This week’s selection is “Why Buildings Fall Down” by Matthys Levey and Mario Salvadori.
This book bookends last week’s selection of “Why Buildings Stand Up”, also by Salvadori, which detailed the engineering aspects of ensuring structures maintain their shape.
In this follow-on book, the subject is structural failure. Rather than looking at what can be done to ensure a structure remains solid, Salvadori examines the ways a structure can fail.
This is done through a series of examples, including the Roman Pantheon and the Empire State Building. In each section Salvadori looks at the specific factors affecting the example, and it’s from these we can learn much about how to look at the problem of structural failure.
“It is the destiny of the man-made environment to vanish, but we, short-lived men and women, look at our buildings so convinced they will stand forever that when some do collapse, we are surprised and concerted.
Our surprise may be partly due to the fact that most of us judge buildings by their facades: They look beautiful when very old and ugly when very young, the opposite of human faces. But this kind of judgment is superficial and misleading: a much better metaphor for a building is the human body.”
“The accidental death of a building is always due to the failure of its skeleton, the structure.”
This principle can also hold when designing 3D printable projects: the 3D printed parts when assembled will undergo mechanical stresses derived from the design and use of the machine. If these are not properly accounted for, then the machine faces the potential of failure.
While this book is ostensibly about architecture and structural engineering, the theme is very relevant to 3D printed design: if parts are not properly designed, they will fail faster than expected. Many different aspects must be carefully considered before committing to the final design.
By reading this book you’ll gain not just an understanding of structural failure in buildings, you’ll also gain an appreciation for failure in general, and the attitude required to overcome it when designing 3D printed parts.
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