United Theatre

e2 engineers is proud to have been a part of this project and the renaissance of downtown Westerly, Rhode Island.

Movies, concerts, exhibits and more: The new United Theatre in Westerly is a multifaceted arts center

Patrons find their seats for the Rebirth Brass Band show at the United Theatre in Westerly on Sept. 1. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Published September 12. 2021 12:01AM 

By Kristina Dorsey   Day staff writer

[email protected] 

On a recent Wednesday night, downtown Westerly was fairly quiet as the Northeast was awaiting the arrival of the remnants of Hurricane Ida. But it wasn’t raining yet, and there was one place in town that was pulling in plenty of people: the United Theatre.

Groups of folks ambled across Canal Street and strode under the lighted marquee and into the newly reopened and extensively renovated theater. They walked into the red-walled lobby, where they were greeted by theater employees. Some patrons lingered in the lobby. Others wandered to the concession stand.

And all eventually headed into the United’s black box theater, where the Rebirth Brass Band had concert-goers moving to the boisterous, infectious music.

The United Theatre has been in the planning stages for seven years and under construction for two, with the renovation costing about $18 million. While there were some pop-up events along the way, the United Theatre in Westerly officially opened this summer, and it’s now going full bore.

Westerly residents who have come into the United Theatre have told Executive Director Lisa Utman Randall, “I can’t believe I’m in Westerly” because they were amazed that a place like the United Theatre exists in town.

Indeed, the United Theatre is more than a theater; it’s a wide-ranging arts center.

It is offering everything from movie screenings to live concerts to art exhibits.

The black box space that can accommodate up to 600 people will, going forward, boast such acts as musician Peter Asher on Sept. 16 and the local Salt Marsh Opera staging “Carmen” on Oct. 1 and 3. It has chairs on the main floor that can be rearranged or removed based on the needs of different events. In that same space, a movie screen can come down in front of the balcony to create a small cinema for up to 99 viewers.

Then there are the main cinema, which can seat 76, and a “microcinema” that is perfect for small audiences, with space for no more than 24 viewers. (About a half-hour before the Rebirth Brass Band concert was scheduled to start, the Aretha Franklin biopic “Respect” was letting out from the microcinema.)

There is an airy gallery space where a portrait series of Westerly residents by photographer Josh Behan opened a little over a week ago. 

Downstairs houses the Rhode Island Philharmonic Music School, where 140 students study and practice in rooms that have sound proofing on the walls and ceilings.

The building also has a spot where the South County bureau for The Public’s Radio broadcasts.

And the United Theatre features an adjoining restaurant.

“I’ve been working in the arts nonprofit sector in Rhode Island for 30 years now, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Utman Randall says, referring to all the things that happen in the United Theatre. She gives credit to the board members’ “amazing” ideas and vision.

Artistic Director Tony Nunes notes that the way a movie theater runs is so different from the way a live performance space runs, which is so different from how art galleries or music schools run.

“We’re juggling a lot of different things … There’s a lot of different parts to this whole place. There are not many places that do all of those things put together,” he says.

Utman Randall jokes that it’s like those old Ronco commercials: “But wait! There’s more!”

They have referred to it as a sort of Lincoln Center model, Nunes notes, because at Lincoln Center, affiliate organizations use different venues on the campus.

The history of it

The United Theatre was built in 1926 as a vaudeville house before becoming a movie theater. It closed in 1986 and remained dormant until the Westerly Land Trust bought it in 2006 and the concept for this project was eventually born.

The current United Theatre combines the space of the former United with the adjacent Montgomery Ward store. All told, it’s 31,000 square feet of space.

By design

If the idea to try such a massive undertaking was bold, so is the design inside, which melds history with a 21st-century sensibility.

Decisions on everything from the storefront windows to lighting fixtures took into account historical elements, since it’s an historic property and decisions had to be made under the guidance of the state historic commission.

The lobby kept its original terrazzo flooring. The black box space uses the theater’s original chandeliers, which were restored and now have LED lighting.

There’s a modern flair in, for instance, the use of primary colors. As in the lobby, the walls of the black box space are painted red. The main cinema, meanwhile, boasts bright blue walls and a dappled blue floor that resembles an abstract version of water. The vibrant yellow patterns on the chair upholstery in that cinema evoke the idea of spotlights.

