4 Types of Cantilevered Structures | Materials, Pros and Cons

Cantilever structures are elements that consist of a projecting beam or structure that is supported at only one end, while the other end remains free to carry load. 

The primary purpose of cantilever structures is to create open and unobstructed spaces without the need for additional support columns or walls. This results in a larger and more open space, with an enhanced sense of visual appeal. They can be used to create balconies, overhanging roofs, and canopies, among other features, adding to the aesthetic appeal of the building.

Type of Cantilevered Structures Based on Materials

  1. Steel
  2. Concrete
  3. Timber
  4. Composite

Cantilever structures are designed in various shapes and sizes, depending on the specific requirements, making them a versatile and popular choice in modern architecture. 

1. Steel

Steel is a popular material for cantilever structures, as it can be used to create complex shapes and designs, making it perfect for high-rise buildings and other structures that require a high degree of strength. 

Steel also has desirable qualities like:

  • Resistance to corrosion
  • Durability and strength
  • Easy to make
  • Flexibility and variety 
  • Outdoor weather resistance
  • Can be coated to enhance its properties

The Burj Al Arab in Dubai

Cantilevered Steel Structure in Burj Al Arab
Cantilevered Steel Structure in Burj Al Arab

The Burj Al Arab complex is a luxurious hotel that features a cantilevered helipad on the 28th floor. The helipad extends 27 meters out from the building’s edge, providing a stunning view of the Persian Gulf. The helipad was constructed on the ground and then lifted to the 28th floor using a crane, making it a remarkable feat of engineering.

2. Concrete

Concrete is another popular material for cantilever structures in architecture due to its strength, durability, and fire-resistance. It can be used to create large, stable structures, and is often used in bridges, stadiums, and other large-scale projects. The material is long-lasting and can withstand harsh weather conditions.

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain

Cantilevered Concrete Structure in Guggenheim Museum
Cantilevered Concrete Structure in Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, is a renowned example of cantilever structures in the architectural world. Designed by Frank Gehry, the museum’s roof extends over the adjacent river, with its unique shape resembling a metallic flower. The cantilevered roof is supported by massive pillars, which create an overhang that allows visitors to enjoy the museum’s outdoor spaces.

3. Timber

Timber is a renewable and sustainable material that is often used in residential and commercial applications. It is:

  • Lightweight
  • Easy to design and work with
  • Provides a warm and natural aesthetic
  • Cost-effective option

Although timber may not be as durable as steel or concrete, after being treated, it can offer long-term durability while maintaining its natural beauty.

The Trojan House by Jackson Clemens Burrows Pty. Ltd

Timber Cantilevered Structure in The Trojan House
Timber Cantilevered Structure in The Trojan House

The cantilevered part of the house was built over the already existing ground floor. The childrens’ bedrooms with an attached toilet is inside the cantilevered structure.

4. Composites

Composites are relatively new materials that are gaining popularity in cantilever structures in recent years. Composites are made from a combination of materials, such as carbon fiber and epoxy resin, and offer a high degree of strength and durability. They can be used in complex shapes and designs, and are lightweight, making them ideal for applications where weight is a concern.

Trumpf Gatehouse by Barkov Leibinger Architects

Composite Cantilevered Structure at Trumpf Gatehouse
Composite Cantilevered Structure at Trumpf Gatehouse

This cantilevered structure was made using steel and acrylic glass by laser-cutting, welding and bolting. This structure spans over 20 meters across the street, creating an interesting space in the area.

Advantages of Cantilevered Structures

1. Open Spaces

Cantilever structures allow for more open spaces without additional columns, walls, or support. This creates a sense of openness and flow within a building, which is particularly desirable in modern architecture.

2. Balconies and Protruding Sections

Cantilever structures are often used in high-rise buildings to create balconies and protruding sections, which provide additional outdoor space and stunning views.

3. Flexible Design

Cantilever structures are flexible in design, allowing architects to create unique and eye-catching structures that are tailored to specific needs and requirements. This feature makes them ideal for creating aesthetically pleasing structures that stand out from traditional buildings.

Disadvantages of Cantilevered Structures

1. Complex Design and Construction

Cantilevers require precise calculations and engineering to ensure that they are structurally sound and safe to use. This complexity can make them more challenging to design and build than traditional structures.

2. Higher Construction Costs

Cantilever structures can be more expensive to build than traditional structures due to their unique design and construction requirements. This factor can be a significant consideration for architects and builders.

3. Safety Concerns

Cantilever structures can be more prone to vibrations and movement, which can be a safety concern. This is particularly true in high-rise buildings and other structures that are subject to wind and seismic activity. 

Future Advancements In Cantilevered Structures

1. Sensors

One area of future development in cantilever structures is the use of smart materials and sensors. These materials can monitor the structural health of a cantilever structure in real-time, alerting engineers to potential issues before they become a safety concern. 

2. 3D Printing Technology

Another area of future development is the use of 3D printing technology to create cantilever structures.

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