AutoCAD is the most popular and generic CAD tool that is used for producing structural drawings. AutoCAD replaced the conventional drawing boards in the last generation. AutoCAD drawing production was and is a sought-out career opportunity for civil & structural engineers and structural detailers.
In the current decade, BIM tools have fast replaced AutoCAD. Revit is the most popular BIM tool for buildings. BIM using Revit has almost displaced AutoCAD drawing production. AutoCAD still remains a generic tool for quick 2d drawing production.
AutoCAD and Revit are 2 tools preferred by most structural consulting firms for their drawing production. Therefore, the job opportunities for civil engineers in this area of structural detailing demands good understanding of AutoCAD drawing production and BIM using Revit. Structural detailing using AutoCAD and Revit is a great career opportunity for civil engineers and those who are having Diploma in civil engineers. BIM using Revit is in fact an opportunity for engineers and CAD technicians to have a much-improved technical career path in structural detailing.
Though this 2 structural detailing software provides structural detailing job opportunities, there are some other key skills that are essential in order to make use of these detailing tools efficiently. Just an AutoCAD or Revit knowledge is not going to fetch you a job. I will be discussing 6 essential skills that if you master will change your structural detailing career.
A Roadmap for Structural Detailing Career
These 6 skills together will be like a Roadmap for those who aspire to have a detailing career.
There is demand for good structural detailers in India, middle east regions like Dubai, UK, US and Australia.These are also useful for Structural Engineers who want to master structural detailing.
Let us discuss these 6 structural detailing skills in detail.
UNDERSTANDING DESIGN INTENT
You need the ability to understand the design basics even if you are not the structural engineer yourself. Even if you are an engineer, many times it happens that, you prepare the drawing parallelly to design to speed up the work. When you do this, you need to know the behaviour of members. Say for example, a simply supported beam will have more rebars required at the bottom and at the midspan. A cantilever beam will need more steel at the top near the support. This is a very simple example. However, there are many points similar to this that you have to master. Another point is, you need to know what all part of the design you need to convey to site. It could be construction sequence; it could be an instruction as a note to ensure the proper compaction of soil and so on. A good detailer who knows these aspects beforehand can-do justice to what is being delivered to site and perform better in job roles and have better career development.
The IS Codes are not just for design. It also contains a lot of rules for detailing of structural members. It is important that you appreciate all detailing rules.
The rules could be related to the items listed.
Where you should lap rebars
Where you should not lap rebars
When can you ensure laps are staggered?
What are the curtailment lengths needed for beam rebars?
What is the maximum spacing allowed?
How much is anchorage length
What are the provisions that one need to adopt when there are sleeves in beams?
What additional detailing needs to be done when there are openings in slabs
Does a footing need Top reinforcement?
What are the ductile detailing rules and when and how it needs to be adopted?
There are many similar code provisions you need to know if you have to be a good detailer.
After knowing all the Design intent & the code provisions, you need smart tools to convert the information you have in to a drawing. It is mandatory that you know the essential tools.
You will probably need to know only 2 tools.
AutoCAD & Revit Structures
While AutoCAD is a generic tool for detailing, Revit is BIM and the smart and modern option to convey information to another disciplines & site. You don’t need to know every aspect of these tools. You need to know only what is needed for the structural detailing. There is no point in getting carried away by the software and focus on what is not needed and waste your time. You should be smart enough to know what you need and focus on the essential things.
DOCUMENT & REVISION CONTROL
What you have produced as a drawing may need a change sometimes due to various reasons. You should know how to control these changes. There are chances that you misplace the old drawing files. You may end up picking a wrong or old drawing file or model and make recent changes in its which can be disastrous you need a process right from the day one to track your latest incoming drawing, working drawings and released or outgoing drawings. In addition to this, you may communicate to site many things as sketches and instructions. Site might keep asking you Request for Information (RFI). You need a means to communicate this and document this so that responsibilities are fixed and mistakes don’t occur at site.
Knowing the practices in the site is very important for detailers. These practices can slightly change from region to region or sometimes from site to site. It could be related to the way rebars are handled and bent. If rebars are cut and bent at site the tolerance you need may not be a consideration. If you are using pre-cut bars, you may need a stringent tolerance. Another example is the top reinforcement in slabs. In India and most of the developing world, you may provide the rebars only in the tension zones. However, in the middle east and Europe, you may provide a nominal reinforcement everywhere. There are many more points similar to this that you need to know to do justice to structural detailing.
What you have produced as a drawing should be buildable at site. For this, you need to know the buildability issues at site. You need to appreciate the construction methods, sequences, materials and equipment used at site. You should foresee these difficulties and incorporate this in your design and details. An example is the interface of a building. If there are nearby buildings in the site, you should expect level differences between the existing foundations and the new one or a footing projecting in to your site and clashing with the new foundation. These comes by experience. However, if you know some of the general aspect, you can do justice to your detailing. If you are a beginner then frequent visiting to sites, speaking to seniors and consultants and learning from well structured courses and structural consultants will help you to speed up this learning.
These six skills are essential for your career development in structural detailing. They are not an end-all, be-all set of skills, but they are the skills that I personally believe any civil engineer who aspires to get into the Structural Detailing profession should have. If you are a civil engineer who is thinking about detailing, but you're not sure if you're ready, or you've never done it, or you're currently detailing but you want to learn more, take a look at these 6 skills and if you don't have them all, go out and get them!
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