Then there’s the modern technology in the building, which Nunes says “is kind of crazy. It’s very sophisticated, from the projection and the sound to the integration of the spaces — everything is talking to everything. So (that includes) the lights — not the theatrical lights but just the regular lights in the spaces — (and) there are speakers throughout the entire property. There’s ways to patch in for presentations or for recording. The whole building is kind of alive in a technical sense.”

Views from the public

Concert-goers at the Rebirth Brass Band show had plenty of good things to say about the new United Theatre.

Joanne D’Alcomo, who lives in Boston but has a place in Charlestown, R.I., spoke about how wonderful it was to have the restored venue and a blossoming live theater scene in downtown Westerly; it’s a real attraction to the area. Not only that, but there’s so much history, architectural interest, and character, she notes.

For Victor Nazario and wife Lynmar, this was their second time at the United Theatre, following a screening of “Stillwater.” The couple, who live in Charlestown, thought everything in the United was tastefully done; Lynmar says, “It’s beautiful — a great space.”

Nick Barbato of Westerly had been to a movie at the United Theatre before attending the Rebirth Brass Band concert. He recalled that, when he was a kid, he’d walk to the since-closed cinema on Route 1 in Westerly and says now his 13-year-old nephew is doing the same with the United Theatre.

“I tell you, my nephew loves it. Now he can walk to a movie theater in town again,” he says.

Working together

The United Theatre isn’t a stand-alone entity; it’s collaborating with various local organizations. For instance, it and the Chorus of Westerly are developing a community sing-along event, where people would show up, divide into groups led by chorus representatives, learn a popular song — and then sing it all together at the end of the night. The idea is to give people the opportunity to socialize and have a good time, while creating art in song together.

The United Theatre has projects or partnerships as well with the Colonial Theatre in Westerly and the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford. Local arts organizations are scheduled to hold performances in the United Theatre, too; the Connecticut Early Music Festival, for instance, will do a Christmas concert.

The United Theatre is a sister venue to the Knickerbocker Music Center. Sometimes, they leverage their bookings, so if they’re dealing with the same booking agency, they can bring a smaller show into the Knick and a larger one into the United. They can work in tandem. 

There is also the hope that the United Theatre will be a great community space where conversations can be had.

“We want to use our spaces and the mediums we present in those spaces — film, music, fine art — to foster dialogues between artists and patrons, explore the process of the creation of art in its many forms, and use the art as a jumping off point to challenge audiences and spark important conversations,” Nunes says.

How Are Modular Homes Different Than Conventional Homes?

As trends continuously change, modular homes have grown increasingly popular. However, when searching for homes, if you don’t know what to look for, then there’s a chance you might not even notice that you are looking at a modular home. That’s because the primary difference between modular homes and conventional homes isn’t how they look or how they are laid out but rather how they are built. 

In this article, we’ll detail the construction process of a modular home compared to a conventional one and discuss the two designs’ pros and cons to help decide which type is the best fit for you and your family. 

Modular Homes vs. Conventional Homes: What’s the Difference? 

As we’ve mentioned, the difference between a modular home and a conventional home isn’t something you are likely to notice at a glance. Once their construction is complete, modular homes look almost identical to their traditional counterparts. How modular homes are constructed, though, is very different from the conventional home construction process. 

Rather than being built on-location, modular homes are constructed one room at a time in a controlled factory then assembled on-site using cranes to lower the modules into place. This process offers many benefits compared to the traditional home construction process, however, it also has a few drawbacks that are worth considering. 

Benefits of Building a Modular Home 

The first benefit of choosing a modular home is that most of the home’s construction will be completed in a controlled environment, meaning that the materials in your home will not be exposed to contaminants such as dirt, mold, and dust during the process. Constructing a home in a controlled environment also means that poor weather won’t necessarily halt the construction process as it is prone to do on a traditional construction site. 

Another benefit of modular homes is that they typically take less time to build. On average, conventional homes take about 30 weeks to construct completely. Modular homes, meanwhile, take between 10 to 20 weeks to create and an additional seven to 14 days to assemble on-site. This means that you can save anywhere from eight to 19 weeks of work by choosing a modular home. However, it’s worth noting that this reduced construction time won’t necessarily translate the considerable savings on the house’s cost. While modular homes tend to be more affordable than conventional homes, the average price difference between them is far from extraordinary. 

The final benefit of choosing a modular home is that they are more eco-friendly than conventional ones. This is because modular homes require less labor and heavy machinery to construct and have less impact on the environment where the house is being built. Also, very few materials are wasted during the construction of this type of home.

