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Archives for General Engineering

Methods for Measuring Bending Stresses in Structural Engineering

Measuring bending stresses is an important part of structural engineering. Measuring bending stresses determines how much load a structure can support before it fails. Building structurally sound projects is the ultimate goal of successful structural engineering.

Measuring Bending Stresses

Measuring bending stresses requires determining the average amount of force exerted on an area that results in distortion or failure of the material. Understanding these values is crucial in determining the limits of construction materials.

Methods for Measuring Bending Stresses in Commercially Available Construction Materials

With the advent of new composite materials, measuring bending stresses has become a crucial ongoing investment of research dollars for scientists and engineers. One of the newest methods of measuring bending stresses is the use of piezoelectric PVDF (polyvinylidene-fluoride) film sensors.

Researchers have reported that a 25 µm thick PVDF strip used as an embedded interfacial stress sensor on aluminum and composite beams adequately measures bending stresses of the building materials. Engineers have also used these PVDF strips to measure other forces such as interfacial stresses and the adhesion strength of laboratory recreated layers of ice that might occur on the outside of a structure once constructed.

Another method of measuring bending stresses is to clamp gauges at key points of an existing structure to measure the bending moment of different types of materials used in the structure. By studying this data, scientists can learn vast amounts of information about the bending behavior of different construction materials once they are used in the field. This method also allows engineers to measure bending stresses over an extended period of time, allowing researchers to factor in other variables such as weather, corrosion, and alternating live loads.

Alternatively, engineers can measure bending stresses by attaching a hollow bar with strain gauges on its inner surface in a manner that allows part of the bar to move longitudinally along its axis with respect to the structure itself.

In Japan, researchers have experimented with measuring bending stresses in micro-cantilever structures by using a macro model using a micro-fizeau interferometer and the spatial fringe analysis method. Comparison of these test results with other measurements obtained from traditional gauge measurements shows that this method is effective in measuring bending stresses.

Other methods of measuring bending stresses indirectly are under consideration by the U.S. Patent Department and may revolutionize the way structural engineers study the measurement of bending stresses in the near future.

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Structural Engineering of Historic Buildings

The structural engineering of historic buildings is often focused on retrofitting these structures with life-saving alterations such as fire safety equipment and earthquake proof systems. Historic buildings are often built soundly, but due to the age of the building materials, the structure may be unstable or unsafe in the event of a fire or earthquake.

Most historic buildings are exempt from the newer federal building codes, but if the building owner wishes to change the use of the historic building, such as opening it up to public access or running a business from inside the historic building, certain building code requirements must be fulfilled. This most often results in calling in a structural engineer or architect to assist with the retrofitting or alteration of the historic building.

Structural Engineering of Historic Buildings: Energy Conservation

Some historic buildings require structural engineering expertise to aid in the conservation of energy. With today’s rising energy costs, energy conservation is a necessity for many building owners. This often involves placing insulating thermal paned glass over the historic glass of the buildings to help reduce heating and cooling costs.

The addition of awnings and shading devices can also help with energy conservation without altering the historic structure. Insulation is often added, and masonry walls can be coated with a waterproofing substance to further aid in energy conservation.

Structural Engineering of Historic Buildings: Seismic Retrofitting

Seismic retrofitting concentrates on preserving the structural integrity of the structure and reduce the likelihood of personal injuries should an earthquake occur. Seismic retrofitting also seeks to limit the amount of damage the historic building incurs during an earthquake.

Seismic retrofitting of a historic building may include bracing or tying parapets, chimneys, or ornamentation on the structure. It also involves reinforcing the emergency egress routes inside the building to help preserve life during an earthquake. Floor to wall framing may be enhanced and masonry walls often require addition support to limit the amount of damage from an earthquake.

Structural Engineering of Historic Buildings: Fire Safety Retrofitting

Fire safety retrofitting in historic buildings is a common occurrence. Retrofitting fire safety devices poses a unique problem for structural engineers. The fire safety systems must provide maximum protection in the event. Emergency exits are also examining and altered when necessary to provide a route of escape in the event of a fire. For a detailed government report about retrofitting of historical buildings for fire safety, view theThe General Services Administration “Fire Safety in Historic Buildings” Report Here.

