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structural engineering software

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 Software Features & Benefits

Structural Engineering Software Features and Benefits

There are many features and benefits of structural engineering software. It has revolutionized the building industry, making structures more stable and the engineer’s job easier. Structural engineering software is indispensible in today’s fast-paced world of construction.
The Must-Haves of Designing Software

The features of structural engineering software include rafter design, beam design, column design and placement, and footing calculations, to name a few. Structural engineering software eliminates tedious mathematical calculations. It also ensures that your calculations are accurate, creating a safe and stable structural design.

Structural engineering software provides on-the fly calculations for last minute changes in construction design. These quick calculations make structural engineering software a must-have attendee at brainstorming meetings and progress report conferences.
Structural engineering software helps the engineer identify any potential problems in the design of a structure before construction begins. The software never skips a step or forgets a calculation.
What Our Software Can Do For You and Your Clients

Structural engineering software performs calculations quickly and accurately, freeing up engineers, builders, and designers for other tasks. This also allows the engineer to concentrate on the analysis of the model, instead of the calculations required for construction and design. Structural engineering software also includes a massive database of local and regional building codes to ensure that each structure is up to code and built properly the first time. With built-in building code references, an engineer can even refigure building codes for another location if the project suddenly is moved across state lines. The included steel design values database makes industrial applications a breeze. This eliminates delays, revisions and fines from improperly coded construction.

Structural engineers armed with structural engineering software can leave behind those bulky manuals and books of tables. Structural engineering software offers immediate access to valuable information, on-site and off. Gone are pencil scratched calculations made on dusty scraps of paper at construction sites. Structural engineering software can easily become the structural engineer’s right hand.

Structural engineering software has helped bring the structural engineering and construction industries into the twenty-first century. Not only has structural engineering software made the engineer’s life easier, it has made created and revised structures safer. The investment in structural engineering software is returned often in the first use, with the resulting reduction in time and labor. Structural engineering software is an indispensible tool for today’s structural engineer.

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Structural Engineering Basics

Many engineering students find themselves studying structural engineering basics, but this fundamental knowledge is useful for others as well.  Backyard landscapers, anyone remodeling a room of their home and those building a new skyscraper all benefit from structural engineering basics. Structural engineering basics are evidenced in the great pyramids of Egypt and indications of knowledge of structural engineering can be found in earlier structures as well.

The Basics of Structural Engineering

Structural engineering is the study of how to design structures and non-structural elements that bear a load. Structural engineering seeks to determine the stability and longevity of a load-bearing item, and design building plans accordingly.

Structural engineering students study the physics of nature such as the effects of wind, water and snow on buildings, the effects of gravity and the effects of the weight of the structure itself.  In addition to the physics affecting a structure, they also study the known longevity of materials and their impact on the environment, known as the life cycle assessment or LCA.

Structural Engineering Basics: Physics

The laws of physics that affect a structure are an important aspect of the building process. Miscalculate the stability of a structure and lives could be lost and property damage incurred.  Structural engineering basics cover how common building materials such as steel, concrete and wood behave under pressure.  These know behaviors are used in conjunction with special equations that predict how much weight a structural design can withstand while remaining structurally sound.

Structural engineers also plan for safety in the event of an earthquake, flood or other disruptive force. They design the structure to fail under these circumstances without endangering the occupants within or on the structures if possible.

Structural engineering also prepares students to inspect structures for unsafe conditions.  Moisture, energy, heat, and the weight of the structure itself, in addition to the weight of the furniture and people inside the building, are all examined to help determine the safety of a structure.

Structural Engineering Basics: Life Cycle Assessment

Life cycle assessment plays an important role in structural engineering.  Not only does life cycle assessment allow a builder to select the most environmentally friendly option in building materials, it also allows him to select an appropriate building material to increase the longevity of the structure in the given climate and environment.

Structural engineering basics are a wonder t behold at work. Suspension bridges, skyscrapers, and artistic buildings such as the Louvre in Paris are all terrific examples of the wonder and awe that structural engineers can evoke.

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Flitch Beam Bolting

In a separate article entitled “Accurate Flitch Beam Design Made Easier with Software” there was an allusion to the difficulty associated with designing the connection between the solid sawn members and the steel members of a flitch beam.  In this article there will be a more in depth discussion on the methodology for attaching the different materials of a flitch beam so that all the materials act as one solid member.

Flitch beams must be connected together to appropriately transfer loads to the wood and steel portions of the beam in proportion to the relative stiffness of each material.  Most structural engineering software packages don’t provide this calculation; two sample methods are provided below for determining this connection.

Empirical Method

The first method is an empirical method, which is purely based on what has worked well in the past.  An example of a regular bolting pattern might be 1/2 inch diameter or 5/8 inch diameter bolts spaced 16 inches on center.  Stagger the bolts and make sure the bolts are placed a minimum of 2 1/2 inches from the edge of the beam.

Rational Method

The alternative to the empirical method is the rational method.  Using the rational method the load transfer between the steel and wood members is actually calculated.  The first step in the rational method is determining the percentage of load that is carried by both the steel and wood portions of the beam.  If structural engineering software was used to size the flitch beam then somewhere within the software there should be a display of the load transfer percentages.  If the flitch beam was sized by hand, then the load transfer percentages can be determined from the modular ratio that was calculated.  The load carried by the steel plate can then be determined by multiplying the percentage of load carried by the steel plate by the total load on the beam.  After the load has been determined bolts can then be sized by using tables found in the National Design Specification.

Example Calculation

 Flitch Beam Bolting

Now, determine capacity of 5/8 inch diameter bolts for loads traveling perpendicular to the grain of the wood.  For simplicity, use table 11B of the National Design Specification.  This is a table for single shear bolt capacities.  This is conservative since the flitch beam being sized actually has bolts in double shear.  Higher values can be calculated using the six yield equations.

 Flitch Beam Bolting Bolt

End bolts required to transfer steel plate load to wood members for bearing are required unless the steel plate bears on a steel bearing plate.

Flitch Beam Bolting Number of Bolts

Final Considerations

This is just one example of how to design the bolting for a flitch beam; there are certainly other valid methods and assumptions that will provide an adequate design.  When doing any kind of beam design, especially a flitch beam using structural design software will greatly ease the entire process of calculating adequacy.  There are several different engineering design software packages available for beams, columns, or foundation design.  StruCalc, Enercalc, Risa, and BeamChek are all examples of such software.

James DiNardo, P.E.
Josh Parker, E.I.T.
Cascade Design Group

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