Last edited 22 Mar 2018

Types of structure


Within the context of the built environment, the term ‘structure’ refers to anything that is constructed or built from interrelated parts with a fixed location on the ground. This includes buildings, but can refer to any body that is designed to bear loads, even if it is not intended to be occupied by people (engineers sometimes refer to these as 'non-building' structures – such as bridges, tunnels, and so on).

Structures can be classified in a number of ways:


  • Solid.
  • Frame.
  • Shell.
  • Membrane.
  • Composite.

Structural system:

  • Tensile.
  • Compressive.
  • Shear.
  • Bending.
  • Composite.



  • One-dimensional: Ropes, cables, struts, columns, beams, arches.
  • Two-dimensional: Membranes, plates, slab, shells, vaults.
  • Three-dimensional: Solid masses.
  • Composite.



See Elements of structure in buildings for more information.

Overall building form:

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