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Journal of Constructional Steel Research 62 (2006) 943–949

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Structural optimization and dynamic analysis for double-layer spherical
reticulated shell structures
L.J. Li a,∗ , Z.H. Xie b , Y.C. Guo a , F. Liu a
a Guangdong University of Technology, Guangzhou, 510640, PR China
b Guangzhou Maritime College, Guangzhou, 510725, PR China

Received 19 September 2005; accepted 13 January 2006

Abstract

This paper is concerned with the geometrical optimum design and the aseismic analysis of double-layer reticulated shell structures. The
characteristic of free vibration of reticulated shell structures, with respect to geometric parameter, is investigated. The variations of the
eigenfrequency of shell structures, with respect to the ratio of height-to-span, span, grid division frequency and thickness of shell, are discussed.
The Newmark method is used to calculate the stresses and displacements of the reticulated shell structure under earthquake action. The analysis
results show that under a specified span, the eigenfrequency of the structure increases with the increase of the height-to-span ratio and then
decreases afterwards. Therefore, there exists an optimum height-to-span ratio resulting in an optimum stiffness at the specified span. The optimum
value of the ratio is found to be between 1/3 and 1/4 from the simulation study presented in this paper. At a specified height-to-span ratio, the
increase of the value of structural span greatly reduces the eigenfrequency of the structure and then decreases the global stiffness of the structure.
At the specified span and the specified height-to-span ratio, the eigenfrequency of the structure has a minor increase with the increase of the
thickness and the grid division frequency of the reticulated shell structure. The partial double-layer reticulated shell structures have less stability
compared with double-layer reticulated shell structures, but more stability in comparison with single-layer reticulated shell structures. The 1/6
partial double-layer reticulated shell structure has a best performance-to-price ratio. In other words, it has a higher buckling load, with smaller
material consumption, compared with other partial double-layer reticulated shell structures. It is proposed to adopt the 1/6 partial double-layer
reticulated shell structure in engineering if a double layer reticulated shell structure is required. 
c 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Reticulated shell; Optimization; Aseismic analysis; Spacial structure; Dynamic analysis

1. Introduction that influence its responses to earthquake motion. Damage
of an earthquake to structures depends not only on the
Large span special reticulated shell structures are being magnitude and duration of the earthquake, but also on the
increasingly built, as stadiums, gymnasiums and exhibition dynamic characteristic of structures [13]. Field inspection and
halls across the world. The design for these structures analyses of the performance of structures during earthquake
is emphasized more on architectural aesthetics than on shaking of their foundations [14,15] have clearly shown
structural reliability and economical efficiency [1–4]. Research that building designs, which simply follow seismic code
work for large span special reticulated shell structures was regulations, do not guarantee safety against collapse or serious
mainly focused on stability analysis [5–7], buckling and path damage. In order to obtain an effective seismic resistant
tracking [8–10] and elastoplastic large deformation simulation. design, it is necessary to follow two main guidelines; one
Only a few researchers investigated structural optimization, and is that soil–foundation–superstructure should have an integral
they concentrated on minimum weight optimization [11,12].
action, so that the structure has a large integral stiffness, and
Stiffness and configuration of a structure are important aspects
the other is that a proper system configuration should be
selected for superstructures [16] so that the structure has an
∗ Corresponding author. excellent comprehensive performance. An earthquake-resistant
E-mail address: lilj@scnu.edu.cn (L.J. Li). structure is required to be light, avoiding unnecessary masses.

