What Makes a Good Training Facility?

This blog post was written by Charlie Roesset, Director of Training for Simpson Strong-Tie.

When it comes to training, there are many well-researched principles about what makes an environment conducive to improved adult learning.

While we try to hold all training events in facilities that meet most of these principles, (even when traveling to our customers or users means we have to conduct events in hotel meeting rooms) we prefer to host you at our own locations.

To this end, we invest a tremendous amount of time and resources to build and offer dedicated training facilities across the country. These facilities meet all the basic requirements for improved adult learning, but much more as well.

By having our own dedicated training facilities, we can provide learners with a much richer experience and contextually relevant displays.

These displays include partially deconstructed wall segments, foundations and roof systems that give learners a bigger picture of the applications being studied.

Many displays allow for hands-on installations and exercises that allow for improved comprehension of the product use and limitations. Even for the engineering community, who typically are limited to images from a catalog, the hands-on activities add great value. It’s always interesting to see the reaction that engineers have to actually seeing a system approach and having an opportunity to participate in learning that goes way beyond sitting and listening to a lecture.

Sometimes learners just need to see, feel or hold something in order to really understand a concept or product application. We make every effort to bring legitimate educational content to our workshops, supported by products that we hope will furnish solutions to your needs.

Many of our facilities include a plant tour and/or testing-facility tour as well. While these components don’t always align directly with the learning objectives, they do offer a chance for our guests to raise their energy levels and get a better understanding of that scale, capabilities, and commitment to quality that we bring to bear in our endeavor to help people build safer structures.

Additionally, we offer our facilities to customers, associations and industry organizations to use for their own meetings and training events. If you haven’t been to one of our workshops or visited one of our facilities, I highly encourage you to join the 35,000 plus who have over the last four years. You can find a complete list of workshops on our training home page. I expect that you’ll find it an educational and highly engaging experience that helps you build safer structures as well.

Code Update: Revisions Finalized for the 2018 IRC

This blog post continues our series on the final results of the 2016 ICC Group B Code Change Hearings. This post will focus on approved changes to the International Residential Code (IRC) that are of a structural nature. The changes outlined here will be contained in the 2018 IRC, which is expected to be published in the fall of this year.

In Chapter 3, the seismic design category / short-period design spectral response acceleration maps will be updated to match the new USGS/NEHRP Seismic Maps. These new maps are based on the worst case assumption for Site Class. Significantly, a new set of maps will be provided in Figure 301.2(3) “Alternate Seismic Design Categories”. These are permitted to be used when the “soil conditions are determined by the building official to be Site Class A, B or D.” See page 29 of the linked document for the new maps and a good explanation of the changes that will be occurring in various parts of the country. In addition, the ICC Building Code Action Committee authored a reorganization of the seismic provisions of Chapter 3 to try to reduce confusion.

Another change in Chapter 3 will clarify that guards are only required on those portions of walking surfaces that are located more than 30 inches above grade, not along the entire surface. To bring consistency with the IBC, another change will require that staples in treated wood be made of stainless steel.

A broad group of parties interested in deck safety, known as the Deck Code Coalition, submitted 17 different code changes with revisions to Section R507 on decks. Of those, 12 were approved, making significant changes to that section. The various approved changes included the following: a complete re-write of that section; new/clarified requirements for deck materials, including wood, fasteners and connectors; clarified requirements for vertical and lateral connections of the deck to the supporting structure; new requirements for sizes of deck footings and specification that deck footings must extend below the frost line, with certain exceptions; clarification for deck board material, including an allowance for alternative decking materials and fastening methods; adding new columns to the deck joist span table that show the maximum cantilever for joists; adding the allowance for 8×8 deck posts, to allow notching for the support of a three-ply beam; and clarification of the deck-post-to-footing connection.

In Chapter 6, a new table permitting 11ʹ- and 12ʹ- long studs was added. In the 2015 IRC, load-bearing studs were limited to 10 feet in length. A new high-capacity nail, the RSRS (Roof Sheathing Ring Shank) nail was added as an option for fastening roof sheathing. This nail will become more widely used once the higher roof component and cladding forces from ASCE 7-16 are adopted. The rim board header detail that was added for the 2015 IRC was corrected to show that hangers are required in all cases when the joists occur over the wall opening.

There were several changes made to the Wall Bracing Section, R602.10. The use of the 2.0 increase factor was clarified for use when the horizontal joints in braced wall panel sheathing are not blocked. Narrow methods were added to the column headings for the wind and seismic bracing amount tables, to make them consistent, and the methods for adding different bracing were clarified. When using bracing method PFH, the builder can omit the nailing of the sheathing to the framing behind the strap-type holdown. Finally, offering some relief for high-seismic areas where brick veneer is used, an allowance was added to permit a limited amount of brick veneer to be present on the second floor without triggering the use of the BV-WSP bracing method.

