FAQs Regarding Strong-Rod Anchor Tiedown Systems (ATS) for Shearwall Overturning

How would a six-story light-frame wood building perform in a large earthquake? Back in 2009, Simpson Strong-Tie was a partner in the World’s Largest Earthquake Test, a collaboration of the NEESWood project, to answer that question. This was a full-scale test which subjected the building to 180% of the Northridge earthquake ground motions (approximately a M7.5). Within the building, Simpson Strong-Tie connectors and Strong-Frame SMF were used, with the Strong-Rod™ anchor tiedown system (ATS) serving as holdown for each shearwall.

The NEESWood building was designed under Performance-Based Design methodology, and the test was conducted as validation for the approach. Buildings of similar size to the NEESWood building are built to current codes using similar products. Mid-rise light-frame wood structures continue to be a popular form of construction in various densely populated cities across the country. As part of the lateral-force-resisting system, continuous rod systems are used as the holdown for the shearwall overturning restraints. Simpson Strong-Tie has been involved with continuous rod systems since the early 2000s when we launched the Strong-Rod anchor tiedown system.

Today, rod manufacturers design the continuous rod systems with design requirements (loading, geometry, etc.) Supporting documents (e.g., installation details, layouts, RFI/markups and calculations) are submitted for each unique project. Over the years, engineers have asked many questions related to the design of these systems. In this week’s blog, we will explore Frequently Asked Questions pertaining to Strong-Rod ATS systems used as shearwall overturning restraints (holdowns).

Is there a code report for the system?

The Strong-Rod ATS system is a series of rods (fully threaded rods and proprietary Strong-Rods), coupler nuts, bearing plates, nuts and shrinkage compensation devices (ATUD/TUD and RTUD).

The majority of these components are designed in accordance with the building code and reference standards (e.g., NDS, AISC). A project-specific calculation package is submitted for each job that addresses the evaluation of these elements. Therefore, these elements are not listed in evaluation reports.

Shrinkage compensation devices, on the other hand, are proprietary components which are not addressed by the building code or reference standards. Therefore, they are tested in accordance with ICC-ES acceptance criteria AC316 and are listed in ICC-ES ESR-2320. 

What is the material specification of the rods used above concrete?

The specified rod materials are shown in Table 1.

Table 1. ATS Rod Material Specifications

Can threaded rods or couplers be welded to steel beams?

Simpson Strong-Tie generally does not recommend this practice. Of the materials listed in Table 1, ASTM A307 material is the only specification that contains supplementary requirements for welding. When standard strength rod is supplied to the job, it is not guaranteed that this will be the material provided.

ASTM A449 and A193-B7 high-strength rods develop strength and ductility characteristics through controlled quenching and tempering treatments. Quenching is the rapid cooling of metal (usually by water or oil) to increase toughness and strength. This process often increases brittleness. Tempering is a controlled reheating of the metal which increases ductility after the quenching process. Precise timing in the application of temperature during the tempering process is critical to achieving a material with well-balanced mechanical properties. It is unlikely that field welding will satisfy the requirements of quenching and tempering.

Coupler nuts are generally fabricated from material exhibiting characteristics similar to high-strength rods. Thus, it is not recommended to weld coupler nuts to steel beams due to the potential for embrittlement.

Simpson Strong-Tie specifies a weldable cage which is fabricated from ASTM A36 material for such applications.

How do you calculate the Maximum ASD Tension Capacity provided in the job summary?

Simpson Strong-Tie provides a comprehensive design package for continuous rod systems used as holdowns for multi-story stacked shearwalls. The individual run calculations, as shown in Figure 1, provide the Maximum Tension Capacity, which correlates to the maximum force the system can deliver. Plan check often requests justification on how these values are derived at each level. These values are calculated, and the process explained below may be used on any Simpson Strong-Tie ATS Job Summary as justification.

Figure 1. Sample ATS Run Type SW9

The maximum tension capacity published within the Job Summary and the Installation Details is derived using the following procedure:

  • Step 1: Evaluate the top-most level. Compare the published capacities of the rod in tension, plate in bearing and the take-up device. The lowest of these three will govern and becomes the Maximum Tension Capacity for this level.
  • Step 2: Evaluate the next level down. (a) Sum the Maximum Tension Capacity from Step 1 and the published capacity of the take-up device from this level. (b) Sum the Maximum Tension Capacity from Step 1 and the published capacity of the plate in bearing from this level. (c) Compare derived values from (a) and (b) to the published capacity of rod in tension. The lowest of these three values will govern and becomes the Maximum Tension Capacity of this level.
  • Step 3: Repeat Step 2 as necessary until the bottom-most level is reached.

Applying this procedure to the sample run, SW9, will wield the following result:

  • Step 1: Evaluate capacities published at Level 4
    • Plate in bearing (PBRTUD5-6A) = 7.06 kips governs
    • Take-up device (RTUD6) = 20.83 kips
    • Rod in tension (ATS-R6) = 9.61 kips
      • The lowest value in Step 1 is the plate in bearing, hence 7.06 kips is the maximum load that can be delivered at Level 4 and is the Maximum Tension Capacity.
    • Step 2: Evaluate capacities at Level 3
      • Maximum Tension Capacity from Level 4 = 7.06 kips (See Step 1)
      • Maximum Tension Capacity from Level 4 + take-up device (ATS-ATUD9-2) = 7.06 + 12.79 = 19.85 kips
      • Maximum Tension Capacity from Level 4 + plate in bearing (PL9-3×5.5) = 7.06 + 10.03 = 17.09 kips
      • Rod in tension (ATS-R7) = 13.08 kips       governs
        • The lowest value in Step 2 is the rod in tension, hence 13.08 kips is the maximum load that can be delivered at Level 3 and is the Maximum Tension Capacity.
      • Step 3: Evaluate capacities at Level 2
        • Maximum Tension Capacity from Level 3 = 13.08 kips (See Step 2)
        • Maximum Tension Capacity from Level 3 + take-up device (ATS-ATUD9-2) = 13.08 + 15.56 = 28.64 kips
        • Maximum Tension Capacity from Level 3 + plate in bearing (PL9-3×5.5) = 13.08 + 10.03 = 23.11 kips
        • Rod in tension (ATS-R7) = 13.08 kips       governs
          • The lowest value in Step 3 is the rod in tension, hence 13.08 kips is the maximum load that can be delivered at Level 2 and is the Maximum Tension Capacity.
        • Step 4: Evaluate capacities at Level 1
          • Maximum Tension Capacity from Level 2 = 13.08 kips (See Step 3)
          • Maximum Tension Capacity from Level 2 + take-up device (ATS-ATUD14) = 13.08 + 24.39 = 37.47 kips
          • Maximum Tension Capacity from Level 2 + plate in bearing (PL14-3×8.5) = 13.08 + 13.98 = 27.05 kips       governs
          • Rod in tension (ATS-R11) = 32.30 kips
        • The lowest value in Step 4 is due to the plate in bearing, hence 27.05 kips is the maximum load that can be delivered at Level 1 and is the Maximum Tension Capacity.

