Category: residential structural engineer

Benefits of residential solar

The Benefits of Residential Solar and Whether It’s Right for You

Written by  Bret Engle

Residential solar continues to grow in popularity. This is largely due to the fact that solar power, as well as other types of renewable energy, is quickly becoming more affordable for households throughout the United States. What’s more, it’s also becoming increasingly abundant. This article will discuss the advantages of using residential solar, as well as which roof types are ideal for panels and how the installation process works.

THE BENEFITS

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest advantages to using solar power:

It provides you with energy independence.

One of the most appealing aspects of solar power is that it provides freedom and control of your electricity. Many components of the US power grid are outdated, and it has resulted in increased outages over the last decade-plus. By installing solar panels along with a home battery unit, households can have enough electricity to power their home day and night — no matter what is going on with the grid in their neighborhood.

It’s clean and renewable.

Environmentally speaking, solar energy is ideal because it’s completely clean and renewable. The need for coal, natural gas, and oil is significantly reduced, which helps to mitigate the harmful impact these fossil fuels have on the air, water, and soil. No pollution is caused by solar power, and as more people use it, it can help to protect the earth from global warming.

It now makes sense financially.

Another appealing part of solar energy is that it’s beginning to make more sense for the average American household to invest in it. Residential solar costs have dropped more than 70 percent over the last 10 years, and home battery units have become more affordable as well. Plus, solar panels are low-maintenance, they can help you save on your monthly utility bill, they come with tax benefits, and they can raise your home’s value.

If you need help getting the funds to install solar panels, there are financing options available. According to Redfin, if you qualify for the FHA’s Energy Efficient Mortgage program, it will incorporate the costs of installing panels into your mortgage. The program also provides assistance for other home modifications that benefit the environment.

THE BEST ROOF TYPES

Most residential solar panels are mounted on the roof of a home because it takes up the least amount of space. While pretty much any type of roof can be used for panels — given that the roof is in good condition — there are a few kinds that work best. For instance, asphalt shingles are strong and durable, and it’s fairly easy to mount panels on this type of roof.

While tile roofs typically require brackets to be installed along with the solar panels, installation should still be pretty simple. These kinds of roofs come at a higher price, but they ultimately require little maintenance and typically last longer than some other types. Like tile roofs, metal roofs are long-lasting and low-maintenance. They also make for the fastest solar panel installation, and that can save you some money on labor.

INSTALLATION

Installing residential solar is a process. Typically, an engineer will come to evaluate your home to ensure that it’s compatible with a solar system; the engineer will also make sure the roof is in good condition. Then, there’s a lot of paperwork, though most of it is handled by the installer. The paperwork includes applying for solar incentives and permits, and it’s important to have a basic understanding of each document.

After that, you’ll be ready to consult with the installer to choose and order the equipment (e.g., solar panels, inverters, etc.), and then schedule the installation. This process includes things such as roof preparation, electrical wiring, attaching racking to the roof, putting the panels on, and connecting the inverters. You can expect the entire process to take about one to three days, depending on the type of roof and the size of the system.

Changing to solar energy comes with a lot of benefits. However, be sure to consider what kind of roof you have, and make sure you’re prepared for the installation process. Most importantly, continue to educate yourself on residential solar so that you can make an informed decision about whether it’s right for you.

Photo Credit: Pexels

Structural engineer

What Qualities Should Your Structural Engineer Have?

When you have a new construction project or are doing major renovation work, one of the first experts to call is a structural engineer. However, just like not all structural engineering companies are created equally, neither are individual structural engineers. The best ones will work with the architects, designers and other contractors you hire in order to ensure everyone is on the same page with the same vision for the project. Before you hire a structural engineer for your project, make sure they possess these qualities.

Creativity

No two buildings are exactly alike, so your structural engineer should use their knowledge, skills and expertise to design the safest and strongest building for your particular project. This includes evaluating the weather and climate and using building materials that will withstand the harshest elements. Structural engineers have to be creative in order to build a safe structure, while still fulfilling the needs and vision of the homeowner or property owner.

Extreme Attention To Detail

There are plenty of obvious reasons why a structural engineer has to be extremely detailed in the work they do. One seemingly minor mistake could lead to a fatal flaw in the design of the building. And the structural engineer needs to follow through with the other contractors who are actually building the structure to ensure everyone is on the same page and there’s a complete understanding of their thought process.

Innovative Strategic Thinking

With the technology available to every structural engineering company today, there’s no excuse for not using innovative technology to help design a building. The challenge every structural engineer faces is being able to satisfy the needs and desires of the individuals, while also adhering to safety regulations, sustainability practices and more. It requires innovative and strategic thinking to be completely well-rounded, and taking the time to find a structural engineer who possesses these qualities is well worth the effort.

Problem Solving

Problems will always arise in any project, no matter how large or small it is. Whether it’s external factors like the weather, or other unique challenges that aren’t evident immediately, a good structural engineer must be able to think quickly. The best structural engineering professionals will be able to identify problems before they occur and plan on a solution, but sometimes it’s not possible. In either situation, coming up with the best solutions possible is an important quality for structural engineers to have.

