Home » BIM and Structural Calculation » Structural Components: Identification and Verification

Structural Components: Identification and Verification

Structural components of a building constitute the load-bearing structure of a building and are responsible for resisting loads. Discover what they are and how to verify them

In the field of architecture and civil engineering, structural components play a vital role in the construction of stable, safe, and functional buildings. These components form the load-bearing framework of the building system and work synergistically to support and distribute the load in a balanced manner, ensuring the overall stability of the building.

If you wish to deepen your understanding of structural components and distinguish between primary and secondary elements, read the article and discover the details that will provide you with a comprehensive view on the design and verification of such components.

To successfully address the challenges related to stability and safety in constructions, you can rely on the potential offered by a structural analysis software. Start experiencing its benefits now and explore the calculation and simulation features that will help you analyze and verify the structural components of your buildings promptly, effectively, and accurately.

What are structural components?

Structural components are the fundamental elements of a building or infrastructure and, together, form the load-bearing framework entrusted with the responsibility of supporting and transferring loads, resisting internal and external forces, and providing stability, safety, and support to the structure as a whole.

Common examples of structural components include columns, beams, load-bearing walls, etc. These elements take on different forms, each designed to play a specific role in ensuring the cohesion and robustness of the entire structural system. They can also be made of various materials such as reinforced concrete, steel, wood, or fiber-reinforced composite materials. The choice of material and the configuration to be assigned to each element will depend on the specific project requirements, as well as the type of structure to be built and accurate considerations regarding the safety and stability of the work.

In addition to their load-bearing function, it is essential to recognize that structural components can also play a significant role aesthetically. This aspect becomes particularly crucial in architectural contexts where these elements must not only bear physical loads but also significantly contribute to the overall aesthetics of the building. In these situations, the design of structural elements requires a balanced integration between structural engineering and architectural design, ensuring that the form and arrangement of columns, beams, and other elements reflect not only structural robustness but also an aesthetic vision consistent with the overall building design.

Results of safety factor calculation with EdiLus

Structural components of a building | EdiLus

Primary structural components

Based on their role and importance in the load-bearing structure of the building, structural components can be classified as primary and secondary.

Primary structural components are the main components of the structure responsible for the resistance and overall stability of the building. These elements are essential for supporting vertical and horizontal loads and transferring forces to the foundations.

Some examples of primary structural components are:

  • beams: horizontal structural elements that play a key role in transferring vertical actions to columns or load-bearing walls. They are designed to support significant loads (such as those from dead loads, floors, walls, etc.) and often span the entire length or width of the structure. Their main function is to evenly distribute the load downwards, transmitting it to the columns or pillars, which in turn transmit it to the foundations and the underlying soil. Main beams can vary in size, shape, and materials, depending on the specific structural requirements of the building, taking the form of truss beams, cantilever beams, overhanging beams, and so on;
  • columns: also known as pillars, are discontinuous vertical elements that support vertical loads and transfer them to the foundations. They are designed to resist compressive forces and support the weight of the building and the structure above. They can be made of materials such as steel, reinforced concrete, or stone or brick masonry, based on structural and aesthetic requirements. The arrangement of columns may vary depending on the type of structure and design needs. Typically, columns are strategically positioned to support the main beams and distribute loads to the foundations. Additionally, these elements are sized to resist horizontal forces, such as those generated by wind or earthquakes, providing stability to the entire structure;
  • load-bearing walls: continuous vertical elements tasked with resisting vertical loads and uniformly transferring them to the foundations. They are used in masonry structures where walls have a structural function and are made of cement blocks, bricks, or stone. Their placement within the building is carefully planned to ensure proper load distribution and provide necessary support. In addition to resisting compressive forces, load-bearing walls are designed to provide lateral stability to the structure, resisting horizontal forces such as seismic ones. These elements can be strategically positioned within the building to define and separate spaces, contributing to the functional layout of the environments.

Secondary structural components

Secondary elements consist of those elements whose stiffness and strength can be neglected in the seismic response analysis of the structure and are, therefore, designed to resist only vertical loads.

These are elements that may be considered of lesser importance compared to primary elements. However, it is important to note that, despite their definition as “secondary elements,” these elements must still be able to absorb the deformations of the structure in case of seismic action. This means that, while not significantly contributing to the strength and structural rigidity under load actions, secondary structural elements must be able to maintain their load-bearing capacity against vertical loads, especially in the presence of seismic actions.

Designing and verifying structural components

Designing and verifying structural components is a complex process that requires in-depth knowledge of structural engineering and sector-specific technical regulations. Below are some general steps you can follow during this process to ensure the safety, stability, and functionality of your structures:

  1. action analysis: the first phase involves analyzing and determining the actions that will act on the structural components. These actions include dead loads (such as the self-weight of the element) and live loads (such as occupant loads, wind action, etc.). Any seismic actions, if applicable, should also be considered;
  2. material selection: based on the structure’s characteristics, such as the type of load and environmental conditions, the most appropriate materials for the structural components must be selected. For example, steel or reinforced concrete could be used for beams and columns;
  3. preliminary design: based on structural engineering principles and reference regulations, a preliminary design of the structural components is carried out. This phase involves determining the dimensions, cross-sections, and geometries of the elements;
  4. structural analysis: using structural analysis methods such as finite element analysis or limit state analysis, the performance of the structural components under the expected actions is evaluated. The goal is to verify that the elements can withstand the loads and ensure structural stability;
  5. strength verification: the strength of the structural components is verified to ensure that internal stresses and forces are lower than the resistance capacities of the materials used. This verification must be carried out according to the regulations and design rules applicable in the geographical area where the structure is built;
  6. stability verification: in addition to strength, it is necessary to verify the overall stability of the structure and individual structural elements. This verification considers critical phenomena such as overturning, sliding, and lateral collapse. It ensures that the structure is adequately restrained and that necessary measures are taken to counteract these phenomena;
  7. deformation verification: a further verification involves checking the deformations of the structural elements. This entails analyzing elastic and plastic deformations to ensure they fall within acceptable limits and do not compromise the functionality of the building;
  8. connection verification: during design, it is also necessary to verify the structural connections between different elements (such as joints between beams and columns or connections between load-bearing walls) to ensure proper force transmission and good resistance capacity.

To optimize the design and verification process of structural components, it is essential to rely on the support of a structural analysis software, a BIM-based tool that provides clear and immediate graphical representations of calculation results directly on the BIM model of your building. By leveraging the powerful simulation capabilities of this tool, you can perform accurate structural analyses, verify the strength and stability of your structural elements, and obtain reliable results in record time. Try it for free for thirty days and discover all the features that will help simplify your work, save valuable time, reduce error margins, and ensure the maximum safety and reliability of your structural projects.