Basic Concepts of Bridges

A structure built to span a valley, road, body of water or other physical obstacle for the purpose of passing over the obstacle.

Basic Concepts
Span

The distance between two bridge supports, whether they are columns, towers or the wall of a canyon.

Force

Any action that tends to maintain or alter the position of a structure.

Compression

A force which acts to compress or shorten the thing it is acting on.

Tension

A force which acts to expand or lengthen the thing it is acting on.

Beam

A rigid, usually horizontal, structural element.

Pier

A vertical supporting structure, such as a pillar.

Cantilever

A projecting structure supported only at one end, like a shelf bracket or a diving board.

Load

Weight distribution throughout a structure.

Truss

A rigid frame composed of short, straight pieces joined to form a series of triangles or other stable shapes.

Stable

Ability to resist collapse and deformation; stability. Characteristic of a structure that is able to carry a realistic load without collapsing or deforming significantly.

Deform

To change shape.

Buckling

It is what happens when the force of compression overcomes an object’s ability to handle compression. A mode of failure characterized generally by an unstable lateral deflection due to compressive action on the structural element involved.

Snapping

It is what happens when tension overcomes an object’s ability to handle tension.

 

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