Last edited 16 Dec 2020

Computer Aided Engineering

Construction, like other engineering fields, may be perceived and analysed from the perspective of the process of transforming information. One of the stages of this process is very well known – when we calculate the displacement of a beam, data about the structure (dimensions, material, load etc) is transformed into information about behaviour (such as displacement). Apart from these two types of information, there is also the information about the function of the structure; its design criteria, specifications, social expectations and so on.


The first stage in the information transformation process is formulation – transforming information about functions into information about desired behaviours, in accordance with parameters such as safety, durability, stability, appearance and so on.


The second stage is synthesis. The parameters associated with the desired behaviour of the structure and loads are transformed into spatial information about the structure in accordance with the design. An example here is preliminary selection of foundations, as well as the type and size of load-bearing components.


The third stage is analysis and assessment. After gathering information concerning the structure, we can analyse it to determine its expected behaviour (response). Most often, this information concerns the internal forces and displacements (deformation) caused by loads. These values are compared with the desired behaviours of the structure.

Many of the calculation methods used to analyse the structures are performed by computers. If the evaluation results are not satisfactory, the synthesis and analysis stages are repeated, or the formulation is changed. This is an iterative process. Designing is an iterative combination of synthesis and analysis, taking into account the formulation.


The next stage is construction – going from the design, to a built structure.


The last, stage is monitoring the built structure. If there is any uncertainty about the behaviour of the structure, monitoring can provide information about the third type of behaviour of structures – 'measured'. This comparison between the predicted and measured behaviours of a structure may lead to improvements in the structure or in the assessment techniques that have been used.

Information flow in computer aided engineering.jpg

Image: Information flow in construction ( Original source: B. RAPHAEL, I.F.C. SMITH, Fundamentals of Computer Aided Engineering, Wiley, 2003.)

Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) therefore is the transformation between; information on functions; information on behaviours; and, information on the structure.

The text in this article is based on an extract from COMPUTER METHODS IN CONSTRUCTION, by Christoph Motzko, Florian Binder, Matthias Bergmann, Bogdan Zieliski, Mariusz Zabielski and Robert Gajewski. Darmstadt, Warsaw 2011. The original manual was developed within the scope of the LdV program, project number: 2009-1-PL1-LEO05-05016 entitled “Common Learning Outcomes for European Managers in Construction”. It is reproduced here in a slightly modified form with the kind permission of the Chartered Institute of Building.

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