The University of Southampton

CENV6086 Advanced Structural Engineering

Module Overview

This module covers advanced aspects of structural engineering including: the design of box-girders for long-span bridges; steel-concrete composite beams and girders for bridges and buildings; prestressed concrete for bridges and buildings; the design of reinforced concrete subject to stress concentrations and the control of cracking in reinforced concrete. You will be taught the theory of design from first principles but in the context of the Eurocodes and an emphasis is placed on your learning approximate methods of design that can be used to compliment and check the output from Finite Element Analysis.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

Prestressed concrete is becoming increasingly important in modern structural engineering because it leads to significant economies in materials. You will learn how to design prestressed concrete beams for bridges and for use in post-tensioned flat slab buildings. Some of the most exciting structures in civil engineering, such as cable-stayed bridges utilise thin-walled structures to maximise stiffness and minimise self-weight. You will learn the theory of buckling of these structures and you will learn how to apply this theory to the design of bridges. Linear-elastic FE analysis of complex reinforced concrete structures can provide unsafe solutions; as occurred during the design of the Sleipner Oil Platform which reinforced concrete structures can provide unsafe solutions; as occurred during the design of the Sleipner Oil Platform which sunk at the cost of several hundred million dollars. This disaster could have been avoided if the designers had used the strut and tie method during the design. You will learn how to use this advanced technique to design complex reinforced concrete structures subjected to concentrated loads. You will learn how to formulate a range of the most common forms of S&T models and you will apply these to case-studies such as long-span bridges, through to smaller scale structures such as the design of post-tensioning anchors for buildings. Many structures are considered unsatisfactory because they suffer from cracking. You will learn how to predict and control cracking for reinforced concrete structures and you will consider how movements can be accommodated to prevent cracking. Most steel beams used in bridges and buildings act compositely with the supported reinforced concrete slabs. In this module will you will learn how to design these steel-concrete composite beams using a range of design examples taken from bridges and multi-storey buildings.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Current problems at the forefront of structural engineering
  • Design of complex reinforced concrete structures using the strut and tie method
  • Design of composite beams for bridges and buildings
  • Design of prestressed concrete for bridges and buildings
  • Prediction and control of movements in buildings
  • Design of thin-walled structures
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Understand how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create the design formulae used in codes of practice.
  • Evaluate critically design formulae and methods in the structural engineering
  • Identify the underlying structural mechanics which are used in design codes
  • Apply theoretical principles of structural mechanics to a wide range of design situations
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Ability to learn
  • Problem analysis and problem solving
  • Self-management (e.g. time management)
  • Oral and written communication
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Carry out complex design calculations for a wide range of practical design situations
  • Ability to identify failure modes in structures
  • Use approximate analysis methods to check the output from FE analysis


Prestressed concrete design: • Formulation of the design inequalities at transfer of prestressing force and under serviceability loading • Determination of the minimum section depth and the permissible range of tendon forces • Calculation of the permissible width of the cable zone • Quantification of losses of prestress caused by anchorage draw-in, elastic shortening, friction, shrinkage and creep. • Estimation of deflections at transfer of prestress and under the full SLS loading • Calculation of the ultimate limit state bending strength and shear strength • Control of bursting stresses for post-tensioned concrete anchors Thin Walled Structures: • Theory of buckling of unstiffened isotropic plates subjected to in-plane loading • Calculation of shear buckling stresses in the webs of plate girders • Design to prevent buckling of thin plates in compression • Assessment of the combined effects of torsion, shear and compression on buckling strength • Assessment of the effects of lack of straightness and residual stresses on buckling capacity The design of reinforced concrete to resist concentrated loads and stress concentrations • You will learn how to formulate and assemble strut and tie models which have a wide range of potential applications • You will learn about the different node types and strut types and corresponding limiting stresses • You will learn how to check the stresses in the struts and how to design the reinforcement for the ties and you will apply this theory to a range of case studies from bridges and buildings Prediction and control of movements in buildings: • Review case studies from real structures where movements have resulted in severe cracking • Understand the different causes of movements in structures • Calculate movements due to shrinkage, creep, elastic shortening, temperature and solar radiation effects • Understand the sources of restraint to movement and how these influence cracking • Calculate crack widths Composite construction: • Calculation of deflections in propped and unpropped composite beams • Approximate methods for assessing dynamic response of long-span composite beams subjected to footfall induced vibrations • Calculation of the elastic and plastic moment capacities of propped and unpropped composite beams • Design of shear studs using elastic and plastic methods

Special Features


Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

A total of 36 lectures over 12 weeks. A range of design examples will be presented to explain the application of the theory to real design situations. An extensive range of tutorial questions will be provided for each topic and these will be accompanies with solution sheets which will enable you to practice and develop your understanding in preparation for the examination.

Follow-up work60
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Bill Mosley, John Bungey, Ray Hulse. Reinforced concrete design: to Eurocode 2. 

Trahair, N. S.. The behaviour and design of steel structures to EC3, Trahair, N. S., Library Catalogue No: TA 684. 

Megson, T. H. G. Structural and stress analysis 2nd ed.. 

Wight, James K.. Reinforced concrete: mechanics and design. 

Fédération Internationale du béton. Design examples for strut-and-tie models: technical report. 


Assessment Strategy



MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 20%
Exam  (2 hours) 80%


MethodPercentage contribution
Exam 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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