The paper introduces a new global damage evaluation method which leads to a meaningful global damage index. A numerical procedure for the prediction of local and global damage in civil engineering structures using the finite element method and a continuum damage model, is presented. The method is adequate for the computation of the limit load in reinforced concrete (RC) structures and for the prediction of the failure mechanisms. Details of the applied damage model are given together with a description of the finite element implementation and the procedure for computing the global damage parameters. Examples of applications of the methodology to the nonlinear analysis of a range of RC structures, are presented.