Is it possible to build a two storey building just using bricks (no wooden beams, steel beams or steel reinforcement) to suspend the floor of the second storey?

I'm aware that using wooden beams is an option, however because of the environment of the build (tropical rains, humidity, termites, ants, beetles and millions of other insects), I would much prefer to use only brick - if this is possible.

Ideally there will be no intermediate supports; the floor structure will span from one external wall to the other.

I have an intuitive feeling that an efficient structure can be built using just bricks - but I can't quite articulate it.

Has this been done before - is this even possible?

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    $\begingroup$ @AndyT: I understood it as the structure should only be supported by the external walls, without any columns in the middle of the room. Not sure about beams, though... can they cross the room or should they only appear near the perimeter? $\endgroup$ – Wasabi Mar 9 '17 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Wasabi apologies for the ambiguity, I'm an engineer - but from a different discipline :/ What I meant by "suspended" was as AndyT explained it - i.e.: that it be supported only by the external walls - without any columns in the middle of the room below the structure - i.e. no columns in the room on the ground floor. $\endgroup$ – Homunculus Reticulli Mar 9 '17 at 17:06
  • $\begingroup$ @AndyT The second story will be the same size as the first story (i.e. ground floor). $\endgroup$ – Homunculus Reticulli Mar 9 '17 at 17:07
  • $\begingroup$ @AndyT your comment: "he solution is a nice masonry arch/dome... with a nice big distance between first storey ceiling and second storey floor..." is exactly what I was thinking, but waited to see if someone more knowledgeable would suggest it first. $\endgroup$ – Homunculus Reticulli Mar 9 '17 at 17:10
  • $\begingroup$ reinforced concrete beams will insulate the reinforcing steel from the elements. $\endgroup$ – ratchet freak Mar 10 '17 at 11:42

Of course it can be done - masonry bridges suspend a bridge deck above a void, you could use the same technique to support the floor for your second storey.

Of course, in order to avoid tension in your masonry (masonry is not good at tension) you need an arch that is close to a catenary in shape. This means that the crown (top) of your arch is going to be a fairly big height above your springing (bottom of the arch). My intuition is that your "two storey" house will be the height of a normal three storey house, with the arch taking up the height of a storey.

If you want the floor of your second storey to be flat, you'll need fill over the arch. This adds weight and hence causes more thrust.

With a masonry arch bridge there's a big thrust resisted at the abutments. This is resisted by the mass of soil. For your house to resist it you're going to need very thick walls.

So: technically feasible but not very practical.

Of course, there are also plenty of other materials out there which aren't steel or wood. Fibre reinforced polymers would work, but they're not going to be cheap!

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    $\begingroup$ Would the most adequate shape really be a catenary, though? That's only valid for uniformly distributed loads, while the depth of fill over your arch would be variable: approximately nothing over the apex, and equal to the arch's height at the supports. $\endgroup$ – Wasabi Mar 9 '17 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Wasabi - true. It definitely wouldn't need to be a catenary, but I think it would still be close to one. I don't have enough experience (i.e. any) of masonry arches to say anything further though. $\endgroup$ – AndyT Mar 10 '17 at 9:27

Yes it can be done, a 2 or 3 story brick house with no steel is the standard home construction method in plenty of places. However wood beams are normally used for the upper floor and roof supporting structures. Avoiding any use of structural wood would get tricky, for the roof you could dome it in some way but I have no idea how you would create the upper floors.

And don't try this anywhere with a risk of earthquakes.

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  • $\begingroup$ youtube.com/watch?v=56cjM1hNUg0 for a demonstration of a domed brick roof. $\endgroup$ – Wasabi Mar 9 '17 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Andrew thanks for the video link. I can't help noticing that the area being traversed by the roof, is rather small - so this type of structure may be not be entirely applicable/practical for houses with a much larger floorplan size. It looks like wooden beams may be the way to go.. Do you have any links to 2 or 3 storey brick houses that use no steel? - better if its been done in tropical climes. $\endgroup$ – Homunculus Reticulli Mar 9 '17 at 17:15

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