Buildings are expected to carry massive loads and last decades without compromising on their structural integrity. Hence, the building construction industry is meticulous when it comes to the standards to which buildings are constructed. Since a building hosts the lives of its occupants and that structural failure can lead to the loss of large number of lives, structural engineers and architects are expected to prioritise safety above all when designing and constructing buildings. However, it is virtually impossible to be absolutely certain about anything, especially one with as many points of failure as building construction. Structural failures in buildings can occur from faults in the building elements, external factors such as weather, human error during construction as well as due to imperfections in the materials used. Therefore, most of the considerations to safety occur within reasonable margins of error. While certainty is not achievable, various mathematical and statistical models can be used to determine the probabilities of structural failure at each point and achieve a reasonable safety standard by maintaining this probability at a level where structural failure is extremely unlikely, and with multiple systems of redundancy, this can be brought to a point as close as humanely possible to absolute safety with our current construction technology.

Bearing Loads

Buildings are expected to maintain their structural integrity while under heavy load. Loads can be broadly categorised as dead and live loads. Dead loads are the loads of the structure itself and other immovable elements of it, whereas live loads are the loads imposed by the occupants of the building. Therefore, when estimating the expected loads, greater tolerance should be given to the ranges of live loads as they are prone to more change. The forces acting on structural elements can be determined by using a strain gauge. Building construction firms may need to use strain gauge services if they do not have the relevant equipment or knowledge in-house.

Materials

Building materials are a key element in the determination of the structural strength of a construction. Concrete, easily the most common building material, can be made to various grades of strength by mixing in appropriate ratios cement, sand, and aggregates. A miscalculation in the expected concrete grade can be harmful to the structural integrity of concrete members. Steel and Timber are less prone to errors such as these, but they are susceptible to weather and the environment unless treated properly.

External events

Although structural engineers do their best to anticipate the loads imposed due to external influences, it is impossible to predict every eventuality. For example, an area with no recorded earthquakes may still get one. Therefore, external events outside the control of the building construction company and the users of the building can still have a substantial impact on the structural integrity. However, it is possible to allow for these eventualities by incorporating a buffer into the expected loads and events so that damage can be minimised in the unlikely event something does occur. However, this would also result in greater cost and seldom necessary.

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