PDA

View Full Version : Durable ancient architecture



Inclusa
2012-Dec-26, 11:24 PM
The very term may remind people of pyramids (both Egyptian and Mesoamerican), the Great Wall of China (but it was reconstructed during the Ming dynasty; even so, it is way more durable than steel and concrete, which has a maximum lifespan of 50-60 years before they collapse on themselves), Inca structures, etc.

Can we adopt such technology today? We often boast of superior productivity of the computer age, but we may not produce something that durable.

pzkpfw
2012-Dec-26, 11:48 PM
The very term may remind people of pyramids (both Egyptian and Mesoamerican), the Great Wall of China (but it was reconstructed during the Ming dynasty; even so, it is way more durable than steel and concrete, which has a maximum lifespan of 50-60 years before they collapse on themselves), Inca structures, etc.

Can we adopt such technology today? We often boast of superior productivity of the computer age, but we may not produce something that durable.

I think that would equate to using ceramics instead of concrete. Probably technically feasible, but probably very very expensive.

(Or more simply, using machines to make rocks into building blocks. Still very expensive.)

Hornblower
2012-Dec-27, 12:02 AM
The very term may remind people of pyramids (both Egyptian and Mesoamerican), the Great Wall of China (but it was reconstructed during the Ming dynasty; even so, it is way more durable than steel and concrete, which has a maximum lifespan of 50-60 years before they collapse on themselves), Inca structures, etc.

Can we adopt such technology today? We often boast of superior productivity of the computer age, but we may not produce something that durable.

We have steel-framed skyscrapers over a century old, and they have not collapsed. If you are referring to lifespan with no maintenance, then places like lower Manhattan will suffer catastrophic rusting of the foundations starting with the next hurricane-induced flood, and some could come down in a matter of decades. In a dry climate they should last far longer.

I remember reading about an estimate that the longest-surviving tall structure in the USA, without maintenance, will be the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, which is built of stainless steel. The author figured that a tornado eventually would bring it down.

Cougar
2012-Dec-27, 12:10 AM
....it is way more durable than steel and concrete, which has a maximum lifespan of 50-60 years before they collapse on themselves.....

Did you miss your Civil Engineering class Strength of Materials (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strength_of_materials) again? :whistle:

novaderrik
2012-Dec-27, 12:20 AM
how much bigger would the footprint of a typical office building that uses those awesome and durable ancient building materials have to be in order to have a equivalent amount of usable space as a building using the "weaker" concrete and steel that we use today?
the Great Pyramid of Giza is a pretty durable structure, but it wouldn't make a very good office building..

Romanus
2012-Dec-27, 12:46 AM
Durability these days means less than cost, utility, and taste. For instance, Roman roads are superior to modern asphalt roads in many ways; however, the Romans didn't have access to steamrollers, abundant gravel, and cheap asphalt. A Roman-style road big enough to accommodate modern traffic would probably be too expensive for anyone to build or use, and just as expensive to maintain.

That what the ancients built was often very durable was as much by design as by accident (that is, what materials they had to work with). If the Incas had had access to cheap concrete, I have little doubt that they would've used it, even in such an earthquake-prone region.

galacsi
2012-Dec-27, 12:54 AM
Well I have heard of something called in French "Reaction sulfatique interne" which produce some expanding sulfate mineral and can destroy all concretes. If I remember well a cause could be a too fast making and at a too hot temperature.

Jens
2012-Dec-27, 12:56 AM
I'm not sure what the advantage would be of making buildings of stone. I'd also note that though ancient people made some structures that were very durable, a lot of it was not. Nothing much is left of ancient architecture in Japan, primarily because they build things out of wood (because forests are plentiful), so there is a selection bias, in that the things that have remained from ancient times are those that were most durable.

LoneTree1941
2012-Dec-27, 04:25 AM
The Roman domus or house had interior and exterior walls 18-24 inches thick, and were brick & concrete combination with concrete mixed with aggregates "placed" inside of two brick skins.