In Chapter 8, the requirements for a “stick-framed” roof system were completely re-written to make such systems easier to use.

A couple of significant changes were made to the prescriptive requirements for cold-formed steel framing. The requirements for the anchorage of cold-formed steel walls were revised, and the wind requirements for cold-formed steel framing were changed to match the new AISI S230 prescriptive standard.

Finally, it may be helpful to mention some of the proposed changes that were not adopted. While the new ASCE 7-16 was adopted as the IRC reference standard for loads as part of the Administrative changes, several changes to the IRC to make it consistent with ASCE 7-16 were not approved. A change to update the IRC wind speed maps, roof component and cladding pressures, component and cladding roof zones, and revise the remainder of wind-based requirements to match ASCE 7-16 was not approved. Similarly, a proposal to increase the live load on decks, from 1.0 to 1.5 times the occupancy served, was denied.

Once the IRC is published, it will be time to start a new code change cycle once again, with Group A code changes due January 8, 2018. The schedule for the next cycle is already posted here.

What changes would you like to see for the 2021 codes?

Sneak Peek: Our New and Improved Deck Design Guide

One of the ways I get through winter every year is by looking forward to the weekend in March when we set our clocks ahead and “spring forward” into Daylight Savings time. Some people don’t like this change because of the lost hour of sleep, but to me it means the weather shouldn’t be cold for much longer.

The coming of spring means getting to walk to the car in daylight at the end of the workday. It also means getting the garden started for the year and spending more time outside in general.

Of course, I’m not alone in being happy to see winter go.

In the residential world, the phenomenon of “deck season” coincides with this time of year.  Homeowners with decks are getting ready for summer by giving their decks a cleaning and looking them over for any needed maintenance. Now’s the time that new or replacement decks are being planned and built to be enjoyed for the rest of the year.

deck-season

It’s no coincidence, then, that our deck-code guide has been updated again in time for warmer weather. The Deck Connection and Fastening Guide goes detail by detail (ledger connection, joist-to-beam connection, beam-to-post connection, etc.) through a typical deck and identifies the relevant building-code requirements (2012 and 2015 IRC/IBC) and connection options.

Our deck-code guide can be a helpful reference to an engineer who is just getting acquainted with decks, and can also bring you up to speed on revisions to the IRC that can necessitate engineering changes to even a relatively simple residential deck. Multilevel decks, guardrail details, ledger details and foundation challenges are all examples of things a deck builder could call you for assistance with.

For more information on resources available to engineers on deck design, feel free to consult my previous blog article, Wood-framed Deck Design Resources for Engineers.

The Deck Connection and Fastening Guide

F-DECKCODE17

This guide provides instructions on how to recognize defects and deficiencies in existing decks, and guidance for building a strong, safe, long-lasting new or renovated deck structures.


For more deck-related blog posts, check out the links below:

5 Steps to a Successful Soft-Story Retrofit

Last year, I gave a presentation at the annual National Council of Structural Engineers Associations (NCSEA) Summit in Orlando, Florida, titled “Becoming a Trusted Advisor: Communication and Selling Skills for Structural Engineers.” As this was a summit for the leaders of the structural engineers associations from across the country, I wasn’t sure how many people would find it valuable to spend their time learning about a very nontechnical topic. To my surprise and delight, the seminar ended up being standing-room only, and I was able to field some great questions from the audience about how they could improve their selling and communication skills. In the many conversations I had with the conference attendees after my presentation, the common theme was that engineers felt they needed more soft-skills training in order to better serve their clients. The problem, however, was finding the time to do so when faced with the daily grind of design work.

Structural Engineers In a Training for Seismic Retrofits

Presenting at the NCSEA Summit, I’m the tiny person in upper left hand corner.

When I started my first job as a design engineer at a structural engineering consulting firm straight out of school, I was very focused on improving and expanding my technical expertise. Whenever possible, I would attend building-code seminars, design reviews and new product solution presentations, all in an effort to learn more about structural engineering. What I found as I progressed through my career, however, was that no matter how much I learned or how hardworking I was, it didn’t really matter if I couldn’t successfully convey my knowledge or ideas to the person who really mattered most: the client.

Contractors discussing building plans with an engineer.

Contractors discussing building plans with an engineer.

