Structural load

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A structural load or structural action is a force, deformation, or acceleration applied to structural elements. [1] [2] A load causes stress, deformation, and displacement in a structure. Structural analysis, a discipline in engineering, analyzes the effects of loads on structures and structural elements. Excess load may cause structural failure, so this should be considered and controlled during the design of a structure. Particular mechanical structures—such as aircraft, satellites, rockets, space stations, ships, and submarines—are subject to their own particular structural loads and actions. [3] Engineers often evaluate structural loads based upon published regulations, contracts, or specifications. Accepted technical standards are used for acceptance testing and inspection.



Dead loads are static forces that are relatively constant for an extended time. They can be in tension or compression. The term can refer to a laboratory test method or to the normal usage of a material or structure.

Live loads are usually variable or moving loads. These can have a significant dynamic element and may involve considerations such as impact, momentum, vibration, slosh dynamics of fluids, etc.

An impact load is one whose time of application on a material is less than one-third of the natural period of vibration of that material.

Cyclic loads on a structure can lead to fatigue damage, cumulative damage, or failure. These loads can be repeated loadings on a structure or can be due to vibration.

Loads on architectural and civil engineering structures

Structural loads are an important consideration in the design of buildings. Building codes require that structures be designed and built to safely resist all actions that they are likely to face during their service life, while remaining fit for use. [4] Minimum loads or actions are specified in these building codes for types of structures, geographic locations, usage and building materials. [5] Structural loads are split into categories by their originating cause. In terms of the actual load on a structure, there is no difference between dead or live loading, but the split occurs for use in safety calculations or ease of analysis on complex models.

To meet the requirement that design strength be higher than maximum loads, building codes prescribe that, for structural design, loads are increased by load factors. These load factors are, roughly, a ratio of the theoretical design strength to the maximum load expected in service. They are developed to help achieve the desired level of reliability of a structure [6] based on probabilistic studies that take into account the load's originating cause, recurrence, distribution, and static or dynamic nature. [7]

Dead load

Dead load DEAD lOAD.jpg
Dead load
Imposed load (live load) IMPOSED lOAD.jpg
Imposed load (live load)
Live snow load SNOW LOAD.jpg
Live snow load

The dead load includes loads that are relatively constant over time, including the weight of the structure itself, and immovable fixtures such as walls, plasterboard or carpet. The roof is also a dead load. Dead loads are also known as permanent or static loads. Building materials are not dead loads until constructed in permanent position. [8] [9] [10] IS875(part 1)-1987 give unit weight of building materials, parts, components.

Live load

Live loads, or imposed loads, are temporary, of short duration, or a moving load. These dynamic loads may involve considerations such as impact, momentum, vibration, slosh dynamics of fluids and material fatigue.

Live loads, sometimes also referred to as probabilistic loads, include all the forces that are variable within the object's normal operation cycle not including construction or environmental loads.

Roof and floor live loads are produced during maintenance by workers, equipment and materials, and during the life of the structure by movable objects, such as planters and people.

Bridge live loads are produced by vehicles traveling over the deck of the bridge.

Environmental loads

Environmental loads are structural loads caused by natural forces such as wind, rain, snow, earthquake or extreme temperatures.

Other loads

Engineers must also be aware of other actions that may affect a structure, such as:

Load combinations

A load combination results when more than one load type acts on the structure. Building codes usually specify a variety of load combinations together with load factors (weightings) for each load type in order to ensure the safety of the structure under different maximum expected loading scenarios. For example, in designing a staircase, a dead load factor may be 1.2 times the weight of the structure, and a live load factor may be 1.6 times the maximum expected live load. These two "factored loads" are combined (added) to determine the "required strength" of the staircase.

The reason for the disparity between factors for dead load and live load, and thus the reason the loads are initially categorized as dead or live is because while it is not unreasonable to expect a large number of people ascending the staircase at once, it is less likely that the structure will experience much change in its permanent load.

Aircraft structural loads

For aircraft, loading is divided into two major categories: limit loads and ultimate loads. [11] Limit loads are the maximum loads a component or structure may carry safely. Ultimate loads are the limit loads times a factor of 1.5 or the point beyond which the component or structure will fail. [11] Gust loads are determined statistically and are provided by an agency such as the Federal Aviation Administration. Crash loads are loosely bounded by the ability of structures to survive the deceleration of a major ground impact. [12] Other loads that may be critical are pressure loads (for pressurized, high-altitude aircraft) and ground loads. Loads on the ground can be from adverse braking or maneuvering during taxiing. Aircraft are constantly subjected to cyclic loading. These cyclic loads can cause metal fatigue. [13]

See also

Related Research Articles

In engineering, a factor of safety (FoS), also known as safety factor (SF), expresses how much stronger a system is than it needs to be for an intended load. Safety factors are often calculated using detailed analysis because comprehensive testing is impractical on many projects, such as bridges and buildings, but the structure's ability to carry a load must be determined to a reasonable accuracy.

