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Old January 25th, 2015, 05:35 PM   #1
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Suspension houses

Hi All,

For bridges, the suspension principle seems to have taken over from humpback designs, but apparently not for domestic houses. This seems odd to me. The advantages of suspension should apply to houses as well, especially cheapness.

I'm imagining any design where one or more anchor points are held above the house by some arrangement of reinforced concrete poles, and everything else dangles from there by wires. For instance, there might be a single pole in the middle of the house. Four wires of equal length would fall diagonally from the top of the pole to the corners of a standard square platform (with a hole in the middle) made from I-beams or the like. That's the upstairs ceiling. More platforms would dangle from that one to make the upstairs and downstairs floors. Some wires between platforms would be diagonal to make it reasonably rigid, and we can sling wires between the platform holes and the pole to stop it all from rocking like a swing or spinning like a top (assuming we don't want it to.) Nothing need touch the ground except some disposable wooden steps. The top platform needs to handle horizontal compression but the others don't. For a given amount of sag in the floors you could get away with a flimsier platform by also holding up the platform holes by short wires going diagonally upwards to the pole. The four top wires already serve as rafters and you only need a few horizontal wires between them to hang tiles and insulation on. That would lead to a nice Japanese style saggy roof.

The advantages are that wires are cheaper than struts of any kind, that we've achieved all the height in one fell swoop in the cheapest possible way, that earthquake and hurricane protection can be tuned exactly the way you want, that it's a prefabber's dream, that there's no rising damp and that the roof will last forever cos there's no weight pushing it outwards and trying to collapse it.

For earthquake zones, many of the wires would need springs in them. The idea would be to keep the house (including the Japanese roof) largely still while the pole moves with the earth against only its own inertia. I think we know that the resonant frequency of the whole house on springs will be much slower than the earthquake.

A hurricane also applies a horizontal force to the pole, so it has to handle both scenarios, but that's probably not a very thick pole is it? If the pole is struggling to cope, we can try to dump some of the horizontal force lower down on the pole by connecting the holes in the platforms to the pole with compressed springs. Hurricanes have gusts that stop and start suddenly in any tempo, so the house needs some damping to cope. The skin can consist of separate panels dangling freely from their top edges and sliding over each other, so nothing needs to break when it warps. I'm not suggesting it should wobble like a jelly in the merest breeze, but, like I say, you can program in just the right amount of flexibility.

The central pole could be excused with a spiral staircase or cupola, but if people found it unacceptably obstructive, a slightly more expensive design would involve four poles whose tops are joined by beams to make a cubic concrete frame, with everything else dangling from those beams in the same way. The poles would land nominally at the corners of the house but nothing speaks against platforms sticking out between them. One could also make grander looking houses by applying a bit of creativity to the shapes of those platforms. The main diagonal wires could be made more complicated to build a fancier roof.

Yet another design would involve four actual suspension bridges whose "roads" make a # shape when viewed from above. The poles are at the intersections of the roads so each pole supports two bridges and each bridge has two poles. The main wires would have to be anchored on the ends of the roads rather than on the ground (unless the poles can be tilted outwards, which seems impractical) so the roads need to handle a lot of compression without buckling. The upstairs ceiling is then built between the # and everything else dangled off it as before.

I don't know much about architecture, so there's probably a good reason why people aren't doing this as standard, but what is it?

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