In the System Deflection Summary page(s) of the Job Summary, is the Total System Deflection provided at Allowable or Strength levels?

Immediately following the individual run calculations in each job summary, Simpson Strong-Tie provides a summary of deflection of the rod system similar to what is shown in Figure 2. This breaks down the deformation of all components being considered. In the example below, the rod elongation and deflection of the take-up device are summed to provide the total deflection.

The calculated system deflection is presented at ASD level. See section below for how to use these system deflections for your drift calculation.

Figure 2. Sample System Deflection Check

What system deflection limit do you typically design to, and what does that include?

Unless otherwise specified on the plans or required by the building jurisdiction, Simpson Strong-Tie will design the continuous rod system to satisfy the deformation limits set forth in ICC-ES Acceptance Criteria (AC316). In some instances, the Designer may need a more restrictive deformation due to project specific conditions (e.g., tight building separations) and will require rod manufacturers to design for a lower deformation. Some jurisdictions (e.g., City of San Diego, City of San Francisco) may also have specific design requirements that continuous rod systems must conform to. The minimum recommended per-floor deformation limit set forth in AC316 is:

(Rod Elongation) + (Shrinkage Compensation Device Deflection) ≤  0.2” (ASD),

Or     (PDL/AE) + [ΔR + ΔA(PD/PA)] ≤ 0.2” (ASD)


PD = ASD demand cumulative tension load (kips)
L = length of the rod between restraints – i.e., floor-to-floor (in.)
A = net tensile area of the rod (in.2)
E = Young’s Modulus of Elasticity (29,000 ksi)
ΔR = seating increment of the shrinkage compensation device (as published in ICC-ES evaluation report)
ΔA = deflection of the shrinkage compensation device at the allowable load (as published in ICC-ES evaluation report)
PA = Allowable capacity (kips)

Should deformation limits be specified in the construction documents?

Simpson Strong-Tie strongly recommends this information be included in the construction documents. Along with the cumulative tension and compression forces, the required deformation limits for the holdown are important to ensure that rod manufacturers are designing the holdown to satisfy the desired shearwall performance.

 How do I use the system deformation limit?

The System Deflection is the total deformation of the holdown system from floor to floor (refer to the last two columns in Figure 2). This information represents the total ASD holdown deformation term, Δa, for each level and is to be used in the shearwall drift equation from the Special Design Provisions for Wind and Seismic (2015 SDPWS 4.3-1).

ASCE 12.8.6 requires that shearwall drift be calculated at strength level. Therefore, the information provided within the System Deflection Summary page needs to be converted from ASD to Strength Level. The conversion factors in Table 2 can be used to convert the ASD deformations to strength level. For discussions and methodology in converting bearing plate deformation to strength level, please refer to the WoodWorks Design Example of a Five-Story Wood Frame Structure over Podium Slab found here.  

Table 2. ATS Rod Deflection ASD to LRFD Conversion Factors

Can rod systems be used in Type III construction?

Yes! 2015 IBC §2303.2.5 requires that Fire Retardant-Treated Wood (FRTW) design values be adjusted based on the type of treatment used on the project. Adjustment factors vary for each FRTW manufacturer; refer to the ICC-ES evaluation report of the specified FRTW manufacturer for the unique adjustment values. Rod manufacturers need to know what treatment is being used so this information can be taken into consideration when designing compression posts and incremental bearing (bearing plates).

For more information and previous discussions on fire protection in mid-rise construction, see our previous posts:  Fire Protection Considerations with Five-Story Wood-Frame Buildings Part 1 and Part 2, and Connectors and Fasteners in Fire-Retardant-Treated Wood.

What are Simpson Strong-Tie’s guidelines for fire caulking material?

While there are many options for fire-rated caulking, these products can be used in conjunction with the Simpson Strong-Tie ATS system. Below is a list of considerations when selecting and specifying a material for use where the rods penetrate the top and sole plates:

  • The fire-rated caulking shall not be corrosive to metal when used in contact with ATS components.
  • Direct contact with shrinkage compensating devices (e.g., TUD, ATUD, RTUD) shall be avoided. Shrinkage compensating devices have moving components and may not function properly with debris interference.
  • Indirect contact with shrinkage compensating devices shall also be avoided. Shrinkage compensation accumulates up the building and therefore the largest shrinkage occurs at the top of the building. As such, when the building shrinks, remnants of the material may still be stuck to the threads of the rod and may be detrimental to the performance of some shrinkage compensating devices (e.g., an RTUD). It is recommended to detail the installation with shrinkage taken into consideration.
  • The fire-rated caulking should be pliable to accommodate wood shrinkage and the building moving down during this process.
  • The performance and the suitability of fire-rated caulking are outside the scope of Simpson Strong-Tie.

Why doesn’t your design include compression post design?

If the Engineer of Record has already specified compression posts to be used with a continuous rod system, Simpson Strong-Tie will not provide these on the holdown installation drawings. This is primarily done to prevent discrepancies between the specification in the contract documents and what is shown on the installation drawings.

