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A Study Of The Cathedral Notre Dames D'Amiens Using The Finite Element Method

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A Senior Thesis Presented To The Haverford Physics Department By Ralph Shayne May 5, 1989

I would like to extend my thanks to the following people who made this project possible: Eric Davies, Haverford Computer Center Andrew Dougherty, Haverford. Physics Department Steve Platt, Swarthmore Engineering Department Faruq M. Siddiqui, Swarthmore Engineering Department

Abstract In this paper I will be presenting a static analysis I did on a two-dimensional cross section of the cathedral Notre Dame D'Amiens. I will investigate stress arising due to wind and dead loads. My findings help qualitatively understand how the cathedral's buttressing system works and allow for conclusions to be drawn as to the structure's safety and efficiency.


L Introduction The cathedral Notre Dame D'Amiens ig a French High Gothic church completed in 1288 and located in Northern France. I chose to study Amiens because it is considered one of the most impressive High Gothic cathedrals standing completely intact today. Amiens has been called the summa of French High Gothic [1] due to its forty-two meter vaulting height which has only been superceded by the unsuccessful Beauvais Cathedral. Beauvais was constructed with a forty-eight meter vaulting height but collapsed before completion. Its failure left medieval architects with the impression that they had reached the limits of height with Amiens. Important to my analysis is the concept of loads. Loads are forces a structure must contend with and come in two types, dead or live. Dead loads do not change over time and most often refer to a structure's self-weight. Live loads are forces that are not necessarily continuously present. Live loads can be the weight of people using a structure, their furniture, or forces acting on a structure's exterior, such as wind and snow. The first, most obvious question one asks when looking at a structure is can it handle its loads. The next logical question is how well does it do this. Hopefully, the designer put enough materials into his structure so that a safety factor exists between the maximum amount of stress (force per unit area) that these materials can handle and the maximum amount they can be expected to face. If the designer is over-safe and uses more materials than the structure will ever need, the structure becomes inefficient. While safety and efficiency are powerful ways to evaluate a structure, the structure's elegance is also important, especially since a structure's aesthetics have a lot to do with its conception. The mixture of elegance and efficiency is what makes Amiens

Shayne-3 interesting to study. In addition, the parts of Amiens that are fundamental to the deflection of its loads are visible while in most structures they are not. This makes Amiens a perfect candidate for my structural analysis.

II. Important Physical Concepts The concepts entering a structural analysis are fundamental physical principles used mainly by engineers and are worth reviewing. A structural analysis involves seeing how forces are transmitted through a structure. Stress is a calculation of the local intensity of force acting on an area of material and is measured as force per unit area (N/m2). A few types of stress will enter my analysis. The first involves forces acting along the symmetry axis of an object. This causes either compressive (scrunching) or tensile (stretching) stress, as illustrated in figure 1. As a matter of convention, compression is considered negative, while tension is considered positive. The equation for axial stress is then (eq. 1) for an object aligned along the i axis.
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Figure 1 [2] A large cross-section that has a certain amount of force applied to it will be less stressed than a smaller cross-section encountering the same amount of force. Shear (or transverse) stress will also be a factor in the analysis of Amiens. Forces applied tangentially to a face of an object cause shearing if the opposite face is kept fixed or has an opposite force applied to it (see figure 2a). Shear is then defined as (eq. 2) 'Cxy = Flangential / Area

Shayne-4 where the area is of the face the force is being applied to.

(a) Figure 2 [3]


This type of stress occurs in pillars that encounter horizontal thrusts above the ground yet are fixed in the ground at their bases, as illustrated in figure 2b. Transverse forces can also cause bending moments that act to overturn an object that is fixed on one side (see figure 3a). Bending forces cause compression on one side of an object while creating tension on the opposite side. The stress is distributed over a cross section as shown in figure 3b.

