Amanda Yeager

Bound Volume Number

Volume VIII

Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-2016

Capstone Advisor

Sinead Mac Namara

Capstone Major

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Capstone College

Engineering and Computer Science

Audio/Visual Component



design competitions, the role of the structural engineer in that process

Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories

Sciences and Engineering

Subject Categories

Civil and Environmental Engineering


This capstone is a critical look at the contemporary design process, particularly design competitions, and the role of the structural engineer in that process. Often, the design process for competitions is architect-led with the technical experts entering the process after the major design decisions have been made. As a result, structural requirements and other technical considerations are too often left out of the conceptual design proposals, leading to extensive design changes and costly structural issues to resolve before the structure can be realized. To investigate this issue, a structural analysis of an ambitious winning pedestrian bridge design was conducted. The results demonstrate several problems with the design as proposed in the competition winning entry as well as a disconnect between the architect’s models and the engineer’s analysis. These issues and the implications of this disconnect is further discussed by comparing the design process used in contemporary design competitions to the process employed for the world’s most successful structurally innovative designs. The latter process includes the structural engineer in design decisions from the very beginning, integrating engineering and architecture through early collaboration. In support, a discussion on collaboration from leading professionals and firms in the fields of architecture and engineering was included. The methodology of this capstone is a demonstration of the issues that arise from the current design process through an analysis and critique of the bridge, comparison of the issues resulting from the design process to contrasting successful holistic design processes, and support for this latter process with examples of successful designs resulting from collaboration and words on collaboration from leading professionals and firms in the fields of architecture and engineering. Overall, this capstone argues for a change in the contemporary design competition process, wherein the role of the structural engineer is at the design table as an equal to the architects, because early collaboration between the two is essential to ensure structural viability, constructability, economy, efficiency, and elegance in the final proposed design.

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Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
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