 What is the maximum spacing between compression posts?

For platform-framed structures, the maximum spacing between compression posts is 9″. The large majority of Simpson Strong-Tie bearing plates will fit within the 9″ spacing requirement, eliminating the need for notching compression posts. In some framing conditions, such as balloon framing or a top chord bearing truss, the maximum spacing will be reduced to 6″. This is due to the limited amount of space between the top of the compression posts transferring uplift (via bearing) into the point of restraint (e.g., bearing plate) at the level above. To ensure this load path is complete, the posts need to be spaced closer.

What is the nailing schedule for the bridge block to the king studs?

Simpson Strong-Tie doesn’t recommend nailing the bridge block to the cripple as the bridge block member will shrink. Locking the bridge block in place may result in a gap forming between the bottom of the bridge block member and the top of the cripple studs, which is not accounted for in the Total System Deflection.

 Are there any published documents with design examples of continuous rod systems used in mid-rise construction?

There are two resources publicly available that provide discussion and examples. The first is a manual published by the Structural Engineers Association of California (SEAOC). Titled 2015 IBC SEAOC Structural/Seismic Design Manual Volume 2 – Examples for Light-Frame, Tilt-Up and Masonry Buildings, this document provides two examples  – one for a four-story wood hotel building, and the other for a three-story cold-formed steel apartment building on concrete podium deck.

Another useful resource is published by WoodWorks and is a design example of a five-story wood-frame structure over podium slab. This document can be found here.  

What questions do you have about the Strong-Rod ATS System? Leave them below.

California Has Funding for $3,000 Grants for Home Retrofits

Are you an engineer working with California clients whose homes were built before 1979 on a raised foundation?

Evident earthquake damage

Earthquake damage sustained by a two-story building over a cripple wall system after the Mexicali Earthquake (M7.2).

If you are, these clients may be among the 1.2 million California homeowners eligible for a seismic home retrofit. The state of California has approved the continuation of an initiative known as Earthquake Bolt + Brace (EBB). In its second year, this program plans to make as many as 1,600 grants to selected homeowners, nearly three times the number given the previous year. The EBB grant program provides up to $3,000 to homeowners residing in more than 150 California zip codes. Check to see whether your clients live within one of these communities here.

Simpson Strong-Tie has several different resources to assist you in helping your clients understand how to mitigate seismic risks to houses with raised foundations. The Seismic Retrofit Details sheet provides various ways to retrofit the cripple wall system using prescriptive methodologies, which can be adapted for engineered solutions. The picture below highlights the use of the Simpson Strong-Tie universal foundation plate (UFP) to attach the boltless sill plate of the cripple wall to the concrete stemwall. This simple step can help prevent the house from sliding off its foundation. The picture also reveals plywood sheathing used to reinforce the weak cripple wall system. Additional resources for retrofit can be found here.


Retrofit with UFP foundation plate in Napa, California

To help your clients better understand the impact these simple steps can have in preventing structural damage in an earthquake, click here to watch the story of a Napa business women who had purchased a structure with a raised foundation for her business and retrofitted it just prior to the 2014 M6.0 Napa earthquake, which caused considerable damage to many similar structures.

Let your clients know that the time to apply is very limited if they think they qualify for a retrofit grant. Registration for the 2016 EBB program ends on February 20. To register or learn more about the program, visit www.earthquakebracebolt.com.

When you finish a retrofit for one of your clients, we want to hear how it went. Let us know in the comments below.

“You Cannot Escape Responsibility Tomorrow by Evading it Today”

While the contents of this blog are certainly not what Abraham Lincoln had in mind when he made the statement that I’m using to title this blog post, it does speak volumes to the pertinence of what will be discussed today. “Design by others” or some variation of this appears in many parts of Simpson Strong-Tie details.

Simpson Strong-Tie receives technical calls from contractors and plans examiners inquiring about information that requires input from the Designer. When these calls occur during construction there can be confusion and frustration in the field because the Designer is needed to evaluate and resolve the issue. Designers and engineers that identify these conditions ahead of time will reduce confusion and delays on their projects.

Strong-Wall® Shearwalls

The Strong-Wall® shearwall product line uses several iterations of “design by others” within its installation details. It is important to note that many details within the installation drawings may require input from the Designer when certain conditions exist.

For example, Detail 7 on SSW2 shows an alternate first-story installation where the Steel Strong-Wall shearwall bypasses the floor framing and bears directly onto concrete. A ledger may be attached to the shearwall to support perpendicular floor framing. The specification of the hanger and attachment is project specific and would require evaluation by the Designer.

This condition is also on the Strong-Wall SB shearwall installation details as seen in the following detail. The detail is generic and requires attachment information from the Designer.  When these conditions do not exist on the project, it may be beneficial to cross out the detail or delete and state “not used” to lessen confusion during plan check and construction.


The note “Foundation Dimensions are for Anchorage only. Foundation design (size and reinforcement) by others” can be found in multiple locations on the Wood Strong-Wall,  Steel Strong-Wall and Strong-Wall Shear Brace detail sheets.


Soil type and loading conditions not related to the product design vary from project to project and cannot be designed into a one-size-fits-all foundation solution. Thus, the information provided by Simpson Strong-Tie in the installation drawings only addresses the concrete anchorage requirements of ACI 318 (Section D5.2.9/ACI 318-11; Section These details assume no reinforcement in the footing, resulting in rather large foundations. Since design requirements vary with every project, it’s important for Designers to evaluate and verify each condition.

The new Steel Strong-Wall shearwall grade beam solutions reduce the size of the footings required for anchorage. However, the Designer must specify the grade beam reinforcement for proper performance. The details for the grade beam solutions (see SSW1.1 sheet) are based on ACI 318 and testing that was conducted by Simpson Strong-Tie.

