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Membership exam changes 2024

Date published

Key overview of the sustainability changes being introduced into the exams from January 2024.

As part of the Institution’s recent review of our assessment criteria for the Professional Review, including the IPD changes, this page sets out the upcoming changes to the examination. With our ongoing commitment to advancing the profession of structural engineering and responding to the climate emergency, the examinations will be changing to challenge our members to design more sustainable structures. An overview of each section of the exam is provided below, including how marks are being reallocated in Sections 2c and 2e.

Fully updated guidance documents are available to download and should be used by all candidates as an aid to preparation. These documents are regularly updated, so please check periodically to ensure you have the latest version.

Section 1a – 40 marks

Sustainability will be embedded as a fundamental part of the examination. As such, both schemes should include commentary on how sustainability has been considered in their design. To achieve this, candidates are expected to demonstrate knowledge of carbon minimisation including the hierarchy of carbon reduction approaches (see figure 1).

In Section 1a, candidates should demonstrate approaches in their designs which prioritise the minimal use of material, with a focus on building less and building clever approaches. Candidates are not expected to balance material volumes and carbon intensity to select a preferred material type. The specification of lower carbon materials on schemes with excess material use will not be considered to achieve the sustainability requirement.

As part of the sustainability updates, reuse of existing structural elements will be introduced into the examination over time. This will be implemented gradually to reflect ongoing progress within the industry. Therefore, initially, only some questions may include the opportunity to reuse structural elements. Where a reuse opportunity is provided in the question it is expected that candidates will take advantage of this in their schemes and include the benefits in identifying the most suitable solution. The same number of marks is available for questions which do and do not include aspects of reuse.

Upfront, embodied carbon minimisation (through minimal material use) should be explicitly included in the decision-making process as a key criterion to select the more appropriate structural design.


 Section 1b – 10 marks

This part of the question now enables candidates to demonstrate their ability to critically evaluate the brief and suggest changes to reduce material usage whilst maintaining required outcomes, and to communicate the implications of this to the client. The communication style no longer needs to be a formal letter, but must constitute a professional communication, e.g., in the form of an email.

This section asks candidates to suggest ways in which the client brief could be altered to reduce material usage and consequently reduce upfront carbon emissions. The question will make clear which parts of the brief provide opportunity for change and which do not. Candidates should ensure that they stay within these boundaries with their proposals. The focus is on material reduction and as such the specification of lower carbon materials is not a suitable response.

Candidates are expected to communicate the impacts of the changes in terms which the client can understand. This should include both the environmental benefits and other potential benefits (such as cost and programme) as well as the negative implications. Whilst clarity is important, the examiner will focus more on candidates’ grasp of the technical issues than on the quality of their written English. Candidates may reference sketches if they wish.


 Section 2c – 22 marks (previously 20 marks)

This section now requires candidates to include basic A1-A3 carbon calculations while still providing sufficient design calculations to establish the form and size of all the principal structural elements including the foundations.

Candidates should use their calculations to demonstrate that the elements in their design use material efficiently, in line with the ‘build efficiently’ step of the carbon reduction hierarchy.

Candidates will be required to include calculations for the A1-A3 carbon footprint of the key elements. This should be carried out using a straightforward calculation of the element volume multiplied by the embodied carbon factor (ECF) of the material. Candidates can refer to the Institution’s How to calculate embodied carbon document for suitable methodology and ECF values. Industry average ECF values are recommended, but other suitable values can be used. Candidates are encouraged to take advantage of the Institution’s free on-line embodied carbon basics course in preparation.

This section of the exam is awarded 2 extra marks to give allowance for extra time to incorporate the additional carbon calculation requirements.

Section 2d – 20 marks

No changes have been made to this section and candidates are still required to prepare appropriate drawings and critical details for estimating purposes.

Section 2e – 8 marks (previously 10 marks)

Candidates will no longer be required to produce a construction programme in this section. However, they must still demonstrate a degree of practical knowledge of construction methodology.

The method statement must include all activities required to build the proposed structure, including addressing health and safety issues, and should reflect the proposed scheme design. The statement should be kept brief with simple descriptions of each activity.

Figure 1 - 'Hierarchy of carbon reduction approaches’ - adapted from PAS2080