Commercial Construction

Every commercial project brings forth its own set of unique challenges. Dudley Engineering has found success in meeting these challenges by consistently applying our core values and following a tried and true framework that guides us through the entire project life cycle. 

Dudley Engineering is well versed in the intricacies of small to large commercial projects. Below we discuss the phases of a typical commercial project life cycle from the perspective of a structural engineer. An illustration of this life cycle is included at the bottom.

Schematic Design

In schematic design (SDs), Dudley Engineering will

  • Collaborate with the architect and owner/developer to determine which structural frame is the best option for the project. Due to Dudley Engineering’s experience with all major structural framing systems and materials (structural steel, reinforced concrete, post-tensioned concrete, timber, cold-formed steel, conventional wood framing, engineered wood, metal building systems & CMU) we are able to view the project from a wider perspective. To contrast, larger structural engineering firms primarily only work with structural steel and reinforced concrete and thus will view all new projects from that paradigm, “the man who is good with a hammer tends to think everything is a nail” – Abraham Maslow.
  • In addition to structural design for new construction, Dudley Engineering also offers structural condition assessments for adaptive re-use and renovation project. Our structural condition assessments can identify issues with the primary structural frame as well as with the building envelope. For more information about specific projects in which structural condition assessment were performed view the following links. Assessing Fire DamageFirst Baptist Church Huntsville – Renovation


Design Development

At the start of Design Development (DD’s), a 3D finite-element structural analysis model will be created if it was not already created during SD’s. This model incorporates the primary structural framing members, design loads, environmental loads (wind and seismic) and support conditions. After analysis is complete, we will begin designing the individual components (columns, beams, shear walls, braces, etc.) of the structural frame utilizing the forces and reactions from the analysis model.

We will repeat the analysis – design loop iteratively until we reach an optimum solution that provides a clear and logical load path that is also economical. It is a common fallacy among inexperienced structural engineers to believe that the most economical solution will always be the least weight option. This fallacy is exacerbated due to the typical trend in the industry for structural engineering firms to defer segments of the structural design such as structural steel connections and cold-form steel framing. For example, if an engineer is not conscious of the structural steel connection design then they may be tempted to size a short-span girder with a smaller section than the long-span beam that it supports. When viewed in a vacuum, absent concerns for the connection design, this may seem like the most economical option since it is reducing the tonnage of the steel frame. However, to make the connection work, the long-span beam will need to be coped and stiffened in order to connect into the shallower girder. When viewed holistically, it is more economical to specify a deeper girder which will reduce fabrication time.

During DD’s, Dudley Engineering will also share typical and project-specific details with the general contractor (if on-board at this time) for feedback on constructability and cost/schedule impacts.


Construction Documents

Construction documents (CD’s) can take of many forms including 50%CD’s, 75%CD’s, 95% CD’s, etc. until eventually 100% CD’s are completed and are indicated “For Construction”. It is in this stage of the project that we make the finishing touches on details, connection material, miscellaneous steel, etc. all in an effort to provide the contractor will a complete set of construction documents that inform the contractor how to construct the structural components of the building in order to meet the needs of the owner as well as to protect public health, safety and general welfare. 

Construction Administration

During the construction administration (CA) phase, the design team reviews submittals, responds to RFI’s from the contractor, responds to comments from the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) and conducts observations and/or inspections of the construction progress.


Submittals are submitted by the contractor to the design team for the purpose of verifying that the contractor has correctly interpreted the construction documents. Submittals include: Shop drawings (e.g. structural steel erection and fabrication, reinforcement layout and cut sheets), Concrete Mix Design, Product Data (e.g. CMU Block Material). The design team reviews the submittals for general conformance with the construction documents and returns them indicated as either No Exceptions, Exceptions Notes, or Revise and Resubmit.


Commercial Construction Workflow for Structural Engineer
Commercial Construction Workflow for Structural Engineer
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