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Digital Subscriptions > iScot Magazine > July/August > This Changes Everything

This Changes Everything

Back in the day, the Engineering students at Trinity College had an interestingly named textbook on their reading list, Salvadori and Levy’s Why Buildings Fall Down (1992). The basic mechanics of structural failure and collapse – as I took from the relevant chapters – are quite simple, even Newtonian in their elegance.

Essentially, manmade constructions stand in defiance of gravity; the downward forces of their mass, coupled with the pull of the earth’s gravity, act to keep good structures sound and standing. Their successful defiance of the law of universal gravitation – or, as the case may be, their successful use of it – depends on a complex relationship of balanced forces spread across the supporting elements of the building. While some parts of a building may be stripped away without causing serious damage, there are key supporting features in every structure without which the integrity of the whole is compromised; leading to weakness, strain, and eventual failure – the collapse of the building. This isn’t rocket science. It’s Engineering.

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