An Insight into Ownership of Structures

In Part 1 of this Blog, we discussed some of the reasons why a ‘change of use’ and in particular, the role that understanding and documenting modifications and maintenance issues plays in protecting your structures.

Condition of Existing Assets

A change of use can only be feasible with a solid understanding of the current physical condition. Whilst many Owner / Operators have a regular inspection programme, it is worth pointing out that the results are only as good as the information on which it is based. For example, recording the level of corrosion of a structural brace is important, but if the brace in question was part of a modification, how do we know the results of the survey are acceptable? Well we don’t, is the simple answer - not without an engineering review.

Take a Proactive Approach!

As can be seen, there are a lot of unknowns lurking below the surface but engaging a structural engineering consultant can pay dividends to the success of your project. Whether you are an asset owner or manage assets on behalf of the owner as a matter of course, we recommend that you:

· Assess the adequacy and suitability of existing designs and modifications to all existing structures.

· Structures that are unchanged need to only comply with the original design specifications, codes and standards.

· Structures that have been modified need to comply with codes and standards applicable at the time of the modification. It is worth highlighting, that generally the whole structure will also be checked in accordance with these standards.

· Collate and file all drawings, calculations and supporting documentation for the asset.

· Establish a proactive monitoring and maintenance program.

· Include structural elements in the asset register database (alongside the equipment that is regularly inspected and maintained).

How We Can Help!

Depending on the structural asset or proposed modification in question, we can arrange for structural inspections, assessments and drawing updates to be carried out. The benefit to having this information reviewed by Structural Engineers is that we can undertake a review with knowledge of the original structure, its current condition, and the future intended use, then identify any critical elements or areas of concern and suggest ‘appropriate’ repairs or remedial actions.

‘Appropriate’ in this sense means that we strongly believe in applying the correct solution for the project. We take our obligation as Engineers seriously and aim to leave the Client with a clear and concise recommendation on any remedial work (if it is required).

Dependant on the project, we can provide:

· An independent review of your structural assets, including site visits, review of drawings, specifications, modification logs, maintenance logs etc.

· Design verification of proposed structural modifications using up to date analysis techniques to appropriate codes and standards.

· Design documentation (reports, drawings etc) to provide updated information for the asset database, ensuring accurate records are maintained.

· Recommendations for preventative maintenance and highlight areas of concern.

Get in Touch!

Do you have a project that you want to discuss? Please get in touch for a no obligation discussion.

  • Matthew Byatt

In this blog, Matt Byatt FIStructE and Vice President of the Institution of Structural Engineers, describes Subteno's experience in addressing the Climate Emergency.

[Addressing the Climate Emergency within a small engineering practice - The Institution of Structural Engineers (]

An Insight into Ownership of Structures

At Subteno Consulting Engineers, we have a cumulative experience in the civil / structural engineering field of over 75 years - with a large proportion of those predominantly involved in steel industrial structures (at both onshore and offshore locations).

During this time, it’s fair to say we’ve seen some strange looking (and honestly some outright shocking) structures in use at various Client asset locations. What I mean by this typically falls under one of the following:

· Structures being over-loaded or deflecting past acceptable levels.

· Structures being modified without proper engineering assessments – initiated from a poor or unclear understanding of its behaviour.

· Structures being improperly maintained (or having no regular maintenance schedule at all!).

There are a multitude of reasons why assets can fall into any of these categories but ultimately, I believe that lack of proper communication and documentation has a big part to play in this - let me explain.

Lack of Proper Documentation

When we’ve previously asked Clients about a particular asset, some are the first to admit that they have no up to date or accurate information available to share. Whether this means:

· There are no as-built drawings (but they do have a scanned copy of a red pen mark-up from 20 years ago),

· They have the original design report (but it has been scanned so many times that the handwritten report is now partially unreadable) or;

· They have the original project specifications (but they are for another ‘similar’ asset that was commissioned 5 years later… at a different location).

Joking aside, this is not as uncommon as you would like to think, and we are used to dealing with this being the case. In fact we normally assume that starting with ‘something’ is better than nothing.

However, as many of these assets enter their next lifecycle phase e.g. a change of use or decommissioning, we must ask ourselves - how can we be sure that these structures are still fit for purpose?

Change of Use’ and ‘Fitness for Purpose’

‘Fit for Purpose’ is one of those phrases with is often overused with little thought to its true meaning. Declaring something as ‘fit for purpose’ typically means the structure meets the minimum requirements for which it was originally designed for.

However, during the lifecycle of an asset, it is not uncommon for its intended use to change and evolve over time. Some examples could be:

· The addition, replacement or removal of equipment located within the structure.

· An extension or modification to an existing structure.

· A fundamental change of use (e.g. a factory / mill converted into luxury flats).

Often these changes are for the better, after all re-use of an asset is better than demolition and construction of a new one. But here we must ask ourselves - is the structure still ‘fit for purpose’? All too often little thought is given to the original design conditions of a structure under the assumption that any changes will not have a detrimental impact, but there are many sides to this coin rather than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

Part 2 of this blog will follow next month however, if you have a project that you want to discuss with our team please get in touch for a no obligation discussion.