Many of these are still standing in Pompeii and Herculaneum, having been excavated out of the ash from Mt. Vesuvius, and many roofs have remained intact. That says a lot for Roman concrete - and construction practices - but walls of those thicknesses are very costly and space wasting compared to the standard wall thicknesses of today, only about 25 - 20% percent of those.

But today's homes are obsolete in about a hundred years and masonry walls are much less adaptable to the stuff we want to insert (into walls that have cavities) that enhance our lives. The same needs or priorities apply to large institutional buildings, at least those that aren't monuments or mausoleums.

Today, at least in America, we'd prefer to replace them in about a century to have the latest innovations and safer less costly structures to refurbish too.

Ara Pacis
2012-Dec-27, 06:50 AM
It's not a fair comparison, modern buildings are made by humans not aliens, yo.

Wolf1066
2012-Dec-27, 09:29 AM
...so there is a selection bias, in that the things that have remained from ancient times are those that were most durable.
Like for example we can see Stonehenge and other stone circles easily enough but we only know about the various "wood henges" from the holes the posts were sunk into.

chornedsnorkack
2012-Dec-27, 10:27 AM
We have steel-framed skyscrapers over a century old, and they have not collapsed. If you are referring to lifespan with no maintenance, then places like lower Manhattan will suffer catastrophic rusting of the foundations starting with the next hurricane-induced flood, and some could come down in a matter of decades. In a dry climate they should last far longer.


We have a fair amount of modern concrete and steel buildings which were built before or during First World War and became redundant and undeserving of maintenance as a result of that war, both in wet and dry climates. How have they fared in wet climates?

Solfe
2012-Dec-27, 08:46 PM
The Electric Tower (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_Tower) in Buffalo is from 1901 and is still in use. Compare that with the Central Terminal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_Central_Terminal) built in 1929. The Central Terminal was used until 1980 and then pretty much abandoned. It is in sad shape, but isn't ready to collapse. The main issue is clean up, which more and more is done every year.

NEOWatcher
2012-Dec-27, 09:34 PM
The very term may remind people of pyramids (both Egyptian and Mesoamerican), the Great Wall of China (but it was reconstructed during the Ming dynasty; even so, it is way more durable than steel and concrete, which has a maximum lifespan of 50-60 years before they collapse on themselves), Inca structures, etc.
It doesn't seem so much material vs material, but how those materials are used.
I'm sure if the Pyramids were made of big blocks of solid steel or solid concrete they would have lasted for thousands of year.


Can we adopt such technology today? We often boast of superior productivity of the computer age, but we may not produce something that durable.
Technology? I think it's more technique. Absolutely we can build things with that technology. It's just that we found a lot more efficient ways to satisfy our current needs. We just don't build for the far future.
When we do, it's very much analyzed.
They may be tunnels instead of construction, but those nuclear waste facilities (like Yucca Mountain) have been designed for tens of thousands of years. To go along with that, I've heard of research of how do you tell a future civilization with no knowledge of our civiliztion "danger keep out" in a structure that will last that long to convey that message.

IsaacKuo
2012-Dec-27, 09:51 PM
They may be tunnels instead of construction, but those nuclear waste facilities (like Yucca Mountain) have been designed for tens of thousands of years. To go along with that, I've heard of research of how do you tell a future civilization with no knowledge of our civiliztion "danger keep out" in a structure that will last that long to convey that message.
Now that I think about it, this is what the Pharoahs tried to do. It didn't work. People risked the curse anyway to get at the potential riches inside. It occurs to me that future grave robbers might assume that a radiation warning cartoon was a similar fake curse just to vainly try and prevent grave robbing.

chornedsnorkack
2012-Dec-27, 09:57 PM
It doesn't seem so much material vs material, but how those materials are used.
I'm sure if the Pyramids were made of big blocks of solid steel or solid concrete they would have lasted for thousands of year.


