Where do We Go From Here? Evolution of Structural Design Software

August 30, 2007
Publication: Structural Engineer
Author(s): Parker, James C.

Abstract: Those who provide structural design for new building structures know well that the art of designing buildings is much more than computing stresses and strains for the structural members. Structural design includes integration of creative structural concepts into the architecture, coordination with mechanical systems, material selection, analysis, design checking, and documentation; as well as developing complete and coordinated construction documents. This has to be accomplished in concert with the architect and other designers on the team, often at a fast pace with design iterations and changes, and always with real-time understanding of how the design decisions affect the final project cost.|Early use of computers was generally limited to only a part of this process such as the analysis of large and/or complex structures to provide the engineer with member stresses and deformations. Today, there has been a proliferation of commercial computer software to assist the design engineer with various facets of the overall design process, including structural analysis, design, and code checks; system optimization; and document development, to name a few. Although each software application may be very comprehensive for its specific task, and may increase the productivity for that task, the engineer must integrate each separate application into a comprehensive design process.|The process, and in particular how we achieve quality design and design documents, presents the engineer with challenges when trying to incorporate disparate computer tools. Increasingly, software developers attempt to integrate more and more of the design process into one computer tool. This provides efficiency and simplification for the user, but also brings new challenges with respect to transparency, technical validation, staff training, and, ultimately, quality of design.

Services: Structural Design
Keywords: Analytical Studies