Design Guides for Structural Engineers and Engineering Students

There are a lot of design guides that structural engineers use that are available on the world wide web.

We stay up to date with suppliers and materials by checking their websites. If you’re a structural engineer, an undergraduate structural engineer, a builder, a building designer or a homeowner, you might find something useful here.

Design Drafting

AutoCad Lt 2D Drafting

Autodesk AutoCAD 2021 | Digital Software-License

AutoCAD is pretty much THE drafting standard for construction drafting. The subscription-based sales model means that not only is it now cheaper to get yourself started on this drafting platform, but the free trial means it is actually free to grab a copy and start getting used to this drafting heavyweight.

Back when it first came out, drafting with AutoCAD was limited to professional full-time drafters who had time to learn all the commands. The program was just so intricate and devious and complicated and artsy. Now it’s simpler. There are online tutorials everywhere and the program is a lot more intuitive.

That doesn’t mean it is any less powerful. And you’ll still need a beefy computer to make it shine. But AutoCAD, after all these years, is still the industry standard and a must-have in your resume if you truly want to be useful in the construction industry.

Australian Standards and Codes

National Construction Code (Australia)

There was a time when you had to pay for this book that sets the national standard for construction. Not so any more thankfully – so that means there is no reason not to be referring to the bible of Australian construction more regularly. Go grab it. Refer to it. Use it. Be you a graduate engineer, a builder or a building designer/architect.
As Yoda would say: “Use it, you must.”

Australian Standards General Site

Australian Guidebook for Structural Engineers <-Get a price now

3d Structural Analysis

SpaceGass is our preferred structural analysis program. I think they have a student version too which will help you get accustomed to designing and thinking in 3d.

The biggest issue we have with computer analysis software is the “bullshit in bullshit out” issue. You need to have at least an idea of the correct outputs before you go to the software so that you know the inputs are correct.
Structural engineering analysis software, even SpaceGass is only as good as the inputs.

We found a series of SpaceGass training videos to help you use SpaceGass so don’t forget to go check them out.

Beam Formula and Bending Moments

Hand calculations (you know – the type of calculations using a calculator and not some fancy 3d modelling software) are more important than ever in consulting engineering.

We get paid for concise, accurate engineering that is easy to read and easy to understand so a set of calculations including hand calcs incorporating formulas might seem old school to some but it really is the only way to know you have arrived at the correct answer.

The beam formulae and bending moments sheets we use at Cornell Engineers are quite old and fragile but I found a pdf of beam formulae that should be just about perfect for any new and experienced structural engineer.
You should at least memorise the single span simply supported bending moments, deflections and shear profiles and formulae.

Everything else, refer to the manual. So remember to keep it handy.

Timber Design Guides

Before you start accumulating from our list of favourite timber design guides, you need to know about timber durability.

You don’t know anything about this topic until you learn it from the master – Edgar Stubbersfield.

Sign up for his newsletter and purchase some of his design guides.

As far as timber design goes in engineering consultancies, a lot of it is done referring to span tables and computer programs.

The best timber span tables come from the Australian standard series AS1684. The best computer program for residential timber design is the outstanding Hyne Timber Design. It encompasses engineered timber from most of the main timber suppliers so you can sound really smart when you give several options to your client (which allows them to shop by price and know they are still covered by your design).

Register for full access as an engineer to unlock some intricacies not available to the general user.

Structural Plywood and LVL (Laminated Timber)

Repair of Flood Damaged Houses

Hyne Timber Design

SmartJoist Design Guide

Timber Joints (Timber Design Files Book 9)

Timber Preservation Guide

Architectural Timber Battens: Volume 7

Concrete Masonry Design Guides

Concrete Masonry (or Besser Block design) is an essential skill, especially if you are designing residential, commercial or industrial structures in North Queensland. The Besser Block is very popular and one of my favourite wall types for residential construction (because clay bricks are just for looks and engineers are about structural integrity first and looks second).

So these manuals in order of importance will be useful for any concrete masonry designs and tweaking the world to make it a bit stronger.

Just a reminder though, you don’t need to articulate concrete masonry Besser Block walls in residential construction (personal challenge: comment below with the Australian standard and clause that allows you to omit articulation joints in reinforced concrete masonry walls).

Concrete Masonry  Retaining Walls Handbook

Concrete Masonry – Single Leaf Masonry Design Guide

TN61 Articulated Walling – Basic Reading for an Engineer

Seismic Design of Reinforced Concrete and Masonry Buildings

Concrete Design Guides

CCAA Guide to Residential Floors

This manual is getting a little bit long in the tooth (old) because it was first published in 1998 and republished in 2003. But you know what, if you are looking for an introduction to residential concrete structures (ie residential footings and slabs and residential suspended slabs) in Australia it is required reading and I can’t believe it is still free.

The only downside is that the latest version of AS2870 has adjusted site classifications to create a H1 site and H2 site from what was simply a Class H site.

Otherwise there is a lot of information in here that, as a junior structural engineer, you will be expected to know (preferably on day one).

Residential Concrete Structures Resources

This is another manual by Cement Concrete and Aggregates Australia and this is a bit newer (published in 2007) but it still isn’t as new as the current Australian standard for concrete structures (AS3600 – 2018).

Once again though, this guide is required reading for a graduate structural engineer and a handy reference for anyone with a few years of experience.

Industrial Concrete Pavements

I started my training when everything wasn’t freely available on the internet (does anyone even remember AARNet?) and getting a copy of this industrial concrete pavements manual was a changing point in my industrial structures design life.

This design guide is invaluable.

