Designs, Codes and Cryptography

, Volume 81, Issue 2, pp 365–391 | Cite as

On generalized Howell designs with block size three

  • R. Julian R. Abel
  • Robert F. Bailey
  • Andrea C. Burgess
  • Peter Danziger
  • Eric Mendelsohn


In this paper, we examine a class of doubly resolvable combinatorial objects. Let \(t, k, \lambda , s\) and v be nonnegative integers, and let X be a set of v symbols. A generalized Howell design, denoted t-\(\mathrm {GHD}_{k}(s,v;\lambda )\), is an \(s\times s\) array, each cell of which is either empty or contains a k-set of symbols from X, called a block, such that: (i) each symbol appears exactly once in each row and in each column (i.e. each row and column is a resolution of X); (ii) no t-subset of elements from X appears in more than \(\lambda \) cells. Particular instances of the parameters correspond to Howell designs, doubly resolvable balanced incomplete block designs (including Kirkman squares), doubly resolvable nearly Kirkman triple systems, and simple orthogonal multi-arrays (which themselves generalize mutually orthogonal Latin squares). Generalized Howell designs also have connections with permutation arrays and multiply constant-weight codes. In this paper, we concentrate on the case that \(t=2\), \(k=3\) and \(\lambda =1\), and write \(\mathrm {GHD}(s,v)\). In this case, the number of empty cells in each row and column falls between 0 and \((s-1)/3\). Previous work has considered the existence of GHDs on either end of the spectrum, with at most 1 or at least \((s-2)/3\) empty cells in each row or column. In the case of one empty cell, we correct some results of Wang and Du, and show that there exists a \(\mathrm {GHD}(n+1,3n)\) if and only if \(n \ge 6\), except possibly for \(n=6\). In the case of two empty cells, we show that there exists a \(\mathrm {GHD}(n+2,3n)\) if and only if \(n \ge 6\). Noting that the proportion of cells in a given row or column of a \(\mathrm {GHD}(s,v)\) which are empty falls in the interval [0, 1 / 3), we prove that for any \(\pi \in [0,5/18]\), there is a \(\mathrm {GHD}(s,v)\) whose proportion of empty cells in a row or column is arbitrarily close to \(\pi \).


Generalized Howell designs Triple systems Doubly resolvable designs 

Mathematics Subject Classification

Primary 05B07 05B15 Secondary 05B40 94B25 



The authors would like to thank Esther Lamken for a number of useful comments and in particular for suggesting the intransitive starter-adder method, which was used for several of the smaller GHDs in this paper. R. F. Bailey is supported by the Vice-President (Grenfell Campus) Research Fund, Memorial University of Newfoundland. A. C. Burgess and P. Danziger are supported by an NSERC Discovery Grant.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Julian R. Abel
    • 1
  • Robert F. Bailey
    • 2
  • Andrea C. Burgess
    • 3
  • Peter Danziger
    • 4
  • Eric Mendelsohn
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Mathematics and StatisticsUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Division of Science (Mathematics), Grenfell CampusMemorial University of NewfoundlandCorner BrookCanada
  3. 3.Department of Mathematical SciencesUniversity of New BrunswickSaint JohnCanada
  4. 4.Department of MathematicsRyerson UniversityTorontoCanada

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