Some useful terminology...

* The below is not considered a comprehensive list of engineering terminology. It is given merely as a basic guide to some common technical terms.


Often used as a beam in its own right or as a wall bracket support. Angles are simply two pieces of steel set at 90 degrees to each other forming an "L" shape. Angles come in two forms, equal and unequal, whereby there vertical length is either equal or unequal, to its width.


A structural member, usually horizontal, with a main function to carry loads cross-ways to its longitudinal axis. These loads usually result in bending of the beam member. Examples of beams are simple, continuous, and cantilever.

Beams are typically referred to with the suffix UB (Universal Beam). This will be proceeded by three figures, for example 203 x 102 x 23 UB denoting depth (mm) x width (mm) x unit weight per metre (kg) respectively.


This is a structural member whose main function is to carry loads both parallel and transverse to the longitudinal axis. Beams are typically referred to with the suffix UC (Universal Column). This will be proceeded by three figures, for example 203 x 203 x 46 UC denoting depth (mm) x width (mm) x unit weight per metre (kg) respectively.

Channel Sections

Channel sections consist of two parallel "flanges" jointed with a single vertical "web" (see below). Effectively forming a "U" or "C" shape when viewed in section.


Cantilever refers to the part of a member that extends freely over a beam, which is not supported at its end.


A column is a main vertical member that carries axial loads from the main roof beams or girders to the foundation parallel to its longitudinal axis.


Continuity is the term given to a structural system describing the transfer of loads and stresses from member to member as if there were no connections.


Damping is the rate of decay of amplitude for floor vibrations.

Dead Load

Dead load describes the loads from the weight of the permanent components of the structure.


Deflection is the displacement of a structural member or system under a load.

Dynamic Load

This type of load varies over time.


A footing is a slab of concrete under a column, wall, or other structural member to transfer the loads of the member into the surrounding soil.


A foundation supports a building or structure.


A flange is a flat metal plate. Typically this term is used in reference to a steel beam (UB or UC; see above) referring specifically to the horizontal components of the beam.


A gable is located above the elevation of the eave line of a double-pitched roof.


The ground elevation of the soil.


A member that carries other supporting members and is placed between other beams.

Hip Roof

A roof sloping from all four sides of a building.


A structural load-carrying member which supports a floor.

Live Load

Non-permanent loads on a structure created by the use of the structure.


An outside force that affects the structure or its members.

Modulus of Elasticity (E)

This can also be termed Young's Modulus and is a property of a material. It calculates the slope of the straight-line portion of the stress-strain curve in the elastic range.


Moment is the tendency of a force to cause a rotation about a point or axis which in turn produces bending stresses.

Moment of Inertia (I)

A measure of the resistance to rotation offered by a member's geometry and size.


Pitch is the slope of a member defined as the ratio of the total rise to the total width.

Point Load

A concentrated load at a specific point.


Reaction is the force developed at the points of a support.


Reinforcement is typically used to strengthen concrete. This often takes the form of steel bar or steel mesh. These can come in number of shapes and sizes.


Forces resulting in two touching parts of a material to slide in opposite directions parallel to their plane of contact.


The clear distance between supports.

Structural Steels

Steels suitable for load-carrying members in a structure.


A structural brace that resists axial forces.


A vertical wall member used to attach other structures, such as walls.

Torsion Loads

A load that causes a member to twist about its longitudinal axis. A couple or moment in a plane perpendicular to the axis produces simple torsion.

Uniformly Distributed Load (UDL)

Is a term used to define a consistent load over a given length.


A web refers to the vertical section of a steel beam (UB or UC; see above) connecting the top and bottom flanges.

Width of Loading

The area supported by a structural member is defined by its length and the width of loading; simply it defines the amount of load imposed on a supporting member.