Dynamic Analysis needed a new direction for their structural design calculations and ClearCalcs offers them what they needed and more.
Dynamic Analysis is a boutique civil and structural engineering firm based in Billings, Montana. The company focuses on offering specialized consulting for residential and low-rise commercial projects.
We recently caught up with Sam, Dynamic Analysis’ Principal and an experienced engineer in mining, transport, and manufacturing construction.
According to Sam, Dynamic Analysis generally deals with an equal split of designing for new builds - whether they are additions, remodels, or entirely new buildings- and reviewing repair plans.
“Our workflow is generally drafting a model of what we’re building, and then breaking them into sizing beams and foundations before using a program to determine environmental loading for wind and snow.”
While the company has used a structural design analysis and calculations software in addition to its own Excel spreadsheets before, Sam said, one of the limitations the team encountered was that the structural members are not tied together.
“We’ll go through each structural member and go back and forth between drafting and running calculations. When there’s a clash in size, we would go back, reiterate through the building again.””The [product we used] was so cheap before that it just made tolerating the bugs and issues fine, but, when [the product we used] updated their pricing, all of a sudden it didn’t make a lot of sense.”
For Sam and his team, after starting to use ClearCalcs late last year. ClearCalcs has become the tool they use for almost all of their projects.
“We are juggling 7 to 9 projects right now with many more coming in. Most of them, small stuff, anything from people just wanting to open up a bearing wall and put a beam in which [ClearCalcs] has been pretty handy for, and then to just full new residential houses.”
“The usability of the software has been nice. It is very clear to see what the software is doing when it comes to the calculations.”
One feature that Sam found most valuable in ClearCalcs is being able to link the load path dynamically from one structural member to another.
“Easily the worst part when using [the previous product] is having to update the calculations if we make any changes and having that roll through everything.”
Before using ClearCalcs, Sam and his team usually generate a printout that gave them individual dead loads, live loads, snow loads, and wind loads for each member.
“So anytime there’s a change, you got to go back, start over and redo the first calculation, get those loads, pull up the next calculation, read over from one screen what those load reactions were, and enter them individually. It was just a massive time suck to make one small change.”
With ClearCalcs’ load linking feature, reactions between members as point loads or line loads are dynamically tracked, so the loads inherited into the lower member are always updated automatically.
“Just the simple feature of being able to link load is a really big time-saver,” Sam said.
Having the option to use presets in ClearCalcs’ calculations was also a useful feature for Sam and his team.
For example, getting access to different presets like ridge beam, roof rafter, or ceiling joist with prefilled settings in wood beam calculations means they can save time in their projects.
“Being able to be specific about what type of beam you’re using is really nice. If we’re sizing a Ridge Beam, it just automatically throws in what our snow loads are. All we need to do is assign the width of the building and then pick our beam; that’s the only two inputs it requires. It’s already got all the loads in there, and it figures out the tributary area and knows what forces are coming down on it. It just takes like 30 seconds.”
“It’s not something I ever really thought I needed, but it’s a handy feature.”
The ClearCalcs’ automatically generated and standardized reports have also been indispensable to Sam and his team.
“We generally use the printout for our internal checks. When someone puts together a calculation, and it’s ready for review, we run through and look at what assumptions they’ve made in their calculations.“
“We find ClearCalcs report way more helpful than some of what we’ve seen in the market. For example, [with the previous product], I’d print out a report, and I just had no idea if it worked or not. It basically just puked out a ton of information, and I find myself asking, is this okay or not?”
In contrast, having ClearCalcs printouts break down our calculation into all the different failure modes and into what’s governing or where it’s failing is very valuable to Sam.
“Especially for repair plans, then we can really demonstrate if we had got an issue, we can just run through existing conditions and say, okay, this is this type of failure or bending failure. When we run this member through with these loads, we’re seeing we’re at 400% capacity.”
“So everything checks out that this thing is failing in bending, we need to make something stronger.”
“We also keep a little catalog of all of our calculations. Depending on the jurisdictional area, they’ll sometimes require a calculation set for a permit plan review, so we’ll use those.”
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