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CROSS Safety Report

Effective lengths of load-bearing walls

Report ID: 56 Published: 1 July 2007 Region: CROSS-UK

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Overview

A reporter raises concerns about masonry walls that they feel do not comply with the limitations on effective length.

Key Learning Outcomes

For civil and structural design engineers:

  • Designs should be carried out to accepted standards. If the design is not following a ‘deemed to satisfy’ approach, the onus would be on the designer to demonstrate the adequacy of the design.

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A reporter is aware of several single and two storey school extensions that have been built and passed by building control but which have long load-bearing walls that do not comply with the limitations on effective length. The ‘Manual for the design of plain masonry in buildings (2005)’, published by the Institution of Structural Engineers, indicates that the effective length determines the design even if the effective height requirement is met. If nothing else some clarification would help. Pressures on cost, light and space mean robustness is being compromised.

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These are cases of the structural engineer failing to design to accepted standards. If the design is not following a ‘deemed to satisfy’ approach, the onus is on the designer to demonstrate the adequacy of the design.

The design of apparently simple brickwork and blockwork elements may have in fact been carried out by those who are not familiar with relevant guidance, and this is of particular concern where schools are involved.

Indeed, it is only comparatively recently that schools have come within the scope of the building regulations and workplace regulations and more compliance issues may be expected from designers who are not familiar with the regulations.

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