The New Way to Connect with Strong Frame®

The April SE blog article, What Makes Strong Frame® Special Moment Frames So Special, explained the features and benefits of the Yield-Link® structural fuse design for the Strong Frame® special moment frame (SMF) connection. In this blog, I will be introducing the Yield-Link end-plate link (EPL) to the Strong Frame connection family.

What is the EPL?
The EPL connection (Figure 1) is the latest addition to the Strong Frame Strong Moment Frame (SMF) solution. The new EPL connection can accommodate a W8X beam which is approximately a 33% reduction in beam depth from a W12X beam. The frame is field bolted without the need for field welding which means a faster installation. The snug-tight bolt installation requirement means no special tools are required. The EPL SMF connection has the same benefit of not requiring any additional beam bracing as the T-Stub connection. The frame can be repaired after a large earthquake by replacing the Yield-Link connection. Since the shear tab bolts will be factory installed, installation time for the frame is reduced by 25% making the EPL connection one of the most straightforward connections to assemble.

Figure 1: New Yield-Link EPL connection

Why Did We Develop the EPL?
The development of the EPL came from strong interest and numerous requests to offer a solution with more head room for clearance of retrofit projects or enhancement for new construction using a shallower beam profile. The original T-stub link design has the shear tab welded to the column flange. The geometry of the shear tab meant that a W12X beam is required to accommodate the Yield-Link Flange. In Figure 2, you can see that a shallower beam profile will bring the Yield-Link flange closer to each other and limit the attachment of the shear tab. A new connection was needed.

Figure 2: Yield-Link flange interference with shear tab

Figure 3: 3 Bolt configuration with notched flange plate. (The 3rd bolt is on opposite side of beam.) The asymmetric layout produced uneven force distribution in the bolts.

How Did We Develop the EPL?
Multiple configurations were studied, including a notched flange plate with 3 bolts (Figure 3) to avoid interference with the shear tab connection to the column. In the end, a compact end plate link combining the shear tab and Yield-Link stem in a single connection was the final design. However, many questions loomed over the prototype. How will the single end plate design perform in a full scale test? Will the new configuration change the limit state? These questions needed to be studied prior to launching an expensive full-scale test program with multiple samples and configurations. Numerous Finite Element Analysis (FEA) models were studied and refined prior to full scale testing of a prototype. Modeling included ensuring the stem performs as a fuse (Figure 4) as discussed in the April blog and the integrity of the shear tab is maintained in the compact design. Figure 5 shows a graph comparing the analytical model to the actual full scale test. The full scale test with a complete beam and column assembly was performed to the requirements under AISC 341 Section K. The full scale test passed the requirements for the SMF classification as can be seen in Figure 6 for the specimen with 6-inch columns and 9-inch beam.

Figure 4: Equivalent Plastic Strain Plot of Yielding-Link Stem

Figure 5: Full Scale Test vs. Analytical model

Figure 6: Moment at Face of Column vs. Story Drift

Where Can I Get More Information?
The EPL is now recognized in the ICC-ES ESR-2802 code report as an SMF. EPL solutions are also offered in the Strong Frame Moment Frame Selector Software. Want to see how the new connection and member sizes can expand your design options? Visit to download the new Strong Frame Design Guide or contact your Simpson representative for more information.

Changes in IBC from 2009 to 2012: Seismic Design

The transition from one building code to the next always begs the question, “how is the newer code different?” There are several changes between the 2009 IBC and 2012 IBC that will change the way designers approach seismic design. This blog post is a broad overview of some of the changes. Since it’s not practical to cover all the changes between the previous and new codes in detail in one post, the discussion will be mainly on 2012 IBC and the corresponding ASCE7-10 reference standard.

Seismic ground motion map

Seismic ground motion map

The seismic ground motion maps have been updated to match ASCE7-10. The titles of the maps in IBC were revised from “Maximum Considered Earthquake Ground Motion” to “Risk-Targeted Maximum Considered Earthquake (MCER) Ground Motion Response Accelerations” in order to reflect the titles in 2009 NEHRP and ASCE 7-10. As in previous editions, some areas will prove difficult to read due to the contour lines, so the USGS site and GPS coordinates are recommended ( Additional information about changes made for 2009 NEHRP is available at or

The term “occupancy category” was replaced with “risk category” in the 2012 IBC for consistency with the term used in ASCE 7-10. This change was made because it was decided that the use of the word “occupancy” implied the category was directly tied to occupancy classifications in the code, while the word “risk” more accurately communicates that the category is based on acceptable risk of failure.

