The elements of beam design is a topic of great interest for structural engineers and contractors. Beam design is integral in the design and construction of a structure. Most structural beams are comprised of wood, steel or concrete. Each of these construction materials reacts differently under the stress of a load. Each also has its own unique advantages.
Elements and Examples of Beam Design: Concrete Beams
Concrete beams are most often seen in commercial construction, such as in the erection of multi-level parking decks, hospitals, and large hotels. Concrete beams are also commonly used as bridge and highway supports. Some concrete beams are used in conjunction with steel beams to provide added strength. Newer concrete beams may also contain a hybrid material of traditional concrete mixed with Glass Fiber Reinforced Polymer (GFRP) or Carbon FRP.
Concrete is a strong building material, but it is susceptible to water damage and cracking. Iron bars are often included in the beams to add strength and stability over areas prone to greater stress. Concrete beams area also desirable for their ability to absorb sound and vibration.
Elements and Examples of Beam Design: Steel Beams
One very common type of steel beam is the I-beam. These I shaped beam are strong and moderately affordable. Steel beams are capable of supporting heavy loads without experiencing great amounts of deflection by distributing the load of the structure over the flange of the beam. Steel beams may be treated to prohibit corrosion and oxidation, especially when used near or under water, such as in bridge construction.
Elements and Examples of Beam Design: Wood Beams
Wood beams are common in residential structures. Wood beams may be notched or jointed together for added strength. Wood beams are inexpensive and easy to alter to a builder’s specifications. However, they are also susceptible to rot and insect infestation. Specially treated wood beams are now available that resist decomposition, moisture and insects, making them an attractive choice in beam materials for most homeowners.
Elements and Examples of Beam Design: Flitch Beams
Flitch beams are specially constructed beams that join a steel plate with adjacent wood panels to form one composite structural beam. These flitch beams are strong, yet less expensive and lighter than solid steel beams. The construction of a flitch beam results in a reduction of the overall size of the beam, and the wooden exterior also allows the builder to nail the beam to other existing wooden structures in the home.
Elements and examples of beam designs are plentiful. Beam design and selection are an important part of the construction process and the wide variety of beams to choose from allow a builder to meet the needs of each project more easily.