ACTLAB is the Architecture Computation and Technology Laboratory of the Department of Architecture, Built Environment, and Construction Engineering at Politecnico di Milano University. Students learn how to use emerging technologies to tackle current challenges in the built environment.
For his bachelor's project Topology Optimization for Structural Collapse Recovery, Davide Gamberini studied unreinforced masonry structures, common to historic buildings in Italy. With the country’s reputation as one of the most earthquake prone regions in Europe, his research answered the need to develop improved retrofitting strategies for preserving an important part of Italy’s cultural patrimony.
To analyze the structure of a hypothetical unreinforced masonry building, Davide turned to Inspire. He had learned about Inspire while taking a course on cutting-edge tools and strategies in architectural design with Professor Ingrid Paoletti. Davide had always been fascinated by the synergy between structural engineering and architectural design. He was confident Inspire would provide a simple, fast solution to finding the structural improvements needed to enhance the building’s seismic performance.
Inspire in the Design Process
Davide started with a simple model: a two-story load bearing brick façade with four openings, a door and a window on the lower level and two more windows on the upper level.
The student based his design concept around three scenarios:
- The building had already experienced an earthquake, which had caused seismic damage between the two upper windows. He would simulate out-of-plane loading with supports at horizontal curbs.
- Again, the building had already experienced an earthquake, which had caused seismic damage between the two upper windows. He would simulate out-of-plane loading with supports at the foundation.
- The building had never experienced an earthquake. He would simulate in-plane loading with supports at the foundation, upper level, and roof curbs.
He wanted to explore a range of structural solutions, so he ran analyses of each scenario with three different materials: premixed Ultra–High Performance Concrete (UHPC), steel,
and Carbon Fiber-Reinforced Polymer (CFRP).
Davide discovered that, no matter which material was used, the resulting stress patterns corresponded to two distinct forms. In the first scenario, a shell, parallel to the façade’s surface, emerged during bending. In the second and third scenarios, pipe-like forms materialized as a result of axial forces. The shape of these weak zones would give form
to the proposed structural enhancements.
He examined the results for displacement and maximum shear stress to determine which material would provide the best seismic protection; volume, surface area, and feasibility
of fabrication were also considerations. In the first scenario, UHPC proved to be the best material; in the second, it was steel; in the third, CFRP.