How can an engineer be most effective in explaining a proposed action or solution to a client? You have to be able to effectively sell your idea by understanding the needs of your client as well as any reasons for hesitation. The importance of effective communication and persuasion is probably intuitive to anyone who’s been on the sales side of the business, but not something that occurs naturally to data-driven folks like engineers. As a result of recent legislation in California, however, structural engineers are starting to be inundated with questions from a group of folks who have suddenly found themselves responsible for seismically upgrading their properties: apartment building owners in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Imagine for a moment that you are a building owner who has received a soft-story retrofit notice under the City of Los Angeles’ Ordinance 183893; you have zero knowledge of structural engineering or what this term “soft-story” even means. Who will be your trusted advisor to help you sort it out? The City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) has put together a helpful mandatory ordinance website that explains the programs and also offers an FAQ for building owners that lets them know the first step in the process: hire an engineer or architect licensed in the state of California to evaluate the building.

Simpson Strong-Tie Structural Engineer Annie Kao at a jobsite.

Checking out some soft story buildings in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Times has a great map tool.

I’ve had the opportunity to be the first point of contact for a building owner after they received a mandatory notice, because it turns out some relatives own an apartment building with soft-story tuck-under parking. Panicked by the notice, they called me looking to understand why they were being forced to retrofit a building that “never had any problems in the past.” They were worried they would lose rent money due to tenants needing to relocate, worried about how to meet the requirements of the ordinance and, most importantly, worried about how much it was going to cost them. What they really wanted was a simple, straightforward answer to their questions, and I did my best to explain the necessity behind retrofitting these vulnerable buildings and give an estimated time frame and cost that I had learned from attending the first Los Angeles Retrofit Resource Fair in April 2016. With close to 18,000 buildings in the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles alone that have been classified as “soft-story,” this equates to quite a number of building owners who will have similar questions and be searching for answers.

To help provide an additional resource, Simpson Strong-Tie will be hosting a webinar for building owners in the Los Angeles area who have received a mandatory soft-story retrofit notice. Jeff Ellis and I will be covering “5 Steps to a Successful Retrofit” and helping to set a clear project path for building owners. The five steps that Simpson Strong-Tie will be recommending are:

  1. Understanding the Seismic Retrofit Mandate
  2. Partnering with Design Professionals
  3. Submitting Building Plans with the Right Retrofit Product Solutions
  4. Communicating with Your Building Tenants
  5. Completing Your Soft-Story Retrofit

We encourage you to invite any clients or potential clients to attend this informative webinar, which will lay the foundation for great communication between the two of you. As part of the webinar, we will be asking the building owners for their comments, questions and feedback so we can better understand what information they need to make informed decisions, and we will be sure to share these with the structural engineering community in a future post. By working together to support better communication and understanding among all stakeholders in retrofit projects, we will be well on our way to creating stronger and more resilient communities!

For additional information or articles of interest, there are several resources available:

Building Code Update: 2018 IBC to Reference ASCE 7-16

In early December, ICC posted the preliminary results of the Group B Online Governmental Consensus Vote, which included structural changes to the IBC, IEBC and IRC. ICC reports that there were more than 162,000 votes cast by eligible Voting Members during the three-week online voting period.

One subject of interest to building Designers, builders and some building-material suppliers was the disposition of a group of code changes that adopted ASCE 7-16 as the reference standard on loads for the IBC and IRC, and changed other parts of the IBC and IRC to reflect that.

The most controversial part of adopting the new ASCE 7-16 standard was its increase in roof component and cladding loads. The higher pressure coefficients in some cases raised the concern that the cost of roofing, roofing materials and roof repairs would be increased. Other items that raised some opposition were the new chapter on tsunami loads and the increase in deck and balcony live loads from 40 psf to 60 psf.

Despite these concerns, ICC members voted to approve the code change that adopted ASCE 7-16 as the reference for loads in the 2018 IBC, IRC and IEBC.

Along with that specific change, several other related changes were approved to correlate the IBC with adoption of ASCE 7-16. These included changes to Section 1604, General Design Requirements; adding in a new Section 1615 on Tsunami Design Requirements; modifications to Section 1613 so that seismic design requirements match ASCE 7-16; and deletion of Section 1609.6, Alternate All-Heights Method for wind design. On this last item, the argument was that since ASCE 7 now includes a simplified wind load design method, a competing method is not needed in the IBC.

Interestingly, a change to remove Strength Design and Allowable Stress Design load combinations from the IBC, which was approved by the IBC Structural Committee, was overturned and denied by the ICC Member voters. So those will remain in the IBC.

For the IRC, even though ASCE 7-16 will be shown as the referenced load standard, most changes to the actual code language relating to the new standard were denied. Items that were specifically denied included adoption of ASCE 7-16 wind speed maps, adoption of ASCE 7-16 roof pressure loading, and adoption of the new higher deck and balcony live loads. So the result is that the IBC and IRC will again be inconsistent with each other regarding wind design. On the other hand, the new USGS/NEHRP Seismic Design Maps were approved.

Future Code Corner articles will address other changes approved for the 2018 IBC and IRC.