At BE Structural, we have a unique mix of structural engineering professionals that work together every day. Each of our structural engineers are well-rounded when it comes to their education, experience and background, and we are constantly in collaboration with one another to enhance our skills. We strive to be your go-to resource for any structural engineering needs, so don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of service to you.

Structural engineering company

3 Ways a Structural Engineer Can Help With Your Custom Home

When a custom home is in the works of being built, there’s an entire team of people you need to look at hiring. These people include architects, interior and exterior designers, engineers, contractors for general work and many more. Most people don’t think about contacting structural engineering companies first, but the truth is finding a good structural engineer should be a top priority. No matter how good a home looks on the outside, it’s only as good as the structural engineer who designed the plans from the foundation all the way to the top of the chimney. Here are the main ways a structural engineer is important when you’re looking to build a custom home.

Structural Safety

Every structural engineering company prioritizes safety in all aspects of the work they do. When evaluating the location of a custom home, a structural engineer will look at factors like the soil, the climate in the area, what major weather events typically occur, the seismic activity and more. Sometimes it’s simply not safe to build a home with the exact orientation the homeowner wants, which is exactly why it’s important to take the advice of structural engineering experts.

Use The Right Building Materials

While safety is the first priority when building any custom home, structural engineers also want to bring a homeowner’s vision to life as much as possible. This can include wood framing, bamboo, masonry, steel or any other materials. Many times a structural engineer will get an idea of the vision the homeowner has and then go to work designing the home based on that. If it’s simply not possible or safe to build it exactly like the homeowner desires, then they will inform them accordingly. There are many different factors that go into the building materials used for any custom home, and the best structural engineers will still make the custom home look as close to the homeowner’s vision as possible.

Efficient Designing

Most people don’t think about contacting a structural engineer when designing their home. This is typically done by an architect. However, structural engineers put together plans for the design that takes into consideration the foundation, roof, framing and overall structural integrity to be able to support the desired designs. Architects and other contractors rely on structural engineers for this information, which is why they are typically the first experts needed when designing a custom home.

BE Structural has helped build hundreds of custom homes over the years. Our unique team is comprised of experts with various backgrounds and different levels of experience, so no project is too large, too small or too complex for us. In fact, we enjoy taking on complex custom home designs since it challenges our skills. If you’re looking into the possibility of having a custom home designed, contact us today to see what steps to take and how we can help you get started.

Structural engineer

How Can Structural Engineers Build in a More Sustainable Way?

Waste is a common problem among many different industries worldwide, and the construction industry is one of the leaders in producing waste. However, with society becoming more aware and conscious of the materials they are using and how to properly dispose of them, structural engineering companies are also doing the same. This involves altering practices and procedures, disposing of waste differently, eliminating harmful compounds when using building materials and more. All of these combine to make more sustainable buildings and protect our planet as well. Here’s how structural engineering companies are building more sustainably today.

Incorporate Zero Waste Practices

Zero waste practices mean using products and materials that can be reused instead of discarded when they are no longer needed. A common example of this is when a structural engineer designs a building by using bolts for connections rather than welds. The bolts can be reused when the building gets remodeled or demolished, but anything welded will simply have to go to the landfill in most cases.

Eliminate Volatile Organic Compounds

Breathing in volatile organic compounds can be dangerous when ingested in large amounts. Building materials have traditionally contained these volatile organic compounds, but structural engineering companies are now being more conscious about the products and materials they use to ensure they don’t include them. Not only are these materials better for the environment, they also protect the construction workers who come in close contact with them.

Compost Waste Instead of Dumping in The Landfill

It’s easy for a structural engineer to say they’ll throw any waste in the landfill. However, many structural engineering companies today are composting some of their organic waste on the actual construction site when possible. This reduces the amount of waste in the landfills and also eliminates having to pollute the air with trucks driving to and from the landfills.

A Conscious Effort Will Go A Long Way

Being conscious of reducing waste and building in a more sustainable way will pay dividends for our environment in the future. The job of a structural engineer is to ensure a new project or a renovation project is designed in a safe manner, and also in a sustainable manner. Of course, it’s not always possible to apply all of these practices in every single construction product, but simply having sustainability in the back of the mind is a positive step forward for the environment.

BE Structural uses sustainable practices whenever possible. As a structural engineering company, it’s our job to ensure every building is designed and constructed safely. However, we are also very conscious of the environment we live in and the safety of the air we breathe. Quality does not have to be sacrificed when incorporating sustainable practices, so contact us today to see how we include these practices every day.

Structural engineering company

What Materials are used in Sustainable Structural Engineering?

As people and companies become more conscious about energy consumption, perspectives in structural engineering are changing as well. It’s easy to upgrade appliances or install energy efficient equipment into new home designs, but those can get costly very quickly. The good news is there are sustainable materials used around the world today that are safe for the environment and can make very nice homes. Here are some of the materials a structural engineer will consider using when building a sustainable home.

