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5 things beginners should avoid in Civil Engineering Projects design

Structural analysis & design is a lucrative career option for most civil engineers. It’s a much sought out discipline in civil engineering. The civil engineering job opportunities in structural engineering field is high and many believes it as a prestigious and responsible job and hence the demand.

Since there are many engineers aspiring to be in to structural design, let us focus on some key points that a beginner should avoid doing while designing structures. There are many blogs written around the technical mistakes as well as software errors that beginners make. However, in this blog, I would like to focus on some points that are less discussed. The focus is on errors a beginner can make due to lack of understanding of the structural design process and the structural design cycle.

Over reliance on structural analysis software

Structural design software is very much needed for analysis and design of building structures or any projects for that matter. It speeds up the analysis and accuracy if used carefully. However, over reliance on software by beginners can result in problems. This can affect the over all development of the engineer as she or he miss to develop the basics and fundamentals. Over use of software can also result in mistakes. Sometimes, one can end up using software for things that really don’t need and complicate the whole process. Analyzing secondary members is an example where you un necessarily use software and end up spending more time for the design.

Your success mantra lies in effective use of the right software for analysis and then employ the necessary hand checks based on your subject understanding.

Wrong use of Excel sheets for structural design

Excel is an excellent tool that helps structural engineers. Good use of excel can speed up the entire structural design cycle of projects. It is used for various things including documentation, processing data, retrieving results, group members and even for structural design.

However, Fresh civil engineers can get this wrong in 3 ways.

Thinking that all design should be done using excel sheets and avoiding hand calculations and structural design. Again, due to this, the engineer will not develop the basic understanding of the subject as all the design steps are hidden in the sheet.

Another problem is using un authorized design sheets that are not validated. This will result in design mistakes and serious issues can arise in the design.

Another point to note is that many advanced software like ETABS can execute the structural design quite efficiently provided the design inputs are accurate. When this is the case, using excel sheets can be laborious and consume more time.

Not focusing on Structural Detailing

It is not uncommon for young civil & structural engineers to assume that structural drawings and details are the job of a structural draftsman only. But as an engineer you need to think about and do what you can to deliver quality drawings. These plans, sketches and blueprints will be the main way of communicating your designs with builders and others like Architects and clients. Therefore, it’s crucial to produce high-quality structural drawings with strong attention to structural details to avoid any misinterpretations. Never compromise on detailing that is your main means to communicate to site and client and that demonstrate your ability. Also, by doing this, you get less requests for information from sites and you can be more efficient in managing your time and work.

Not thinking about other disciplines & stakeholders

You need to have a clear idea of what other stakeholders' requirements may be with regard to the project you're working on. If anything is overlooked, there will most likely be issues in the future that might lead to future expenses and setbacks.

This is very much needed for avoiding abortive work.

Failing to acknowledge or foresee an MEP engineer's needs or those of an architect's requirement, it might cost you time and money if things are misaligned later down the road due to such oversights.

You may end up providing beams and columns at wrong places which later will invite changes. All your work can become abortive. You need to be able to fore see their needs and also co-ordinate with them. Remember, success as an engineer and later as a design manager is not just about your technical knowledge - it also depends on how well you manage expectations across all fronts!

Not attending buildability issues at site

Your design is good if it is buildable at site. You need to ensure this aspect at any time. There can be many kinds of buildability issues arising in site. Some times it may be due to an error in detailing or congestion in rebars due to over reinforcing. You can overcome this if you have technical knowledge and experience. However, there can be other kind of site challenges specific to sites. Many times, lack of awareness of site interfaces can result in complications and rework. One should be cautious about the foundation clashes of nearby buildings or presence of a well in the site that can affect the column position and so on. You should start your design solutions only after understanding the site interface. Even the type of foundation can depend on the boundary conditions some times.

A good engineer should look at the overall buildability. For this, awareness of site practices, challenges and construction methods and construction sequences are needed. Looking at buildability is in fact a co-ordination aspect and needs to be done in a timely manner to avoid abortive works and mistakes at site.


These 5 points are something very important that civil engineering beginners should note early in their structural engineering jobs so that they don’t make errors due to lack of understanding of the process. Entry level civil & structural engineers can make many other kinds of errors too in calculations or due to carelessness. You can read about this here

Engineers should focus on all these structural aspects and gain experience working under a seasoned structural consultant who can be a mentor.

We hope that you enjoyed this article on what not to do when you start structural design. We’re here to help you learn more about structural design and the things you need to be wary of when you’re just getting started. If you’re wanting to get mentored, please feel free to contact us anytime here.

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