Structural engineers must consider many things when endeavouring to make structural designs a reality. One of the most important considerations will be stability. Stability is essential when ensuring that structures are safe and long-lasting. Beams and columns are two key structural elements that play an important role in supporting the building’s weight and creating a safe load path from the slab to the structure’s foundations and to the ground.
Beams are horizontal rods or planks that carry loads perpendicular to their longitudinal direction. They are supported at both ends of installation and transfer loads from slab to column.
Beams are used to to support the roof of the building, and to support the weight of the floors and ceilings. It helps to transfer the load to a vertical load bearing element of the structure.
The design of a beam will need to be carefully considered by a structural engineer. They are trained to calculate the loads acting on the beam and will choose an appropriate beam size, shape and material to accommodate the forces and stresses on the structure. Beam dimensions are also allocated according to the value of the internal forces located on them.
Columns are vertical structural elements where the load is transferred parallel to the longitudinal axis as compression, and sometimes as tension. A column is a vertical structural member intended to transfer a compressive load. For example, a column might transfer loads from a ceiling, floor or roof slab or from a beam, to a floor or foundations.
Columns are typically constructed from materials such as stone, brick, block, concrete, timber, steel, and so on, which have good compressive strength.
Columns support the floor or roof beams and the columns on the floors above; bottom floor columns must be strong enough to carry the accumulative weight of every floor above it. They will transfer loads from the slab and beams to the foundations and soil beneath.
Structural engineers must calculate the weight supported by the column before choosing an appropriate design. Like with beams, column design will depend on the load values extruding vertical forces. The effects of lateral forces due to wind and earthquakes must also be taken into account when determining the size and dimensions of the column.
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