1. Identify the design criteria and then schematize
Each project is unique and comes with specific requirements and standards to follow. It is crucial to identify the design criteria and then schematize accordingly.
To comply with the ever-growing demands of the client and the regulations, each project should entail appropriate design criteria for Ultimate Limit State (such as resistance, stability, fatigue) and Serviceability Limit State (such as maximum deflection, minimum eigenfrequency, maximum crack width, maximum concrete stress).
Once you have identified the design criteria, it is time to schematize the structure to a mechanical model. Generally, the model is only the bearing structure, but it highlights the elements (floors, walls, beams, columns) that transfer the loads to the foundation.
In this mechanical model, beams and columns are only represented by their axis, slabs, walls, and plates by their axle plane—connection with other elements or the outside world is made using boundary conditions.
2. Find the right internal and external boundary conditions
Finding the right internal and external boundary conditions is crucial, as these will literally make or break the structure. They define the distribution of forces in the model, so they must be set as accurately as possible.
The transfer of forces between the structure elements represents the internal boundary conditions. An internal hinge is a prime example of this. These internal boundary conditions can appear between bars and plates, between bar elements, or between plates elements.
The transfer of forces between the structure and the fixed world represents the external boundary conditions—for example, a fixed or pinned support. External boundary conditions are also known as supports, and in the calculation model, they can act as a substitute for structural elements that have not been included.
3. Is your structure statically determinate or indeterminate (hyperstatic)?
It would be best to answer this question before calculating the structure by hand. Only after you have the answer will you be able to select the calculation method properly.
Your structure is statically determinate if you can calculate the internal forces only based on the static equilibrium equations. On the other hand, if the internal forces are determined by the applied forces, but they are also dependent on the element's stiffness and the possible displacement of the supports, then your structure will be statically indeterminate. Most real-life 2D and 3D structures are statically indeterminate.
Afterward, once you are clear about your structure's status, you can approach the calculation methods. If the structure is statically indeterminate or you realize that you need to calculate more than once, it is best to use structural analysis software.
Make your life easier by choosing a fast, accurate, and easy-to-use structural analysis software to do the complex calculations for you. It will use the finite element method alongside various matrix solvers to divide the model into a finite number of small pieces, called "mesh". Most importantly, do not trust the default settings.
4. Go for machine & human cooperation
Similar to choosing the right mesh size, it is up to the structural engineer to interpret the results delivered by the structural analysis software of his choice or via hand calculations.
However, the cooperation between machines and humans has become more critical than ever. The more complex your structure, the harder the calculations and more stress for the engineer. Go for machine and human cooperation to make your life easier.
Once you sit down to interpret the results, do you deem them acceptable, or do you need to adjust the model? You can always change the model by selecting additional elements or modifying sections or existing elements. Your structural analysis software can help you here by providing optimal solutions for what you need in your model to be a successful one.
5. Continuous learning
If you are new to structural analysis software or have in-depth learning needs, dedicated training will help you. As we all know, education does not stop once we finish our studies. It is an ongoing process that the Japanese call "kaizen" (continuous improvement). Continuous learning is a requirement to become a successful structural engineer.
We believe in continuous learning and offer training to beginners and veteran structural engineers to become more successful in their projects. The training will cover the theoretical aspects and practical examples, highlighting the scope of the software and its modules.
At BuildSoft, we focus on developing fast, accurate, easy-to-use structural analysis software that structural engineers and construction companies love. Our core structural analysis software is Diamonds, PowerConnect is our go-to steel connection design software. At the same time, BIM Expert is our signature exchanging software that offers excellent interoperability with Tekla Structural Designer, SAP2000, Tekla Structures, and Idea Statica. You can check them out at this link.
BuildSoft is a Belgian company that develops fast, user-friendly software for structural analysis and BIM interoperability of concrete, steel, and timber structures.
Our team has engineers with structural analysis education, and we have offices in Merelbeke (Belgium) and Alicante (Spain). Since January 2021, we have been part of the StruSoft Group. Our UK representative is Athena Horizons.
Discover more about us here: www.buildsoft.eu