The structural engineer is usually a specialized civil engineer, only the few architects are at the same time also structural engineers, although this can sometimes occur, because in their training, of course, the structural science plays a "supporting" role. The structural engineer checks all factors related to the load-bearing capacity of buildings - on the one hand in the run-up, on the other hand also in existing intact or damaged buildings. On the one hand, specific calculation methods are used, on the other hand the characteristics of certain constructions and certain materials during construction. The load-bearing capacity of the floor must also be calculated and checked before it is built, as in certain soil conditions the load-bearing capacity of the subsoil may possibly be limited - in this case, then usually not very tall buildings may be erected. However, this area of responsibility is referred to as soil mechanics, and, strictly speaking, falls only marginally into the field of responsibility of the structural engineer, but the soil survey must of course be taken into account in the static planning of structures. A not inconsiderable area of responsibility of structural engineers is also the assessment of building damage - especially if there is a suspicion that they could influence the load-bearing capacity of a building.
The area of responsibility of the structural engineer is laid down by law in the HOAI - the fee structure for architectural and engineering services, which also includes fee recommendations for the individual services, as well as the fixed fees. Both the scale of fees and the description of services in the HOAI are anything but clear-cut - so you can not look up either the area of responsibility or the structural costs here. According to the honorary panels, the costs for structural engineers are always dependent on the so-called "billable costs" of a building.
When planning a new building, due to legal obligation, a structural analysis of the plans and the architectural drawings is required in the federal states of Hesse, Brandenburg and Berlin in order to ensure that the building as planned is really viable. The usually not mandatory soil surveys - ie the soil mechanical test - is also used, as the soil texture plays an important role in the load bearing capacity. The precise prescribed scope of these tests in a new building is then regulated slightly differently from state to state, depending on what the building regulations regulations provide in the respective country. In the planned construction of a single-family dwelling, an average of around 1,600 euros - 2,700 euros in costs for the structural engineer as ancillary construction costs, but this may also be significantly more expensive, depending on the structural engineer. In general, the stability of the planning and all construction drawings are examined in detail, usually the foundation plan, the ground floor ceiling, the roof construction and, if necessary, relevant fire protection design drawings. While the soil mechanics report can be useful in many cases, static testing is often a matter of personal protection in those countries where it is not compulsory.
Free assessment - where does it make sense
Before a new building, a soil mechanical expert opinion certainly makes sense, because here are sometimes significant differences in carrying capacity to notice that would otherwise not be included in the construction planning. The costs for a soil mechanical expert opinion are usually around 500 euros.
An additional static examination of construction plans and design drawings does not always make sense where it is not compulsory by law, as the load bearing capacity is always taken into consideration by the architect during the planning of a building - in other words, the structural analysis is practically only an issue for a second, independent assessment of the carrying capacity of the building.
In every case it makes sense to carry out a structural analysis in the event of damage to a building that is so massive that under certain circumstances it could impair the load-bearing capacity. This can be visible cracks in the masonry, but also subsidence or noticeable displacements on walls. Especially for older buildings, it is advisable to consult a structural engineer, if possible, to assess, above all, the viability of problematic-looking ceilings or the effects of visible damage. Normally only an appraisal is carried out here and no complete structural-technical appraisal is given, so the costs for the structural engineer are limited. Depending on the complexity of the assessment, the costs for this are a few hundred euros. An advantage of such assessments is that in case of visible damage, the structural engineer can also advise on the best and most cost-effective remediation options.
All structural audits fall under the HOAI - the fee schedule for architects and engineers. However, the HOAI is not a simple reference work for fee rates and tasks, but a very complex legal template, which is hardly understandable to laymen. In addition, the cost of the structural engineer since the amendment of the HOAI has, to a large extent, generally been covered by the option of a free fee agreement, although in certain areas minimum and maximum fees still apply. Due to the complexity of the HOAI, generally only professionals can actually check the appropriateness of the fees, and often the scope of the test differs considerably, which makes the whole thing increasingly difficult.
Are static tests tax deductible?
Basically - even after the 2006 amendment - the costs for structural engineers and other expert assessments are not tax deductible because they are not directly, directly related to renovations, maintenance work and modernization - says the legislator. However, there is another possibility here: In the following year of the expert opinion, they can claim the costs either as exceptional charges, if they are to be considered as own provision, if the assessment serves a purpose of housing, for example, a study is set up a deduction as an advertising cost conceivable. If necessary, the structural costs may also be split for tax purposes.
Offer comparison - but correct
For a necessary static assessment, it makes sense first of all to obtain several different offers. These can usually differ greatly in terms of costs - often also in the scope of the exams. It is therefore best to ask a specialist to make a comparison of offers in terms of the really meaningful scope of examinations and the associated costs, since on the one hand it makes no sense to forego important and meaningful examinations, on the other hand but less significant tests can often be omitted. It is all about the validity of the tests - less about the fees themselves, which will almost always be in the proposed framework of the HOAI.