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RE: Technology and Structural Engineering

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I have GOT to reply to this.  I strongly disagree with your statement that "... someone who designs only by hand knows less about structural behavior than someone who uses all of these available tools".  You're flat out wrong about that.  One of the most important tools that we rely upon to clarify structural behavior is the TESTING that is done by OTHERS.  Concrete, steel, wood you name it -- we have gobs and gobs of fantastic data that shows us HOW structural members and systems BEHAVE in actual testing situations AS WELL AS from observations made in the field.  It is the competent engineer who know what to DO with this plethora of information as opposed to the guy who knows how to rotate a column 90 degrees.
AGAIN, I'm certainly not advocating hand-calcs anytime and every time, fancy computer analysis programs definitely have their place as a TOOL -- but we can't BASE our understanding of how a structure behaves on what a pretty computer printout shows us.  It's far more complicated than that and it's this complete accumulation of facts and data (including computer results) that helps us to think on our feet when we are presented with a problem to solve in the field.  Computer analysis is most definitely NOT the absolute best way to understand structural behavior -- it is a TOOL, but not the BEST way.
Dave K. Adams, S.E.
Lane Engineers, Inc.
Tulare, CA
-----Original Message-----
From: Structures Online [mailto:3.sol(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Wednesday, August 31, 2005 8:23 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Re: Technology and Structural Engineering

While I fully agree that knowing the basis of mechanics (both statics & dynamics) is essential for any structural engineer, I cant understand what is the need of designing a 20 storey building (or for that matter the simplest or smallest of structures) by hand in today's world. And let me add that doing it by hand is superlatively inferior to designing it by a 3D modeling software (specially the analysis part). I have seen and compared results, the calcs done by hand are grossly conservative & grossly wrong in many areas, not to say it takes a much longer duration. Most of the assumptions give wrong result. The basic problem is that by hand we do not distribute the forces in relation to the displacements, which "in plain & simple words" is WRONG. One such example was recently given by Christopher Wright in terms of distribution of slab loads to beams. I can give hundreds of such examples.
When the tools were not available, there was no choice but to make those assumptions so as to be able to do the calculations in a feasible time frame (translating to economic viability). But I would say it is criminal, to do it by hand in today's world when the tools are available. Using these tools do not imply that you should devote less time to a project. It simply means we should make the project more structural efficient (implying optimize between safety & economy) by giving it the same amount of time. The error lies in trying to design a 100 storied building in 1 day (although one may think that he can do it).
I would also like to make a statement that some would probably not like, but the fact is that someone who designs only by hand, knows less about structural behaviour than someone who uses all these available tools. It takes 1 minute to rotate the orientation of a column, or increase the size of the beam & see the impact on the whole structure. The overall comprehension of structural integrity & efficiency obtained by playing with structure on a 3D software cannot be obtained by knowing basic statics or dynamics.
All my ranting above, also answers in part, the role of technology in Structural Engineering, as asked by Chitra. To add, technology in every walk of life, is a double edged sword, it can either make your life better, or it can simply destroy you. But the choice is most of the time, ours.
And as Ralph said ">Wouldn't go back for the world.   :)
Pankaj Gupta
Structures Online.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, August 31, 2005 5:13 PM
Subject: Re: Technology and Structural Engineering

I'm with you-graduated in 1961. I bet if you asked one
of the recent graduates to design a 20 storey building
by hand, they wouldn't know where to start.  Graphic
analysis and moment distribution?  How did they design
the Empire State building?

On 31 Aug 2005 at 0:50, Rhkratzse(--nospam--at) wrote:

> I realize that I'm the only person on this list who remembers what
> engineering was like in the 1960s, but the mechanics of producing
> calcs., specs., and drawings were SO much more difficult, and the
> physical quality was so much lower.   I emphasize PHYSICAL quality
> because I DO NOT mean engineering quality.   I mean illegible
> calculations (not spread sheets, etc.), actual cut-and-paste and then
> type and mimeograph specifications, and "Xerox" things one page at a
> time, and erasing your way through the tracing.   Hail, I even knew
> architects who still used ink on linen!   Now we have recent graduates
> who can design 100 story high rises over night, complete with
> color-coded working drawings, having analyzed 100 load combinations,
> but the welds fail in an earthquake.    Oops!   Supposedly the guy who
> designed the Seattle Space Needle just stuck 3 of the heaviest WF
> shapes made into a triangle for each leg and checked it with his slide
> rule ... and it's still there!  
> Enuf reminiscing.  
> Wouldn't go back for the world.   :)
> Ralph Hueston Kratz, S.E.
> Richmond CA USA
> In a message dated 8/30/05 9:35:21 PM, chrisw(--nospam--at) writes: >
> That said, I'm not all that certain that the technology doesn't seem
> to > have made across-the-board improvements in engineering
> productivity, > certainly not in the manufacturing areas where I work.
> I've heard a lot > of claims, usually by software developers, but I
> don't see as much > overall impact in particularly improved design
> methodology, lower costs > or shorter design lead times.

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