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Topic 1 Stabiltiy


Understand, qualitatively, how buildings resist lateral loading.

To understand the importance of designing buildings such that
they are not unduly sensitive to change resulting from accidental
or other actions.


Stability of Buildings, Institution of Structural Engineers

Why Buildings Fall Down, M. Levy and M. Salvadori, Norton,
London, 1994
Structures or why things dont fall down, J.E. Gordon, Penguin,


Structural safety depends on both material strength and stability.

A masonry arch is a good example of a structure whose collapse

is related to stability rather than material failure. The stability
of masonry arched and vaulted structures is a function of their


Provided that displacements induced by normal loads are

acceptable, then a building may be said to be stable if:

A minor change in its form, condition, normal loading or

equipment would not cause partial or complete collapse
It is not unduly sensitive to change resulting from
accidental or other actions
The phrase not unduly sensitive to change should be broadly
interpreted to mean that the building should be so designed that
it will not be damaged by accidental or other actions to an extent
disproportionate to the magnitudes of the original causes of

Actions to be considered

Permanent actions dead and imposed loading

Variable actions imposed, wind, snow, dynamic loads
and predictable impacts
Accidental actions unpredictable impact, explosion and
Other actions temperature, moisture, deterioration, creep,
fire and foundation movements
Actions resulting from alterations or change of use

Stability should not be jeopardized by combinations of the


General considerations

One engineer should be responsible for the overall design

including stability of any building structure.

The original structural design documents should be

retained by building owners, occupiers and designers.

Movement Joints each part of the structure should be

considered as a separate structure from a stability

Tolerances Unrealistic tolerances specified for

construction can particularly affect the stability of
structures and buildings employing prefabricated structural
components or employing prefabricated building
components in in-situ construction
Deterioration main load bearing members should be
accessible for inspection and maintenance.

Alterations change of use of a structure or building may

well result in changes of loading that, in the extreme, may
overload an element to such an extent as to give rise to
instability this has implications for design too

Most instances of instability in structures and buildings

occur on site during construction

Actions Design Stage

Dead loads

Imposed loads

Wind loads treat these as static loads since the dynamic

response of most building structures is not significant.
However, with lighter and higher structures it may be
necessary to determine the dynamic response.

Notional Horizontal loads applied to the structure in

order to accommodate the effects of inaccuracy in
construction on stability.

Accidental Impact

Explosions some British Standards prescribe arbitrary

values for detailed design based on a specified pressure of
34 kN/m2

Seismic loads
Stability Design stage
Measures are listed separately. However, it is important to
consider the possibility of actions occurring simultaneously.

Permanent and variable actions

Structural members should be arranged such that: there

should be at least one clearly defined path through which
the effects of the actions are transmitted to the ground.

Structural members whose stability relies on the

assumption that they are restrained in position are
connected to a bracing member that is of sufficient
strength and stiffness to provide the required restraint.

Braced Frames
The horizontal forces are transmitted to the bracing
members by suitably designed floors and roofs acting as
horizontal girders.

Bracing should be provided in two vertical planes

approximately at right-angles to each other.

Bracing members may take the form of walls, or structural

members in either tension or compression. Preferably,
these should be symmetrically positioned on plan to avoid
torsional effects, especially in the case of very tall

Un-braced Frames

Stability should be provided within the frame by rigid

connections that should be of sufficient size and stiffness to
provide restraint against the rotation assumed in the analysis.
Masonry Structures
Masonry structures should normally be considered as braced
forms of construction, with strategically placed masonry
elements providing the bracing. The provision of structural
staircases, and lift shafts may contribute to satisfying the bracing

Bond or tie all intersecting walls

Provide returns at the ends of load bearing walls where
Provide internal and external bracing walls

Common Features
Diaphragms commonly floors, and in some cases the roof, act
as horizontal diaphragms distributing forces to the bracing
members. Special attention must be paid to these floors and
roofs so that they and their connections are capable of providing
the load path to the bracing elements.

Tie members provided to connect individual structural

members to the bracing members watch their torsional and
buckling constraints

Accidential Actions
Defense strategies
Enhancement of continuity remember, redundancy arises
when there are multiple potential load paths.

Strengthing of the structure

Provision of multiple load paths generally, structures

should not be wholly dependent for their stability on the
structural integrity of a single connection or element.

Provision of relief venting for example

Control measures monitoring, maintenance, and

preventative measures such as fire alarms and installation
of bollards

Ronan Point Collapse
Building that successfully survived a bomb blast