What is Structural Analysis? - Meaning, Tools, Software, Methods, Books

By Mukul Yadav|Updated : September 7th, 2022

In the world of designing civil engineering structures, parameters that are going to be used in the designing process are required. These parameters consist of many unknowns like bending moment at any section, support conditions and materials used, etc., which are found with the help of structure analysis. Structural Analysis determines how the structural change will affect the structure's serviceability.

With the help of structural analysis, we can predict how much load the structure can withstand, and also it will help to understand the deformation or displacements caused by loads in the structure. Deformation or displacements can be categorized as external effects of load on the structure. In this article, we will understand structural analysis and how it will help design civil engineering structures.

Table of Content

What is a Structural Analysis

The concept of mechanics is used to understand the effects of external forces on the body's internal structure.

Structural Analysis Meaning

Structural analysis is the branch of mechanics in which we deal with the effect of external forces on the structures, and these effects include deformations, bending moments, shear forces, etc.

In the domain of structural analysis, deformation of the structural member at any point, stresses induced in the member, reactions at supports, internal forces, stability of the structure, and all those related things are found with the help of the concept of applied mechanics, applied mathematics and at the same time materials science is also required to understand the properties of materials.

Basics of Structural Analysis

The structural analysis includes the analysis of structures to determine the unknowns in the structure. It uses material strength and solid mechanics concepts to determine these unknowns. When the structural design starts, it is required to find a potential external load on the structure, adequate structural steel, and the size of the structure's internal members must be determined based on their loads.

Structural analysis shows the relationship between a structural member's expected external load and the structure's corresponding internal stresses and displacements. It is necessary to ensure that the structural members satisfy the safety and serviceability requirements of the local building code and the specifications of the area where the structure is located.

Structural Analysis Tool

Structural analysis is a systematic approach that uses graphical tools to analyze and refine an existing system's objectives and develop a new system specification that the user can easily understand. For the proper analysis, there are various techniques and tools are used, which are as follows:

  • Data Dictionary
  • Data Flow Diagrams
  • Decision Tables
  • Decision Trees
  • Pseudocode
  • Structured English

Software for Structural Analysis

In the real world of designing, it’s very complicated to design the structure by conventional or hand calculations. That’s why much software is needed to design the structures. Some of them are listed below, which can be used based on their suitability, Accuracy, and availability for that particular condition.

  • AutoCAD
  • Revit
  • STAAD Pro
  • SAFE
  • RISA
  • 3D Max
  • SAP2000
  • SketchUp
  • Navisworks

Structural Analysis Methods

Many structural analysis methods are available to find out the unknowns of a structure. This unknown consists of forces and displacement in the structure. Based on the unknowns, Building frames can be analyzed by various methods such as the force method, displacement method, Kani’s method, and approximate method of design.

Design-displacement methods can be categorized into the Slope deflection method, Moment distribution method, and Direct stiffness method. And the approximate method can be categorized into the Portal method, Cantilever method, and points of inflection method.

Kani’s design method involves the distribution of fixed end moments to its adjacent joints to satisfy the continuity of slope and deflection at a particular joint. The main advantage of this method is that it can self-correct the values of fixed end moments in the subsequent stages.

Matrix Methods of Structural Analysis

Concepts and notations of matrix algebra can be used to arrive at a general systematic approach to structure analysis in Matrix Methods of Structural Analysis. The matrix method of analysis principle of matrix analysis is used in many civil engineering applications. This method's matrix may be a stiffness matrix or a flexibility matrix. The three-moment equation in structural analysis is basically a flexibility method.

Matrix structural analysis methods are used to analyze structures composed of one-dimensional elements. The solution procedures used in the matrix method are very systematic and can be written to make computer programs using this matrix method.

Unit Load Method Used in Structural Analysis

The Unit load method used in structural analysis is derived from Castigliano's theorem. With the help of the unit load method, the deflection of beams and frames can also be found. This method can also be used to find the deflections in the statically determinate or indeterminate structures.

The unit-load method can quantify displacements and rotation of the equilibrium configuration after it has equilibrated the applied loads. The unit load method is also known as the virtual work method for analysis of the structure, which can be used for determining the slope and deflections at a particular point of a structural member.

Advanced Structural Analysis

The structural analysis uses simplified bar, beam, and shell models for engineering decision-making. The main goal is to determine the effects of loads on the structures. The structural analysis predicts the response of structures to external loads. During the preliminary structural design stage, a structure's potential external load is estimated, and the size of the structure's interconnected members is determined based on the estimated loads.

Advanced Structural Analysis is a part of structural analysis that covers many concepts like matrix analysis of structures, which are presented uniquely. Some advanced structural analysis techniques include the theoretical basis and application of the finite element method for truss, beam, and plate elements.

Structural Analysis Civil Engineering

Structural analysis is an important subject of Civil Engineering that comes under the scope of solid mechanics. It is not only the exam point of view but also the core subject of civil engineering. Knowledge of structural analysis is essential for designing structures. It also helps to understand better other subjects like Strength of materials and Geotechnical engineering.

In the subject called structural analysis, we understand many concepts related to designing structures. We also study different methods of analysis of the design. To better understand this, we need to understand the Strength of material first because many concepts are related to each other in this domain.

Structural Analysis Book

Here is the list of important books for Structural Analysis which will help in creating a strong base for the GATE CE examination:

  • Structural Analysis by R. C. Hibbeler
  • Intermediate Structural Analysis by Chu-Kia Wang
  • Advanced Structural Analysis by Devdas Menon
  • Basic Structural Analysis by CS Reddy
  • Structural Analysis - A Matrix Approach by Pandit & Gupta

Related Important Links

Fixed BeamsSolid Mechanics
Moment Of InertiaProof Resilience
Modulus Of RigidityMohr's Circle
Shear ForceStrain Gauge
GATE Civil SyllabusGATE 2023 login

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Structural Analysis FAQs

  • Structural analysis is the branch of solid mechanics in which displacement and redundant force are being determined with the help of structural analysis methods. The ultimate limit states and serviceability limit states are checked in the structural analysis.

  • Degree of indeterminacy is the number of extra unknown reactions in excess to the equilibrium reactions. An indeterminate structure provides more stability to the structure by producing redundant forces.

  • Structural analysis uses ideas from applied mechanics, materials science and applied mathematics to calculate a structure's stresses, strains, and stability.

  • Structure types include solid structure framed structure shell membrane type structure composite structure. Which can be used based on its suitability and availability.

  • Degree of freedom is the number of directions in which a structure can freely move without any restrictions. For example a hinge support can rotate freely about its point in a plane so its degree of freedom is only one for the planner system.

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