Stream, Download and Share
Auditory, Textual, Visual
©2000 WGBH Educational Foundation. All rights reserved. ZOOM and the ZOOM words and related indicia are trademarks of the WGBH Educational Foundation. Used with permission.
A good structural design begins with a problem and a concept of how to solve the problem. However, in order to fulfill its intended goal, a design must do more than just solve a problem. In the history of engineering, countless ideas have failed because of poor planning, poor execution, or both.
The engineering design process involves many important steps. One of the first is to clearly determine the function that a structure must serve. Often, structural designs are created to solve a problem. For example, government officials may want a new highway to cross a river at a certain point. It is a bridge engineer's job to create a design that solves that problem in the most effective and efficient way.
Often, design solutions address much smaller problems. Someone may need a new bookshelf or want to build a custom bicycle from the frame up. Regardless of the objective, design sketches give shape to concepts. By making drawings, designers can work out some of the problems with their design before purchasing any materials. Scale drawings accurately represent a structure's ultimate size and shape. Models help to test out the strength and stability of designs. Based on these, engineers can determine the amount, dimensions, and necessary strengths of the materials they need to use.
If a design has been tested and is precise, and if construction follows the design carefully, the structure should perform as it was intended.