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Types of Building Structural Systems | Load Transmission Details

For the study of building in a convenient manner the building structural systems can be classified
into two types based on the load transmission mechanisms. These are the:

1. Gravity Load Resisting Systems

2. Lateral Load Resisting Systems

Both the mentioned systems are complementary and interactive to each other. When behaving as
an integrated structural system, they must resist and transmit the gravity and the lateral loads
coming on it to the foundation than to the ground below.

Types of Building Structural Systems

The building system is a three - dimensional structure. This system is conceived as a two -
dimensional system to facilitate easy analysis and the design. The building can be considered as a
two - dimensional subsystems that are lying primarily in horizontal and vertical planes. This
means floors, roofs, wall, the plane frames etc. This is explained in the fig-1.

The figure-1 shows the division of the complete structural system into:

1. Horizontal or Floor system

2. Vertical or Framing system

3. Lateral Load Resisting System

Horizontal or Floor Systems in a Building Structure

The floor system in a building is responsible for resisting the gravity loads which will include the
dead loads and the live loads that are acting on the building. This is then transmitted to the
vertical framing system of the building.

Here the floor system under the load is subjected to flexure and transverse shear. The vertical
frame system here due to the same load transmission is subjected to axial compression that is
coupled in most cases with the flexure and the shear. This is shown in figure -2.

The floor shown in figure-1 will act as a horizontal diaphragm that will connect and stiffen the
various vertical frame elements. The floor diaphragm will act rigidly when subjected to lateral
loads. This owes to have a higher in-plane stiffness, which is a highlighting property under lateral
load action.

Fig.1. Horizontal or Floor System - Gravity Load Transmission

This property of floor help in the effective transmission of loads to the various vertical frame
elements, i.e the shear walls, columns and walls ( Figure-1). This phenomenon is carried out
without bringing any change in the wall geometry.

Vertical or Framing Systems

The vertical framing system is responsible for the resisting the gravity and the lateral loads that
are coming from the floor system. This, in turn, is transferred to the foundation and the ground
below. The vertical framing system is a three-dimensional arrangement that is made up of beams
and columns.
Fig.2. Vertical Systems - Vertical Load Transmission

For convenience, the system is divided into plane frames along the transverse and the
longitudinal direction. For a cast - in -situ reinforced concrete construction, the vertical system
usually will have the following:

1. Columns

2. Walls

3. Transfer Girders

4. Suspenders

1. Columns

The columns are skeleton vertical structural elements that have different cross-sectional shapes
like square, rectangular, circular, L-shaped etc. The shape is often specified by the designer or the
architect. The column is dictated based on its height and the load acting on it. This is in turn
dependent on the type of the floor system, the number of stories, the column spacing etc.
The column is designed so that it will resist the axial compression that is combined with the bi-
axial bending moments. These are forces that are induced due to the Frame action under the
action of gravity and the lateral loads. These loads are more in the lower storeys of the building.
This is the reason why high strength concrete is used in the lower columns wit a high
reinforcement. As the level goes up, the column size can be optimized. This makes the design
In areas like atriums, the floor height will be very large, mainly greater than one story height. This
situation will ask for reducing the unsupported length of the column. This can be provided by
employing tie beams. Or else the columns should be properly designed as a slender column.

2. Walls

Walls are vertical structural elements made of concrete or masonry. If the main function of these
walls is to support the gravity loads, then they are called as bearing walls. If the main function of
the walls is to resist the lateral loads coming, then they are called as shear walls. The lateral loads
can be either wind or the earthquake loads.

The thickness of the reinforced concrete bearing walls will vary from 120mm to 200mm. For lower
storeys buildings, the thickness of the shear walls can be thicker. Now the walls that are
constructed around the lift core will serve as shear walls.

3. Transfer Girders

In some of the building construction, it might me required to have a single floor (especially the
ground floor) require column free space. This is to meet the requirement of a parking area, or
conventional or lobbies.

In such situation, the load bearing vertical element cannot be allowed to continue downwards
through the lower floors and then the foundation. This problem is solved by the construction of
transfer beams. The transfer beams are very heavy beam whose depth can extend over one full

The columns in the upper story will be

terminated in the transfer girder. The load
from the above columns are transferred to
the girder. By beam action, the load is
transferred to the main columns that are
supporting the girder from below.

Fig.4: The Use of Transfer Girders

4. Suspenders

Suspenders can be called as vertical elements that are used to suspend the floors of a multi-storey
building form a central core made of reinforced concrete. The figure-5 is an example a building in
The Yayasan Sabah Headquarters in Malaysia has the building floors are suspended along with
their periphery with tensile rods are 96 in number and are 38mm thick. These rods are hung from
the radial steel brackets that are attached to the top of a 14.3m diameter reinforced concrete core.

The structural steel is always a better choice to be used as suspenders or hangers. This is because
the majority of the force that is to be taken is direct tension. The steel hangers take up only a little
floor space. The suspenders employed may be hung from crossed - braced trusses, large
cantilevered beams, vierendeel girders or brackets.

Lateral Load Resisting Systems

The above-described horizontal and vertical sub-systems of a structural system interact together
to resist the gravity and the lateral loads.
The lateral load effect is more prominent in tall buildings. This reason will govern the choice of
lateral system for high-rise buildings. The lateral load resisting system of the reinforced concrete
consists of the following types:

1. Frames
2. Shear Walls
3. Tubes
Fig.6.The Comparison of Various System

1. Frames
Frames are composed of columns and beams as shown in figure - 6(a). Thes ability to resist the
lateral loads is due to the rigidities of the beam and column connections and the moment resisting
capacities of the individual members. These are called as rigid frames. This name is due to the
ends of various framing into the joints is connected rigidly. This will help to undergo rotation
under the action of the loads.
In the case of a "flat slab system" the width of the slab mainly along the column walls that will take
the place of the beam in order to have the frame action. For buildings that have story from 15 to 20
can employ the sole lateral - resisting system (Figure -6(e))

2. Shear Walls
The shear walls are solid structures which are constructed over the full height of the building. The
shear walls take the position of lift or staircase core regions. These are located in the transverse
direction like facade walls or the interior walls.
The shear walls are stiff and have great depth in the direction increased lateral loads. Figure-6(b)
shows the representation of shear walls.
The walls will restrain the frame deformations in the lower storeys while the frames will restrain
the wall deformation in upper storeys. The frame shear wall system is applied for 40 storeys.
3. Tubes
In the system of arrangement, closely spaced columns are placed along the periphery of a building.
The exterior building will have deep spandrel beams that are connected to these columns. This
arrangement form like a perforated box or the framed tube. This arrangement will have a higher
rigidity against the lateral loads (Figure-6(d)).
When the outer tube is connected to the inner tube or the internal core system it forms a tube -in
the tube. If the sectional plan of the building has a number of perforated cells, then the structural
system is called as bundled tube or a multi-cell framed tube. This system is effective up to 80
storeys (Figure-6(e).This system is widely used in big cities of developed countries.