Maybe. Note that not all pyramids have endured. After the Great Pyramids (solid cut stone blocks), the later, Middle Kingdom Egyptians tried to cut costs by making smaller pyramids of unfired bricks, with just veneer of stone. These duly crumbled.

We have examples of Roman buildings - both cut stone and concrete, which have stood abandoned for 2000 years. How has concrete fared, compared to stone?

JohnD
2012-Dec-27, 10:34 PM
Original post, "concrete, which has a maximum lifespan of 50-60 years before they collapse on themselves"
Stuff and nonsense!

The Pantheon in ROme was built nearly 2000 years ago, and still has the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome.
Suggest you go and research your subject. You could start with "Roman Concrete": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_concrete

John

danscope
2012-Dec-27, 10:45 PM
If anyone is disappointed with concrete, then... stop throwing calcium chloride and salt on it. You might paint it with
Imron after a year and observe spactacular performance and longevity. " It's all up to you " .
Oh.... and I don't think Boulder Dam is going anywhere soon.

starcanuck64
2012-Dec-27, 10:50 PM
The very term may remind people of pyramids (both Egyptian and Mesoamerican), the Great Wall of China (but it was reconstructed during the Ming dynasty; even so, it is way more durable than steel and concrete, which has a maximum lifespan of 50-60 years before they collapse on themselves), Inca structures, etc.

Can we adopt such technology today? We often boast of superior productivity of the computer age, but we may not produce something that durable.

In recent decades there have been serious issues with acidic air pollution and degrading stone and concrete historical structures, they may not be that durable by modern standards.

publiusr
2012-Dec-28, 10:06 PM
Carbon fiber might be better than re-bar. Obsidian on the outside. Multiple layers of different materials. The structure should be overbuilt, like the flak towers in Berlin.

Inclusa
2012-Dec-29, 03:45 AM
Sorry, I just heard of common steel and concrete residential buildings in Hong Kong, where moisture and exposure to salt are major issues. (I understand why they are not that durable now.)
Obsolescence is a major factor here; we often prefer more energy efficient and fashionable buildings vs older ones.

Solfe
2012-Dec-29, 04:26 AM
Ah, I went ice skating today and snapped a picture of the electric tower. I am crooked, not the building. Taking pictures on skates is not something I excel at.

17813

SkepticJ
2012-Dec-30, 09:32 PM
Carbon fiber might be better than re-bar. Obsidian on the outside. Multiple layers of different materials. The structure should be overbuilt, like the flak towers in Berlin.

Basalt fiber rebar is a fairly recent development.

'Ductal' concrete is another. The stuff is practically carbonation-proof*, non-porous, and has substantial tensile strength, in addition to the compressive strength concrete is famous for.

A monolithic dome made of the above could have a useful lifespan of thousands of years.

*It could survive in sea water for the better part of 1000 years with only superficial damage.

Delvo
2012-Dec-30, 11:53 PM
Exactly what kind of maintenance work do modern steel, concrete, & glass buildings need, and what would be the mechanism of their destruction without it?

pzkpfw
2012-Dec-31, 12:12 AM
Exactly what kind of maintenance work do modern steel, concrete, & glass buildings need, and what would be the mechanism of their destruction without it?

See if you can find the T.V. series Life After People.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_After_People

It shows this stuff really well. One of the main issues is that without maintenance (paint, unblocking gutters, ...) water gets into things like reinforcing steel and supporting timber, and causes rot and rust. Expansion/contraction from freeze/thaw cycles also causes destruction.

danscope
2012-Dec-31, 12:40 AM
It means that gargoyles , like you would have seen on a gothic cathedral , have a purpose..... to jettison water away from the structure as best they will. Things last longer when you " DESIGN " for durrability . And if you armour concrete against certain perils, it will last much longer. Why do we see concrete filled lolly columns with a plastic jacket on them ??
Durability. Yep.

