Optimizing Structure: An Investigation into Lightweight Structures
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This thesis investigates how to reduce the raw materials invested in a building, specifically in the structural aspect of its construction, and in so doing decrease the embodied energy required to build a structure. Geometric structures that utilize tensile forces allow for the most efficient, lightweight and economical improvements in building design. This construction method will allow structures to be built in a way that incorporates rapid set up, decreased material transportation costs, and the substitution of local materials. Innovative truss technologies that have the potential to be applied to multiple scales and types of building structures will facilitate the optimization of enclosed spaces. Architecture typology today is still largely articulated on modernist practices developed nearly a century ago. This research proposes an alternative to the present and future of building technology. The focus is on creating small triangulated units that can be linked together in order to create a grid that makes a stable and supported structure. Unlike space frame construction, this approach reduces the size and volume of materials required by optimizing the use of tension components. Lightweight but strong tensile cable, in combination with small compression struts composed of wood or another renewable material, create a building unit that is extremely strong and utilizes resources to their maximum potential. Preliminary investigations into tensile structures revealed that the failure in such a system would likely occur in the compression struts rather than in the tension segments themselves. Therefore, the research also focuses on the issue of compression members and how to improve their form. The goal is to achieve a tension structure that resists bending, yet can remain lightweight and can be assembled using humble materials. The research also addresses ecological and sociological concerns. Technological advancement in an age of consumption has resulted in the creation of extraordinary structures from an architectural standpoint; however, the increased use of materials and the expansion of the human world are taking their toll on the earth’s natural systems. The construction method proposed still allows the standard of living that Western society has become accustomed to, but in a way that is much more environmentally responsible. Indeed because of its adaptability and portability, it may afford developing nations a viable building opportunity they could otherwise not have envisaged.