Types of structures

Mass Structures

They are simply made of clump material, filling the body completely.

They are made of low quality materials, but the structure is normally thick.

They can be made by piling up materials into a shape or design.

Mass structures are solid structures which rely ontheir own weight to resist loads.

Natural mass Structures: Mountains and coral reefs.

Mass Structure Pyramids

Man made mass structures: Sand castles, dams, pyramids, etc

Frame Structures

Frame structure Eiffel tower

It’s the most common choice of structures. They are composed of long elements joined to each other at the ends.

The term “triangulation” is used to describe the use of triangles, arranged together to form a frame. This is one of the most economical ways of building structures.

Advantages: they are easy to build, usually inexpensive and lightweight.

Disadvantages: they can not resist strong impacts and not recommended for very big loads.

Electric towers, some bridges (example: suspension bridges), cranes, buildings and scaffolding, are just a few examples.

Shell Structures

They are made of a thin outer layer of material that surrounds a volume. We usually use assembled shaped panels to make the structure.

Natural Shell Structures: Eggs, shellfish, etc

Man made Shell structures: Tin cans, bottles, and usually food containers. Larger things such as car 🚗 and aeroplane bodies are examples of more complicated shell structures.

Shell structure - Valencia

Arch Structure

arch structure monastry

The romans invented the arch. There are many types, but the semicircular arch, which was the roman arch, still remains the most usee.

The arch has an advantage,  when the top piece, called the key stone, is in place the arch can stay in position on its own. This means that it is self-supporting and it requires no mortar or cement. Thanks to that effect the geometry of the arch displaces the forces to the sides and its own weight is the main load.

  • Vaults are built by using a series of arches in a line (a barrel vault) or intersecting arches (a rib vault).

Suspended Structures

A suspended structure holds its elements by cables that are held from the top of a tall column.  Span is the space between one column and the next.

A suspended bridge is a type of suspended structure.  There are  several beams which  are hold by dozens of steel wires (cables). The cables only bear traction stress, but the advantage is that they can adapt their shape to different loads at different times and they are incredibly light.

This type of structure is very good for covering large distances ( large span ) but are very expensive.

Advantages: Good for covering a very large span.

Disadvantages: Expensive to build. 💸

Suspension Structure Golden Gate

Exercise 1

Exercise:  Which of the following structures, write the side if they are a massive, arched, framework, truss or hanging (bridge). Write it in your notebook.

Shopping Mall                                                           Aqueduct of Segovia

Stone Wall                                                                  Apartment Building

Crane                                                                           Ancient Cathedrals

High Voltage Tower                                                  Ferris Wheel


Exercise 2

Exercise:  Write it in your notebook the following text and fill the gaps with the listening.

Download Audio

Suspended Structures

This type of structure uses _____________, called ______________ which the structure hangs from. When they can be adjusted, they are called ____________  ________________.
The cables only bear traction ___________, but the advantage is that they can adapt their ____________ to different loads at different times and they are incredibly light.
Cables are used to ______________ bridges, marquees, ________________ and towers.

There are many kinds of __________________  ______________ which can cover large spaces like _____________ and pavilions, without the need for _____________ or _________________.

Exercise 3

Exercise:  Watch the following video and answer in your notebook:


1.- Which is the simplest bridge you can build?

2.- Where is the Railroad bridge they show you?

3.- What do you see in it?

4.- What happens if you put force in a junction of a triangle?

5.- A triangle is s S__________ and S____________ Shape.

6.- What does help a bridge spread out the weight it has to carry?  _________

7.- A great example of suspension bridge.