0143-974X/$ - see front matter 
c 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.jcsr.2006.01.010
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A building, with its superstructure, ought to be simple,
symmetric, and regular in plan and elevation to prevent
significant torsional forces, avoiding a large height–width ratio
and large plan areas. It also requires a uniform and continuous
distribution of mass, stiffness, strength and ductility, avoiding
the formation of soft stories. The superstructure should be
provided with balanced stiffness and strength between its
members, connections and supports. A spacial reticulated shell
Fig. 1. Double-layer spherical reticulated shell in rib ring type square
structure has the properties of light, symmetric, regular and reciprocal prism.
simple, in order to obtain effective earthquake resistant design
impacts. A proper system configuration must be selected
for spacial reticulated shell structures. In this paper, the with the increase of height-to-span ratio when this ratio is large
stiffness, system and configuration optimization is obtained (1/3–1/2). Since the stiffness of a structure increases as its
by simulation analysis for reticulated shell structures. The frequency increases, therefore there is a maximum frequency
response of a reticulated shell structure to earthquakes is and consequently a maximum stiffness exists in the range of
investigated by calculating the optimized shell structure. these ratios. In other words, there is an optimum height-to-span
ratio for a structure at a given span, and the calculation results
2. Free vibration study of shell structures with different show that the optimum ratio is between 1/3 and 1/4.
parameters Fig. 2(b) demonstrates that eigenfrequency decreases greatly
with the increase of span at the specified height-to-span
Free vibration frequency is one of the most important ratio, when span increases from 50 to 200 m, eigenfrequency
dynamic properties of reticulated shell structures, and it decreases almost linearly with the increase of span. In this
influences the dynamic response of structures under earthquake case, the stiffness of structure decreases significantly with the
actions. The stiffness of a structure is one of the main factors increase of span at the specified height-to-span ratio.
that affect the vibration characteristic of a structure [17]. The Fig. 2(c) shows the influences of grid thickness on the
study of free vibration frequency of reticulated shell structures eigenfrequency of a shell with spans of 50 m, 100 m and 150 m
can be used as an effective method to inspect whether the respectively at a specified height-to-span ratio of 1/4. It can be
stiffness of different parts of reticulated shell structures is seen from Fig. 2(c) that eigenfrequency almost does not change
evenly distributed. while the grid thickness changes from 0.8 to 2 m, which shows
Basic assumptions are made as follows when the the grid thickness has little influence on grid stiffness.
free vibration study is carried out by the finite element Fig. 2(d) illustrates the variations of eigenfrequency versus
method [18] for double-layer aluminum spherical reticulated grid division frequency for the reticulated shells with different
shell structures. spans respectively, i.e. 50 m, 100 m and 150 m at the specified
height-to-span ratio of 1/4. It can be seen that grid division
(1) Joints are assumed to be hinged; frequency has only a slight influence on eigenfrequency for the
(2) Masses are concentrated only on joints; specified reticulated shell. That is to say, at a specified span
(3) Bars have only axial stresses; and a height-to-span ratio, the grid division frequency does
(4) Viscosity is not considered. not influence the eigenfrequency greatly, which shows that the
The bars of spherical reticulated shell structures taken for grid dimension has only a small influence on the stiffness of a
analysis examination are perfect elastic–plastic materials with structure that has a specified shell.
a cross section of Φ140 × 6, and were designed according From the above analysis, it can be concluded that, for
to Chinese criteria of steel structure design [19]. A subspace double-layer reticulated shells, under the satisfactory use of
iterative method is used to analyze the modes of double-layer span, grid division frequency and grid thickness do not affect
reticulated shells shown in Fig. 1 which have 4 different spans the aseismic property of structures greatly. It is important to
(L = 50 m, 100 m, 150 m, 200 m), 13 different height-to- select an appropriate height-to-span ratio for a structure to
span ratios ( f /L = 1/2, 1/2.5, 1/3, 1/3.5, 1/4, 1/4.5, 1/5, obtain effective aseismic performance.
1/5.5, 1/6, 1/6.5, 1/7, 1/7.5, 1/8) and 6 different grid division
frequencies (5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) as stated in Ref. [20]. In view 3. Variation of dynamic property of reticulated shell with
of spherical reticulated shells having many vibration modes in grid parameters
closer frequencies, the first 20 free vibration frequencies and
modes have been calculated so that their eigenvalues cannot There are two methods that can be used for structural
be missed. Fig. 2(a), (b), (c) and (d) illustrate the variations seismic response analysis. One is the imitative static method,
of frequency versus height-to-span ratio, span, grid division i.e., vibration mode decomposition method, and the other is
frequency and shell thickness, respectively. the direct dynamic method, i.e., time ordered method. When
It can be seen from Fig. 2(a) that, at different spans, the the vibration mode decomposition method is used to solve
frequency increases with the increase of height-to-span ratio the seismic response of structures, free vibration analysis
when this ratio is small (1/8–1/4), then frequency decreases is carried out at first for these structures. Because there
L.J. Li et al. / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 62 (2006) 943–949 945

(a) Variations of eigenfrequency versus height-to-span ratio. (b) Variations of eigenfrequency versus span.

(c) Eigenfrequency versus grid thickness. (d) Eigenfrequency versus grid division frequency.