 

3 Hot Tips for Structural Engineers Who Want to Earn Education Credits and Stay Sharp

Written by Minara El-Rahman in collaboration with the Simpson Strong-Tie Training Department.

Do you ever get so busy that you can’t keep up with the training opportunities that are available? We have previously shared online resources and webinars that are available to structural engineers, but did you know that you can take advantage of Simpson Strong-Tie regional training centers that offer complimentary workshops and classes about proper specification, product installation and inspection of connectors and structural systems? Here are some tips on staying current with your training.

Simpson Strong-Tie training courses and webinars are focused on improving building standards and the overall safety of structures. With eight training centers across North America, Simpson Strong-Tie provides hundreds of complimentary classes to engineers, architects, builders and code officials each year. In fact, we have trained more than 24,000 participants online and in-person in 2016 alone.

“The workshops are very interactive,” explained Charlie Roesset, Director of Training for Simpson Strong-Tie. “Depending on the course, students may have the opportunity to view product samples or take part in product testing and installations.”

Tip #1 Make Training Offerings Work for You

If you specialize in a specific discipline, look for courses that are targeted to your area of interest or expertise. Simpson Strong-Tie courses include a broad range of topics from anchor system installation and engineered wood frame construction to seismic and high-wind design. We also incorporate the latest building-code updates and industry trends into our training curriculum. No matter where you are in your professional career, we offer a course that’s right for you. There are introductory courses as well as more advanced workshops for repeat and seasoned attendees.

Training participants receive a certificate of attendance with professional development hours (PDHs) at the end of each workshop, and may earn continuing education units (CEUs) and/or learning units (LUs) by completing additional requirements. Simpson Strong-Tie is a registered education provider with a number of industry organizations and associations including CSI, BIA, ACIA, AIBD, ICC, AIA* and IACET**.

Tip #2 Find Trainings That Are Current

Do your research to find workshops and online courses that are regularly updated to reflect changes within the industry. For example, we have regular trainings that focus on the new seismic retrofit ordinances in various municipalities on the West Coast (such as Los Angeles’ Soft-Story Retrofit Ordinance) and others on high-wind design and construction in the Southeast. Our trainings are tailored to your design needs based on your practice’s location.

Full-day workshops typically run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Classes are often tailored toward specific audiences types to ensure that the training is appropriate and effective. Many courses are team-taught by registered engineers to provide in-depth technical expertise in the subject matter. While much of the instruction is technical in nature, many real-life examples and hands-on demonstrations are provided to help all attendees fully understand the material presented.

Tip #3 Hear What Other Structural Engineers Have to Say

Training

It is always a good sign when others in your field have good things to say about the courses they have taken. Below are some comments past participants have said about our training offerings:

Fred B., S.E., an engineer from Las Vegas, NV, has been a regular attendee of Simpson Strong-Tie workshops. He says the training keeps him informed of topics relevant to his industry and is a great way to keep up with his professional development hours. “Some of the courses offered by other groups are just not that interesting and they can be quite expensive. Simpson programs are interesting, hands-on and free. It’s the whole package.”

Bob N., an engineer from Richmond, VA, wrote, “Keep up the good work; I have found your seminars to be well done, pertinent, and useful. We also specify a lot of your products because of the training and the fact that you have an excellent product line.”

Kathy P., an engineer from Somerville, TX, shares: “You guys are so great! You teach well and keep it interesting. . . . . You support the industry to the benefit of everyone, not just your bottom line, and you make educational credits cost effective. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Sign up for a workshop and find out more about Simpson Strong-Tie training programs, including our latest online courses, by visiting www.strongtie.com/workshops.

* Simpson Strong-Tie is registered with the American Institute of Architects, Continuing Education System (AIA CES) as a provider of AIA Learning Units (AIA LUs).

** Simpson Strong-Tie is accredited by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) and is authorized to issue the IACET CEU.

 

 

Decrypting Cold-Formed Steel Connection Design

As published in STRUCTURE magazine, September 2016. Written by Randy Daudet, P.E., S.E., Product Manager at Simpson Strong-Tie.  Re-posted with permission. 

