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Unit outline_

CIVL5458: Numerical Methods in Civil Engineering

Semester 1, 2020 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

The objective of this unit is to provide students with fundamental knowledge of finite element analysis and how to apply this knowledge to the solution of civil engineering problems at intermediate and advanced levels. At the end of this unit, students should acquire knowledge of methods of formulating finite element equations, basic element types, the use of finite element methods for solving problems in structural, geotechnical and continuum analysis and the use of finite element software packages. The syllabus comprises introduction to finite element theory, analysis of bars, beams and columns, and assemblages of these structural elements; analysis of elastic continua; problems of plane strain, plane stress and axial symmetry; use, testing and validation of finite element software packages; and extensions to apply this knowledge to problems encountered in engineering practice. On completion of this unit, students will have gained the following knowledge and skills: 1. Knowledge of methods of formulating finite element equations. This will provide students with an insight into the principles at the basis of the FE elements available in commercial FE software. 2. Knowledge of basic element types. Students will be able to evaluate the adequacy of different elements in providing accurate and reliable results. 3. Knowledge of the use of finite element methods for solving problems in structural and geotechnical engineering applications. Students will be exposed to some applications to enable them to gain familiarity with FE analyses. 4. Knowledge of the use of finite element programming and modeling. 5. Extended knowledge of the application of FE to solve civil engineering problems.

Unit details and rules

Academic unit Civil Engineering
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Fernando Alonso-Marroquin,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Assignment
30% Multiple weeks n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Tutorial quiz Quiz
30% Multiple weeks n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO3 LO4 LO6
Assignment Project presentation and report
40% Week 13 n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO5

Assessment summary

5 Inndividual homework assignments.

6 Computer assigments.

1 Theoretical quiz to assess the knowledge deliver by the theoretical lectures and homework assignments.

1 Strand7 quiz to assess the use of finite element modelling leartn in the computer assigments .

1 Final project to bring together both theoretical finite element modelling and use of commercial software in the modelling of real engineering structures.


Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100



75 - 84



65 - 74



50 - 64



0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 1. Introduction to numerical modelling; 2. Governing equations; 3. Interpolation and the finite element modeling Lecture (1 hr) LO3 LO6
Bar and beam frames using STRAND7 Lecture (1 hr) LO4
Week 02 Stress and strain in continua Lecture (1 hr) LO6
Plane elasticity using STRAND7 Lecture (1 hr) LO5
Week 03 Bending of beams and plates Lecture (1 hr) LO4 LO6
Cantilever beam using STRAND7 and iLab Lecture (1 hr) LO5
Week 04 Isoparametric formulation Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO4
Plate with a hole using STRAND7 Lecture (1 hr) LO3 LO4
Week 05 Scalar equations Lecture (1 hr) LO4 LO5
Thermal and seepage analysis using STRAND7 Lecture (1 hr) LO5
Week 06 Revision Lecture (1 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 07 FE analysis in structural engineering Lecture (1 hr) LO3
1. Introduction to ABAQUS; 2. 2D elements Lecture (1 hr) LO5
Week 08 FE analysis in geotechnical engineering Lecture (1 hr) LO3
Modelling of a 3D beam using ABAQUS Lecture (1 hr) LO5
Week 09 Theory of consolidation Lecture (1 hr) LO6
Settlement using PLAXIS Lecture (1 hr) LO3
Week 10 Project brief presentation Lecture (1 hr) LO1
Consolidation using PLAXIS Lecture (1 hr) LO3
Week 11 Revision Lecture (1 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 12 How to present a technical report Lecture (1 hr) LO2
Team work on final project Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 13 Presentation series Lecture (1 hr) LO1
Individual questions Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO4 LO6

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. interpret Finite Element analysis results via oral presentations and question and answer sessions
  • LO2. write technical reports on Finite Element analysis
  • LO3. solve problems in structural and geotechnical engineering applications using Finite Element methods
  • LO4. evaluate the adequacy of different element types in providing accurate and reliable results
  • LO5. model and solve civil engineering problems by using Finite Element software
  • LO6. formulate equations based on the principles at the basis of the FE elements available in commercial FE software.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

No significant changes have been made since this unit was last offered


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