For the grade beam solutions, Designers have two options:

(1) Design grade beam to resist the moment induced from amplified forces to the anchor, or

(2) The lesser of the tabulated moment or the amplified LRFD design moment for seismic (ASD Shear / 0.7) x Ω0 x (SSW Height).

Furthermore, the Designer is responsible for specifying the size and number of shear and flexural reinforcement throughout the grade beam beyond the anchor reinforcement depicted in the details.

Delivery of forces to the Strong-Wall shearwall (to the top of wall), including properly sizing the structural members, should be based on project specific requirements.

Strong Frame® Moment Frames

Simpson Strong-Tie Strong Frame® ordinary moment frames and special moment frames contain similar requirements for the Designer. Moment frames have been discussed many times in this blog: Special Moment Frame Installation: What Structural Engineers Should Watch For, Steel Moment Frame Beam Bracing and Breaking News:  Simpson Strong-Tie Strong Frame Special Moment Frame Testing Today.

The notes on SMF2 state “Footing/Grade beam size and reinforcing shall be specified by the Designer as required to resist the imposed loads, such as foundation shear and bending, soil bearing pressure, shear transfer, and frame stability/overturning.”

Moment frame foundation solutions are based on satisfying the minimum concrete anchorage requirements. Detailing can be a crucial area for this product line as it is common to find deeper footings at these locations, which should be reflected on your construction documents.

Like Strong Wall shearwalls, Designers must evaluate the project conditions and detail the load path of the forces to the resisting element (in this case the Strong Frame moment frame). Ensuring proper transfer of forces that are detailed within your construction documents will reduce headaches down the road.

Strong-RodTM Systems

Strong-Rod™ systems are continuous rod tiedown solutions for multi-story, light-frame wood construction. These systems include Anchor Tiedown Systems (ATS) for shearwall overturning restraint and Uplift Restraint Systems (URS) for roofs. Both systems utilize the same components (i.e. bearing plates, rods, couplers and shrinkage compensation devices), however the detailing, design and locations of these two systems differs.

For ATS, the Designer is responsible for the following:

  • Developing the cumulative tension/compression loads,
  • Determining the system displacement requirements as defined in ICC-ES Acceptance Criteria AC316 to satisfy code required drift equations (this specifically addresses the holdown part of the Equation 4.3-1 of the 2015 Special Design Provisions for Wind and Seismic)
  • The location of each holdown/shearwall.

A more elaborate description of the Designer’s responsibilities for ATS can be found on page 23 of our  Strong-Rod Systems design guide (F-L-SRS15). Simpson Strong-Tie incorporates this information into our design of the system and provides calculations and installation drawings to the Designer for review (a sample two-story run is shown below).


For URS, there are two different approaches to design that have different level of responsibilities. The Designer has fewer responsibilities when specifying a rod with a “system (CRTS)” evaluation report per AC391, but they are still responsible for developing the project’s wind uplift loads, specifying URS details and designing systems for shearwall overturning.

More requirements must be taken into account when designing and specifying a rod system using steel components with a “rod-run only (CRTR)” AC391 evaluation report, or no report at all. (A more elaborate description of the Designer’s responsibilities for URS can be found on page 43 of the  Strong-Rod Systems design guide).

Based on the project information provided, the rod manufacturer will design and detail the system and submit calculations and installation drawings to the Designer for review.

Podium Deck Anchorage

The newest details published by Simpson Strong-Tie on podium deck anchorage solutions were developed to reduce the impact of an industry-wide challenge; resolving large tension forces (upwards of 50 kips) from four- to five-story narrow shearwalls into thin (often 10-14 inch thick) concrete podium decks. These solutions (e.g., design tables installation drawings and sample calculations), which are on our website, rely on special anchor reinforcement details using standard construction rebar.


More information about these solutions can be found this blog post and in the shallow anchor page on our website. It is important to note that the Designer is responsible for selecting the best anchorage detail to satisfy the demand loads based on his/her concrete specification and specific project conditions. The Designer is also responsible for designing and detailing the flexural reinforcement within the slab to achieve the amplified forces.


Adding standard installation details to your construction documents saves significant design time. However, the responsibility does not end with the copy-and-paste. The installation details by Simpson Strong-Tie contain details of many common applications. Some may not apply to your project, while others may require additional input from you. Of course, the Designer is permitted to use alternate details and is not limited to what is shown on the installation drawings. Providing complete information will save time and frustration during plan check and construction. Simpson Strong-Tie is here to answer questions and help with your next project. Please reach out to us by calling 800-999-5099 or by clicking here.


Connectors and Fasteners in Fire-Retardant-Treated Wood

In any given year, Simpson Strong-Tie fields several questions about the use of our connectors and fasteners with pressure-treated fire-retardant wood products. Most often asked is whether this application meets the building code requirements for Type III construction, and whether there is a legitimate concern about corrosion. While there haven’t been any specific discussions on this topic in the SE Blog, there have been related discussions surrounding sources of corrosion, such as: Corrosion: The Issues, Code Requirements, Research and Solutions, Corrosion in Coastal Environments, Deck Fasteners – Deck Board to Framing Attachments. This post will explore several resources that we hope will enable you to make an informed decision about which type of pressure-treated Fire-Retardant-Treated Wood (FRTW) to choose for use with steel fasteners and connectors.

One factor contributing to the frequency of these questions is the increased height of buildings now being constructed. With increased height, there is a requirement for increased fire rating. To meet the minimum fire rating for taller buildings, the building code requires noncombustible construction for the exterior walls. As an exception to using noncombustible construction, the 2015 International Building Code (IBC®) section 602.3 allows the use of fire-retardant wood framing complying with IBC section 2303.2. This allows the use of wood-framed construction where noncombustible materials would otherwise be required.

