Choosing a Structural Engineer

Appointing a structural engineer is something that most people only undertake once in a lifetime – these notes are written to enable occasional clients to make the right decision.

How do I know if someone is chartered?

In the first instance a chartered engineer can use designatory letters after their name. For example, CEng denotes they are a chartered engineer, MIStructE denotes that they are qualified as a member of the Institution of Structural Engineers, and MICE denotes they are a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. If you would like to be certain, you can ask for a copy of their certificate of membership or check with the appropriate institution. (www.istructe.org or www.ice.org.uk.)

Who can practice as a “structural engineer”?

Surprisingly the term structural engineer is not protected, so anyone can describe themselves as a structural engineer, undertake designs and provide calculations. However the term “chartered engineer” is protected.

What does "chartered engineer" mean?

A chartered engineer is a qualified member of a professional institution carrying a royal charter. It carries reassurance that the individual concerned has undertaken a rigorous qualification process in order to practice as an engineer. The word chartered can only apply to an individual, not a company.

Should only a chartered engineer undertake the calculations?

As with any profession training is required to reach the required standard, and an engineer has to start somewhere. You would, however, expect anyone training to be supervised by experienced engineer. A reputable company will ensure that any engineer will be competent to undertake the structural design entrusted to them. They will also make sure that any design is checked by an independent engineer. It should be noted that the role of the local Building Control office includes ensuring that a new or adapted building is safe; it is not necessarily their role to thoroughly check the details of every structural design.

What else should I look for when comparing quotes?

Generally, but not always, a structural engineer will take out Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII). The primary purpose of this insurance is to provide protection to the individual or business against claims for loss or damage made by a client or third party if mistakes occur or they are found to have been negligent in some or all of the services provided. As a client the benefit of knowing your structural engineer has PII is that should a claim be necessary there will be financial resources to cover the cost of the claim.

Is there anything else to consider?

Is your structural engineer going to look after your best interests? Ask two engineers to carry out a design and you may well get two different, perfectly safe designs. However, one may be more efficient, or easier to build reducing the overall building cost. The difference in cost can easily exceed any the difference in the professional fees. Sometimes, innovation is required to meet a particular requirement and this may well distinguish structural engineers.

How does Modulus compare?

Modulus has procedures in place to ensure that structural design is undertaken by suitably competent staff and that guidance is readily available for any queries. We are also committed to undertaking staff training. All projects are checked by an independent engineer and the checking process is recorded for future reference. Finally all projects undergo an approval process before they are issued, and again this is recorded.

Modulus has PII cover for at least £1,000,000 and our standard terms and conditions oblige us to maintain that cover for at least six years after completion of any project.

At Modulus, we aim to provide high quality structural design that responds to the need of our clients. A good example is a recent project where we changed the original design to avoid the need to remove an existing ceiling for a loft conversion. This meant the householder did not have to move out while the work was undertaken avoiding considerable cost and disruption.

Looking for a structural engineer?