Earth Bags

Earth bags are made of polypropylene material and are filled with soil and other inorganic materials. They are designed to hold up better than concrete or bricks, since the bags will not crack or be easily damaged during events like an earthquake. Earth bags are used prominently today in developing countries to build sustainable homes.

Earth Blocks

A structural engineering company will sometimes use earth blocks instead of bricks to create a more sustainable design. The earth blocks consist of a mix of clay, rubble and subsoil and are compressed at a very high pressure. In fact, earth blocks are actually stronger than concrete blocks or bricks, but only use a very small amount of cement. By using a small amount of cement, earth blocks are sustainable and reduce the amount of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere.

Retrofitting

Seismic retrofitting can be used to rebuild, repair or strengthen structures in general. After a structural engineer evaluates a building, they can perform actions such as repairing any damage, increasing shear wall density, strengthening ground conditions and more. Seismic retrofitting has helped strengthen thousands of buildings worldwide, especially in developing countries that experience earthquakes and other natural disasters.

Trombe Walls

Trombe walls are used in sustainable structural engineering to create more of a passive solar design in homes. The outside of the walls are made with plastic or glass panes, and the inside of the walls have a higher heat capacity. What makes these walls sustainable and energy efficient is the fact that the external wall will absorb the daytime heat and transfer the heat into the home when needed. Trombe walls are used effectively in areas where sunlight is present the majority of the time and people want to create a more sustainable and energy efficient design for their structure.

BE Structural is a team of experts with a wide range of experience. Our structural engineering company has worked with sustainable materials in different construction projects, and we always practice innovative thinking. It’s important to work with a qualified structural engineering professional if you’re considering using sustainable materials for your next construction project, so contact us to see how we can help you.

Structural engineering

The Importance of Structural Engineering When Designing a Passive Solar Home

A passive solar home is unique due to the fact that essentially every element of the home is used to collect energy and distribute it evenly throughout the home. This includes the floors, roof, walls and even the windows. The only way these passive solar homes can be effective is by the careful and thorough design by a structural engineer. Everything from the area you build the home at, the materials, the base structure and more all combine to make a passive solar home useful. Here are some things to consider about structural engineering and passive solar homes.

Factors To Consider For Passive Solar Homes

The sun doesn’t have to shine around the clock in order for passive solar homes to work, but these factors are essential:

  • Location on the land you’re building on. By building the home on the northern side of the lot, the southern end of the home will have the clearest possible view of the sun.
  • The structure itself. Your structural engineer will tediously design the windows and walls to ensure they are exposed to as much sunlight as possible. Some windows should allow sunlight in, while other surfaces on the structure should absorb the heat to store and use at a later time.
  • Design materials. The most common materials used in passive solar homes include brick, tile, stone and concrete. These are the best thermal mass materials since they absorb and store heat from both the inside and the outside to be used at the appropriate times of the year.

Challenges When Designing Passive Solar Homes

From a structural engineering perspective, the main challenges of designing a passive solar home include ensuring the home is air tight and is structurally stable. Most passive solar homes will have a larger ratio of windows on the southern side of the building, which means there will be fewer structural shear walls on that side. In order to prevent damage to the windows because of the stress placed on them, trimming beams are usually specially designed to give them additional strength.

Collaboration And Comprehensive Analysis is Essential

A structural engineer must work closely with the design team and any other contractors who are working on a passive solar home. Since there are so many different nuances and various components to these homes, every detail is critical. Every good structural engineering company can take the lead in ensuring the home is designed and constructed safely and will be as effective as possible.

BE Structural is a structural engineering company that has experience in residential, commercial and even non-traditional structures like passive solar homes. Our team has many years of experience and knows exactly what to look for throughout the designing and constructing process of these homes. To learn more about how we can help make your passive solar home dreams a reality, contact us today.

Structural engineering

How to Choose the Right Engineering Firm For Your Job

The success of any construction project can be greatly impacted by the structural engineering company you hire to do the analysis upfront. Every structural engineer has their own strengths, weaknesses and experiences, so finding the right fit for your particular project is important. You may have to spend some time and effort researching the best companies, but you’ll be rewarded in the end. Here are important things to consider when choosing the right structural engineering company.

Consider Qualifications Rather Than Cost

Choosing a structural engineering firm based solely on cost is one of the worst things to do. Instead, your decision should be based on their qualifications as it relates to your specific project. For example, consider the firm’s experience with other similar jobs, how available they are, their performance history, technical skills and certifications, values, timeliness and more. Your chances of being pleased with the entire process and end result will increase when these qualifications are given higher regard than the cost.

Ensure Compliance Codes Are Prioritized

The structural engineering company you ultimately hire should adhere to all compliance codes in your area. If they do not prioritize these compliance codes, you could be on the hook for fines and potential long-term issues. Be sure to have a serious and extensive discussion with the structural engineer from the firm you’re considering and get a comprehensive answer regarding how they adhere to compliance codes.

