Roofs with glass ceilings
Designing and constructing roof spaces in major landmark buildings is always challenging.
Covering large areas like courtyards or stadiums without using traditional support methods, such as columns, poses numerous questions for the most experienced architects and engineers. Add to that the desire to create something at once practical, groundbreaking and eye-catching, and the challenge becomes multi-faceted.
To make these issues even more complex, architects and engineers are also charged with balancing the satisfaction of an innovative design with environmental awareness. Reducing environmental impact is a leading priority for many practices, since the built environment is one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions.
Continuing the revolution
Our researchers worked with practitioners in architecture and engineering to develop some unorthodox digital design methods. These proved to be fundamental in establishing architectural geometry as a new specialism for the University.
Using professional software tools, we developed novel structural analysis methodologies and experimental algorithms which were then used to design a series of iconic buildings. Our research extended the pioneering work of 'dynamic relaxation', as used in the form-finding and analysis of cable and fabric structures like the Millennium Dome. It's a revolutionary technique that allows the design and construction of free-form, large-scale structures to be accurately simulated and optimised.
Bath's discoveries also contributed to the development of the spectacular glass and steel roof above the British Museum's Great Court, in London, where Foster and Partners took advantage of two of our innovations in architectural geometry. Firstly, blended equations helped to describe the shape of the roof; secondly, a modified method of dynamic relaxation was used to optimise the structural grid. Together, they resulted in the efficient and beautiful spiral form seen today.
Today's research, tomorrow's projects
Our techniques have changed the way industry approaches the design of geometric buildings by reducing their complexity, risk and carbon footprint. This has led to the re-emergence of the timber gridshell as a cost-effective, low-carbon building solution, costing significantly less carbon dioxide than its equal in steel.
Bath is committed to training skilled professionals in techniques that will lead the way in tomorrow's architectural and engineering projects. Additionally, our research has put us in an enviable position when it comes to providing consultancy on designing and constructing landmark buildings worldwide.
This research was part of our REF 2014 submission for Architecture, Built Environment and Planning.