Structural Engineering

structural banner 3Structural engineering is a branch of civil engineering that focuses on the design and analysis of structures such as buildings, bridges, towers, and other load-bearing structures.  Structural engineers use their knowledge of physics, mathematics, and materials science to ensure that structures are safe, durable, and able to withstand the loads they will experience over their lifespan.  The work of a structural engineer typically involves analyzing and designing structures to withstand gravity, wind, earthquakes, and other natural or man made forces.  They use computer aided design (CAD) software, as well as physical models, to simulate how a structure will behave under various conditions and to optimize its design.

Structural engineers are also responsible for ensuring that a structure meets all applicable building codes and safety standards.  They work closely with architects, construction managers, and other professionals to ensure that a project is designed and constructed to meet the needs of its intended use, while also being safe and cost effective.

In addition to designing new structures, structural engineers also assess the safety and stability of existing structures, such as bridges or buildings that may have been damaged by natural disasters or other events.  They may also work on retrofitting projects to improve the safety and performance of older structures.  Structural engineering is a critical field in the construction industry, helping to ensure that the structures we use and rely on every day are safe and stable.


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Structural Engineering Glossary


  • Abutment  -  The part of a pier or wall that is either an end of an arch, beam or bridge which resists the pressure of a load.
  • Aggregate  -  A mixture of sand and stone with the major component concrete.
  • Axial Force  -  A force that tends to stretch or shorten a member.


  • Bar Spacing  -  The minimum spacing that should allow the largest expected concrete gravel size to pass between the bars freely.
  • Beam  -  The main part of the structural framing that carries loads from one member to another on its horizontal axis.
  • Beam Loading  -  The application of a load to a pipe between two points of support usually expressed in pounds and the distance between the centers of the support.
  • Bend Allowance  -  The length of the arc through the bend area at the neutral axis.
  • Bending Moment  -  Describe the internal force or moment that causes a beam, column, or other structural element to bend. 
  • Bending Strength  -  Upper limit of normal stress of a beam at which fracture or excessive plastic deformation occurs.
  • Boulder Wall  -  A wall constructed of boulders and set in morter.
  • Bracing  -  The stiffening of an area between columns by means of diagonal elements.
  • Butt Plate  -  The end plate of a structural member usually used to rest against a like plate or another member in forming a connection.


  • C-beam  -  A beam shaped like an "C" with a center web and having a half crossbar at both end.
  • Cantilever Beam  -  A beam that is fixed at one end and free at the other
  • Cladding  -  The exterior metal roof and wall paneling of a metal building system.
  • Clip  -  A plate or angle used to fasten two or more members together.
  • Collapse Slump  -  The fresh concrete collapses completely.
  • Collateral Load  -  The weight of additional permanent materials required by the contract, other than the building system, such as sprinklers, mechanical and electrical systems, partitions and ceilings.
  • Column  -  A vertical structural compression member which supports loads.
  • Composit Beam  -  A structural component that is made by using two different materials joined togeather to act as one.
  • Compressive Stress   -  The force that is responsible for the deformation of the material such that the volume of the material reduces.
  • Concrete  -  A composite material that is created by mixing binding materials, aggregates, and water in specific porportions.
  • Concrete Slump  -  An on the spot test to determine the consistancy and workability of fresh concrete.
  • Connection  -  Joins members to transfer forces or moments from one to the other.
  • Continuous Beam  -  A beam that is supported at each end and can have one or more intermediate supports.
  • Cope  -  A cutout made in a structural member to remove materialand conform to the shape of an intersecting member.
  • Corrosion  -  A process through which metal deterioates and returns to its natural oxidation state by a chemical reaction.
  • Creep  -  Metal deformation that occures at stresses below the yield strength of a metal, normally at elevated temperature.
  • Cripple Wall  -  A short height of wall, typically occurring in residential home construction, between the ground floor and the foundation.
  • Curved Beam  -  A beam with a curved profile along the length.


