Undeniably, error analysis is integral because it targets uncertainties or errors in measurements and calculations. For structural engineers, the accuracy and reliability of their analysis results is crucial, so they can be sure that the data they’re passing along is correct. Being able to identify and quantify the inaccuracies or deviations in a model early-on is essential to avoid them becoming a bigger problem and creating ongoing issues in a project—not to mention other project stakeholders losing confidence in the analyses provided by the structural engineer.
Typically, structural validations are carried out after completion of the structural calculations, in order to ensure that what the engineers have calculated in theory is feasible in practice and doesn’t incorporate stresses that weren’t analyzed when making the calculations. While encountering errors is inevitable, understanding their implications is essential. Not catching them early enough can lead to an inaccurate model, wrong predictions and faulty designs.
In order to properly identify and eliminate errors early in the process, here are three types of validation structural engineers can use to ensure their measurements and calculations are correct:
This type of validation should be one of the first integrity checks performed on a model and can be performed as many times as needed. Performing model integrity checks ensures that all the assemblies in a model are connected and supported correctly, and that loads are applied correctly.
For example, a model integrity check will let you know if there’s a panel that’s not surrounded by load carrying members, if there are members at risk for collison or if a grid is not quite aligned with building directions. These types of checks are essential to making sure the model is correctly constructed.
An analysis validation guarantees that the final physical model will translate directly to the “solver model”, which is the 3D mathematical model that can be further used for analyzing structural behavior and design.
One of the errors that this type of analysis can catch is any analysis members that are too short. If an analysis element is too short, it will be unrealistically stiff, and thus attract an excessive amount of load, leading to unrealistic results. By setting a specific threshold, structural engineers can be warned when this threshold is surpassed and renders unrealistic results.
Design validations can be performed to ensure that the design in the model is valid and can actually be constructed. This validation will catch any design issues and alert the structural engineers to any errors that will cause the design to fail.
A main benefit of efficient and effective structural analysis and design software is often these validations will be performed automatically on the model, alerting the engineer to any model, analysis or design issues without them having to perform any manual checks.
The role structural engineers play in the design and modeling process is critical—a structure with inaccurate measurements or predictions will ultimately cost far more in correcting errors and making necessary changes than the time it takes to do an error analysis. Understanding error analysis helps structural engineers identify, address and rectify these errors virtually, before they become much more expensive and time-consuming to resolve in the real world. While errors are inevitable, being able to identify and remedy them early on in the process significantly improves the quality and reliability of analysis results.