Ultimate Guide to Load Bearing Structure

Load bearing structure is a structure in which the load coming from the roof of the building will be carried and transferred to the below structure using load-bearing walls. Load-bearing walls are the important structural element in load-bearing structures. It is also called Gravity Masonry Structures.

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Historical Load Bearing Structure-IIM Ahmedabad

There are two types of loads coming on load-bearing walls, they are gravity loads and lateral loads. Gravity loads involve the vertical load coming due to the self-weight of the structural elements, and lateral loads include wind load and rain load. The imposed load is transferred through the walls, to the floors, and then to the foundation safely.

Load-bearing structures consist of heavy masonry walls that can be made out of brick or stone that are supposed to support the entire structure. Hence, the material used must be of the utmost quality.

Load Bearing Structural System

Let's look into the load transfer mechanism in a load-bearing structural system. As shown below illustration, the walls act as the vertical load-bearing member. The slab act as a horizontal load-bearing member. The load transfer mechanism is:

Live Load and Dead Load ➡️ Slab ➡️ Wall ➡️ Foundation ➡️ Soil

Suitability of Load Bearing Structural System

 Suitable in areas where hard strata of soil are available at a shallow depth. (1.5 m to 2 m).

Load Bearing Structure

In the case of a load-bearing structure, the load-bearing walls are the important structural element whose arrangement influences the type of structure. The load-bearing wall can be arranged in the following ways:

  1. Cellular Wall Structure
  2. Simple Cross Wall Structure
  3. Double Cross Wall Structure
  4. Complex Wall Structure

1. Cellular Wall Structure

In a cellular wall structure, the external walls form the boundaries of the building and internal walls are used to divide the space. They are connected as shown in figure-2 to form a cellular wall arrangement. All the walls here are load-bearing walls or structural walls.

Cellular Wall Structure

                           Cellular Wall Structure

Note* Load-Bearing walls are structural walls and Non-structural walls are non-load bearing walls.

2. Simple Cross Wall Structure

In this arrangement, a large number of identical rooms are constructed as shown in figure-3. It is used for hotel or hostel room construction. As shown in the figure, there are openings provided to the walls. Openings in load-bearing walls affect the load-carrying capacity of the wall. Hence, in the case of a load-bearing structure, it is advised to provide fewer and smaller openings.

So in this arrangement, the openings are provided to the non-structural walls and all other faces of the room are provided with structural walls. Loads from the slabs are only taken by the structural walls. 

Another feature of this arrangement is that it is placed on a single axis. 

3. Double Cross Wall Structure

In this arrangement, a complex system of cross walls are set parallel to both the major axes is adopted. This helps to use maximum daylight in the structure as shown in the figure-4.

4. Complex Wall Structure

In this arrangement, a combination of cellular and cross-wall arrangements are followed to meet the purpose of creating various sized spaces within the building.

Advantages of Load Bearing Structures

  1. In a load-bearing structural system, the external and internal walls serve as the structural element. It serves the purpose of protecting buildings from weather i.e., the wind, rain, heat, fire, etc.
  2. For the construction of the low-rise building, a load-bearing structure is a good choice. It is also an economical option.
  3. The design of a load-bearing structure is very simple
  4. Load-bearing structure can be constructed without the use of expensive plants and machines when compared to the framed structure.

Disadvantages of Load Bearing Structures

  1. Load-bearing structures make use of load-bearing walls that are constructed with a larger thickness. As the walls are thicker, the carpet area efficiency of planning is less in load-bearing structures.
  2. The wall thickness cannot be maintained uniform throughout the height.
  3. There is a limitation in the span length, this would result in reduced room sizes.
  4. The height of the building is limited, hence a limited story building can only be constructed.
  5. The openings can only be made less. Hence, light and ventilation are limited.
  6. As walls support the slab and all the above structures, walls are supposed to be constructed first completely before starting the slab construction. This is really a time-consuming process.
  7. Load bearing structure is not an earthquake-resistant structure.


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