SCI 6227: Structural Design 1

Course Description

This course introduces students to the analysis and design of structural systems. The fundamental principles of statics, structural loads, and rigid body equilibrium are considered first. The course continues with the analysis and design of cables, columns, trusses, and beams. The structural design of steel follows, culminating in the consideration of high-rise building design. The quantitative understanding of static equilibrium, internal forces, stresses, and deformations are an integral part of the learning process throughout the course. Students are expected to have completed all prerequisites in math and physics.


Course Objectives

  • Provide an understanding of the behavior of structural systems.
  • Introduce basic structural engineering concepts and simple calculations applicable in the early stages of the design process in order to select and size the most appropriate structural systems.
  • Teach the engineering language to improve communication among design professionals.



  • Statics (equilibrium of loads and force reactions)
  • Load Modeling (load types, flow of force, and load calculations)
  • Interior Forces (axial, shear, and bending moment diagrams)
  • Mechanics of Materials (stress, strain, elasticity, thermal considerations)
  • Analysis and Design of Columns (slender v. compact column design)
  • Analysis and Design of Hanging Cables
  • Analysis and Design of Arches (funicularity)
  • Analysis and Design of 2D Trusses (method of joints)
  • Analysis and Design of Beams (flexural stress, cross sectional properties)
  • Steel Design (allowable stress design, ultimate limit state design, yield stress)
  • Building System Design


Course Administration & Requirements

  • Scientific calculator capable of calculating exponents, trigonometric functions, etc.
  • The use of smartphones and/or computers will not be allowed during class or examinations
  • Patrick McCafferty will generally be available on Zoom for questions immediately after class, and by appointment as necessary. All students are encouraged to reach out to discuss course material or other matters of interest.
  • The Teaching Assistants will hold regular office hours to assist students with the content of the course. TA office hours will be posted on the course web site.
  • The course web site is accessible through Harvard’s Canvas system. It shall serve as the central repository and infrastructure of the class, shall contain links to the lectures, and shall serve as the conduit for downloading/uploading coursework and tests.


Design Teams

The design process is a collaborative endeavor. Often the best ideas come not from a single individual acting in isolation, but rather through the active engagement of a strong team assembled from a broad spectrum of experience, ideas, and creativity. In this way, points of view and sparks of creativity interweave to spawn new ways of thinking to unlock bold new design ideas. You are therefore asked to assemble into teams of 3 persons each from among your 6227 classmates. All homework assignments are to be completed by these teams; single submissions of each assignment will be accepted per team. These teams will remain intact for the duration of the term.


Homework Assignments

There will be approximately 8 homework sets assigned throughout the course. These will generally be assigned on Mondays and will be due by noon the following Monday.


Homework “specifications” are as follows:

  • All homework is to be completed on engineering grid paper.
  • One digitally scanned homework submittal package is to be submitted per team.
  • Unclear or poorly scanned work will not receive credit. Sloppy submittals will be penalized accordingly.
  • All team members shall print, sign, and date the cover page of each homework submittal as evidence of collaborative participation and calculation review in preparing the assignment.


Quizzes and Exams

There will be weekly quizzes throughout the term, a midterm exam, and a final exam at the end of the term. All quizzes and exams will be timed; the quizzes will be 30 minutes, the midterm exam will be 1.5 hours, and the final exam will be 3 hours long. All quizzes, the midterm, and the final exam will be take-home tests, will be open-book (i.e. students will be able to refer to their notes while taking the tests), and will rely upon an honor system to ensure students do not simply copy other students’ answers.

The quizzes will focus on the material covered during the prior week. Students will be allowed to confer with their study groups during the quizzes but each student must complete and submit their own quiz. Students will be given a prescribed 24-hour window of time during which to take the 45-minute quiz each week. Quiz answers will be made available once the quiz window closes. Each quiz may be taken only once.

Unlike the quizzes, the midterm exam and final exam shall be completed individually without collaboration with others. As with the quizzes, there will be a 24-hour window during which students will take the 1.5 hour midterm exam. Scheduling of the final exam will be per the Architecture Department.


Students at Risk

Virtual participation poses risks for GSD students from certain countries, especially as many students will be living in those countries for the duration of this GSD course and thus will be more vulnerable than usual. Class members concerned about participating in particular sessions must contact the instructor in advance of class and request that they be allowed to keep their video turned off, participate via the Zoom ‘chat’ function directly with the instructor, participate in the class in written form, or request through an application process run by GSD Student Services ( special ‘asylum’ status for this course which will confer the right upon a class member to not participate in certain classes without fear of grade consequences. For further details see the Appendix titled ‘Participation and Risk in Virtual Classes’ prepared by the University and located on the Canvas site.


Academic Integrity Statement

The goal of all GSD courses is for students to learn. The best way of achieving this is for students to complete individual work without copying the work of others or using external resources that inappropriately provide direct solutions to problems. Given the remote format during the initial weeks of the course, the instructor will not be readily able to assess whether students engage in such activity. The course is therefore designed under an honor system that assumes students understand that they will learn the most if they avoid taking ‘shortcuts.’ The instructor does, however, reserve the right to issue slight variations of quizzes and exams without notifying students to curtail cheating. Further, by calling on students in class – randomly and unannounced – the instructor will gain a sense of how well the class understands the material – the basis of how the course will be graded.

In the event any assignments may require students to share images or text produced by others, the instructor expects that students will properly credit appropriate third-party authors.

The following is an excerpt of the GSD’s policy on academic misconduct. These are examples of what shall be considered instances of academic misconduct:

  • Cheating on examinations, either by copying the work of other students or through the use of unauthorized aids;
  • Fraudulent presentation of the work of others (either written or visual) as one’s own work
    (e.g. plagiarism, etc.);
  • Simultaneous or repeated submission, without permission, of substantially the same work (either written or visual) to more than one course;
  • Alteration or misrepresentation of academic records;
  • Unauthorized collaboration or paid assistance;
  • Deliberate interference with the integrity of the work of others;
  • Fabrication or falsification of data.

The instructor is certain that the students can be trusted in these matters. However, note that the Department will vigorously pursue any violations which may arise, based on the procedures prescribed in the GSD’s Academic Conduct Policies.



Final grades will be determined as follows:

Quizzes:                                   20%

Mid-Term Examination:          20%

Final Examination:                  20%

Homework:                             20%

Class Participation:                 20%

The lowest quiz grade will be dropped and will not impact a student’s final grade.


Course Schedule

A detailed course schedule is provided on the following page. Classes will generally meet for lecture Tuesday and Thursday evenings Eastern Standard Time unless otherwise arranged by the instructor.

The course will generally flow as follows:

  • Mondays
    • homework on topic 1 completed and submitted by students to Canvas by noon
    • homework solutions on topic 1, quiz on topic 1, and homework assignment on topic 2, posted to Canvas by TAs at noon
  • Tuesdays
    • quiz on topic 1 completed and submitted by students to Canvas by noon
    • afternoon lecture on topic 2
  • Thursdays
    • work through detailed example problems on topic 2


Synchronous / Asynchronous Learning

The course will be delivered through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning. Online lectures will be recorded. Students are expected to attend, and actively participate in, all sessions.

Attendance is mandatory.


Class Calendar (Spring 2022).pdf 

Course Summary:

Date Details Due