Bluebeam Tip: Reduce file size and make it faster

As a structural engineers, we are always working on existing buildings. Most of the time we scan the as-built files or obtain those from owners. Most of the times, the scanned pdf files are really difficult to work because those are big and slow.

Here is Bluebeam tip to reduce file size and make it faster:

Under Document Tab, Go to button “ Process” and from the drop down menu select “Reduce File Size”

Following menu will pop up. Compress the file as much you want. The text at the bottom will tell you the Estimated size of the file and reduction in size.

For Scanned files, I usually go to full compression and the quality of drawing is not reduced. But you can try different settings for your project.

Note the file size below: from 477 MB to 43.3 MB file. Also the pdf is very fast to use now.

ETABS – Deleting Reference Planes

  1. Click the Edit menu > Edit Stories and Grid Systems command to access the Edit Story and Grid System Data form.

  1. Highlight a Grid System definition in the Grid Systems display area.

  1. Click the Modify/Show Grid System button to display the Grid System Data form.

  1. Click the Reference Planes button in the Click to Modify/Show area of the form.

Calculator For Engineers

I was searching for a website which can do small quick calculations for example calculate moment of inertia, section modulus, plastic section modulus etc. and found following website. Hope this will be very helpful.

Screenshot 2014-08-26 17.04.58


Zero Compression Element

When we want to model tension cable rods or any member with zero compression  and want to use finite element model for this purpose then follow the procedure below. This procedure is written considering CSI products (SAP or ETABS) but the concept should be similar for most of the softwares.


  1. Select the frame elements which should not take any compression.


  1. Click Assign > Frame/Line > Tension/Compression Limits.


  1. Check the box for Compression and define a limit of zero in the text box (default=0)



In order to run the analysis for tension-only members, we have to run Non-Liner Static analysis which is very simple.

  1. Go to Define > Load Cases and select the case you want to change to non-linear static (usually lateral load cases).
  2. Select Non-Linear Static from the pull down menu.


  1. Input other load cases in the box with appropriate load factors.
  2. Run the analysis and check the members with no compression and confirm that members are only taking tension.
  3. Perform the design.


Alternate option for defining non-linear load cases:

  1. Click Define > Load Combination
  2. Select Load combinations needs to convert to Non Linear combos



  1. Click button ” Convert Combos to Nonlinear Cases
  2. Run Analysis and check the forces in the members.
  3. Perform the design.


Where is the Base?

ASCE 7-05 defined the base for seismic design as:

“The level at which the horizontal seismic ground motions are considered to be imparted to the structure”.

Most of the times this is misinterpreted or misunderstood that where the base is considered when determining the height of building for seismic calculations specially when the site is sloped or if the basement is open from one side.

Read the following article published in December 2009 issue of Structure magazine, this article will answer lots of questions.