The structural engineering of historic buildings is a delicate procedure that requires the skill and expertise of an experienced structural engineer and a team of consultants. The preservation of historic buildings is a specialty area and one of great interest to many citizens. For more information about the preservation of historic buildings, you can visit The National Park Service website.

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Why Builders Prefer Structural Analysis Software

Structural design and residential construction are common tasks for the building contractor. A contractor, architect, structural engineer, or the consumer may take part in the structural design process. Residential construction is a complicated process, and many consumers and professionals turn to a structural analysis software program to assist with the structural design process.

Structural analysis software programs assist the purchaser with a wide variety of building design applications. Beam design, footing design, and column design are all included in quality structural analysis software.

The structural design of a building is critical to the structure’s stability. One misplaced column or beam can result in property damage, personal injury, or collapse of the building. Structural design programs assist the designer in creating a stable, attractive residential design that fits the needs of the consumer.

The structural design of a residential building is much more than a floor plan and aesthetic design. It is also a blueprint for a sound structure that is designed to withstand the forces of nature, the effect of the residents, and the ravages of time.

Structural Design and Residential Construction: From the Contractor’s Point of View

A building contractor values his or her time. A contractor works on a tight schedule and places enormous importance on meeting the needs of the consumer. An unhappy homeowner is bad for business. The majority of consumers hire a contractor with a set budget.

They want to get the most values out of their new home as is possible. Errors in the structural design of a residential construction project can be costly for both the contractor and the homeowner. Structural analysis software helps eliminate design errors before a single brick is laid or the first nail is driven.

Residential construction can be very stressful for the homeowner. Many homeowners can become finicky, demanding, or downright hostile during this stressful period. Last minute changes to the structural design of a residence equate more stress for the building contractor as well. With the use of a structural analysis software program, these last minute changes are quickly and easily integrated into the existing residential construction plan.

Structural Design and Residential Construction: From the Home-owner’s Point of View

Every homeowner wants a quality home that does not drain his or her bank account. Having realistic expectations about the structural design of a residence in relation to budget set for the residential construction helps reduce the stress level for the homeowner.

A structural analysis software program helps the consumer plan out the details of the structural design and evaluates the cost effectiveness of such a plan. Having a detailed residential construction plan also aids the homeowner in setting a realistic budge for the project.

A structural analysis software program helps eliminate problems in the structural design of the home and thereby reduces the cost of construction by eliminating the need for alterations during the construction phase.

Structural design and residential construction are completed more quickly and smoothly when the homeowners or building contractors decide to use a structural analysis software program.

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Wide Flange Steel Columns

Wide flange steel columns are used in structural design to add strength and stability to a structure that will support heavy loads. Wide flange steel column are most often used in commercial construction, such as the construction of high rise buildings. A structural engineer has many different types of columns and materials to choose from when designing a high rise building.

Columns Used in the Construction of High Rise Buildings

When designing high rise buildings, structural engineers may utilize several different types of columns to support the structure. When designing a structure, the structural engineer must consider the design of stud walls, laterally loaded columns, and built up columns. He or she must also consider the effects of loading, sheer, and moment on the selected columns of the structure.

Columns may be constructed of steel, wood, concrete, or manmade building materials such as composites, solid sawn lumber, and glulams. The structural engineer considers the limitations and benefits of using each type of column and selects a material that meets the design specifications and budget limitations.

Wide flange steel columns help disperse the weight load of a structure back into the outer walls of the structure, making the building more stable even when fully loaded with furniture, equipment, and people.

Structural engineering involves designing stable structures through the use of various known physical properties and theories. Mathematical equations help the structural engineer design sound structures such as high rise buildings, homes, and bridges.

Structural engineers often utilize structural design software programs to help them sort through the many options available when designing a building. Structural engineering design software helps structural engineers adhere to local, federal, and international building codes while designing a structurally sound building within the client’s specifications and budget.

Structural engineers use wide flange steel columns is designing structures in many different areas of construction. Wide flange steel columns are a cost effective way for structural engineers to design stable, high rise structures. Specific design elements can drastically affect the stability and visual appeal of a structure.

Wide flange steel columns are an important part of the structural engineer’s tool kit when designing high rise buildings. Structural engineers can use structural design software programs to assist them in selecting the proper building materials and design elements to achieve spectacular results.

