ETABS 2013 Initial Reactions

The wait is over: ETABS 2013 was released last Tuesday, April 23rd. CSI was kind enough to upgrade my firm’s licenses that same day, so I’ve spent the better part of two weeks tinkering with the new version. Following more than half a decade after the release of ETABS 9, the new release has gobs of improvements and changes, meaning it will be months before I explore and understand all of the intricacies. What follows is a “first look” at the release along with general impressions.

Improvements

  • Better Graphics – Spinning a model in a 3D view is no longer painful.
  • Improved Solvers – ETABS 2013 implements the SAPfire solver used by SAP, leading to vastly improved run times. Using the advanced solver can reduce run times by 80% or more compared to ETABS 9, while the standard solver is at least twice as fast. One caveat: the “percent force and moment errors” given in the log file by ETABS 9 are apparently no longer available, even with the standard solver.
  • Rigorous P-Delta – The best ETABS 9 could do was an iterative P-Delta performed after the elastic solution. The results from this analysis could only match the AISC benchmarks if columns were split into at least two elements. In ETABS 2013, the P-Delta analysis is performed prior to running the elastic analysis, which more closely approximates a full “rigorous” approach. ETABS 2013 can match the AISC benchmark results without subdividing elements. Note that this is still not true “rigorous” analysis (where superposition does not apply), but is close enough for all but the most extreme theoretical cases.
  • Text File – The $et/e2k files that permit text-based model manipulation are in the same format as version 9. This is not an improvement per se, but the fact that they are still easily readable (unlike SAFE v12 text files) is a win.

Issues

  • Lateral Point Loads – After importing existing ETABS 9 models, I am consistently seeing numerical errors at points where lateral loads are applied to diaphragms. These nodes are not directly connected to model elements, but are used by the program to deliver, say, wind loads to the structure. ETABS 9 never batted an eye; ETABS 2013 returns an error message for every wind load at every floor. Even though this may be trivial by itself (no load is lost), it could obscure other ‘true’ errors in the long list.
  • Frame Subdivision – The very first model I ran in 2013 was the single column AISC benchmark (See figure C-C2.2 in the 2010 Specification, page 16.1-276). When I subdivided this column into two elements, it created an overlapping double element for the top half of the column. After I found this problem and deleted the redundant member, it recreated it when the analysis was run. This error is easy to miss and is not found by the “Check Model” command, and is thus very problematic.
  • 64-bit vs. 32-bit - I initially installed the 64-bit version, thinking that bigger is better. Not so. The 64-bit version does not play nicely with Microsoft Office 32-bit, meaning that exporting tables to Excel or Access is not possible. Because Microsoft discourages using 64-bit Office (due to limited compatibility with add-ins), I installed the 32-bit version of ETABS. CSI tells me and I have confirmed that analysis times do not suffer; the sole advantage of 64-bit is that the 2GB memory limitation is removed. Any model larger than this ought to be simplified anyway.

Summary

ETABS 2013 represents a major step forward for design software and will be my default software – in a few months. My initial recommendation is to not use it for production; let the chumps like me sort out the bugs. As they say with Windows: wait for the first service pack.

So, what do you like or dislike in the new version? Leave a comment and let me know!

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35 Responses to ETABS 2013 Initial Reactions

  1. intelx86 says:

    I am a student Structural Engineer in National Technical University of Athens.
    My diploma thesis is the design, analysis and detailing of a reinforced concrete building in comparison to the same building made by steel.

    Because student licenses for 2013 version of ETABS are no not currently available and because of the limitations of the trial version, I haven’t been able to assess the level of rebar detailing the ETABS does.
    Could you please
    1) check if EC2 code is implemented
    2) upload some rebar detailing plans so that we can all see the detailing abilities of ETABS
    3) check if reinforcing slabs is available or still part of SAFE

    Thanks in advance.

    With regards,
    Nikos Papandreou

  2. Luis Fernando says:

    I found a couple of bugs. When editing frames (replicate, divide, etc.) the program sometimes show errors, and overlaps frames. Also stops designing. So I’ll better wait for a new version because I already lost two days of work. :)

    • Dan Popp says:

      I have seen the same error when dividing frame elements. When I divided a column into two elements, the top element was doubled up, an error which was not found by the “check model” command. This can easily lead to unconservative designs – each element is designed for half of the load. Until this problem is addressed, I cannot use the program. I recommend you use ETABS 9 and watch the release notes on upcoming patch versions.

  3. Ra says:

    I could not find the response spectrume base reactions on the display tables, did they omit it? It essential for scaling.

