Constructing residential buildings isn’t as easy as you think. Contractors go through extensive planning to ensure no severe issues can put the structure and the occupants at risk. One factor they consider is the structural design loads in residential buildings, one of the most critical elements during the construction process.

There are at least six types of loads: dead load, live load, cold weather load, soil load, wind load, and earthquake load. Every contractor needs to learn about the different structural load types to ensure the building doesn’t falter over time. Note that every structure should have little to no issues once occupied by tenants to avoid unfortunate accidents and injuries.

What are Structural Loads?

Understanding structural loads are the first part of gaining a deeper knowledge of the construction element. A structural load is acceleration, deformation, or force applied to a specific structural element. A load is a type of force that causes deformation, displacement, or stress on a structure.

Placing too much load on the structure can cause it to crack or break, which can cause the structural integrity to fail. That’s why engineers, architects, and the entire construction team need to work together and create a structural design that considers how much load it will experience every day.

1. Dead Load

The first structural load you need to learn about is dead load, also known as static load. A dead load is a stationary area within a structure that doesn’t move for a long time. Structural elements included in a dead load are roofs, walls, support beams, and flooring materials.

Dead loads can also include immovable fixtures, permanent non-structural divisions, or any fixed element. During the construction process, contractors will add live load to dead load to provide the total loading applied on the structure. Workers calculate each structure’s dead load by the section’s volume multiplied by the unit material weight.

2. Live Load

The second type is live load, a civil engineering term related to a load that can shift over time. The load weights go to locations like people roaming around within a building. Any building element not fixed to the structure can result in a live load since contractors can move it around.

Contractors factor the live load into calculating the structure’s gravity load, and they measure the load in pounds per square foot. Keep in mind that contractors can establish minimum live-load conditions on the expected max load. A contractor can also convey a live load as a UDL (Uniformly Distributed Load) or a point load.

3. Wind Load

A wind load is the movement of air corresponding to a structure. Research indicates an understanding of aerodynamics and meteorology. Most engineers and contractors don’t worry too much about the wind load of small or large low-level buildings, but it will become a huge consideration when they start working on tall, high-rise buildings.

Contractors need to think about the structural materials they utilize during the construction process of tall buildings. Several things you have to consider when choosing materials include their shape and weight that can affect airflow. Keep in mind that higher areas tend to experience stronger airflow. Tall residential buildings might need ceiling access doors drop-in to block the winds from going into roof openings for technicians or homeowners to use.

4. Snow Load

During the winter season, snow can accumulate on the roof of buildings. That’s why snow load exists to ensure the structure can hold its integrity even with large amounts of snow on the roof. Contractors focus on constructing a more robust and sturdier roof foundation. However, they only have to build a sturdier roof foundation depending on the building’s geography. Building’s don’t have to worry about snow loads if they construct their buildings in areas that don’t experience winter.

5. Earthquake Load

Most areas experience more earthquakes, so the building must endure ground movement for minutes or hours. That’s where contractors take earthquake load into account and ensure that their structures can withstand an earthquake. The bigger the structural mass, the higher the earthquake loading the structure requires to avoid crumbling or falling over.

Seismic activities usually last for minutes, with aftershocks afterward. The earthquake loading’s magnitude will depend on the building’s mass or weight, dynamic properties, and contrasts in stiffness of adjoining floors, along with the earthquake’s length and intensity.

6. Special Load

You can also find other types of loads that rarely happen to most buildings. Some of the special loads include thermal, settlement, flood, or soil load. Thermal load occurs when the materials contract or expand during temperature changes, while the settlement load refers to one area within the building that settles more than other sites.

Flood load refers to the one caused by flooding around the building. Also, soil load happens when too much water causes the soil to erode.

Hopefully, you should have no problems determining the design load with the help of the six types mentioned above. Don’t forget to consult with a professional to ensure that you make sound decisions for your property.


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Author’s Bio

Chris Jackson is an experienced Business Development Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the construction industry. He is currently employed by Best Access Doors, an access door supplier in the US and Canada, and has been working for the company for more than 12 years now. His area of expertise is on Negotiation, Roofers, Sales, Project Estimation, and Facility Management (FM)