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Last edited 28 Nov 2018
They are commonly used where a building interior needs to be free from intermediate walls or columns that might support a more conventional flat or pitched roof, such as; libraries, theatres, leisure centres, airport and railway terminals, and so on.
Shell roofs can be ‘flat’, but are typically curved, assuming a cylindrical, domed, paraboloid or ellipsoid shape. The curvature of shell structures benefits from the same structural efficiency as arches, which are pure compression forms with no tensile stresses. Because of their structural efficiency less material is generally needed compared to more traditional roofs. However, a restraining structure such as an edge beams is required to prevent the shell from ‘spreading’.
Shell roofs may be:
- Single shells such as the dome of the Pantheon in Rome.
- Multi-shell roofs such as Eero Saarinen’s JFK International Airport in New York.
- Reinforced with structural ribs, such as Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House.
- Lattice structures, such as Norman Foster’s Great Court at the British Museum in London.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- A-frame house.
- Barrel vault.
- Conoid shell.
- Domestic roofs.
- Folded plate construction.
- Hyperbolic paraboloid.
- Long span roof.
- Pendentive dome.
- Portal frame.
- Shell and core.
- Sydney Opera House.
- Tensile structures.
- Tension cable and rod connectors.
- The history of fabric structures.
- Types of dome.
- Types of roof.
 External references
- ‘Building Construction Handbook’ (6th ed.), CHUDLEY, R., GREENO, R., Butterworth-Heinemann (2007)
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