Drawbacks of Building a Modular Home 

While there are not many drawbacks associated with building a modular home, a couple are worth noting. The first drawback to modular homes is that it may not be possible to assemble if there are many power lines nearby that would prevent the crane operators from lifting the home’s modules into place. 

The second drawback is that many neighborhoods have restrictions in place, such as the requirement for brick-only homes. Although it is possible to build a brick facade around a modular home, doing so is likely to end up being more costly than merely making a conventional home. 

Let e2 engineers Help You Design the Perfect Home

Whether you decide that a conventional home or a modular home is the right choice for you, e2 engineers can help. Our expert team of structural engineers can help you choose the best type of home for your needs and location, as well as help you develop a design that is both economical, safe, and aesthetically-pleasing. 

To learn more about our industry-leading construction services, contact us today!

What Types of Foundations Are Most Common in Building Designs?

No matter what type of structure you are creating, it’s crucial to get the foundation right. There is a wide range of foundations to choose from, and the kind that works best for you will depend on the size and design of your building, where it is located, and the type of soil it is resting on. Below, we’ll take a look at the most common kinds of shallow and deep foundations to help you better understand which type will work best for your next project.

Shallow vs. Deep Foundations

Before we dive into the specific kinds of foundations that you have to pick from, it’s important first to discuss the differences between the two main categories of foundations: shallow foundations and deep foundations.

Since they are more economical and adequate for most applications, shallow foundations are defined as ones that measure one to three meters deep from the natural grade level and are the most common type used today. In cases where the soil’s strata are too deep to reach with excavation and matters where the ground is too soft or has too low of a bearing capacity, deep foundations are required.

Types of Shallow Foundations

There are a few kinds of shallow foundations. Let’s take a closer look:

Isolated Footing

Isolated footing foundations are the most popular type of foundation and rely on concrete pads to support an individual column. These are ideal for lighter structures, but a more reinforced foundation may be needed for larger buildings.

Combined Footing

Combined footing foundations are very similar to isolated footing because the pads of concrete are more extensive and meant to support more than a single column. These kinds are ideal for situations where the foundation columns are too close to help each one with an individual pad.

Strap Footing

In a strap footing foundation, isolated concentric and eccentric footings are connected via a strap beam. This strap beam is designed to even out the distribution of soil bearing pressure in cases where eccentric footings are required due to space restrictions.

Strip Footing

A strip footing foundation entails creating a steady base that supports a load-bearing wall. This concrete strip is typically twice the wall’s width that it bears but can be even more comprehensive in specific applications.

Raft Foundation

A raft foundation, otherwise known as a mat foundation, is made up of thick concrete that supports the structure’s entire weight. Raft foundations are the sturdiest type of shallow foundation and are used for larger buildings with a heavy column load.

Types of Deep Foundations

Just like shallow foundations, there are various kinds of deep foundations. They include:

Driven Piles

A driven pile foundation is built by driving either concrete and steel H-beam piles or tubular steel piles deep into the soil to support the foundation’s weight. This is the most affordable type of foundation but may not be applicable in areas where the ground has boulders or rocks.

Continuous Flight Auger Piles

A continuous flight auger (CFA) pile foundation is built by drilling holes into the ground before quickly filling gaps with poured concrete and reinforcing the concrete piles with a pre-arranged cage forced down over the wet concrete. Since CFA piles do not require soil compression, they tend to offer a higher bearing capacity when compared to driven piles.

Bored Piles

Bored pile foundations are the most common type of deep foundation built by boring holes in the soil before placing a pre-constructed concrete pile into them. Since the banks are placed in a pre-bored spot rather than driven directly into the ground, noise and vibration are less of a concern, making bored piles better suited for rocky areas.

Mini Piles

Mini piles are a form of bored piles that are smaller in diameter, which makes them suited for confined spaces where a high load-bearing capacity is not required.

Let e2 engineers Help You Design the Ideal Foundation for Your Building

If you still aren’t sure which type of foundation is best for the building you are constructing, e2 engineers can help. To learn more about how our expert team of structural engineers can help you with your next project, be sure to contact us today!

A Close Look at the Industry’s Leading Software

Today, there are a number of software programs that play an enormous role in the processes that go into modern structural engineering. At e2 engineers, we are proud to make use of industry-leading software in our mission to provide the most advanced and efficient structural engineering services possible. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the six software programs that we use most here at e2 engineers to provide you with insight into our cutting-edge approach to structural design.