In the 2009 IBC, Section 2304.9.5, “Fasteners in preservative-treated and fire-retardant-treated wood,” was revised to include many subsections (2304.9.5.1 through 2304.9.5.4) dealing with these wood treatments in various types of environmental applications. Section 2304.9.5.3 addressed the use of FRTW in exterior applications or wet or damp locations, and 2304.9.5.4 addressed FRTW in interior applications. These sections carried over to the 2012 IBC, and were moved to Section 2304.10.5 in the 2015 IBC. FRTW is listed in various other sections within the code. For more information about FRTW within the code (e.g., strength adjustments, testing, wood structural panels, moisture content), the Western Wood Preservers Institute has a couple of documents to consult: 2009 IBC Document and 2013 CBC Document. They also have a number of different links to various wood associations.

As shown in Figure 1 below, fasteners (including nuts and washers) used with FRTW in exterior conditions or where the wood’s service condition may include wet or damp locations need to be hot-dipped zinc-coated galvanized steel, stainless steel, silicon bronze or copper. This section does permit other fasteners (excluding nails, wood screws, timber rivets and lag screws) to be mechanically galvanized in accordance with ASTM B 695, Class 55 at a minimum. As shown in Figure 2, fasteners (including nuts and washers) used with FRTW in interior conditions need to be in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations, or, if no recommendations are present, to comply with 2304.9.5.3.

Figure 1:  Section 2304.9.5.3 of the 2012 IBC (Source ICC)

Figure 1: Section 2304.9.5.3 of the 2012 IBC (Source ICC)

Figure 2:  Section 2304.9.5.4 of the 2012 IBC (Source ICC)

Figure 2: Section 2304.9.5.4 of the 2012 IBC (Source ICC)

In Type III construction where the exterior walls may be FRTW in accordance with 2012 IBC Section 602.3, one question that often comes up is whether the defined “exterior wall” should comply with Section 2304.9.5.3 or 2304.9.5.4. While there are many different views on this point, it is our opinion at Simpson Strong-Tie that Section 2304.9.5.4 would apply to the exterior walls. Since the exterior finishes of the building envelope are intended to protect the wood and components within its cavity from exterior elements such as rain or moisture, the inside of the wall would be dry.

There are many FRTW product choices on the market; take a look at the American Wood Council’s list of treaters. Unlike the preservative-treated wood industry, however, the FRTW industry involves proprietary formulations and retentions. As a result, Simpson Strong-Tie has not evaluated the FRTW products. In our current connector and fastener catalogs, C-C-2015 Wood Connector Construction and C-F-14 Fastening Systems, you will find a newly revised Corrosion Resistance Classifications chart, shown in Figure 3 below, which can be found on page 15 in each catalog. The FRTW classification has been added to the chart in the last column. The corrosion protection recommendations for FRTW in various environmental applications is set to medium or high, corresponding to a number of options for connectors and fasteners as shown in the Corrosion Resistance Recommendations chart, shown in Figure 4. These general guideline recommendations are set to these levels for two reasons: (1) there are unknown variations of chemicals commercially available on the market, and (2) Simpson Strong-Tie has not conducted testing of these treated wood components.

Figure 3: Simpson Strong-Tie Corrosion Resistance Classifications Chart

Figure 3: Simpson Strong-Tie Corrosion Resistance Classifications Chart

Figure 4: Simpson Strong-Tie Corrosion Resistance Recommendations Chart

Figure 4: Simpson Strong-Tie Corrosion Resistance Recommendations Chart

The information above is not the only information readily available. There are many different tests that can be done on FRTW, as noted in the Western Wood Preservers Institute’s document. One such test for corrosion is Military Specification MIL-1914E, which deals with lumber and plywood. Another is AWPA E12-08, Standard Method of Determining Corrosion of Metals in Contact with Treated Wood. Manufacturers of FRTW products who applied for and received an ICC-ES Evaluation Report must submit the results of testing for their specific chemicals in contact with various types of steel. ICC-ES Acceptance Criteria 66 (AC66), the Acceptance Criteria for Fire-Retardant-Treated Wood, requires applicants to submit information regarding the FRTW product in contact with metal. The result is a section published in each manufacturer’s evaluation report (typically Section 3.4) addressing the product use in contact with metal. Many published reports contain similar language, such as “The corrosion rate of aluminum, carbon steel, galvanized steel, copper or red brass in contact with wood is not increased by (name of manufacturer) fire-retardant treatment when the product is used as recommended by the manufacturer.” Structural engineers should check the architect’s specification on this type of material. Product evaluation reports should also be checked to ensure proper specification of hardware and fastener coatings to protect against corrosion. Each evaluation report also contains the applicable strength adjustment factors, which vary from one product to another.

Selecting the proper FRTW product for use in your building is crucial. There are many different options available. Be sure to select a product based on the published information and to communicate that information to the entire design team. Evaluation reports are a great source of information because the independently witnessed testing of manufacturers has been reviewed by the agency reviewing the report. Finally, understanding FRTW chemicals and their behavior when in contact with other building products will ensure expected performance of your structures.

What has been your experience with FRTW? What minimum recommendations do you provide in your construction documents?



Steel Strong-Wall® Footings Just got a Little Slimmer!

While 54 inches is a good height and will get you on most amusement park rides, what about this dimension for the width of a footing? We did some tests recently — actually a lot of tests — that answered that question.

Steel Strong-Wall® narrow panels are great for resisting high seismic or wind loads, but due to their narrow widths, their resulting anchor uplift forces can be rather hefty, requiring very large pad footings. How large? For Seismic Design Categories C-F, the largest cracked concrete solution per ACI318-11 Appendix D has a width of 54 inches and an effective embedment depth of 18 inches in order to ensure the anchor remains ductile. The overall length of this footing, as seen in Figure 1, can be up to 132 inches. While purely code driven, these solutions have historically presented challenges in the field. Most concrete contractors have to dig footings this size by hand. This often leads to discussions with their engineers about finding a better solution.