Evaluate Their Attitude and Behavior

You have to feel comfortable with the structural engineer in more ways than one. Since you’ll be collaborating with them extensively over the course of the project, evaluating their behavior and overall attitude is important. Make sure you are on the same page from the very beginning. When you get the sense the structural engineering firm has your best interests in mind, you’ll feel more comfortable moving forward with them.

Have A Structured Agreement In Place

No matter how much you trust the structural engineer, you have to have a structured written agreement in place to save yourself from potential issues in the future. Most large structural engineering companies will have these documents ready, but it’s also advisable to have your own legal counsel evaluate the agreement.

BE Structural is a team of experienced structural engineers ready to go to work for you. We have experience in many different areas, including structural inspections, custom home design and renovations, commercial property assessments, industrial engineering services and much more. When you’re ready to begin your next project, contact us to start the process of choosing the right engineering firm for your job.

Structural glass design

The Advantages of a Modular Home

With custom underground homes becoming popular in many countries, modular homes are also getting more recognition. If you aren’t familiar with modular homes, they are constructed by assembling various prefabricated rooms that are manufactured and shipped to the location where they will be attached. While these homes must go through a transportation process, they also must adhere to the same zoning codes and building safety standards that traditional homes do. So what are the advantages of living in a modular home? Here are some of the most attractive benefits.

Better Quality Construction

Since the different modules making up the home have to be shipped, the components have to be strong enough to withstand the elements of transportation. As a result, the materials used are generally stronger than a traditional home. Most of the building components are the same as standard homes, but the construction process is generally more detailed and specific for a modular home.

Customized Design Options

If you want a structural glass design in your modular home, all you have to do is request it. You can combine multiple different features you like from other homes all into a single modular home. You also have the ability to design your own floor plan and even pick out details like what siding or windows should be used. The only limitations revolve around the space you have to place the modular home.

Energy Efficiency Considerations

Most of the time a modular home is built with energy efficient qualities. While custom underground homes have natural energy efficient properties, modular homes have to be constructed accordingly. Since each module of the home is designed and constructed separately, more detail and emphasis gets placed on sealants and other components to help reduce energy costs. And many times, a structural glass design can add to the energy efficient properties of a modular home.

Reduced Construction Costs

Any time you custom design a home, you have to expect the cost to be significantly higher than buying a standard home. However, with modular homes, you can enjoy full customization without having to pay outrageous construction costs. Since each smaller module is constructed individually, the process of building them is much more time efficient. Those time savings get passed on to you through lower construction costs.

BE Structural is a team of experts with a broad range of expertise. We have professionals with experience in bulk materials handling, structural inspecting, forensic engineering and much more. The advantages of a modular home are becoming more clear and evident every single day, so the popularity will undoubtedly rise in the coming years. To learn more about modular homes, contact us to ask any questions you may have.

Facade engineering

Are Floating Cities Our Future?

The concept of a floating city has recently become more widely known and discussed. The president of the Seasteading Institute, Joe Quirk, has a plan in place to create floating cities and free them from the constraints created by world governments. With the popularity of underground homes rising, it makes sense that now is a good time to discuss the possibilities of floating cities being our future. Of course, there are plenty of challenges to uncover, but the concept of a floating city could be happening sooner rather than later.

Where Will The First Floating City Be?

A project is in the works for the first-ever floating city to be located off the shore of French Polynesia. Work is expected to begin sometime as early as 2018 and could be habitable by 2020. This city is planned to be large enough to house up to 300 people, and facade engineering experts are working through the challenges of how to create the safest homes possible for the people who choose to live on this floating city.

Involvement of Architects and Engineers

Architects and engineers have already visited the proposed location for the first floating city several times. The things taken into consideration at this point consist of how residents will receive power and clean water, what challenges there are when constructing a safe and secure building envelope, how the floating city could potentially expand and more. Of course, there are plenty other challenges and details to cover, but the ultimate responsibility of these professionals is ensuring all residents could live as safely as they could in a home on shore.

Floating Cities Could Create Floating Countries

Just like with underground homes, this first floating city isn’t expected to be the last. Once the viability of the city begins taking shape, we could expect to see numerous floating cities in the future. The big question is how many will we see, and how quickly will we see them? Joe Quirk has the ambition of having thousands of floating cities in the next 30+ years. The goal is very ambitious, but if the floating city off of the shore of French Polynesia sets the standard, then it won’t be out of the question.

BE Structural consists of a team dedicated to working together to better serve our clients. We are experts in facade engineering, structural engineering, structural inspections, home renovations and much more. We expect to be heavily involved in the concept of floating cities now and in the future, so don’t hesitate to contact us to learn more.

Bulk handling equipment

Global Warming: Is Engineering Our Only Hope?

Global warming is a serious concern and will only become more serious as the years go by. With the greenhouse gas emissions produced by various sources only increasing, cooling down the earth will become even more difficult than it is today. In fact, at this point, experts are looking for ways to simply slow down global warming, which in fact is proving to be extremely challenging.

