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Re: hillside construction

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Jamie Walsh:

The City of Los Angeles and SEAOSC formed a Northridge Earthquake Taskforce on
Hillside Dwellings because of the hazardous and fatal damage that occured to
that kind of construction in the Santa Monica Mountain areas of the San
Fernando Valley.  The output of that Taskforce included L.A. City Ordinances
for both new construction and residential retrofit.

The January 1996 SEAOSC Seminar titled "Structural Considerations of Building
Conservation Toward the 21st Century" included a presentation on some of the
findings of the Hillside DwellingTaskforce.  The Seminar Notes are probably
available from the SEAOSC Office.

The Taskforce dealt with above-foundation structure only; hillside foundations
generally performed well.  Houses built on concrete foundations that extended
from below grade upward to the floor framing did well.  Serious damage
occurred to wood and steel framing between the foundation and the at-grade

Bad-news items: 1) stilt-columns with tension only bracing; 2) plywood shear
walls built on the stepped tops of grade beams or footings; 3) plywood shear
walls built on the sloping tops of grade beams or footings; 4) floor diaphragm
framing not WELL anchored to the uphill footing -- don't let it act as a
diaphragm because horizontal diaphragm deflection will separate it from the
uphill footing damaging shear-resisting connectors; 5) framing on the uphill
side against which debris can accumulate and is not removed (moisture trapped
in debris gets into the framing and corrodes bolts & nails, and deteriorates
wood -- use very high stem walls).  

Related to items 2) and 3), plywood shearwalls that are not rectangular don't
work in the way that many designers tend to assume: they don't have a uniform
shear distribution, and they un-zip from the foundation starting at the top.  

Nels Roselund
Structural Engineer
"Only works on buildings that are older than him."