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Re: Fwd: Positive connection

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I was not going to reply to this line but your most recent posting (below) caused me to reconsider.

In the late 1970s there was a bridge under construction for use in Calgary's Light Rail transit (LRT) system. This bridge slipped off its foundations and landed up-side-down in the Elbow River. As I understand it, the bridge was a two-span steel box girder with a concrete top deck held latterly by pins, not anchor bolts; and thermal effects (snow on the deck combined with a low angle of the sun heating the lower part of the box girder) caused it to lift above the pins allowing it to slide off the supporting piers and into the river. Had the LRT rails been installed or had there been anchor bolts with nuts the accident probably wouldn't have happened. Sometimes it's useful to have a positive connection!

Regards to all,

Daryl Richardson

On 21/04/2014 9:49 AM, Steve Gordin wrote:
Good morning,

The question arose during a plancheck for one of my designs, and was related to the issue of whether a concrete shear key (or similar component) can be classified as a positive connection for a pedestrian bridge - even though it is not a steel attachment and allows some movement.

I got the reply from AISC Solution Center (below) this morning. Apparently, they did quite a research…

At the end of the day, the term appears to directly correlate to the
Merriam-Webster's definition of "positive:" formally laid down or imposed; fully assured;
independent of changing circumstances;
relating to or constituting a motion or device that is definite, unyielding, constant, or certain in its action; not fictitious;
directed or moving toward a source of stimulation.
Evidently, some smart engineer once coined the term - but forgot to define it...

They way I see it now, the definition for the positive connection should be something like: "A structural connection against all applicable forces that is fully assured without the consideration of friction."

Have a good week,


V. Steve Gordin PhD
Licensed Structural Engineer
SGE Consulting Structural Engineers
2081 Business Center Drive #105
Irvine CA 92612

Begin forwarded message:

From: "Solutions Center" <Solutions(--nospam--at)>
Subject: RE: Positive connection
Date: April 21, 2014 5:38:02 AM PDT
To: <sgordin(--nospam--at)>


It does not appear that the AISC Specification, or the IBC define “positive connection”. In fact, the only place that I found that provided a definition is in the FEMA E-74 document “Reducing the Risks of Nonstructural Earthquake Damage, Section 6.6.1 Positive Connections. There it states:
“The objective of nonstructural anchorage or restraint details is to
provide what engineers refer to as a positive connection between the item and a hard attachment point, such as a structural wall, braced partition, concrete floor, or built-in countertop. Positive connections generally consist of some combination of screws, bolts, cables, chains, straps, steel angles, and other steel hardware that transfer seismic loads to structural framing. Positive connections do not rely solely on the frictional resistance produced by the effects of gravity. Frictional resistance between the base of an object and the floor or mechanical friction connections such as C-clamps or thumbscrew clamps are not considered positive connections. The most common nonstructural connection details for wall attachments, floor or ceiling attachments, countertop attachments, and attachments between adjacent items are discussed below. GENERAL INTEREST SIDEBAR Earthquake Forces Keep in mind that although heavy objects are hard to move by hand, their weight (mass) interacts with the shaking (accelerations) of an earthquake to produce large inertial forces. Those forces mostly act sideways to make the object slide or tip, and there are also vertical motions in earthquakes that temporarily "lighten" an object and reduce frictional resistance.” You can find this online at < /seaint-seaosc/09421005.html>
Also, the term positive connection is sometimes used in relation to the
OSHA regulations related to rigging and lifting, though I was unable to
find a definition supplied by OSHA or even the use of this exact term in
the regulations – though I may have missed it. It can be inferred from
the context in which the term is used that a positive connection is one
which cannot accidentally become disengaged (i.e. slide off). For instance OSHA seems to deem a shackle through a lifting lug to be a positive connection, but a sling around a trunnion is not a positive connection. I suspect the term is typically not used in conjunction with the regulations related to steel erection since bolts provide a positive connection and
regulations relative to their use in steel erection are pretty explicit.
This definition of positive connection is also used informally in other
applications. The term positive connection can also refer to electrical
continuity and is also used this way in OSHA documents.” I hope this
helps. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Sincerely, Carlo Lini, P.E., LEED AP BD+C Staff Engineer American Institute of Steel Construction 866.ASK.AISC lsm/eng How did we do? Your opinion matters to us: for your chance to win a free Steel Construction Manual! This document has been prepared in accordance with information made available to the American Institute of Steel Construction at the time of its preparation. While it is believed to be accurate, it has not been prepared for conventional use as an engineering or construction document and should not be used or relied upon for any specific application without competent professional examination and verification of its accuracy, suitability, and applicability by a licensed engineer, architect or other professional. AISC disclaims any liability arising from information provided by others or from the unauthorized use of the information contained in this document.

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