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What to look for when choosing a structural engineer

So, you’ve established that you’ll need a structural engineer to help bring your building project to fruition.


Whether it’s to supply accurate structural calculations, support your architect or builder, or gain Building Regulation approval, a structural engineer will calculate stability, strength and rigidity to make sure that structures are safe, well designed and practical. They will also make sure that the right materials are used for each project.


If you don’t have a recommendation or know someone in the trade, how should you know which engineer to approach?

Before you begin

Start by establishing the needs of your project. Does the job entail challenging or complex features? Do you need to find an engineer who specialises in a particular aspect of structural engineering – for example civil engineering, basements or metalwork?


Consider whether you would prefer to work with someone locally; this is especially important if you need an engineer to conduct a site visit. Alternatively, you can conduct communication virtually if you have architect plans and photos ready to email.  


Now it’s time to start your research, making a shortlist of engineers against your criteria.

How to choose a structural engineer

Structural engineering is a specialist and skilled professional trade. Finding someone you trust is key. Here are some considerations to bear in mind while during your search:

Chartered Engineers

Being a Chartered Engineer is arguably the most widely respected mark of competence in the structural engineering profession. Awarded by the Institution of Structural Engineers (ISE), a Chartered Engineer has made a commitment to professional practise by undertaking a rigorous exam and interview as well as completing annual CPD.

Consider finding a team comprising of Chartered Engineers and who champion striving for this gold standard.


The ISE’s ‘Find an Engineer’ tool can be very useful in locating engineers affiliated with the Institution - you can search by location, structural specialism or name.

Check credentials

Membership to credible industry bodies is another hallmark of high standards of professional practise. It’s worth finding out which organisations your shortlisted engineers are affiliated with and double check all licenses and certifications to ensure they’re genuine and up to date.

Explore case studies

A good barometer for a credible engineer is the number and type of case studies they promote on their website or marketing literature.


Do they display sufficient evidence that they’re experienced in the type of work you’re after? Are the case studies up to date? Does the firm work with an impressive client roster or take on ambitious or challenging work? You will quickly get a feel for the types of job each firm is well-versed in and see useful photos of their experience.  


It shouldn’t be the deciding factor, but price can play an important role in appointing your engineer. Contact the firms on your shortlist to understand more about pricing structure. Some engineers quote on a job-by-job basis, others charge by the hour, and some work on a monthly retainer.


Project-by-project pricing will work better for smaller, ad-hoc projects but if you have a large volume of work – for example a series of big developments or want to secure a long-term working relationship with an engineer - it might be worth exploring a monthly fee.


Also, find out exactly what you will get for your money. Are site visits included or chargeable extras? If you require just calculations make sure you aren’t paying for a comprehensive report.


If your project is complicated or challenging, you may prefer to work with an established engineer with a long track record.


Consider how long the engineering firm has been in operation and who is at the helm. Has leadership been steady and consistent for many years? Has the engineer got decades of experience specialising in your chosen field? This can be a sign of how trustworthy you can expect an engineering firm to be.

Point of contact

When your project is live you want to be sure that if you have questions or queries you can have direct access to the team that has been assigned to your job. This can be especially reassuring if you need to check details or change spec at short notice.


Find out which team members will work on your job and whether the engineers will likely take your calls directly. You want to get a sense that an open dialogue is encouraged. Obtaining direct dials or mobile numbers of your engineers can mean they are more responsive when you need to get hold of them.


A warm and friendly reception or efficient call handling manner can also indicate a firm that prides itself on good communication and takes the personal touch seriously.


You can tell a lot about the personality of a business based on the style and tone of its website. Some firms emanate a corporate or exclusive feel, others suggest a more approachable and down to earth style.


Think about the qualities which are important to you and perhaps make a point of arranging a face-to-face chemistry meeting to discuss working together. Ask to meet with the engineers who would directly work on your project - this will tell you a lot about the personal rapport you could have with those individuals and whether your communication styles and approaches align.

Working with Alcock Lees

We understand that finding a structural engineer you trust can be a vital part of working in the construction industry.


It’s not only about being qualified and experienced, but it’s about having a trusted team of experts on hand to advise, support, and understand your objectives.


With over 30 years’ experience in civil and structural engineering, Alcock Lees has established a reputation as a trusted source of expertise within the construction industry.


Its team of senior engineers work across a large and diverse portfolio of projects spanning timber frame, civil engineering, specialist metalwork, domestic beam design, extensions and loft conversions, retaining walls and barn conversions.


As members of the Institution of Structural Engineers and with Chartered Engineers within the team, clients have confidence that they are working with some of the most competent engineers in the industry.


Over the years, long-lasting, trusted relationships have been formed with clients, developers, architects and specifiers. Clients appreciate having excellent working relationships with the team who marry high professional standards with a culture of always being approachable, proactive and honest.


Alcock Lees prides itself on a ‘grow your own’ culture of nurturing talented draughtsmen and engineers, many of whom have remained with the company for a large portion of their careers.


To find out what Alcock Lees can do for you, get in touch or browse case studies and services.  


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