Figure 1:  Slab-on-Grade Installation (Traditional Solution)

Figure 1: Slab-on-Grade Installation (Traditional Solution)

Simpson Strong-Tie has been studying cast-in-place anchorage extensively in recent years. Our research has been featured in a couple of blog posts: The Anchorage to Concrete Challenge – How Do You Meet It? and Podium Anchorage – Structure Magazine. Concrete podium slab anchorage was a multi-year test program that started with grant funding from the Structural Engineers Associations of Northern California for initial concept testing at Scientific Construction Laboratories Inc. and wrapped up with full-scale detailed testing completed at the Simpson Strong-Tie Tye Gilb Laboratory in Stockton, California. This joint venture studied the performance of anchorage reinforcement into thin podium deck slabs (10-14 inch) to resist the high overturning forces of continuous rod systems on 4-5-story mid-rise construction. The testing confirmed the need to comply with Appendix D requirements to prevent plastic hinging at anchor locations. Be on the lookout for an SE Blog post on that topic in the near future. Armed with what we learned, we decided to develop tested anchor reinforcing solutions for the Steel Strong-Wall.

The newly developed anchor reinforcement solutions for grade beams are calculated in accordance with ACI318 Appendix D and tested to validate performance. Anchor reinforcement isn’t a new concept, as it’s been in ACI318 for some time. Essentially, anchor reinforcements transfer load from the anchor bolt to the reinforcing, which restrains the breakout cone from occurring. For the new grade beam details, the additional ties near the anchor are designed to resist the load from the anchor and are developed into the grade beam. The new details offer solutions with widths as narrow as 18 inches when anchor reinforcement is used.

Two details have been developed: one for the larger panels (SSW18, SSW21, SSW24) as shown in Detail 1/SSW1.1, and one for the smaller panels (SSW12, SSW15) as shown in Detail 2/SSW1.1. The difference between the two is the number of anchor reinforcement ties specified in Detail 3/SSW1.1. For SSW18, SSW21 and SSW24 panels (Detail 1/SSW1.1), the total number of reinforcement per anchor is specified. Due to their smaller sizes, the anchor reinforcement ties specified in Detail 2/SSW1.1 for the SSW12 and SSW15 panels are the total required per panel.

Detail 1/SSW1.1

Detail 1/SSW1.1

Detail 2/SSW1.1

Detail 2/SSW1.1

Detail 3/SSW1.1

Detail 3/SSW1.1

Validation Testing

From the concrete podium deck anchorage test program, we discovered that the flexural and shear capacity of the slab is critical to anchor performance and must be designed to exceed the demands created by the attached structure. For grade beams, this also holds true. In wind-load applications, this demand includes the factored demand from the Steel Strong-Wall. In seismic applications, our testing and analysis showed that achieving the anchor performance expected by Appendix D design methodologies requires the concrete member design strength to resist the amplified anchor design demand from Appendix D Section D.

Validation testing was conducted to evaluate this concept. The test program consisted of a number of specimens with different configurations, including:

  • Closed tie anchor reinforcement
  • Non-closed tie u-stirrup anchor reinforcement
  • Control specimen without anchor reinforcement

Flexural and shear reinforcement were designed to resist Appendix D amplified anchorage forces and were compared to test beams designed for non-amplified strength level forces. The results of the testing are shown in Figure 2. In the higher Seismic Design Categories (C-F), the anchor assembly must be designed to satisfy Section D. in ACI318-11 Appendix D. In accordance with D. (a), the concrete breakout strength needs to be greater than 1.2 times the nominal steel strength of the anchor, 1.2NSA. This requires a concrete breakout strength of 87 kips for a Steel Strong-Wall that uses a 1-inch high-strength anchor.

Figure 2: Steel Strong-Wall Grade Beam Testing

Figure 2: Steel Strong-Wall Grade Beam Testing

Grade beams without the anchor reinforcement detail and with flexural and shear reinforcement designed to the Appendix D amplified anchorage forces performed similar to those with closed-tie anchor reinforcement and flexural and shear reinforcements designed to the non-amplified strength level forces. Both, however, came up short of the necessary forces required by Section D. (a). From Test V852, we discovered that even though the flexural and shear reinforcement were designed with the amplified forces, the non-closed tie u-stirrups did not ensure the intended performance. From observation, the u-stirrups do not provide adequate confinement of the concrete and tend to open up under loading conditions, resulting in splitting of the beam at the top as can be seen in the photo.

Test V852: Non-Closed U-Stirrups

Test V852: Non-Closed U-Stirrups

Tests W785 and W841 resulted in the best performance. Both test specimens contained flexural and shear reinforcement designed for the amplified forces, as well as closed-ties. Two configurations were tested to study their performance — two piece closed-tie anchor reinforcement in W785 and a single piece closed-tie anchor reinforcement in Test W841. As seen in Figure 2, their performance was very similar, and met the requirements of Section D. (a). The closed-ties helped confine the concrete near the top of the beam, allowing the assembly to reach the expected performance load (See the photo below). It’s important to indicate the following specifics in the New Grade Beam Anchor Reinforcement Details:

  • Anchor Reinforcement is #4 closed-ties
  • SSWAB embedment depth is 16″ +/- ½” (as shown in Detail 3/SSW1.1). This is to ensure there is enough development length of the anchor reinforcement on both sides of the theoretical breakout surface as required by ACI318-11 D.5.2.9.
  • The minimum distances from the anchor bolt plate washer to top and bottom of closed tie reinforcement are 13 inches and 5 inches respectively to ensure proper development above and below the concrete breakout cone (refer to Detail 3/SSW1.1).
  • The spacing between the two vertical legs of the anchor reinforcement tie must be 10 inches apart. While this may differ from your shear reinforcement elsewhere in the grade beam, it ensures the reinforcement is located close enough to the anchor and adequate development length is provided.
  • Flexural reinforcement (top and bottom) and shear reinforcement (ties throughout the grade beam length) are per the designer. Simpson Strong-Tie has provided information in Detail 3/SSW1.1 for the applicable minimum LRFD Applied Design Seismic Moment (See Figure 3) to make sure the grade beam design will at least resist the applied anchor forces. Project design loads not related to the Strong-Wall panel also should be considered and could control the grade beam design.
Closed-Tie Anchor Reinforcement

Closed-Tie Anchor Reinforcement

Figure 3: LRFD Applied Design Seismic Moment

Figure 3: LRFD Applied Design Seismic Moment

Simpson Strong-Tie is interested in hearing your thoughts on the new details. What is your opinion? How have the new details been received on your job sites?

