Whether you are remodeling your current home or if you are a contractor, designer, or architect, structural analysis is crucial to your project. With the advent of high-quality structural analysis software, beam design, floor span and the calculation of the floor joist load is easier and more reliable than ever before.
With numerous options to choose from, what factors should you look for when picking your structural analysis software?
The honest answer is, it depends. The structural analysis software that’s best for you will depend on many factors, such as the type and scope of projects, the type of materials you primarily work with, the size of your team, your budget, and more.
Instead of offering an absolute about what makes the best software, we recommend asking two simple questions:
Watching a demo is practically a necessity before paying for software. Demos help you confirm that the software can do the tasks you need it to. It also lets you see how well designed the user interface is. Are the tabs clearly labeled? Are the tools easy to access within the software? Is the information presented in an intuitive way on the page?
Today, demos are standard practice for software. If the software company doesn’t have demos available, that should raise a yellow flag.
Check out Vitruvius’ demos for an example.
Demos are helpful because you get to see the software in action by a proficient user, but a trial is even more important. A demo is conducted by someone already proficient in the software; they know how to navigate through it. A trial lets you see firsthand how easy-to-learn and intuitive the software is, revealing cracks that a demo might conceal.
At Vitruvius, we offer a free 30-day trial. It installs in just 5 minutes so you can immediately start tinkering.
Once you’re in a demo or free trial for the software, you can determine first-hand which software is best for your needs.
Regardless of your needs, here are a few general advantages provided by structural analysis software. When conducting multiple trials, we recommend comparing these factors between each product to help determine which you should move forward with.
Premium structural analysis software is programmed with building codes from every geographic area and incorporates these regulations into the building plans. This prevents inadvertent omissions that could result in annoying structural errors, fines, and even structural failure. The large number of required building codes is generated specifically for each project’s geographic location and ensures that none are overlooked. This in turn eliminates revisions during the building process and helps keep contractors on schedule and on budget.
For professional engineers, contractors and architects, structural analysis software is a time saver. It can be used to double-check calculations as well as perform complex functions with increased accuracy. Building codes are pre-programmed, and values such load limits and deflection are generated automatically, freeing up your time for other aspects of the project.
How much time do you save by using the software? Is it easy to learn or needlessly complex? Is the workflow intuitive? Just as having an organized workshop allows you to work more efficiently and safely, so too does good UI in software help you maximize time savings and thoroughness.
Structural analysis software is an invaluable tool during the planning and construction process. Last minute changes in load or design can be quickly and accurately adapted into the current plans without fear of multiple design flaws.
How easily and quickly can you make these types of modifications in the software compared to a spreadsheet, by hand, or with another software?
With beam design software, it is easy to calculate the maximum potential load for the structure as well as the proper spacing of each beam, joists, and stud wall. The software, which eliminates some of the risk of construction error, completes the engineering aspects of designing a structure. When combined with precise, careful construction by a contractor, construction errors can be nearly eradicated.
When using the software, do you find it helps you create a safer design? Do you trust its calculations or are they hidden in a black box? When you test its results to your hand calcs, are you getting different results? If so, why?
On a related note, one reason structural analysis software is so helpful is because it presents the information in a new way. If you’ve ever written a report or even an email, you know how easy it is to spot a typo after you’ve changed the window size or font size. The simple act of reformatting information makes previously-overlooked mistakes jump out. Software that offers a visual component provides this benefit.
When comparing software, which one offers the most useful visuals?
Structural analysis software provides peace of mind for the user and potentially for clients. A building project is stressful enough without worrying about integrated building codes, proper construction techniques, and architectural calculations. Many structural analysis software programs now incorporate composite construction materials and such design techniques as flitch beam design calculations. The added features of cutting-edge structural analysis software ensure that the most up-to-date construction techniques and materials can be incorporated into every remodeling and construction project.
The strength and stability of a structure is largely determined by how well the building plans are constructed. One inaccurate calculation or one misplaced element could spell disaster. Relying on structural analysis software guarantees a safe, stable structure.
When you have a question, how quickly do you get a response? Is there a resources library you can consult if you have an urgent question outside of standard operating hours? This trait reflects more on the company than the product itself, but its value cannot be overstated. The speed and quality of customer support is one of the most important factors for engineers and architects, and should therefore be one of the things you test during a trial.
So, what is the best structural analysis software? Ultimately, that’s for you to decide. Different software works better or worse for different people, but asking the above questions will help you hone in on the top candidates.