not only bridges

Can social media help structural engineers?

Written by Ms. Minara El-Rahman at

Here are some tips for any structural engineer looking to grow his/her online presence:

Map out your social media strategy

Think about where you want to be in terms of online presence. It is important to be where your clients are online. 

Do your potential clients have a page on Facebook? 
Do they gather and share industry news from LinkedIn? 

Once you decide where your clients are, start listening to their conversations, reading their posts and following them on their social media accounts so you can determine where you should be online and start to build your presence.  Try to narrow it down to a few social media platforms at first so that you can devote your time and resources to growing your social media presence. This is especially true if you are managing your social media content yourself, or requesting someone on staff to do it for you part time.
Make sure to take the time to think about how you define social media success at this stage. 

Is social media success a lift in brand/company awareness? 
Is it an increase in your social media fan base, number of retweets or traffic to your site? 

Once you have figured out what success looks like to you, write it down and craft your strategy and content around that criteria.

Create engaging content

Offer content that is informative and interesting to the audience you want to reach. For structural engineers, content that explains concepts such as the importance of a continuous load path in structures in high wind or seismic areas may show potential clients the value in working with a professional engineer. Whether you are writing a blog post, or sharing an image on Pinterest, content should improve knowledge, help to solve problems and spark conversation.

Map out your content ahead of time in a content calendar. It could be as basic as writing down your posts in a Word document and setting reminders in Outlook. Planning keeps you consistent and accountable. Consistency is key when it comes to engaging with clients on social media.

Think about creating content specific to the platform. 
Pinterest and Houzz are social media platforms that rely heavily on visuals, so content such as infographics, photos and BIMs are appropriate. 
For LinkedIn, in-depth articles about your industry tend to perform very well. Craft content around the platform so it appeals to who you want to reach.

Measure successes

Don’t forget to check in on your measures of success on a monthly basis. This will help you gauge whether your social media efforts are paying off. If you are doing well, that’s great! If you notice that you are not quite hitting your goals, look at the numbers and adjust your strategy. 

Are you posting at a time when no one is looking at your content?
There are a number of articles that recommend the best time to post content so that it will be seen. 

Is your content not resonating with readers? 
Try to change it up so that it really connects your readers with what they want to know.

And one final tip: be committed. Posting every once in a while or not responding quickly to readers’ comments and questions can negatively impact a firm’s brand and reputation. However, those that are active on social media and post regularly are able to build stronger relationships with clients, demonstrate their expertise and ultimately grow their business.

Flood simulations and actual flood risk

Looking at the maps in the article  I found a report by the Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology based on 177000 local flood insurance claims that found no correlation between damage and floodplains, as this graph shows:

It is a completely counter-intuitive result: are flood plains not always a good indicator of flood risk?

The main problem is that the flood decisions that local governments are making today not only determine how much damage future floods will cause locally, but also how healthy the community’s river and coastal areas will be. Chicago and its surrounding cities, for example, have artificially created flood-prone places simply by paving over the region's natural ability to manage excess water.

Impervious surface creates risk over a much wider area, and it is impossible to say that just because you are locally above the 100 year flood, flooding is not a risk.

Tips for importing CAD into Abaqus or similar FEM software

1) Create geometry in AutoCAD or free alternatives (Draftsight, Nanocad,...). Explode entities if necesary to obtain only lines and save as Frames.DXF
2) Use gCAD3D (it is a free and open software, import Frames.DXF and save as Frames.IGS
3) Import parts as wires with Abaqus/CAE

Planar shells:

1) Create geometry in AutoCAD or similar. Explode entities if necesary to obtain only lines. Separate and save as Contour.DXF and Partitions.DXF
2) Import Contour.DXF as sketch in Abaqus/CAE
3) Create part form sketch called Contour
4) Tools> Partition>Face>Sketch and use the sketch called Partitions

3D Shells and solids:
1) Create regions (command REGION of AutoCAD) and solids in AutoCAD and export as SAT (ACIS) file
2) Import parts as shells and solids with Abaqus/CAE

The latest procedure also works for planar shells but it is less precise.

Official San Francisco-Oakland bay bridge construction video

Witness more than 42,000 hours of construction on the newly-opened Bay Bridge in just 4 minutes with this time-lapse video.

SAP2000 vs StaadPro

StaadPro is the most widely used bread-and-butter structural software in Asia and the UK while SAP2000 seems to be the most widely used one in Latin America, Portugal, Italy and Spain.

The grids provided in SAP makes it easier to create the geometric input than with the StaadPro. Dynamic analysis is stronger in SAP2000 (earthquake force applied in any direction, automatic lumping of masses for earthquake, live load reduction, bridges transient loads, eigenmodes and ritz modes, etc...). Sap2000 has facilities for creep and shrinkage of concrete. SAP2000 program has the ability to solve heterogeneous soil-structure interaction which is not possible in StaadPro. Also, SAP2000 can import the geometry and the material properties of StaadPro models, I am afraid that the opposite is not possible.

However, StaadPro has some great advantages. First and foremost, the license is cheaper. The connection with visualization and drawing software is much easier, not in vane StaadPro is a product of Bentley (Microstation, PDS, etc...). StaadPro provides additional modules for designing steel joints and foundations. The text editor facility for the model input file makes StaadPro is more versatile for model modification. It is possible to work with the ASCII file of SAP but it is cumbersome and it is necessary to leave the model and reload.

Now, the choice is yours.