Specifying seismic restraints for nonstructural components

Although masonry veneer wall cracking failure may not jeopardize a building’s structural integrity, it can be costly to repair and lead to life-safety hazards.
Photo © Pavel Losevsky/Dreamstime

With any building process, it is an important step to go through the local code requirements. In a lot of cases (i.e. in areas outside of active seismic events), there will not be a requirement to design for a seismic restraint system for nonstructural building components. However, it is important to go one step further and confirm with the local AHJ whether the proposed building will be designated as ‘post-disaster.’ In these instances, the local authority will have a minimum requirement to provide seismic restraints, even if it is outside an earthquake-prone area.

A good example of this can be found with Alberta Infrastructure, which has indicated, starting in 2018, all post-disaster buildings will require all overhead mechanical and electrical, and designated floor-mounted components, to be designed with seismic restraints by a professional engineer experienced in that field.

In the end, it is the design/construction professional’s responsibility to look after the nonstructural building components for life safety of the occupants. Further, the survivability of those components within the building after the seismic event is key for productivity. The longer the building is shut down, the more money lost by all parties relying on it.

(The author drew on information provided in product literature from USG and Bailey Metal Products Limited in developing this article. It also relies on information from CSA Group’s Technical Committee on Seismic Risk Reduction of Operational and Functional Components [OFCs] in Buildings, S832-14, along with the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) Practice Tips 35.)

Jeff Halashewski, Dipl Arch Tech, is a specifications writer for the Edmonton office of DIALOG. He is a member of the CSC Edmonton Chapter executive, and also a member of the Canadian Association of Earthquake Engineering (CAEE). Halashewski has 17 years of experience in institutional, commercial, and industrial buildings, and has worked on projects that involved seismic restraint of nonstructural components. He can be reached via e-mail at jhalashewski@dialogdesign.ca.

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