The field of strength of materials, also called mechanics of materials, typically refers to various methods of calculating the stresses and strains in structural members, such as beams, columns, and shafts. The methods employed to predict the response of a structure under loading and its susceptibility to various failure modes takes into account the properties of the materials such as its yield strength, ultimate strength, Young's modulus, and Poisson's ratio. In addition, the mechanical element's macroscopic properties such as its length, width, thickness, boundary constraints and abrupt changes in geometry such as holes are considered.

Fatigue (material) Initiation and propagation of cracks in a material due to cyclic loading

In materials science, fatigue is the initiation and propagation of cracks in a material due to cyclic loading. Once a fatigue crack has initiated, it grows a small amount with each loading cycle, typically producing striations on some parts of the fracture surface. The crack will continue to grow until it reaches a critical size, which occurs when the stress intensity factor of the crack exceeds the fracture toughness of the material, producing rapid propagation and typically complete fracture of the structure.

Limit State Design (LSD), also known as Load And Resistance Factor Design (LRFD), refers to a design method used in structural engineering. A limit state is a condition of a structure beyond which it no longer fulfills the relevant design criteria. The condition may refer to a degree of loading or other actions on the structure, while the criteria refer to structural integrity, fitness for use, durability or other design requirements. A structure designed by LSD is proportioned to sustain all actions likely to occur during its design life, and to remain fit for use, with an appropriate level of reliability for each limit state. Building codes based on LSD implicitly define the appropriate levels of reliability by their prescriptions.

Stress–strain analysis is an engineering discipline that uses many methods to determine the stresses and strains in materials and structures subjected to forces. In continuum mechanics, stress is a physical quantity that expresses the internal forces that neighboring particles of a continuous material exert on each other, while strain is the measure of the deformation of the material.

Stress concentration Location in an object where stress is far greater than the surrounding region

In solid mechanics, a stress concentration is a location in an object where the stress is significantly greater than the surrounding region. Stress concentrations occur when there are irregularities in the geometry or material of a structural component that cause an interruption to the flow of stress. This arises from such details as holes, grooves, notches and fillets. Stress concentrations may also occur from accidental damage such as nicks and scratches.

Eurocodes European Union structural design standards

The Eurocodes are the ten European standards specifying how structural design should be conducted within the European Union (EU). These were developed by the European Committee for Standardization upon the request of the European Commission.

NESSUS is a general-purpose, probabilistic analysis program that simulates variations and uncertainties in loads, geometry, material behavior and other user-defined inputs to compute probability of failure and probabilistic sensitivity measures of engineered systems. Because NESSUS uses highly efficient and accurate probabilistic analysis methods, probabilistic solutions can be obtained even for extremely large and complex models. The system performance can be hierarchically decomposed into multiple smaller models and/or analytical equations. Once the probabilistic response is quantified, the results can be used to support risk-informed decisions regarding reliability for safety critical and one-of-a-kind systems, and to maintain a level of quality while reducing manufacturing costs for larger quantity products.

Cold-formed steel Steel products shaped by cold-working processes

Cold-formed steel (CFS) is the common term for steel products shaped by cold-working processes carried out near room temperature, such as rolling, pressing, stamping, bending, etc. Stock bars and sheets of cold-rolled steel (CRS) are commonly used in all areas of manufacturing. The terms are opposed to hot-formed steel and hot-rolled steel.

In the Eurocode series of European standards (EN) related to construction, Eurocode 2: Design of concrete structures specifies technical rules for the design of concrete, reinforced concrete and prestressed concrete structures, using the limit state design philosophy. It was approved by the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) on 16 April 2004 to enable designers across Europe to practice in any country that adopts the code.

In the Eurocode series of European standards (EN) related to construction, Eurocode 3: Design of steel structures describes how to design of steel structures, using the limit state design philosophy.