One of the world’s greatest unsolved mysteries of our time lies in a courtyard outside of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) headquarters in Langley, Virginia. It’s a sculpture called Kryptos, and although it’s been partially solved, it contains an inscription that has puzzled the most renowned cryptanalysts since being erected in 1990. Meanwhile, in another part of the DC Beltway about 15 miles to the southeast, another great mystery is being deciphered at the American and Iron Institute (AISI) headquarters. The mystery, structural behavior of cold-formed steel (CFS) clip angles, has puzzled engineers since the great George Winter helped AISI publish its first Specification in 1946. In particular, engineers have struggled with how thin-plate buckling behavior influences CFS clip angle strength under shear and compression loads. Additionally, there has been considerable debate within the AISI Specification Committee concerning anchor pull-over strength of CFS clip angles subject to tension.

cfs-clip-attachment

The primary problem has been the lack of test data to explain clip angle structural behavior. Even with modern Finite Element Analysis (FEA) tools, without test data to help establish initial deformations and boundary conditions, FEA models have proven inaccurate. Fortunately, joint funding provided by AISI, the Steel Framing Industry Association (SFIA), and the Steel Stud Manufactures Association (SSMA) has provided the much-needed testing that has culminated in AISI Research Report RP15-2, Load Bearing Clip Angle Design, that summarizes phase one of a multi-year research study. The report summarizes the structural behavior and preliminary design provisions for CFS load bearing clip angles and is based on testing that was carried out in 2014 and 2015 under the direction of Cheng Yu, Ph.D. at the University of North Texas. Yu’s team performed 33 tests for shear, 36 tests for compression, and 38 tests for pull-over due to tension. Clip angles ranged in thickness from 33 mils (20 ga.) to 97 mils (12 ga.), with leg dimensions that are common to the CFS framing industry. All of the test set-ups were designed so that clip angle failure would preclude fastener failure.

For shear, it was found that clips with smaller aspect ratios (L/B < 0.8) failed due to local buckling, while clips with larger aspect ratios failed due to lateral-torsional buckling. Shear test results were compared to the AISC Design Manual for coped beam flanges, but no correlation was found. Instead, a solution based on the Direct Strength Method (DSM) was employed that utilized FEA to develop a buckling coefficient for the standard critical elastic plate-buckling equation. Simplified methods were also developed to limit shear deformations to 1/8 inch. For compression, it was found that flexural buckling was the primary failure mode. Test results were compared to the gusset plate design provisions of AISI S214, North American Standard for Cold-Formed Steel Framing – Truss Design, and the axial compression member design provisions and web crippling design provisions of AISI S100, North American Specification for the Design of Cold-Formed Steel Structural Members, but no good agreement was found. Therefore, an alternate solution was developed that utilized column theory in conjunction with a Whitmore Section approach that yielded good agreement with test results. It was further found that using a buckling coefficient of 0.9 in the critical elastic buckling stress equation will produce conservative results. Finally, for pull-over due to tension, it was found that clip angle specimens exhibited significant deformation before pulling over the fastener heads (essentially the clip turns into a strap before pull-over occurs). However, regardless of this behavior, tested pull-over strength results were essentially half of AISI S100 pull-over equation E4.4.2-1.

Thanks to AISI Research Report RP15-2, there is a clearer understanding of the CFS clip angle structural behavior mysteries that have puzzled engineers for many years. However, just as the CIA’s Kryptos remains only partially solved, some aspects of clip angle behavior remain a mystery. For instance, how are the test results influenced by the fastener pattern? All of the test data to date has used a single line of symmetrically placed screws. This is something that does not occur for many practical CFS framing situations and will need additional research. Another glaring research hole is the load versus deflection behavior of clip angles under tension. As briefly mentioned above, the existing pull-over testing has demonstrated that excessive deflections can be expected before pull-over actually occurs. Obviously, most practical situations will dictate a deflection limit of something like 1/8 inch or 1/4 inch, but today we don’t have the test data to develop a solution. Fortunately, AISI in conjunction with its CFS industry partners continues to fund research on CFS clip angle behavior that will answer these questions, and possibly many more.

SEAOSC Safer Cities Survey Results: How Are We Building Strength and Transparency in Our Communities?

Back in January, employees at Simpson were given the opportunity to learn more about the 401K retirement and investment plan. The big takeaways from my training session were a) save as much as you can as early as you can in life and b) use asset allocation to diversify your portfolio and avoid too much risk. Now, I’m not a big risk taker in general, so I dutifully picked a good blend of stocks and bonds with a range of low to high risk. It seems like a pretty sound strategy and it made me think of all the other ways I tend to minimize risk in my life. When I head to a restaurant, for example, I almost instinctively look for the county health grade sign in the window. When my husband and I went to go buy a new family car a couple years ago, I remember searching the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website for crash test ratings. Even when I’m doing something as mundane as having a snack, I will invariably flip over the Twinkie package to see just how many grams of fat are lurking inside (almost 5 per serving!). For all the rankings and information available to the general public for restaurants, cars and snacks, there isn’t much, if any, information to help us know if we’re minimizing our risk for one of the most common activities we do almost every day: walking into a building.

Risk level knob positioned on medium position, white background and orange light. 3D illustration concept for business security management.

