This article gives a brief introduction about the column and Beam system of a typical building or structure.


The System of Columns and Beams have been used in Construction since Ancient Egypt (Which lasted from about 3100BC until it was finally absorbed in to the Roman Empire in 30 BC) Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. In modern day construction, Column-Beam-Slab System is been used in all superstructures with new technology, and construction materials. Generally the load of the slab is transferred to the columns or walls through the beams, down to the foundation, and then to the supporting soil beneath.



Columns (Image Source Wikipedia)
Columns (Image Source Wikipedia)
Columns (Image Source Wikipedia)
Columns (Image Source Wikipedia)



A column can be defined as a vertical structural member designed to transmit a compressive load. A Column transmits the load from ceiling/roof slab and beam, including its own weight to the foundation. Hence it should be realized that the failure of a column results in the collapse of the entire structure. The design of a column should therefore receive importance.

In the modern construction industry, Columns are mostly constructed by concrete; apart from that materials such as Wood, Steel, Fibre-reinforced polymer, Cellular PVC, and Aluminium too are been used. The type of material is been decided on the scale, coast and application of the construction.

Types of Columns

Columns can be classified bases on its Shape, Slenderness ratio, type of loading and Pattern of lateral reinforcement.

Classification based on Slenderness ratio

Long Column or Slender [The length is greater than the critical buckling length and it fails by buckling.]

  • Short Column [The length is less than the critical buckling length and it fails by shearing.]
  • Intermediate Column

Based on shape

  •  Rectangle
  • Square
  • Circular
  • Polygon

Based on type of loading

  • Axially loaded column
  • Axial load and un-axial bending column
  • Axial load and biaxial bending column

Based on pattern of lateral reinforcement

  • Tied columns
  • Spiral columns


RCC Columns (Reinforced Concrete Columns)

A reinforced concrete column can be defined as a structural member with a steel frame (reinforcement bars) composed of concrete that is been designed to carry compressive loads.

Figure Shows the Reinforcement of a Column with cross-section 500×500.

Reinforecement of Column sections
Reinforecement of Column sections


A beam is a structural member which spans horizontally between supports and carries loads which act at right angles to the length of the beam. They are small in cross-section compared with their span. The width and depth of a typical beam are “small” compared with its span. Typically, the width and depth are less than span/10.

Generally a beam is subjected to two sets of external forces and two types of internal forces. The external loads are the loads applied to the beam and reactions to the loads from the supports. The two types of internal force are bending moments and shear forces. The internal shear force and the internal bending moment can be represented as pairs of forces. The Figure below shows a Typical Beam with Internal and external forces acting on it.

Beam With Internal and external forces
Beam With Internal and external forces

There are several types of beams

  • Simply supported Beam
  • Fixed Beam
  • Cantilever Beam
  • Continuous Beam
  • Overhanging Beam


Written By : Nilantha Perrera