Your Property Development Team – Engineers

What does an engineer do and where do they fit in the property development team?

In this series of articles I’m going to discuss the role of the various consultants that make up the development team and it’s likely that a number of different engineers may be employed on your development project.

These include:

Geotechnical or Soil engineers

These consultants will be required to do a soil test to establish the conditions necessary for a structural engineer to design the footings or foundations for your building.

You’ll also require a…

Structural engineer

Their work is above the ground and their role is to develop a structural design that is functional and cost-effective to build.

They will work together with the architect to provide a set of engineering drawings.

Think about it this way….

The structure of a building is like the skeleton odevelopment construction engineer build property work housef your body.

Without it a building could not remain standing; just like without a skeleton we would fall in a heap.

Just imagine a multi-storey apartment building and all the forces that come into play.

The most obvious one is the weight of the concrete and steel.

What about the weight of all the furniture, windows, cars in the car park and owner’s personal possessions?

All of this weight has a vertical impact and must be calculated by the structural engineer, so that the foundations of the building are of sufficient strength and are founded on some solid sub-strata natural material, like rock.

Imagine you are building on a seaside block of land.

How does the structural engineer handle this weight if there is no rock, but just sand for say 20 meters under the building?

Can you see how things can get complicated?

Apart from the weight factor, what about the wind?

If you are living in a multi-storey apartment building and it was hit by a strong wind, you really wouldn’t like to feel the building move, not even a tiny bit, would you?

These are just some of the forces the Structural Engineer must allow for in their design.

While you may not be intending to build high rise buildings, it is easier to understand the forces at play on a big building and then relate them to a smaller structure that you may be involved with.

Your two storey townhouse may experience all of the same forces, which must be allowed for in the design of the structure.

In some parts of the country extra precautions must be taken because of susceptibility to floods, earthquakes or cyclones.

Of course as a developer, you will not personally be involved in any of these calculations, but you should understand why you require the services of a professional Structural Engineer.

In a typical residential development project the engineer will make the necessary calculations to design all reinforced concrete and structural steel work and the footings.

They will usually start from the top floor and works downwards to ensure the foundations will be able to carry the final load.

His drawings will show the sizes of all slabs together with details of all reinforced steel and structural components.

He will decide whether you build your project on a concrete slab or on strip footings.

He will also decide whether you need steel beams to support the upper level or whether cheaper timber beams will suffice.

They can also advise whether the architect’s design will be too expensive to build and may come up with ideas as how to save costs during the construction process.

You may also need to engage a…

Civil engineer

Civil engineering is concerned with the design of roads and bridges.

For your residential development you probably won’t need to engage a separate civil engineer, but your structural engineer can design your civil works – the earthworks, street improvements, storm water, drainage systems, sewage and water supply to your property.

The increase of medium density developments has meant that many council’s drainage systems cannot cope with the extra flow of water from the extra dwellings.

It is therefore important for the civil engineers to design systems that will cope with heavy periods of rain and retain the water on site and slowly allow them to seep through into the council’s assets.

Both Structural and Civil engineers belong to the same Professional Association, the Institution of Engineers Australia, trading as ENGINEERS AUSTRALIA.

Then there are the…

Hydraulic & Fire Engineers

plan buildingYou won’t require the services of hydraulic engineers for simple single or 2 storey development, but if you are going to develop a high rise apartment or commercial building, somebody is going to have to plan where the pipes, water, gas and waste go.

You may also need a fire engineer to design fire hydrant and hose reel systems as well as fire sprinkler services and alarm systems.

As you can see, you may need a number of different engineering consultants as part of your development team.

As they work closely with your architect, in general they will be engaged directly by the architect, so while you should understand their role, you won’t be required to give any input into their brief.

You may also wish to read: 

Want more of this type of information?

Bryce Yardney


Bryce is a property development specialist, having successfully completed many development projects for Metropole's clients. Initially working as a Project Manager at Metropole since completing his Bachelor of Project Management in 2011, Bryce now acts as a buyers agent for clients, sourcing and evaluating properties with development potential.Visit

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