Structural codes provide technical standards for safety, reliability, productivity, and efficiency in structural engineering used by the structural engineer.
Many of our standards are referenced by model building codes and adopted by state and local jurisdiction across Australia. Also known as the Building Code of Australia (BCA) the BCA is produced and maintained by the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) and given legal effect through the Building Act 1975. The BCA is also the unofficial bible for the structural engineer in Australia.
Throughout my study to be a structural engineer in college and later at work, I have been working with structural codes and standards. Our professors constantly drilled it into us to refer to the code for our structural calculations and designs.
It is much later and with many years of experience under my belt, that I actually realized that the Building Code of Australia is indicative of the guidelines for the design process, but it how these guidelines should be used. My experience as a structural engineer taught me that we should not just blindly utilize the equations and instructions in the code to design for our structures, but we should question why these equations and guidelines are in the code.
It is my primary responsibility as a structural engineer to create safe structures, we often have to overcome environmental difficulties in the process. These problems are surmounted using our specialized analytical skills and our knowledge of mathematics and science. We apply these native skills to create a safe aesthetic structure.
For instance, as a structural engineer, I need to have a clear knowledge of frames and bracings and the selection of different systems in different elements depending on what the situation demand. It is absolutely imperative to understand the selection of appropriate load combinations, and how they serve their purpose in a structure.
For example, for roofs in Australia, it should not be expected that there will be snow loads AND rain loads acting upon the area of the roof at the same time. The science of load paths should be understood to determine the application of load onto each individual structure for structural analysis. It is important for the structural engineer to study the yielding and rupture factor and material behavior its cracking and ductility. This is to understand how the individual structural members will react to various stresses and strains and how the structure as a collective will react to different loads and other factors that it may have to bear with during its lifetime.
All of this is for the safety of the public and this is what makes the Australian Building Codes the single document of reference while designing and executing a structure ion the ground. Of course, the structural engineer should make his own calculation on the design individually so that he is double sure of the structure however he has a document that serves as a basic reference to him for any type of standard in materials used in construction.
Yes, for the structural engineer it is the law to follow the code.
But if as a structural engineer I have to do so, I need to be responsible and use the code in tandem with our own discretion so that I make design perfect structurally strong and safe buildings and other structures.