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Structural Analysis and Design Programs

Structural Analysis and Design Programs

Structural Analysis and Design Programs

Good afternoon All;

I know that this question has been asked a great deal, but I would like to explore it for a small firm.

We are in the market for a structural analysis program to assist with our designs. We are a small firm with (4) engineers performing calculations. Our market base is high end residential, light commercial, and some small industrial. Our clients use REVIT for their CAD program. Most of our materials are wood frame with some light gauge steel and some heavy steel at times. The foundations for these projects are slab on grade with continuous footings, CMU piers, or piles when necessary. We some times design short retaining walls on the inter-coastal waterway also.

That said, I would like to get a consensus for which design program would best be suited for this size firm and work load. Keeping in mind overall cost for the initial start up and add on necessary to perform our type of work, maintenance of the program for future use, and its comparability with REVIT. I feel sure we will want to offer some BIM information at a later date to the client as an additional service to pricing.

In the past I have used SAP2000, and one engineer has used RISA. I am sure these programs have made great strides since our days of working with them.

Any and all information this community could provide will be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance for your time to respond to my request.

RE: Structural Analysis and Design Programs

Out of the stuff you guys design, what do you want to analyse in software vs using spreadsheets for analysis and design. If you are after a general purpose analysis program I'd say SAP2000 is probably overkill for what I'm envisaging as your daily workload

In the past I've used Microstran, Spacegass, SAP2000, etabs. For everyday stick steel stuff I prefer spacegass unless I needed to do something more sophisticated.

I'd avoid anything Bentley out of principle based on their disappointing licensing practises.

RE: Structural Analysis and Design Programs

I'm a RISA guy typically, although I've just recently been told it's time to learn ETABS.

RE: Structural Analysis and Design Programs

I don't think Bentley is alone in their disappointing licensing practices. Most companies are forcing people to move towards a subscription license now-a-days. Not justifying the practice, but recognizing that it's becoming common.
  • High End residential: You need a program that does some wood design.
  • Light commercial: Cold Formed / Light Gage steel, probably.
  • Industrial: I'm thinking mostly steel support structures and pipe racks. Or, maybe tilt up warehouses.
  • And, obviously foundations.
I'm a former RISA guy and I think it could suit you well. But, it might end up being expensive if we're talking RISA-3D, RISAFoundation and maybe RISAFloor and RISAConnection. It's still a great program, just not as great of a value as it once was.

Enercalc & RetainPro should be an option for what you describe. In addition, you might also take a look at RAMElements and Visual.

If you're familiar with SAP2K then you might stick with that and see if it works for you. After all, the amount of time to train up on a new software is significant.

Alternatively, you might might find a combination of programs is your best bet. Some free free (RedBeam or TrussJoist), some purchased (Enercalc + RISA-3D or Visual Analysis).

RE: Structural Analysis and Design Programs

Wood stuff... Woodworks is head and shoulders above anything else...


RE: Structural Analysis and Design Programs


Thank you for your time and effort in responding to my information request. We currently use Enercalc for individual element design, but we are looking into a more system design process.
We have decided to go with RISA for now. We feel that this will suit our needs due to the ability of wood, light gauge and steel design.
I'll try and let y'all know how this works out for us. Again, thank you for the time to respond.

RE: Structural Analysis and Design Programs

I use both ETABS and RISA and am absolutely happy with these.

Jason McKee
proud R&D Manager of
Cross Section Analysis & Design
Software for the structural design of cross sections
Moment Curvature Analysis
Interaction Diagrams
Reinforcement Design etc.

RE: Structural Analysis and Design Programs

I don't think SAP 2000 or ETABS does wood design. It probably isn't a good match for you. I rarely work with wood, so I can't make any recommendations.

RE: Structural Analysis and Design Programs

I have always found SAP 2000 to be the simplest, but I have never used it for anything beyond structural analysis. Currently I use the bentley product line, SAFI line, and I have recently acquired the Advance design america line. I feel like SAP 2000 has the smallest learning curve (and most user friendly interface) for simple design work and possibly one of the cheaper systems; however, I am excited to see well how the ADA system works. Please note, I have never simply trusted a program to tell me what element to use, I always seem to go back to the handbook tables.

That said, its tough to beat pre-programmed spreadsheets and simple beam formulas for any braced frame construction.

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