For the next couple of days, I will be writing about Finite Element Methods (FEM). Widely considered one of the more difficult courses at Lehigh, FEM is used by structural engineers to measure or trace stress concentrations throughout a structure subjected to loads or experiencing deformation.
The reason I am writing about this is because I am currently enrolled in a FEM course and my professor, knowing my background, has asked me to "try to bridge" an architectural concept to a term-long project in FEM. So, given my background as an architecture student - naturally - I've gone rogue and selected something wildly complex: a Gehry cladding system. Here is the scope of my project insofar:
Scope of Project:
This project will focus on a custom Frank Gehry designed cladding system. In scope, the project will present (1) the computational descriptions of Gehry's architectural forms, (2) how these forms are typically fabricated, and (3) an FEM analysis of built components. In Gehry's process for realizing buildings, computation serves as an intermediary agent for the integration of design intent with the geometric logics of fabrication and construction. By using computer-generated algorithms, a curvilinear/non-orthogonal membrane can be constructed.
For this project, four hierarchical layers of cladding will be investigated:
1. A structural rib system (wide flanges)
2. A tube/pedestal purlin system (structural tubing)
3. A panel and face sheet edge system (time permitting)
4. A finish surface (time permitting)
The drawings for each of these systems (pictorial representation can be found on page 2 of a sample Gehry cladding system) will be generated using a set of algorithms deduced by graduate students at MIT. The curves will be first input into Matlab for mathematical analysis and then graphically approximated in Rhino. Once drawn in Rhino, they will then be exported to CAD and then SAP. To test the cladding system, panels in the membrane system will be loaded uniformly near nodal intersections. To test actual weather-based considerations, the model will also be subjected to a predetermined wind load of 40 ksf. The deflections, moments and shears will then be analyzed using SAP.
In specific, the purpose of this project is to test two things: (1) whether a simple cladding system designed by Gehry can withstand given wind loads and (2) how the system responds to a uniform distribution of point loads. By analyzing the latter, weak structural spots in the structure may then be found. By investigating the former, the lateral resistance of the actual performance of the cladding system can be approximated.
I will update what I learn on this blog and will cite sources.
I'm currently earning my masters in structural engineering at Lehigh University, but I hold a bachelors of architecture from the University of Oregon. What I would like to write about has to do with my aforementioned diverse background, i.e., what lessons I've learned in structural engineering that may help me as an architect in the near future.