Feasibility of Kinetic Umbrellas as Deployable Flood Barriers during Landfalling Hurricanes

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The legacy of structural artist Félix Candela is defined by his integration of thin hyperbolic paraboloid (hypar) shells within architecture across the Americas. One such form is the inverted umbrella, arising from the merger of four straight-edged hypar quadrants. The strength and elegance embodied by this geometry facilitated the recent conceptualization of kinetic umbrellas as an adaptable alternative to conventional floodwalls against surge-induced coastal inundation. Although the conceptual feasibility of such structures under hydrostatic inundation has been ascertained, their performance under combined surge and wave loading remains unknown. This paper used a three-dimensional (3D) numerical scheme integrating smoothed particle hydrodynamics with finite-element modeling for the structural analysis of kinetic umbrellas under the hydrodynamic regime. The technique was validated via dam-break testing involving 3D-printed specimens, and through empirical wave pressure formations at full scale. The behavior of kinetic umbrellas subject to surge and wave impact imparted by Hurricane Sandy (2012) at Monmouth Beach, New Jersey, was evaluated across different hypar geometries and angles of wave attack. Results showed the introduction of hypar geometry significantly enhances structural performance such that a 100-mm-thick umbrella successfully can resist hydrodynamic wave forces accompanying 2.7 m of inundation from landfalling hurricanes. Ultimately, this paper illustrates a creative yet practical structural engineering solution for mitigating the effects of climate change in coastal communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number04022047
JournalJournal of Structural Engineering (United States)
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • General Materials Science
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


  • Dam-break experiment
  • Finite-element modeling
  • Hurricane Sandy
  • Hyperbolic paraboloid (hypar)
  • Kinetic umbrella
  • Smoothed particle hydrodynamics
  • Storm surge


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