Jump to content

Glossary of structural engineering

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This glossary of structural engineering terms pertains specifically to structural engineering and its sub-disciplines. Please see glossary of engineering for a broad overview of the major concepts of engineering.

Most of the terms listed in glossaries are already defined and explained within itself. However, glossaries like this one are useful for looking up, comparing and reviewing large numbers of terms together. You can help enhance this page by adding new terms or writing definitions for existing ones.


  • Abutment – refers to the substructure at the ends of a bridge span or dam whereon the structure's superstructure rests or contacts.[1]
  • Acre – is a unit of land area used in the imperial and US customary systems. It is traditionally defined as the area of one chain by one furlong (66 by 660 feet), which is exactly equal to 10 square chains, 1640 of a square mile, or 43,560 square feet, and approximately 4,047 m2, or about 40% of a hectare.
  • Acrow prop – or BS prop is a piece of construction equipment. It is a telescopic tubular steel prop, used as a temporary support. A jackscrew is similar but not as long and not telescopic. Outside the UK an Acrow prop may be known as a jack post, adjustable post, telescoping prop or ... post, screw jack, adjustable steel column, adjustable steel prop or ... post, adjustable metal prop or ... post, as well as an adjustable shoring post or shore post.
  • Adhesion – is the tendency of dissimilar particles or surfaces to cling to one another (cohesion refers to the tendency of similar or identical particles/surfaces to cling to one another). The forces that cause adhesion and cohesion can be divided into several types. The intermolecular forces responsible for the function of various kinds of stickers and sticky tape fall into the categories of chemical adhesion, dispersive adhesion, and diffusive adhesion. In addition to the cumulative magnitudes of these intermolecular forces, there are also certain emergent mechanical effects.
  • Aggregate (composite) – is the component of a composite material that resists compressive stress and provides bulk to the composite material. For efficient filling, aggregate should be much smaller than the finished item, but have a wide variety of sizes. For example, the particles of stone used to make concrete typically include both sand and gravel.
  • Aggregate (construction) – Construction aggregate is a broad category of coarse to medium grained particulate material used in construction, including sand, gravel, crushed stone, slag, recycled concrete and geosynthetic aggregates.
  • Air conditioning – (often referred to as 'AC, A/C, or air con)[2] is the process of removing heat and moisture from the interior of an occupied space to improve the comfort of occupants. Air conditioning can be used in both domestic and commercial environments.
  • All-in ballast
  • Alloy –is a combination of metals or of a metal and another element. Alloys are defined by a metallic bonding character.[3] An alloy may be a solid solution of metal elements (a single phase) or a mixture of metallic phases (two or more solutions). Intermetallic compounds are alloys with a defined stoichiometry and crystal structure. Zintl phases are also sometimes considered alloys depending on bond types.
  • American National Standards Institute – is a private non-profit organization that oversees the development of voluntary consensus standards for products, services, processes, systems, and personnel in the United States.[4] The organization also coordinates U.S. standards with international standards so that American products can be used worldwide.
  • Annealing (metallurgy) – in metallurgy and materials science, is a heat treatment that alters the physical and sometimes chemical properties of a material to increase its ductility and reduce its hardness, making it more workable. It involves heating a material above its recrystallization temperature, maintaining a suitable temperature for a suitable amount of time, and then cooling.
  • ANSI – American National Standards Institute.
  • Arch – is a vertical curved structure that spans an elevated space and may or may not support the weight above it,[5] or in case of a horizontal arch like an arch dam, the hydrostatic pressure against it.[6]
  • Arching or compressive membrane action in reinforced concrete slabs
  • Architecture – is both the process and the product of planning, designing, and constructing buildings or any other structures.[7] Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural symbols and as works of art. Historical civilizations are often identified with their surviving architectural achievements.
  • Architectural engineering
  • Architrave – also called an epistyle; is the lintel or beam that rests on the capitals of the columns. It is an architectural element in Classical architecture. The term can also be applied to all sides, including the vertical members, of a frame with mouldings around a door or window. The word architrave is also used to refer more generally to a style of mouldings (or other elements) framing the top of a door, window or other rectangular opening, where the horizontal "head" casing extends across the tops of the vertical side casings where the elements join (creating a butt joint, as opposed to a miter joint).[8]
  • Ashlar – is finely dressed (cut, worked) stone, either an individual stone that has been worked until squared or the structure built of it. Ashlar is the finest stone masonry unit, generally cuboid, mentioned by Vitruvius as opus isodomum, or less frequently trapezoidal. Precisely cut "on all faces adjacent to those of other stones", ashlar is capable of very thin joints between blocks, and the visible face of the stone may be quarry-faced or feature a variety of treatments: tooled, smoothly polished or rendered with another material for decorative effect.[9][10]
  • Austenitization – means to heat the iron, iron-based metal, or steel to a temperature at which it changes crystal structure from ferrite to austenite.[11] The more open structure of the austenite is then able to absorb carbon from the iron-carbides in carbon steel. An incomplete initial austenitization can leave undissolved carbides in the matrix.[12] For some iron metals, iron-based metals, and steels, the presence of carbides may occur during the austenitization step. The term commonly used for this is two-phase austenitization.[13]


