Curtain Wall structural engineering, often referred to as “providing calcs” or “doing calculations” is far more. I started as a structural engineer in the cladding and curtain wall field in 1984 and I’ve been involved ever since, focusing on facades in total, expanding from structural engineering outward to all aspects of exterior wall systems.
Providing curtain wall structural engineering “calculations” vs. providing value-based structural and systems engineering are related, but are two different things. Properly performed, value-based structural engineering of curtain wall systems involves optimizing metal, assessing viability and ease of installation, looking for benefits in system performance that can save installer’s and fabricator’s time and money, minimize risk and more. “Good” structural engineering involves more than cranking out a set of calculations from a set of shop drawings. The work should be collaborative (there I go again with the collaboration theme) and if properly done, can save many times more than the cost of the fee. I can name many examples where clients saved tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars in material, in shop and field labor, in shipping, project management time, and more. I also want to point out that minimizing risk and providing thorough, vetted, experienced, due diligence structural engineering pays dividends down the road, which lowers insurance costs, improves performance, and makes a subcontractor’s or fabricator’s work and business more desirable and profitable.
I’ve got buckets and chapters and truckloads more of observations, experiences, insights and technical inputs to write about in subsequent discussions and blogs on this topic. Remember, never did such a “small” line item in a bid, have such a broad impact as design and engineering. It is the point through which all other work flows and takes place. “Good engineering” can make a job better. “Bad engineering” can break the job beyond the point of repair.
For now, choose your engineering firm wisely, and be collaborative.