BRACE FOR IMPACT! Bracing Design for Cold-Formed Steel Studs

While consideration of bracing is important for any structural element, this is especially true for thin, singly symmetric cold-formed steel (CFS) framing members such as wall studs. Without proper consideration of bracing, excessive buckling or even failure could occur. Bracing is required to resist buckling due to axial or out-of-plane lateral loads or a combination of the two.

There are two methods for bracing CFS studs as prescribed by the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) Committee on Framing Standards (COFS) S211 “North American Standard for Cold-Formed Steel Framing – Wall Stud Design” Section B1. One is sheathing braced design and the other is steel braced design.

Sheathing braced design has limitations, but it is a cost effective method of bracing studs since sheathing is typically attached to wall studs. This design method is based on an assumption that the sheathing connections to the stud are the bracing points and so it’s limited by the strength of the sheathing fastener to stud connection. Due to this limitation, the Designer has to use a steel braced design for most practical situations. AISI S211 prescribes a maximum nominal stud axial load for gypsum board sheathing with fasteners spaced no more than 12 inches on center. AISI S211 Section B1 and the Commentary discuss the design method and assumptions and demonstrate how to determine the sheathing bracing strength.

CFS Curtain Wall Stud Steel Clip and Bridging Bracing

CFS Curtain Wall Stud Steel Clip and Bridging Bracing

Sheathing braced design requires that identical sheathing is used on each side of the wall stud, except the new AISI S240 standard Section B1.2.2.3 clarifies that for curtain wall studs it is permissible to have sheathing on one side and discrete bracing for the other flange not spaced further than 8 feet on center. The wall stud is connected to the top and bottom tracks or supporting members to provide lateral and torsional support and the construction drawings should note that the sheathing is a structural element. When the sheathing on either side is not identical, the Designer must assume the weaker of the two sheathings is attached to each side. In addition, the Designer is required to design the wall studs without the sheathing for the load combination 1.2D + (0.5L or 0.2S) + 0.2W as a consideration for construction loads of removed or ineffective sheathing. The Designer should neglect the rotational restraint of the sheathing when determining the wall stud flexural strength and is limited by the AISI S100 Section C5.1 interaction equations for designing a wall stud under combined axial and flexural loading.

Steel braced design may use the design methodology shown in AISI S211 or in AISI Committee on Specifications (COS) S100 “North American Specification for the Design of Cold-Formed Steel Structural Members.”

AISI S211 Table B1-1 Maximum Axial Nominal Load Limited by Gypsum Sheathing-to-Wall Stud Connection Capacity

AISI S211 Table B1-1 Maximum Axial Nominal Load Limited by Gypsum Sheathing-to-Wall Stud Connection Capacity

Steel braced design is typically either non-proprietary or proprietary “clip and bridging” bracing, or “flat strap and blocking” bracing periodically spaced along the height of the wall stud.

CFS Wall Stud Steel U-Channel Bridging Bracing

CFS Wall Stud Steel U-Channel Bridging Bracing

CFS Wall Stud Steel Flat-Strap Bracing and Blocking Bracing

CFS Wall Stud Steel Flat-Strap Bracing and Blocking Bracing

Proprietary wall bracing and wall stud design solutions can expedite design with load and stiffness tables and software as well as offer efficient, tested and code-listed solutions such as Simpson Strong-Tie wall stud bridging connectors.

Simpson Strong-Tie Bridging Connectors

Simpson Strong-Tie Bridging Connectors

Steel braced design is a more practical bracing method for several reasons. First, during construction, wall studs go unsheathed for many months, but are subjected to significant construction loads.This is especially true for load-bearing, mid-rise structures. Second, some sheathing products, including gypsum wallboard, can be easily damaged and rendered ineffective if subjected to water or moisture. Third, much higher bracing loads can be achieved using mechanical bracing. IBC Section 2211.4 permits Designers to design steel bracing for axially loaded studs using AISI S100 or S211. However, S100-07 requires the brace to be designed to resist not only 1% of the stud nominal axial compressive strength (S100-12 changes this to 1% of the required compressive axial strength), but also requires a certain brace stiffness. S211 requires the Designer to design the bracing for 2% of the stud design compression force, and it does not have a stiffness requirement. . AISI S100 is silent regarding combined loading, but S211 provides guidance. S211 requires that, for combined loading, the Designer designs for the combined brace force determined using S100 Section D3.2.1 for the flexural load in the stud and either S100 or S211 for the axial load. In addition, the bracing force for stud bracing is accumulative as stated by S211 Commentary section B3. As a result, the periodic anchorage of the bracing to the structure such as strongbacks or diagonal strap bracing is required.