 

Now before you accuse me of being overly dramatic about such a trivial activity, here’s some food for thought: research has shown that Americans spend approximately 90% of their day inside a building. That’s over 21 hours a day! Have you ever once thought to yourself, “I wonder if this building is safe? Would this building be able to withstand an earthquake or high wind event?” Or how about even taking a step back and asking, “Are there any buildings that are already known to be potentially vulnerable or unsafe, and has my city done anything to identify them?” Unfortunately, that kind of information about a city’s building stock is not usually readily available, but some in the community, including structural engineers, are working to change that.

Los Angeles skyline on a partly cloudy day with a row of palm trees in the foreground.

 

The charge is being led in California, a.k.a. Earthquake Country, where structural engineers are teaming up with cities to help identify buildings with known seismic vulnerabilities and provide input on seismic retrofit ordinances. Structural engineers have learned quite a bit about how buildings behave through observing building performance after major earthquakes, and building codes have been revised to address issues accordingly. However, according to the US Green Building Council, “…the annual replacement rate of buildings (the percent of the total building stock newly constructed or majorly renovated each year) has historically been about 2%, and during the economic recession and subsequent years, it’s been much lower.” This means that there are a lot of older buildings out there that have not been built to current building codes and were not designed with modern engineering knowledge.

Several cities in California have enacted mandatory seismic retrofit ordinances that require the strengthening of some types of known vulnerable buildings, but no state or nation-wide program currently exists. The Structural Engineers Association of Southern California (SEAOSC) recently decided to launch a study of which jurisdictions in the southern California region have started to take the steps necessary to enact critical building ordinances. According to SEAOSC President Jeff Ellis, S.E., “In order to develop an effective strategy to improve the safety and resilience of our communities, it is critical to benchmark building performance policies currently in place. For southern California, this benchmarking includes recognizing which building types are most vulnerable to collapse in earthquakes, and understanding whether or not there are programs in place to decrease risk and improve recovery time.” These results were presented in SEAOSC’s Safer Cities Survey, in partnership with the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society and sponsored by Simpson Strong-Tie.

safer-cities-ca

This groundbreaking report is the first comprehensive look at what critical policies have been implemented in the region of the United States with the highest risk of earthquake damage. According to the Los Angeles Times, the survey “found that most local governments in the region have done nothing to mandate retrofits of important building types known to be at risk, such as concrete and wooden apartment buildings.”

The Safer Cities Survey highlights how the high population density of the SoCal region coupled with the numerous earthquake faults and aging buildings is an issue that needs to be addressed by all jurisdictions as soon as possible. An excerpt from the survey covers in detail why this issue is so important:

No building code is retroactive; a building is as strong as the building code that was in place when the building was built. When an earthquake in one location exposes a weakness in a type of building, the code is changed to prevent further construction of buildings with that weakness, but it does not make those buildings in other locations disappear. For example, in Los Angeles, the strongest earthquake shaking has only been experienced in the northern parts of the San Fernando Valley in 1971 and 1994 (Jones, 2015). In San Bernardino, a city near the intersection of the two most active faults in southern California where some of the strongest shaking is expected, the last time strong shaking was experienced was in 1899. Most buildings in southern California have only experienced relatively low levels of shaking and many hidden (and not so hidden) vulnerabilities await discovery in the next earthquake.

 The prevalence of the older, seismically vulnerable buildings varies across southern California. Some new communities, incorporated in the last twenty years, may have no vulnerable buildings at all. Much of Los Angeles County and the central areas of the other counties may have very old buildings in their original downtown that could be very dangerous in an earthquake, surrounded by other seismically vulnerable buildings constructed in the building booms of the 1950s and 1960s. Building codes do have provisions to require upgrading of the building structure when a building undergoes a significant alteration or when the use of it changes significantly (e.g., a warehouse gets converted to office or living space). Seismic upgrades can require changes to the fundamental structure of the building. Significantly for a city, many buildings never undergo a change that would trigger an upgrade. Consequently, known vulnerable buildings exist in many cities, waiting to kill or injure citizens, pose risks to neighboring buildings, and increase recovery time when a nearby earthquake strikes.

