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Lecture 11

Shear Walls

Dr. Zaher Abou Saleh

1) The Behaviour of Shear Wall Structures.

2) Analysis of Proportionate Walls Systems:

- Non-twisting structures
- Twisting structures.

3) Analysis of Non-Proportionate Wall Systems, software analysis:

- Non-twisting structures
- Twisting structures.
4) Applications (class work)

A major structural system in todays tall building structural design is the use of
shear walls. Structures that solely rely on shear walls is obviously called a shear wall

Shear walls provide a high in-plane stiffness and strength for both lateral and
gravity loads, and are ideally suitable for tall buildings, especially those conceived
in reinforced concrete.

Tall buildings designed to carry the entire lateral loading through shear walls can
be economical to heights of around 40-stories. Taller structures than 40 stories
usually combine shear walls with other structural systems.

Shear walls are continuous from the top of the building down into the foundations,
to whom they are rigidly attached. They are thus analyzed as vertical cantilevers.
Shear walls should be
located so that they carry
both the lateral loads and
gravity loading sufficiently
to cancel the maximum
tensile bending stresses in
the bottom of the walls
caused by the lateral loads.
Obviously, the most effective
location of the walls is at the
buildings perimeter.
However, this conflicts with
most architectural desires.

The figure at right shows

that shear walls (in yellow)
can be singular or planar in
L-shape, T-shape and U-
shape, plus a combination of

The walls are typically

combined in use with the
elevator core and the
stairwells and other service
This lecture studies the behavior of shear walls linked to the floor slabs. The slabs are
assumed to have little or no flexural (bending) resistance, so that they only capable of
transmitting horizontal forces into the shear walls.

Tall buildings using shear walls will consist of an assembly of walls of different lengths
and thicknesses. Linking these walls requires a careful study of how the moments and
shears redistribute their loads between the walls and their connecting girders and floor

Shear walls can be designed to be either:

a) proportionate, or
b) non-proportionate system of walls.
In a proportionate wall
system, the ratios of the
flexural rigidities remain
constant throughout their
heights. These walls do not
incur any re-distribution of
shears or moments at the
change of levels. This system
is statically determinate,
and from equilibrium, the
external moment and shear
is distributed between the
walls in proportion to their
flexural rigidities.
In a non-proportionate wall system,
the ratios of wall flexural rigidities
are not constant up the buildings

At stories where the rigidities

change there will be redistributions
of the shears and moments in the

This system is statically

indeterminate and difficult to
analyze by hand. For that reason,
they are analyzed using the finite
element method or the analogous
frame analysis.
Proportionate and non-twisting structures.

The figure above shows both a symmetrical plan and loading. This type of proportional and non-
twisting structure is relatively easy to solve (floor by floor) because it is statically determinate.
The total external shear Qi and the total external moment Mi at the story level i will be
distributed between all the walls at that level in the ratio of their flexural rigidities

Therefore, the resulting shear and moment in any wall j at that level i is given by,

Q ji ( EI ) ji ( EI ) ji
= or Q ji = Qi
Qi ( EI )i ( EI )i
M ji ( EI ) ji ( EI ) ji
= or M ji = M i
Mi ( EI )i ( EI )i
Where (EI)ji is the flexural rigidity of the wall j at the level i, and
(EI)i represents the summation of the flexural rigidities of all the walls at
level i.
Proportionate twisting structures.
The figure above shows an asymmetrical plan, that will both twist and translate under
lateral loading about a center of twist. This center of twist in a proportionate structure
coincides with the shear center axis of the building.
Consider this also asymmetrical floor plan for a tall building. Notice that for
simplicity, the walls are all oriented along the y-axis.
The x-location of the center of twist (from an arbitrary origin) is,

( EIx)i
( EI )i

where (EI)i is the sum of the flexural rigidities and

(EIx)i is the sum of the first moments of the flexural rigidities about the
origin for all the walls parallel to the y-axis at the level i.

