The Ultimate Challenge of a Structural Engineer

posted Sep 6, 2021, 2:32 AM by jeffery jim
The ultimate challenges of a structural engineer is never about the design - even if it is 100 storeys high. Everything we have today are empirically available for basic calculation. In addition to that, we have finite element method (FEM) to calculate all complicated structures and situation and we can even model extreme weathers manually and software.

There is one particular thing that have been the Achilles heel to most design and it have nothing to do with design but the preparation for materials where many structural engineers have left it as assumed figure or value. The problem with materials are usually not single material or metal alloy; it is usually about matrices or compounds such as soil and concrete. These mixes are usually deviate although there are abundant contemporary reference available.

Hence, there is a need to have specialists who are able to interpret or plan for desktop studies and/or term of references during the beginning of the project.


1. Planning works for site investigations and explorations are heavily dependent on the engineer and his understanding of the geological, pedology, lithology and even hydrogeology conditions of a site before planning for type of test suitable to be conducted at the site to ensure proper parameters are derived as well as validation of seismic requirements. Without proper information, design cannot be properly justified and stand no chance to be vindicated during a value engineering phase.

2. The basic of concrete selection depends on many criteria such as exposure and application. But these are fundamental requirements where there are a lot of missing criteria aside of strength, such as the concrete class and physical properties. The concrete nature as a matrix which binds a whole different types of component requires thorough checking of materials. Water should be potted water, or else water from natural source or aquifer may lead to exposure of deleterious materials such as magnesium, sulfate, chloride as well as natrium from plantation lime, fertilizer and so on direct contamination. Aggregates need to be from proper sources which indicates less chances or risk which may trigger aggregate-related reaction coming from different type of immature rock quarries, granites, dolomites and several other types of rocks.

These are not the only risks involving concrete, it continue with several controlled material such as cement itself which have more than 10% of the maximum foreign materials allowed from less-developed countries' clinker and so on. Leave alone chemicals and other things which are part of trial mixes.

For these reasons, I contemplated and believe that there is a need for a center of research for engineering material research institute in state level in Malaysia or at least regional to say the least.