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In a complex structure such as Amiens, superpositions of all these kinds of stress exist. Closely related to stress is the concept of strain, which measures how much an applied stress deforms an object in a specific direction. Strain is measured as the ratio of deformation to original length: (eq. 3) c = A1/10

Shayne-5 Strain and stress are related by Hooke's law (figure 4). Hooke's law states that for many strong materials a linear relationship exists between strain and applied stress, until a maximum value of stress, known as the yield stress, is reached:
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This is analogous to the spring equation, where K = F/i\x. The values of stress for which this relationship holds compose a material's elastic range. When stress greater than the yield stress value occurs, the material undergoes elongation (strain) faster as the stress-strain relationship becomes non-linear. The material is no longer considered elastic and will deform much more rapidly until the material breaks or cracks. For a structure to be safe, none of the materials it is composed of should encounter stress exceeding its yield stress. Hooke's law plays an important role in my analysis of Amiens. The maximum stresses my model predicts can be compared with the compressive and tensile yield stresses of Amiens' materials. This comparison will allow me to evaluate the safety and

Shayne-6 efficiency of Amiens and, therefore, allow for an understanding of the structure's stability.

HI. A Qualitative Look At Amiens [5] Figure 5 shows a floor plan of Amiens.

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Figure 5 [6] Amiens' nave is constructed of a series of consecutive bays with a buttressing system built where the bays meet. For my analysis, I will be examining a two dimensional cross section of a typical one of these buttressing systems. When looking at Amiens under dead loading, only half of the cross section necds to be examined due the symmetry of the structure. Half of the frame is shown in figure 6 on the next page. My purpose is to understand the buttressing system's structural function. Amiens' vaults are results of Gothic designers' attempts to reduce the amount of material in a cathedral's interior. [7] The buttresses are not visible from the interior, giving the impression to people standing in the nave that the vaults are held up by


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Shayne-7 invisible supports. They appear to defy gravity (see cover). The vaults are important to my study since they create significant thrusts. Each vault may be visualized as the intersection of two barrels, as shown in the next figure:

Figure 7 These barrels create both vertical forces and horizontal thrusts in the direction of its span (figure 8a). A vault spans two orthogonal horizontal directions and creates horizontal thrusts in both of these directions. When identical vaults are placed side by side, as they are in Amiens, a set of horizontal thrusts from one bay is opposed and balanced by equal and opposite thrusts from the adjacent vault (see figure 8b), leaving only forces acting in a two-dimensional plane (in red) to be accounted for.

Figure 8 Amiens' buttressing system is aligned along these critical planes and must provide bracing against the vaults' vertical forces and horizontal thrusts. The

Shayne-8 characteristic frames carry the loads from half of each of the bays they are set between (see figure 9) and handle the dead load of the entire structure.
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Figure 9 An additional load on the frames comes from the timber roof which sits on top of the piers. As with the vaults, each frame must handle the weight of the roof covering half of each bay the frame is set between. Snow loading will not be taken into account in my study. If it were, it would add to the vertical force the roof puts on the piers, increasing the compressive forces in the piers. I will show that this would not critically undermine the structure's stability. For a qualitative analysis, simplifications can be made by removing the upper flyer, the aisle vault and the aisle roof and considering the lower flyer to be an inclined beam:

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Shayne-9 The dead load of the roof will act vertically down (negative y direction) at the top of the pier. Lower down, where the vault meets the pier, the vault's thrusts will act down the pier and horizontally toward the lower flyer. The lower flyer is positioned to take the horizontal thrusts of the vaults and transfer them to the pier buttresses. Since the lower flyer is inclined, the thrusts will not be completely deflected horizontally into the pier buttresses. The deflected thrust will have a component acting vertically down. The piers and pier buttresses will also carry their own dead loads. The dead load of one of these columns is analogous to books in a stack. Each book in the stack carries the weight of all the books stacked on top of it. Likewise, any cross section of a pier or pier buttress will carry the weight of all the column above it. The largest internal forces in this simplified analysis will be at the bases of the piers and pier buttresses (figure 11):

Figure 11 The vertical forces are axial and cause compressive stress only. Bending and shearing arise on account of the horizontal thrusts of the vault and the structure's connection with the ground. The stress at the bases can be roughly computed from this simplified analysis and my dead load model confirms the values calculated by Professors Robert Mark and David Billington of Princeton University.


IV. Wind Loading The wind load simulated in my analysis is shown in figure 12a. It represents the maximum wind load Amiens could be expected to ever face. Under wind loading, an entire bay of the cathedral acts as a complex, planar frame whose behavior I have attempted to look at through a finite element model. The frame behaves as if rigidly fixed at its supports and junctions, similar to a simple planar frame (figure 12b).