Since the center of twist and the shear center axis coincide in a proportional
structure, the effect of a horizontal load on the structure is to produce (1) a resultant
shear Qi and (2) a resultant torque. This torque is equal to (Qi)(e) where e is the
eccentricity of Qi from the shear center. The resultant shear in any wall j at level I is
therefore, a combination of the external shear and the torque,

( EI ) ji ( EIc) ji
Qij = Qi + Qi e
( EI )i ( )
EIc 2

where c is the distance of the wall j from the shear center.

The moment introduced into the wall can be found from the shear through the simple

M = Qdz

( EI ) ji ( EIc) ji
M ji = M i + M ie
( EI )i ( )
EIc 2

The first term is the moment associated with the bending translation of the structure,
and the second term is the bending of the walls as the structure twists.

In both the shear and moment equations, cij is taken as positive when it is on the
same side of the center of twist as the eccentricity e. Walls on the same side of the
center of twist as the resultant loading will have their shears and momnets increased
by the twisting behavior. Walls on the opposite side of the center of twist will have
their shears and moments reduced.
Most structures have walls also in a direction perpendicular to the external loading
direction. This is the more general case, and an example is shown below.
This floor plan is also an asymmetrical plan with shear walls in both directions (the
most common arrangement). The x-location has been given previously, and the y-
location of the center of twist at level i is found from,

( EIy )i
( EI )i
As the structure twists under the external horizontal load, the total set of orthogonally
oriented walls will rotate about the axis of twist. The perpendicular walls will stiffen
the structure against torsion. So these walls contribute to the parallel walls influence.
Therefore, the contribution of the perpendicular walls only works when there is
twisting taking place.

The shear and moment contributions at level i in perpendicular wall r is,

( EId ) ri
Qri = Qi e
( EIc ) + ( EId )
2 2

( EId ) ri
M ri = M i e
( EIc ) + ( EId )
2 2

Shear walls that are not aligned with the chosen coordinate axes must be (each)
resolved via their rigidities into components along the chosen axes.
Non-proportionate structures.

Shown above is a non-proportionate, albeit simple, structure. The flexural rigidity ratios of their
shear walls are not constant throughout their heights. Therefore, when these walls are subject to
lateral loads, the structure deflects (and twists), and the rigidity of the floor slabs constrain these
dissimilar walls to deflect with similar configurations, and thus induce horizontal interactive forces
between them. The model shown in figure b above has been prepared for a computer analysis.
Non-proportionate twisting structures.

Figure a below shows an asymmetric plan that will generate a twist in the building when
subjected to horizontal loads. This addition to the complexity of an already difficult calculation
means that even using a computer software, you may require a simplifying model. Such a device
would be to represent the shear walls with column elements along the walls centroidal axes
(figure b). The floors are represented as either (a) a rigid plate, or (b) constraining the column in
the horizontal plane to represent the in-plane rigidity.
In the symmetrical but non-proportionate building represented in figure a, the links between wall A
and wall B constrain the walls to have the same curvature under lateral loads. At the critical levels
the external moment is distributed between the two walls in the same ratio as their flexural
rigidities (just as in a proportionate building). The force transfer between walls is accomplished by
the horizontal forces in the connecting links. Therefore, the moment redistribution must occur by
couples of horizontal forces and reverse forces in the links at successive levels around the critical
levels, as seen in figure b. These exchanges can be very large, so that the shears and reverse shears
can easily exceed the total external shear at that load. These severe local effects on the walls give
rise to carryover effects above and below the critical level. This moment transfer diminishes within
two stories and approaches zero.
A slightly different solution to the open lobby is shown in the left figure above. This case is more
severe than the previous slide, because in the latter the pair of edge columns provide a stiffer wall
than the much shorter central wall seen above. In the equivalent planar model, the cut-back wall
(wall #2) is very reduced in the ground story. Therefore, there is a very large transfer of moment
from the cut-back wall to wall 31 just above the ground story, and high forward and reverse shears.
Small walls #2 may cause the shear to double (or more) in wall #1.
One Miami Building, Miami.

