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In structural engineering, structural design is an iterative process of applying engineering mechanics and past experience to create a functional, economic, and, most importantly, safe structure for the public to enjoy. Using structural analysis techniques and conforming to design specifications, the design engineer works to create a solution that is to everyone's benefit.

Structural design as a process has evolved to its modern refinement through hard lessons learned from various structural failures. Structures are divided in to two major categories, viz reinforced concrete (rcc) structures, and steel frame structures. Rcc again can be designed by many methods but two of them are important. One is the working stress method and another is the limit state method. The limit method is widely used for designing rcc structures.

Structural design is an expression of an understanding of the flow of forces. The flow of forces is initially understood diagrammatically and mathematically. Based on this scientific understanding, sketches of members and connections are developed. Structural design which is highly expressive of the flow of forces is also associated with modern architectural design.

Structural design includes accommodation for the practicalities of construction, including on site assembly, shop assembled components, accessibility, and maintenance.

Structural engineers design structures that will withstand the pressures they have to endure.


They develop initial designs, using mathematics to calculate the stress that could arise at each point in the structure, and simulate and model possible situations, such as high winds and earth movements. When construction has begun, they are often involved in inspecting the work and advising contractors.


Structural engineers often work in partnership with architects. They also examine buildings and other structures to discover whether or not they are structurally sound.


Typical work activities

Structural engineers ensure that structures serve their function without collapsing, bending, twisting or vibrating in undesirable ways. Their aim is to make efficient use of funds and materials to achieve these structural goals.

Much of the role is office-based and engineers use computers to simulate a range of solutions for the structure that is being designed. The work also involves examining existing structures and modifying buildings whose usage is being changed to ensure they are safe to fulfill their intended purpose.

Typical work activities include:

  • analyzing suitable configurations of the basic structural components of a building or other structure;
  • calculating the pressures, stresses and strains that each component, such as a beam or lintel, is likely to experience from other parts of the structure or from external pressures, such as wind and waves;
  • considering the strength of various materials, e.g. timber, concrete, steel and brick, to see how their inclusion may necessitate a change of structural design;
  • liaising with other designers, including architects, to reach agreement about safe designs and how they may fit in with the aesthetic concept of the construction;
  • examining structures at risk of collapse and advising on measures to be taken to improve their structural integrity, such as recommending removal or repair of defective parts or re-building the entire structure - the Leaning Tower of Pisa was recently saved from collapse by structural engineers;
  • communicating the design of a structure through drawings, specifications and computer models so that others can construct it;
  • investigating ground conditions and analyzing results of site tests, such as soil samples;
  • liaising closely with construction contractors to ensure that newly erected buildings are structurally sound;
  • applying expert knowledge of the forces that act on various structures;
  • using computer-aided design (CAD) technology for simulation purposes.

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