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(b) Figure 12 Too many unknown forces and reactions exist to make a thorough qualitative analysis without some assistance of modeling. Therefore, methods such as finite element modeling are needed to gain a detailed understanding of how the cathedral handles wind loads.


V. The Finite Element Method The finite element method is an extension of methods used for the analysis of skeletal structures to the analysis of continuum structures. A continuum is idealized as being composed of a number of discrete elements connected at nodal points. The loads acting on the structure are replaced by statically equivalent loads applied at the idealized structure's nodes: [8]
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Finite element analysis converges towards a continuum solution as the number of elements and connections used in the analysis increases. For my analysis, I used rectangular elements to represent a solid continuum. Each element was composed of four nodes. Since my analysis was two dimensional, each node had two degrees of freedom and, therefore, each element had 8 degrees of freedom:
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Shayne-12 A force acting on the ith node of an element is related to the displacements experienced at each node of the element by the equation (eq. 5) Fi = ki11 + ki2122 + + kinn (i = 1 to n)

Fi is a nodal force acting in the ith degree of freedom and 4i is the resulting displacement at the jth degree of freedom. kij is defined as the force required in the ith degree of freedom due to a unit displacement at the jth degree of freedom when all the other degrees of freedom are held fixed:

The equation relating the forces acting on an element to the element's nodal displacements can be written in matrix form and looks like this: (eq. 6) (Fe} = {Pe}

where {Fe} = matrix of forces applied at each node of the element (knowns of analysis) [Ke] = stiffness matrix relating a force at a node of the element to the displacements the force creates at each of the element's degrees of freedom {le} = matrix containing all the displacements created at each of the element's degrees of freedom (unknowns of analysis) After the stiffness matrices are derived for each element used in the analysis, a stiffness matrix is created for the whole structure by superposing the stiffness matrices of each element: (eq. 7) [K] = /Ke

Shayne-13 This allows a matrix equation relating all the loads acting on the structure to the displacements they create at each node: (eq. 8) {F} = [K] {1.1.} Some of the displacements are already known, due to constraints on the system such as the ground. The rest of the displacements can then be solved for. The displacements are directly related to the strains the elements undergo. Hooke's law allows the nodal stresses to then be solved for. The stress distribution through an element is calculated by interpolating from the nodes. This is a simplified description and most finite element programs do not work this way exactly but lessen the number of algebraic steps by using conservation of energy requirements. The external forces acting on the structure are equal and opposite to the internal forces of the structure. Stress can be calculated directly from the internal forces and the strains and displacements then found. The size of the matrix equations that need to be solved in a finite element analysis depends on the size and complexity of the structure. My analysis used approximately 950 nodes so my model had roughly 1900 degrees of freedom. This means roughly 1900 simultaneous equations needed solving. Fortunately, this type of algebra requires many simple repetitive steps, making it well-suited for computers. Finite element software is readily available for Personal Computers and more powerful ones. Finite element analyses have been performed on some High Gothic cathedrals. To the best of my knowledge, I am the only one to ever use this method to analyze Amiens. Amiens has been analyzed through photoelastic modeling studies, though, so I do have something to compare my results with.

VI. Procedure I first created a scaled drawing of the cross section's outline using dimensions found from the scaled drawing in figure 6. The geometry of my model was then recreated in ANSYS, the finite element program I used, after I divided the structure into

Shayne-14 728 elements. The elements had, on average, an area of one square meter. My model was simplified in that ornamentation and other non-functional details were not included. Irregular geometry was simplified with straight lines. Thickness (z-component) was estimated for the piers, buttressing system and pinnacles of the cross section but did not affect my results, as I confirmed by repeating the analysis with different thicknesses. I incorporated an assumption about the materials used by Billington and Mark in their studies of Amiens. The cross section is constructed primarily out of limestone, although mortar is used to hold the stones in place. Due to the weight of the limestone, practically all parts of the cross section are under compression so the stone and mortar can be considered as acting continuously. [9] My study also treats the material as homogeneous and isotropic. The following values were used for the material and natural constants: [10] Gravity = 9.8066 N/m2 Limestone: Density = 2400 kg/m3 (1501bsift3) Elasticity (E): 9.8654010 N/m2 (10x106 psi) Compressive yield stress = 2.1x107 N/m2 (3000 psi) Tensile yield stress = 2.1406 N/m2 (300 psi) Mortar Tensile yield stress = 2.1405 N/m2 (30 psi) A vault that simulates the vault's dead weight is included in my model since its thrusts are crucial to this study. The vault is also needed to connect the two sides of the frame so that the wind loads can be transferred from one side to the other. The stress my study shows existing in the vaults is not representative of the real structure since the vaults are very much three dimensional and cannot accurately be analyzed in a two dimensional study. The nodal forces due to the wind load were calculated from wind load information on Amiens provided by Robert Mark. [7]


