Structural engineering is the science and art of planning, designing, and constructing safe and economical structures that will serve their intended purposes. Structural analysis is an integral part of any structural engineering project, its function being the prediction of the performance of the proposed structure. A flowchart showing the various phases of a typical structural engineering project is presented below. As this diagram indicates, the process is an iterative one, and it generally consists of the following steps:
- Planning Phase : The planning phase usually involves the establishment of the functional requirements of the proposed structure, the general layout and dimensions of the structure, consideration of the possible types of structures (e.g., rigid frame or truss) that may be feasible and the types of materials to be used (e.g., structural steel or reinforced concrete). This phase may also involve consideration of nonstructural factors, such as aesthetics, environmental impact of the structure, and so on. The outcome of this phase is usually a structural system that meets the functional requirements and is expected to be the most economical. This phase is perhaps the most crucial one of the entire project and requires experience and knowledge of construction practice in addition to a thorough understanding of the behavior of structures.
2. Preliminary Structural Design In the preliminary structural design phase, the sizes of the various members of the structural system selected in the planning phase are estimated based on approximate analysis, past experience, and code requirements. The member sizes thus selected are used in the next phase to estimate the weight of the structure.
3. Estimation of Loads: involves determination of all the loads that can be expected to act on the structure.
4. Structural Analysis : In structural analysis, the values of the loads are used to carry out an analysis of the structure in order to determine the stresses or stress resultants in the members and the deflections at various points of the structure.
5. Safety and Serviceability Checks : The results of the analysis are used to determine whether or not the structure satisfies the safety and serviceability requirements of the design codes. If these requirements are satisfied, then the design drawings and the construction specifications are prepared, and the construction phase begins.
6. Revised Structural Design: If the code requirements are not satisfied, then the member sizes are revised, and phases 3 through 5 are repeated until all the safety and serviceability requirements are satisfied.
As discussed in the preceding section, perhaps the most important decision made by a structural engineer in implementing an engineering project is the selection of the type of structure to be used for supporting or transmitting loads. Commonly used structures can be classified into five basic categories, depending on the type of primary stresses that may develop in their members under major design loads. However, it should be realized that any two or more of the basic structural types described in the following may be combined in a single structure, such as a building or a bridge, to meet the structure’s functional requirements.
The members of tension structures are subjected to pure tension under the action of external loads. Because the tensile stress is distributed uniformly over the cross-sectional areas of members, the material of such a structure is utilized in the most efficient manner. Tension structures composed of flexible steel cables are frequently employed to support bridges and long-span roofs. Because of their flexibility, cables have negligible bending stiffness and can develop only tension. Thus, under external loads, a cable adopts a shape that enables it to support the load by tensile forces alone. In other words, the shape of a cable changes as the loads acting on it change. As an example, the shapes that a single cable may assume under two different loading conditions are shown in Fig. 1.3.
Figure 1.4 shows a familiar type of cable structure—the suspension bridge. In a suspension bridge, the roadway is suspended from two main cables by means of vertical hangers. The main cables pass over a pair of towers and are anchored into solid rock or a concrete foundation at their ends. Because suspension bridges and other cable structures lack stiffness in lateral directions, they are susceptible to wind-induced oscillations (see Fig. 1.5). Bracing or stiffening systems are therefore provided to reduce such oscillations. Besides cable structures, other examples of tension structures include vertical rods used as hangers (for example, to support balconies or tanks) and membrane structures such as tents.
Compression structures develop mainly compressive stresses under the action of external loads. Two common examples of such structures are columns and arches. Columns are straight members subjected to axially compressive loads, as shown in Fig. 1.6.
When a straight member is subjected to lateral loads and/or moments in addition to axial loads, it is called a beam-column. An arch is a curved structure, with a shape similar to that of an inverted cable, as shown in Fig. 1.7. Such structures are frequently used to support bridges and long-span roofs. Arches develop mainly compressive stresses when subjected to loads and are usually designed so that they will develop only compression under a major design loading. However, because arches are rigid and cannot change their shapes as can cables, other loading conditions usually produce secondary bending and shear stresses in these structures, which, if significant, should be considered in their designs. Because compression structures are susceptible to buckling or instability, the possibility of such a failure should be considered in their designs; if necessary, adequate bracing must be provided to avoid such a failure.
Trusses are composed of straight members connected at their ends by hinged connections to form a stable configuration (Fig. 1.8). When the loads are applied to a truss only at the joints, its members either elongate or shorten. Thus, the members of an ideal truss are always either in uniform tension or in uniform compression. Real trusses are usually constructed by connecting members to gusset plates by bolted or welded connections. Although the rigid joints thus formed cause some bending in the members of a truss when it is loaded, in most cases such secondary bending stresses are small, and the assumption of hinged joints yields satisfactory designs. Trusses, because of their light weight and high strength, are among the most commonly used types of structures. Such structures are used in a variety of applications, ranging from supporting roofs of buildings to serving as support structures in space stations.
Shear structures, such as reinforced concrete shear walls (Fig. 1.9), are used in multistory buildings to reduce lateral movements due to wind loads and earthquake excitations. Shear structures develop mainly in-plane shear, with relatively small bending stresses under the action of external loads.
Bending structures develop mainly bending stresses under the action of external loads. In some structures, the shear stresses associated with the changes in bending moments may also be significant and should be considered in their designs. Some of the most commonly used structures, such as beams, rigid frames, slabs, and plates, can be classified as bending structures. A beam is a straight member that is loaded perpendicular to its longitudinal axis (Fig. 1.10).
Rigid frames : are composed of straight members connected together either by rigid (moment-resisting) connections or by hinged connections to form stable configurations. Unlike trusses, which are subjected only to joint loads, the external loads on frames may be applied on the members as well as on the joints (see Fig. 1.11). The members of a rigid frame are, in general, subjected to bending moment, shear, and axial compression or tension under the action of external loads. However, the design of horizontal members or beams of rectangular frames is often governed by bending and shear stresses only, since the axial forces in such members are usually small. Frames, like trusses, are among the most commonly used types of structures. Structural steel and reinforced concrete frames are commonly used in multistory buildings (Fig. 1.12), bridges, and industrial plants. Frames are also used as supporting structures in airplanes, ships, aerospace vehicles, and other aerospace and mechanical applications. FIG. 1.11 Rigid Frame It may be of interest to note that the generic term framed structure is frequently used to refer to any structure composed of straight members, including a truss. In that context, this textbook is devoted primarily to the analysis of plane framed structures.