Why engineers, architects and building designers depend on ClearCalcs to deliver their best work anywhere, anytime.
Matt Ward started his practice, Ward Engineering, in 2010 and has since grown his company from running his first project to 144 projects this year. We sat with Matt to discuss how ClearCalcs is essential to his company's growth and profitability.
A Civil Engineering graduate of the University of Pacific (UOP), California, Matt started his engineering firm, Ward Engineering, in 2010 as soon as he was licensed. The company specializes in structural engineering services, primarily for residential buildings.
“So we do houses - beams, columns, footings, and shear walls lateral design - that’s kind of our bread and butter,” Matt explained.
“Say someone buys a five-acre lot and wants to put a house on it. They're going to need engineering calculations and the plans reviewed stamped. While we don't make the design plans so much, we come in to do the engineering for the house and do what's called a shear wall plan.”
In addition to Matt as the Principal Engineer, his company has now grown to include another two design engineers in his team.
“The first year I did work in 2010, I did one project and that was like a big deal. I was super proud. We’re now at 144 projects so far this year, and probably 300 total before the year’s end.”
Matt has used structural engineering software, Enercalc for most of his engineering calculations since 2015. A colleague recommended the alternative design software StruCalc and Matt found himself exploring a new solution.
“I went on the web, and I was searching for StruCalc. And then I came across ClearCalcs, which I've not heard of before.”
“I saw I could do a free trial. So I checked out the software and got really impressed.”, Matt explained.
Matt added that he searched for new software because he needed to design rafters at a pitch a few years ago.
“With Enercalc, you can only do flat beams. You can’t do pitches. So that was the only reason I was searching for anything, and I came across ClearCalcs”, Matt said.
“Anytime you're getting outside a conventional rafter design where you can use a table, you've got to do something custom. It's not accurate to model a beam in Enercalc because you’re modeling a beam that's at an angle as being flat. So being able to do this in ClearCalcs was a big deal.”
“I also found being able to specify the number of plies for your beams in ClearCalcs useful. Because sometimes you’ll have a multiplied beam, which was not a feature available in Enercalc.”
According to Matt, while he still uses Enercalc for all his projects, there were certain things the software didn’t have, like load linking.
“The biggest thing I noticed about ClearCalcs that made me a believer was the load linking. That was a big deal because it’s something I have emailed Enercalc before saying, ‘hey, you guys should think about doing load linking’”.
About half of the work Matt and his team do are beams, columns, and footings. In residential design, you have a roof with loads on the beam, the beam has loads on the columns, and the column has loads on the footings.
“Anytime you’re manually taking reactions on them, there’s a chance you’re going to mess it up.”, Matt said.
“You're going to mess up the direction of the load. You're going to mess up the quantity of the load, whether it's roof load, dead load, or live load, and there's a chance you're going to mess up - once you go back and say the loads change on the beam and you did not go back and update that column or the footing.”
In ClearCalcs, Matt only needs to link the load reactions between beams, columns, and footings in the same project. Anytime there is a change to any of the calculations, the reactions will be updated automatically.
“The other thing I like with ClearCalcs is that where in Enercalc there’s just wood beam calculator, you guys break it down to what types of beams it is.”
For instance, in ClearCalcs, when designing a header, the calculator automatically accounts for the weight of the wall above it.
“I had designed the headers for years, but I had never considered the weight of the wall directly above it, which may be one foot or two feet. But that is something you should consider, especially if it's stucco and things like that”.
To Matt, as a designer, the feature offers him a cheat sheet and gives the default for his calculations, so there’s less time spent on his end figuring out the calculations manually. ”It makes your life easier when you’ve got the calculations broken down based on the type of beam it is. For instance, I've never had to do a rafter calculation until recently, when I had to do one for our project, and I looked through in ClearCalcs, and I'm like, oh wow, there it is right there, man.”
“It just makes my life easy. Compared to doing it manually, ClearCalcs sure saved me hours.”
To Matt, how he views structural design software for his work is like an investment for his company’s growth.
“Yes, it costs money, but you spend money to make money, and the money you make is based on the time you're saving because you're able to get these designs done much faster.”
Reiterating his love for the presets again, Matt said:
“I would never consider not having this level of software. I use the presets all the time, especially deck presets like deck joist and deck beam. The combination makes it easy because it asks you what the spacing is. It's like a template set up right there for you. So you do not have to reinvent the wheel.” When we asked Matt to describe ClearCalcs, Matt quickly complied, “I would say that ClearCalcs is a structural engineer's best friend. That's how I would put it because it makes your life easier than any other software I'm familiar with and easier means more money, easier means higher profitability”.
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