Current building codes describe three methods for structural design of buildings:
1. Conventional construction is the oldest, simplest design system and the main focus of this series. It is often adequate for structural design of small projects, but limited to light-frame, one-or-two-story wood buildings. The utility of conventional construction can be extended by use of:
2. Pre-engineered components and systems. Many of these are described in building codes, such as conventional concrete perimeter foundation systems. Some pre-engineered components are found in manufacturers' catalogs, such as metal framing connectors.
3. Structural analysis. Performed, in most cases, by a professional structural engineer, structural engineering analysis is outside the scope of this discussion. Many design situations require structural analysis, and designers have the option to employ it for any design. If there’s a choice, however, conventional solutions are usually more cost-effective. One of the goals of this discussion will be to find and discuss those situations where the designer and builder have conventional options which might reduce the cost of a project without compromising quality.
Successful application of conventional construction requires the builder or designer to know when you can't use it, so it might be easier to start with a discussion of what it’s not good for. One category of situations where conventional construction often won't work is with un-conventional materials and methods. That’s our subject for next time.