    • Dan Popp says:

      You are correct: the separate table for response spectrum base reactions has apparently disappeared. However, the RS base reactions are now part of the main base reactions table. If they are the same (and I assume they would be), two separate tables have simply been combined into one, although the one table gives less information for the response spectrum case than did the old table.

  4. MHSala7 says:

    hey how are you … i have a little Q.
    do i have to make manual meshing for the slabs like the previous versions or does it work like the safe v12 … and i only draw the edges of the slab … ??????????

    FYI : i have encountered the first issue while working with the program .. and i tried to solve it for a long time them i gave up …. readin aboutit here gave me a relief

    i couldn’t wait to use it ….. i’m a huge etabs lover …

    • Dan Popp says:

      Thanks for your comment – I’m glad you found the post helpful. I will take a close look at the meshing in the new version at my first opportunity. Meshing in ETABS has been its Achilles’ heel since I began using it nearly a decade ago.

      • MHSala7 says:

        yeah i know ,,,, and it is the most time consuming stage of it
        but i think that they resolved it ,,, an’ i think they made it like Safe with localized meshing & automatic point merging ,,, but i just need a second opinion
        so check and tell me what you found …
        ThanQ

  5. vetch says:

    We have a problem on ETABS2013. We have done a new model on Etabs2013. But although modal case is defined on model, while analyzing it says that “no ritz modes were found”. It sometimes give this error, sometimes doesn’t give this error. We can’t understand why it can not make the modal analysis sometimes. It is important for us, because when it gives this error it doesn’t give modal results (periods…etc). I want to know that it is because of programme or it is because of me. I mean, will this problem solved on new version of Etabs2013 or not?

    thanks…

  6. Amused says:

    ETABS 2013 is not much more than a beta release at the moment. After a few weeks of use I must be up to bug count 20. Some trivial graphics bugs, some more serious errors in graphical and tabular output. I have recommended to our national group to wait and I would recommend the same here. I have made a serious mistake adopting 2013 for my new project, don’t do the same.

    CSI, never fails to dissapoint!! Might be time to consider Robot more seriously. If 2013 is the best CSi can come up with in 5 years, it might be better to switch now?

    • MHSala7 says:

      but do you think that robot will be as efficient in design as the etabs ..
      not talking about the analysis only
      is it better than etabs 9.7.4 ???

      • Amused says:

        Is 2013 better than v9. Yes it will be, but at the moment it is a frustrating beta release. Having waited so long for this update to what was an aging program, I am disappointed in CSI. It makes me think that they are going to have trouble keeping up in the future. They were very good at focusing in on what a user needs for output, but at the moment they are slipping.

        My example is the staged construction module. They have not thought through that we might want to see the maximum tension in a core wall for the case where the construction is complete. At the moment, with the way the combinations work, this is impossible. That makes a feature useless. Feels like it was rushed out the door(but how can that be having waited 5 years?). Feels more like they are slipping to me.

        As for design, I don’t use ETABS. It produces uneconomical results. I can do better so i don’t use it. Sorry I can’t help there.

        Craig

      • mhsala7 says:

        first of all .. what do you use to design and chech a building with many column .
        . and the orientation and thier sizes change according to the archetict.. how you would mage that without such a program ?
        second of all is the robot any good can it do the same tasks as the safe and the etabs … taking in to consideration the long term deflection calculations in safe and the p delta analysis thatwe have in etabs can robot do that effeciently ?

    • Dan Popp says:

      I have had plans to evaluate Robot for a long time, but haven’t yet done it. Learning a completely new analysis program is like learning a new language, so I’m not eager to switch. But I understand your frustration.

      • Amused says:

        Yes I agree. I don’t want to learn a new tool. I have a lot of stuff built around ETABS and the thought of change is not pleasing. We will have to see how they respond to this release and how quickly they fix the public beta. If it drags on more than 3 months I will seriously look elsewhere.

        At the moment their SAFE program is useless to us as it can’t effectively handle band beams and it has a poor methodology for bringing lateral loads from ETABS, thus a lot of the potential synergies between products is also lost. This is my other motivator to look elsewhere.

  7. Robert says:

    Well, I really have nothing good to say at this point. I am a small outfit designing small projects. The purpose of software for me is to be more efficient, however, it adds nothing but time to my world.

    The modelling interface I enjoy. The application of loads is all over the place, combination generation is multistep which may or may not end up in the design feature, digging through their code checks in the manual it appears I have to perform a number of basic ones on my own.

    This is really the last time I use it unless they step up and sort out the bugs.

