Common Structural Design Mistakes beginners make

Many aspiring Structural Engineers asks me about the most important skill that they should possess for success. There are many things that one has to do to be successful. However, there are also a few things that you need to adopt early in your career to ensure you are not a failure. Again, there are many things to be mentioned about this. However, in this blog am discussing about the need of introducing a process to identify errors a structural engineer can make early in career.

Everyone makes mistakes but be sure that someone shouldn’t pay for your mistakes. Silly negligence or ignorance in the design of structure may become a reason for the loss of lives, money and property. The collapse of a building may be due to insufficient strength, improper construction, use of defective materials, environmental factors, and faulty design of structures. As we know Prevention is better than cure, we should be attentive while doing the analysis and design. In this blog, we will see some general mistakes in the process of designing and detailing and how you can avoid making them. Practice this check process to ensure you don’t make mistakes.

Wrong Measurements and unit conversion

Sometimes the dimensions in drawings may be wrong. Blindly following the values for design will result in structural issues and problems and sometimes structural failure. For example, the spacing between the columns may be wrongly measured from a drawing while doing the analysis model. This error if not captured, will result in wrong force interpretation and structural design. This can be some times conservative and many times critical resulting in structural issues and failure.

Faulty unit conversions and incorrect scales also result in defective design. If the software makes everything an automated process, don’t think that it is always error free. it’s better to check all the proper measurements before starting a project.


  • Never be casual while modelling and analysis. Be away from distractions like phone.

  • Ensure the drawing you follow are the latest, coordinated and checked by you and a senior.

  • Never measure a drawing and adopt dimensions unless you have validated it to be in scale.

  • Ensure you check the active dimension style if you are using AutoCAD

  • Ensure you logically appreciate the column positions, dimensions and so on.

  • Try to import the plan from AutoCAD than measuring the drawing and modelling.

  • If the drawing is in a different unit than what you are using for analysis, do the conversion in CAD itself than manually converting it each time you measure.

  • Use the best system and software for analysis. Long time and laborious work can irritate you and that can affect your attention level. This is a proven fact.

  • Use tools like Revit for drawing production to reduce mis matches and discrepancies.

Mistakes in Modelling

The structural units used as explained above is a reason for many modelling mistakes. There are many other reasons of modelling errors. Modelling errors can be classified in to 2 types.

  • One due to real modelling errors.

  • One due to lack of technical understanding.

Modelling errors

This arises to real modelling errors due to lack of concentration and attention. Overlapping of beams and slabs etc. can be classified as this type of error. Other examples are listed below.

  • Wrongly assigned materials and properties.

  • Missing Assigning supports.

  • Geometric measurement errors.

  • Load application errors.

There are many more errors that can occur varying from user to user.

If you are using ETABS, the geometric errors can be captured by an etabs error check. However, many don’t know how to check errors in ETABS in the correct way. You can see the video to understand how to check error in ETABS. Subscribe to the Youtube channel.

Error due to lack of understanding of Structural concepts