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An integrated analysis of membrane structures with flexible supporting frames

Jin-Jun Li, Siu-Lai Chan

Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China.

Received 5 August 2002, Accepted 28 January 2003


Tensioned membranes are normally reinforced with pretensioned cables, and both of them are typically supported by space steel structures. Conventional analysis and design for tensioned membrane structures are separated by two assemblages, fixing the support positions and determining the equilibrium shape of the cable–membrane at first and checking the adequacy of the steel structure against support reactions. Under this methodology, the interaction between the cable–membrane and the steel structure is neglected. An integrated nonlinear finite element (FE) analysis, including cable element, membrane element and beam element in the FE library, is proposed in this paper for analysis of tensioned membranes supported by steel structures. The interaction between the support structure and the cable–membrane is examined through numerical study of a saddle shade pavilion structure. Results of integrated analysis deviate considerably from those obtained in an isolated analysis, which reveals that an integrated analysis is necessary for structural engineers to determine whether the effects of elastic deformations of supports should be taken into account in the design of tensioned membrane structures.


Tensioned membrane; Cable–membrane; Steel structure; Integrated analysis; Nonlinear FE; Support force; Shape finding; Loading analysis; Saddle shade pavilion


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