VII. Results of Studying Amiens under Wind Loading The eight plots attached at the end of this paper show the Amiens cross section under both dead loading and a wind load acting on its left side*. Plot 1 compares the displacements of the loaded model (in green) with the unloaded input model (in brown). The nodal displacements are magnified by a factor of one hundred to make them visible. 1.7 mm is the largest nodal displacement predicted by my model and exists at the node on the top of the leeward (right-side) pinnacle. This displacement is small and would not be noticeable to an observer. Its validity depends on the accuracy of the modulus of elasticity I used for limestone. Not all limestone has the same modulus of elasticity and the actual modulus of elasticity of the limestone used in Amiens could possibly be an order of magnitude lower than the value in my model. This would not significantly affect the stress distribution of my model (as experimenting confirmed), yet would increase the predicted displacement by an order of magnitude since the displacements are found via Hooke's law. The next seven plots show stress in the structure displayed by contour lines of constant stress in N/m2. The keys to the contour lines are to the rights of the plots. The plot of the stress component in the x direction (plot 2) best shows what is happening in the structure. The lower flyers undergo compression as they take on the horizontal thrusts of the vault, although the wind counters this thrust on the frame's windward side. The upper flyers were unimportant in the qualitative analysis of Amiens under dead loading but are significant under wind loading. They are responsible for handling the horizontal thrusts of the wind loaded roof that act at the top of the leeward piers. Stress in the x direction also appears at the bases of the piers and pier buttresses (the D contours) due to shearing caused by the structure's connection with the ground.

*Unfortunately, the computer and plotter had some difficulty communicating, resulting in the top portions of my plots not being drawn.

Shayne-16 The stress component in the y direction @lot 3) shows the thrusts entering the flyers that are translated into vertical forces acting down the pier buttresses. At the bases of the piers and pier buttresses, the y component of stress goes from higher values (more positive) to lower values as one looks from left to right. This is due to the bending of the piers and pier buttresses to the right caused by the wind loads, as discussed in Section III. The principal (or maximum) compressive stress (plot 4) is a superposition of the x and y stress components. The largest compressive values are found on the leeward side of the bases of the leeward pier and pier buttress and in a highly localized area in the aisle vault (plot 5). The maximum value (not including values found in the vault) appears in the aisle vault as -3.1x106 N/m2 while the yield stress of limestone is approximately 2.1x107 N/m2. The safety factor of Amiens can then be calculated: safety factor = yield stress/maximum actual stress = -2.1x107/-3.1x106 = 6.8 This means my model predicts that Amiens can handle 6.8 times as much compression as it might ever actually face before it begins to crumble and fall due to crushing. The safety factor I. found for Amiens under only dead loading is around 7.7. A snow load could, therefore, be handled easily since it would hardly compare with the entire weight of the structure. These are high safety factors and one might even surmise that the amount of compression the structure can handle is overly sufficient. Perhaps the piers and pier buttresses could have been made less thick for more efficiency. This sounds like a reasonable assumption until the tensile forces in the structure are investigated. Plot 6 shows the principal tensile stress. Three areas of interest exist: the leeward upper flyer, the aisle vaults and the area of the pier buttress under the leeward pinnacle. The tensile yield stress for limestone is an order of magnitude lower than the compressive yield stress, about 2.1x106 N/m2, but the tensile yield stress for the mortar holding the

