What Is Shear Wall?
A shear wall is a structural component used in building construction to provide lateral support and resistance against horizontal forces such as wind loads, seismic forces, and other lateral loads. It is designed to primarily carry shear forces, which are forces that act parallel to the plane of the wall.
Shear walls are typically constructed as vertical, thin walls made of materials such as reinforced concrete, masonry, or steel. They are strategically placed throughout a building’s layout, often near the building’s corners or along the building’s perimeter. Shear walls work by transferring the lateral loads from the upper parts of the building down to the foundation, effectively resisting the forces that could cause the building to sway, tilt, or collapse.
Purpose of Shear Wall
The primary purpose of shear walls in building construction is to provide lateral support and resistance against horizontal forces, such as:
To fulfill these purposes effectively, shear walls are strategically placed and designed based on the specific requirements of the building’s location, height, shape, and anticipated forces. Engineers analyze the building’s structural response to various loads and design the shear walls to provide the necessary strength and stiffness to resist these forces and maintain the safety and integrity of the structure.
Forces on a Shear Wall
These walls are primarily designed to withstand two types of forces:
- Shear force
- Uplift force
1. Shear Force
Shear forces in buildings are caused by ground movement and lateral pressures such as wind and waves. Between the top and bottom wall connectors, these forces are present across the entire height of the wall.
2. Uplift Force
Due to horizontal forces acting on the top of the wall, shear walls produce uplift forces. These forces try to lift one end of the wall while pushing the other end down.
Tall, short walls are more affected by uplift forces than are low, long walls. To provide the required lifting resistance, they occasionally need to hold down devices.
Classification of Shear Wall
Shear walls can be classified based on various criteria, including their location, function, materials, and structural configuration. Here are some common classifications of shear walls:
Based on Location
Based on Function
Based on Materials
Based on Structural Configuration
Based on Seismic Resistance
Based on Architectural Considerations
Based on Load Path
These classifications provide insight into the various types and roles of shear walls in building structures. The selection of the appropriate type of shear wall depends on factors such as the building’s location, design, anticipated loads, and architectural preferences.
Types of Shear Walls
Shear walls come in various types, each with specific characteristics and applications. Here are some common types of shear walls:
Concrete Shear Walls
Ordinary Shear Walls
Regular reinforced concrete walls used to provide lateral resistance against wind and seismic forces.
Coupled Shear Walls
Two or more shear walls connected by beams or slabs, enhancing overall lateral stiffness and load distribution.
Core Shear Walls
Placed in the central core of a building, often in high-rise structures, to counteract lateral loads.
Masonry Shear Walls
Unreinforced Masonry Shear Walls
Traditional walls made of bricks or concrete blocks. They might be used in older buildings but are less common in modern construction due to their limited capacity to resist lateral loads.
Reinforced Masonry Shear Walls
Masonry walls with added reinforcement to improve their strength and ability to withstand lateral forces.
Steel Shear Walls
Steel Plate Shear Walls
Thin steel plates or panels used to provide lateral resistance. They are commonly used in steel-framed buildings.
Steel Frame with Shear Panels
Steel frames combined with panels made of other materials, like plywood or gypsum, to enhance lateral stiffness.
Braced Shear Walls
Diagonal Braced Shear Walls
Diagonal braces, often in an “X” pattern, are used to resist lateral forces. They are common in steel-framed structures.
Knee Braced Shear Walls
Additional diagonal braces positioned at knee height, providing stiffness and stability.
Inverted-T Shear Walls
Walls with an inverted-T shape, combining a vertical wall with horizontal extensions at the top. These extensions act as cantilevers, enhancing the wall’s resistance to lateral loads.
Strap Beam Shear Walls
Walls incorporating strap beams, which are horizontal beams that link vertical elements. They help distribute loads and enhance lateral resistance.
Thin Shear Walls
Designed to be slender while still providing sufficient strength against lateral loads. These walls are often used to maximize floor space.
Precast Concrete Shear Walls
Prefabricated concrete walls manufactured off-site and assembled on-site. They offer speed in construction and consistent quality.
Fiber-Reinforced Polymer (FRP) Shear Walls
Shear walls constructed using lightweight and corrosion-resistant FRP materials. They are useful in retrofitting existing structures.
Hollow Core Shear Walls
Shear walls with hollow cores, offering reduced weight while maintaining structural integrity.
Unbonded Shear Walls
Shear walls where the reinforcement is not directly bonded to the concrete core. This allows for limited inelastic behavior during earthquakes.
Hybrid Shear Walls
Combination of different shear wall types or materials to optimize performance and address specific structural requirements.