Two real-space methods for treating structural energetics of transition metals and compounds are described. The first uses a local description of the electronic density of states (DOS) in a tight-binding model to obtain an angular-force method containing up to four-body interaction terms. It is shown that this method yields bond-strengthening effects at surfaces which exceed those obtained by previous many-body potentials. Structural-energy calculations show that for W, several Frank-Kasper phases are only slightly higher in energy than the ground-state bcc structure; this near-degeneracy is driven by the energetic favorability of icosahedral sites. The second method uses a free-electron type approach to generate pair potentials for transition-metal solutes in Al. The calculated potentials have an oscillating form, with a much larger magnitude than those in Al. The potential is applied to complex Al-Mn phases, including the icosahedral quasicrystal. The results indicate that the oscillating pair potentials make a major contribution to stabilizing the complex phases.