Here at ORB Engineering, Inc. we handle an array of projects ranging from a new back porch to a 10,000 sqft industrial plant. Despite the diversity of projects, our day to day tasks remain the same. So here is what a day in the life of a structural engineer looks like at ORB Engineering. Our engineers handle field activities, schematic design, design development, construction documents, report preparation, review and quality control, certification, re-design and responding to comments on a daily basis.
Field activities include traveling a job site for various reasons. Sometimes, our engineers go to a job site for an inspection. This will include examining a damaged or concerning area of a home to assess the extent of damage and whether the area can be simply repaired or must be replaced entirely. Other inspections are performed just to check out the structure of a property and let the owner know our opinion. We frequently do this type of inspection for people who are looking to remodel and want to know if a wall is load bearing. Other times inspections are performed for insurance companies or mortgage companies. This type of inspection is typically followed up with a certified report analyzing our findings and offering solutions. Another reason we travel out to a job site is to take measurements and better understand the scope of work for a new project. For example, if a project calls for the renovation of the front offices of an existing structure, an engineer will go to the job site to take measurements, pictures, and a general analysis in order to provide the best possible drawings for the renovation.
Schematic design, design development, and construction documents are the three phases of drawings our engineers go through on a project. During the first phase, schematic design, our engineers take the information gathered at the site visit and create the basic idea of the design. This can include basic measurements, layouts, and designs requested by the client. Also during this phase, our engineers will check with local regulations regarding setbacks, zoning, permitting and land use to ensure the plans comply with all local, state, and federal requirements. The second phase, design development, will entail more detailed drawings which can specify building material, including whether or not the material will be pre-manufactured. During this phase, a more detailed site plan with elevations is sometimes included. Finally, there are construction documents. These drawings will include all necessary details, measurements, and designs required by a contractor for construction. These final plans are also sent to the building department for permitting. Each phase is important and must be given full attention to detail in order to not create any issues while moving into the next phase. Also, client’s usually must approve their drawings in-between phases before moving on to ensure they are getting exactly what they want.
Report preparation is done after an inspection. Reports can range from short, one-page documents to multiple page reports including photo logs and drawings. During the field activities of an inspection, our engineers will take measurements using various tools and pictures for the report. Report preparation includes summarizing why an engineer was required for an inspection, what damage was observed, opinions regarding the cause of damage, and suggestions for repair or replacement of the damaged area. Most reports will include pictures to illustrate the damage and, for particularly complex inspections, drawings of the structure will be included highlighting our repair suggestions.
Every project, drawing, design, and report is subject to review and quality control checks. Our engineers will double check each other’s work and calculations for accuracy. Reports will be read and re-read not only for engineering mistakes, but grammatical errors as well. Review and quality control ensures our clients are receiving an accurate, professional document every time. It will also help streamline the permitting and construction process in the future. Every report and drawing will be signed and sealed by our chief structural engineer. This official certification is required by building departments, contractors, insurance companies, and mortgage companies for the opinions and drawings listed within to be valid. By including our certification, ORB is asserting the information found within is accurate and up to all codes and regulations.
Another area of work our engineers handle nearly every day is responding to comments from the building department. Comments are a normal and expected part of the permit process. This process usually involves making a small change or re-design to a plan for final approval by the building department. We do not consider our projects complete until a permit has been issued, as such keeping up with comments and re-design is very important for closing out a project.
These are just some of the major areas our engineers touch on every day. Each of these areas includes communicating with the client, collaborating with fellow engineers, and keeping up with projects until final permit has been issued. This means our project managers are highly organized individuals who can handle multi-tasking and managing multiple projects at once. At ORB Engineering, we do not let any project slip through the cracks but provide each one individualized attention to ensure the best quality and value.