  • Dead Load  -  The full weight or pressure applied downward to a fixed location on the ground and relatively constant over time.  The weight is usually measured in pounds per square foot (psf).  The dead load can be calculated accurately because the load is constant.
  • Dead Wall  -  Static loads that are permanently present, such as the weight of a structure.
  • Deflection  -  The change in the position of something from zero or from its normal position.
  • Deformation  -  Is measured by how much an object is deformed from its origional dimensions.

  • Distributed Load (Uniform Load)  -  A force evenly distributed along a supportive structure.
  • Door Guide  -  An angle or channel used to stabilize or keep plumb a sliding or rolling door during its operation.
  • Double Overhanging Beam  -  A beam extending from borh ends of the support to some distance.
  • Downspout  -  A conduit used to carry water from the gutter of the building.
  • Drift Pin  -  A tapered pin used during erection to align holes in steel members to be connected by bolting.
  • Dynamic Load  -  Cyclic load, such as gusty wind and seismic loads.


  • Elastic Modulus  -  The ratio of the stress applied to a body or substance to the resulting strain within the elastic limits.
  • Elasticity  -  Measures the stiffness of an elastic material.
  • End Frame  -  A frame located at the end wall of a building that supports the loads from a portion of the end bay.
  • End Wall  -  An exterior wall that is parallel to the main frames of the building.
  • End Wall Column  -  A vertical member located at the end wall of a building that supports the girts. In post and beam end wall frames the end wall columns also support the rafter.
  • Expansion Joint  -  Designed to withstand pressure and temperatures growth in foundations and piping system.  The thermal movement can be angular, axial or lateral.


  • Factor of Safety  -  The ability of a system's structural capacity to be usable beyond it's expected or acrual loads.
  • Fixed Beam  -  A beam in which both ends are fixed and the rotational movement is restrained.
  • Fixed Brace  -  A member used to provide lateral support to the flange of a structural member.
  • Fixed connection  -  A connection that resists axial forces, shear forces, and bending moments.
  • Flashing  -  The metal used to trim or cover the juncture of two planes of material.
  • Footing  -  A structural member used to distribute the loads to the soil in such a way that the load    bearing capacity of the soil is not exceded for building or structure foundation, walls and columns.
  • Force  -  The push or pull of an object resulting in a change from rest or motion.
  • Foundation  -  Supports a building or structure and transfers the load level across the soil.
  • Friction  -  The mechanical resistance to the relative movement of two surfaces.


  • Girder  -  A type of the beam that supports other smaller beams.
  • Gravity Load  -  Vertical loads from the weight of static or transient portions or occupants of a structure.
  • Grout  -  A mixture of Portland cement, sand, water, and other elements used for bonding concrete and steel members.


  • Hardness  -  The property of a material that enables it to resist plastic deformation, usually by penetration.
  • Header  -  A beam that is perpendicular to a joist.
  • Heat  -  A form of energy that causes physical change in what is being heated. 
  • Hip  -  The line formed at the intersection of two adjacent sloping planes of a roof.
  • Hip Roof  -  A roof that is formed by sloping planes from all four sides.


  • I-beam  -  A beam shaped like an "I" with a center web and having crossbars at the top and bottom.


  • Jamb  -  The vertical framing members located at the sides of an opening.
  • Joist  -  A beam usually arranged in parallel with others to support a floor, roof or ceiling.  In domestic construction, these are usually of timber, but steel and concrete joists are also used.


  • Knee  -  The connecting area of a column and rafter of a structural frame such as a rigid frame.
  • Knee Brace  -  A diagonal member at a column and rafter intersection designed to resist horizontal loads.


  • L-beam  -  A beam shaped like an "L" with a center web and having a half crossbar at one end.
  • Lap Joint  -  The joint between two overlapping connections in parallel planes.
  • Laterial Bracing  -  Provides in-plane laterial stability like diagonal bracing, shear walls, or other means.
  • Laterial Load  -  Acting in a laterial direction, created by the wind or an earthquake.
  • Lightweight Concrete  -  This concrete has strengthening properties that are not the same as normal concretes, with the mixing of binding materials, a lighter aggregate, and water in specific porportions.
  • Lintel Beam  -  A beam used at the top of openings like doors and windows.
  • Live load  -  These are the dynamic forces from occupancy and use.  They are the forces that move through the building such as momentum and vibration.  The live load can not be calculated accurately because the load is not constant.
  • Load per Unit Length   -  The load applied per unit length of the pipe.


