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# Columns: Hillary's Neighborhood

Media Type:
Video

Running Time: 0m 52s
Size: 2.6 MB

or

Source: ZOOM

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In this video segment from ZOOM, Hillary, from Randolph, MA, proves she knows a thing or two about columns. She identifies their structural components, explains how and where they are used, and encourages viewers to look around their own communities for columns. If they're anything like her town, columns are everywhere!

Background Essay

Vertical columns are typically paired with horizontal beams to provide the structural framework for most buildings today. Columns become strong under compression, the squeezing produced by the downward force exerted by a load and the counteracting force upward from the ground. A column must manage two types of load: (1) dead load, or the weight of the structure it supports, plus any permanent fixtures; and (2) live load, which includes people, furniture, cars, or other non-permanent objects whose weight bears down on the structure.

When properly designed and loaded, a column (or grouping of columns) is able to support a lot of weight because it transfers it directly to the ground. A column can fail in two basic ways. A load placed off-center can cause the column to bend or buckle. To prevent this, it is important to center a load squarely over the middle third of the top of the column. The second kind of failure occurs when the maximum strength of a column's material is exceeded by the weight of the load. When this happens, the column crushes, or collapses.

Discussion Questions

• Can you think of two or three buildings in your neighborhood where columns are used to support the structure?
• What kinds of materials make up the columns? What can you conclude about which materials are strong under compression?
• If you compared columns used for support in buildings with columns used as decoration, what differences do you think you might find?

• Transcript

HILLARY L.: Hi, I'm Hillary, and I'm standing in front of my local library. I'm going to talk to you about... columns!

Columns help keep up heavy structures like buildings and houses. In fact, in the ruins of ancient Greece, all that's left is the columns.

Columns are made out of compressing strong material like concrete, steel or wood. They come in all sorts of sizes. The top is the capital, the middle is the shaft, and the bottom is the base.

Sometimes they are hidden behind walls. And sometimes they're out in the open, like these. Or they can be used for decorative or monumental purposes. That's what I know about columns

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