Fig. 2. Variations of eigenfrequency versus different parameters.

are many similar frequencies for reticulated shell structures, as 0.02, earthquake intensity was given as degree 8, the
it is difficult to estimate exactly the truncation frequency. ground condition was considered as the third kind, El Centro
Meanwhile there are many frequencies which require accurate earthquake motion was considered and the lasting time of the
calculation analysis. Indeed, the time ordered method is earthquake was assumed as 4 s. The peak point and bottom rib
usually used to study aseismic properties of large structures if member of reticulated shell structure were analyzed.
possible. This direct dynamic analysis method can be adopted
to calculate seismic response of a structure to earthquake 3.1. Influences of spans on dynamic responses
motion and obtain the displacement, velocity and acceleration
of the node of the structure with a step-by-step integration. Fig. 3 shows the maximum displacements at peak point
When a really strong earthquake impacts on structures, it and maximum axial stress at the bottom bar versus span
is necessary to undertake elastoplastic analysis for these (50 m, 100 m, 150 m, 200 m) at the specified height-to-span
structures using the time ordered analysis method which ratio (1/4) and grid division frequency (10). From Fig. 3(a)
includes the Direct Integral Method, Finite Difference Method, it can be seen that, at this specified height-to-span ratio, the
Linear Acceleration Method, Houbolt Method, Wilson-θ maximum displacement in the horizontal direction is slightly
Method and Newmark Method. The first two methods are larger than that in the vertical direction. The displacement of the
conditional stable, if the time step meets the demand of t ≤ structure under an earthquake action increases obviously with
Tn /π. The last three methods are unconditional stable. the increase of the span. The displacement increases almost
The Newmark method was used to carry out dynamic linearly with respect to the increase of the span from 50 to
analysis for reticulated shell structures. Rib and ring type 200 m, which shows that the stiffness of the structure changes
aluminum reticulated shell structures were calculated as greatly within this range. Fig. 3(b) shows that the axial stress
examples. In the calculation, structural damping was chosen increases greatly with the increase of span.
946 L.J. Li et al. / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 62 (2006) 943–949

(a) Displacement at peak point versus span. (b) Stress of bar versus span.

Fig. 3. Variations of displacement and stress versus span.

(a) Node displacement versus height-to-span ratio. (b) Axial stress versus height-to-span ratio.

Fig. 4. Structural responses versus height-to-span ratio.

(a) Displacement versus grid division frequency. (b) Axial stress versus grid division frequency.

Fig. 5. Structural responses versus grid division frequency.

3.2. Influences of height-to-span ratios on structural dynamic structure is smaller within this height-to-span ratio range than
responses in the other ratio ranges. It can be concluded that there is an op-
timum value of height-to-span ratio for a specified double-layer
Fig. 4 illustrates the maximal displacement of the node and reticulated shell structure as for an effective aseismic system.
maximal stress of the bar with respect to height-to-span ratio at
the specified grid division frequency of 7 and span of 50 m. It 3.3. Effects of grid division frequencies on structural dynamic
can be seen that vertical displacement controls stabilization of responses
the structure dynamic response to earthquake when the height-
to-span ratio is small i.e. between 1/8 and 1/4, while horizon- The peak displacements and bottom rib bar stress, with
tal displacement will control the structural response when the respect to grid division frequency at the specified span of 100 m
height-to-span ratio is large i.e. between 1/3 and 1/2. The ver- and the height-to-span ratio of 1/7 under both vertical and
tical and horizontal displacements have a same degree at the horizontal earthquake motions, are shown in Fig. 5. It can be
height-to-span ratio range of 1/4–1/3. It can be seen that struc- seen that the vertical displacement is significantly larger than
tural dynamic response changes gently within the height-to- the horizontal one when the structure has a smaller height-to-
span ratio range of 1/4 and 1/3, which implies that the structure span ratio. The displacement at the peak point and the stress
has larger stiffness and consequently the displacement of the at the bottom bar decreases gently with the increase of the
L.J. Li et al. / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 62 (2006) 943–949 947

(a) Displacement versus bar section. (b) Bar axial stress versus bar section.

Fig. 6. Structural responses with respect to bar section.

(a) Double-layer reticulated shell. (b) 5/6 partial double-layer (c) 4/6 partial double-layer reticulated (d) 2/6 partial double-layer grid shell.
reticulated shell. shell.

(e) 1/6 partial double-layer grid shell. (f) Single-layer grid shell.

Fig. 7. Different partial double-layer reticulated shell structures.

grid division frequency, which shows that, at the specified span a small height-to-span ratio and the bar axial stress (which
and height-to-span ratio, the increase of grid division frequency decrease 5.6%) are used in the design. However the influence of
induces the increase of the stiffness of the structure, but the the bar section on structural responses under earthquake action
increase extension is limited. is very small.

