Structural engineering design has been changing and
developing since the first foundation was laid. While there have been many
developments brought about by engineers, sometimes change is a result of the
environment around us. Engineers must respond to the ever-changing world with
new and innovative ideas. Here are a few ways ORB has adapted in the past year.
There have been shortages, both labor and materials, in the
construction world since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. These
shortages have changed how we design. One example of this is truss design. Back
in 2017, a majority of our new truss design, especially for residential, was
pre-engineered trusses. With this system, a pre-engineered truss company
designs, builds, and delivers the trusses for the homeowners convenience.
However, truss companies felt the pandemic
crunch same as every other industry. Some pre-engineered truss wait
times were as high as 8 months! As such, ORB had to respond with alternatives.
ORB started to do a large amount of conventional truss design. With this
option, the trusses are built in field by the contractor. This option requires
more design by ORB to ensure the trusses are structurally sound but still
reasonable enough to be built by hand in a field rather than in a factory. ORB
has increased our conventional truss design by 20% since the beginning of the
Another change that resulted from labor and material
shortages is alternative building products. With the price of lumber
skyrocketing, homeowners turned to alternative materials to build their homes.
ORB responded with our expertise in aerated autoclaved concrete (AAC). This
special kind of block is mostly air and made of a mix of fine aggregates,
cement, and an expansion agent. This material has a great insulation factor, is
fire resistant, and very structurally sound. Unfortunately, it is not widely
used in the United States. As such, many engineers are not familiar with its
specifications and design methodology. ORB has been designing with AAC since
the 1990s and is very familiar with the best engineering methods for building a
home utilizing it. ORB has been asked increasingly to design with AAC over
A final change that ORB has adapted to is the increased
acceptance of digitally signed plans. As building departments around the
country had to close their doors and work from home, many of them implemented
new policies allowing for plans and documents to be digitally signed. This
special digital signature must be encrypted and verified by a third-party in
order to be valid. This ensures the legitimacy of the signer and prevents
fraud. ORB now functions almost exclusively with digital signatures due to
their wide acceptance. While we still have our giant plotter that can print
large blueprints, we love having the option to save trees and resources by
keeping everything digital.
These are just some of the ways the changing world around us
affects what we do as engineers. Engineering is a highly innovative field, as
such we relish the opportunity to meet any new challenges head on.
More to come soon.