In the Eurocode series of European standards (EN) related to construction, Eurocode: Basis of structural design establishes the basis that sets out the way to use Eurocodes for structural design. Eurocode 0 establishes Principles and requirements for the safety, serviceability and durability of structures, describes the basis for their design and verification and gives guidelines for related aspects of structural reliability. Eurocode 0 is intended to be used in conjunction with EN 1991 to EN 1999 for the structural design of buildings and civil engineering works, including geotechnical aspects, structural fire design, situations involving earthquakes, execution and temporary structures.

STAAD or (STAAD.Pro) is a structural analysis and design software application originally developed by Research Engineers International in 1997. In late 2005, Research Engineers International was bought by Bentley Systems. STAAD stands for STructural Analysis And Design.

In the Eurocode series of European standards (EN) related to construction, Eurocode 1: Actions on structures describes how to design load-bearing structures. It includes characteristic values for various types of loads and densities for all materials which are likely to be used in construction.

In the Eurocode series of European standards (EN) related to construction, Eurocode 8: Design of structures for earthquake resistance describes how to design structures in seismic zone, using the limit state design philosophy. It was approved by the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) on 23 April 2004. Its purpose is to ensure that in the event of earthquakes:

Structural integrity and failure Ability of a structure to support a designed structural load without breaking

Structural integrity and failure is an aspect of engineering that deals with the ability of a structure to support a designed structural load without breaking and includes the study of past structural failures in order to prevent failures in future designs.

Vibration fatigue

Vibration fatigue is a mechanical engineering term describing material fatigue, caused by forced vibration of random nature. An excited structure responds according to its natural-dynamics modes, which results in a dynamic stress load in the material points. The process of material fatigue is thus governed largely by the shape of the excitation profile and the response it produces. As the profiles of excitation and response are preferably analyzed in the frequency domain it is practical to use fatigue life evaluation methods, that can operate on the data in frequency-domain, s power spectral density (PSD).

Engineering disasters

Engineering disasters often arise from shortcuts in the design process. Engineering is the science and technology used to meet the needs and demands of society. These demands include buildings, aircraft, vessels, and computer software. In order to meet society’s demands, the creation of newer technology and infrastructure must be met efficiently and cost-effectively. To accomplish this, managers and engineers need a mutual approach to the specified demand at hand. This can lead to shortcuts in engineering design to reduce costs of construction and fabrication. Occasionally, these shortcuts can lead to unexpected design failures.

This glossary of structural engineering terms pertains specifically to structural engineering and its sub-disciplines. Please see glossary of engineering for a broad overview of the major concepts of engineering.

Fatigue testing Determination of a material or structures resiliency against cyclic loading

Fatigue testing is a specialised form of mechanical testing that is performed by applying cyclic loading to a coupon or structure. These tests are used either to generate fatigue life and crack growth data, identify critical locations or demonstrate the safety of a structure that may be susceptible to fatigue. Fatigue tests are used on a range of components from coupons through to full size test articles such as automobiles and aircraft.


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  2. "". Eurocode 0: Basis of structural design EN 1990. Bruxelles: European Committee for Standardization. 2002.
  3. Avallone, E.A.; Baumeister, T. (eds.). Mark's Standard Handbook for Mechanical Engineers (10th ed.). McGraw-Hill. pp. 11–42. ISBN   0-07-004997-1.
  4. "2.2.1(1)". Eurocode 0: Basis of structural design EN 1990. Bruxelles: European Committee for Standardization. 2002.
  5. "1604.2". International Building Code. USA: International Code Council. 2000. p. 295. ISBN   1-892395-26-6.
  6. "2.2.5(b)". Eurocode 0: Basis of structural design EN 1990. Bruxelles: European Committee for Standardization. 2002.
  7. Rao, Singiresu S. (1992). Reliability Based Design. USA: McGraw-Hill. pp. 214–227. ISBN   0-07-051192-6.
  8. 2006 International Building Code Section 1602.1.
  9. EN 1990 Euro code – Basis of structural design section 4.1.1
  10. EN 1991-1-1 Euro code 1: Actions on Structures – Part 1-1: General actions – densities, self-weight, imposed loads for buildings section 3.2
  11. 1 2 Bruce K. Donaldson, Analysis of Aircraft Structures: An Introduction (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 126
  12. Experimental Mechanics: Advances in Design, Testing and Analysis, Volume 1, ed. I. M. Allison (Rotterdam, Netherlands: A.A. Balkema Publishers, 1998), p. 379
  13. Bruce K. Donaldson, Analysis of Aircraft Structures: An Introduction (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 129