If you stand on my foot

One of the things that I find most challenging yet most rewarding is explaining seemingly complex structural occurrences in a way that muggles will understand.

Over the years I have developed various analogies for different situations but by far and away my most successful and favourite example is to ask ‘if you stand on my foot’

This is usually required when I am explaining to a Client what exactly I am doing in their house proposing to knock the living daylights out of their property and it comes down to the size of the pad foundation required to support the load of the back elevation of their house.

It all comes down to load path analysis which is the flow of load down through the structure until it reaches the ground. Up till this point I can talk to my hearts content about whether the structural member will fail due to bending stresses or shear effects or even whether it will bounce too much …. it doesn’t really matter. But as soon as I get to the ground it becomes much simpler as it is the applied load divided by the available area … which results in a stress … and provided that the actual stress is less than the permissible then everyone is happy … is everyone happy?

Okay think about it in this way. If you were to stand on my foot I may suffer a little bit of discomfort but by and large I’d deal with it. However if you were to stand on a drawing pin on my foot then you and me would be having a different conversation

Now all I have to do is think of a similar simile for bending, shear and deflection and I’ll have this structural engineering thing sorted – any suggestions let me know