Revit Structure

Revit Structure is a structural design software that enables our engineers to create many useful models. Types include 3D concrete reinforcement models outlining rebar bending schedules, design-to-steel workflows that detail steel connections, structural analysis models that analyze a structure’s integrity, design documentation tools that help easily create accurate and detailed documentation of a structure, and more. This useful software is one of the most important tools that structural engineers have available today and is regularly relied on here at e2 engineers.


AutoCad is a computer-aided design (CAD) and drafting software that was first released in 1982. Although it may have been around for almost three decades, AutoCad remains one of the most used software applications in the engineering industry.

It’s a versatile software that enables engineers to create detailed 2D and 3D models and is used for everything from product to structural design. At e2 engineers, we use AutoCad to create both 2D and 3D blueprints of a build’s design that are incredibly accurate, making it easy to pinpoint any potential issues with a structure.


RISAFloor is a software application built for modeling and designing concrete floors of commercial buildings. When it comes to designing a structurally sound building, few details are more important than the concrete footing that supports the building’s weight. By first designing the floor in RISAFloor, our engineers can access a detailed analysis of the floor’s integrity that includes crucial details such as optimization of rebar, punching shear and detailing requirements, cracked section properties, elastic deflection analysis, and more. Thanks to this software’s effectiveness, the e2 engineers team can guarantee that the concrete slab we design for a structure can fully support the load of the building resting on it.


As the name suggests, WoodWorks is a CAD software explicitly built to design and analyze wooden structures. At e2 engineers, we can help our clients create and build a wide range of facilities, including those made of steel and concrete as well as structures made primarily out of wood.

When working with wooden structures, though, WoodWorks is a tool that we make extensive use of. This software allows us to design a wooden build within its environment, then thoroughly analyze the structure for any issues with its integrity. It’s a must-have tool for creating wooden structures and one that helps us ensure that the wooden buildings we design are always structurally sound.

Risa 3D

Risa 3D is well-rounded CAD software that can be used to model and analyze a wide range of structures from steel to masonry structures to wooden ones and everything in-between. It’s a very intuitive and easy-to-use software that makes modeling a structure much quicker and easier than most CAD programs. It’s also a software that provides a detailed analysis of a structure’s design and allows our engineers to quickly create a comprehensive report that includes both graphical and numerical results.


It may be useful to think of the Tedds software as a powerful calculator designed specifically for structural engineers. Before this software, engineers were required to make many complex calculations by hand when designing a building. Tedds, however, automates the vast majority of these calculations, speeding up the design process and helping eliminate hand-calculated errors. The massive library of structural engineering calculations found in the Tedds software enables our engineers to automate what is an otherwise tedious process while ensuring accurate results each and every time.

e2 engineers Bring an Advanced Approach to Your Structural Design Projects

At e2 engineers, we are proud to use the latest and most effective software in the structural engineering industry to ensure our design process is as efficient and effective as possible. If you would like to work with a team of expert engineers making use of the most advanced tools on the market today for your next structural design project, we look forward to being at your service! To learn more about our industry-leading structural design services and the proven design process we employ, contact us today.

How to Select the Best Foundation for a Building

Structural engineers are tasked with a number of important responsibilities, and one of the most critical is choosing the right foundation for the building they are designing. At e2 engineers, our team understands what goes into this process and are experts at recognizing challenges behind every structure. In this article, we will explain the various factors that go into choosing the appropriate foundation for a new building and how you can ensure that you select the right structural engineers for the job.

Topographic Location

The topography of the building’s location is the first factor that structural engineers must keep in mind when choosing the right foundation. There are many different considerations that fall under this category, ranging from the slope of the location and soil type to the presence of water in the area and beyond. Analyzing the site and creating a general overview can provide structural engineers with a basic idea of what the foundation will need to look like before moving on to more specific concerns.

Weather Conditions 

The climate where the building will be located plays an important role in determining which type of foundation will exhibit the most durability. Hot weather, for example, has a different long-term effect on concrete foundations than cold climates. While both can be damaging to the foundation in their unique ways, this damage can be negated by considering the typical climate of the area and choosing the right foundation design to mitigate its effects. Areas that experience excess rainfall and are prone to flooding may likewise require a specific foundation design to avoid common problems.

