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Structural Competency For Architects

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A structure is an assembly of interrelated components that serve a common purpose. Structure may present itself with a hierarchy of components as in the structure of a corporation or rely on the patterns and relationships between similar components as in the structure of molecules.

 In Architecture, structure is a system of interrelated components that is capable of supporting itself and transferring all loads safely to the ground.

 Architects and indeed all designers should understand structures in order to communicate effectively with contractors and consultants or to design component sizes. But the most important reason to understand structures is to express the design intent or concept through the structure.

 Only by understanding how different structural types and materials behave will the structural system become fully integrated with the design intent. In this book, the basic concepts of statics and strength of materials are presented first, followed by discussion of structural systems.

 This order allows the reader to understand how components of various systems behave in terms of the stresses they receive. 

After discussion of structural types, design methods for components for specific materials of wood, steel and concrete are presented. If chemical and heat reactions are ignored, there are five basic ways to physically break an object:

1. Tension—pulling

 2.  Compression—pushing, crushing, squeezing 

3. Flexure—bending

 4.  Shear—chopping, cutting, slicing, punching through 

5. Torsion—twisting.

Other types of failure are a refined definition based on these basic five types. Metal fatigue, for example, is caused by the repeated bending in alternating opposite directions. Try this experiment: 

Collect five identical pieces of chalk, five identical rubber bands and five identical paper clips.

 Test each of the three objects for tension, compression, flexure, shear and torsion by trying to break one of the identical objects by pulling, another by crushing, etc.

 What is noticed about the behavior of chalk compared to rubber? The forces and reactions in tension, compression, flexure, shear and torsion are determined by statics. Statics is the physical state in which all components are at rest and in equilibrium. 

How or when or if a component will fail under a particular force or stress depends on the properties of the material from which it is made; the strength of the material.

 This book is intended to be a simple explanation of the structural problems architecture students, designers and architects may encounter whether designing in steel, wood, concrete or an alternate material.