What is Structural Analysis in Civil Engineering?

As civil engineers or normal humans, we come across various man made structure around us in our daily life. These can be simple structures like electric poles or complex ones like high-rise buildings and dams. So, one thing that you must be sure is to understand that all these structures how small or big they are, they are subjected to certain loads. 

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Now, talking about loads, they can be subjected to concentrated or uniform loads, random loads, internal or external pressures and most seriously the dynamic loads like wind and earthquake loads. The success of engineers are when the designed structures can sustain well, when subjected to these external loads. 

Analyzing a Structure


Structural analysis is a topic that is taught in your civil engineering course in different semesters. It initially starts with engineering mechanics, strength of materials and then finally into structural analysis part-1 and part-2.

A civil engineering structure transfers the load coming over it to the supports and ultimately to the ground.

Engineering Mechanics : In this course, a civil engineering structure is treated as a single rigid body (Free-Body Diagrams) and we determine the reactions from the support. This is the first step of structural analysis, which is taught in detail in engineering mechanics.

Strength of Materials: When a body is subjected to external loads and reactions from the support, the body undergoes some changes in its behavior. This is studied in strength of materials.

Now after you get a clear idea on what is engineering mechanics and strength of materials, the next we step on to structural analysis. All these load and support reactions acting on the structure will create internal stresses in the body. These internal stresses are shear force, bending moment, and torsional moments. Structural analysis deals with the analysis of these internal forces in the members of the structures.

The topic structural analysis is vast as there are vast types of structures of different material and complex arrangement. Structures are categorized under different categories based on which different analysis methods are followed for different structures. Sometime, a structure can be analyzed by two analysis method. Both method can give same answer. Sometimes, for a structure, a method A more easy to be performed than method B, even though both the method gives same answer. 

So., let start understanding structural analysis purely as a real-time problem solving method instead of just byhearting it as a mathematical problem solving process. This really helps you to connect to real-time structures in the construction site and become a clear and knowledgeable civil engineer. 

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