Is the service of a Chartered Civil (Structural) Engineer essential to design and build a house?

Most of the time, Sri Lankans tend to pay more attention to the exterior and interior beauty of a house and spend money on it without hesitation. And some people pay more attention to the auspicious times for house constructions and traditions bonded with astrology related to house construction.  But unfortunately, very few people think about constructing a house by hiring a chartered structural engineer to ensure the safety of the family members and the neighbors from accidents such as collapsing of a building. Also very few spend money on ensuring safety factors of a house without hesitation. We have seen people who spend around 100 lacks to build houses, but very few people spend at least one percent of that money on the previously mentioned factor.

The person who hesitates to take the service of a chartered engineer to construct a house is more selfish and ignorant than a person who avoids seeing a doctor for the fact that he or she has to spent money on medicine it even though he or she is critically ill and putting their life in danger. This is because that person is not just putting their life at risk, but others lives as well. Generally, Sri Lankans take advices related to engineering construction from contractors or masons. But in reality, these are the ones who execute the designs and protocols given by the engineers. Even though they are competent to a certain level, they lack the theoretical and practical knowledge on the subject.

The contractors and masons, for the purpose of impressing their customers or for the purpose of gaining unfair profits, often says that the service of an engineer is not necessary. They point out that its’ a very expensive and unnecessary investment. But that is far from the truth. Acquiring the service of an engineer ensures the quality standards and safety of the house, not just for you, but also for your neighbors as well. If you ever thought that you built a low-cost house, it definitely will not be a safe one. We have also seen some people who deceive the society by pretending to be a chartered structural engineer. Therefore, it is important for the society to understand the role of a chartered structural engineers, their services and how to identify them. 

A chartered structural engineer is a person who holds a degree from a university recognized by the Institution of Engineers, Sri Lanka, who has obtained the membership (charter) from the Institution of Engineers after gaining 4 years of experience from recognized companies in the field. If you are going to acquire the service of a chartered engineer, make sure that person is genuine. In order to confirm that, you can check for their membership number or the certificate issued by the Institution of Engineers, Sri Lanka or by Engineering Council of Sri Lanka. You can also confirm this by logging in to the websites of the former mentioned institutes. ( or If not, this person is not qualified to sign and stamp the building application, or the construction plans presented to the municipal council, urban council or the Pradeshiya Sabha for approval. You should also be careful enough to not fall in to stamping scams as well.  

The main role of a chartered structural engineer is to construct the house in a way that it tolerates the external and internal loads applied on it. He follows international standards and calculations based upon scientific theories related to engineering to design the house or the building and you receive that outcome as structural drawings of the project.

If you are planning to buy a land to construct a house, it is better to consult and take advices from a chartered structural engineer from the beginning. This way, the engineer will guide you through the facts to consider when building the house within the land. He will also explain about the measures to be taken to prevent the damages to the surrounding buildings and also about the tests to be carried out to check the status of the soil. The structural engineer will draw the necessary structural drawings once you complete the architectural drawings of the house. You might not know about the content in these drawings. These drawings include the thickness of the concrete slabs needed for the house, the way of fixing reinforcements and the sizes of concrete beams and concrete columns which are created to tolerate the tension of concrete beams and the location of them. Most importantly this will show the sizes of the concrete footing/bases and the technique of applying reinforcement in them. Engineer will also provide details on soil testing at the place of house construction.

Not only that, the chartered structural engineer will advice you on the aggregate, sand, and cement ratio of concrete. He will also explain about the quality standards of the cement, aggregates, sand, and reinforcements to be used in construction. During the construction period, the structural engineer will observe the process and guide the contractors to build a house with the expected standards. He will also design the foundation of the house without damaging the house or buildings nearby.

If you are also planning on constructing a house, ensure the safety of your loved ones and your neighbors by acquiring a chartered structural engineer’s service. If a construction is going next to your house or building, make sure to find out if they are receiving the service from a chartered structural engineer because it has an effect on your safety as well. But if you have already constructed your house without such service, at least hire a chartered structural engineer now and inspect the safety level of your house. Because this will reduce the life risk on you and your neighbors. If it is hard for you to find a chartered engineer, enter the and select a chartered structural engineer of your choice.

Translated by Prabuddhika Ramawickrama

Eng.Mangala Silva
Professional in charge – Civil Engineering

Eng.Mangala Silva
BSc.Eng(Hons), MEng (St. Eng.Designs), C.Eng.,FIE(SL),MSSE(SL),IntPE(Sri Lanka), GREENSL® AP

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  1. Kamala Gunawardena
    Kamala Gunawardena

    Outstanding performance and a very good service to the construction industry! Well done!!

  2. This article is useful for general public to understand about the role of a structural engineer in the area of building construction.

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