Composites are helping architects to make highly unusual curved and freeform shapes in large buildings in the Middle East, such as the Sidra Hospital under construction in Qatar on the Arabian peninsula. Roofing panels up to 15m to 25m (49 ft to 82 ft) long have been made with the material. (Source: Affan Innovative Structures)
bobjengr, thanks for the feedback from your direct experience in Dubai. That 20-minute-old look came across in the photo/illustration essay from the designboom.com website we give in this article. In fact, I've seen some of these designs before, and was delighted to have an excuse to write about them :) It's also very interesting that the high-rises have independent power generation sources, instead of a huge, complex, sometimes-aging grid like in this country, where a break in one part can cause sections miles away to collapse. I've experience this directly more times than I'd like to remember.
Elizabeth, composites, either glass or fiber-based, are often used to achieve shapes that can't be done in steel or concrete, or can't be easily done. Fiberglass boats are a good example. That's interesting about the curved buildings you saw in Sevilla, although to my knowledge climate is not a factor in the use of composites in buildings.
What about corrosion in those composites? I am aware that there is a concern about it in aircraft structures, so it may be a problem here also. At least woth checking up on.
Ann, those blocky buildings were more from the "form follows function" era, where at least one of the primary goals was to keep costs down. I am not aware of weight being a big concern on the lower floors of buildings, although it certainly matters as the building gets higher. Not that I am defending some of those really ugly structures, but they did have a valid motivation for what they did.
The posting is excellent though, it may have caught me at a time when I had just been dealing with some people to whom superficial appearance is EVERYTHING, with very little regard to such parameters as durability and functionality. "When style wins over substance, we all lose." That is a favorite saying of mine, it sometimes bothers some people a bit to hear it. At one job I had it posted in my office on the wall behind my seat so that all could see it clearly.
Excellent post Ann--very informative. The two stats you mentioned regarding weight reduction (85%) and additional strength (1.9 to 2.0 times steel) was eye-opening to me for this material. I went online and pulled up the web site for Affan Innovative Structures and they seem to have cornered the market for this type of product. Several years ago I was in Dubai and was astounded that every building looked about 20 minutes old. They are at least well maintained. Another very interesting fact was most high-rise buildings had their own power generation facilities; i.e. GE and Pratt & Whitney gas turbines running on natural gas. I probably would not recognize the place now. Again, excellent post.
I don't think the hospital shown in these photos can be classified as a building for the very rich. I find it interesting that some people are mentioning these curved building designs as fads that will pass--how is that different from the blocky building designs, which will also be a passing fad if curves take over? Each phase can be considered a fad; there are certainly a lot of curvy buildings in Shanghai.
Greg, carbon composites are still more expensive than steel or concrete, but the factor varies depending on a lot of different variables. Debera also has a good point about repairability issues which haven't yet been solved.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory has developed a surface preparation method to improve joining carbon composites with aluminum, with potentially far-reaching ramifications for high-volume industrial applications.
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