The enormous advances in computer modeling that we’ve seen in recent years have hugely changed the structural engineering industry. Now wildly complex structures can be engineered in minutes. What used to take a structural engineer weeks of precise calculating is accomplished hyper-efficiently by computer software. Does this mean that structural engineers are a breed of the past?
While technological advancements continue to change the nature of our work, we must keep pace with the needs of construction to stay relevant. We must think out of the box.
In other words, the role of a structural engineer is changing. Sure, a computer can perform amazingly complex calculations, but how does it choose what data to use? What are the limits and requirements that define a given project? There’s no question that the right tech can outperform people, but advanced software demands knowledge and skill of the professionals using it.
The design engineer is stretching way beyond number crunching. Today the focus of our role in the industry must be on doing what computers can’t do. We are stepping up to do more high-level design and envision more outcomes.
To move forward requires innovation and leadership. The engineer’s skill set must include more than analytical ability. To meet the needs of the 21st century, we need creativity, innovation, communication skills, and the ability to work in teams. Engineers now have the opportunity to come up with design ideas — an area that once was only for architects. We get to influence the aesthetic appeal of a structure.
No question, the future of the field is changing and, to keep step, structural engineers must expand their skill set. The structural engineer of the future will use advanced materials, such as carbon fiber, graphene, and high strength/self-compacting concretes. Virtual Reality and 3D models will change the way we work. And we will bring more of a human element to our work. Fortunately, working closing with clients and providing personal attention has always been one of Meridian’s strong suits. The industry is growing, and we’re right there in synch with the change.