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The Features and Benefits of Structural Engineering Software

Structural design software has many features and benefits for builders, contractors, architects, and even the industrious homeowner. Structural design software is a useful tool that saves time and money for anyone involved in building or remodeling structures. If you are considering purchasing structural design software for your business or personal use, this review of the features and benefits of structural design software will help you determine if an investment in structural design software is right for you.

Features of Structural Design Software

Not every structural design software program is the same. Some structural design software is very basic while other programs have extra features. Some structural design software is geared toward professional architects, contractors, and builders, and other programs are better suited for the homeowner remodeling his or her own house. A good structural design software program has features that are suited for a wide variety of uses and is easy to use, right out of the box.

A well-rounded structural design software program includes footing design, column design, and beam design. Structural design software should also include features for wood construction, steel construction, and manufactured building supplies.

An exceptional structural engineering software program also includes added features like flitch beam design, hip and valley beam design, international building codes, laterally loaded column design, local building codes, multi- span analysis, rectangular and continuous footing design, sheer and moment diagrams, steel angles, and wide flange steel columns.

Benefits of Structural Design Software

You may be wondering who uses structural engineering software. Architects, engineers, designers, and builders all benefit from using structural engineering design software. Structural engineering students and homeowners remodeling their home can benefit from structural engineering software.

Structural design software saves users time by streamlining the structural design process. A good quality structural engineering software program includes building codes that apply to your specific geographical location. This feature saves time by eliminating the extensive research and double-checking that would otherwise be required without the use of structural design software.

Structural design software also saves money. Not only does it cut costs by streamlining the design phase of construction, it eliminates costly mistakes and last minute alterations in the design of a structure. Using structural design software also ensures that structures meet all building regulations , thereby eliminating fines and costly alterations to bring a structure up to code.

Structural design software saves builders, architects, engineers, and designers time and money. Be sure to check out the features of a structural design software program before purchasing it, to ensure it meets your design needs.

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The Science of Structural Engineering

The science of structural engineering is constantly evolving. Structural engineers continually look to develop new architectural designs to please clients. As new building materials emerge, structural engineers are pushed to integrate these materials into new construction. They must study the way these materials react under the stress of load and predict how to support key areas strategically to maintain the structural integrity of the structure.

The science of structural engineering helps structural engineers build more stable structures while pushing the current limits of design as we know it. By studying the science behind the factors that affect the stability of structures, structural engineers can design and build structures that can withstand the forces of nature and loads, even under extreme circumstances.

Structural engineering relies on the predictability of nature. Forces like wind, water, snow, and weight affect building materials in a predictable manner. The structural engineer takes these reliable principles and designs a system of supports that will resist the warping nature of these elements. Structural engineers design structures to be flexible enough to move and flex without breaking. This requires a delicate balance of design and science.

The science of structural engineering is taught in colleges and universities around the world to prospective structural engineering students. Structural engineering students study the effects of nature on structures and common building materials. They study how a fully loaded building sags and moves in a strong wind. Then, they apply these observations to the structural designs they create after graduation.

Structural engineers apply the science of structural engineering to the structural designs they create in order to produce better structures. Special structural engineers develop designs for structures in earthquake regions. These special designs are crafted to help minimize damage during an earthquake and save lives by preventing the total collapse of a building.

The science of structural engineering involves the principals of physics, geometry, and basic mathematics. Structural engineering is a concrete science, with an artistic element. Structural engineers must also be able to design visually appealing structures according to a client’s specifications and be able to adapt well enough to work with architects and builders as well.

The science of structural engineering affects our everyday lives, but many people never stop to think about the strength and stability of the homes they live in, the office they work at, or the bridge they drive across. Structural engineering enhances the lives of people throughout the world.

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Structural Engineering and Geometry

Structural engineering and geometry are intertwining subjects. Since the very first Egyptian structural engineers began building pyramids, geometry has been used to help solve structural stability problems. Geometry has been woven into the development of structural engineering for centuries.

What is Structural Engineering?

A structural engineer’s goal is to design structures that can both support and resist loads. A structural engineer designs structures and analyzes them for structural soundness. Structural engineering is closely related to architecture.

What is Geometry?

Geometry is a branch of mathematics that deals with the size, shape, and relative position of physical elements. Geometry also deals with the properties of space. Geometry looks at the length, width, height, and space of an object. Basic geometry is taught to high school students all across America.