  • Ballast – is material that is used to provide stability to a vehicle or structure. Ballast, other than cargo, may be placed in a vehicle, often a ship or the gondola of a balloon or airship, to provide stability.
  • Barrier cable – is a vehicular or pedestrian restraint system. It consists of a steel strand which is similar to the strand used in post-tensioned concrete.
  • Beam – is a structural element that primarily resists loads applied laterally to the beam's axis. Its mode of deflection is primarily by bending. The loads applied to the beam result in reaction forces at the beam's support points. The total effect of all the forces acting on the beam is to produce shear forces and bending moments within the beam, that in turn induce internal stresses, strains and deflections of the beam. Beams are characterized by their manner of support, profile (shape of cross-section), length, and their material.
  • Bearing capacity – is the capacity of soil to support the loads applied to the ground. The bearing capacity of soil is the maximum average contact pressure between the foundation and the soil which should not produce shear failure in the soil. Ultimate bearing capacity is the theoretical maximum pressure which can be supported without failure; allowable bearing capacity is the ultimate bearing capacity divided by a factor of safety. Sometimes, on soft soil sites, large settlements may occur under loaded foundations without actual shear failure occurring; in such cases, the allowable bearing capacity is based on the maximum allowable settlement. There are three modes of failure that limit bearing capacity: general shear failure, local shear failure, and punching shear failure.
  • Bending – In applied mechanics, bending, (also known as flexure), characterizes the behavior of a slender structural element subjected to an external load applied perpendicularly to a longitudinal axis of the element.
  • Bending moment – is the reaction induced in a structural element when an external force or moment is applied to the element causing the element to bend.[14][15]
  • Benefit–cost analysis – Cost–benefit analysis (CBA), sometimes called benefit costs analysis (BCA), is a systematic approach to estimating the strengths and weaknesses of alternatives used to determine options which provide the best approach to achieving benefits while preserving savings (for example, in transactions, activities, and functional business requirements).[16] A CBA may be used to compare completed or potential courses of actions, or to estimate (or evaluate) the value against the cost of a decision, project, or policy. It is commonly used in commercial transactions, business or policy decisions (particularly public policy), and project investments.
  • Bent (structural) – Bents are the building blocks that define the overall shape and character of a structure. They do not have any sort of pre-defined configuration in the way that a Pratt truss does. Rather, bents are simply cross-sectional templates of structural members, i.e., rafters, joists, posts, pilings, etc., that repeat on parallel planes along the length of the structure. The term bent is not restricted to any particular material. Bents may be formed of wooden piles, timber framing,[17] steel framing, or even concrete.[18]
  • Bistable structure
  • Brick – is building material used to make walls, pavements and other elements in masonry construction. Traditionally, the term brick referred to a unit composed of clay, but it is now used to denote rectangular units made of clay-bearing soil, sand, and lime, or concrete materials. Bricks can be joined together using mortar, adhesives or by interlocking them.[19][20] Bricks are produced in numerous classes, types, materials, and sizes which vary with region and time period, and are produced in bulk quantities. Two basic categories of bricks are fired and non-fired bricks.
  • Brickwork – is masonry produced by a bricklayer, using bricks and mortar. Typically, rows of bricks—called courses[21][22] are laid on top of one another to build up a structure such as a brick wall.
  • Bridge – is a structure built to span a physical obstacle, such as a body of water, valley, or road, without closing the way underneath. It is constructed for the purpose of providing passage over the obstacle, usually something that can be detrimental to cross otherwise.
  • Brittle
  • Buckling-restrained braced frame
  • Building engineering
  • Building services engineering
  • Bulk modulus


  • Calcium aluminate cementsCalcium aluminate cements[23] are cements consisting predominantly of hydraulic calcium aluminates. Alternative names are "aluminous cement", "high-alumina cement" and "Ciment fondu" in French. They are used in a number of small-scale, specialized applications.
  • Camber beam – In building, a camber beam is a piece of timber cut archwise, and steel bent or rolled, with an obtuse angle in the middle, commonly used in platforms, as church leads, and other occasions where long and strong beams are required. The camber curve is ideally a parabola but practically a circle segment as even with modern materials and calculations, cambers are imprecise.[24]
  • Castellated beam – is a beam style where an I-beam is subjected to a longitudinal cut along its web following a specific pattern in order to divide it, and reassemble the beam with a deeper web by taking advantage of the cutting pattern.[25]














[27] [28] [29]











