Design Engineering Software

I’ve spent nearly four decades actively involved in the construction industry. From “gopher” on jobsites, framer, drywaller, sawyer in a truss plant, truss designer, salesman, forklift and truck driver, crane operator, general contractor, business owner and a litany of other job titles, I’ve covered a lot of turf.

From experience I generally know how to gauge the correct span for a floor joist and am usually on target when estimating the maximum load for a structural member in a truss. While I am not a registered design professional (RDP – architect or engineer), I can do long hand most of the calculations it takes to confirm whether my experienced guess actually works or not. The problem with doing it by hand – it is very time consuming and too easy to be interrupted in the middle of a particular project.

For pole buildings with double-height ceilings, large spans, and complicated rooflines, calculating loads becomes a lot more difficult. Design engineering software can make quick work of these projects.

Wood suppliers estimate as many as two-thirds of all lumber dealers use engineering design software—instead of their top salesman’s educated guess—to analyze loads as a first step in the takeoff process. Before long, they predict, every dealer will rely on the software, which can do the analysis in half the time and with more precision than even the most experienced lumber expert who works without a computer.

computer codeWith all of the technology available, it never ceases to amaze me when I find lumberyard sales people who manually put together materials lists for pole buildings based upon, “this is the way we always do it”. Even the best of them will admit, they are only about 98% accurate – and all of them confess to the lists they produce, probably are not adequate to provide a Code conforming building.

For years, design engineers and lumber dealers relied on the tried-and-true method, using span charts and their experience to gauge loads.

Today, the common way to analyze structural veracity is via software; in fact, many code jurisdictions won’t even allow construction to start unless the builder shows a computerized layout which proves the plan is structurally sound.

Hansen Pole Buildings seemingly tried out every commercially available post frame design system on the market. When we were unable to find one which even began to meet our needs, or was even close to accurate (either structurally or from a piece count standpoint) – we wrote our own design engineering software.  It took “a few” years (I started working on this back in the 80’s) and over the past several years with a genius “techie” to greatly expand the written computer code, we put into practice a design engineering software program like no other on the planet.

With over 60,000 lines of code, this robust program actually does the complete structural design of nearly any imaginable post frame building in the background, while the dimensions and features of the desired building are being keyed in. Snow, wind and seismic forces from over 7000 permit issuing jurisdictions in the United States are preloaded into the system, providing amazingly accurate results and quotes within seconds.

It hasn’t put me out of a job yet, and as we constantly add to it (recently we added endwall sheds), I am yet called upon to verify from time to time…it’s doing what we want it to – design Code conforming buildings instantly, and accurately.

2 thoughts on “Design Engineering Software

  1. Jason Bourne, PE

    I often have builders ask me to do the engineering for pole buildings. There are many guys out there who do them so cheap (some quite questionable) that I typically choose not to compete. I found a link to you describing your structural design software. I assume it is proprietary, not for sale, correct? Do you design/build pole buildings in WA state? I’m trying to find a way to refer my clients to a economical, yet structurally sound option for pole barns, OR acquire a software that would allow me to do that for them. I can and have done all of the calculations (i.e. constrained and non-constrained footings), and have most in separate spreadsheets, but find I often cannot get 6×6 treated HF2 posts to work, like other designs have. I wonder if they give some credit to the 29 ga. sheathing? Any assistance you can provide would be appreciated.

    1. Jason ~

      Thank you so much for being a reader.

      I agree with your assessment of there being engineers who will questionably seal plans.

      When we couldn’t find a software program which would structurally design every component and connection of pole buildings – we built it ourselves. It does happen to be proprietary program, which is not available for sale.

      We DO design and deliver buildings in all 50 states, including (of course) Washington. We are not contractors, and our buildings are designed for the average weekend warrior to successfully construct their own beautiful buildings (or hire someone to do some or all of the labor for them). It would be a pleasure to assist any clients you would send our direction

      Other than for very low eave height buildings, 6×6 HemFir is not going to work, at least not for truss bearing columns. In the event the engineer is specifying a properly designed and installed 29 gauge steel panel with tested shear values, then the contribution of the steel sheathing is going to assist greatly (it is the difference between being treated as a cantilever vs. a propped cantilever).

      If you are gong to design post frame buildings yourself, a very helpful tool would be the new NFBA Post Frame Design Manual:


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