Civil MDC

Modern structural analysis: Modelling process and guidance by Iain A. MacLeod

This interesting Modern structural analysis book promotes a new way of looking at structural analysis. It
suggests that the ability to work with the model (as distinct from the solution
process) is a primary issue which should be formally addressed in practice and
in education. The content is focused on modelling issues and I know of no other
text which does this so comprehensively.


The early chapters contain much advice necessary to help the reader establish
how to formulate a numerical model that might be capable of simulating the
performance of the actual structural system under investigation. The later chapters
include a good outline of the issues involved in modelling of structures using finite
elements. The two case studies given at the end of the book are a good device to put
the excellent advice given in the earlier sections into some perspective for the
reader.

I found it most useful to have in the same book a reminder of the theoretical
basis of the full range of finite element types and a sound method as to how to
employ analysis as a reflective tool towards a better understanding of structural
behaviour. The rigorous treatment for the process of validation of a model is
most enlightening as is that outlined for verification of the results. After all, the
iterative process of model validation and output verification are the main activities
for gaining a true understanding of structural behaviour.


My own experience working with Buro Happold tells me that robust structural
design requires the willingness to develop an understanding of structural behaviour
with a questioning mind. In most consulting offices, current practice is to under-
take this using finite element models of increasing complexity as understanding
of the problem at hand grows. Iain MacLeod describes clearly how to build up
this understanding using sensitivity analysis and simplified loadings to test validity
against expectations from parallel calculation and modelling experiences.

It is argued that risk will be reduced in practice if there is a rigorous analytical process
that reflects the realities of current engineering practice in most offices.
Most structures are of a reasonably conventional type and use well tried framing
systems. Substantial experience already exists on their likely performance so hand
calculations based on structural theory can be done to initiate formulation of the
model or to act as a check on the results.

However, even advanced classical
methods struggle to model the sophistication of load paths in redundant or non-
linear structures where individual stiffness, material response and definition of
restraint determines structural performance. In this case, I have found that
comparison of the output of simplified analytical results with physical models
very useful as an addition to classical calculation as advocated in the second
chapter.

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