Previous Use 

Before the construction of a new foundation can begin, it is essential to take into account the history of the site and any previous structures that might have been built there. Researching the location’s history can alert structural engineers of the possibility of any below-ground constructions or contaminants that might need to be taken into account before a new foundation can be installed.

Groundwater Table 

One of the most important things that an engineer must determine before designing an appropriate foundation is the level of the groundwater beneath it — that is, how far below the surface of the ground you would have to dig before you reach groundwater. In cases where the groundwater table is located well below the surface of the land, shallow foundation footing will work fine. When the groundwater table is closer to the surface, dewatering or a heavier type of foundation may be required to counteract the upward hydrostatic pressure of the groundwater.

Soil Bearing Capacity 

Few factors have a larger impact on the type of foundation that should be used than the soil bearing capacity. If it is low, then a deeper foundation is required to prevent the soil from collapsing under the foundation’s weight and causing severe damage. For locations that have a higher soil bearing capacity, a shallow foundation can often be used.

Design Loadings and Seismic Characteristics

Design loading is a factor that considers how much weight will be placed on the building’s foundation. This is in terms of both the building itself as well as its occupants. For example, if structural engineers are designing a foundation for a facility that will store a heavy material such as iron, the weight of what will be stored must be taken into account. Seismic characteristics of the location must be taken into consideration as well. If your building is being built in an area with high seismic activity, the building’s foundation must be designed appropriately to reduce the possibility of damage.

Economic Design 

Safety and durability are always the most critical characteristics that structural engineers strive for when designing a building’s foundation. However, a great engineer will also work to create a foundation that is as affordable and economical as possible once those concerns have been addressed. This is one key reason why hiring the right structural engineer is so important. Not only will they provide you with a safe, strong, and durable foundation, but they may be able to design it in such a way that saves you a lot of money as well.

e2 engineers Can Help Design the Ideal Foundation for Your Building 

At e2 engineers, our professional structural engineers are experts at designing long-lasting and affordable foundations. We know what it takes to create a foundation that will stand the test of time and always strive to consider every possible factor when it comes to choosing the best foundation for a building. With over 50 years of experience combined, e2 engineers are the structural engineers you can count on. To learn more about how we can help you design and build the perfect foundation that is both practical and unique, contact us today!

Six Benefits a Structural Engineer Brings to a Custom Home Build

Building a house on your own is not an easy task to take on, especially if you aren’t familiar with the different types of materials, codes, regulations, and other restrictions that can prevent you from creating the house of your dreams. In order to ensure the home you’ve built is structurally sound and designed properly, it’s best to hire a structural engineer. Not only will they help you design a custom home build that’s visually appealing, but they will follow all regulations to ensure it’s built properly to avoid unwanted projects down the road. The services and expertise provided by a structural engineer are invaluable, saving you time and money while ensuring that your vision for your new home is brought to life. To showcase why, we’ll take a look at the top six benefits that a structural engineer brings to making your house a home.

Pinpoint Potential Issues

The biggest advantage of working with a structural engineer on a custom home build is their ability to highlight potential issues in a design before they turn into costly problems. While other home renovation professionals can make aesthetically pleasing designs, they aren’t always able to pinpoint complex engineering challenges. A structural engineer can call attention to these challenges as well as develop ways to work around them in a proficient way.

Promote Structural Safety

When asked to help with a custom home build, safety is a structural engineer’s number one priority. If you were to tackle a steep project such as home building alone, you could potentially glaze over hazards or poorly built structures. To ensure that your home is safe and built to last, receive a full evaluation from an experienced structural engineer.

Ensure Your Home is Up to Code

In addition to ensuring that the design for your custom home is safe, a structural engineer will make sure that the design follows all of the codes and regulations set forth by your local government. If you do not comply with building codes, you may be setting yourself up for fines and an expensive re-do of your project. A structural engineer will make certain your future home isn’t violating codes and will acquire the necessary permits to move forward with your build.

Material Selection

Many professionals outside of structural engineering may choose materials based on looks, rather than purpose. However, the materials that your home is made of need to look amazing as well as serve a wide range of important structural needs. An experienced structural engineer will be able to help you choose materials for your home that fit both your vision for the design and offer the most advantages in terms of safety, durability, and longevity.

Create an Efficient and Cost-Effective Design

When you choose to work with a structural engineer to design your custom home, your dream home will be brought to life in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. They will thoroughly analyze your design, highlight potential issues, and develop creative, out-of-the-box solutions. A structural engineer can save you time and money on your build while still making every effort to ensure that the final result is exactly what you envisioned it to be.

