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What is the role of a building engineer?

Last modified: 2021-02-16 | Approximate reading time 4 mins

Amanda Harvey

In general, we all know that a building engineer takes on essential tasks for a construction site to run smoothly. However, the scope of their role is much broader and proves their ability to intervene at all stages of a large-scale renovation project.

Thus, it can certainly be said that the importance of the building engineer’s role is matched only by the breadth of his skills. But can we define the role of a building engineer more precisely?

The building engineer: a five-step role

Study of the specifications and the initial proposal

When hired for a project, a building engineer will begin by assessing the general parameters of the job. Thus, they’ll become aware of the specifications, which give a portrait of the project, the framework in which it fits as well as the constraints that weigh on it.

While these constraints often relate to the environment and budget, they also concern insulation, ventilation, heating and all additional devices involved in the structure’s operation. Following its establishment, the new Quebec Construction Code (2012) imposed more rigorous standards concerning these last two aspects mentioned. If you want more information about the rules and regulations in Canada, check out your local building code.

Plan design and study of project feasibility

Based on the submitted project proposal and in order to be able to comment on its feasibility, the engineer will carry out research prior to construction. In addition, they’re in charge of pre-dimensioning the various elements of the building, to then confirm these dimensions in the second instance.

This will determine if the techniques used in the execution of the different project phases are adequate or whether they need to be modified to better meet construction requirements. To do this, building engineers use design software to create mock-ups.

Throughout the process, the building engineer will guide their decisions and recommendations according to the highest possible project standards. More precisely, this implies minimizing the energy consumption and environmental impacts generated by the project’s implementation.

Moreover, this concern extends into energy efficiency as well as the economic performance of the building once it’s completed. Therefore, it’s possible to say that the resource economy is a determining factor in the decision-making process of the building engineer.

engineer plan

Photo: Pexels

Staying within the budget and schedule

As the budget devoted to a construction project is rarely unlimited, the building engineer is in charge of establishing the means required to avoid cost overruns in place. In certain cases, they may need to find alternatives to reduce the financial burden imposed by certain project phases.

While money is generally one of the biggest constraints when managing a construction project, time is another issue. In this regard, it should be said that establishing the schedule and respecting it are further responsibilities of the building engineer.

When it comes to planning the timeline, a multitude of factors must be taken into account. These include the time required to obtain the necessary financing, the potential difficulties posed by the season when the work will take place, as well as the problems that may arise during critical phases.

Far from being exhaustive, this list offers a brief overview of the range of factors a building engineer must consider when developing a timeline.

calendrier

Photo: Pixabay

Site coordination

While the building engineer’s involvement begins with the design stage, the design continues on the construction site. Indeed, the building engineer oversees the worksite and the various players who are involved, while keeping an eye on the work’s progress as well as on the way it’s carried out.

If necessary, they’ll ask that certain tasks be repeated or that corrections are made in order to respect quality standards or to optimize installation and overall performance.

immeuble

Photo: Pexels

Taking charge of the administrative aspect of the site

During any construction project, it’s mandatory to submit authorization and permit applications. This is a requirement imposed by the new Quebec Construction Code that we previously discussed (check with your province for specific requirements if you are living elsewhere in Canada). This task adds to the already long list of those that the engineer must accomplish. Note that they monitor how requests initially are processed.

What types of projects is the building engineer involved in?

The building engineer is able to intervene as much in the residential sector as in the commercial, industrial or institutional sectors. Their skills are put to use in projects that concern not only the construction but also the expansion and renovation of existing structures. In addition, they can participate in the construction of indoor or outdoor parking lots.

In addition,  they have a decisive role in the protection of cultural heritage because of their ability to restore or maintain the condition of buildings that could otherwise sink into dilapidation.

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