Biomimicry: The Turtle Shell (Dorsal Carapace) 
Name: Winhern Wong Yin Hang



Most of the current building design has a reinforced cast-in-place concrete structure. This system is somewhat difficult and time-consuming to construct due to the need to place the formwork and shoring. The existing structural system is somewhat inefficient in terms of material usage. Due to the limited strength of the structural material, the bay sizes are restricted, resulting in a dense column grid. The reinforced concrete system has a high weight, which results in the need for large foundations. On the other hand, unfortunately, most homeless shelters do look cheap and simple, as they are usually poorly planned temporary structures to ‘accommodate’ the homeless until they get a job. Homeless people are suffering from displacement, lack of safe and adequate shelter, and extreme consequences of poverty. A simple safe and secure place to sleep and keep belongings is critical to anyone forced to live on the streets. The social stigma towards the homeless leads to them being classified as the underclass of society, resulting in them being further isolated and neglected. The approach of this design, which may admittedly require more fine-tuning in terms of practicality, is to provide a plug-and-play system with flexible spaces of living for the homeless. To achieve the goals of creating more durability and flexibility building, shortening construction time, reducing weight, and building costs, the structural depth study of this report is by looking to nature for inspiration, to identify features that can be incorporated into a design, including form and structure, long life, superior function, and adaptability. In many cases, the results are buildings that are highly efficient, more durable, and require less energy and construction materials. 

The Turtle Shell (Dorsal Carapace)

Unlike most shelled animals, the turtle cannot completely remove itself from its shell. This is because the shells are part of their bone structure.


  • The turtle’s biological structure is predominately designed around an upper and lower hinged shell combination which can retract its head, arms, and legs entirely within the shell’s enclosure when threatened by predators.

  • Solution is the strength of the upper shell and its ability to withstand sharp forces and heavy loads from predator piercing, pounding, and landscape fall



  • A turtle’s shell structure consists of two separate pieces—an upper shell and a bottom shell—joined at the sides by a bony bridge.

  • The upper shell, called the carapace, may be highly domed, low and rounded, or flattish on top with steep sides.

  • The bottom shell, or plastron, is flat or slightly concave.


  • Two shells are each composed of an inner layer of bone fused to the ribs and other bony structures of the animal’s body and an outer layer of horn.

  • Both layers are made up of sections that fit together like pieces of a mosaic. However, the sections of the two layers do not coincide.


Description of Project

In a world increasingly challenged by both man-made and natural disasters, the Shelter has been designed as a sustainable housing prototype that can be configured to suit almost any climate or orientation and can be readily and cheaply transported to diverse and remote locations around the globe. Arriving flat-packed, the Shelter can be assembled quickly and has the potential to make a significant difference when applied to a range of medium to long-term housing solutions, it could also provide immediate solutions to the industry as it moves to frontier locations. Most importantly, by providing refuge and security for families and communities in crisis, the Shelter can give back to societies in need everywhere. Beyond emergency relief, the Shelter is known as the Pavilion, a flexible module of space that could be used as any other functional space. This project is intended to create a prototype of a homeless or emergency shelter by using biomimicry of turtle shell structure. Hence, it is required to adopt an in dept research and study the turtle’s shell structure to identify the vital component of the turtle skeleton for the prototype. However, the research question of this project is How can we enhance the durability and stability of the building structure by a combination of shapes and structures that would normally be vulnerable to breakage?. The project will aim to study a dome-like shelter structure design such as a homeless shelter or emergency shelter that can both strong, lightweight.The prototype of the shelter can be in lighter structures, algorithmic design as well as implementing innovative and sustainable materials. The shelter design aims for adaptability which capacity of a building to support multiple functions without altering the architecture itself. In simple terms, the function of the building changes but the building does not. Examples include furniture that can be re-positioned, multi-function spaces, and so on. These do not result in a permanent change to space. Moreover, the shelter also aims for moveable. Structures can be repositioned within the environment without being changed or altered in any major way. Examples might include moveable fabric structures, re-locatable retail units, temporary accommodation which the buildings capable of being torn down and reassembled in another location. Furthermore, the shelter which responsive. Structures can react to external stimuli such as weather conditions. The changes are often temporary but may be resource-intensive. Examples include floating buildings that rise and fall with changes in water level, lasting when earthquakes different levels of terrain, unstable land conditions, and so on.
In the end, there is an experiment conducted with the prototype test which is comparing 2 models which in similar length and width to test which can carry more load without bending or collapse. The comparison shows that the turtle dome-like structure is more durable and stronger than the conventional structure by use four columns and without any column support at the middle. To use a total of 1.24kg weight to test the load of the prototype and determined whether the load of the prototype structure can be long-lasting.

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