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RE: Lateral Load--Is it THE Design?

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To me it kind of depends on the house.  I’ve done super custom homes where the lateral was easily 50 to 60% of the design.  That means design or the number crunching end of things, not 50% of design and drafting.  Anyway, sizing members for gravity loads was easy but resolving the lateral issues when the architect was really stuck on his 8th (oops got to watch the location of that th) wonder of the world, was a real “bear cat”.  Had lateral designs involving masonry, steel and light framing all on one project.


I’m also looking for that “holy grail”.  I’m new to an area where the lateral issues are the worst that I have seen for acceptance as something that needs to be looked at.  Per my training, I can’t ignore it, but I lose money for my employer every time I do.  He doesn’t fully understand since he is not a structural, but a civil engineer.  Some clients become absolutely livid at the mention, and the building department (in my opinion) accepts plans done by the conventional framing provisions when I don’t think they should.


Joe Grill




-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Polhemus [mailto:bill(--nospam--at)]
Thursday, September 16, 2004 6:44 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Lateral Load--Is it THE Design?




Is it just me, or is everyone here pretty much resigned to the fact that lateral loads dicate maybe 80% of our efforts?


Of course I know those of you on the Left Coast who do commercial & facilities design know this because of seismic, but even those doing residential there admit that wind loads tend to govern their designs, and they still spend the greater portion of their efforts in this.


This comes to mind because in talking with typical clients, they just don’t seem to “get it.” They say “why are these roof purlins so big? There’s not that much load on them!” and I have to tell them about design for wind. They say “but it doesn’t get that windy here!”


Now, how silly a comment is that? Ask the folks in Gulf Shores, AL, just how “windy” it got last night! When I say to them that we have to design for hurricanes, they act like I’m just being outrageously conservative.


I have begun telling them that lateral loads account for the majority of building structural failures (I’m flying by the seat of my pants here; I have no way of knowing if this but every time I see photos of devastation it’s hurricane or earthquake).


Anyway, just thought I’d solicit some comments on this topic.