CFS Wall Stud Diagonal Strap Steel Bracing Anchorage

CFS Wall Stud Diagonal Strap Steel Bracing Anchorage

Some benefits and challenges of steel clip and bridging bracing include:

  • Proprietary solutions, such as the Simpson Strong-Tie SUBH bridging connector, can significantly reduce installed cost since many situations require only one screw at each connection.
  • Unlike strap bracing, u-channel bracing can be installed from one side of the wall.
  • U-channel bracing does not create build-up that can make drywall finishing more difficult.
  • Extra coordination may be required to ensure that u-channel bridging does not interfere with plumbing and electrical services that run vertically in the stud bay.
  • Bracing for axial loaded studs requires periodic anchorage to the structure, such as using strongbacks or diagonal strap bracing.
  • Bracing of laterally loaded studs does not require periodic anchorage since the system is in equilibrium as torsion in the stud is resisted by bridging (e.g., U-channel) bending.

Some benefits and challenges of steel flat strap and blocking bracing include:

  • May be installed at other locations than stud punchout.
  • Required to be installed on both sides of wall.
  • Bumps out sheathing.
  • Bracing for axial loaded studs requires periodic anchorage to structure, such as using strongbacks or diagonal strap bracing (same load direction in stud flanges).
  • Bracing for laterally loaded studs requires design of periodic blocking or periodic anchorage to the structure (opposite load direction in stud flanges).

There are several good examples Designers may reference when designing CFS wall stud bracing. They include AISI D110 Cold-Formed Steel Framing Design Guide that may be purchased from www.cfsei.org, SEAOC Structural/Seismic Design Manual Volume 2 Example 3 that may be purchased from www.seaoc.org, and the Simpson Strong-Tie wall stud steel bracing design example on page 60 of the C-CFS-15 CFS catalog.

AISI S110 Cold-Formed Steel Framing Design Guide

AISI S110 Cold-Formed Steel Framing Design Guide

SEAOC 2012 IBC Structural/Seismic Design Manual Volume 2

SEAOC 2012 IBC Structural/Seismic Design Manual Volume 2

Cold-formed steel framing is a versatile construction material, but Designers need to carefully consider the bracing requirements of the AISI specification and wall stud design standard. What cold-formed steel wall bracing challenges have you encountered and what were your solutions?

Strong-Wall Bracing Selector: Bridging the Gap between Engineered Design and Prescriptive Construction

Asking a structural engineer to design wall bracing under the IRC® can be like asking a French pastry chef to bake a cake using Betty Crocker’s Cookbook. The temptation is to toss out the prescriptive IRC recipe and design the house using ASCE 7 loads and the AWC SDPWS shear wall provisions per the IBC®. But if only a portion of the house needs to be engineered, there may be an easier option.

The prescriptive IRC states an IBC engineered design “is permitted for all buildings and structures and parts thereof” but the design must be “compatible with the performance of the conventional framed system.” But how exactly does an IRC braced wall panel perform? The code doesn’t come right out and tell us, but there are two bracing methods that are essentially shear walls masquerading as braced wall panels: Method ABW and Method BV-WSP. Backing into their allowable loads gives us the key to determining equivalence and eliminates the need to develop lateral forces.

But before you can bust out the slide rule and start crunching numbers, you need to figure out how much bracing the prescriptive code requires. We developed our Wall-Bracing-Length Calculator in 2010 to help designers do just that. And last month, we launched our Strong-Wall® Bracing Selector tool to make it easier to specify equivalent solutions for tricky situations.

Strong-Wall Bracing Selector

Strong-Wall Bracing Selector

Wall-Bracing-Length Calculator

Wall-Bracing-Length Calculator

You can export the required lengths (and project information) from the Wall-Bracing-Length Calculator directly into the Strong-Wall Bracing Selector or you can manually enter in the required lengths. The selector app will provide a list of Strong-Wall panels that have an equivalent length, evaluate their anchorage loads and return a list of pre-engineered anchor solutions for a variety of foundation types.

If you’re familiar with our Strong-Wall Prescriptive Design Guide (T-SWPDG10), the selector automates this 84-page document in just a few steps. One big upgrade is the ability to select a solution to meet the exact amount of bracing that is required. If you needed 2.8-ft. of wall bracing, you have to round up to the tabulated 4-ft. solutions if you are using the guide, but now you can select a wall solution that is equivalent to 2.8-ft., which might mean a smaller wall width or better anchor options. You also have the ability to save the selector file for later modifications, create a PDF of the job-specific output, or email the PDF directly from the program.

