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Engineering > Architecture > Building Technology III: Building Structural Syste
 Building Technology III: Building Structural Syste  posted by  duggu   on 11/30/2007  Add Courseware to favorites Add To Favorites  
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Fernandez, John, 4.463 Building Technology III: Building Structural Systems, Fall 2004. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare),  (Accessed 08 Jul, 2010). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Stata Center.

Construction detail of Frank Gehry's Stata Center in Cambridge, MA. (Image courtesy of Nicolas Janberg of Structurae.)

Course Highlights

This course features a selection of lecture notes and a unique interactive learning tool that explains structures and structural forces.

Course Description

This course addresses advanced structures, exterior envelopes and contemporary production technologies. It continues the exploration of structural elements and systems, and expands to include more complex determinate, indeterminate, long-span and high-rise systems. It covers topics such as reinforced concrete, steel and engineered wood design, and provides an introduction to tensile systems. Lectures also address the contemporary exterior envelope with an emphasis on their performance attributes and advanced manufacturing technologies. This course is required of MArch students.

Technical Requirements

Java® plug-in software is required to run the Java® files found on this course site.

*Some translations represent previous versions of courses.




4.441, 4.462 or permission of instructor.

Course Description

The superstructure of a building and its enclosing skin have been fundamental elements of architecture since the beginning of civilization. In fact one could argue that these two systems define architecture, both in theoretical (Laugier) and technological terms (Ashby). Contemporary building practices have fully separated these two assemblies into distinct constructs with diverse physical morphologies, performance requirements and design processes. This course will focus on these primary material systems and their respective performance attributes with an emphasis on the integration requirements and architectural potentials of the interface between the two.

Therefore, the course will present both issues of structural design and analysis, and exterior envelope engineering. The structural portion of the course is organized through a detailed survey of the issues that govern the making of frameworks, shells and other typologies with the primary material families: metals, ceramics, polymers and composites. In addition, the limit states that govern the use of these distinct material families in load transfer scenarios will be treated separately and in detail. Through a good understanding of the properties of the material and the resulting limit states for use in architectural structures, the course will offer strategies for structural design through the making of connection details. Two topics are of particular importance; the design of primary structural members (in particular those that contribute to long span structures and other "advanced structures") and the design of connections. As the physical nexus of the transfer of energy from one structural member to another, the connection becomes a tectonic moment that is regulated by the requirements of engineering and motivated by an array of architectural aspirations.

The presentation of issues related to the performance and physical construct of the exterior envelope will be integrated into the course through the material families listed. For example, when discussing the making of structures in wood, we will address typical exterior envelope assemblies used with wood construction. Topics will include principles of exterior envelope design for a wide variety of enclosures with an emphasis on the energy performance and lifetime durability of the system. In addition, we will address the emerging codes and concerns regarding air infiltration, moisture incursion and the hygrothermal properties of exterior envelope assemblies.

Organization and Schedule

The calendar lists the five Phases of the course. Three problem sets are assigned during the term, due one week after they have been given. There will also be three quizzes, scheduled 12 days after the problem set is due. The timing will allow for questions from the problem sets to be fully answered and additional topics to be introduced during class. Please take advantage of this period to solidify your understanding of the material of the phase. No extensions or make up quizzes will be given except in the case of a direct conflict with religious observance, medical reasons or other unavoidable circumstance. Please inform us of any conflicts that may result in late assignments or absences beforehand, if possible. 


Each Phase will be supported by readings from numerous texts. The readings are integral to the delivery of the course material and anything you are assigned to read can be referenced in a quiz or problem set. Readings will be given in packets comprised of excerpts from a variety of sources.


Grades are calculated as follows:

Problem Sets 50
Quizzes 50

No Midterm, no Final Exam.


Attendance is the only way in which to fully take advantage of the material presented in this class. I discuss the process of design and construction within the framework of the schedule above but often with a great deal of additional "anecdotal" material. Please make an effort to arrive in class on time and not miss any classes. Also, I do observe the rule -- common in many Institute courses -- that three unexcused absences will result in a lowering of the final grade one full letter (A to B, B to C, etc.).

This course is a requirement of all Master of Architecture candidates and satisfies the completion of the requirements established by the NAAB under the section, NAAB 12.17 Structural Systems: "Understanding of the principles of structural behavior in withstanding gravity and lateral forces, and the evolution, range, and appropriate applications of contemporary structural systems." However, the ambition of the course extends to the treatment of structural elements and components of the exterior envelope as fundamental manifestations of the process of architectural invention; and as such, powerful examples of the irreversibly intertwined domains of technology and design.



1 Phase 1: Skin and Bones: Evolution and Innovation  
2 Phase 1: Skin and Bones: Evolution and Innovation (cont.) Problem set 1 out
3 Phase 2: Metals Problem set 1 due
4 Phase 2: Metals (cont.)  
5 Phase 2: Metals (cont.)  First quiz

Problem set 2 out
6 Phase 3: Ceramics Problem set 2 due
7 Phase 3: Ceramics (cont.)   
8 Phase 3: Ceramics (cont.) Second quiz

Problem set 3 out
9 Phase 4: Polymers  
10 Phase 4: Polymers (cont.) Problem set 3 due
11 Phase 4 :Polymers (cont.)  
12 Phase 5: Composites Third quiz
13 Final Lecture   Tell A Friend