Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation


A4125 - Building Systems I                                                                                                              


Instructors:       Tony Webster, Jay Hibbs

TA:                  Heather Waters                                                        Tuesdays, 2-6pm, 113 Avery Hall






Building Systems I begins by completing the discussion of basic structural systems begun in Structures II.  Next, structural systems designed to ensure satisfactory performance of an entire building in the face of gravity and horizontal (wind and earthquake) loads are presented.  Both framed or walled systems and non-framed systems are covered.  The term ends with a building analysis project, in which groups of students document the materials, construction methods and performance of a post WWII American project.


Qualitative understanding and basic quantitative skills are stressed throughout the course.  Structural systems studied are compared in wood, steel, concrete and masonry construction.




                        Part I

                        Structural Systems in Framed and Walled Buildings


                        Skeleton Framing Systems

                        History, principles and materials.


                        Gravity Systems: Plates and Grids

                        3-dimensional generalization of beams and one-way beam and slab systems.

                        Examples: Maillart's factory buildings, Hirshorn Museum, Beinecke Library

                        Bending and shear stresses, deformations

                        Design examples


                        Resisting the Wind: Diaphragms, Shear Walls, Wind Trusses and Moment Frames

                        (Wind Trusses)

                        Examples: Grace building, John Hancock, Le Messurier, Water tanks.

                        Reinforced Concrete drops out;  Wood and Steel.

                        Overturning and uplift.

                        Location and architectural program.



                        Examples: Monadnok, Seagram, Inland Steel.

                        Steel drops out; wood, masonry, and RC.

                        Gravity and wind resistance.

                        Buckling, uplift, design examples.


                        (Moment Frames)

                        Examples: Chicago School buildings; portal frames, stacked portal frames: Itakura house: open K trusses.

                        Materials: steel and reinforced concrete, Wood(?)

                        Deflections: cladding problems, secondary forces (P-Delta effect)

                        Code requirements.


                        Quiz I


                        Part II

                        Non-Framed or Walled Structural Systems


                        Cable Supported Structural Systems

                        Examples: PAT Center, Manhattan Bridge, Alamillo Bridge

                        How Cables Work: Cable stayed and suspension systems.


                        Design examples.



                        Examples: Roman aqueducts, Gaudi, Menn, Ingalls Rink

                        Arch theory, arch cable analogy

                        Funicular action, live load moments (beam-column action), abutments.

                        Design examples.


                        Gothic Compressive Structures

                        Examples: Chartres, Beauvais

                        Thrust lines, assumed block strength in tension and compression

                        Code requirements and design examples


                        Torsion Systems

                        Examples: Manhattan Bridge, La Devesa Bridge

                        Examples of torsional loading, structural response.

                        Supports and connections

                        Codes requirements and design examples


                        Shells I - Deep Beams

                        Examples: Kimbal; Gaudi; Maillart's viaducts, factory roofs, Fressinet's and Torroja's Roofs.

                        Structural beam action, enclosure, materials and construction techniques.


                        Shells II - Vaults, Domes and Etc

                        3-dimensional generalizations of arches

                        Examples: Pantheon, Duomo, TWA

                        The synergistic effect of the third dimension

                        Supports and connections, design examples


                        Space Trusses and Frames

                        3-dimensional generalizations of trusses and 2-dimensional trusses and frames. 

                        Examples: Crystal Palace, Javits Center

                        Plate - Space Truss analogy


                        Pneumatic Structures

                        Examples: 1972 Osaka Pavilion, Tennis Halls

                        History, principles and design.


                        Tensegrity Structures

                        Examples: Fuller, Snelson, Geiger, Levy

                        History, principles and design.


                        Quiz II


                        Part III - Building Analysis Project (6 weeks)

                        Four-student groups will work with visiting critics.  The emphasis is on the relationships between perceived space, servicing and supporting systems, and tectonic resolution.  Relationships are documented by building plans, sections, detailed drawings of connections, and detail models.



                        Project Final Review








A passing grade is obtained by earning an average of 70% or better on the course assignments (listed below), with an overall average as follows: LP 70-75%, P 76-95%, HP 96-100%.


Course Assignments:

Parts I and II: Quizes and Homeworks (50%).  All homeworks are averaged together to be equivalent to a quiz grade (check plus = 100, check = 85, check minus = 50).

Part III: Building Analysis Problem (50%).







Required Text:                A4125 Readers and Reference

                                                  Tony Webster

                                                  At cost, cash or checks to Columbia University.

                                                  Please pay at the 4th floor Architecture Office.


Recommended:             Elementary Structures for Architects

On reserve -- Avery                 Shaeffer.

                                                Structural Design in Architecture

                                                Salvadori and Levy


                                                Calatrava: Bridges

                                                Frampton, Webster and Tischhouser


                                                Basic Steel Design, Johnston

                                                Design of Concrete Structures, Nilson

                                                Structural Design in Wood, Stalnaker

                                                Manual of Steel Construction, AISC

                                                Building Code Requirements for Reinforced Concrete, ACI

                                    Building Code Requirements for Concrete-Masonry

                                    Structures, ACI.

                                                Timber Construction Manual, ATC.

                                                Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and

                                                Other Structures,