558 Chapter 18 Walls

columns" with the result that the slenderness requirements of Section 10..10. of the Code will have to be met. An alternative procedure for slender walls is presented in ACI Section 14.8.

Walls with kiJr greater than 100 (and for which a theoretical analysis is required) are rather common, particularly in tilt-up wall construction. The Portland Cement Association has available a design aid that is particularly useful for such cases.!


For tall buildings it is necessary to provide adequate stiffness to resist the lateral forces caused by wind and earthquake. When such buildings are not properly designed for these forces there may be very high stresses, vibrations, and sidesway when the forces occur. The results may include not only severe damages to the buildings but also considerable discomfort for their occupants.

When reinforced concrete walls with their very large in-plane stiffnesses are placed at certain convenient and strategic locations, they can often be economically used to provide the needed resistance to horizontal loads. Such walls, called shear walls, are in effect deep vertical cantilever beams that provide lateral stability to structures by resisting the in-plane sheersand bending moments caused by the lateral forces.

As the strength of shear walls is almost always controlled by their flexural resistance. their name is something of. a misnomer. It is true. however, that on some occasions they may require some shear reinforcing to prevent diagonal tension failures.

The usual practice is to assume that the lateral forces act at the floor levels. The stiffnesses of the floor slabs horizontally are quite large as compared to the stiffnesses of the walls and columns. Thus it is assumed that each floor is displaced in its horizontal plane as a rigid body.

Figure 18.2 shows the plan of a building that is subjected to horizontal forces. The forces are applied to the floor and roof slabs of the building, and those slabs, acting as large beams lying on their sides, transfer the loads to the shear walls A and B. Should the

shear walls





Figure 18.2

2Portland Cement Association, 1980, "Tilt-Up Load Bearing WaIIs---A Design Aid," EB074D (Skokie, IL), 28 pp.

18.5 Shear Walls 559

lateral forces be coming from the other direction, they would be resisted by the shear walls C and D .

. The walls must be sufficiently strong so as to limit deflections to reasonable values.

In addition, they must be so designed that tensile stresses caused by the lateral forces do not exceed the compression stresses caused by the building weight above.

Shear walls are commonly used for buildings 'with flat-plate floor slabs. In fact, this combination of slabs and walls is the most common type of construction used today for tall apartment buildings and other residential buildings.

Shear walls span the entire vertical distances between floors. If the walls are carefully and symmetrically placed in plan, they will efficiently resist both vertical and lateral loads and do so without interfering substantially with the architectural requirements. Reinforced concrete buildings of up to 70 stories have been constructed with shear walls. In the horizontal direction full shear walls may be used-that is. they will run for the full panel or bay lengths. When forces are smaller, they need only run for partial bay lengths.

Shear walls may be used to 'resist lateral forces only, or they may be used in addition as bearing walls. Furthermore they may be used to enclose elevators. stairwells, and perhaps restrooms, as shown in Figure 18..3 .. These box-type structures shown are very satis- . factory for resisting horizontal forces.

Another possible arrangement of shear walls is shown in Figure 18.4. Althougb shear walls may be also be needed in the long direction of this building, they are not included in this figure.

On most occasions it is not possible to use shear walls without some openings in them for doors, windows, and penetrations for mechanical services. Usually it is possible, however, with careful planning to place these openings so they do not seriously affect stiffnesses or stresses in the walls. When the openings are small, their overall effect is minor but this is not the case when large openings are present.

Usually the openings (windows, doors, etc.) are placed in vertical and symmetrical rows in the walls throughout the height of the structure. The wall sections on the sides

Figure 18.3 Shear walls around elevators and stairwells.

S60 Chapter 18 Walls

Figure 18.4

shear walls

of these openings are tied together either by beams enclosed in the walls, by the floor slabs, or by a combination of both. As you can see, the structural analysis for such a situation is extremely complicated. Though shear wall designs are generally handled with empirical equations, they can be appreciably affected by the designer's previous experience.

