Required and Optional Inputs
ClearCalcs aims to be both powerful and easy to use. Allowing you to perform highly-efficient calculations in as many design scenarios as possible, however, can mean that some calculators have a lot of knobs and dials. The good news is that we've also done our best to let you design a safe structure while touching as few of those inputs as possible!
Inputs in Our Calculators
In all of our beam and column calculators, the only truly mandatory inputs are:
- Member Selection: Which section size or shape you wish to use in design. Note that we have some powerful features, including our Member Selector and Autosize, which can make this a breeze, especially if you select your selection last after inputting everything else.
- Member Length: Total material length of your beam, or height of your column
- Support Locations: For a beam, where are the walls, columns, or girders holding the beam up? For a column, is it multiple stories tall (a support should be added at each)? See our descriptions of what all the support types are, in either metric units or Imperial units.
- Loads: We'll put on some default loads that are typical for the type of beam or column you select, but you might have higher loads for your structure's usage (such as in bathrooms or hallways), or you might have another member that's supported by this one (for which you can create a load link). Just scroll a short ways down the page and you'll see all the types of loads you can add - including point loads or distributed loads in metric units or Imperial units.
Beyond those few essential inputs, everything else you can change should only make a typical design more efficient. That's because we set reasonably conservative default values for everything else. So if you enter just those inputs described above and then do nothing else, your design might be a bit over-conservative, but unless you have a particularly unusual structure, it should be safe. The screenshot here shows a typical module with those key inputs marked (in this case, the US wood beam module).
Inputs for your Project
When you first create a project - before you even open up one of our design calculators - you might notice that there are several inputs available, involving project names, addresses, Preferred Sections, etc. The ONLY input here that's required is:
- Project Name: Uniquely identifies the project you're working on, and allows you to search for it later
Everything else can safely be left blank or otherwise as-is. The Building Standard and Unit System are important, but unless you're an employee in a multi-national consultancy, both should have already defaulted to whatever you selected when you first signed up for ClearCalcs (or you can change it in your organisation settings here). If you enter an address, we'll use that to set some environmental parameters, particularly in our wind load modules, but everything can also be set manually in those modules. All of the other fields, including client name, project number, and date are only there for your own reference and for populating the header at the top of any reports you print; there is no consequence to leaving them blank.
Preferred Sections is only necessary if you wish to use our Autosize feature. Some of our member databases have literally thousands of section sizes and shapes to choose from, and we unfortunately can't test every single one to find the optimal size (and even if we did, you may or may not actually be able to acquire the most optimal section from your suppliers!) - so we instead ask you to select a list of "Preferred Sections" from among which we'll find the most optimal when you click the "Autosize" button in our various calculators.