  • Mass  -  The amount of matter an object has.
  • Material  -  The matter an object is made of.  There are four categories of material: ceramic, composite, metal and polymer.
  • Material Hardness  -  Hardness is the property of a material that enables it to resist plastic deformation, usually by penetration.
  • Moment of Inertia  -  Measures the resists or change an object has to rotational acceleration about an axis.


  • Needle Beam  -  A short length of timber or steel that is inserted through a hole in a wall, with props at each end to enable the wall to be supported while work takes place beneath.
  • Net Area  -  Gross areareduced to account for removing material.
  • Nominal Load  -  The magnitude of the load specified by the applicable code.


  • Overhanging Beam  -  A beam extending from one end of the support to some distance.
  • Oxidation  -  The loss of electrons in a chemical reaction.


  • Pipe Rack  -  Used to support piping, instrumentation, cable tray and other components in a process facility.
  • Plate Girder  -  A fabricated girder by which welding plates togeather creates the desired shape.
  • Point Load  -  A load or force located at a certain point on a supporting structure.  This is the opposite of uniform load.
  • Portal Frame  -  A structural frame whose purpose is not only to support gravity loads in a vertical direction, but also to resist horizontal loads such as wind loads and sway forces. 
  • Pre-stressed Concrete Beam  -  A beam that is pretensioned before casting.
  • Precast Concrete Beam  -  A beam cast at an offsite location like a plant, where a controlled environment can take place.
  • Pressure  -  It is the force exerted perpendicular to the surface of an object and is expressed as force per unit area.
  • Purlin  -  A horizontal structural member that supports roof covering and carries loads to the primary framing members.



  • Radius of Gyration  -  The distance from the axis of rotation to a point where the total mass of the body is supposed to be concentrated.
  • Rafter  -  The main beam supporting the roof system.
  • Rake  -  The intersection of the plane of the roof and the plane of the end wall.
  • Rake Angle  -  Angle fastened to purlins at rake for attachment of end wall panels.
  • Rake Trim  -  A flashing designed to close the opening between the roof and end wall panels.
  • Rectangular Beam  -  A beam that has a cross-section of a rectangular shape.
  • Reinforced Concrete  -  Concrete containing steel reinforcement (steel rods or mesh) provides resistance to internal forces that weaken the structure and are designed to carry transverse external loads.
  • Rib  -  The longitudinal raised profile of a panel that provides much of the panel’s bending strength.
  • Ribbed Panel  -  A panel, which has ribs with sloping sides and forms a trapezoidal shaped void at the side lap.
  • Ridge  -  The horizontal line formed by opposing sloping sides of a roof running parallel with the building length.
  • Ridge Cap  -  A transition of the roofing materials along the ridge of a roof; sometimes called ridge roll or ridge flashing.
  • Ridge Frame  -  A structural frame consisting of member joined together with moment connections so as to render the steel frame stable with respect to design loads, without the need for bracing in its plane.
  • Rolled Steel Girder  -  A fabricated girder by which rolling a blank cylinder of steel through a series of dies creates the desired shape.
  • Roof Overhang  -  A roof extension beyond the end wall or sidewall of a building.


