[Univ of Cambridge] [Dept of Engineering]

Concepts for retractable roof structures

Frank V. Jensen

Over the last decade there has been a worldwide increase in the use of retractable roofs for stadia. This increase has been based on the flexibility and better economic performance offered by venues featuring retractable roofs compared to those with traditional fixed roofs. With this increased interest an evolution in retractable roof systems has followed. This dissertation is concerned with the development of concepts for retractable roof systems.

A review is carried out to establish the current state-of-the-art of retractable roof design. A second review of deployable structures is used to identify a suitable retractable structure for further development.

The structure chosen is formed by a two-dimensional ring of pantographic bar elements interconnected through simple revolute hinges. A concept for retractable roofs is then proposed by covering the bar elements with rigid cover plates. To prevent the cover plates from inhibiting the motion of the structure a theorem governing the shape of these plate elements is developed through a geometrical study of the retractable mechanism. Applying the theorem it is found that retractable structures of any plan shape can be formed from plate elements only. To prove the concept a 1.3 meter diameter model is designed and built.
To increase the structural efficiency of the proposed retractable roof concept it is investigated if the original plan shape can be adapted to a spherical surface. The investigation reveals that it is not possible to adapt the mechanism but the shape of the rigid cover plates can be adapted to a spherical surface. Three novel retractable mechanisms are then developed to allow opening and closing of a structure formed by such spherical plate elements.

Two mechanisms are based on a spherical motion for the plate elements. It is shown that the spherical structure can be opened and closed by simply rotating the individual plates about fixed points. Hence a simple structure is proposed where each plate is rotated individually in a synchronous motion. To eliminate the need for mechanical synchronisation of the motion, a mechanism based on a reciprocal arrangement of the plates is developed. The plate elements are interconnected through sliding connections allowing them mutually to support each other, hence forming a self-supporting structure in which the motion of all plates is synchronised.

To simplify the structure further, an investigation into whether the plate elements can be interconnected solely through simple revolute joints is carried out. This is not found to be possible for a spherical motion. However, a spatial mechanism is developed in which the plate elements are interconnected through bars and spherical joints. Geometrical optimisation of the motion path and connection points is used to eliminate the internal strains that occur in the initial design of this structure so a single degree-of-freedom mechanism is obtained.
The research presented in this dissertation has hence led to the development of a series of novel concepts for retractable roof systems.

[Cambridge University | CUED | Structures Group | Geotechnical Group]

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