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Pneumatic structures obtain their
stability through internal pressurization.
It is basically a bubble. The
same way that water and soap bubbles stabalize, so do pneumatic
structures. An English engineer by the
name of William Lanchester was the first to attempt to apply this bubble, or
balloon principle to a building in 1917.
Only now pneumatic structures are beginning to become well known forms
An air-supported structure consists of a
single membrane enclosing a space, which is supported by a small internal
pressure difference. The air inside is
at a pressure higher than the atmospheric.
An air-inflated structure is supported by
pressurized air contained within inflated building elements. The air inside and the atmospheric pressure
stays the same.
These are some of the formulas used to
find the effect of the wind on pneumatic structures.
The manner in which an air-supported
structure meets the ground is a critical part of the design. The connection must be airtight. The biggest structural problem is that the
structure exerts a large uplift force and also, depending on the exact shape
of the structure, horizontal forces on its supports.
One of, if not the most interesting
problems dealing with a pneumatic air-supported structure is deciding on the
profile of the structure. Most
long-span structures are low-profile and use cable-net membranes. Small-span structures are high-profile
structures, the majority of the time.
A common concern with pneumatic
structures is what happens if the membrane is punctured.