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Featured Author - Chanakya Ayra, Design of Structural Elements

Chanakya Arya is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at University College, London. Design of Structural Elements is now in it's third edition this popular textbook provides a concise single volume introduction to the design of structural elements in concrete, steel, timber, masonry and composites. Up to date design principles and guidance are given in line with both British Standards and Eurocodes, current as of late 2007. An accompanying solutions manual is available online.


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What was your favorite section to write in the new edition of the book?

The material in chapter 7 on the transition between British Standards and Eurocodes was interesting to research. There has been much talk on implementation of the Eurocodes since the early nineties. But here we are approaching the end of the noughties and it is still far from clear when the changeover will actually occur. The severe financial crisis we are facing will undoubtedly further delay this process. Most practitioners I have spoken to over recent months are more concerned about their jobs rather than Eurocodes. Conversations with recent graduates and students on summer placements suggest that the vast majority of design work is still carried out to British Standards, which makes it difficult to know quite what to teach students in order enhance their chances of obtaining work. Perhaps the answer is to teach both sets of standards.

What top tips would you give to a budding structural engineer?

When you are out and about try to work out how structures such as football stadiums, bridges, buildings, etc., work. Think about the nature of the loading that the structure will experience during its design life. Also how load is transferred from a point on the structure to the ground. Use hand drawings to help in that process. How the structure resists horizontal loads from wind for instance. Why the designer has chosen to use a particular material and if there is a link between the material and the shape of the structure. When looking at a building site pay attention to the sequence of construction as this can also provide valuable clues as to how some structures work. Remember not all structures are built from the bottom up. Make a mental note of the sizes of key members such as the thicknesses of floor slabs, width and depth of beams, cross-section of columns, etc. as this information will be invaluable for the development of preliminary designs

What is your favorite construction material and why

I suppose it must be concrete, as it is probably the material I know most about having studied it for twenty years. Various forms of concrete have been around for several millennia. Yet, research on both the properties of fresh and hardened concrete continues apace. My work has focused on deterioration mechanisms, in particular corrosion of steel reinforcement due to the use of de-icing salt in winter. Detection, repair and evolution of preventative strategies are some of the aspects I have considered. A particularly interesting piece of work which is relevant to structural design relates to the relevance of cracking in concrete to the risk of reinforcement corrosion. Currently there are two schools of thought. One suggests that there is a relationship between crack width and amount of corrosion whereas the other suggests the reverse. Research evidence suggests that the latter theory is more plausible yet it is the former which continues to dominate the advice in codes of practice on reinforced concrete design. Work on concrete has also allowed me to develop an understanding of a number of other areas new to civil engineering such as risk analysis, sustainable development and nanotechnology.

Name three of your favorite buildings in the world and briefly explain why

The Taj Mahal in Agra is a stunning structure. I saw it about 20 years ago during my one and only visit to India and it was truly awesome. It was dusk but the white domed marble structure was clearly visible under the moonlit sky. It was a hypnotic experience and one I have not forgotten. I was similarly impressed when I saw the Colosseum on a recent visit to Rome. This is partly to do with the age and scale of the structure but also its design. What impressed me most was the repetitive use of I guess what must then have been considered to be at the cutting edge technology, the arch/vault. The whole structure seems to consist of a multitude of arches to form the tiered seating areas and the connecting passage ways beneath and the effect is quite stunning. The structure is remarkably light and efficient given its massive size. Nearer to home there are so many landmark structures such as Swiss Re, the British Museum Great Court and the Globe that it is so difficult to chose. But I think the building I most oftentimes look forward to seeing is the BT tower in Birmingham. Having grown up in West Bromwich, which is home to the soon to be relegated Albion, whenever I see it I know I am close to home and family and friends. Some years ago a school friend of mine decided to climb the tower without seeking permission. He succeeded but was promptly arrested when he finally reached the top.

Who do you find most influential?

People who are good at their craft. I suppose the person who I’ve been most impressed with in recently months is Barack Obama. His speeches and Q&A sessions on his recent visit to Europe were enlightening and uplifting. I even stood outside Buckingham Palace to catch a glimpse of him, which is not the sort of thing I normally do. Unlike the City, the crowds and the policemen and women on duty outside the palace on that day were extremely friendly. It was a very pleasant atmosphere. Unfortunately, because of the heavily tinted windows on the “beast” I only managed to catch a glimpse of the back of President Obama’s head as the car made its way from the palace towards Downing Street.

DID YOU KNOW? ... One unknown fact about the author

Anybody who knows me will vouch for the fact that I’m not much of a foodie. I am a vegetarian but apart from
that I eat pretty much whatever is put in front of me. The only thing I sometimes have a craving for is stuffed paratas. But the ones they sell at Indian restaurants are not a patch
on the ones my mother used to make. They were great to eat cold, with pickle and hot tea, alfresco. Unfortunately, my mother passed away shortly before the first edition was
published. In fact the present edition is dedicated to her memory.

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