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What do they really do?
AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH
MR. CHEN GHEE KHEONG
tructural engineering is a field of
engineering dealing with the analysis and
design of structures that support or resist
loads. The work of a structural engineer
takes account mainly on safety, technical,
economic and environmental concerns, but they
may also consider aesthetic and social factors.
Structural engineering is usually considered a
specialty discipline within civil engineering, but it
can also be studied in its own right.
THINGS STRUCTURAL ENGINEERS DO
elativelylittle is known about this unsung
band of heroes, who are fundamental to
any building project.
Structural engineers are
specialists in construction,
design, repair, conversion and
conservation. They are
concerned with all aspects of a
structure and its stability.
Structural engineers are most commonly involved
in the design of buildings and large structures,
such as bridges and viaducts. However, they can
also be involved in the design of machinery,
medical equipment, vehicles or any item where
structural integrity affects the item’s safety or
Besides that, structural engineers must ensure
their designs satisfy the given design criteria,
which includes safety, serviceability and
WHY ARE STRUCTURAL ENGINEERS
tructural engineers are a key part of the
design and construction team, working
alongside contractors and architects.
Together they create all kinds of
structures from houses, theatres and hospitals to
bridges, oil rigs and space satellites.
Every structure has to deal with the conditions in
which it is built. For instance, houses in Malaysia
will need structures that can withstand high
tropical temperatures and heavy rainfall while
houses in Switzerland will need a very strong roof
structure to deal with continuous snow and ice
loads. Bridges all around the world will need to
Specialists in design and construction
carry different kinds of crossing loads, be that
people, cars or even high speed trains. It is a
structural engineer's job to consider all
the possible factors.
If a structure was a human body
then the architect would be
concerned with the body shape
and appearance, and the
structural engineer would be
concerned with the skeleton.
Modern day humans spend most of their time in
buildings. Hence, structural engineers are
important as everything we do every day is inside
a structural engineer's work.
Structural engineers arguably perform one of the
most important roles in the construction industry.
Without the skills and technical knowledge of
structural engineers, the buildings which we
inhabit and spend our time in on adaily basis could
potentially cause us serious injury or even death.
This is because without the input of a structural
engineer, buildings may twist, bend, or vibrate in
ways that cause both structural damage and put
human lives at risk. It is also the responsibility of a
structural engineer to make sure that older
buildings can withstand forces in a safe fashion.
TRAITS OF A STRUCTURAL ENGINEER
A structural engineer needs to display keen
commercial awareness and understanding of the
business implications of his or her decisions.
Structural engineers are people
who enjoy the responsibilities,
challenges and the excitement of
an innovative and varied
hese people make a difference and
shape the built environment. Structural
engineering presents both creative and
technical challenges and requires
excellent problem-solving and management skills.
Structural engineers are highly analytical people.
They must be good at maths, IT and mechanics.
Communication skills are particularly important in
this profession as structural engineers deal with a
wide range of clients and colleagues. For example,
they may have to convey complex concepts to a
client who is unfamiliar with structural
ROLES OF A STRUCTURAL ENGINEER
he role of a structural engineer today
involves a significant understanding of
both staticand dynamic loading, and then
the structures that are available to resist them.
During the lifetime of a typical building, various
stresses and strains will test its physical
composition. Hence, it is the role of the structural
engineers to ensure that the structure is strong
and flexible enough to remain safe and sturdy.
Structural engineers will monitor the progress of
an architectural project from its initial stages to its
completion. They usually create initial design
models, using in-depth mathematical and
scientific knowledge, and, once construction has
started, they monitor the work and meet with
contractors to ensure that the designs are being
RESPONSIBILITIES OF A STRUCTURAL
tructural engineers are responsible for
engineering design and analysis. Entry-
level structural engineers may design the
individual structural elements of a
structure, for example the beams, columns and
floors of a building. More experienced engineers
may be responsible for the structural design and
integrity of an entire system.
Structural engineers are
responsible for making creative and
efficient use of funds, structural
elements and materials to achieve
complex yet sustainable structural
Structural engineers are also responsible for the
safety and integrity of the whole structure. They
have a huge responsibility as it could be said that
the lives of the people in the structure they
designed are in their hands.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF
Structural engineering has existed since humans
first started to construct their own structures back
in prehistoric times. It became a more defined and
formalised profession with the emergence of the
architecture profession as distinct from the
engineering profession during the Industrial
Revolution in the late 19th century. Until then, the
architect and the structural engineer were usually
one and the same – The Master Builder. Only with
the development of specialised knowledge of
structural theories that emerged during the early
20th centuries did the professional structural
engineer come into existence.
The theory is based upon physical laws and
empirical knowledge of the structural
performance of different materials and
geometries. Structural engineering design utilises
a number of simple structural elements.
AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH
MR. CHEN GHEE KHEONG
THE MAN BEHIND THE
Q: What is the job descriptionof an engineer?
A: The job description of an engineer can be very broad, but it is usually defined as a trained person that
acquire certain skills and knowledge related to design and operation. Generally, engineers design and draft
blueprints, visit systems in the field and manage projects.
Q: What are the roles of a structural engineer in the constructionindustry?
A: The role of an engineer is straightforward. For the case of structural or civil engineers, he or she designs
the structure based on the Code of Practice. Structural engineers play a role in overseeing the safety
requirements of a building, especially during the design and construction phases.
Q: What responsibilities does an engineer have?
A: An engineer has heavy responsibilities, which includes designing the building, overseeing the safety and
practicability of the building, managing the construction team, and also preventing wastage of cost. The five
M elements, which are Money, Management, Manpower, Material and Machinery will provide a guideline in
understanding the responsibilities of an engineer.
Q: What kind of qualities should an engineer possess?
A: An engineer must be able to undertake huge responsibilities. He or she should also be able to oversee the
description of work. Among the qualitiesof an engineer are being sensitive to the requirements of society and
being ethical at work. Also, an engineer should be resilient, diligent, sincere and honourable.
Q: What problems or challenges does a structural engineer face?
A: Every career has their own problems to a certain extent. In a construction project, problems can start as
early as the designing phase. The most distinct challenge of structural engineers is that they need to suit the
demands of the architect while balancing the safety of the building design in terms of the design constraints.
Usually, architects want more space inside the building. Thus, engineers need to think of innovative ideas to
suit both the architect’s demands and the code of safety. During the construction phase, problems can arise
from the process of implementing the project, quality control and coordination of manpower.
“An engineer must be able
to undertake huge
-Mr. Chen Ghee Kheong, engineer