Don’t appoint a Civil and Structural Engineer until you have read this post!

Posted on: April 8, 2022

Building your dream house, 2022 ed.

Let’s start by setting the scene:

You have decided to build. Check.

You have decided who the architect will be for your project. Check.

You have carefully thought out, discussed, and created a preliminary budget with your spouse. Check.

You have decided, researched, and found the most amazing design concept for your house and you and the wifey or husband, are both on the same page. Check.

You have purchased the absolute perfect stand for your new dream house. Check.

You have filled in all paperwork, obtained council approval and you are all already to go ahead with the project. Check.

You have hired the best contractor for the job at hand, one that was highly recommended to you by both your best friend as well as the architect. Check and check.

So, you all rock up to the site, ready to get going, pour concrete and kick off this project with a bang.

Only, the contractor turns to you and asks you some very technical questions about your Geotech report, the reinforcement and bar bending schedule and you look at him with eyes as big as saucers, not having a clue about what he is referring to.

With shock, you turn to your spouse, and your architect, both, of who looks even more confused than you. But for very different reasons.

Your spouse, who expresses the same shock on their face is due to lack of knowledge, same as yours.

Your architect’s, however, is also due to shock, but a different kind of shock. Shock as to why you haven’t appointed a civil and structural engineer on the project. In their mind, that seems quite obvious for any project in the built environment.

You, not being aware or able to make sense of this, turn to your architect and your contractor and ask:

“Who is that and why do I need it? I am just building a house, based on your drawings? You, our contractor will build exactly what is on the designs. Not?”

Your architect then shakes their head and starts by sharing the following…

What you need to know about Civil and Structural Engineers

  • Signs a Form 2 (SANS10400) requirement, stating that they have been appointed as an approved competent person in terms of regulation A19, a pre-requisite for any construction project.
  • Once the plans are approved by the local council, only then can construction begin.
  • Before construction can begin, there need to be structural drawings for the project.
  • Depending on the project and the needs of the client, civil and structural designs and drawings are created based on the design of the architect. In a nutshell, they create the blueprint for how the project will be put together, from foundation to roof.
  • Once the preliminary drawings have been done, it is circulated to the client, the architect, and the contractor for commentary, if any changes required are made.
  • Once all parties are happy with the drawings as is, are they printed in A1 format, ready for collection.
  • A civil and structural engineer further attends site visits on a regular basis to ensure that the project is being executed in accordance with the blueprint, the drawings, and the designs of the engineer.
  • Any issues or questions that the contractor might have regarding certain aspects of the methodology of construction, the engineer assists with by providing guidance and advice.
  • An engineer also ensures that all major construction phases are done correctly and in accordance with the drawings and designs.
  • If there are any changes when building, the engineer may be requested to produce revisions for the required changes.
  • Once the building or project has been concluded, an engineer will be required to do a close-out inspection and ensure that the quality and integrity of the building comply with the regulatory requirements.

So, in essence, civil and structural engineers ensure that a building is structurally sound and complies with all safety requirements.

So how then do I choose a civil and structural engineer?

The best way to choose a civil and structural engineer is to follow these 5 guidelines:

Ask for recommendations.

Chances are your architect has worked with many engineers previously and they usually have a good idea of what their capabilities are. Always check with your architect if they have a list of engineers that they can recommend.

Always look for proper qualifications.

In South Africa, it is easy to spot a qualified engineer, from one who isn’t.

ECSA or the Engineering Council of South Africa is the regulatory body for engineers in the country.

A Professional Registered Engineer can be found on their website and has the title of Pr.Eng as a part of their credentials. What this means is that this person has gone through rigorous training and has been approved by the council to form a part of its body as a professional.

Look at prior projects and testimonials.

There is no better proof than social proof. If an engineering firm has previously done work, go and inspect it. Get the details and give the client a call and find out how it was dealing with that engineer.

Do this with 3 or more projects, or until you are satisfied, and ask as many questions as possible.

Possible questions to ask the previous client:

  • What was it like working with the engineer?
  • Were there any delays?
  • How was their communication?
  • Was it easy to work with them?
  • Were you satisfied with their services?
  • What would you rate them out of 10?
  • What did you not like working with them?
  • Would you recommend them?

Look for consistency and number of years in business

Any person can open up a consulting engineering firm. Always look at how long the firm has been in existence. How many projects they have done and the type of work they do.

If you have an engineering firm that does too broad a variety of projects, you should be hesitant about the quality of work they produce. Specializing in certain areas, like residential is what you want, when doing a residential project, for example.

If a firm is still young, you can take a chance, but always be aware that there are no guarantees.

Finally, get to know the founder or its directors.

Getting to know the owner of the company is probably your all-around best bet. It will be the quickest way to see if you want to give your project to them.

Building a relationship with the service provider is the key differentiator for some and for good reason.

It makes it easier to discuss when something is not going according to plan, if you are unhappy about something or if you want to change something.

People do business with people they like, always remember that. We think our CEO and Founder, Innocent, is quite a likable guy. Go check him out.

How do I know that my Engineer is charging me a reasonable fee?

There are guidelines published regulating the fees that the engineering industry follows. These do differ from firm to firm, as they are mere guidelines and not compulsory.

What we can say though is that they are based on a percentage of the total project cost.

However, we do believe that you end up paying for what you get, and you get what you paid for, as it is with anything in life.

Some engineers are way cheaper than others, and vice versa.

An engineer that charges you too cheap is usually too inexperienced to accurately price their services as opposed to a very experienced engineer or firm, whose fees are exorbitant, the goal is to aim for somewhere in the middle.

Our fees consider the following:

  • Our years of experience.
  • Our inner quality management system.
  • Each project is dealt with by the whole department and checked by no less than 3 of our qualified engineers.
  • Our CEO and CTO deal with very technical projects and leave nothing to chance.
  • The market and what reasonable fees are.
  • The quality of our drawings.
  • The detail of our drawings.
  • The turnaround time required from the client.
  • The total project cost.

We believe we have hit the sweet spot, by offering quality, efficient services to our clients, with a price tag that isn’t too shabby.

In conclusion

There are so many things to consider when undertaking a construction project, but that should not be a concern. If you have the right professionals in your corner your stress becomes significantly less.

Knowing your project is taken care of is not or should not be a luxury, but a necessity. Demand nothing less.

Making sure you have an architect, a contractor, and a Civil and Structural Engineer worth their salt is imperative.

And we can not stress this point enough, getting references and recommendations from previous clients is probably the best thing that you can do for your peace of mind.

If you feel like you want to get to know us better, what we do and how we do it, please pop us a mail at and we would love to have a chat and see how we can help you to build your dream home.

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