibitively expensive. This led to engineers spending six years working on new designs and going through 12 different options before a final solution was found.

Worth it in the end, the project took still years to complete and caused millions of dollars in overruns.

It’s a good case study on the value of structural design. Done carefully and at the start of a project, well-engineered designs can save money, cut down on construction time and improve structural integrity.

Defined as “the methodical investigation of the stability, strength and rigidity of structures,” structural design is intended to result in a structure that is capable of resisting all applied loads without failure during its intended life. After all, the primary purpose of any structure is to transmit or support loads. “If the structure is improperly designed or fabricated, or if the actual applied loads exceed the design specifications, the device will probably fail to perform its intended function, with possible serious consequences. A well-engineered structure greatly minimizes the possibility of costly failures.”

That’s why structural design is key to the three phases of every project: planning, design and construction.

The design phase involves “a detailed consideration of the alternative solutions defined in the planning phase and results in the determination of the most suitable proportions, dimensions and details of the structural elements and connections for constructing each alternative structural arrangement being considered.”

In short, you can’t build until every potential structural concern has been addressed, and structural design is how that is done.

At HIE, we are experts on the various forces that are exerted on commercial and residential structures over time and use that knowledge in conjunction with our experience with building codes and standards to help design structures that will stand the test of time.

We provide structural design services for:

New Construction:  Our professional services encompass generally all conventionally adopted construction materials as well as more advanced mass timber, flat pack, or modular construction methods.

Remodel Projects: The remodeling process, by definition, is about altering or remaking the structure of a building. With that in mind, it is important to consult with an expert when changing the underlying structure of a building in order to prevent damage and to ensure that the structure continues to serve its primary purpose after the remodel.

Repairs: Structural repairs should be designed by an engineer and stamped by a licensed, Professional Engineer in order to make sure that any repair is necessary and addresses the underlying problem. Additionally, precautions must be taken so that the building will not fall victim to the same sort of damage in the future.

Load Bearing Wall Consultation: Load bearing walls are those that carry the weight of the structure above it, including the roof, walls and any upper floors. As such, these building components need to be carefully designed and built in order to provide years of safe, hassle-free support.