Collapse of Charles De Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle International Airport terminal 2E was built in 2003 with capacity to handle up to 34.7 million passengers. The $950 million airport was one of the world’s largest international airports. However it started facing problems after one year and on the morning of May 23, 2004 it collapsed. A section of 110ft of Terminal 2E collapsed, causing the loss of four lives and injuring three others. Due to the critical nature of this engineering failure, the remaining section of the terminal was later torn down. After the terminal collapsed and the architecture company hired for designing, executing and operating the terminal was sentenced with involuntary homicide charges (John Conway), a new terminal was rebuilt following similar design plans but replacing the faulty concrete blocks with steel and metal structures so to prevent any future similar disaster. The new extension was completed and reopened in March 2008.
I. Structure of the terminal
The terminal was acclaimed for its innovative design and optimized use of space based on a vault design concept. Vault design is a roof structure design in which the roof is supported by an interconnected system of arches where no internal support, such as pillars, is needed. Consequently, this design provides greater open space within the structure, which is one of the priority concerns in an airport terminal. This construction design was first employed by Ancient Egyptians, later being also used in Roman architecture and improved by the Byzantines (Encyclopedia Britannica). However, questions were raised as to the extent in which the wide and elliptical vault design of Terminal 2E caused an unnecessary overstress to the system – “The elliptical arch pushes the limits of conventional vault design, the curvature continuing beyond the vertical without conventional abutments other than the reinforcing steel hoops to stop it from spreading” (Failed Stone, p.113). An abutment here is the structural element that functions as a support to the sides of the arches of the vault design, transferring or resisting the actions of external loads on the structure. In the case of the terminal, this structure would help prevent change in wind or heat pressure in the sides of the elliptical vault.
I. a. The arch design
Mainly, the vault is an extended arch used in industrial scale buildings to create a large open space. Therefore understanding the structural design of an arch will help the understanding of the vault design. So let us consider a simple and old type of arch, a brick arch or any other masonry typed arch. In order for the arch to withstand any loading pressure exerted on the structure, it must satisfy certain equilibrium criteria. The “approach of equilibrium,” which studies only the equilibrium states with the masonry in compression, can be used (Lourenço, Guimarães 48). The arch as...