Pneumatic Structures – The concept of Airtecture
Man, a super active creation of GOD has always constructed mobile buildings – partly because they were interested in these constructions and partly because they needed to. It’s a special challenge to construct buildings with controlled air pressures (the most natural of all materials), since air-inflated components are used in place of the usual load-bearing components.
Walk right through the columns which support’s each and every inch of roof! Although it sound quite strange still it’s true. In pneumatic structures air plays the major role as columns are air, which supports the roof. It’s believed that the use of pneumatics and air-supported pneumatic structures is the revolutionary discovery ever made in architecture. It can free the living environment from the constraints which have bound it since history began and that they can in consequence play an immeasurable part in the development of architecture.
Pneumatic structures are a subject of great interest to mankind at large, and of growing interest to the architects, planners and engineers. In today’s technological era, good use of pneumatics can be done. Pneumatic structures can be used to overcome temporary shortages of column free warehousing space, provide shelters in times of emergencies and natural calamities etc.
Air -supported domes
In exhibition design, huge amount of money and time are spent in erecting structures whose life span is very short. This has been highly criticized in recent times as a waste of resources. This is basically due to the dynamic nature of pneumatic structures as compared to the rigid traditional structural envelopes.
Pneumatic structures, being a special type of tensile structures, are quite different from heavy suspended structures, such as suspension bridges, and also from light tensile membranes and cable-net tent structures. In contrast with all other types of structures, the skins are not supported by rigid building elements like walls, columns, struts, etc.-but by air. This makes them the lightest of all structures known till date.
A few of the advantages of these structures over other conventional structural systems are:
As they have very little self-weight, they, therefore, are of greater practical importance than other structures withstanding compression loads. They also score over other conventional structural systems in terms of rapid deployment and erection, thereby, cutting short expenses and period of construction. They have the possibility of acting as sophisticated mechanisms for controlling sound, light and heat, rather than just forming a basic enclosure. Radical new forms are possible to be generated.
Pneumatic structures after unlimited possibilities of form and span with structural cost a fraction of that for conventional structures. Unlike all other construction, the stress on a pneumatically stretched skin does not rise with the increase in the span, but is virtually constant. Certain calculations have been carried out by Frei Otto aimed at establishing the ultimate span limits of various structures. The results are much in favour of pneumatic structures. However, it is not wise to select a system based on just its structural properties. Before opting for pneumatic structures, one should also look into very important aspects of spatial planning and function of the structure.
For more information on Pneumatic structures, refer – Form Active Structure systems