Different Types of Lateral Loads a Structural Engineer Takes Into Account

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When embarking on a custom home build, you will quickly realise that there are several construction professionals that you need to hire for the job. But while home builders, architects, plumbers, electricians and so on are the most commonly associated experts, you must not take for granted the expertise of a structural engineer.

While structural engineers are usually associated with commercial projects, they are just as fundamental for residential projects too due to the range of services they offer. And one such service is ensuring that your new home build is capable of withstanding the array of loads that it will be exposed to. To learn more about that, this article delves into the types of lateral loads that a structural engineer will take into account during the construction of your new home build.

What are lateral loads?

As suggested by the name, these forces are applied to the structure against its sides. Consequently, these loads need to be resisted by the house's walls and bracing. Depending on your location, your structural engineer will need to determine how strong these perpendicular loads can get so that they know how best to reinforce your house against these forces.

What are the different kinds of lateral loads?

  • Winds: There are two main ways that winds cause a load against your house. The first way is by pushing against the surface of the structure, which is referred to as positive pressure and the second way is by creating suction, which is known as negative pressure. The taller your house is, the stringer the wind loads get and this will necessitate additional reinforcement on the other storeys of the structure.
  • Earth loads: These types of loads come about due to soil applying pressure against the structure. Hence, they commonly affect the lower section of your structure. With this in mind, earth loads can cause extensive damage to structures such as your foundation, retaining walls and so on. It is important to note that the strength of this type of lateral load depends on how deep your structure is into the ground as well as the type of soils on your property. Therefore, the structural engineer will have to take soil samples to ensure that they are reinforcing your structure according to the kind of soil it is being exposed to. If your lot is vulnerable to waterlogging, the structural engineer will also have to take into consideration the potential for hydrostatic loads that will come about when water is contributing to the earth load.