  • Safety Factor  -  The ability of a system's structural capacity to be usable beyond it's expected or acrual loads.
  • Seismic Load  -  Loads produced during a seismic movements of an earthquake.
  • Shear Modulus  -  The ratio of the tangential force per unit area applied to a body or substance to the resulting tangential strain within the elastic limits.
  • Shear Slump  -  If one half of the cone slides down an inclined plane.
  • Shear Stress  - Tends to deform the material by breaking rather than stretching without changing the volume by restraining the object.
  • Shear Wall  -  A structural member used to resist laterial forces parallel to the plane of the wall.
  • Side Wall  -  An exterior wall, which is perpendicular to the frames of a building system.
  • Simple Support Beam  -  A beam that is supported at both the ends, at one end it is pinned and the other is either pinner or rollers are used.
  • Slab  -  A thin structural member, usually of concrete or stone.  Also refers to floors or roofs of concrete.
  • Slurry  -  The measurement of the height loss from a compacted cone of fresh concrete.
  • Span  -  The distance between the supports.
  • Statically Determinate Beam  -  If the forces applied to the beam can be solved by static equilibrium equations.
  • Statically Indeterminate Beam  -  If the forces applied to the beam can be solved by static equilibrium equations.
  • Steel beam  -  Steel beams are manufactured from molten steepoured into molds and rolled out in a variety of shapes.
  • Stiffness  -  The elastic deformation of an object that applies to both compression and tension.
  • Strain  -  The deformation, stretched or compressed, of a material compared to its original length.

  • Static Friction Coefficient  -  The amount of force that resists motion that is on the verge of motion.
  • Straight Beam  -  A beam with a straight profile along the length.
  • Stress  -  The force per unit area of cross-section.
  • Stud  -  A vertical wall member to which exterior or interior covering or collateral material may be attached.  May be either load bearing or non-load bearing.


  • Tapered Beam  -  A beam with a center web and having a tapered (to the inside) shape crossbars.
  • T-beam  -  A beam shaped like an "T" with a center web and having a crossbar at one end.
  • Temperature  -  Normally described as the amount of heat or cold, but it is neither heat or cold.
  • Tensile Strength  -  The maximum stress a material can resist before it starts to elongate.
  • Tension  -  The force (pressure) acting on a material such as a cable, pipe, rod, etc. on one or more objects.  Tension with time, can cause objects to deform when under constant force. 
  • Tension Strength  -  The capacity of a material to resist a force tending to stretch it.
  • Thermal Expansion Coefficient  -  The percentage change in the length of the material per degree of temperature change, heated solid or liquid.
  • Tie Plate  -  A metal plate used to tie parallel parts of a building structure.
  • Timber Beam  -  Generally used in the wooden roof truss construction and runs horizontally between two posts on each side of the wooden trusts.
  • Torque  -  It is a measure of how much twisting is applied.
  • Torsion  -  The stress of twisting of an object due to applied torque.
  • Torsional Bracing  -  A bracing that prevents the stress of twisting of an object due to applied torque.
  • Triangular Load  -  A force distributed along a supportive structure whose magnitude is zero at one end and increases constantly to the second end of the span.
  • Truss  -  A structure composed of straight members connected in triangles, requiring no bending resistance in principle as the member forces are purely axial. Roofs and bridges are applications for which trusses are well suited.
  • Trussed Beam  -  A beam with truss members reinforcing the beam.  Normally used where long spans and open spaces are needed.
  • True Slump  -  The concrete just slumps a little and more or less maintains its moulding shape.


  • Uniform Load (Uniformally Distributed Load)  -  A force evenly distributed along a supportive structure.  This is the opposite of point load.
  • Uplifter  -  Wind load on a building, which causes a load in the upward direction.



  • Web  -  The middle plate of a beam or channel.
  • Web Buckling  -  A limit state of lateral instability of a web.
  • Weephole  -  A hole that allows water to escape from, such as the bottom of a pipe support to stop corrosion, or from behind a retaining wall to relieve pressure.
  • Welding  -  The fabrication process that fuses like materials togeather by heating them to a suitable temperatures, this can be acomplished by brazing, soldering or welding.
  • Wind Column  -  A vertical member designed to withstand horizontal wind loads, usually in the end wall.



  • Yield Point  -  The point where an elastic material is permanent change in length with no extra load force.


  • Zero Slump  -  The fresh concrete maintaines the actual shape of the mould.
  • Zinc Aluminum Coating  -  Steel coated with an alloy of zinc and aluminum to provide corrosion resistance.


Piping Designer Logo Slide 1 

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Anchor Tee Pipe Support
Angle Iron Pipe Support
Beam Bending Stress
Beam Design Formulas
Beam Fixed at Both Ends - Concentrated Load at Any Point