Excerpt from the “Journal of the National Institute of Building Sciences,” February 2016:
“The Swiss civil engineer and contractor Heinz Isler (1926-2009) is regarded as one of the pioneers of shell structures. He gained renown for his experimental, physical methods of form-finding and the resulting expressive shell structures produced in thin-walled concrete, and first triggered his lifelong fascination and professional work with such structures by draping a saturated bed sheet in freezing weather to form a catenary shell before inverting it. He proved that, what gravity forms when inverted, is resistant to the forces of gravity.
As a civil engineer, Theodore “Ted” Thoeny, PE, principal at San Juan Bautista, California-based Thoni Thermal Homes, has been interested in fabric structures for the past 55 years, and has experimented with different fabrics, from burlap and fiber glass to geo-fabrics. “Using fabrics to form roofs is very simple and efficient, especially when gravity is allowed to form the shapes,” he says. “Such lightweight roofs may answer the need in areas that lack more traditional resources (such as third-world countries), plus address both life-safety and energy concerns in modern settings.”
In this article, the Journal of the National Institute of Building Sciences (JNIBS) talks with Thoeny to gain an understanding of catenary roofs. When considering alternative construction techniques and methods, such as those used in catenary roof structures, this discussion may provide additional insight.”
Journal of the National Institute of Building Sciences (full text requires free registration)
Ted Theony, PE
Thoni Thermal Homes
San Juan Bautista, CA