pzkpfw
2012-Dec-31, 01:01 AM
What's a "lolly column"? (All I could think was barber pole.)

danscope
2012-Dec-31, 04:29 AM
Well, perhaps you have an elevated porch.... proped up by 4 inch steel pipes, filled with concrete ( to make them stronger and more ridgid, sometimes decorated with wood , or maybe you have a basement with a few steel pipes holding up the beam every ten feet. They serve to hold things up.... over a lifetime or two .

mkline55
2012-Dec-31, 03:43 PM
Can we adopt such technology today? We often boast of superior productivity of the computer age, but we may not produce something that durable.

We do create durable structures today, but like the ancients, they are more expensive. The pyramids, the Great Wall of China, etc. were built at far more expense than most other structures of the period. Smaller, less expensive structures rarely survived, and typically did so only because they were preserved in some way, such as volcanic ash or burial in sand. I'd estimate that more than 99% of all structures built more than 2000 years ago have either disintegrated or been torn down. It is entirely possible that a similar survival rate will be found in structures built today.

Solfe
2012-Dec-31, 07:23 PM
What's a "lolly column"? (All I could think was barber pole.)

I think lolly columns are the posts that are tacked into place in basements or used as a barrier for cars. Usually they are steel or steel filled with concrete; the plastic sheaths are an add on. They are either supported by compression or in the case of free standing barriers, merely sunk into the surface they rest on.

JohnD
2013-Jan-01, 03:00 PM
According th ethe Wkik, they should be "Lally" columns after their inventor:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lally_column

But i like the idea that builders called them "Lollies" because they were cheap as chips and could be cut to length.
John

Ara Pacis
2013-Jan-01, 07:00 PM
According th ethe Wkik, they should be "Lally" columns after their inventor:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lally_column

But i like the idea that builders called them "Lollies" because they were cheap as chips and could be cut to length.
John
I wonder if Lally is pronounced as Lolly.

swampyankee
2013-Jan-02, 12:08 AM
What's a "lolly column"? (All I could think was barber pole.)

Lolly columns are small reinforced concrete columns used for such things as holding up the floors of houses. A US house will have a central beam (usually wood; occasionally steel) that holds up one end of the floor joists. Similar columns will be used to hold up decks.

pzkpfw
2013-Jan-02, 12:17 AM
Thanks, everyone.

swampyankee
2013-Jan-02, 01:33 AM
Exactly what kind of maintenance work do modern steel, concrete, & glass buildings need, and what would be the mechanism of their destruction without it?

Most of the maintenance for modern buildings involves keeping water away from the structure. Wet wood gets eaten, wet steel rusts, wet rocks suffer freeze-thaw cycles. Have any of you noticed that the durable ancient buildings happen to be in parts of the world where it never goes below freezing?

galacsi
2013-Jan-02, 06:34 AM
Most of the maintenance for modern buildings involves keeping water away from the structure. Wet wood gets eaten, wet steel rusts, wet rocks suffer freeze-thaw cycles. Have any of you noticed that the durable ancient buildings happen to be in parts of the world where it never goes below freezing?
That's what I was thinking ,and can add : also in part of the world where it does not rain much. Like Egypt or Libya.

chornedsnorkack
2013-Jan-02, 12:35 PM
Newgrange and Maes Howe are fairly old. So is Broch of Mousa. At least rains are common there.

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Jan-03, 03:18 PM
The very term may remind people of pyramids (both Egyptian and Mesoamerican), the Great Wall of China (but it was reconstructed during the Ming dynasty; even so, it is way more durable than steel and concrete, which has a maximum lifespan of 50-60 years before they collapse on themselves), Inca structures, etc.

Can we adopt such technology today? We often boast of superior productivity of the computer age, but we may not produce something that durable.
Buildings are generally built today with the understanding that they are temporary structures, and it simply isn't worth spending money making them last much longer. This is because older buildings are often more expensive to adapt to the requirements of modern occupation than the alternative course of demolishing them and replacing them.

