The Institution of Structural Engineers: Shaping the industry for over a century
In 1908, The Concrete Institute was founded as the representative body for professions related to concrete; a relatively new material around that time. The Institute was greatly received and quickly became an important voice across the spectrum of the construction industry, with its membership consisting of architects, engineers, chemists, manufacturers and surveyors.
In 1912, the scope of the Institute was widened to embrace all areas of structural engineering, particularly steel frames. "Structural engineering" was defined as "that branch of engineering which deals with the scientific design, the construction and erection of structures of all kinds of material". This broader focus prompted the change in name which still remains; the Institution of Structural Engineers.
Edwin Sachs (1870-1919) was an esteemed architect and the driving force behind the Concrete Institute. Sachs had many other career successes such as founding the British Fire Prevention Committee in 1897 and founding the influential and respected journal Concrete and Constructional Engineering (1906-1966).
The Concrete Institute was formed with the ambition of representing associated businesses and workers within the construction field, and in becoming an industry expert with the ability of advising on and thus shaping building regulations. A major catalyst for the formation was the rising popularity of the Hennebique and Coignet systems, which had been effectively safeguarded by their owners with patents and legal protection.
Architects felt they were subject to the monopoly of the system owners and believed there was a need for a representative body. Reinforced concrete was being largely overlooked by existing engineering institutions causing a void of information, design guidance and representation for those wishing to work with the new material. Having a representative body at this time was also crucially important in shaping and influencing the London Building Acts, which at the time made no provision for reinforced concrete.
1909 – The Institute became incorporated under The Companies Act (1862-1907)
1912 – The scope of the Institute was widened to embrace all areas of structural engineering
1922 – The name was officially changed to the Institution of Structural Engineers
1934 – The Institution was granted a Royal Charter and was named as one of four organisations to be consulted regarding changes to its regulations under the London Building Act
2014 – The Institution purchased its headquarters building at 47-58 Bastwick Street, London EC1V 3PS
The original board consisted of a President (Rt Hon Earl of Plymouth) and an Executive, headed by Institution founder, Edwin Sachs. This structure changed in 1910 when Sachs required some time off due to illness, and the Institution greatly suffered in his absence. This swiftly identified the need for a permanent Secretary.
From 1910 until 1994, this organisational structure remained until the role of Secretary was replaced with the title ‘Chief Executive and Secretary’, which was once again replaced in 1999 with ‘Chief Executive’. This is still the chosen format.