3.4. Effects of bar sections on structural dynamic responses 4. Stability analysis of reticulated shells with different
geometric configurations
The reticulated shell being of 150 m span, 1/8 height-
to-span ratio and 10-grid division frequency was analyzed It is the stability of the structure [21–24] that controls the
for comparison. Fig. 6 shows the variations of the peak design of reticulated shell structures. Double-layer reticulated
displacement and the bottom bar stress with respect to bar shell structures, compared with single-layer reticulated shell
diameter under the earthquake action. The bar section does structures, have better stability performance and larger span
not influence the horizontal displacement as greatly as that but more material consumption. In order to investigate the
for the vertical displacement (which decreases 16.8%). It can influences of the layer on the structural performance, a
therefore be concluded that the increase of the bar diameter can structure that has a 100 m span and 1/7 height-to-span ratio
reduce the vertical displacement. At this time, it is the vertical and changes gradually from a double-layer one to a single-
displacement that controls the structural response, because layer one shown in Fig. 7 is analyzed. Fig. 8 shows the
948 L.J. Li et al. / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 62 (2006) 943–949

Table 1
Comparison between the buckling loads and the material consumption among single-layer, partial double-layer and double-layer reticulated shell structures

Reticulated shell Single- 1/6 partial 2/6 partial 4/6 partial 5/6 partial Double-layer
structures layer double-layer double-layer double-layer double-layer
Material consumption W 1.30W 1.53W 1.90W 2.38W 2.62W
Buckling loads P 4.67P 5.33P 5.60P 7.47P 8.00P
Performance/price ratios 1 3.60 3.49 2.95 3.13 3.05

responses of structures. Reticulated shell structures have
high stiffness at the height-to-span range of 1/3–1/4,
and consequently have good aseismic performance when
seismic condition only is considered. For different loading
conditions, the optimal height-to-span ratio of reticulated
shell structures may be different from the above.
(2) The vertical earthquake actions control the structural
responses when the height-to-span ratio of the structure
is smaller than 1/4, while for structures whose height-
Fig. 8. Buckling loads with respect to structural configurations. to-span ratios are larger than 1/3, it is the horizontal
variation of buckling loads of these structures with structural earthquake actions that control the structural responses. At
configurations. a specified height-to-span ratio, the earthquake response of
Fig. 8 shows that the buckling load decreases by 87.5% the structure increases with the increase of the span. At
when the double-layer reticulated shell changes to the single- specified span and height-to-span ratio, the increase of grid
layer reticulated shell, and the buckling load decreases by division frequency induces the increase of the stiffness of
6.6% when the double-layer reticulated shell changes to the the structure as had been expected, while the bar section
5/6 partial double-layer reticulated shell. The buckling loads has only a small influence on structural dynamic responses.
continue to decrease with the decrease of double-layer area (3) The partial double-layer reticulated shell structures have
and decrease by 41% when the double-layer reticulated shell less stability compared with the double-layer reticulated
changes to the 1/6 partial double-layer reticulated shell. The shell structures but more stability compared with the single-
buckling loads decrease by 46.5% when the partial 1/6 double- layer reticulated shell structures. The 1/6 partial double-
layer reticulated shell changes to the single-layer reticulated layer reticulated shell structure has a good performance-to-
shell. The calculation results show that partial double-layer price ratio. The 1/6 partial double-layer reticulated shell
reticulated shell structures have less stability compared with structure has higher buckling load and smaller material
double-layer reticulated shell structures but greater stability consumption compared with other partial double-layer
compared with single-layer reticulated shell structures. Fig. 8 reticulated shell structures. It is therefore recommended
also shows that partial double-layer reticulated shell structures to introduce the 1/6 partial double-layer reticulated shell
can greatly increase the stability of single-layer reticulated shell structure in engineering if the use of a double-layer
structures and of these the 1/6 partial double-layer reticulated structure is inevitable.
shell structures have the best performance-to-price ratio. (4) The dynamic investigation carried out in this paper is under
Table 1 lists the comparison between the material con- only El Centro motion, which limited the validity of the
sumption and buckling loads when reticulated shell structures outcomes obtained. More earthquake motion cases should
change from a single-layer one to a double-layer one. It can be considered if more practical results are desired.
be seen from Table 1 that the 1/6 partial double-layer reticu-
Acknowledgements
lated shell structure has a good performance-to-price ratio. In
other words, the 1/6 partial double-layer reticulated shell struc-
We would like to thank Guangdong Natural Science
ture has higher buckling load and smaller material consump-
Foundation and Guangzhou Bureau of Science and Technology,
tion compared with other partial double-layer reticulated shell
Peoples’ Republic of China, for partially supporting this project
structures. It is proposed to introduce the partial double-layer
(Project number 032489, 2003Z3-D0221).
reticulated shell structure for designs.
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