For example, this building http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotunda_(Birmingham) was completed in 1965. It was listed as a building of special architectural interest so it could not be demolished. Desire to demolish it arose as early as the 1990s, because fitting it out to modern conditions had already become difficult, and the rents obtainable from the outdated accommodation had fallen to a level that knocking it down was the economic thing to do. But as a listed building, it has had to be refurbed instead, and it reopened in 1998 after a few years' closure. It is one of the very few interesting buildings in central Birmingham (England).

I had my own house refurbed and extended a few years ago. It ended up costing not much less than knocking it down and rebuilding it ground up to the new size would have done. Of course it would have been much cheaper simply to refurb the building, rather than extend it, but that would have been failing to take advantage of the full opportunity and value available on the site.

JohnD
2013-Jan-04, 10:11 PM
swampyankee, galacsi,
"the durable ancient buildings happen to be in parts of the world where it never goes below freezing"
"also in part of the world where it does not rain much."

Clearly you have never visited England, Salisbury Plain and Stonehenge!
Any more than I have been to Libya or Egypt.
Or any of the other stone circles and other megaliths constructed in Europe thousands of years ago.
I can tell you for certain it gets very cold and very wet in, for instance, Shetland at Jarlshof.

John

Jim
2013-Jan-04, 11:39 PM
[Some] US house(s) will have a central beam (usually wood; occasionally steel) that holds up one end of the floor joists. Similar columns will be used to hold up decks.

Most houses here are built on concrete slabs. Older houses may use pier and beam construction.

pzkpfw
2013-Jan-05, 01:07 AM
... Most houses here are built on concrete slabs. ...

Sorry: off topic. I once saw a claim that building houses on concrete slabs was "invented" here (N.Z.). Any truth to that? Or is it patriotic hyperbole?

(Plenty of stuff was invented here, or by people from here, but I won't "fight the truth". (Lately it's become clear that Richard Pearse didn't beat the Wright brothers... oh well. We did invent pineapple lumps.))

swampyankee
2013-Jan-05, 04:02 AM
swampyankee, galacsi,
"the durable ancient buildings happen to be in parts of the world where it never goes below freezing"
"also in part of the world where it does not rain much."

Clearly you have never visited England, Salisbury Plain and Stonehenge!
Any more than I have been to Libya or Egypt.
Or any of the other stone circles and other megaliths constructed in Europe thousands of years ago.
I can tell you for certain it gets very cold and very wet in, for instance, Shetland at Jarlshof.

John

Actually, I tried to visit Stonehenge, but it was closed that day. Haven't there been several repairs involving re-erecting fallen sarsen stones? Presuming this is the case (wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonehenge#After_the_monument_.281600_BC_on.29) says so ;)), even this cyclopean structure won't survive without maintenance.

More relevantly, most of the ancient buildings that have survived for any length of time were those of ritual importance, and built with little concern for cost.

danscope
2013-Jan-05, 05:38 AM
Hi Jim, Here in New England, the smart money is on having a basement/cellar which incorporates air infiltration which gains heat from the ground for free and "warms up" to 45-50 degrees after which the heating system contributes the extra therms
to make it comfortable. A slab house is more difficult to heat.

Inclusa
2013-Jan-05, 06:22 AM
I still don't understand why Americans cannot give up the unpopular Fahrenheit system; most other countries use Celsius.

Hornblower
2013-Jan-05, 10:06 AM
I still don't understand why Americans cannot give up the unpopular Fahrenheit system; most other countries use Celsius.

Fahrenheit is a good scale for the range of temperature we commonly encounter in a temperate climate. 100 is very hot an 0 is very cold. Either scale is arbitrary.

aquitaine
2013-Jan-05, 04:58 PM
Most of the maintenance for modern buildings involves keeping water away from the structure. Wet wood gets eaten, wet steel rusts, wet rocks suffer freeze-thaw cycles. Have any of you noticed that the durable ancient buildings happen to be in parts of the world where it never goes below freezing?


