There are a lot of considerations involved when building and rigging for human loads. Rebecca Lambie gives us a brief Q&A introduction to structural engineering below.
Who are you?
My name is Rebecca Lambie and I am a senior structural engineer located in Calgary. I have recently started my own company, R. Lambie Designs Inc., which offers structural engineering and drafting services for renovation and new build projects to both individuals and contractors.
What does a structural engineer do?
As a structural engineer, I am trained to predict and calculate the stability and strength of building members, such as columns and beams, for all types of structures. For new build and renovation projects, I develop the overall structural design, determine the member sizes that are required, and integrate that design with those of the other engineering disciplines involved, for example mechanical and electrical. For existing structures, I determine the strength of the existing members and decide whether or not they are able to support the loads being placed on them. If the members are not adequate I then recommend modification for increasing their strength.
How did you get into this profession?
I started my career as a drafts person with a diploma in Architectural Technology. I quickly found that I was more interested in structural design than architecture. I changed my focus to work as a structural technologist, working with structural engineers to produce structural drawings and performing other tasks such as site inspections. After about eight years I decided that I wanted to be an engineer, so I went back to school to obtain my engineering degree. I have worked as a structural engineer since that time.
How long have you been doing this for?
I have been working in the structural field as both a technologist and engineer for 18 years. Approximately 14 years of that has been working on building structures. I have worked on many different types of buildings including those comprised of wood, masonry, concrete, and steel.
What services can you offer from an aerial perspective?
When a rigging system is installed, it is supported by a structural member, usually a beam or joist. I can review this structural member to determine if it is able to support the loads that will be placed on it during use. This will ensure that the structure is safe. If it is not strong enough, I can provide a design that will strengthen it so it can be used.
What was the worst thing that you had encountered?
I have encountered more than a few odd things over the course of my career. One that sticks out in my mind is the roof of a garage where the bottom of the main support beam had been notched out to accommodate a garage door opener. The problem was brought to the owners attention by roofers working on the garage who said that the roof was sagging so badly that they did not want to go up on it anymore. After reviewing the structure and determining that the notch rendered the beam insufficient to support the roof loads, I then designed a solution to strengthen the beam so that it was again safe.
Why is it important for people to use structural engineers?
Structural engineers ensure that the structure is safe to use and thus we help prevent accidents caused by failures such as the collapse of walls or roofs.