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RE: Load Bearing-Shear Wall Wood & Light Gage Panelized Systems

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This is a loaded question. In a short answer, I don’t think that there is an affordable solution that will offer the creativity that Architects might design into custom buildings such as custom home. On the higher end, there is Risa-Floor, but the software is intended more for a commercial or industrialized panelized solution to gravity loads and lateral forces.  Coming down the line (of those I am familiar with) there is Woodworks which has evolved into a very good program from what others tell me. However, there is a learning curve and importing a model is not as easy or intuitive as you appear to want. Still, it will handle both flexible and rigid analysis of more creative types of structures such as custom homes. I am not sure whether they (or anyone) have solved the problem of non-orthogonal shear walls. A free spreadsheet – Multi-Lat™ will give you the tools but lacks a good tutorial or design manual. Having written it, I don’t have a lot of time to finish it off and make it user friendly. It’s on my “to-do” list but I don’t expect to complete this until the end of the year.


In my opinion, I would choose to create my own template calculations using various tools – Excel (spreadsheets), MathCAD and TEDDS – all of which are fine programming and analysis tools. I firmly believe that the Enercalc library is a necessity in my stable of tools – why re-invent the wheel when the upgrades are affordable. RetainPro, Risa Technology tools (Risa Foot, Risa2D or 3D, etc.), or your own choice of commercial tools should round out your library. The trick is to create your own link between the software so as to track the loads – laterally and vertically from roof to foundation. I like Spreadsheets for this and spend time going through truss calculations to export out uniform or point loads that are applied to beams, headers and walls and finally a naming system to allow me to track from a beam reaction to a column with a similar nomenclature and down to a foundation.


There is no easy solution to this, but it sure beats re-creating the library of already successful tools and the size of your investment also is proportional to the size of the projects you work on. Large commercial and industrial projects warrant a Risa type tool (although don’t discount the value of a simple Risa2D ).  Most of these programs will allow the design of Cold-Formed sections (Risa3D lets you design wood, concrete, hot-rolled and cold-formed sections from an excellent library. I hadn’t used the program in a few years (I don’t do much with steel) and after a couple of phone calls to tech-support to get me back on track I found that Risa 3D is as intuitive as I remember.


On a side note, I could not coordinate all of this without a good CAD program (I use AutoCad ADT 2005 which I have grown very fond of) and Adobe Acrobat to put my calculation packages together – all of my libraries of tools print well into Adobe Acrobat and the savings in paper is a blessing. A simple graphics program for sketches makes an easier solution to using AutoCad to put a simple sketch into your analysis package (like a beam section or shearwall sketch).


Bottom line – there is no one program that can do what you want with a few button presses – you still have to do the work albeit the work is no longer as cumbersome as it was twenty years ago.


Dennis S. Wish, PE

California Professional Engineer

Structural Engineering Consultant



-----Original Message-----
From: prmeng(--nospam--at) [mailto:prmeng(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Sunday, June 06, 2004 8:33 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Load Bearing-Shear Wall Wood & Light Gage Panelized Systems


Does anyone know of any software program that would allow the combination of shear walls, load bearing walls,  floor joists, headers and posts all in one user-friendly input system for the analyis and design of low-rise residential buildings ? I have not been able to find a software that would allow to model panels of shear walls, walls, and joists, all with a simple four click step that will create the joists or studs all in one simple step.  These buildings are becoming more popular but far more difficult to model all in one single model due to the great number of studs and joists when closely spaced, specially when the buildings have irregular shapes in plan.


Pedro R. Muñoz, Ph.D., P.E.

PRM Engineering

e-mail: PRMeng(--nospam--at)


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