Structural design is a process by which a structure required to perform a given function is proportioned to satisfy certain performance criteria (size, shape, etc.) in a safe and economic way. To a large extent design is a pencil and paper exercise (electronic computation must also be included in the list of design tools), by which a mathematical model of the real structure is tested for adequate performance.

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Structural design is a process by which a structure required to perform a given function is proportioned to satisfy certain performance criteria (size, shape, etc.) in a safe and economic way. To a large extent design is a pencil and paper exercise (electronic computation must also be included in the list of design tools), by which a mathematical model of the real structure is tested for adequate performance. It is only for very large or novel structures that testing on physical models or full-size prototypes is carried out. Thus, the designer is very much more circumscribed than for example his counterpart in aeronautical or marine engineering, where prototype testing is commonplace.

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There are in practice two aspects of a structure which are not easily quantified: the strength of the materials from which it is constructed and the magnitude of the loads which it must resist. Take Quiz on steel Above.