Structural analysis engineering is a type of engineering that deals primarily with the design and analysis of various structures that must support or resist loads. This type of engineering is typically utilized when constructing large or unusually shaped buildings, but may also be used for other structures such as ships, bridges, pipelines, aircraft and industrial manufacturing plants. Structural analysis engineering is usually required to ensure that a structure will be able to endure certain weight loads, climate changes, or natural disasters. The field of structural analysis engineering is generally divided into three separate categories: civil, architectural, and mechanical.
Structural analysis engineering theory is generally based upon known physical laws as well as experiential knowledge of the past performance of various types of structural materials. This type of engineering typically uses only a few basic elements in order to build up a very complex structural system. The basic elements that make up most structures include columns, arches, beams, and shells as well as plates and cables. These elements are also classified as being either curved or straight, and one or two-dimensional.
The field of structural analysis engineering first began to be recognized during the industrial revolution of the late 19th century. Prior to that time, an architect and a structural analysis engineer were essentially the same position, known as a master builder. As the knowledge of certain structural theories began to increase during this period, the need arose for a type of civil engineer who specialized in structural analysis. Today, the complexity of most modern structures requires a great deal of creativity from a structural standpoint to ensure that these structures are able to support and resist the loads to which they are subjected.
Civil engineering structures requiring structural analysis engineering typically include dams, bridges, pipelines and offshore structures. These structures are often subjected to extreme forces caused by wide temperature variations and dynamic loads from waves or traffic. They are sometimes constructed in highly corrosive environments at sea and underground.
Architectural engineering structures, such as warehouses, domes and skyscrapers, are often very complex and require a team of structural analysis engineers in order to complete their design and construction. These engineers must make allowances for such forces as wind, snow, rain, fire and earthquakes when designing a structure. In addition to maintaining structural integrity, necessary building services such as heating, air conditioning, communications, and lighting must be taken into account in the overall design.
The basic principals of structural analysis engineering are frequently applied in the construction of certain types of mechanical structures as well. Mechanical structures requiring this type of engineering typically include ships, aircraft, railroad cars, elevators, and cranes. Mechanical structures such as ships and aircraft are often subjected to extreme forces that are likely to occur repeatedly during the lifetime of their service. When designing this type of structure, an engineer must make sure that it will be able to endure these stresses over a long period of time.