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Deficient Concrete Shear Walls

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Reinforced concrete shear wall structures constructed in the 1970’s or earlier suffer from a number of deficiencies in design and detailing. This is around the time when seismic provisions emerged in the design codes, and changed the traditional strength-based design philosophy (EVOLUTION OF DESIGN CODES). In this article, we will briefly review common problems with deficient concrete shear walls. The focus will be on concrete frame structures, with and without shear walls. Layssi et al. investigated the reversed cyclic response of poorly designed and detailed concrete shear walls. The following describes some of the most common deficiencies in existing concrete shear walls.

Deficient Concrete Shear WallsDeficient Concrete Shear Walls

The most common deficiencies observed in existing shear wall structure include short lap splice lengths of the longitudinal reinforcement in potential plastic hinge regions, insufficient and poorly detailed transverse reinforcement and consequently inadequate shear strength required to develop hinging. In addition, some of the older construction used to have a very thin cross section which make them vulnerable under lateral loading.

Lap Splice Issue

Inadequate Length

Inadequate length of lap splices for main reinforcing bars is a common deficiency in many RC frame structures. The lap splice lengths for columns were often only 30 bar diameter of less. This is very much shorter than what is currently asked by major design codes, ACI 318, and CSA A23.3.

Lap SpliceImproper Location

Most lap splices occurred just above the foundation level, or right after the first floor level, when high flexural moment is expected in case of lateral load. This is the location of potential plastic hinging, and a failure in this region is unacceptable by design codes.

Poor Detailing

A major deficiency in the detailing of lap splices were the lack of confinement, as lap splice region were typically not confined with closely spaced ties. Often we see open ties, with large spacing that provide nearly zero confinement over the spliced bars. This can reduce the ductility of the wall where it matters most.

Poorly Detailed Boundary Elements

Boundary ElementsWalls without confined boundary elements is a general observation in the construction of 1970’s or earlier. In these walls, a minimum number of reinforcement were placed at the edges of the wall to provide the desired flexural capacity for the wall. The vertical reinforcement lap splices were usually designed for compression loads, and may be inadequate for the flexural tension that may develop under earthquake loads.

Inadequate Shear Reinforcement

Vertical and Transervse Reinforcement

The thickness of shear walls, and the amount and spacing of transverse bars were often determined to resist code-specified lateral forces rather than the shear corresponding to development of the wall’s flexural capacity. This makes all walls in these older construction shear critical. Another issue with the transverse reinforcement is the lack of proper anchorage in the boundaries. The transverse reinforcement were single leg bars, with 90 degree hood that provides nearly zero confinement over main flexural bars, or is enough to generate the yield stress along the bar.

Poor Quality Construction Joint

A weak construction joint is a common observation when evaluating existing walls. Poor quality of construction joints during construction make these locations a weak plane in the vertical wall system.


5 thoughts on “Deficient Concrete Shear Walls”

  1. Another change to shear walls I’ve noticed is the longitudinal horizontals terminating in the far side of the boundary element with a standard hook. I’ve caught many contractors cutting the hooks off due to the difficulty of installing them along with the added ties in the boundary element.

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  5. how to place transverse web reinforcement in shear wall at inner face of longitudinal bar or at outer face of longitudinal bar

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