Resilience by Design: City of Los Angeles Lays Out a Seismic Safety Plan

“From a seismological standpoint, Northridge was not a big earthquake.” This is first sentence of the “Resilience by Design” report by L.A. Mayor’s Seismic Safety Task Force led by Dr. Lucy Jones of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The report is the culmination of a year-long investigation into the greatest vulnerabilities of the city from a major seismological event. This 126-page report (click here to view entire report) lays out key recommendations for reducing those vulnerabilities and increasing safety while keeping these four points in mind:

  • Protecting the lives of residents
  • Improving the capacity of the City to respond to earthquakes
  • Preparing the City to recover quickly from earthquakes
  • Protecting the economy of the City and all of Southern California

The Mayoral Seismic Safety Task Force, comprised of many professionals across many areas of expertise, took on this monumental project to investigate and strategize ways to help make the city more resilient. The Resilience by Design report recommended taking actions focused on strengthening the city’s most vulnerable building stock known to have poor performance during earthquakes, improving the aging water system, and enhancing the telecommunications system in order for the city to reduce losses and to adequately respond after a major seismic event. Let’s explore these three areas:

Strengthening the Building Stock

The report identifies two types of vulnerable buildings that have either demonstrated poor performance or collapsed during previous earthquake events. These include non-ductile reinforced concrete buildings (shown in Figure 1) and soft-story buildings. The report recommends retrofitting these types of buildings.

Los Angeles has approximately 1,400 non-ductile reinforced concrete buildings and the report focuses on those constructed prior to January 1, 1980. The proposed ordinance requires that building owners of this building type submit a report within five years of the passage of the legislation with evidence that either states a retrofit has already been completed and the requirements of the ordinance have been met, or provides the structural analysis and plans for structural alteration necessary to comply with the ordinance. The building owner would then have 25 years to complete the retrofit.

non-ductile concrete frame construction

Figure 1: Kaiser Permanent Medical Building, a non-ductile concrete frame construction. Photo Credit: M. Celebi, USGS

Soft-story buildings have large openings at the first level, such as tuck-under parking or large retail display windows as shown in Figure 2 and are more prone to collapse, as evidenced during the Northridge Earthquake. Under this plan, building owners of this type of construction are required to submit a report within one year of passage of the legislation. This report would need to provide the structural analysis that shows the building complies with the minimum requirements of the ordinance or contain structural analysis and plans for alternation to satisfy the minimum requirements. All retrofits would be required to be completed within five years of the ordinance passage.

It’s estimated that of the city’s 29,000 buildings, 13,000 are considered soft-story buildings and will require a retrofit. Los Angeles plans to roll out this program in phases. First, sending notices to building owners with three or more stories, then to building owners and with 16 units or more and finally, to the remaining owners. This ordinance is similar to the City of San Francisco’s 2013 mandate. For more information about San Francisco’s ordinance, view our previous blog post here.

Aftermath of an earthquake

Figure 2: Aftermath of an earthquake courtesy of the LA Times

The Resilience by Design report also proposes adoption and implementation of a voluntary earthquake hazard building rating system developed by the United States Resiliency Council (USRC). This system has three rating dimensions: safety, repair and time to regain function. It assigns a rating from 1 star to 5 stars for each category. Figures 3-5 illustrate the rating for each category. Typical buildings designed and built to the current minimum building code requirements would receive a 3-star rating. It’s thought that this rating system will give the public better understanding of the risk and damage they may expect from a building,so they can make better informed decisions. Los Angeles plans to lead by example by having city-owned facilities rated to get a better understanding of the potential issues and solutions for their building stock.

Safety Rating Dimension to the USRC Building Rating System

Figure 3 – Safety Rating Dimension to the USRC Building Rating System

Repair Cost Rating Dimension to the USRC Building Rating System

Figure 4 – Repair Cost Rating Dimension to the USRC Building Rating System

Time to Regain Basic Function Rating Dimension to the USRC Building Rating System

Figure 5 – Time to Regain Basic Function Rating Dimension to the USRC Building Rating System

Enhancing the Water and Telecommunication Systems

If you reside in Southern California, you have undoubtedly heard about the many water main breaks throughout the region. Water is a crucial component to the infrastructure of any major metropolitan area, but the findings of this report are disturbing. The Resilience by Design report focuses on several key aspects of the water system within Los Angeles. According to Dr. Lucy Jones, access to 88% of the water supply may be gone during the largest probable earthquake and may take up to six months to repair. This will make it difficult to live and to fight potential fires. The plan calls for alternative firefighting water systems, increased water storage capacity and fortifying the century-old water supply system that crosses the San Andreas fault system. The plan also proposes the enhancement of the city’s network of water pipes.

Finally, the Resilience by Design looks to strengthen the telecommunication infrastructure for the city. The report calls for improved partnerships with providers to remove barriers to bandwidths amongst the networks following a major seismic event to keep information moving. In addition, the Mayoral Seismic Safety Task Force recommends improving and protecting important communication and power lines that cross the San Andreas fault, a crucial element to ensuring the areas hardest hit still have access to the power, which is needed for the rebuilding process.

What’s Next?

The proposed ordinance, as detailed within the report, is now in the hands of the City Council. It is expected that they will review it, make any changes they feel are necessary and vote on the mandatory retrofit program by mid-year.

As engineers, what are your thoughts to the proposed “Resilience by Design” plan?

What ideas or tools do you use to communicate to your clients the expected level of seismic performance of their building?

Should we better communicate the importance of community resiliency (we’re all in this together!) to the public? If so, how? Let us know in the comments below.

The Importance of Resilient Communities During Earthquakes

Imagine that it’s 4:30 a.m. and suddenly you’re awakened by strong shaking in your home. Half asleep, you hang on to your bed hoping that the shaking will stop soon. All of a sudden, the floor gives away and you fall. You think, “What just happened? How could this have possibly occurred? Am I alive?”

