Do I need a structural engineer or an architect to design my house?
Let us first identify the differences between a structural engineer and an architect. The easiest method to identify them is by their role.
Architect and Structural Engineer Responsibilities
An architect is responsible with the aesthetics and layout of the house. They are concerned with coordinating how the home owners want the house to look and with meeting the 2009 International Residential Code for safety and egress. Egress is the availability of exiting an area, such as a door openings, stairs or hallways.
The structural engineer is concerned with designing the foundation and framing of the house so that it can withstand the forces from the use of the house and also from the environment such as snow, wind, rain and earthquake. Even in San Antonio the structural engineer will design a house to withstand a certain amount of force due to earthquakes.
Both the architect and the engineer are registered design professionals. In very rare instances does an architect do an engineer's job and vice versa. Architects typically do not design foundations and will involve a structural engineer. A licensed contractor is not the same as a licensed engineer or architect. A licensed contractor is licensed to construct but is not licensed to design a structure. Only a licensed structural engineer can design a structure.
City of San Antonio Engineer and Architect Rules
The need to involve an architect or an engineer in the design of a house is governed by both city ordnance and the building code for that city. If you are considering constructing a new home, an architect should first be involved to assist you the layout and appearance of the house. The architect, and not the structural engineer, will ensure that the house meets the fire safety and energy requirements of the IRC.
The City of San Antonio has adopted the 2009 International Residential Building Code (IRC) as the code for all professionals to design a home. In addition, is also serves as a recipe for contractors to construct a home if certain parameters exist and are followed. For instance, a contractor can construct the walls, floor and roof of a house without a structural engineer only if the contractor builds the walls, floor and the roof as prescribed by the IRC. If the contractor deviates from the IRC, the IRC requires for that component to be designed by a structural engineer.
Braced walls are the most typical building element that is deviated from the code; mostly unintentional. A braced wall is a wall that allows the building to stand up to the forces from cross winds. If the contractor fails to construct a braced wall then the City of San Antonio requires a structural engineer to inspect the structure and design a system to act as a braced wall. The City inspector will typically point out deviations from the code and request the involvement of a structural engineer.
The City of San Antonio further extends the responsibility of a structural engineer by requiring that all foundations be designed and inspected by a licensed structural engineer. This includes foundations for retaining walls and houses. The leveling of a foundation is also required to be inspected by a licensed structural engineer.
In short, if you are considering constructing a home within San Antonio, you will need a licensed contractor, architect and a licensed structural engineer. A-1 Engineering can help you build this team by introducing you to a custom home architect and a reliable licensed contractor. Together we can design you a beautiful and affordable home.
Getting the Right Structural Engineer and Architect
The design and inspection of a home requires a knowledge and experience structural engineer and architect. Not all structural engineers and architects are created equal.
On the structural engineer side, some engineers way over design, while other engineers under design to the point that the design doesn't meet the building code. Therefore, the correct structural engineer is the one who can do a precise design to the point that the structure is safe and economical at the same time.
On the architect side, every architect is different and choosing the right architect simply depends on what you're trying to accomplish. We work with many architects, some of them you can find them in our links.
Another important matter regarding the structural engineer is to check with thethat the Professional Engineer you're hiring is in fact licensed to practice structural engineering. You can input the company name or the structural engineer doing the work, to check whether that person is actually licensed to practice structural engineering. Most engineers out there are in fact not licensed to practice structural engineering.
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We hope this article was very helpful to you. If you need help on your next project in San Antonio or the surrounding area (including New Braunfels, Boerne, Poteet, San Marcos, etc,) please contact us.