Structural Engineer Investigations
When a property owner needs information about their building’s structural integrity, the best way to get all the answers is by conducting a thorough structural engineering inspection. Questions about a structure may arise during the purchase of a new building, after an accident involving structural damage or when a property owner is preparing for a potential building upgrade. However, these are not the only times a property owner should consider getting a structural investigation completed. If any deterioration is evident, a detailed assessment will reveal the sources causing the damage.
A structural evaluation of an existing building will also divulge whether a property owner can safely modify a structure in areas like the foundation, support beams, joists or trusses.
What Is a Structural Engineering Inspection?
A qualified structural engineer performs an investigation to determine the structural soundness of a building’s load-bearing components. These visual inspections could entail a comprehensive analysis of the entire structure or an examination of one specific section or element in the building. A review by a licensed structural engineer affirms that a proprietor receives a qualified opinion on the property’s overall structural integrity.
People often think of building inspections and structural engineering inspections as interchangeable, but there are some significant differences between the two. A building inspector performs a building inspection, examining elements like plumbing, electrical features, HVAC and the overall safety of the property. A licensed structural engineer conducts a structural examination, providing an in-depth analysis of the foundation, load-bearing areas and structural integrity only.
Some of the things a building inspector might examine are:
- The condition of a roof.
- Evidence of water damage.
- Potential electrical issues.
- The functionality of the plumbing system.
- Quality of insulation and ventilation.
- Pest and insect infestations.
- Heating system performance.
- Basic structural integrity.
Should the building inspector determine possible structural faults, they will recommend a licensed engineer conduct a comprehensive inspection to assess the building’s structural soundness. A structural engineer will consider areas like:
- Bulging, warped or out-of-square walls.
- Sloped floors.
- Foundation quality.
- The integrity of the roof.
Structural Analysis Process and Methods
The staff at Vital Structures LLC. has many years of applied and focused experience in the building envelope and structural engineering disciplines. We can provide a comprehensive approach to solving your building’s restoration needs. We believe a complete, thorough diagnosis is vital to resolve and successfully treat a structure’s problematic condition.
Our structural engineering assessment process involves the following steps:
- Diagnosis: We concentrate on finding the cause of structural issues rather than focusing solely on the symptoms. We use destructive testing methods for structural failure investigation to determine whether building materials meet the structural engineering standards of the intended design. We also conduct building envelope testing between the interior and exterior of a building to locate any air, water or thermal leaks within the structure.
- Evaluation and solution planning: A comprehensive, focused engineering evaluation is the most critical step to a successful project outcome. Our experts will evaluate your construction and identify areas of potential deterioration that can use reinforcement.
- Collaboration with contractors: We’ll address your building’s weaknesses and provide you with a road map to get the job done right the first time. We’re committed to planning ahead of time to prevent costly change orders in the future. We’ll also include various phasing or sequencing options to complement your funding goals. Whether your building needs structural strengthening, waterproofing, concrete restoration or any other modifications, we’ll recommend effective solutions.
- Quality control: After we’ve finished your design and construction has begun, we’ll monitor your construction site to confirm your end product matches your original design intent. Our on-site engineers will verify that your project is progressing well and give you detailed reports along the way. Professional observation, detailed reporting and corrective actions will help keep project quality, schedule and costs under control.
Our structural analysis methods focus on the following areas:
- Structure: We’ll perform the necessary testing and forensics to determine whether a building can withstand the structural upgrades of an improvement or addition. When analyzing existing damage, we go directly to the root cause and develop solutions that last many years down the road.
- Enclosure: Our engineers will provide an enclosure analysis reviewing possible water infiltration and system failure sources using various testing methods. Our analysis will cover areas like roofing, masonry work, cladding and fenestrations.
- Concrete restoration: Measures such as concrete slab relative humidity, vapor emission for flooring and coating applications, chloride ion testing and concrete petrographic analysis allow us to understand the health of the concrete and identify a potential problem. We have extensive experience working with tunnels, parking garages, retaining walls and precast systems.
- Waterproofing: Beyond providing protection from moisture damage, waterproofing can help transform the exterior, foundation and lower levels of your building facilities. You can save your interiors from unpredictable weather events, natural disasters, chemical and environmental attacks through proper waterproofing and water management. Our waterproofing services cover remedial work, foundation, flooring and garages.
When Does a Property Owner Need a Building Condition Assessment?
A Building Condition Assessment (BCA) or a Facility Condition Assessment (FCA), is a review, inspection and report on the state of a commercial building’s structure and systems. Like a structural engineering inspection, a BCA is similar to a building inspection. However, it provides more detailed information and is more complex due to the nature of the requirements for commercial facilities.
The BCA may stand alone or be part of a comprehensive Property Condition Assessment (PCA). A BCA entails a thorough examination of the following:
- Site and grounds: This portion of the assessment entails examining curbs, pavements, loading docks, walkways, landscaping, exterior lighting, site drainage, signage, fencing, railings and other outdoor amenities.
- Structural systems: The assessor will inspect for cracks and leakage in the structural framing and foundations of columns, walls, roofs and floors.
- Building envelope: This area covers the condition and functionality of roofing systems, exterior finishes, stairs and steps, exterior doors and windows.
- Mechanical systems: A BCA includes a comprehensive inspection of electrical, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, plumbing and conveyance systems.
- Interior building components: Interior areas requiring assessment might include wallpaper, paint, kitchen islands and other permanent fixtures.
- Regulatory compliance: The assessor will determine if life safety and fire suppression systems meet codes and regulations.
Most banks will require a BCA, FCA or PCA before the final approval on a commercial property loan. When the BCA identifies severe problems, the loan may not be approved or the buyer may back out voluntarily. A BCA may also be helpful in terms of:
- Determining whether to renovate, sell or demolish a facility.
- Allocating resources across an extensive portfolio of properties.
- Creating maintenance and safety programs for your properties.
- Budgeting and forecasting expenses.
The assessor’s final written report will tell you what needs repaired, replaced or upgraded immediately to conform to industry standards. The assessor will also estimate the life span of the building’s elements and systems. The report will include a list of recommendations for repair or replacement with estimated costs.
Schedule Your Structural Building Inspection Today
At Vital Structures LLC, we offer structural investigations for commercial & industrial properties. We pride ourselves on the ability to get the job done right the first time. Our goal is to address the problem and determine how to fix it rather than just looking at the symptoms. If you need a structural engineer assessment in Boston or the New England area, you can count on our team.
To learn more about our services, call us at 508-279-0655 or contact us online today.