  8. Ra says:

    Be careful when using the replicate command because as mentioned above, ETABS 2013 tends to create an overlap elements which are not detected by check model. I encountered it a few times, and the only way I was able to notice it was by looking at their labels which looked liked they were overlapping, i have to delete it one by one until only 1 was left.

    Another funny thing is that when I tried to select a line element, it shows that i selected a group of elements and not just a single one.

  9. viktor says:

    hi, do you know how to solve this problem? after I displayed the table (display > show table),, i choose center mass of rigidity, then the table shown, but no number displayed at the table.. it’s just like this :
    story diaphragm mass X mass Y XCM YCM and so on….
    BLANK BLANK BLANK BLANK 8.273 8.273 and so on…
    So, the number just showing in XCM, YCM, XCCM, YCCM, XCR, and YCR..

    But, it’s strange, when i copy the entire table to microsoft word, all the number show up! Do you know how to make the number shows up in ETABS? So that i don’t need to copy it first to microsoft word.. Please help me.. Thanks..

    • Dan Popp says:

      Thanks for your comment. That’s a strange problem, and one that I haven’t encountered and thus don’t know how to solve. My two suggestions: first make sure you’re running the latest version (13.1.2). Second, I suggest exporting the tables to an Access .mdb file (File menu -> Export) and seeing if the data is there. You can import these tables to Excel via Data -> From Other Sources -> From Microsoft Query.

      I have seen other problems with the tables, which I’ve sent to CSI tech support. CSI has been fairly responsive in fixing errors so far.

  10. Abdul Akbar says:

    Hi Dan,

    Nice to see this. Your friend from India, :-)

  11. Mohsen says:

    Hi all ,
    Etabs 2013 has a problem that it is doesn’t show Center or Rigidity (CR) for rigid diaghram while in Etabs 9 ot showing the CR

    • Angel Falig says:

      Hello,
      I’ve also encountered the same problem, and CSI Techs have not emailed me yet regarding a solution, have you determined how to get Center of Rigidity?

      • Dan Popp says:

        Angel,

        Under Analyze -> Set Load Cases to Run, check the “Calculate Diaphragm Centers of Rigidity” checkbox. After you run the analysis, the X and Y coordinates of the center of rigidity can be displayed in the “Centers of Mass and Rigidity” table. Note that the program only calculates the center of rigidity for rigid diaphragms – it doesn’t make sense to do so for semirigid diaphragms.

        Dan

  12. Hamdani says:

    Hi All,

    I also find some errors in ETABS 2013, I couldn’t find Auto Relabel All in Edit menu and it can’t display a Section Designer Column in Plan View.

  13. Oscar Wong says:

    Hello,

    I want to start using a structural analysis and design software (I haven’t used any before), so could you please give an advice about what versions of etabs should I start using (9 or 2013) based on the available tutorials and the problems posted above or should begin with Robot or any other softwares.

    Oscar

    • Dan Popp says:

      Oscar – this is a big question. I’ll assume you’re a structural engineer or in school to become one. ETABS is my go-to analysis software, but it isn’t right for everyone or for every building. I recommend downloading trial versions of ETABS 2013, Robot, and perhaps RAM Structural System and trying each. If you’re starting from zero, definitely go with ETABS 2013; ETABS 9 is on the way to obsolescence.

  14. christine says:

    hi,
    i have a problem in etabs 2013. In etabs v9 u have to balance the specx and specy for responce spectrum base reaction..its my firstime using etabs 2013 so im wondering if its not needed to balance coz i cant see responce spectrum base reaction in the analysis..

    thanks,

    • Dan Popp says:

      If by “balance” you mean compare to the static base shears, then yes, you absolutely must do this. The Response Spectrum base shears were reported in a separate table in ETABS 9; in ETABS 13, they are reported in the same table as the static base shears.

  15. kabalan Farah says:

    i have a problem with etabs model , it gave me warning on Centre of rigidity , and no Modal Information table shown ,? Please help

  16. Pingback: ETABS 2013 One Year Later | Still Standing

  17. Charles Dhylon Maxino says:

    We are using Midas Gen for production but we are also monitoring the development of Etabs software and we compare the capabilities of both. My question is in the old version 9 of etabs the redundancy factor can be automatically calculated by the program but in Etabs 2013 it seems that this now becomes a user define value under design preferences. If I am correct in my evaluation this is a step backward for Etabs. Imagine you have to evaluate the rho value floor by floor and use the maximum value for your final earthquake load. Or maybe I am missing something here.

    Charles Dhylon

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