Tag: residential engineering services

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 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 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.

Structural forensic engineer

How Structures Survive Hurricanes

Hurricanes are some of the most powerful and destructive weather events anyone can experience. The sheer power and force of hurricanes can create devastating damage to structures if they aren’t built with the highest quality materials and precision.

The role of a structural forensic engineer is to analyze damage to structures caused by a hurricane. With this analysis, they can get a better picture of how buildings need to be constructed to protect them from these major events in the future. It’s not impossible for a structure to survive a hurricane with minimal damage, but there are key factors that must be present if there is any chance.

Building Exteriors Are The First Lines of Defense

Without a solid building exterior, a hurricane will rip right through a building. When a forensic investigation occurs following a hurricane, most engineers find that the building was constructed using poor design or materials. Since the building exterior is the first line of defense, proper materials like concrete and masonry, stucco and strong metal cladding are necessary to protect a building. If a building exterior fails, the chances of a structure surviving are minimal.

What Happens If A Building Exterior Fails


A building’s exterior, or sometimes called building envelope, not only has to be constructed with precision and detail, but it also has to be resistant to flying debris during a hurricane. Many forensic engineering studies indicate when a building façade is compromised, the pressure from the winds and rain from a hurricane will rip through and then destroy the interior of the building. Once this occurs, some minor damage can turn into a total loss quickly.

Framing and Foundation

Without a solid foundation and proper frame construction, many homes don’t stand a chance in hurricanes. A lot of emphasis gets put on a building’s exterior, and for good reason, but the foundation and framing also play a large role in whether structures survive a hurricane or not. Many forensic investigations begin with an analysis of the structure’s foundation after a hurricane. If there is damage to the foundation or frame, chances are there will be other significant damage to analyze on the building as well.

Minor Missed Details Lead To Major Disasters

When a structural forensic engineer analyzes hurricane damage, the reasons why a building survived is always clear. Even the minor details like the fasteners used to secure doors, metal or any other material are critical for increasing the chances of a structure surviving the force of a hurricane. These details may seem like they have minimal importance during the construction of a building, but a forensic investigation following hurricane damage will clearly expose the flaws and strengths.

At BE Structural our forensic structural engineers have analyzed hundreds of damaged structures as a result of a hurricane making landfall. We know exactly why a structure survived, and why some structures are destroyed completely. Be sure to contact us to learn more about how buildings can survive hurricanes, especially if you live in a hurricane zone.

 

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

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.

Underground homes

All About Reinforced Concrete Underground Homes: What Are They?

You may have heard about custom reinforced concrete underground homes recently, but don’t know exactly what they are. The reality is they are exactly what they sound like. It is a home built slightly below the surface or completely underground. All underground home plans are different, but most of them are built for similar reasons. They have many energy-saving benefits, along with the most privacy you could ever imagine from a home. Underground homes have been around for a while, but they have just recently hit a spike in popularity.

Homes Built Below The Surface

With many underground home plans, you can’t even see the atrium design from the ground level. This creates more privacy for homeowners and also protects them from the harsh elements experienced in some climates. When people decide to build underground homes, they aren’t doing so because they want to be hidden from the rest of the world, in most cases. There are many logical reasons why underground homes are built.

Reasons Why Underground Homes Exist

When you think about it, the ground below the surface of the earth is much cooler than on the surface itself. So when a home is built underground, it will naturally stay cooler in the harsh summer heat. They also offer a natural protection of the home since wind, hail, rain and other natural phenomenons won’t have an impact on the structure. Reinforced concrete homes aren’t suitable for all climates and geographic locations, but they do offer plenty of benefits in the right areas.

Structural Considerations for Underground Homes

The challenge structural engineers have with custom reinforced concrete underground homes is the materials needed to complete the project. Each home will need different materials, depending on the site of the structure and the type of design the homeowner wants. Humidity levels, waterproofing systems, insulation and adequate ventilation are all highlighted as being important aspects a structural engineer must take into consideration. Underground homes present more of a challenge for these aspects, but it is possible to solve all of the issues.

BE Structural knows the ins-and-outs of underground homes. While these homes present unique challenges for each home, our experienced engineers understand exactly how to keep the structure safe for living. Be sure to contact us if you’re considering an underground home to live in.