See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Glossary - "Abutment"". U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Archived from the original on 25 December 2007. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  2. ^ "air con Definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary". dictionary.cambridge.org. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  3. ^ Callister, W. D. "Materials Science and Engineering: An Introduction" 2007, 7th edition, John Wiley and Sons, Inc. New York, Section 4.3 and Chapter 9.
  4. ^ RFC 4949
  5. ^ "arch, n. 2" Oxford English Dictionary 2nd ed. 2009.
  6. ^ Acott, Chris (1999). "The diving "Law-ers": A brief resume of their lives". South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society Journal. 29 (1). ISSN 0813-1988. OCLC 16986801. Archived from the original on April 2, 2011. Retrieved 2009-06-13.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  7. ^ "architecture". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2017-10-27.
  8. ^ Ching, Francis D.K. (1995). A Visual Dictionary of Architecture. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. pp. 179, 186. ISBN 978-0-471-28451-2.
  9. ^ Ching, Francis D.K.; Jarzombek, Mark M.; Prakash, Vikramaditya (2007). A Global History of Architecture. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. p. 759. ISBN 978-0-471-26892-5.
  10. ^ Sharon, Ilan (August 1987). "Phoenician and Greek Ashlar Construction Techniques at Tel Dor, Israel". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. Boston: The American Schools of Oriental Research (267): 32–33.
  11. ^ Nichols R (Jul 2001). "Quenching and tempering of welded carbon steel tubulars".
  12. ^ Lambers HG, Tschumak S, Maier HJ, Canadinc D (Apr 2009). "Role of Austenitization and Pre-Deformation on the Kinetics of the Isothermal Bainitic Transformation". Metall Mater Trans A. 40 (6): 1355–1366. Bibcode:2009MMTA...40.1355L. doi:10.1007/s11661-009-9827-z. S2CID 136882327.
  13. ^ "Austenitization".
  14. ^ Gere, J.M.; Timoshenko, S.P. (1996), Mechanics of Materials:Forth edition, Nelson Engineering, ISBN 0534934293^
  15. ^ Beer, F.; Johnston, E.R. (1984), Vector mechanics for engineers: statics, McGraw Hill, pp. 62–76
  16. ^ David, Rodreck; Ngulube, Patrick; Dube, Adock (16 July 2013). "A cost–benefit analysis of document management strategies used at a financial institution in Zimbabwe: A case study". SA Journal of Information Management. 15 (2). doi:10.4102/sajim.v15i2.540.
  17. ^ Charles Lee Crandall and Fred Asa Barnes, Railroad Construction, McGraw Hill, New York, 1913; Section 97, Principles of Construction, pages 213-215.
  18. ^ W. S. Lacher, The Track Elevation Subways in Chicago, Railway Age Gazette, Vol 56, No, 10 (March 6, 1914); page 461.
  19. ^ Interlocking bricks used in Nepal
  20. ^ Bricks that interlock
  21. ^ Joseph Moxon. Mechanick Exercises: Or, The Doctrine of Handy-Works. Applied to the Arts of Smithing, Joinery, Carpentry, Turning, Bricklaying. Printed for Daniel Midwinter and Thomas Leigh. 1703. London. Page 129. "Three or four or five courses of Bricks to be laid."
  22. ^ Nicholson. "By a Course, in walling, is meant the bricks contained between two planes parallel to the horizon, and terminated by the faces of the wall. The thickness is that of one brick with mortar. The mass formed by bricks laid in concentric order, for arches or vaults, is also denominated a Course."
  23. ^ Hewlett P.C. (Ed.) (1998) Lea's Chemistry of Cement and Concrete: 4th Ed, Arnold, ISBN 0-340-56589-6, Chapter 13.
  24. ^ Ricker, David T. (1989). "Cambering Steel Beams" (PDF). Engineering Journal, American Institute of Steel Construction. 26 (4Q): 136–142. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  25. ^ Tsavdaridis, Konstantinos; Kingman, James; Toropov, Vassilli (31 July 2014). "Application of structural topology optimisation to perforated steel beams". Computers and Structures. 158: 108–123. doi:10.1016/j.compstruc.2015.05.004.
  26. ^ Campbell, F.C. (2008). Elements of Metallurgy and Engineering Alloys. Materials Park, Ohio: ASM International. p. 453. ISBN 978-0-87170-867-0.
  27. ^ "Definitions | Robot Structural Analysis Professional 2018 | Autodesk Knowledge Network".
  28. ^ "Orthotropic panel vs shell vs beam models". 21 October 2020.
  29. ^ "STructural Analysis of General Shells" (PDF). shellbuckling.com. Retrieved 7 November 2023.
  30. ^ "rafter (1)". encarta.msn.com. Microsoft. Archived from the original on 2007-01-25. Retrieved July 4, 2017.
  31. ^ ASCE/SEI 7-05 Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures. American Society of Civil Engineers. 2006. p. 1. ISBN 0-7844-0809-2.
  32. ^ "". Eurocode 0: Basis of structural design EN 1990. Bruxelles: European Committee for Standardization. 2002.
  33. ^ Avallone, E.A.; Baumeister, T. (eds.). Mark's Standard Handbook for Mechanical Engineers (10th ed.). McGraw-Hill. pp. 11–42. ISBN 0-07-004997-1.