What Homeowners Should Know About Engineering Fees

Homeowners and even some residential contractors can be surprised by the cost of engineering services. Most residential projects do not require engineering, Homeowners are seldom in the position to retain an engineer. In addition, engineering fees can be confusing to the uninitiated and are especially counter-intuitive when it comes to residential projects. This unfamiliarity can lead to unrealistic expectations.

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What Everyone Should Know About Earthquakes and Structures

This post was originally published on the Richard J. Driscoll, Consulting Engineer blog and has been edited for length. The original can be found here.

Partially collapsed building. 2008 Wells, NV Earthquake (Utah Geological Survey)

Most people understand that earthquakes can produce catastrophic damage to the built environment. However, given that large earthquakes are relatively rare, and that the television news cameras typically move on a few days after any disaster, a lot of people’s understanding of the effects of earthquakes may be shaped more by bad disaster movies than reality. Continue reading “What Everyone Should Know About Earthquakes and Structures”

Should a “Designer” or “Design Professional” Design Your Home?

Even the simplest new home is too complicated to be built without plans. Significant renovations or additions may also require plans. The plans are typically prepared by whoever designs the project and are the manifestation of all of the decisions made by the project owner, the designer and other stakeholders during the design process. They are a means of communication between the owner and the contractor, subcontractors, the building official, lenders and possibly others.  Continue reading “Should a “Designer” or “Design Professional” Design Your Home?”

Why Your Pier Foundations May Not be “Code”

Depending on where you live, pier foundations are a common foundation type for residential structures. A pier foundation is a foundation type usually constructed of concrete or masonry that is relatively short compared to its width; a pier’s height will typically be less than 12 times its width or diameter (NYCBC 2014, 1801). Like a footing, piers derive support through end bearing on soil or rock. However, footings are wider than the elements they support and usually shorter in height than the walls or columns they support. Thus a footing transfers load to the ground in bending, while a pier transfers load in direct compression alone. Continue reading “Why Your Pier Foundations May Not be “Code””

Is Your Roof Strong Enough for Snow?

Any structure must resist all of the loads to which it is expected to be exposed, including those from occupancy and those from the natural environment, such as wind, snow and earthquakes. For residential buildings, typically defined as one and two-family homes and townhouses, this can be accomplished by following prescriptive provisions of the Residential code, which provide span tables for joists and studs, connection schedules and other design requirements in tabular form. These tables are generally derived from requirements of the general building code based on conservative assumptions and simplifications.

The prescriptive provisions cover a lot of common construction systems and loads but is not all-inclusive. Structural design that falls outside the limits of the code is required to comply with the general building code. Design of these elements and systems fall under the practice of architecture and engineering and must be performed by licensed professionals. Continue reading “Is Your Roof Strong Enough for Snow?”

Will Your House Flood This Year?

After a record-breaking  2017 hurricane season and a string of strong coastal storms over the winter, flooding has been in the news a lot recently. June brings the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season.  Floods can be catastrophic, as well as deadly. Therefore, you should have some understanding of your exposure to flood risk, to protect yourself and your property, especially if you own a home or are considering building a home.

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