Structural analysis is taught at several different levels.
First, the basics of the subject are taught to architects and building professionals such as quantity surveyors and construction managers, as well as civil engineers, usually on the first year of a degree course.
Although unlikely to become structural engineers, these students need to have some knowledge of the work of the structural engineer as it impinges on their professional careers.
The second, more advanced, level of structures is taught to engineering (particularly civil engineering) students in the second and third years of a degree course. Third, specialist structural engineers study the subject at postgraduate level.
The two books under review are aimed, respectively, at the second and third category of reader identified above.
The second, extensively revised, edition of T. H. G. Megson's text aims to be a complete guide to structural analysis for civil engineering degree students, and it has a breadth of coverage of all the topics that such students are likely to encounter in this field. The author has introduced new material on topics such as plastic analysis and has overhauled many chapters.
Although Megson's book claims to assume "virtually no prior knowledge" on the part of the reader, it is probably most useful to second-year students on degree and HND courses who have grasped basic concepts. It provides good coverage of some of the more difficult topics that are usually covered in the second and third years of civil engineering degree courses, and it goes into more detail than university lecturers are able to provide in the limited student contact time available.
Megson achieves a good balance between presenting mathematically based theory and numerical worked examples. The book is not the only "one-stop shop" structural engineering text that aims to cover all years of a degree course in one volume. While it is more readable and less intimidating than many of its competitors, it is not particularly user friendly, and academically weak students will find it a struggle. However, the more able student will, with application, find the book useful.
It is vitally important that all structures (and therefore all parts of a structure) are stable: buildings or aircraft wings must not buckle or break in normal use. Unfortunately, determining the stability of any given part of a structure is not straightforward. Murari Gambhir's technically complex book attempts to address this issue. It is aimed at the postgraduate student or researcher in aeronautical, civil, mechanical or structural engineering with a specialist interest in the field of structural stability. It is suited to masters-level courses in advanced structural analysis in any of these disciplines. But it is an academic treatise and, unlike Megson's book, has no place on the bookshelf of a practising engineer.
Gambhir has produced a large number of technical papers over his distinguished career, and this book reads like a feature-length technical paper. Its major advantage over earlier texts covering the same subject area is that it includes numerical techniques that lend themselves to computer analysis.
But it is not for the mathematically deficient: the author inadvertently warns of this in the book's preface, where he states that "only a minimum knowledge of calculus, Fourier series and Bessel functions is assumed on the part of the reader".
However, it is an excellent, comprehensive guide to the mathematical analysis of the stability of various structural components, and it should prove a useful reference for the specialist academics at whom it is aimed.
Philip Garrison is senior lecturer in structural engineering, Leeds Metropolitan University.
Structural and Stress Analysis. Second edition
Author - T. H. G. Megson
Publisher - Butterworth Heinemann
Pages - 724
Price - £.99
ISBN - 0 7506 6221 2