Journal of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering
On-line version ISSN 2309-8775
Print version ISSN 1021-2019
Structural optimisation has been the subject of intense research for many years. However, the engineering profession seems to be oblivious to the important role of natural structures. Natural structures are shapes created by nature and possess geometrical properties that are resistant to environmental conditions. Engineers of antiquity recognised the importance of natural shapes and incorporated these designs into many political and religious structures. Many of these structures are catenary or funicular in form, and are characterised by a pure compressive stress distribution - an essential requirement for masonry structures. Catenary shapes are robust and economical. These principles are applied to the design and construction of a prototype shell - a domed vault - intended as an alternative structure for low-cost housing. Design principles are described, as well as the construction process.
Keywords : shells; vaults; catenary; earth bricks; low-cost housing; masonry.