Engineering can and will play a large role in our efforts to prevent the potentially disastrous consequences of global warming. Whether it’s by creating more efficient and environmentally-friendly bulk handling equipment or shifting to the construction of underground homes, here are some ways engineering may be our only hope when it comes to global warming.

How Engineering Can Cool The Earth

Experts and scientists have been studying how to effectively engineer the climate to slow the warming process. One idea is to whiten the clouds in order to reflect more sunlight back into space instead of it beaming down on the earth. This may seem extreme, but it highlights the creativity and seriousness of the issue. More common ways to aid in the reduction of global warming is to be more efficient when engineering different types of structures. Different bulk handling equipment can release harmful emissions, which could be prevented if other methods of engineering were available.

Cutting Back Gas Emissions is Critical

While there are plenty of ideas surrounding how to cool the earth, the bottom line is cutting back greenhouse gas emissions should be the main focus. As technology advances, so will engineering processes. Everyone plays a role in reducing gas emissions, so we have to do our part to be conscious of the importance of energy efficiency and the impact it has on global warming.

BE Structural completely understands the current and future impact global warming will have on the earth. Our goal is to use energy efficient processes during new construction projects and renovations to ensure we are doing our part in addressing the issues surrounding global warming. To learn more about the role of engineering in global warming, or for any other information on engineering in general, feel free to contact us at any time.

Facade engineering

Adding a Level to Existing Structures in Major Metro Areas

Any time you want to add a level to an existing structure, there are many different considerations to keep in mind. First off, if you live in a major metro area, you are likely very limited in space. You may also consider building underground due to the lack of space, but this may be impossible due to poor soil or other issues.

Finding the best facade engineering consultants can help make the process as seamless as possible. While adding a level may be difficult, there are very rare times where it is impossible. There may have to be a little give and take from the homeowner, since many variables go into the addition.

Getting Scale and Proportion Right

How you add a level to your home or building depends on the existing building envelope. A facade engineering consultant will do a survey of your home to determine how much room you have to build outward and upward. Many homeowners wish to keep the design and proportions of their home intact as much as possible, which could present challenges during the addition process. Adding on usually isn’t the problem, but finding the right scale and proportion is.

Finding Room to Expand

As mentioned, the major challenge of adding a level in metro areas is lack of space. This lack of space could lead to the need to remove walls and ceilings in order to properly expand. While it may not be ideal for the homeowner, it’s sometimes the only option facade engineering consultants have.

Adding a Level Requires Give and Take

A homeowner’s vision and a facade engineering professional’s vision are sometimes completely different. A homeowner knows what they want the structure to look like, but a contractor knows what can and can’t happen. Finding a facade engineering company willing to work with you to get as close to your vision as possible will help make the building process much easier.

Discuss the overall shape of the home, the proportions and how much interior space can be added. There will still be some problems that arise along the way, but as long as both parties are on the same page, there shouldn’t be any issues that can’t be overcome.

At BE Structural, our professionals are willing to take the time to work with every homeowner to make their home additions as desirable as possible. We will be straightforward and honest with you throughout the entire process and will strive to meet your vision closely. If you’re thinking about adding a level to your home, contact us to see how we can help make the process seamless.

Concrete underground homes

Underground Home Structural Components

Underground homes are anything but traditional, but they do still have similar considerations when it comes to the overall structural components. What makes these homes unique is they can be designed in many different ways, depending on the landscape, climate and other factors.

When it comes to the actual structural components, the type of soil needed, the construction materials used and the overall design are all taken into consideration. Here are some of the structural components used in underground home plans.

Type of Soil

As with traditional homes, the type of soil you build on (or in) plays a large role in how you can construct an underground home. And to take it a step further, some walls or other structural components are made from a mixture of clay, sand and straw to form building blocks. While this isn’t recommended for most structures, it is an option available and is used in many cultures.

Concrete Instead of Wood

Due to the nature of underground homes, walls have to be constructed with concrete instead of wood. Concrete underground homes have to be completely waterproof and strong enough to withstand a large amount of earth sitting on top of it, so concrete is the only realistic option for the overall structure.

Underground Home Rooftops

From an aesthetic perspective, the rooftops of underground homes have some of the most unique and distinct characteristics. Most rooftops consist of greenery with live plants and grass growing on them. However, the structural engineering company must ensure the support beams used are sufficient enough to handle the amount of weight on such rooftops.

Thorough Planning is Involved in All Components

From the excavation process all the way to putting the finishing touches, underground home plans must be extremely thorough. Using concrete is an obvious structural component, but the support beams and other materials used to ensure durability and strength have to be taken into consideration. The angles of the home to allow for water runoff and other waterproofing characteristics are essential in order to have sustainable underground homes.

While it may seem like a difficult task to build underground homes, it’s not when you use an experienced structural engineering company, like BE Structural. We know the ins-and-outs of building underground homes, so you won’t have to worry about the structural components used. Feel free to contact us today to learn more about underground homes, the structural components needed and how we can build the underground home you desire.

