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Structural Design: Significance and Processes in Civil Engineering


What is Structural Design in construction?

Why is a robust structural design important and considered the backbone of any construction project? Structural design is a sub-discipline of Civil Engineering and is also referred to as the ‘muscles and bones’ of construction. Structural design is systematic research that determines the most cost-effective specification for a structure or structural component to safely bear the expected load. In other words, determining the cross-sectional dimension, material grade, amount of reinforcement, and other factors needed to withstand the internal forces are determined by structural analysis.

The structural designs are also blended with those of other planners, such as architects and building services engineers, and they often superintend the on-site construction of projects by contractors. They may also be engaged in the planning and design of industrial equipment, hospital instruments, and automobiles where structural integrity has an impact on functionality and safety.

Principles of Robust Structural Design

The main goal of structural analysis and design is to create a structure that can withstand all applied loads for the duration of its intended existence. Elements of a system that are poorly built may fail, resulting in severe consequences such as major costs or, in the worst-case scenario, the loss of lives, which cannot be compared to any cost.

After the architectural engineer determines the structure’s purpose and configuration, the structural engineer’s work starts, which can be outlined in the following steps to create stable, practical, and cost-effective structures. 

  • Magnitude – The magnitude of all the forces acting on the structure. It is critical for engineers to determine & analyze all the forces a structure is subjected to. The structural design for all the structural components should be determined after a thorough calculation of all the load-bearing capacities.
  • Direction – The force’s course is called direction. The weight of rainfall, heavy snowfall, or hailstorm would act downwards, in the direction of gravity, whilst a strong wind like in hurricanes would act against the side of the house. To combat different types of forces, different materials, and reinforcement systems are needed.
  • Location – The force’s action is also defined by its position. Structural engineers must consider the impact of expected forces on each individual region of the structure, not just the entire structure.

When doing a structural study or analysis, civil and structural engineers should look at all three properties of forces as they are crucial for the sturdiness of the structure.

Shaping your Structures SAFE, STABLE, and SUSTAINABLE

Structural Design – Procedure

1. Functional Design

Starting from the initial design stage or the conceptual design phase building components should be erected as per the codes and standards. This may involve: 

  • Column placement and orientation
  • Beam’s positioning
  • Layout of slabs
  • Staircase layouts
  • Choosing the right kind of footing

At least 30% of the total number of columns should be in either the x- or y-direction to ensure sufficient seismic response of the structure.

2. Structural Analysis Model

The exact dimensions of each building element must be calculated after the initial design is completed. First, the building’s initial measurements are used to construct a structural analysis model. All loads acting on the structure, such as dead loads, live loads, wind, and earthquake loads, must be described in the model. 

Internal forces [Normal Force, Shear Force, Bending Moments] on each factor are determined using the model. 

3. Algorithmic Design

Now that you have the straining behavior on the elements based on the initial sizing, you can easily use them to build in accordance with the applicable code. Using spreadsheets or any other program that helps with design has made the process so much easier. 

The research model should then be updated to include the new dimensions obtained from the previous design, and the analysis should be run again. Internal forces are determined, and the design is updated to reflect the new forces. This iterative process is repeated until the element design in two subsequent iterations is the same. 

4. Foundation Design

After determining the final dimensions of members, the foundation system form can be chosen, taking into account the soil’s bearing capacity as well as the structure’s loading. Following are the steps for building foundation design: 

  • Decide on the location of the columns and foundation, as well as the kind of load that will be acting on them – The location of columns and load-bearing walls, as well as any other induced loadings and bending moments, should be indicated on the building plan. The loads should be divided into categories: deal load, live load, or wind load, with partial safety factors assigned to each. 
  • Use a ground investigation report to estimate the soil’s allowable bearing pressure. To assess the safe bearing ability at various levels, the strength of the soil at various depths or strata below the foundation level should be investigated. In the absence of a site inquiry, these values – or assumed bearing values (from any specifications or codes) – are used to estimate the acceptable bearing pressure. 
  • Decide on the foundation’s depth – The minimum depth below ground level is unaffected by temperature, moisture content variation, or erosion – this may be as low as 450 mm in granular soils but may reach 1 m depending on the site and ground conditions – or the depth of the basement, boiler house, service ducts, or similar – decide the invert level (underside) of the foundation. 
  • Calculate foundation area – The required foundation area is calculated using the typical (working) loads and the estimated allowable pressure. The preliminary design of the types or combinations of types of the foundation is determined by this. The decision is generally made on the basis of cost, speed, and structural design. 
  • Determine variation in vertical stresses –To search for potential over-stressing of any underlying weak strata, the variance of vertical stress vs. depth is determined. 
  • Calculate settlement – To ensure that the total and differential settlements are appropriate, settlement calculations should be performed. If these are inappropriate, a new permissible bearing pressure should be calculated, and the foundation design should be changed to increase the area of the foundations, or the foundations should be lowered to a deeper and stronger stratum. 

5. Design Drafting

The structural plans are developed in this process. These plans should be fully comprehensive so that the construction process on the job site can run smoothly and without being slowed down by missing information in the drawings. 

Structural Design Significance  

Structural Design plays an important role in ensuring: 

  • Build and DesignTo ensure that the structure is built to be safe and sound, structural designing provides all the essential information about the foundations, walls, floors, types of roofs, steep beams, material quality, and more. In order to construct structures that can withstand loads and pressures without malfunctioning, civil engineers must work with aesthetic design principles. Building a structure without taking into account its structural layout always carries a significant risk that it will collapse under its own weight or as a result of external forces. Because structural design directly affects the stability and longevity of the structures, it is essential to construction projects. 
  • Safety and Compliance Structural design analysis ensures that the new structure complies with all necessary safety requirements and design codes. An in-depth analysis of the structure can reveal information about the load that it can support, the wind speed it can withstand, and the overall utility and capability of the building in various environmental situations. For example, understanding the safe weight limits for bridges and the precise estimation of the magnitude of tremors a skyscraper can withstand will undoubtedly help avoid any future catastrophes. 
  • Efficient Material ManagementEnsuring the effective use of resources and materials for construction is linked to structural design. Civil engineers must choose the best material grade to guarantee the structures’ operational usability and safety without incurring additional costs. 

Structural design is used to design public facilities, homes, towers, tunnels, bridges, and other forms of structures, and it plays an important role in construction projects. To ensure the structure’s protection, stability, and durability, structural design analysis should be carried out with extreme caution. Structural analysis can be used by civil and structural engineers to determine the forces that can operate on a structure and to select materials and reinforcements that will effectively withstand those forces. 

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Indovance Inc with its exclusive delivery hub in India is a global CAD outsourcing partner serving the needs of the AEC industry since 2003. We focus on the unique need of each project or client and believe in addressing the real challenges and guarantee that the process will be well-coordinated, smooth, efficient, and hassle-free.  We are partnered with large corporations for their structural design, drafting, and detailing needs in fabrication, precast detailing, steel detailing, and general arrangement (GA) drawings.  

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