1994-northridge

The survey also serves as a valuable reference in being able to identify and understand what the known vulnerable buildings types are:

  1. Unreinforced masonry buildings: brick or masonry block buildings with no internal steel reinforcement — susceptible to collapse
  2. Wood-frame buildings with raised foundations: single-family homes not properly anchored to the foundation and/or built with a crawl space under the first floor — possible collapse of crawl space cripple walls or sliding off foundation
  3. Tilt-up concrete buildings: concrete walls connected to a wood roof — possible roof-to-wall connection failures leading to roof collapse
  4. Non-ductile reinforced concrete buildings: concrete buildings with insufficient steel reinforcement — susceptible to cracking and damage
  5. Soft first-story buildings: buildings with large openings in the first floor walls, typically for a garage — susceptible to collapse of the first story
  6. Pre-1994 steel moment frame buildings: steel frame buildings built before the 1994 Northridge earthquake with connections — susceptible to cracking leading to potential collapse

1933-earthquake-shot

Along with the comprehensive list of potentially dangerous buildings, the survey also offers key recommendations on how cities can directly address these hazards and reduce potential risks due to earthquakes. As a good starting point, the survey recommends having “…an active or planned program to assess the building inventory to gauge the number and locations of potentially vulnerable buildings…is one of the first steps in developing appropriate and prioritized risk mitigation and resilience strategies.

Economic costs can be substantial for businesses whose buildings have been affected by an earthquake. After a major seismic event, a structure needs to be cleared by the building department as safe before it can be reoccupied, and it will generally receive a green (safe), yellow (moderately damaged) or red (dangerous) tag.  A typical yellow-tagged building could take up to two months to be inspected, repaired and then cleared, meaning an enormous absence of income for businesses. The survey offers a strategy for getting businesses up and running quickly after an earthquake, in order to minimize such losses. The Safer Cities Survey recommends that cities adopt a “Back-to-Business” or “Building Re-Occupancy” program, which would “create partnerships between private parties and the City to allow rapid review of buildings in concert with City safety assessments…Back-to-Business programs…[allow] private parties to activate pre-qualified assessment teams, who became familiar with specific buildings to shorten evaluation time [and] support city inspections.

oes-inspectors-program

Basically, a program like this would allow a property owner to work with a structural engineer before an earthquake occurs. This way, the engineer is familiar with the building’s layout and potential risks, and can plan for addressing any potential damage. Having a program like this in place can dramatically shorten the recovery time for a business, from two months down to perhaps two weeks. Several cities have already adopted these types of programs, including San Francisco and Glendale, and it showed up as a component of Los Angeles’ Resilience by Design report.

Ultimately, the survey found that only a handful of cities have adopted any retrofit ordinance, but many cities indicated they were interested in learning more about how they could get started on the process. As a result, SEAOSC has launched a Safer Cities Advisory Program, which offers expert technical advice for any city looking to enact building retrofit ordinances and programs. This collaboration will hopefully help increase the momentum of strengthening southern California so that it can rebound more quickly from the next “Big One.”

We all want to minimize the risk in our lives, so let’s support our local structural engineering associations and building departments in exploring and enacting seismic building ordinances that benefit the entire community.

For additional information or articles of interest, please visit:

New Moment-Resisting Post Base

Jhakak Vasavada

Jhalak Vasavada is currently a Research & Development Engineer for Simpson Strong-Tie. She has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Maharaja Sayajirao (M.S.) University of Baroda, Gujarat, India, and a master’s degree in structural engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL. After graduation, she worked for an environmental consulting firm called TriHydro Corporation and as a structural engineer with Sargent & Lundy, LLC, based in Chicago, IL. She worked on the design of power plant structures such as chimney foundations, boiler building and turbine building steel design and design of flue gas ductwork. She is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Michigan.

At Simpson Strong-Tie, we strive to make an engineer’s life easier by developing products that help with design efficiency. Our products are designed and tested to the highest standards, and that gives structural engineers the confidence that they’re using the best product for their application.

Installed MPBZ

Figure 1: Installed MPBZ

Having worked in the design industry for almost a decade, I can attest that having a catalog where you can select a product that solves an engineer’s design dilemma can be a huge time- and money-saving tool. Design engineers are always trying to create efficient designs, although cost and schedule are always constraints. Moment connections can be very efficient — provided they are designed and detailed correctly. With that in mind, we developed a moment post base connector that can resist moment in addition to download, uplift and lateral loads. In this post, I would like to talk about moment-resisting/fixed connections for post bases and also talk about the product design process.

Figure 2. MPB44Z Graphic

Figure 2. MPB44Z Graphic

Lateral forces from wind and seismic loads on a structure are typically resisted by a lateral-force-resisting system. There are three main systems used for ordinary rectangular structures: (a) braced frames, (b) moment frames and (c) shearwalls. Moment frames resist lateral forces through bending in the frame members. Moment frames allow for open frames by eliminating the need for vertical bracing or knee bracing. Moment resistance or fixity at the column base is achieved by providing translational and rotational resistance. The new patent-pending Simpson Strong-Tie® MPBZ moment post base is specifically designed to provide moment resistance for columns and posts. An innovative overlapping sleeve design encapsulates the post, helping to resist rotation at its base.

The allowable loads we publish have what I call “triple backup.” This backup consists of Finite Element Analysis (FEA), code-compliant calculations and test data. Here are descriptions of what I mean by that.

