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Re: Single Family Home design + Construction

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High-end residential construction can be highly complex.  Floor plans do not
stack, offering neither bearing partition over bearing partition,
full-height shear walls, nor even opportunities to stack posts continuous to
the foundation.  The rare architect is sensitive to structural matters and
works those kinds of things into their plans from the beginning.  Other
architects decide what needs to be done, with no concern for the structural
problems that need to be solved, and then are inflexible to the structural
engineer's proposals for simplification.  Real care is required on the part
of the structural engineer to assure that complete load paths with adequate
rigidity for both gravity and lateral loads are provided and then maintained
during the design phase, as the architectural plans are modified to

Continued structural engineering vigilance is required during construction
as framers who are "really good" [ = fast] at what they do come build
structural details that they "have never seen before", and know "betters
ways" of solving structural problems that they do not understand.

Adequate structural engineering fees for these kinds of projects are need to
be high but are misunderstood by the architect and client.  For some
clients, structural engineering seems to unnecessarily add costs to the
project, both in the design phase [fees] and the construction phase
[properly thought-out, but apparently "too-complex to build" details, as
well as structural construction observation fees].

To some, residential construction is by definition "conventional light-frame
construction" and does not require structural engineering.  If structural
engineering is not included in the project, or if the structural fees are
minimized, and if knowledgeable structural planchecking is not provided, the
kinds of unsatisfactory structural conditions you described are almost
certain to be incorporated into complicated houses.

Nels Roselund
Structural Engineer
South San Gabriel, CA

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