The structural components are designed so that the building can resist existing and imposed any and all forces placed upon it. This includes resisting wind and earthquake forces as well as supporting dead and live loads such as material, equipment, occupants and snow. The main structural components are all interconnected and are usually categorized as the substructure or superstructure. Very broadly speaking the substructure consists of all elements below the lowest floor level such as foundations, basement retailing walls, excavations and damp proofing. The superstructure is anything above including the main structure (beams, columns and girders), upper floors, roofs, stairs and external walls.
Structural engineering techniques have become innovative and creative over time. The majority of buildings used to be limited to low level wood and masonry structures up until around just over a century ago. The development of wood, steel and concrete structural engineering techniques allow modern day structures to be stronger, bigger and built faster than ever before. Modern day design and construction methods are often complex and confusing to non-experts. The failure of a structure can threaten the life safety of the buildings’ occupants and devalue the building significantly. Building owners are often hit with unforeseen maintenance costs and/or mandatory code requirements such as additional wind bracing or seismic retrofits and façade inspections.
It is important that a building owner has undertaken the necessary due diligence to ensure that a building is structurally secure and well designed. They should employ qualified consultants to identify if any repairs, maintenance activities and/or retrofits are required during the purchase or ownership of a building.