This 43-story residential tower is being

developed by the Related Group of

This photo shows an L-shaped shear wall

was being built in November 2004. Note
the density of reinforcing at this ground
level of the shear wall (quite possibly
close to the maximum 8% of the wall
cross-section). This steel density poses
some construction problems of having
complete cover in the entire wall,
without honey-combing.
The Montparnasse Tower, Paris.

This 689 foot tower was finished in 1973, placed in a

historical Parisian neighborhood and completely
unrelated to the urban setting. Local codes at the time
did not permit structures taller than 85 feet. Its
classic American skyscraper lines and glass contrast
sharply with the 19th Century surroundings.

The design, by Bauddin, Cassan, deMarien & Saubot

was, and still is criticized. Its style was similar to the
1950s of the Pan Am building in New York or the
Pirelli building in Milan. It was built to be the largest
office building in Europe at that time, and was
accepted by city officials because it renovated an
aging railroad station as part of an urban renewal
policy. An aerial view, shown in the next slide,
contrasts this tower with the Arc de la Triomphe and
the dome of Les Invalides.

A photo of the tower, whilst being built shows the

shear walls that form the service core. The final form
is strongly accented by its two glass curtain walls
covering its two longitudinal curved walls, each 197
feet long.
Shear walls of the Montparnasse Tower, Paris.
The John Hancock Center, Chicago.

We discussed this beautiful tower during our class

on braced frames. But the tower also uses shear
walls around its service core. In fact, the two 330-
foot antennas for radio and television sit upon these
shear walls.

The building was finished in 1969, and has 1,129

feet in height, and stands by the prestigious
Michigan Avenue, Chicago. It was designed by
Bruce Graham of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill,
also of Chicago.

Notice to its left the famous 900 North Michigan

Building, in order to contrast their heights. Behind
it is the Two Prudential Plaza, covered in the next

The shape (a braced-tube) and its tapered or

truncated-pyramid form is said to have been
inspired by the image of oil derricks that were
owned by some of its largest investors.
The Two Prudential Plaza, Chicago.

The Two Plaza pyramidal roof, shown center below,

contrasts with the older One Plaza, taller and square
(today called the AON Center), which was in 1955
Chicagos tallest building for 10 years.

The Plaza, consists of these two towers. Plaza Two is

distinguished by its bands of granite cladding
alternating with bands of reflective glass.

The building is 994 feet tall and was completed in

1990. It was designed by Loebl, Schlossman &
Hacckl of Chicago.
Liberty Place, Philadelphia.

Similar in appearance to Two

Prudential in Chicago, these
two towers are 947 feet and 847
feet high. They were completed
in 1987 and 1990, and designed
by the firm Murphy and Jahn.

As a point of interest, the

Liberty tower is almost
identical to the Chrysler
Building in New York, but uses
50% of the structural steel. This
attests to both the new use of
materials and design methods.
The Transamerica Pyramid, San Francisco.

Although not as tall as buildings in New York and

Chicago, the Transamerica building in San
Francisco stands out from the rest of the city. It is
clad with alternating bands of panels made of a
special hardened quartz aggregate paste, and
rows of windows.

The tower is 853 feet high, and was completed in

1992. It is a steel rigid-frame with shear walls in
the core areas. It was designed by William L.
Pereira & Associates.

The choice of a pyramidal shape was to (1) evade

regulations that governed the height of the
building relative to the street level, (2) provide
more light to the streets below, and (3) and create
a distinct corporate image for the Transamerica
The Bank of China, Hong Kong.

This space frame rises to 1,204 feet.

It was completed in 1990.

The designer was I.M. Pei &


Although the outer shell is a steel

space frame, its core is stiffened
with shear walls. The structure
roughly resembles a bamboo cane
structure, which is so admired in

Hong Kong is famous for its high

tropical winds, but is also high
seismic zone. These two conditions
impose severe structural loads upon
the building.

The building is divided into two

parts at the 17th floor with a sky-
lobby. The triangular roof covers a
restaurant at that level.