Custom underground homes

Factors to Consider When Planning an Underground Home

If you’ve done any amount of research on underground homes, you’ve likely seen the multitude of benefits they offer. From the privacy considerations to the natural energy-saving characteristics, an underground home provides a variety of advantages for residents. However, in order to successfully build an underground home, there are many factors to consider. Many of the factors are similar to the ones used when planning traditional homes, but some may be considerations you wouldn’t think of otherwise.

Climate

Most custom underground homes are built in areas where there is extreme climate. Areas with extreme cold or warm temperatures are more suitable for underground homes, since the earth helps to absorb the temperature and keep the home more energy-efficient. Since the temperature of the earth varies much less than the temperature of the air, an underground home can provide more stability and comfort year-round.

Soil

Grainy soil like sand and gravel is best for building an earth-sheltered home. You need a soil that compacts very well due to the weight of the construction materials and the water draining benefits. Structural engineers can conduct a soil test prior to your planning to ensure the land is suitable for construction.

Natural Water Drainage

All underground home plans have to have some sort of natural water drainage incorporated. Of course, you can build a manmade water drainage system, but it’s much more effective to have a natural flow of water in case of a disaster. Extreme water pressure against the walls of an underground home can create significant problems, so this is one of the main considerations when planning underground home construction.

Construction Materials

Most underground homes are built with concrete, since it is one of the strongest and most durable building material there is. Steel is often used in conjunction with concrete to add more stability to the home. Wood can still be used for interior designs and minor structural considerations, but it is not advised to use as primary construction materials for safety and durability reasons.

The structural engineers at BE Structural know what to consider when planning underground homes. Whether it’s the climate, topography or any other environmental issues, we will ensure your underground home can be built safely before any plans are discussed. To get your evaluation for an underground home in your area, feel free to reach out to us at any time.

Underground home plans

Three Underground Home Styles

Not all concrete underground homes are the same. In fact, unless these homes are built side-by-side, there’s a chance the design will be vastly different. The style of underground home you can build depends largely on the soil and geography in which it’s being built, even more so than traditional homes.

There are three main styles of underground homes you can build, depending on the landscape you’re working with. A qualified structural engineer should be able to easily give you the best option for your particular area, but here are the three main styles described in detail for you.

Elevational Homes

Elevational homes use the hilly and sloped landscape around you for its construction. The home is essentially built into a hill, so there is one side of the home exposed outward, while the other three sides are contained. The result is a home with natural insulation and many aesthetic options. You could add on multiple levels to your home, depending on the size of the hill, and the main entrypoint may be from the top of the home if you choose.

Berm Homes

Another style for concrete underground homes is berm homes. These are mostly found on flatter land, but uses the earth surrounding it to create hills to cover it up. Berm homes give you more options than other underground home styles, since you have the choice of how many sides you want covered up. You can have anywhere from one to three sides completely enclosed by the earth, depending on what you want and the natural resources available on the flatland.

Atrium Homes

From a design perspective, atrium homes offer the most unique underground home plans. The homes are generally built in a U-shape and are usually submerged in the ground partially. These partially-submerged homes create easy access points to multiple areas of the home. Atrium homes aren’t the most popular underground home style, but they do offer plenty of advantages and options to create the ultimate customized underground home.

BE Structural’s team of structural engineers can help guide you through all of the styles of concrete underground homes available for your location. You may be able to determine the style you can incorporate based on a view of the landscape, but our engineers can help you visualize exactly what your underground home can look like. Feel free to contact us any time for an evaluation or to learn more about underground home plans.

structural engineering companies

Adding Subsurface Levels to Existing Structures

A common issue many homeowners have is they eventually run out of space. When this happens, their options include adding on to their home or moving to a larger one. But with limited space in urban areas, you may not have enough space to build out, so building down is your only option.

With underground homes becoming more popular worldwide, people are becoming more open to transforming their basement into a habitable living space. Of course, basements aren’t designed to live in, so some significant work has to be done in order to make them livable and safe.

Important Considerations of Adding Subsurface Levels

When structural engineering consultants do any work to basements, they have to take several things into consideration:

  • Structural Support – your home has to have the proper structural support down through the basement area in order to add subsurface levels. If an existing basement floor is lower than the underside of foundation walls, then the structure will not settle properly and could lead to collapsing.
  • Benching – this is the concrete bench built on top of a stable excavations slope. It’s an important process for structural engineering consultants, so be sure to learn about the process so you know your contractor is well-versed and qualified.
  • Underpinning – this is a necessary task if your basement floor is lower than the underside of your foundation wall. You have to excavate below the existing wall and add concrete to essentially extend the foundation downward.

The Role of Facade Engineering Companies

All structural engineering companies have to do a thorough analysis of your existing structure prior to doing any work. Inspections must be thorough in order to ensure safety and security of the structure prior to, during and after the building process. Always ask for the qualifications of any structural engineering companies you work with so you can feel comfortable with the service provided.