Conduct a Thorough Final Inspection

Once your custom home is built, your structural engineer will conduct a thorough final inspection. This is to ensure that there are no issues that need to be addressed before you move in, allowing you to begin living in your new home with complete peace of mind. To have that second opinion alleviates all potential second-guessing if you had gone forward in your custom home build alone.

How e2 engineers Will Make Your Custom Home a Reality

The value that structural engineers bring to a custom home build cannot be overstated. We go into every project with practical solutions that are unique to every one of our clients. With over 50 years of experience, we are the experts you can trust. If you would like to learn more about how the structural engineers at e2 engineers can help design and build your custom home, be sure to contact us today!

Everything You Need to Know About Peer Reviews in Structural Engineering

There’s no denying that reviewing a construction document is a complicated, time-consuming, and daunting process. Keeping up with the various advances in the industry can be a real challenge – especially because structural engineering codes are typically updated every few years, and software changes even more rapidly. Thankfully, help is available in the form of structural engineering peer reviews.

Let’s take a closer look at these reviews, what they are, and how they work.

What Are Peer Reviews?

Structural engineering peer reviews are independent evaluations of a construction document conducted by a third-party provider. These analyses are designed to cover a number of criteria, including assessing different elements of a construction document, such as risk management, cost, constructability, code compliance, quality assurance, and more.

By helping you catch any potential problems before they materialize in the construction process, peer reviews can save you a lot of time and money while also providing you with valuable peace of mind.

Who Needs Peer Reviews?

In certain states and some situations, peer reviews are required before construction can proceed. The more complex the structure that you are planning on building, the more likely it is that you will be required to have your construction document reviewed before you can receive a building permit. However, even in instances where they are not necessary, peer reviews can still be incredibly helpful. For example, a peer review may accelerate the permit process.

No matter the situation, peer reviews are incredibly valuable for identifying potential problems that may otherwise go unnoticed until it is too late. Because of these benefits, many engineers and building officials rely on structural engineering peer reviews for every project they plan to complete.

How Peer Reviews Are Conducted

When done correctly, peer reviews should entail a collaborative effort between the Engineer of Record (EOR) and the engineer conducting the review (also known as the reviewing engineer). After assessing the structure’s design, the reviewing engineer should carefully communicate any questions or concerns that they might have to the EOR, then work alongside them to come up with effective solutions. In this context, the reviewing engineer acts as both a second set of trained eyes that can spot potential problems as well as a third-party consultant that can help find innovative solutions to those issues.

Expert Peer Reviews from e2 engineers

If a peer review is mandated for the structure that you plan to build or you feel that your project could benefit from one (even if it is not required), e2 engineers is here to help. We specialize in performing Independent Structural Engineering Review (ISER) for public projects (such as municipal buildings and schools) as well as those within the private sector. Our expert team of structural engineers can review all manners of construction documents, helping you highlight and solve would-be problems before they materialize into costly and time-consuming issues.

To learn more about our structural engineering peer review services, contact us today!

Answers to 10 Common FAQs in Structural Analysis

As structural engineers, e2 engineers endeavor to analyze structural engineering and design projects from multiple angles, including those that present potential unique solutions the competition may miss. To that end, we often need to ask and answer numerous engineering questions for better informed design. In fact, we highly value learning, both as it aids in the design and engineering process as well as in other aspects of life.

As a result, we welcome engineering questions from our clients, particularly as they relate to the very same structural analysis questions we must pose to ourselves throughout the engineering process. Here, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 structural engineering questions, as well as their answers:

1. What is static analysis?

Static analysis is a discipline utilized by engineers that determines the amount of stress a structure or material is under when subjected to outside forces or loads. During the design process, engineers typically utilize software to determine how a structure will respond to varying external forces. Static analysis alone is used for regular buildings under 240 feet tall and irregular structures under 65 feet tall. It also applies to both regular and irregular structures found in seismic zone 1, or structures found in occupancy categories 4 or 5 in seismic zone 2.

2. What is dynamic analysis and how is it different from static analysis?

Unlike static analysis, which studies forces that accelerate or change very slowly, dynamic analysis studies how structures respond to forces that change very rapidly. Dynamic forces can include things like blasts, earthquakes, waves, or even winds. Typically, dynamic analysis is used for buildings above 240 feet tall and irregular structures over 65 feet tall. Additionally, dynamic analysis may be considered for buildings in poor soil or active seismic zones.