These could have been the thoughts of Southern California residents living in one of the many apartment buildings, which collapsed on January 17, 1994, during a 6.7 magnitude earthquake. The Northridge Earthquake brought awareness to buildings in our communities with a structural weakness known as a soft story, a condition that exists where a lower level of a multi-story structure has 20% or less strength than the floor above it. This condition is prevalent in buildings with tuck-under parking and is found in multistory structures throughout San Francisco, Los Angeles and other cities (see Figure 1). These structures are highly susceptible to major damage or collapse during a large seismic event (see Figure 2).

Soft Story building

Figure 1: Multi-unit wood-frame building with first weak story.

Aftermath of an earthquake

Figure 2: Collapsed soft story tuck under parking building. Image courtesy of LA Times

Soft story retrofits help to strengthen our communities and make them more resilient to major disasters. There are several resources available to structural engineers that need to retrofit weak-story buildings. Some of these resources are mentioned in our September 18 blog post.

During the 2014 SEAOC Convention held in Indian Wells on September 10-13, speakers discussed different methods, analysis and research that address the behavior of various materials and construction types during seismic events along with approaches to retrofit historically poor performing structures. This information can be viewed from the convention’s proceedings available at www.seaoc.org.

On October 20, 2014, the Structural Engineers Association of Southern California (SEAOSC) will be hosting their 4th annual Strengthening Our Cities BAR Summit in downtown Los Angeles. This event brings together many different stakeholders in our built environment, including public officials, building owners and managers, business owners, insurance industry representatives, emergency managers and first responders, and design professionals.

Many prestigious thought leaders, including USGS Seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones will be speaking at the summit, discussing such topics as tools and analysis methods for retrofitting vulnerable buildings and the Building Occupancy Resumption Program (BORP).

Expect a great day full of useful information about ways to strengthen our communities and prepare for major earthquakes as well as opportunities to network with like-minded peers. For additional information and to register, visit www.barsummit.org. We also hope you’ll visit our booth. We look forward to speaking with you there.

Special Moment Frame Installation: What Structural Engineers Should Watch For

Launched in January 2013, the Simpson Strong-Tie® Strong Frame® special moment frame (SMF) has been successfully used on many projects around the country. We’ve explored several aspects of the frame in previous blog posts, including beam bracing requirements, soft story retrofits, and the San Francisco retrofit ordinance. If you have specified the Strong Frame SMF on your project, here are a few helpful items to review during your structural observations at installation.

When the special moment frame is ordered, Simpson Strong-Tie sends the contractor a frame verification sheet to verify the dimensions (Figure 1). It is not uncommon for minor adjustments to be made to accommodate specific field conditions. We recommend the framer follow up with the Designer to ensure the needed modifications do not alter the design of the frame based on deflection or strength stand point limitation(s). Once we receive the signed verification, we begin fabricating the frame. The accompanying concrete anchors are usually shipped before the frame so they can be placed ahead of time.

SMF Data Sheet v2.2.2.xlsmIt all starts with the concrete! The majority of misinstallation issues involve anchorage placement. Anchors not placed correctly can alter the frame that’s already been ordered, affecting lead times or requiring retrofit to properly transfer the frame forces into the concrete. Contact your local Simpson Strong-Tie sales rep to help with any questions.

Placement of the Moment Frame Shear Lug (MFSL) is critical to ensure proper transfer of shear forces into the foundation. If you are visiting the jobsite prior to concrete placement, take a look at the orientation of the MFSL. The MFSL contains back-to-back structural angles placed at the top of concrete to transfer the shear component of the Strong Frame SMF forces into the concrete. Figure 2 shows the proper placement of the MFSL and template in relationship to the direction of the column.

Proper Installation of MFSL in relationship to the Column

Figure 2: Proper Installation of MFSL in relationship to the Column

The template has a similar appearance to the shape and size of the column base plate, which sometimes leads to the tendency to orient the template 90 degrees from its proper installation, as shown in Figure 3. The template has two half circles at the center of the anchor bolts for proper measurement (center-to-center of columns) by the contractor, as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 3:  Improper orientation of MFSL Template

Figure 3: Improper orientation of MFSL Template

Top View of MFSL Template

Figure 4: Top View of MFSL Template

The templates are temporary and intended to be removed prior to frame installation (unlike the case in Figure 3). So placement of the shear lugs is more critical to verify than the direction of the template, since the contractor may remove the template and reinstall it in an alternate orientation. The vertical legs of the two structural angles should intersect the column’s weak axis (perpendicular to center of frame) as shown in Figure 5, and should not be placed parallel to the strong axis.

Proper Orientation of MFSL

Figure 5: Proper Orientation of MFSL

According to ASTM A325, installation requires 11 bolts snug tight at each beam-column connection (labeled “a” in Figure 6), and the column needs to be attached to the four anchor bolts into the base of each column. Many components of the Strong Frame SMF are factory-installed, including the Yield-LinkTM structural fuses, Buckling Restraint Plates (BRP), and nailers. The Yield-Link fuses and BRP should not be disassembled. Figure 6 illustrates an instance where the BRP was loosened during erection. The BRP prevents the Yield-Link fuses from buckling when the frame is subjected to compression forces. Contact Simpson Strong-Tie if you encounter this in the field.

Figure 6:  Beam-Column Connection

Figure 6: Beam-Column Connection

The wood nailers may be replaced in kind. It is important to note that attachment of the nailers may not utilize all available bolt holes on the column and beam. Various holes are left unused for flexibility with installation of utilities and electrical wiring.

Lastly, often overlooked at installation are the required SDS screws through the column cap plate into the framing above (Figure 7). The SDS screws are included with the installation kit. They are required for bracing of the column on both faces of the column.

Figure 7:  Missing SDS screws for Column Bracing

Figure 7: Missing SDS screws for Column Bracing

How is the Strong Frame special moment frame working for you?  Please let us know in the comments!