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What is a beam in civil engineering?

Beams are horizontal members that primarily withstand shear forces along with vertical loads and bending moments. The loads acting on the beam causes reaction forces to act at the support locations for the beam. The effect of all forces acting on the beam results in the generation of shear forces and bending moments in the beam. These internal forces generated inside the beam causes beam deflection and induce internal stresses and strains.

Beams generally span open areas and carries the load from the brick or stone wall acting on them. They play an important role in transferring the load from floors, ceilings and roofs of building structures to the columns of the structure. When the beams need to withstand the loads coming from stacked walls or other beams, ‘transfer beams’ are used.

The design of beams is usually based on the load acting on them, the span of the beam, clear space available below the beams, deflection restrictions, strength of the materials being used for beam construction, etc.