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Structural Analysis: A Historical Approach


Structures are subject to vertical, or “Gravity” Loads and horizontal, or “Lateral” Loads. Gravity loads include “dead”, or permanent, load, which is the weight of the structure, including its walls, floors, finishes, and mechanical systems, and “live”, or temporary load, which is the weight of a structure’s contents and occupants, including the weight of snow. Lateral loads include those generated by the wind, earthquakes, or explosions. Structural elements must be designed so that, as a system, the structure can resist all loads that will act upon it.


Structures are any system that resists vertical or horizontal loads. Structures include large items such as skyscrapers, bridges, and dams, as well as small items such as bookshelves, chairs, and windows. Most everyday “structures” are “designed” by testing, or trial and error; while large, unique, or expensive structures that are not easily tested are generally designed by a qualified structural engineer using mathematical calculations. Most practicing structural engineers design and analyze buildings, bridges, power plants, electrical towers, dams, and other large structures that are essential to life as we know it.