When earthquake-resistant construction is being considered, it is to be remembered that the relatively stiff parts of a structure will attract much larger forces than will the more flexible parts. A structure with reinforced concrete shear walls is going to be quite stiff and thus will attract large seismic forces. If the shear walls are brittle and fail, the rest of the structure may not be able to take the shock. But if the shear walls are ductile (and they will be if properly reinforced), they will be very effective in resisting seismic forces.

Tall reinforced concrete.buildings are often designed with shear walls to resist seismic forces, and such brnldings have performed quite well in recent earthquakes. During an earthquake, properly designed shear walls will decidedly limit the amount of damage to the structural frame, They will also minimize damages to the nonstructural parts of a

building. such as the windows, doors, and ceilings partitions. .

Figure 18.5 shows a shear wall subjected to a lateral force V". The wall is in actuality a cantilever beam of width h and overall depth fw' In part (a) of the figure the wall is being bent from left to right by V"' with the result that tensile bars are needed on the left or tensile side. If V" is applied from the right side as shown in part (b) of the figure, tensile bars will be needed on the right-hand end of the wall Thus it can be seen that a shear wall needs tensile reinforcing on both sides because Vu can come from either direction. For flexural calculations the depth of the beam from the compression end of the wall to the center of gravity of the tensile bars is estimated to be about 0.8 times the wall length ewas per ACI Section 11.1004. (If a larger value of d is obtained by a proper strain compatibility analysis, it may be used.)

The shear wall acts as a vertical cantilever beam and in providing lateral support is subjected to both bending and shear forces. For such a wall the maximum shear V" and the maximum moment Mh can be calculated at the base, If flexural stresses are calculated, their magnitude will be affected by the design axial load N", and thus its effect should be included in the analysis.

18.6 ACI Provisions for Shear Walls 561

Vertical reinforcing

I",d ~ 0.81!>; I

V" -~~=::Ar_zh.

Vertical reinforcing


Figure 18.S Shear wall.


Shear is more important in walls with small height-to-length ratios. Moments will be more important for higher walls, particularly those with uniformly distributed reinforcing ..

It is necessary to provide both horizontal and vertical shear reinforcing for shear walls. The Commentary (RI L 10.9) says that in low walls the horizontal shear reinforcing is less effective and the vertical shear reinforcing is more effective. For high walls the situation is reversed. This situation is reflected in ACI Equation 11-32, which is presented in the next section. The vertical shear reinforcing contributes to the shear strength of a wall by shear friction.

Reinforcing bars are placed. around all openings, whether or not structural analysis indicates a need for them. Such a practice is deemed necessary to prevent diagonal tension cracks, which tend to develop radiating from the corners of openings.


1. The factored beam shear must be equal to or less than the design shear strength of the wall.

v" :$ rpVn

2. The design shear strength of a wall is equal to the design shear strength of the concrete plus that of the shear reinforcing.

Vu < tJ>Vc + cPVs

3. The shear strength V" at any horizontal section in the plane of the wall may not be taken greater tban lO'\I'lhd (11.10.3).

4. In designing for the borizontal shear forces in the plane of a wall. d is to be taken as equal to O.8.ew, where fw is the horizontal wall length between faces of the supports, unless it can be proved to be larger by a strain compatibility analysis (11.10.4).

S. ACI Section 11.10.5 states that unless a more detailed calculation is made (as described in the next paragraph), the value of the nominal shear strength V" used may not be larger than 2Vj;hd for walls subject to a factored axial compressive

562 Chapter 18 Walls

load N~. Should a wall be subject to a tensile load N~, the value of Vc may not be larger than the value obtained with the following equation:

(ACI Equation 11-8)

6. Using a more detailed analysis, the value of Vc is to be taken as the smaller value obtained by substituting into the two equations that follow, in which N; is the factored axial load normal to the cross section occurring simultaneously with V~. N~ is to be considered positive for compression and negative for tension (1 L 10.6).

