Engineering Specialties

By Brian Ki, P.E. | December 1, 2021

A few years ago, I was watching the popular reality game show, “Survivor”. For the few that are not familiar with the show, the premises evolves around stranding a handful of contestants in a remote location and having them survive in the wilderness for about a month. Of course, one of the first basic needs involves building a shelter.

I recall one contestant, who was a Nuclear Engineer, was unanimously tasked in leading the effort in building this shelter for the rest of her castmates because she was an “engineer.” She ended up doing a poor job and the contestants were questioning her skills as an engineer. Right there, it dawned on me that most people don’t realize there is a difference in engineering specialties.

In that instance, she was a Nuclear Engineer. Sure, she could have designed reactor cores or radiation shielding, but probably had little-to-no exposure in designing buildings and/or structures. Just because you are an engineer, does not mean you can “engineer” any-and-all things.

When it comes to designing a building, there are several elements that often require skilled engineers for those particular fields. Here is a short list and description for engineering specialties:

Civil Site Engineering
This type of engineering specializes in the site where a building will be constructed upon. Often, a surveyor is needed to gain an understanding of the existing site from which a site engineer can then design the proposed conditions. Are required setbacks met? Is there enough drainage? Are there any special permitting requirements due to location? And more…

Civil Geotechnical Engineering
Next, are the soils in a good enough condition to be constructed upon? No matter how strong your foundation may be, it doesn’t do any good if it starts to sink into the soil.  Civil Geotechnical Engineers can test the compaction of the soils, determine soil bearing capacities, and design foundations made for bedrock/ledge.

Although not a formal “engineering” specialty, Architects are needed to design the aesthetics and circulation of the building. Gaining an understanding of what the building will look like and where the rooms are laid out are important for the next step of the building design process. Architects are also responsible for understanding the occupancy capacity of the building, locating exits, and other life safety requirements.

Civil Structural Engineering
The structural engineer is responsible for the design of the structure. Although the concept of having a durable building that does not collapse is simple, sometimes the logistics makes it very difficult. Civil Structural Engineers design the foundation, framing, and connections to create the bones of the building. Different materials are often incorporated to include wood, concrete, steel, or custom engineered products. Loads including snow, wind, rain, earthquake, live (people), and dead (weight of materials) loads are all considered. When applied altogether, the building must still be able to stand.

Mechanical, Electrical, & Plumbing (MEP) Engineering
With the shell of the building mainly complete, the MEP engineer will start applying basic human necessities. How does the building get heated/cooled (i.e. the mechanical)? Where do the lighting and switches go? How do we emit unwanted gases and flush out portable water? All questions and answers that an MEP engineer is more than capable of designing.

Construction Engineering
A construction engineer leads the oversight and management once in construction. Their responsibilities include assessing field conditions and coordinating modifications for unforeseen circumstances. For larger scale projects, the construction engineer may also be responsible for designing temporary shoring and/or scaffolding so construction can even begin.

When it comes to your next construction project, Team Engineering has a full team of multiple engineering disciplines to get you building from start to finish. If you have any questions or want to learn about our design capabilities, give us a call today!

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