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IT is a curious point that the study of composite action in structures should appear to be one of the most modern of research subjects, for the best of designers have from ancient times been accustomed to look upon the structure as a whole. Bridge builders in particular, and medieval craftsmen in masonry structures, made good use of structural continuity. The advent of cast iron, and later of steel, has led to a specialization and a degree of precision in the analysis of frames that has become by now somewhat fictitious, unless of course the frame really is a bare frame. This over-concentration on frame analysis has led to a neglect of the study of the whole structure.
IN BRITAIN, clay products and brickwork are among the last materials that the structural engineer would expect to provide exciting news of technical innovations in his field. Brickwork has been the builder’s tried friend for many centuries, on the basis of all-round merits that are not combined to the same degree in any other material, and we tend to assume that our close friends could never surprise us. The structural possibilities of brickwork have been accurately defined in the present century by research into the relation between the strength of brick piers and walls and
that of the bricks and mortar used in their construction. The Building Research Station’s work in this field has dealt almost exclusively with the properties of brickwork built with solid bricks of standard size because few bricks of any other type
are made in Britain.