Seis-pic 2ASCE7-10 revised the way designers use the corresponding Drift amplification, Cd, and Overstrength factor, Ωo, of the Response modification factor, R.  In ASCE7-05, when there is a vertical combination of different R-values, the Cd, and Ωo cannot decrease as you go down each level of a building. In ASCE7-10 (, the Cd and Ωo always correspond to the R-Value as you go down. The adjacent figure illustrates the new provision to use the corresponding Cd, and Ωo with the R-value at each level.

ASCE7-10 ( added a clarification for out-of-plane anchorage forces where the redundancy factor, p = 1.0.  The intent of the redundancy factor was to ensure the vertical seismic-resisting system with insufficient redundancy had adequate strength. The design forces for out-of-plane wall loading are not redundancy requirements. ASCE7-10 (12.11.12) revised the out-of-plane wall anchorage force equation where the anchorage forces are reduced for shorter diaphragm spans.

Seis-pic 3Light-frame construction structures are no longer exempt from amplification of accidental torsion in ASCE7-10 (  There are many structures vulnerable to torsional effects including some “tuck under” parking buildings that are often light-frame structures. See posts  titled Soft-Story Retrofits and City of San Francisco Implements Soft-Story Retrofit Ordinance for more discussion of soft-story, light-frame buildings.

This is just a brief summary of changes related to seismic design found in the 2012 IBC.  What are other changes that will modify your approach to seismic design?

Use of Holdowns During Shearwall Assembly

When designing a shearwall according to the International Building Code (IBC), a holdown connector is used to resist the overturning moment due to lateral loading.  From a structural statics point of view, a shearwall without dead load or holdowns would have zero lateral-resisting capacity without any restraint to resist the overturning moment. Since the wall assembly still has the sill plate anchorage providing resistance to overturning, testing can measure the capacity of a wall assembly without holdowns.

We have performed multiple tests comparing the performance of a shearwall with and without holdowns.  Diagrams of the test setups are provided in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: Shearwall test setups

Figure 1: Shearwall test setups

The top of wall was attached to the actuating ram using a steel channel and fastened to the double top plates with 3” SDS screws. The ram pushed and pulled the top of wall according to the CUREE test protocol.

No Holdown Wall:

A wall assembly without holdowns can only rely on the wood sill plate members, sill plate anchorage and sheathing to resist the overturning force.  The two limit states commonly observed in the test: 1) The sheathing fasteners prying the sill plate in cross-grain tension. (see Figure 2)  2) Fastener tearing the sheathing at the sill plate. (see Figure 3) Little damage was observed between the sheathing and end post along the height of the post.  Figure 4 is the load vs. displacement graph showing the peak load, 928 lbs., at relatively small displacement, 1.57”.

Sill plate split

Figure 2: Sill plate split

Figure 3: Fastener tearing through sheathing

Figure 3: Fastener tearing through sheathing

Performance of shearwall without holdowns

Figure 4: Graph showing performance of wall without holdowns

Wall With Holdown:

The change in restraining the end posts increases wall stiffness, capacity and ductility of the assembly.  The peak load was 2,907 lbs. at a displacement of 2.3”.  (see Figure 5)  The use of a holdown to restrain the post and engage additional sheathing fasteners minimized cross-grain tension on the sill plate compared with the test without holdowns. (see Figure 6) The increase in both strength and ductility comes from the additional number of fasteners engaged along the height of the post when the post is restrained. (see Figure 7) The assembly with holdowns was able to achieve approximately three times more strength compared with the same amount of material used without holdowns.  Ductility also increased substantially, which can be observed from illustrating the hysteresis curves of both tested assemblies for comparison. (see Figure 5)

Figure 5: Wall with holdowns compared to performance without holdowns

Figure 5: Wall with holdowns compared to performance without holdowns

Figure 6: Post restrained by holdown minimized cross grain tension on sill plate

Figure 6: Post restrained by holdown minimized cross grain tension on sill plate

Figure 7: Sheathing pull through along height of post

Figure 7: Sheathing pull through along height of post










The comparison between the two walls is based on a 4 foot wide by 8 foot tall configuration.  A wall with a different aspect ratio may change the performance, but walls with holdowns will achieve higher loads, and lower displacements, and more ductile performance.

What are your thoughts about shearwall assembly? Let us know in the comments below.