Understanding buildings – why they stand up and why some fall down – can be a never-ending and fascinating study, as well as a valuable professional skill.

But if you're called upon to undertake a structural survey or inspection, how exactly should you go about approaching the task? How do you analyse the assortment of information you collate?

It is essential that the client understands exactly what the engineer is to provide. For example, a 'structural survey' as sought by a house-buyer and/ or a mortgagor is likely to embrace examination of not just the building structure (roof, walls, floors, etc), but also roof/ wall/ floor finishes (tiles, wall coverings, carpets, etc) and the building services (water supply, electrics, gas, drains, boiler, etc).

This sort of 'structural survey' is a job typically for a chartered surveyor who has the range of skills to comment on all these aspects. A structural inspection is a preferable term for what a structural or civil engineer has the competence to do.

Main contributors: Michael Bussell (Independent consultant)