# SI Units for Structural Engineers

**SI Units for Structural Engineers**

The international system of units SI (System Internationale units) Units for Structural Engineers, commonly called SI, is being adopted allover the world as a uniform measurement system. While the complete transition from customary units to the SI system may take years, the use of SI (System Internationale units) Units for Structural Engineers units in the fields of engineering and science is proceeding rather rapidly, and it will soon be come necessary for the modern civil engineer to gain experience in using the SI system. Fortunately, the cl1~ngeover from the now common MKS units to SI units is quite simple, unlike the changeover from FPS to MKS units. In this book, SI units have been used throughout, with only mi.nor modifications, to suit the requirements of the engineering world.

The basic and derived units for various categories of measurement are discussed in the following sections.

** ****TYPICAL BASIC UNITS **

**Geometry **

The basic unit of length is the metre (m), which together with the millimetre (mm) is used exclusively for geometrical quantities. Although the centimetre (cm) is a convenient quantity, its use is generally avoided in the SI system. The use of mm for section modulus and moment of inertia involves large numbers for the majority of common flexural members. This problem is met by listing steel sections properties as section modulus x 10^{3} mm^{3} and moment of inertia x 10^{6} mm^{4}. Very small sections, such as light gauge steel shapes may be listed as section modulus x mm^{3} and moment of inertia x 10^{3} mm^{4}.

** ****Mass and Density **

Mass is a basic quantity in the system. The base unit of mass is the kilogram (kg). The use of kg should not be confused with the old metric force called kgf.

Material quantities are measured in mass units rather than in weight or force· units. Thus, the mass per length of a steel beam is expressed in kg/m, gravity floor loading in kg/m^{2} and the mass of an object in kg. Mass density is given in kg/m^{3}. In contrast to weight units, these quantities do not depend upon the acceleration due to gravity. Weight is not used directly in the 51 system, but force is obviously caused by gravity acting on mass.

** ****Force, Moment and Stress **

The unit of force is the newton (N), which is the force required to give 1 kg mass 1 m/s^{2} acceleration. Thus 1 N is 1 kg.m/s^{2}, The newton is a derived unit that is independent of the acceleration due to gravity. A kilonewton (1000 newtons) or kN, which is about 100 kgf, is a convenient quantity in structural analysis and design. Approximating the acceleration due to gravity as 9.81 m/s^{2}, a kg of mass exerts a force of 9.81 N on its support point.

The stress unit is newton per square metre (N/m^{2}),.called.pascal (Pa). This is a very small unit (1 kg/cm^{2} appr,oximates to 98100 Pa) and bec.omes practical only when used with a, prefix (k or M). The most convenient SI stress unit for structures is 1,000,000 Pa; the mega pascal or MPa, which is identical to MN/m^{2}0rN’/mm^{2}. Themodulusc of steel is about 200,000 MPa in SI units.

Surface loadings and allowable soil pressures have the units of pressure or stress and thus may be expressed in Pascals, but common· usage will dictate their expression in kN/mf or similar units. Surface loads in particular are well expressed in kN/m^{2} because their effects must be converted into kN during structural analysis.

Moment is expressed in N.m or kN.m. These units are convenientsinc;e 1 N.m is close to 10 kg.cm and 1 kN.m is close to 1/10 t.m.

** ****Angle, Temperature, Energy and Power **

Plane angles are measured in radians (rad), but degrees are also used. Temperature in the SI system should be expressed in Kelvin (K) but the use of degrees Celsius (ºC), formerly called centigrade, is also permissible. Kelvin and Celsius are equal for temperature changes since an increment of 1°C equals an increment of 1 K. Energy is expressed in joules (J), where 1 J is I N.m. The unit of power is the watt CyV) which 1S equal to one joule per second (J/s).

**Some Simple Rules to be Observed in Using SI Units **

Prefixes are to be selected from the following table, in which each prefix is a multiple of 1000.

Prefix |
Symbol |
Multlplying factor |

giga | G | 10^{9} |

mega | M | 10^{6} |

kilo | k | 10^{3} |

milli | m | 10-^{3} |

micro | Il | 10-^{6} |

nano | n | 10-^{9} |

Compound units, such as for moments, are written with a dot to indicate multiplication, such as kN.m (kilonewton-metre).

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