Advanced Structural Analysis
The Role of Advanced Structural Analysis in a Digital Practice
Steve Lewis

“Complexity has become the new simplicity.”

Engineering is not an exact science (despite our best efforts to make it so); every structure is a bespoke product for which there is no “perfect” solution. Instead, as designers and engineers, we employ advanced methods and tools to arrive at the best solution.

At the heart of advanced structural analysis is the interrelationship of structural behavior and structural form; that is, form follows force and force follows form. Digital workflow provides multiple virtual prototypes (optioneering), whereby giving the client a better-performing and highly efficient structure that also preserves, or even enhances their original design intent.

Advanced structural analysis requires us to use various pieces of the digital workflow process such as associative parametric modelling and interoperability between analysis programs using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), advanced 3D surface modelling, data management, data presentation, and graphic communication. We work in a software-neutral manner, however, and employ the optimal tool from the advanced structural analysis “toolbox” that best solves the given parameters.

While the process of digital workflow has yet to become mainstream within the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry, it is quickly becoming the preferred and most effective tool in advanced structural analysis. Digital workflow allows us, as designers and engineers, to manipulate an incredible amount of structural data, such as strength, deflection, dynamics, and material efficiency — simultaneously and in real time — more thoroughly and efficiently than ever before. Its value lies not just in faster analyses, but in our ability to provide our client with a better design overall — one that has undergone more rigorous iteration and addresses more performance requirements than what a traditional design process can deliver. In effect, complexity has become the new simplicity.

Steve Lewis / Ph.D., P.E., FRSA
Steve is a Senior Associate and Senior Engineer with Walter P Moore’s Structures group in Los Angeles, California.