Structural Engineering and Geometry in History

Examples of structural engineering intersecting geometry studies can be found throughout history. Some examples are even well known.

The Virtual Work Theory Structural Engineering and Geometry at Work

Structural engineering and geometry have evolved together over the years. Daniel Bernoulli, along with Johann (Jean) Bernoulli (1667-1748), is credited with formulating the theory of virtual work. The virtual work theory provides builders and structural engineers with a tool that uses the equilibrium of forces and compatibility of geometry to solve structural problems.

Archimedes: Structural Engineering and Geometry in History

The Greek engineer, Archimedes studied geometry extensively in his quest for building better structures and machines. Geometry played a large part in Archimedes’ experiments.

Euclidean Geometry, Preparing the Way for Structural Engineering

Euclidean geometry is also credited with contributing to modern day structural engineering. The ancient Greek mathematician Euclid wrote about Euclidean Geometry. Euclid’s book, Elements, was the first known written explanation of geometrically principals.

Geometry has strongly influenced the development of structural engineering. The principals researched in studying geometry have shaped structural engineering into the precise science we have today. Ancient Greek principal taught centuries ago are used today to create structurally sound high rise buildings, innovative shopping centers, and single family dwellings.

Structural engineering and geometry influence the way buildings are designed and built today. Geometry is an important part of the structural engineer’s industry.

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Commercial and High Rise Building Beam Design

Beam Design and Structural Design in Commercial and High-Rise Buildings

Beam design and structural design in high-rise buildings is constantly evolving. Structural designs are created to withstand earthquakes and high winds, conform to building codes, and construct impressive visual designs. Beam designs can significantly affect the stability of a high-rise building as well as the aesthetic appeal of a structure.

The structural design of a high-rise building is greatly dependent upon lateral loads. For this reason, bean design in high-rise buildings deserves careful consideration. Specially designed internal support system help keep the structure stable, especially in high wind and during earthquake tremors.

Factors Affecting Beam Design and Structural Design in Commercial and High-Rise Buildings: Drift and Acceleration

Another factor that plays into the beam design and structural design of commercial and high-rise buildings is drift. Drift is defined as the ratio of the building deflection over its height. Structural engineers must also take into consideration building acceleration when designing beams for commercial and high-rise buildings. Building acceleration is a measure of the speed with which drift occurs. This plays a critical role in the stability of a high-rise structure.

Beam Design in Commercial and High-Rise Buildings: Shear Wall Systems

One popular way to stabilize a high-rise building is by using shear wall construction. A shear wall is designed to withstand the combined forces of shear, moment, and axial loads caused by wind loads and gravity loads in a high-rise building.  A shear wall system joins solid structures that remain constant from floor to floor to add strength and stability in a tall building. However, shear wall construction inhibits the design of the foyer or lobby of a building. To achieve an open, inviting space, structural engineers often must use a combination of other support systems to allow for the desired design of the building.

Transfer beams are often used in conjunction with a shear wall system in commercial and high-rise buildings. Transfer beams are designed to transfer the load from the shear walls to the lower frame of the structure. This combination of transfer beams and shear wall supports has proven reliable, even in high winds and during an earthquake.

Beam design and structural design in commercial and high-rise buildings can utilize many different design techniques to achieve the desired height and visual attractiveness specified by the architect and owner. Beam design and structural design in commercial and high-rise buildings is an ever-evolving process.

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State & Federal Building Codes

More about State and Federal Building Codes

State and Federal Building codes are an important part of the construction process. For structural engineers, working knowledge of state and federal building codes is essential. Keeping on top of constant changes made to state and federal building codes can be challenging. Building codes vary from state to state. There are several websites available to help you keep up to date on federal and state building codes. Try these resources to help you stay on top of federal and state building codes.

Federal Building Code Resources
ANSI ( http://www.ansi.org/ ) – American National Standards Institute
ASTM ( http://www.astm.org/ ) – American Society for Testing and Materials
BOCA ( http://www.bocai.org/ )- Building Officials and Code Administrators, International
ICBO ( http://www.icbo.org/ ) – International Conference of Building Officials
ICC( http://www.intlcode.org/ ) – International Codes Council
NCSBCS ( http://www.ncsbcs.org/ ) –  National Conference of States on Building Codes and Standards, Inc.
SBCCI ( http://www.sbcci.org/ ) – Southern Building Code Congress, International
USACE ( http://www.usace.army.mil/inet/usace-docs/ ) – United States Army Corps of Engineers Publications Page

State Specific Resources for State Building Codes
This is not a complete listing of structural engineering associations for every state. If your state Is not listed below, an Internet search will bring up your state’s SEA website.