3. What is modal analysis?

Modal analysis studies how the properties of a structure respond to external forces that may cause vibration. More specifically, engineers study the mass and stiffness of the structure to determine when it will resonate – or move at a frequency identical to the external force. In the event of an earthquake, for example, a structure resonating with the frequency of the earthquake may experience significant structural damage; thus, it is important to design structures that will not resonate at this frequency.

4. How many modes should be considered?

Code states that modal analysis must analyze at least 90% of the mass of each structure. While there is no inherent number of modes to consider, engineers must ensure the number studied amounts to at least 90% of the structure’s participating mass.

5. What is torsional eccentricity?

In structural engineering, eccentricity is measured as the degree to which two materials within a structure fail to share a center in common. Torsional eccentricity shows a difference between the center of mass in a building and the center of rigidity of a particular floor. Accidental torsion through exterior forces, such as earthquakes, can cause excess torsion or twisting around the center and cause structural damage.

6. How is torsional eccentricity accounted for in design?

Design codes have attempted to enforce certain adjustments during the design process to reduce damaging torsion. Primarily, codes require symmetrical arrangement of a building’s mass to balance stiffness on all sides of the center of mass. While some degree of torsion is always present, these steps can reduce the degree of torsional eccentricity and damaging shifts in mass.

7. What are structural irregularities and how are they addressed?

In structural engineering, there are three major structural irregularities: irregularities in strength and stiffness between floors of a building (also known as weak story and soft story irregularities), irregularities in mass, and irregularities in vertical geometry where lower floors fail to support the upper floors consistently. Each is analyzed in the design process using static, dynamic, or modal analysis. Then, such issues are avoided in design. Alternatively, engineers use solutions like horizontal diaphragms – which help to distribute horizontal stresses like earthquakes and blasts throughout the vertical supports.

8. What is the difference between rigid and semi-rigid diaphragm?

Horizontal diaphragms can resist horizontal seismic forces in two major forms: rigid and semi-rigid. Rigid diaphragms rotate and translate the horizontal forces to all members spreading the lateral load throughout. However, rigid diaphragms do not deform and spread the load based on the center of mass. Semi-rigid diaphragms spread the lateral load to multiple members of the system equivalently.

9. What are elastic response parameters?

A material or structure’s elastic response refers to the information engineers receive when the structure is exposed to force and deforms. Then, when the force is removed, engineers study how it returns to its original form. The elastic response of a building frame to external loading deteriorates as it approaches critical load. In the event of an earthquake or other sudden load, strain increases as critical load is reached and causes structural damage that will not return to its original form.

10. What are the different structural systems?

In engineering, a structural system refers to the various subsystems within a building project that help resist vertical gravity loads as well as horizontal loads caused by earthquakes and other forces. Interior structural systems include hinged frames, rigid frames that resist movement at the joints, braced frames and shear walled frames that do not allow lateral movement, and outrigger frames with projecting structures that stabilize overhangs.

It is our hope that this brief FAQ has helped you understand some of the circumstances your engineers must analyze throughout the design process. If you have more engineering questions or wish to discuss a potential project with our expert team, contact the premiere engineering firm in the Northeast. Reach e2 engineers at 860-437-3259, or complete our online contact form today.

What to Look for in a Structural Engineer Consulting Firm

If you are intending to design a new building, choosing the right structural engineering consulting firm to help you throughout the design and construction process is one of the most important decisions that you will have to make. In this article, we’ll take a look at the qualities and standards that you will want to look for before hiring a structural engineering consulting firm. Here are a few things to keep in mind during the evaluation process:

Find Out the Types of Structures the Firm Works With

One of the first and most important considerations when choosing a structural engineering consulting firm is to make sure the engineer you choose is experienced at working with the type of structure that you plan to construct. The goals and obstacles associated with various types of structures can differ dramatically, meaning you will want to ensure that you hire a professional structural engineer that is accustomed to the unique challenges that designing your structure may present.

At e2 Engineers, we work with a wide range of structures, including municipal, multi-family, commercial, mixed-use, religious, educational, institutional, historic, coastal, and residential structures.

