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Building Basics, Types of Buildings & Causes of Structural Failure (Animation Video)

Sometimes a simple video is worth a million words. For a complete understanding of a sometimes-over-complicated explanation of building basics and how structural failures occurs, please view the following video:

The video provides a simple explanation of how structural failures occur however there are many different types of buildings including concrete tilt-up, URM (unreinforced masonry), non-ductile, steel frame and soft-story. Below we outline each type and their vulnerabilities relating to seismic activity.

Concrete Tilt- up buildings have limited or weak connections from the roof to walls and continuity ties. Because of the heavy concrete walls, in the event of an earthquake, these walls want to pull apart from the roof, creating a collapse hazard. Evidence from previous earthquakes suggests that these buildings can be quite dangerous during a seismic event and suffer extensive damage.

A URM (Un-Reinforced Masonry building) is a type of building where load bearing walls, non-load bearing walls or other structures are made of brick, cinderblock, tiles, or other masonry material that is not braced by reinforcing materials (rebar). Unreinforced masonry walls lack steel reinforcing bars, which add a lot of strength to the structure of a building.

Non-Ductile concrete is a term to describe basic characteristics of these types of buildings. They are very strong but, brittle. “Non-ductile” means inflexible therefore, non-ductile concrete buildings are more likely to crumble or collapse in an earthquake, posing greater financial and life-safety risk.

Steel frame is a building design usually with a “skeleton frame” of vertical steel columns and horizontal I-beams, constructed in a rectangular grid to support the floors, roof and walls of a building which are all attached to the frame. Structural steel framing is a durable, reliable, and sustainable option to build low-rise to high-rise building projects.

Soft-story is a multi-story structure built with a first floor that is open in nature, much less rigid (soft) than the floors above. There are many examples of buildings with soft-story conditions including multi-family apartment buildings with tuck-under parking or subterranean parking as well as retail centers with open storefronts and minimal reinforcement on at least one elevation.

If you’re interested in learning more about strengthening your structural real estate assets, we provide educational presentation that includes types of buildings, seismic retrofits, roof condensation and structural repairs, contact us We are the seismic solution specialists and can assist you every step of the seismic retrofit process.

Posted Under: building design