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Re: Structural System Determination

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Tom Botkin Said:
> Also, I'm picking a thesis topic at Villanova and the answere to this
> question will help me out alot.  Do consultants generally specialize in
> one type of sytem when it comes to building and industrial structures
> ie. steel frame, prescast concrete, cast in place concrete floor systems
> and frames, masonry?
Interesting thesis topic.  The answer depends on two things: the firm and personal preference.
If an engineer works for a small general structural consulting firm, then there is little ability to specialize.  It's hard to specialize in any one material if each project is different and there aren't enough people to cover all the possible materials.  I work for such a firm.  My projects include wood, steel, concrete, metal stud and CMU buildings in every shape and size.  The down side is that you don't know as much about any one material as someone who specializes, and you have to re-learn things if similar projects are separated by several years.
If an engineer works for a firm that is specialized, then the engineer will be specialized by default.  For example, someone who works for a pre-engineered metal building designer (Butler, Gulf States, etc.), will obviously specialize in steel buildings.  The same for a pre-cast manufacturer, steel fabricator, bridge designers, etc.
Somewhere in between are the larger firms that cover large areas of expertise.  Here it can be a matter of personal choice.  If an engineer wants to specialize in and is known as a local expert in a particular material, then that engineer will be called on to work on projects featuring that material.  My wife (an electrical engineer) works for such a firm.  Her personal preference is to be proficient in all materials, mainly because her ultimate goal is to own her own small firm in the distant future.  Other people in her division specialize.
HTH, and good luck with the thesis.
Jason Kilgore
Leigh & O'Kane, L.L.C.
(816) 444-3144