Boothby releases book on empirical structural design

June 15, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Thomas Boothby, professor of architectural engineering at Penn State, has released his second book, titled “Empirical Structural Design for Architects, Engineers and Builders.”

The book discusses empirical design, a design method driven by observation and past experiences, as a way for architects and engineers to make key structural design decisions.

Published by ICE Publishing, “Empirical Structural Design for Architects, Engineers and Builders” is written for those with a basic understanding of the building and construction industry. It focuses on determining materials, configurations, and sizes for elements using proven ratios, general rules of thumb, standard design practices, and accepted minimum sizes.

After teaching structural technology to architectural students at Penn State for 26 years, Boothby said he has discovered that the training structural engineering students receive isn’t always applicable training for architecture students.

“A professional architect needs to understand span and space limitations for various structural materials and assemblies, rather than detailed design of beams and columns,” Boothby said. “Empirical design is a much more efficient way to equip an architect or builder with this skill.”

In addition to helping architecture students, Boothby also believes the method is applicable in early structural engineering courses.

“There is value to engineers. [Younger engineering students] don’t always see the totality of design,” Boothby said. “It’s a quicker way to understand the totality of building.”

Though Boothby feels empirical design is useful for both architects and engineers, he stresses that it cannot be used for the final design of a building to meet modern code requirements. It is simply an additional resource that focuses on designing by sizing and rations.  

“You must retain a qualified engineer to do that [meet modern code requirements],” he said. “This is just another way to make decisions about materials and sizes.”

Boothby also is the author of "Engineering Iron and Stone: Understanding Structural Analysis and Design Methods of the Late 19th Century."

  • Thomas Boothby headshot

    Thomas Boothby is a professor in the Department of Architectural Engineering.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated June 15, 2018