You must read it and use it. Then, once you have learnt it all, feel free to design using new technology – but only once you have mastered the old technology!

Reinforced Concrete Design to AS3600-2009

I’m pretty sure I had to buy this manual on reinforced concrete design when it was first released. It refers to the retired version of the AS3600, but this manual will give you a fantastic head start in the world of structural concrete design.

There are some design examples towards the back of the guide; and while you won’t see verbose calculations and explanations like these in a consulting engineering environment, they ensure you consider all the factors that go into a reinforced concrete design.

One last point: the manual quite properly points out that structural members should never be designed in isolation. Concrete structures act how they have been reinforced and built – not necessarily how you design them – so take into account how the individual members work together to transfer loads (shear/tension/bending/torsion) and ensure your structure is designed to suit.

Finally, don’t explicitly trust computer programs for your concrete design. BS in = BS out. ie computers aren’t smart enough to know that you’ve input a mistake and will process that wrong information just as thoroughly as correct information. Ensure you know the answer before you ask the question. That’s what this manual is good for.

ARC Reinforcement Handbook

You’re lucky that this ARC reinforcement manual is still freely available online. This little goldmine of reinforcement information will make you a superstar especially if your work is in the highrise construction industry.

Again, it is a little bit older (aren’t we all) and refers to the previous version of AS3600, but there is information in here that a graduate structural engineer really ought to know (that they probably didn’t teach you at university)

Go get this manual and give it a thorough flick through.

Residential Concrete Driveways and Paths

I use this residential concrete driveway manual as a bible for inspecting and designing concrete driveways. That’s because it really is the best guide around for design of concrete driveways.

My biggest wish is that concreters and plumbers and homeowners would all read this manual before a concrete driveway is laid. it could save some serious heartache and arguments between contractors and homeowners.

CCAA Manual on Concrete Repair

Another fantastic guide by CCAA and it’s free. If you need to repair concrete pavements then this should be your first stop. Grab your copy and have a read.

Reinforced and Prestressed Concrete

More of a university student’s guide to concrete, this book is still referencing AS3600-2009 but it’s going to give you a good basis for concrete design and concrete studies.

Reinforced concrete and Prestressed Concrete is available in paperback (you know -> old fashioned) and on Kindle. Pretty cool – a book you can read on an Ipad (now I’m showing my age hey!).

Reinforced and Prestressed Concrete: Analysis and Design with Emphasis on Application of AS3600-2009

Cracks in Houses

QBCC Defective Residential Construction Work Causing Subsidence

CSIRO Foundation Maintenance and Footing Performance: A homeowner’s guide

Repair of earthquake damaged concrete and masonry wall buildings

Foundation Repair Manual

When I bought this book and flipped through it I thought it must have been made in someone’s backyard lab!

The quality of the photos is horrendous. But bear with me – this book made my top 10 of subsidence reference books because it is really, really good technically.

I learnt so much from reading this book and I still refer to it occasionally when fixing under-performing houses.


Liberty Steel Design Resources

Lysaght Steel Sheeting Design Manual

Design Capacity Tables for Structural Steel A must-have set of design guides if you want to be a structural engineer (and you hate writing out the Euler buckling formula).

Lysaght Purlins and Girts Manual

For the design of steel purlins for sheds, workshops, offices, funky industrial houses and a host of other steel structures, this manual by Lysaght is absolutely required. Don’t rely on computer programs for design of steel purlins and girts, you need to get hands on with this manual before you will get a feel for the correct sizes.

This manual gets updated from time to time so make sure you’re working with the latest Lysaght purlins and girts manual.

Handy Stramit Page for Steel Purlins

Webforge Flooring and Grate Design Manual

Behaviour and Design of Steel Structures to AS4100: Australian, Third Edition

Fixings and Fasteners

Powers Fasteners

Ramset iExpert

Check out these videos for some background information on fixing to concrete and timber.

Batten Screws – Fixing to Timber

Fixing to Concrete and Masonry

Structural Engineering Core Standards

If you’re a structural engineer in Australia, you better know these Australian standards:

Drainage Manuals

Drainage is under-taught, misunderstood and poorly constructed and I think it is time to turn this property sabotage around.

A Public Guide to Managing Stormwater Drainage on Residential Properties is free, well written and more valuable than you’ll ever realise.

Read it. Refer to it. Be prepared to quote from it because drainage is THAT important.

Site Snooping and Investigation

I realised our page is getting linked to by various teaching organisations. Thank you and welcome if you’re here because you are learning about what it takes to be an engineer.

These are the tools we use at Cornell Engineers to investigate and cyber-stalk houses and existing developments:

I’ve written a quick guide to some of these here.

In Summary

I hope I haven’t scared you off! If you have dreams of working as a structural engineer one day you have some learning to do. Start reading!

8 replies on “Design Guides for Structural Engineers and Engineering Students”

Dear Cornell,
thank you for your website, i wish i knew it several years ago.

Is there any information booklets about facad engineering. I have not seen this in the NCC as well if i did not miss it.

You have missed out on AS1170.4 relating to seismic actions. NCC Volume 2 has clearly required that all buildings other than Class 1 and Class 10 be designed to withstand earthquake actions.

I have come to visit Cornell’s blog page quite a few times, last time I was here for a footing blog post – thanks for putting these valuable information in the blog. I am a geotechnical engineer though I graduated with a great aspiration to work in a structural engineering.

Thank you for the feedback Dom. With some geotechnical experience under your belt, I am sure you will make a great structural engineer one day. Just take a look at some of the recent engineering failures around the world. A little bit of knowledge from both worlds would make you invaluable!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *