What Bridge Design Holds the Most Weight?

By on July 27, 2007 -- Modified on September 14, 2017

What is the strongest bridge design?

This is the question I get asked the most.

Before we can begin to look for an answer, I need to know more specifically what you are looking for. Are you looking for the the strongest Type of Bridge, such as:

Bridge Types:

  • Beam
  • Arch
  • Truss
  • Suspension

Each of these has advantages and disadvantages. Each type could be the best for a specific situation, and there are a ton of factors that engineers must consider when choosing which one to use.

You can learn more about each of these by clicking the link above.

Perhaps you are asking about which truss design is the strongest. Since most model bridges are truss bridges, this is a great question to ask.

Truss Designs:

  • Warren
  • Pratt
  • Howe
  • Many More
Is the the Pratt, Howe, or the Warren truss stronger? Each of these designs, along with the host of variations, was developed for a specific reason or to make better use of existing or new materials or construction methods. Their history is fascinating, and you definitely should check out the articles about each of them.

Each truss design takes a load or force and spreads it out, eventually transferring it to the bridge abutments and/or piers.

So Which Truss is Strongest?

You really are going to pin me down to answering this question, aren’t you?

In my mind, none of these truss designs has an inherent advantage over the others in a very broad and general sense.

However, when we are considering small model bridges, I have a hard time seeing the Howe as efficient as the Pratt. But is one of these better than the most common, the Warren? You can explore my reasoning on this throughout this website.

Why don’t you take a look at each design and comment below which on you think is the best, especially in the context of model bridges.

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67 thoughts on “What Bridge Design Holds the Most Weight?”

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  1. Very good information to use for competitions

    By Niyah -- September 16, 2019
  2. How do the proportions and angles of the triangles in the truss allow it to function? Does geometry play a role or is it all physics?

    By Madison -- April 4, 2019
  3. Hi I Made A Warren Truss Bridge with The Side Members opposite To each other(the apex of one triangle faces base of triangle in front)…….will the bridge hold good weight

    By Jaydeep -- March 31, 2019
  4. So if I only have 10 ice-cream sticks, which design would make the strongest bridge yet within the 10 stick limit?

    By Poplol -- March 15, 2019
  5. What design would you recommend for a bridge building competition, where thin balsa wood sheets are used? We are allowed to use a laser cutter to create it.

    By Marcus -- March 3, 2019
    • You probably don’t want to laser cut your design out of a sheet of wood. The grain of the wood will not be oriented in the best way, and it will be very weak.

      By Garrett Boon -- March 5, 2019
  6. Thanks for the article, I was reading this to get ready for a competition tonight. This was very useful

    By GC -- February 25, 2019
  7. I’m building a bridge with a bowstring superstructure and a Warren substructure.

    What benefits does a substructure add, in your opinion, other than diverting force from the middle to the sides, and is a bowstring truss a better option than a Warren or Pratt?

    By Quavo Huncho -- January 4, 2019
    • Do you have a example picture of your design. I want to make sure I understand what you are building before trying to answer.

      By Garrett Boon -- January 23, 2019
  8. Great article, perhaps the different effectiveness of design depends on if the material used in the bridge is better at supporting members in tension or compression? Because if you had a material with a high maximum compression but a low maximum tension you’d surely go with the design that places less stress on the members in tension. Honestly that was what I was looking for when I came here, and after designing my bridge I hope I remember to come back and tell you the answer.

    By Levi Clagett -- November 25, 2018
    • Please do come back and share what you learned!

      By Garrett Boon -- November 25, 2018
  9. A very helpful article, though the question was not answered.):

    By Isabel -- April 16, 2018
  10. i really like this website because my challenge teacher Mrs. Simmons really likes us to go to this website every Tuesday and Thursday!

    thank you for making this website!

    By Morgan Tucker -- November 30, 2017
  11. OK article I guess

    By PPS -- November 30, 2017
    • what makes it “OK” instead of good

      By Derrick Saltzman -- December 5, 2017
  12. I think the warren truss is best

    By B.N.A -- November 13, 2017
    • How do you know?Did you try the warren design?The website won’t tell us so you can’t be like “The warren truss looks good so I’m going to choose it”

      By TC -- November 16, 2017
    • me too i think you are right the warren bridge is the strongesth

      By serenity hughes -- December 5, 2017
  13. Worthless article because you don’t answer the question. Pound for pound Howe Truss bridges are worthless when compared against Warren or Pratt. The real question is which is more efficient pound for pound: Warren or Pratt? You do not answer that question.

    By Charlie -- October 4, 2017
  14. I would like a bit more detail because I am doing an assignment on bridges and I have to make a model that can hold a lot of weight. The information wasn’t very precise but it was still very informational.

    By Anonymous -- August 22, 2017
    • I’ve reworked this article a bit and added more information, as well as directions for further study.

      By Garrett Boon -- September 14, 2017
  15. im doing a model truss bridge and was wondering which design would hold the most weight yet be made of the least amount of material. i was thinking the warren.

    By RJbeachrose48 -- April 7, 2017
    • It is hard to go wrong with any of the designs listed in this article. The key is in your implementation of the design.

      By Garrett Boon -- September 7, 2017
  16. Very interesting.. Good read!! #ubi #ulticon #ulticonbuildersinc

    By Ulticon Builders Inc -- March 7, 2017
    • So cool I wish I knew this before.

      By Donovan Weitzel -- May 17, 2017
  17. I am doing an EPQ about building the strongest bridge and was wondering which it would be? If it is a truss bridge, what materials would I need to physically make one roughly 1-2 meters long?

    By Jess Hodge -- January 3, 2017
    • Usually if it is a school project, they would give you balsa wood and wood glue. In that case, you would want to make a lot of triangle or crossing shapes, like a parker bridge or a double intersecting warren bridge. and these are just truss bridges! It all depends on what kind of bridge you are building. (if you do not know what the bridges are that I just listed, you can look them up online.)

      By Anonymous -- January 5, 2017
  18. I did a test between a warren and a string stayed bridge in the end they both broke at twenty five pounds .

    By goobster -- November 1, 2016
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