Communications Project

Document Type:Master's Thesis
Name:David Marc Carradine
Title:Experiments on the Response of Arch-Supported Membrane Shelters to Snow and Wind Loading
Degree:Master of Science
Department:Civil Engineering
Committee Chair: Raymond Plaut
Committee Members:W. S. Easterling
R. K. Kapania
Keywords:pneumatic structures, snow loading, wind loading, scale model, structural failure, arch-supported membrane shelters
Date of defense:April, 16, 1998
Availability:Release the entire work for Virginia Tech access only.
After one year release worldwide only with written permission of the student and the advisory committee chair.


Experiments on the Response of Arch-Supported Membrane Shelters to

Snow and Wind Loading


David Marc Carradine

R. H. Plaut, Chairman

Civil Engineering


For many years, inflatable structures and membrane enclosed structures have proved useful for a variety of purposes, such as athletic pavilions, exhibition spaces, coliseums, and kiosks. More recently, structures that combine highly pressurized inflatable arch members with light fabric membrane coverings have been considered for use as a variation of such structural systems. The United States Army has begun to investigate pressurized arch-supported membrane shelters that would be large, lightweight, and easily erected in a short amount of time. These shelters are proposed for a variety of purposes, including aircraft hangars, vehicle maintenance shelters, and medical aid stations.

The specific contribution of this study was the creation and testing of scale models to obtain a better understanding of how these structures behave under wind and snow loading conditions. Three models were constructed, one at a scale of 1:100 and two at a scale of 1:50. The 1:100 scale model represented a proposed prototypical structure 200 ft long, 75 ft wide, and 50 ft tall, with multiple arches. Of the 1:50 scale models, one model represented a structure with the same dimensions as the 1:100 scale model and the other represented a single arch from one of the proposed prototypical structures. Both of the full structural models were wind and snow load tested. The single arch model was tested under full and partial snow loading. Data from the testing were collected, tabulated, and evaluated. The experimental results are discussed, conclusions are drawn, and recommendations for further research are presented.

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