Challenges With Adding Subsurface Levels

Any time you add a subsurface level to an existing structure, you are going to run into some challenges. Some of those challenges include a shallow sewer drain, being too close to another structure and problems with the soil during the excavation process. Some of these issues can be found during the inspection phase, but others may only become known during the building process.
At BE Structural, our engineers are well-versed with adding subsurface levels to existing structures. We ensure thorough inspections are completed so there are minimal surprises during the entire building process. If you’re in the need for some extra space and want to build downward instead of upward, give us a call to see how we can help.

Custom underground homes

The Myths Surrounding Underground Homes

While underground homes are becoming more popular, there are still plenty of misconceptions about them. As with anything, the myths surrounding these earth-sheltered homes come from people not being aware of how they are designed and constructed. It’s easy to believe the most common myths, but structural engineers and architects can quickly debunk them. Here are some of the myths you’re likely to hear about custom underground homes and why they aren’t true.

Myth #1: Underground Homes Are Dark

People believe underground homes are dark because there’s no natural light source. However, most underground home plans are constructed with windows strategically placed to allow in natural light and either have domed ceilings or skylights. Domed ceilings are popular since they are co-linear, and light actually gets magnified on them rather than bouncing off like traditional ceilings.

Myth #2: Bugs Are Bad in Underground Homes

Many insects find their homes in the ground, so it’s natural to think there will be more bugs in an underground home. But the reality is bugs are generally less of a problem due to the homes being constructed mostly with concrete rather than wood. Bugs like termites aren’t usually a problem in underground homes for this reason. Other insects won’t cause more of a problem than they already do with traditional homes.

Myth #3: Underground Homes Are Damp and Cold

Possibly the most common myth about custom underground homes is they seem cold and damp, somewhat like a cave, but in fact the opposite is true. Underground homes actually retain the earth’s natural heat. There have been enough earth-sheltered homes built where structural engineers and architects know how to create the proper ventilation, drainage and waterproofing to ensure these points aren’t an issue. Most of the time this is achieved by incorporating a domed ceiling, but there are other ways to prevent cold and damp homes depending on the landscape in which the home is built.

BE Structural has a team of structural engineers to help debunk any possible myths about underground homes. While these homes have plenty of value, it’s understandable why some people are skeptical about the functionality of them. For more information on underground home plans in general, and to dispel any of the myths you’ve heard about them, be sure to email us at any time.

Underground homes

Underground Communities: Are They in the Near or Distant Future?

As the world population continues to increase, cities are more crowded than ever before. Some cities and countries are more populated than others, but it still begs the question: why can’t underground communities become the norm to create more space?

Underground homes aren’t the norm worldwide, but we are seeing more of them come up in different countries. There are many benefits to building concrete underground homes, so having complete underground communities could legitimately be a trend in the future. Underground homes and communities will likely be in our future, but the main question is how quickly will they become the norm?

Urban Crowds May Expedite Underground Living

Crowded cities are becoming a problem, especially in countries like Singapore. People have nowhere to go, traffic is terrible and they are simply running out of space to live. As the population continues to grow in the United States as well, it wouldn’t be surprising if underground homes start to become a trend in the near future. And when that happens, complete underground communities won’t be very far behind.

Once a trend starts to take off, everyone wants to follow suit, which could bode well for the future of underground communities. We won’t be seeing them a year or two from now, but with the expected population growth in the next decade being enormous, all options will be on the table.

For Some Countries, The Future of Underground Communities is Now

Singapore, China and other countries are extremely crowded because there’s not enough land to house everyone. The role of a structural engineering company is to evaluate the land and provide different options for people to live in these countries. The success of underground homes will lead to full underground communities at some point. In developing countries, this future may be closer than expected. But in developed countries, we still may be looking at several years or decades down the road before underground communities become the norm.

Underground Communities May Become Inevitable

The concept of living in concrete underground homes seems futuristic to many people. Cities are going to become more crowded every year, so what seems like a trend right now may become a necessity. Underground communities offer many benefits to the homeowners and also to the general public in an area. It will open up more urban living spaces and give homeowners a safe and secure place to live outside of the city.

BE Structural is a structural engineering company that looks at all different options when it comes to building homes and communities. While concrete underground homes may not be the norm worldwide right now, our engineers believe complete underground communities will become the norm before you know it. If you have any questions about underground homes in general, or if you are considering one for yourself, feel free to contact us at any time.

Custom underground homes

These Underground Homes Will Blow Your Mind!

Underground homes are still a new, and sometimes unheard of, concept in the United States. However, custom underground homes are becoming more popular by the day worldwide. If you’re going to invest in an underground home, you should think about all possible characteristics you would want in a home, and see if a residential structural engineer approves them from a safety standpoint. And if you don’t know what to even consider, check out these custom underground homes for inspiration.

The Hidden Lair in Switzerland

This beautiful underground home is strategically placed in the natural landscape of the rolling hills of Switzerland. It’s one of the most unique underground home plans you’ll see anywhere, and it looks like a home you would see in a fictional movie rather than in real life. You can literally walk over a hill and stumble upon this home in all of its natural glory.

Flower-Shaped Home in Bolton, U.K.