SEAOAL  ( http://www.seaoal.com/ )- Structural Engineering Association of Alabama
SEAOA ( http://www.primenet.com/~seaoa ) – Structural Engineering Association of Arizona
SEAOSC ( http://www.seaint.org/seaosc/index.asp ) – Structural Engineering Association of Southern California
SEAOC ( http://www.seaoc.org/ ) – Structural Engineering Association of California
SEAONC ( http://www.seaonc.org/ ) – Structural Engineering Association of Northern California
SEAOCC ( http://www.seaint.org/seaocc1.htm ) – Structural Engineering Association of Central California
SEAOSD  ( http://www.seaint.org/seaosd/seaosd1home.htm )- Structural Engineering Association of San Diego
SEAC  ( http://www.seacolorado.com/ )- Structural Engineering Association of Colorado
SEAOH ( http://www.eng.hawaii.edu/~seaoh ) – Structural Engineering Association of Hawaii
SEAOI ( http://www.seaoi.org/ )- Structural Engineering Association of Illinois
SEAM ( http://www.seam.org/ ) – Structural Engineering Association of Maine
SENH ( http://www.senh.org/ ) – Structural Engineers of New Hampshire
SEANM – Structural Engineers Association of New Mexico
SEAONY – Structural Engineering Association of New York
SEAO – Structural Engineering Association of Oregon
SEAOT – Structural Engineering Association of Texas
SEAU – Structural Engineering Association of Utah
SEAW – Structural Engineering Association of Washington

Subscribing to a trade publication or state-sponsored newsletter for builders is also a great way to keep up with state and federal building codes. If you have any information on changes to any of these links or would like to have your own state listed please contact me at adam@strucalc.com

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Designing Earthquake Safe Buildings and Structures

Designing Earthquake Safe Buildings and Structures

Buildings and structures are susceptible to the ravaging devastation of earthquakes. Great amounts of research have been performed to determine what types of buildings and structures are able to withstand an earthquake and how structural engineers can design earthquake-safe buildings and structures for the future.

Flexibility is Key

One of the most important physical traits of earthquake safe buildings and structures is flexibility. A rigid structure will crumble and collapse during the movement caused by an earthquake. Taller structures are inherently more flexible than two or three story buildings and structures. Shorter buildings and structures require greater amounts of reinforcement to withstand the forces of an earthquake.

Materials Matter

The construction materials used in buildings and structures can significantly help reduce the amount of damage caused during an earthquake. Wood and steel have greater flexibility than stucco, unreinforced concrete, or masonry.

Earthquake Reinforcement

Buildings and structures can be created with additional strategically placed beams that help transfer the energy of the sway of the building during a quake to the base of the structure and the surrounding earth.  Reinforced beams and trusses can also help prevent warping and collapse of buildings and structures during and after an earthquake.

Earthquake-Proof Foundations

Specially designed foundations for buildings and structures can also help limit damage. Foundational plates can be layered to allow for a sliding movement during a quake, providing a stable base for the structure throughout the movement. Another type of foundational alteration is the addition of flexible cushions in the foundation. These flexible cushions absorb movement and energy during an earthquake allowing the structure to remain intact.

Soil Types Can Limit Damage

Softer soils and surrounding earth that contains a high amount of moisture are more prone to induce greater amounts of structural damage during an earthquake. This is partly due to the properties of resonance as energy passes through the soil during the shocks of the quake. Providing additional solid breaks in the soil surrounding the foundation and building on solid earth, such as bedrock, greatly reduces the likelihood of large amounts of damage to structures and buildings.

Saving Lives with Planned Failure

Some structures and buildings are designed to fail in a certain way in the event of an earthquake. These planned failings allow for protection of interior spaces where people are likely to be located. The structures are also designed to limit the amount of rubble and debris that is deposited around the foundation of the structure to keep from damaging nearby buildings.

As advances in structural engineering are made and new construction materials emerge, earthquake-safe buildings and structures may soon be a reality.

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