The pros and cons of using nonlinear finite element analysis ( nonlinear FEA ) software for the design of concrete structures are briefly discussed and the benefits illustrated by several examples. For innovative designs, structures operating under extreme conditions and for the assessment of structures post-construction, nonlinear FEA may be the only suitable analysis tool. It has been used to optimise the design of concrete foundations for residential housing, reducing concrete requirements and giving significant cost savings. Other applications include designing the strengthening of existing structures, establishing the ability of existing structures to carry increased loads, the design of high rise buildings and of structures for extreme conditions such as nuclear containment vessels. Because nonlinear FEA involves repeated, iterative calculations it will always involve significant computing costs, which must be justified by the benefits provided.