(ACI Equation 11-29)


_[.. ~ r;:r .. fw(1.25W./; + .: 0.2N,./C"h)]

Vc - 0.6 vic + M e lui

~ II'

-- -_

Vw 2

(ACIEquation 11-30)

The first of these equations was developed to predict the inclined cracking strength at any section through a shear wall corresponding toa principal tensile stress of about 4vJ: at the centroid of the wall cross section. The second equation was developed to correspond to an occurrence of a flexural tensile stress of 6Wc at a section f,.l2 above the section being investigated. Should M~/V~ - f.,.J2 be negative, the second equation will have no significance and will not be used,

7. The values of Vc computed by the two preceding equations at a distance from the base equal to Cwl2 or hwf2 (whichever is less) are applicable for all sections between this section and one at the wall base (11.10.7).

8. Should the factored shear Vu be less than cf> Vel2 computed as described in the preceding two paragraphs, it will not be necessary to provide a minimum amount

, EXAMPLE 18.2

18.6 ACI Provisions for Shear WaIls 56.3

of both horizontal and vertical reinforcing, as described in Section 11.10.9 or Chapter 14 of the Code.

9. Should VI< be greater than ¢ Vc, shear wall reinforcing must be designed as described in Section 11.10.9 of the Code.

10. If the factored shear force Vu exceeds the shear strength ¢Vc' the value of Vs is to be determined from the following expression, in which Av is the area of the horizontal shear reinforcement and $2 is the spacing of the shear or torsional reinforcing ina direction perpendicular to the horizontal reinforcing (

(ACI Equation 11-31)

11. The amount of horizontal shear reinforcing Ph (as a percent of the gross vertical concrete area) shall not be less than 0.0025 (

12. The maximum spacing of horizontal shear reinforcing S2 shall not be greater than fj5, 3h, or 18 in. (

13. The amount of vertical shear reinforcing PI1 (as a percent of the gross horizontal concrete area) shall not be less than the value given by the following equation, in which hw. is the total height of the wall (

PM := 0.0025 + 0.5( 2.5 -~~)(Ph - 0.0025) (ACI Section 11-32) It shall not be less than 0.0025 but need not be greater than the required horizontal shear reinforcing Ph'

For high walls, the vertical reinforcing is much less effective than it is in low walls. This fact is reflected in the preceding equation, where for walls with a heightllength ratio less than 0.5, the amount of vertical reinforcing required equals the horizontal reinforcing required. If the ratio is larger than 25, only a minimum amount of vertical reinforcing is required (that is O .. 0025s1h).

14. The maximum spacing of vertical shear reinforcing Sl shall not be greater than Cw/3, 3h, or 18 in. (

Design the reinforced concrete wall shown in Figure t 8.6 if fc = 3000 psi andJ;, = 60,0{)0 psi.

h =8"


Vu = 240" -~~=:j/yt:=71/ 1



I .. 1

Figure 18.6

S64 Chapter 18 Walls


1. Is the wall thickness satisfactory?

Vp = ~lOYl'chd

d = 0.8.t ... = (0.8)(12 .X 10) = 96" Vu = (O.75)(10)(v'3000)(8)(96)

V" = 315,488 Ib = 315.5 k > 240 k

(ACI Section 11.10.3) (ACI Sectio n 11.10.4)


2. Compute Vc for wall (lesser of two values):


(a) Vc = 3.3v'lhd + .«. = (3.3V3000)(8)(96) + 0


(ACI Equation 11-29)

= 138,815 lb = 138.8 k ~

_.[ ~ r;;i .. , iw(1·25vt: + O.7.NJi,.hl]

(b) Vo - O.6vJc + M e hd

u w

-. --~

Vu 2 ..

(ACI Equation 11-30)

Computing Vp and Mg at the lesser of (",/2 = 10/2 = 5' or h,,)2 = 14/2 = 7' from base (ACI 11.10.7):

Vu = 240k

Mu = 240(14- 5) = 2160 ft-k = ~5,920 in.-k

[ (12 X 10)(1.25)(V3000) + 0]

Vc = 0.6Y3000 + 25,920 _ (12)(10) ... (8)(96)

240 2

= 156.6921b = 156.7 k

3. Is shear reinforcing needed?

¢;c = (0.75);138.8) = 52.05 k < 240 k


4. Select horizontal shear reinforcing:

Vu = ~Vc + ¢V.

