What are shear walls?

What are shear walls?

Shear Walls are structural elements in addition to slabs, beams and columns. These walls generally start at foundation level and are continuous throughout the building height. Their thickness can be as low as 150mm, or as high as 400mm in high rise buildings.

Shear walls are usually provided along both length and width of buildings. Shear walls are like vertically-oriented wide beams that carry earthquake loads downwards to the foundation. Properly designed and detailed buildings with shear walls have shown very good performance in past earthquakes. Shear walls in high seismic regions require special detailing. 

However, in past earthquakes, even buildings with sufficient amount of walls that were not specially detailed for seismic performance (but had enough well-distributed reinforcement) were saved from collapse.
Shear wall buildings are a popular choice in many earthquake prone countries. They are efficient, both in terms of construction cost and effectiveness in minimizing earthquake damage in structural and non- structural elements (like glass windows and building contents).

Most Reinforced Concrete buildings with shear walls also have columns; these columns primarily carry gravity loads (i.e., those due to self-weight and contents of building). Shear walls provide large strength and stiffness to buildings in the direction of their orientation, which significantly reduces lateral sway of the building and thereby reduces damage to structure and its contents. Shear walls carry large horizontal earthquake forces, the overturning effects on them are large. Thus, design of their foundations requires special attention. 

Shear walls should be provided along preferably both length and width. However, if they are provided along only one direction, a proper grid of beams and columns in the vertical plane (called a moment-resistant frame) must be provided along the other direction to resist strong earthquake effects.

Reference: quora.com

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