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Structural engineering is a specialized branch of civil engineering that entails analyzing and designing structures, like buildings, bridges and even concert stages.

Engineering is a big discipline that involves a systematic approach to designing solutions to problems experienced in the real world. There are many different fields of engineering, like mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, civil engineering, chemical engineering and systems engineering. Within these fields are various subfields; structural engineering is a subfield of civil engineering.

Structural engineers use mathematics and physics to make sure that a given structure won’t collapse or fall over. When ensuring a structure’s sturdiness, structural engineers perform calculations and look at several factors, such as

  • The forces a structure is likely to encounter
  • The properties of the materials that make up a structure
  • The shapes that make up a structure

For example, a bridge not only has to support itself; it also has to handle a variety of forces, such as downward forces caused by the traffic driving over it, and forces caused by wind, snow or an earthquake.

Structural engineers take properties like strength, weight, flammability and stiffness of materials into consideration. For example, steel is typically heavier and stronger than wood.


Additionally, different shapes lend themselves to different purposes. For instance, square bases can typically hold more weight than triangular bases.

Structural engineers perform calculations to determine the best materials and shapes to use in order to build a sturdy structure. Thank you structural engineers, for doing your part in making sure our structures and nice and sturdy.

This video is a companion video to Engineering Is Converting Buses to Showers for the Homeless. Lava Mae, a non-profit organization in San Francisco, takes old public transportation buses and converts them into showers for the homeless. The conversion involves many different kinds of engineering including mechanical, electrical and structural engineering.

Want more engineering resources? Check out our Engineering Is playlist on YouTube and our Career Spotlight videos featuring a variety of engineers.

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