You know I wonder how long a structure built with carbon nanotubes will last. From what I understand it doesn't have problems with rot or rust.....

danscope
2013-Jan-05, 06:09 PM
The durability of the roof as per rain, wind, heat ,cold and ice (especially hail )is a major contributor to longevity.
The better roof I have seen is made with reground tires which appear like genuine slate. Take severe wind, etc etc and
will last. I doubt that carbon nanotubes can compete for price. Then, there's well fastened metal roofs. Popular up north.
Snow slides off easy. But no system will work unless it is cost effective.
Dan

SkepticJ
2013-Jan-06, 02:01 AM
You know I wonder how long a structure built with carbon nanotubes will last. From what I understand it doesn't have problems with rot or rust.....

UV light damages them, though. UV light damages diamond.

Something made of boron nitride would last a loooong time.

Ara Pacis
2013-Jan-06, 09:58 AM
Homes tend to be built with basements here because the frost line extends a few feet down and the water table is generally lower still.

I'm not sure you could call Stonehenge a durable structure. The stone megaliths are only part of the design and most of the wooden parts have long vanished. The stones have also been worn down themselves. But I suspect that England coolness probably helps. If you have heat and water, then you're looking at lots of vegetation destroying it like in Mayan/Aztex/Toltec ruins or in South East Asia like Angkor Wat.

swampyankee
2013-Jan-07, 01:37 AM
You know I wonder how long a structure built with carbon nanotubes will last. From what I understand it doesn't have problems with rot or rust.....

Probably a long time. Might be a bit costly, but ritual structures tend to be built with little regard for cost, so maybe for one of the local quasi-religious practices, like football....

Of course, carbon will oxidize with time. The materials used for the composite matrix will absorb water (one of my jobs was checking the degradation of a composite structure in a heat & humidity chamber) and are liable to degradation from UV.

novaderrik
2013-Jan-07, 04:39 AM
Probably a long time. Might be a bit costly, but ritual structures tend to be built with little regard for cost, so maybe for one of the local quasi-religious practices, like football....

Of course, carbon will oxidize with time. The materials used for the composite matrix will absorb water (one of my jobs was checking the degradation of a composite structure in a heat & humidity chamber) and are liable to degradation from UV.

we tear down perfectly functional football stadiums all the time because they are old and "obsolete"- which is something that apparently happens after 30 years or so.. in fact, as an unwilling taxpayer in the state of MN, i get to help tear one down and build a new one in a couple of years.. this only a few years after i just got done helping to pay for a new baseball stadium for another team that used to share the stadium with the football team..

neilzero
2013-Jan-07, 10:35 PM
Clearly buidings good for several centuries, can be built, but the morgage lender wants a bigger down payment, which often is not available. Worse resale is likely to be proportionly less than the cut corners building for the first 30 years or so. Taxation depritiaton formulas also discourage old buidings as do modern building codes. Worse many of the contractors and workers have zero experience with structures designed to last centuries, so they bid high, or don't bid. Neil

profloater
2013-Jan-09, 11:08 AM
steel reinforced concrete is actually rather neat system and can be adapted to long life where necessary. The steel holds all the load (for design purposes) while the concrete keeps the assembly stable. Corrosion in a problem but can be cured by coating the steel. The concrete gets stronger with time. But it also creeps, so there is the tensioning system where the steel is put into deliberate tension with end nuts which can be tightened. For really long life the concrete could be covered to stop water getting into cracks. The good feature over just concrete is that the assembly can take tension and bending loads so cantilevers etc.

Perikles
2013-Jan-09, 11:27 AM
steel reinforced concrete is actually rather neat system and can be adapted to long life where necessary. .I seem to remember that the new Liverpool cathedral was built like this, several decades ago, with a planned lifetime of 500 years.