Advice and Opinion

The economics of civil engineering

Struxit executive, Chris Truter.
Struxit executive, Chris Truter.

How can a structural engineer deliver quality, while also keeping costs low? The best way is to have one foot in the past and one in the future – using experience gained to innovate and find a holistic solution.

Struxit executive Chris Truter believes that the best place to start is early in the game, by being an active player in the team of professionals working on a project and giving advice in the concept phase. This is where incremental innovation takes place.

Large sums of money are saved in the concept phase of a project. For instance, the structural engineer can also keep the build-ability of the structure for the builders in mind, and the maintenance and long-term use for the client – aspects that will influence the architect and other contractors. After that initial savings, smaller savings can also be achieved in the details.

There is a myriad of factors to consider, it becomes a state of mind while you work on a concept. This is a skill you don’t have yet on your first job because foresight comes with experience. First nail the engineering, then the costing, then the architecture and other aspects that form part of a project,” says Truter.

The key is to think philosophically about what you do and to always keep the big picture in mind. A holistic solution is of utmost importance. One-size-fits-all solutions are never the best option, because there are so many more saving options in a custom design, Truter adds.

By just changing the geotechnical approach, for instance, you can save more than you already do on a light-weight roof.”

Covid-19 has placed extra strain on every project, decreasing the economical viability thereof. How can this fact be countered? Don’t waste material, to start with. Other possible solutions are to use prefab for some of the connections and energy-efficient material to reduce maintenance costs.

Every aspect of a project must be broken down into smaller parts, and then be reassembled with essential savings introduced. Truter believes that it all comes down to being an expert in your field, so you can learn about and contribute to other fields working on the project as well and in this way, find the best holistic solution.

Each member of a project team’s scope influences that of the others. The more each member of a project team can save, the more viable a project becomes, or the better the chances are that you have some money to spend on nice details. To achieve this, you must go the extra mile and innovate a little. To achieve this, you must walk the extra mile and innovate a little.

The various contractors on a project must dive deep to unlock and should be open for different options. The more options you talk through as a team, the better you sift through the costly, less efficient options,” he concludes.