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In building construction, a horizontal member spanning an opening and carrying a load. The load may be a wall above the opening (seepost-and-beam system) or it may be a floor or roof. Beams may be of wood, steel or other metals, reinforced or prestressed concrete, plastic, or even brick with steel reinforcement. For weight reduction, metal beams are I-shaped, having a thin vertical web and thicker horizontal flanges where greater stress occurs. A joist is any of a series of small parallel beams supporting a floor or roof. See alsogirder, spandrel.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on beam, visit Britannica.com.