Shayne-17 stones in place is another order of magnitude lower, about 200,000 N/m2. This is the critical tensile value for Amiens. At the junction where the leeward upper flyer meets the pier buttress (plot 7), three nodes exceed the yield stress, two by an order of magnitude. Tension is highly localized here. It should not threaten the structure's overall stability, yet the values I find are high enough to cause concern. The other problem area is the leeward aisle vault. Tensile stress more than an order of magnitude higher (maximum value of 2.5406) than the critical yield stress was found. This area seems likely to be a place of concern but needs to be more accurately analyzed in three dimensions like the main vaults. I have learnt that local areas of tension apparently do exist at Amiens and are periodically repaired. I have also been recently informed that large braces are present at Amiens above the aisle vaults that probably have been placed there to handle the stress that might arise in these vaults. I expect that these tensile values would have been lower if I had composed the upper flyers and side aisles of more elements. I have the elements from the aisle vaults and upper flyers aligned so that they jut out into the piers. The vertical forces acting down the piers then affect these areas more than if these forces were allowed to be translated directly down. The tensile stress located underneath the leeward pinnacle (plot 6) almost reaches the yield stress. This is not a critical area but an interesting one since the purpose of the pinnacles becomes apparent. The pinnacles add compressive forces vertically down the outer edges of the pier buttresses they sit on, thereby reducing the tension that would exist along the outer edges if the pinnacles had not been built. The finite element method allows for one to easily experiment with the model, so I ran an analysis of the structure without its pinnacles and an analysis with the pinnacles moved to the inside edges of the pier buttresses. The first analysis confirmed that local tension would intensify in the pinnacles' absence and the second analysis showed that moving the pinnacle was even

Shayne-18 worse than having no pinnacle. As Robert Mark concluded from his photoelastic studies, Amiens' pinnacles were built for the function of preventing local tension in the pier buttresses and most likely in response to an observed problem discovered after one or two of the bays were constructed. [7] After considering the critical areas of local tension that arise when Amiens experiences significant wind loads, all of the compressive forces in the structure seem necessary. A large amount of compression is needed to overcome the tension that arises. Therefore, I can conclude that a significant amount of material could not be removed from anywhere in the structure without critically undermining its stability.

VIII. Conclusion The only way to test the accuracy of a finite element model is to make a new model that uses more elements and then see how the stress values change. A number of successive models are usually built before reliable quantitative results can be obtained. I could not do this due to the memory limitations of running the ANSYS software on a Personal Computer. Haverford's PCs cannot handle a structural model that has much more than 1000 nodes and 1000 elements. Even with sizable quantitative error, the finite element method is a strong visual aid for understanding how forces are deflected in a structure and where potential problem areas are. The easiness of manipulating input data, such as I did by moving and removing Amiens' pinnacles, makes it powerful. If I were able to develop a model with a finer element mesh, I could expand my conclusions to include where material could be added and subtracted to improve the cathedral's efficiency. Also, by adding height to my model, I could attempt to learn whether Amiens' vaulting height could have been increased. My results are about as successful as can be expected after doing just two models. If nothing else, my study has been effective in allowing for an understanding of and

Shayne-19 appreciation for the ingenuity of the medieval architects. They did not have such sophisticated structural analysis techniques and had to rely on only experience and crude techniques of experimentation. Yet they developed structures such as Amiens that combine elegance and efficiency considerably well.


Notes [1] Robert Mark, High Gothic Structure, Princeton University - Art Museum, Princeton, NJ, 1984, pp. 26 - 31. [2] All the figures in this paper except for the cover, figure 2a, and figures 4 through 6 are all taken from: David P. Billington and Robert Mark, Structures and the Urban Environment: Structural Studies, Princeton University Department of Civil Engineering, Princeton, New Jersey, 1983. [3] Figure 2a comes from: Raymond Serway, Physics, Sanders College Publishing, New York, 1983. [4] Figure 4 comes from: F. R. Shanley, Basic Structures, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., New York, 1944. [5] Most of this section follows closely discussions that can be found in: pp. 216 - 219, pp. 237 - 241. [6] The cover and figures 5 and 6 come from: Georg Gottfried Dehio and G. von Bezold, Die Kirchliche Baukunst des Abendlandes, Stiittgart, 1892 - 1901. [7] Robert Mark, Experiments in Gothic Structure, The MIT Press, Cambridge, 1982. [8] H. R. Evans, D. W. Griffiths, D. A. Nethercot and K. C. Rockey, The Finite Element Method, John Wiley & Sons Inc., New York, 1975, p. 3. [9] Billington and Mark's Structures, p. 236. [10] The properties of limestone were recommended by Professor Robert Mark of Princeton University and Professor Leonard Van Gullick of the Structural Engineering Department at Lafayette University.




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