Ensure the Employees are Experienced and Qualified

Every structural engineering consulting firm is only as good as the team of engineers that it employees. Before you hire a firm, be sure to take the time to familiarize yourself with their engineering team, particularly looking at the experience and qualifications that each engineer on the team is able to demonstrate. When you are able to rest assured that you are working with a highly experienced structural building engineer, the likelihood of a successful project is drastically increased.

Our engineering team at e2 Engineers is comprised of eight highly-talented engineers who have over 50 years of combined experience between them in a wide range of industries.

Discuss the Firm’s Structural Engineering Process

In addition to learning more about the engineers that a structural engineering consulting firm employs, it’s also important to analyze the process that they use. An efficient, effective, and innovative process is often one of the most crucial keys to a successful project. Any firm that you are considering should be quick to tell you more about the structural engineering process that they intend to use.

At e2 Engineers, our structural engineering process is comprised of an out-of-the-box, multi-faceted approach to structural design. We strive to first recognize the challenges that a project will present, then work to create innovative, practical solutions to those challenges, using cutting-edge technology to maximize the effectiveness of our engineers. Efficiency is another objective that lies at the core of our structural engineering process. We always strive to deliver solutions more swiftly than the competition and highlight potential problems before they have the chance to evolve into a costly issue.

Choosing the right structural engineering consulting firm is a highly important decision, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a difficult one. By analyzing the core competencies of a firm, the engineers that make it up, and the process that the firm employs, you should be able to find out all of the information that you need to know in order to make the right hiring decision.

Of course, if you have any other questions about what we do here at e2 Engineers, we invite you to contact us today.

What to Consider for Coastal Construction Projects

Coastal construction is an appealing prospect for many, especially those who are thinking about owning beachfront property. However, building on the coast has different considerations than building on more solid ground. To help ensure your coastal construction project is a success, keep these things in mind.

Check the Elevation

Coastal properties routinely deal with water hazards and different foundational conditions. Before you start to even think about what you’re building, pay attention to what you’re allowed to build on any property you’re considering purchasing. There’s a chance your coastal property will need to have a first-floor elevation level of more than 12 feet. If this is the case, there will be some extra cost you can expect from your project.

Look into Flood Zones

Flooding can be part of the coastal property package, especially depending on how close you are to the water. Coastal flooding also tends to be much more damaging than regular inland flooding, thanks to wave action, storm surge, and erosion. When purchasing property, you’ll want to see what the flooding is like in the area and how it’s previously affected the foundation. As you build, you’ll need to have strong enough materials to withstand flooding.

Plan the Height of Your Project Carefully

Depending on the area you’re building your project in, you’ll have to comply with the community’s specific building codes. In some areas, there’s a movement to restrict the total height of coastal residential structures. This may change your plan by taking away intended floors, especially when you need to combine a height restriction with high elevation requirements. You should investigate this before purchasing a property and while pulling together your building plans.

Accounting for Expected Erosion

We’ve already talked about flooding, but the impact goes beyond what property you purchase and what materials you need to build your home. Because coastal floods are often harsher, the foundational area will go through erosion and scour throughout your structure’s lifetime. The build plan of your structure needs to accommodate for this, so your building doesn’t start to tilt or sink over the years.

Pick the Right Materials

To withstand floods, winds, and other coastal conditions, you need to take into consideration the materials you use for your structure. While some lower-quality materials may be cheaper, you’ll find they aren’t quite hardy enough to withstand life on the coast. Some specific materials in which you want to invest include:

  • Roofing material
  • Paint
  • Ceiling Fans
  • Windows
  • Decking materials

All of these materials routinely go head-to-head with the elements of the coast. Even if you do save some money on your initial purchases, you’ll likely need to replace them inside of three years. It’s better to take care of the job right the first time.

Think About Your Foundation Type

Foundation plays a big role in how you elevate your home, but there are different types best suited for different coastal areas. You’ll find that building in a V Zone restricts some of your foundation options, while others function better depending on the type of coast on which you’re building. Some of your options include:

  • Elevated on Fill
  • Closed Foundations
  • Open Foundations

You should conduct thorough research to learn if there are any prohibited foundation types in your chosen area. Consulting with your builder can also help you make the best decision for your new building.

When it comes to building on the coast, there are lots of considerations you need to think through even before purchasing a property, let alone starting construction. Working with builders, like the ones at e2 Engineers, who have experience in coastal construction will be your best bet to having a structure that can let you have a building that lasts – so you can thoroughly enjoy the coastal experience. To get started, contact us today.