We want to revisit a topic that we covered quite a while ago. We continuously get questions regarding architects and engineers stamps or structural review. Here is a quick recap:
What is structural engineering?
Structural engineering is the analysis of home plans or a building's proposed structure [or even existing at times] to verify that the framing members and the construction method are sufficient to withstand local weather patterns, soil types, earth movements, wind speeds, and so on. For example, the areas where homes receive significant amounts of snow in the winter will require a roof structure strong enough to hold the weight, while homes in areas that receive no snow will not need that much support. Parts of the country that get high wind speeds, or are prone to hurricanes or tornadoes, will likely have different construction requirements than areas that do not have these types of issues. Another situation requiring structural engineering is a home built on a steep incline that may be prone to mudslides, more than normal run-off, etc. Engineering is a professional service performed by qualified individuals who stay abreast of current trends, codes, and regulations to assure that homes and other structures are built with structural integrity and sufficient for local conditions.
Is an Engineering Review the same as an Architects Seal or Stamp?
No, these are two separate services. Both professionals have a stamp or seal that they issue on reviewed or designed plans. An architect's stamp provides verification that a licensed architect designed the project, but it does not include engineering. These stamps are more common in commercial construction as cities require a licensed architect's design and engineering by an engineer. As a result, commercial plans would include the stamp or seal from both professionals. In residential construction, most cities do not require a licensed architect to design the plans. However, they may require a licensed architect to review the plans or an analysis by a structural engineer.
Why is my city requiring an engineer or architect's stamp on my house plans?
In recent years I have noticed that engineering is becoming a requirement by more and more cities than it used to be. Cities are concerned that your home will be built sufficiently strong to support local conditions (soil, weather, etc). Naturally, they want the neighborhood to be a safe place to live and filled with quality structures to maintain the neighborhood's integrity. Your local municipality may not require engineering. After purchasing your plans – and if your city requires them – you can take them to a local engineer who will make any necessary drawings or adjustments to the home plan to assure that it meets the city's requirements. Structural engineering is not included in your stock house plans purchase because it is a site-specific service and needs to be done by a local professional who understands your area.
The cost of engineering will vary across the country. I would call your local home builders association for referrals and get prices from a few before deciding which company to use. Or, if you are working with a home builder, ask them who they recommend.