Strong-Wall Prescriptive Design Guide

Strong-Wall Prescriptive Design Guide

So next time you get asked to “design” some wall bracing, see if our Wall-Bracing-Length Calculator and Strong-Wall Bracing Selector might save you some time. There is a tutorial and a design example on the Bracing Selector web page, but it’s very easy to use so you may just want to dive right in. I should also point out that the Strong-Wall SB panels have not yet been implemented into the program, but bracing information for them is available on strongtie.com in posted letters for wind (L-L-SWSBWBRCE14), seismic (L-L-SWSBSBRCE14), and seismic with masonry veneer (L-L-SWSBVBRCE14).

Let us know what you think of this new tool in the comments below.

 

New Holdown Requirements for the IRC® and IBC® Portal Frame Bracing Method

The IRC® contains several different narrow bracing methods that are made up of portal frames. One method that is useful if you are using intermittent wall bracing is the Method PFH Portal Frame with Holdowns. This method relies on low-deflection holdown anchorage at the bottom, and substantial nailing at the overlap of the sheathing and the header at the top to prevent overturning of the narrow panel. An identical method for use as wall bracing is in the Conventional Construction section in Chapter 23 of the IBC®. These portal frames were first included in the 2006 IBC and IRC.

Method PFH- Portal Fram With Holdowns

Method PFH- Portal Fram With Holdowns

The method was originally tested with straps clamped to a steel test bed to simulate the embedded holdown straps. The straps were nailed to the wood with enough nails to mimic a 4,200 lb. strap anchor. The original test report is APA T2002-70. At that time, the Simpson Strong-Tie® STHD14 had a published allowable load in excess of 4,200 lbs. based on then-current Acceptance Criteria, so hardware was available to construct this frame throughout the country. However, in 2008, ICC Evaluation Service developed a new acceptance criteria for embedded connectors, AC398, Acceptance Criteria for Cast-in-place Cold-formed Steel Connectors in Concrete for Light-frame Construction. This was in response to the changes in ACI 318 for anchors in concrete. When re-tested and evaluated using the new Acceptance Criteria, the allowable load for STHD14 was reduced below 4,200 lbs. for use in buildings designed for Seismic Design Categories C through F.   The same thing happened to other manufacturers’ embedded holdown allowable loads. That made it impossible to properly construct this bracing method in those areas. In response to this, Simpson Strong-Tie worked with APA, the Engineered Wood Association, to design a new test that would determine if a lower capacity holdown could be used with this portal frame method.  APA performed the testing at their Tacoma, Washington testing lab. Since the initial testing of the portal frames with the 4,200 lb. holdown was performed using the outdated SEAOSC protocol with an older testing rig that used a stiff beam above the wall, both the old tests with a simulated 4,200 lb. holdown and new tests with a simulated 3,500 lb. holdown were rerun in accordance with the current ASTM E2126 test method using the CUREe protocol. The test was published as Test Report T2012L-24. The tests showed little to no effect of reducing the holdown from 4,200 lbs. to 3,500 lbs. allowable load. Here is one of the graphs of the backbone curves comparing the two assemblies for a 16-inch wide, 10-foot tall portal frame.

Comparison graph of two assemblies for a 16-inch wide, 10-foot tall portal frame.

Comparison graph of two assemblies for a 16-inch wide, 10-foot tall portal frame.

With the testing complete, APA prepared and submitted code changes to both the 2012 International Building Code® and 2012 International Residential Code®. The IBC proposal is S291-12, and can be found on page 605 of the 2012 Proposed Changes to the International Building Code – Structural. The IRC proposal is RB311-13, and can be found on page 613 of the 2013 Proposed Changes to the International Residential Code-Building. With support from Simpson Strong-Tie, both of the proposals were approved. So in the 2015 IRC, bracing method PFH will require an embedded strap-type holdown with a minimum capacity of 3,500 lbs. instead of 4,200 lbs. The same will hold true for the Alternate Braced Wall Panel Adjacent to a Door or Window Opening bracing method in the 2015 IBC. APA also re-tested the portal frames with only two sill plates instead of three. This will allow the use of a 5/8” by 8” Titen HD® anchor as a retrofit anchor bolt. What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.