What is Engineering anyway?

According to Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary - 
“Engineering” is:
a:  the application of “science” and “mathematics” by which the properties of matter and the sources of energy in nature are made useful to people. b: the design and manufacture of complex products

Additionally ...
“Science“ is defined by “Webster” as:
a: knowledge, or a system of knowledge, covering general truths, or the operation of general laws, especially as obtained and tested through scientific method. 
b: such knowledge, or such a system of knowledge, concerned with the physical world and its phenomena is known as: Natural Science.

Almost everyone knows that “Math”  (or mathematics) is:  working with (or the science of) numbers and their operations or equations and includes: algebra, geometry, trigonometry and 6 quarters of Calculus?  Yuk! Who uses that anyway?  ....    Engineers do!

Le Pas Design, Ltd. simplistically defines “Structural Design” as: the calculation of loads and of material strengths, the comparison of loads to strengths and the determination of structural requirements to support the anticipated loads.

In reality - the process is far more complex, like a big “Math problem” with many, many, pages of calculations, that include: review of codes, research of materials, and documentation of the solutions.  As the solution is developed the engineer must compose it into an understandable “plan” for construction.

For Example:

  1. The building codes contain minimum standards for loading, design and construction.  Additionally, there are “referenced standards” for determining the strength of common building materials.  Proprietary products often times have “evaluation reports” that may need to be researched to implement them into the design.

  2. For insurance purposes, we (as engineers) are required to document how the design loads & material strengths are determined and how the framing members & connections transfer the loads from the roof to the foundation.  It is not uncommon to have hundreds of pages of calculations.

  3. Because Structural Engineering is a science, and because there are so many unknowns, the solution often involves iterative calculations to determine a “good” solution to the mathematically complex problem.

  4. The framing plans and details are required by Minnesota Statutes, to be drawn (or developed) by the “engineer of record”, or under the engineer’s direct supervision.  Signing the work of others not directly under our supervision is referred to as “plan stamping” and is in violation of Minnesota’s Statutes. 

  5. Therefore, every project, has a minimum number of hours that need to be spent documenting how and why the design works, and time preparing drawings and details to convey the “design intent” (or how it is to be built) to the contractor.

So basically... engineering” takes the physical laws of nature, manipulates them with some “math” and resolves the answers into “a plan” for others to use.