Finite Element Analysis Confirmation

Once a preliminary design for the product is developed, FEA is performed to confirm that the product behaves as we expect it to in different load conditions. Several iterations are run to come up with the most efficient design.

Figure 3. FEA Output of Preliminary MPB Conceptual Design

Figure 3. FEA Output of Preliminary MPB Conceptual Design

Code-Compliance Calculations

Load calculations are prepared in accordance with the latest industry standards. The connector limit states are calculated for the wood-post-to-MPBZ connection and for MPBZ anchorage in concrete. Steel tensile strength is determined in accordance with ICC-ES AC398 and AISI S100-07. Wood connection strength is determined in accordance with ICC-ES AC398 and AC13. Fastener design is analyzed as per NDS. SDS screw values are analyzed using known allowable values per code report ESR-2236. The available moment capacity of the post base fastened to the wood member is calculated in accordance with the applicable bearing capacity of the post and lateral design strength of the fasteners per the NDS or ESR values. Concrete anchorage pull-out strength is determined in accordance with AC398.

Test Data Verification

The moment post base is tested for anchorage in both cracked and uncracked concrete in accordance with ICC-ES AC398.

Figure 4. Uplift Test Setup

Figure 4. Uplift Test Setup

The moment post base assembly is tested for connection strength in accordance with ICC-ES AC13.

Figure 5: Moment (induced by lateral load application) Test Set Up

Figure 5: Moment (induced by lateral load application) Test Set Up

The assembly (post and MPBZ) is tested for various loading conditions: download, uplift and lateral load in both orthographic directions and moment. Applicable factor(s) of safety are applied, and the controlling load for each load condition is published in the Simpson Strong-Tie Wood Construction Connectors Catalog.

Now let’s take a look at a sign post base design example to see how the MPBZ data can be used.

Design Example:

Figure 6: Sign Post Base Design Example

Figure 6: Sign Post Base Design Example

The MPB44Z is used to support a 9ʹ-tall 4×4 post with a 2ʹ x 2ʹ sign mounted at the top. The wind load acting on the surface of the sign is determined to be 100 lb. The MPB44Z is installed into concrete that is assumed to be cracked.

  • The design lateral load due to wind at the MPB44Z is 100 lb.
  • The design moment due to wind at the MPB44Z is (100 lb.) x (8 ft.) = 800 ft.-lb.
  • The Allowable Loads for the MPB44Z are:
    • Lateral (F1) = 1,280 lb.
    • Moment (M) = 985 ft.-lb.
  • Simultaneous Load Check:
    • 800/985 + 100/1,280 = 0.89. This is less than 1.0 and is therefore acceptable.

mpbz-deflection-evaultion

We are very excited about our new MPBZ! We hope that this product will get you excited about your next open-structure design. Let us know your thoughts by providing comments here.

Top Three Reasons Why Structural Engineers Should Attend Webinars

We encourage all our employees to always keep learning and seeking out resources that can stimulate new ideas or help improve processes in their jobs. Webinars are a great way for you to stay engaged in your profession and learn new things about the industry. They mix the convenience of online availability with the interactivity of live seminars, and because some are free or offered at a much lower cost than live trainings, they make it even easier to stay up to date on current issues in your field. Our top three reasons why you should attend structural engineering webinars are below:

Close up shot of webinar on a laptop.

Close up shot of webinar on a laptop.

Some Webinars Offer Continuing Education Credits

Webinars for structural engineers can be very useful for staying current with professional development requirements. Look to see if the webinar you are interested in attending offers credits. Simpson Strong-Tie offers a wide range of webinars that allow structural engineers to earn CEU and PDH credits. There are plenty of other professional organizations that offer accredited webinars for structural engineers, also. Paul McEntee shares his list of recommended professional resources (including webinars) for structural engineers here.

Learn About Code Changes and Requirements

Staying up to date on code changes and requirements is one of the reasons why continuing education is so important. The Structural Engineers Association of California (SEAOC) has a helpful lunchtime webinar series that delves into 2015 International Building Code (IBC) changes. Simpson Strong-Tie webinars always review current code requirements for the kinds of structural design under discussion. For example, the Best Practices on Prefabricated Wood Shearwall Design webinar covers code reports on shearwall applications.

Learn About the Latest Products and Technology

 If you can’t make it to a live training session, using webinars to learn about the most recent products and technology is an effective way to stay current in the field. Whether you want to learn about the latest in prefabricated Strong-Wall® Shearwall panels or to gain fuller understanding of Best Practices for FRP Strengthening Design, webinars can help you design using the most advanced technology.

What was the best webinar you’ve attended? Why was it so good, or what was it you learned? Let us know in the comments below.