Former British football star Gary Neville had this home designed in one of the most unique ways you’ll ever see. From an aerial view, the home looks like a flower, with the petals being separate openings to let in natural light. Each petal also has different aspects and features, so the entire home has something different to look at in all areas.

Stone Home in Greece

Underground home plans in the middle of the desert may not seem like the best idea, but this one incorporates all of the best elements perfectly. It’s located between two hillsides and is constructed of thick and durable stone. The eco-friendly design allows it to use natural light, heating and cooling with the most efficiency. If you just happen to be passing through the desert and see this structure, you probably won’t even realize someone lives in it!

Grassy Roof Home in Poland

The great thing about custom underground homes is you can get as creative as you want. This home has a grass-filled roof that is only accessible for the resident via a staircase from inside the home. The roof is actually level with the ground, so from a distance, you won’t even realize there’s a home there.

When you’re considering a custom underground home, don’t be afraid to put your residential structural engineer to the test. BE Structural has the best structural engineers to ensure the safety of your underground home, no matter how creative you are with your designs. Be sure to contact us if you have a design idea for an underground home or if you want to learn more about them in general.

Underground homes

What Are the Best Benefits to Underground Homes?

If you’re considering having an underground home built, you aren’t alone. More people are realizing the benefits of custom underground homes today more than ever before. And while underground homes make up only a tiny percentage of the homes built worldwide, the number is steadily increasing.

Aside from the unique aspect of living underground, these homes have plenty of other tangible benefits as well. Whether it’s saving money on energy bills or having natural privacy, here are some of the best benefits to underground homes.

Energy Conservation

The main reason why many people choose custom underground homes is because of the energy-saving benefits. Since the home is not affected by outdoor air temperatures as much, you won’t have to run your HVAC unit nearly as much as a regular home. The interior temperatures will be much more stable and will feel more comfortable overall year round.

Extreme Weather Protection

You won’t have to worry about boarding up windows during a hurricane, dealing with the aftermath of a serious hailstorm or searching for protection in the event of a tornado. Underground homes provide a natural layer of protection against those elements, which is the ground. And a related benefit to the natural weather protection is lower insurance premiums. Since underground homes aren’t as vulnerable to weather damage, you could save a significant amount of money on homeowners insurance.

Very Little Maintenance

Protection from the wind, sun and other elements means you won’t have to clean or maintain your home as often. Underground homes don’t accumulate as much dust as conventional homes. They also won’t get beat down from the sun and require repainting or other maintenance issues. While there are still other things, like water and sewer, that need maintaining, they are on a much lesser scale with underground homes.

Privacy Considerations

With custom underground homes, you can enjoy complete privacy without even having a fence around your home. The natural landscape around you will provide enough privacy for most people. When people drive or walk in the area, they will only be able to see the top of your home, in most cases.

The first thing you need to consider when you’re thinking about building an underground home is finding the best residential structural engineer. At BE Structural, we have structural engineers with experience in custom underground homes to ensure your safety and satisfaction. To learn more about the benefits of custom underground homes, or for answers to your specific questions, feel free to contact us any time.

Custom underground homes

All About Reinforced Concrete Underground Homes: The Pros and Cons

Living in an underground home is tempting for many people. While they do offer many benefits, there are also just as many things to take into consideration before you make the investment. All underground home plans have to be different, depending on the climate, soil and other environmental factors. However, with the right structural engineers and architects, you can enjoy living in your custom underground home for years to come.

Advantages of Underground Homes

  • Conservation of Energy – One of the main reasons why people build concrete underground homes is because of the tremendous savings on energy bills. Heating and cooling costs are greatly reduced because the home is not exposed to the weather elements as directly.
  • Protection Against Extreme Weather – Since custom underground homes are protected by the earth naturally, extreme weather patterns don’t affect them much. This means insuring them is usually cheaper and they are safer to live in overall.
  • Privacy – When people can’t see your home from the ground level, you have as much privacy as you could ever want or need. Having a private and quiet outdoor space is one of the best benefits people enjoy with custom underground homes.

Disadvantages of Underground Homes

  • Condensation Issues – Humidity levels are generally higher in underground homes. This could cause condensation issues within the walls and other areas of the home. You’ll need to consider incorporating more insulation to prevent condensation from intruding and eventually leading to mold and mildew issues.
  • Waterproofing Challenges – Since water flows downward, having a completely waterproofed underground home can be a challenge. A structural engineer will have to strategically place drainage areas in and around your home to avoid potential water damage.
  • Ventilation Concerns – Many underground home plans include a ventilator to exchange outdoor air with indoor fresh air. Having good indoor air quality is a concern for underground homes, since the home generally does not get the best air flow below the surface.

At BE Structural, we want to make sure you understand all the challenges and benefits of building concrete underground homes. These can be great structures to live in, but you need the expertise of a structural engineer to determine the proper location and building materials to use. Be sure to contact us if you’re considering living in an underground home so we can analyze the area to maximize the benefits and limit the disadvantages.