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What are reticular structures?

This generic term refers to a structure created with interconnected bars in the form of triangles to create a network. The joints of the bars are called nodes, and they can be rigid or articulated.

These are also called reticulated or bar structures.

What is the difference between rigid and articulated nodes in a reticular structure?

The type of node entails a difference in terms of load bearing, and each type is particularly suitable depending on the type of structure to be built. Articulated nodes only support axial stress – that is, the forces of traction and compression. Rigid nodes allow the bars to support the axial force, shear stress, and bending moment.

What are the main applications of reticular structures?

This type of structure is usually associated with bridge construction, but the same principle can be used in developing a large number of structures and applications, such as:

  • Waffle slabs: horizontal structural elements that support their own weight, such as building roofs.
  • Electrical towers: key players in distribution in the electrical grid.
  • Active height: a system of building large skyscrapers where the construction planning and structure calculation include reticular structures as a method of load distribution.

What are the main advantages of reticular structures?

  • They make it possible to increase the load-bearing capacity of large structures without increasing dead weight.
  • Their elements are capable of distributing the loads that are applied to them in two directions.
  • They enable working with elements of smaller sizes, making it easier to obtain some raw materials (such as wood), as well as the production, transportation, and assembly of the elements.

What factors should be taken into account for designing a reticular structure?

A project with a reticular structure must start with the specific needs and characteristics of each structure; however, there are some factors that must always be taken into consideration:

  • Final form of the structure.
  • Geometric calculation of the inner reticulum.
  • Analysis of the external and internal forces that the structure must withstand.
  • Features of the building materials.
  • Mounting system (need for scaffolding and other structures, as well as their cost).

Reticular structures often required the construction of scale models to calculate and size the bars, which were difficult to solve with only theoretical models. Technology has simplified planning in projects thanks to the possibility of developing digital models and miniatures with 3D printing.

What are some famous reticular structures?

The Louvre Pyramid was designed by Chinese-American architect Ieogh Ming Pei, commissioned by French President François Mitterrand, who wanted a luminous entrance for the museum whose shape contrasted with the buildings around it. The pyramidal shape likely takes up an idea from the architect Louis Ernest Lhereux for the centenary of the French Revolution.

The structure is composed of 200 tons of aluminum, iron, and laminated glass; this was the first time the material was used in a large structure. It was designed to welcome 3 to 5 million visitors a year, but at the beginning of the 21st century, the museum was receiving about twice as many visits as that, which forced them to redesign the entrance systems.

The Golden Gate Bridge is technically a suspension bridge since the load-bearing platform is hung on suspension cables. However, like most suspension bridges, it uses a reticular structure as a support. This structure minimizes the risk of torsion that can be caused by strong winds.

The Eiffel Tower is probably the most famous reticular structure worldwide. It was initially built as an ephemeral structure for the World’s Fair of 1889. Its construction took more than two years, and it was supposed to have a lifetime of one year (the duration of the fair), but in the end, it was decided to keep it. For more than 40 years, it held the title of tallest structure in the world. It has had both practical and aesthetic roles. Today, it is still one of the most visited monuments in the world.

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