AJyd Vu = ¢ Vo + ¢ ---s:;-

Av = Vu - ¢Vc = 240 - (0.75)(138.8) = 00315

$2 ¢/yd (0.75)(60)(96) .

18.6 ACI Provisions for Shear Walls 565

. Try different-size closed horizontal stirrups 0 with Av = two-bar cross sectional areas. Compute 82 = vertical spacing of horizontal stirrups,

. . (2)(0.11) .."

Try #3 bars: 82 = . 0.0315·· = 6.98

T. , . - (2)(0.20) _ "

ry #4 bars. S2 - 0.0315 - 12 .. 70

Maximum vertical spacing of horizontal stirrups:

C", = (12)(10) = 24"

5 5 .

3h = (3)(8) = 24"

18" = 18" ~

Try #4 @ 12"

where Ag = wall thickness times the vertical spacing of the horizontal stirrups ..


Ph = (8)(12) = 0.00417

which is greater than the minimum Pn of 0.0025 required by Code.

Use #4 horizontal stirrups 12" D.C. vertically

5. Design vertical shear reinforcing:

(h) .

min. p~ = 0.0025 + 0.5 2.5 - e: (Ph - 0.(025)

( 12 X 14)

= 0.0025 + 0.5 2.5 - 12 X 10 (0.00417 - 0.0025)

= 0.00342

(ACI Equation 11-32)

Assume #4 closed vertical stirrups 0 with A. = two-bar cross-sectional areas and with 051 = horizontal spacing of vertical stirrups.

(2)(0.20) /I

81 = (8)(0.00342) = 14.62

566 Chapter 18 Walls

Maximum horizontal spacing of vertical stirrups:

fw = (12)(10) = 40"

3 3

3h = (3)(8) = 24" IS" = 18" ~

Use #4 vertical stirrups 14" o,c, horizontally

6. Design vertical flexural reinforcing:

M" = (240)(14) = 3360 ft-k @ base of wall .. M" = (12)(3360)(1000) = 607,6

¢bd2 (0,9)(8)(96)2

P = 0,0118 from. Appendix Table A.12 As = pbd

where b is wall thickness and d is again 0,80lw .:=. (0,8)(12 x 10) = 96",

As = (0,0118)(8)(96) = 9,06 in,2

Use 10#9 bars each end (assuming VI! could come from either direction)

7. A sketch of the wall cross section is gi yen in Figure 18.7.


To achieve economical reinforced concrete walls, it is necessary to consider such items .3S wall thicknesses, openings, footing elevations, and so on.

The thicknesses of walls should be sufficient to permit the proper placement and vibration of the concrete. All of the walls in a building should have the same thickness if practical, Such a practice will permit the reuse of forms, ties, and other items, Furthermore, it will reduce the possibilities of field mistakes.

1 a #9 vertical flexural bars

#4 horizontal stirrups 12" o,c. vertically



.....__---I--------t-------, l_

#4 vertical stirrups 14~ o.c, horizontally

10 #9 vertical flexural bars


Figure 18.7


18.7 Economy in Wall Construction 567

South point water facility, Durham. N.C. (Courtesy of EFCO.)

As few openings as possible should be placed in concrete walls. Where openings are necessary it is desirable to repeat the sizes and positions of openings in different walls rather than using different sizes and positions. Furthermore, a few large openings are more economical than a larger number of smaller ones.

Much money can be saved if a footing elevation can be kept constant for any given wall. Such a practice will appreciably simplify the use of wall forms, If steps are required in a footing, their number should be kept to the minimum possible.'

3Neville. G. B., ed., 1984, Simplified Design Reinforced Concrete Buildings of Moderate Size (Skokie,. Il.:

Portland Cement Association), pp. 9-12 and 9-13.