Structural Design – Dead Load vs. Live Loads

Structural Design – Dead Load vs. Live Loads


Structural loads may induce stress, deformation, and displacement, leading to structural difficulties or even failure; thus, structural analysis is an essential aspect of the structural design of buildings and other structures like bridges and tunnels. Engineers must base their planning and method following building codes to resist all load types they expect to encounter over the structure’s lifespan.

The Two Categories

There are typically two load categories: dead load and live load. The weight of structural parts of a building, such as walls, beams, structural floors, and ceilings, are examples of dead loads, also known as permanent or static loads, that remain essentially constant throughout time.

The ones considered as dead loads can be the permanent non-structural dividers, fixed fixtures, installations like ceiling access door drop-in, and even built-in cabinets. The applied or imposed loads (live loads) may change over time. Audience weight in a theater is an example of a typical live load.

Live Load

The phrase “live load” refers to a load that can alter over time in civil engineering. When individuals walk into a building, the weight can cause fluctuations or shifts in positions. Because it can freely move about, anything in a building that isn’t attached to the structure might cause a live load. Engineers also take it into account when determining a structure’s gravity load.

Because structural strength is dependent on live load, knowing the specific intended usage of the structure is critical. The amount of live weight it can carry depends significantly on the mass of dead load it can handle. Because of its immense compressive strength, reinforced concrete produces the highest freight and bears the most weight.

In multi-story buildings, structural steel has a low dead load and offers superior support for live loads. Natural and engineered wood is lighter than steel and concrete on the foundations, but they sustain a lower living load.

Pounds per square foot is how they’re measured. The projected maximum load determines the minimum live-load requirements. One can describe it as a load operating on a concentrated region or acting on a uniformly dispersed area (UDL) (point load). It’s possible to include it in gravity load calculations in the future.

Dead Load

The weight of a building’s structural parts, such as roof, structural flooring components, beams, and walls, are examples of dead loads, also known as permanent or static loads, that remain essentially constant throughout time. Permanent non-structural dividers, fixed fixtures, and even built-in cabinets can all be considered dead loads.

Before considering any live loads, one needs to consider the structure’s weight or any permanent parts. One can calculate the overall loading imposed on the design by adding the live and dead loads. As a result, before accepting extra load from living or usage in a structure, the inclusion of the foundation system, the building material used, and concrete for any service is a must in the calculation of dead load, the weight of its components, and downward forces imposed from the earth.

Other Load Types

There are other loads that need to be considered during the structural design of a construction. They include the followings

Environmental Loads

As a result of geographical and meteorological circumstances, environmental loads may act on a building.

Wind Load

The flow of air adjacent to a building can apply wind loads. It requires analysis of aerodynamics, meteorology, and construction. Wind load may not be a significant worry for small, heavy, low-rise structures. Still, it becomes more relevant when buildings rise in height, utilizing lighter materials and using shapes that alter airflow, such as roof forms.

Additional construction and fixings may be necessary when a structure’s deadweight is insufficient to withstand wind stresses. When the building’s height reaches two times the measurements transverse to the exposed wind surface, one needs to consider wind load in structural design.

Snow Load

The weight that the snow buildup may impose is more of a worry in areas with regular snowfall. Snow may accumulate in large amounts, putting significant stress on a building. The design of a roof has a considerable impact on the load of snow that falls on it.

Earthquake Load

The inertial force created in the structure due to seismic events causes earthquake load—the inertia force changes depending on the mass. Because the form has a more significant concentration, the earthquake loading will be higher as well. When it exceeds the element’s phase of resistance, the structure will shatter or sustain damage.

The engineers can determine the magnitude of earthquake loading by the building’s mass or weight, dynamic qualities, and stiffness differences between adjacent levels, and the earthquake’s strength and length. The force of an earthquake operates on the surface of a structure on the ground or a neighboring building. A thorough investigation of the buildings in seismically active places can guarantee that they will not collapse if an earthquake occurs.

Load Combination

When more than one load type operates on a structure, it is called a load combination. Building codes often prescribe a range of load combinations and weightings for each load type to assure the structure’s safety under various maximum predicted loading situations.

Analyzing the load capacity of a structure can ensure that it will stay robust and resilient. For this reason, designers need to incorporate designs that consider these factors for the safety of all who will inhabit the building once its construction phase completes. Only get your advice from a licensed professional to ensure that all risks get factored in.


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