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What is Structural Software?

By N. Kalu
Updated May 16, 2024
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Structural software is software used to prototype and analyze architectural designs. Also referred to as structural engineering software or civil engineering software, it is employed mostly by civil engineers. These engineers require a high level of data analysis and digital dimensional manipulation to meet their professional objectives.

In the real world, civil engineers and structural engineers design with components such as beams, joists, footings and rafters. Structural software gives them an opportunity to visualize these components on screen. Many of these programs require that the engineer know what type of loads are weighing down on the component and precisely what sort of component it is. These components can then be viewed and manipulated in the software's design module.

Components can also be drawn by the engineer using the software. Most structural software programs offer a way to create different elements from scratch. Usually, set figures such as lines, polygons, and boxes are provided for this purpose.

An important part of many of these programs is the calculation, or structural analysis, module. This module calculates data specific to a wide range of building elements. From a mock up of a concrete slender wall to one of a steel beam with torsional loads, this part of the software is able to replicate the design of such elements and provide mathematical analysis specific to any one element.

Any reliable piece of structural software will offer database and spreadsheet features so that the structural engineer or the civil engineer can more clearly research the type of elements being used in a design at any given time. These databases track a variety of measurements specific to a component. For instance, if an engineer needs a rolled steel section for a design, that engineer can refer to the software's database which gives the weight, area, depth, and many other specifications of numerous rolled steel sections.

Custom databases and spreadsheets can be made according to the engineer's needs. Structural engineering combines creativity and hard mathematical data. For this reason, it is important that this type of software provides a way for the engineer to create specialized databases that pull all the components of a particular project into one spreadsheet.

In addition to structural analysis, structural software also performs other critical functions for engineers. Reporting features allow users to gather data. Detailed graphics and diagrams are provided for presentation purposes. Color coding may also be available to differentiate groups of data. Some types of structural software provide animation, allowing for a more dynamic and three dimensional presentation.

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