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STRUCTURAL SYSTEMS

  1. A building’s structural system is formed according to the geometry of its materials and the way they react to the forces applied to them. This structural form and geometry, in turn, influence the dimensions, proportion, and arrangement of the interior spaces within the building volume.
  2. The two basic linear structural elements are the column and the beam.
  3. A column is a vertical support that transmits compressive forces downward along its shaft. The thicker a column is in relation to its height, the greater its load-bearing capacity and its ability to resist buckling resulting from off-center loading or lateral forces.
  4. A beam is a horizontal member that transmits forces perpendicular to itself along its length to its supports. A beam is subject to bending and deflection, which result in an internal combination of compressive and tensile stresses. These stresses are proportionally greater along the upper and lower region of a beam’s cross section. Increasing depth and placing material where stresses are greatest optimize a beam’s performance.


A. Columns are subject to compression.
B. Slender columns are susceptible to buckling.
C. Thick columns may compress, or
D. In the case of timber or concrete, they may split or fracture.

Increasing a beam’s depth enables it to span greater distances.

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