ASCE 7 Revised: New Emphasis on the Effect of the Building Form on Envelope Design for Wind Resistan
Continuity and quality assurance in the load path from each exterior component to the ground is the key to creating buildings and building elements that withstand wind loads. With the release this year of
ASCE 7-95 Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures, the American Society of Civil
Engineers (ASCE) has placed new emphasis on the effect of the building form on pressures placed on
the exterior envelope in wind-load analysis and design. This revision to ASCE 7-93 responds to the
studies of the 1993 ASCE symposium, “The Hurricanes of 1992” which had been organized to learn
from that year’s turbulent Hurricanes Andrew, Iniki, and Omar [Heineman, p.32].
The Envelope: Cladding and Components
Those hurricanes reiterated the importance of envelope resistance to wind loads. Wind exerts positive
pressure on windward walls and highly sloped roofs, and negative pressure (also called suction) on flat
roofs and leeward walls. In addition, different portions of these surfaces respond differently to the wind,
with the greatest pressures occurring near corners, sharp edges, and protrusions. These high-pressure
zones can be as large as 1/10 to 1/8 of the surface’s width [CTBUH, p. 66]. Therefore, in addressing
cladding and components, the revised ASCE-7 has expanded its categories of building types to include
more varied building profiles.
Where ASCE 7-93 gave component and cladding pressure coefficients for:
1. Buildings with mean roof height less than or equal to 60 feet. Loads at:
2. Buildings with mean roof height greater than 60 feet. Loads at:
The ASCE 7-95 categories include:
1. Buildings with mean roof heights less than or equal to 60 feet. Loads at:
b. Gabled and Hipped Roofs (with or without roof overhangs)
c. Stepped Roofs
d. Multispan gabled roofs
e. Monoslope and Sawtooth roofs
f. Sawtooth roofs - two or more spans
2. Buildings with mean roof height greater than 60 feet. Loads at:
The Envelope: Openings
Building forms that which cup the wind can be greatly affected by the total wind force on the building
(Figure 1). Openings in the windward building faces can allow positive pressures to reach the leeward
surfaces which are also experiencing aerodynamic suction. Cladding failures that cause unplanned
openings in the building skin can be especially catastrophic during hurricanes, as an unexpected hole
amounting to less than 5 percent of the windward surface area can cause a building to collapse
[Heineman, p. 36]. In response to these failure modes, a three-pronged approach to envelope design
is appropriate: Protect openings, prevent unplanned openings, and design for internal pressure
coefficients (Figure 2). ASCE 7-93 and ASCE 7-95 provide adjustment of design factors by a hurricane
importance factor for buildings and structures in affected regions. While glazed areas are not
considered openings from the wind engineer’s point of view, an unprotected glazed area in a hurricane
region could be a failure waiting to happen. As a result, ASCE 7-95 addresses unprotected glazed
openings in hurricane regions as if they were unglazed.
In ASCE 7-93, internal pressure coefficients were provided for two types of envelopes:
1. Open buildings
2. All other buildings
ASCE 7-95 addresses internal pressure coefficients for:
1. Open buildings
2. Partially enclosed buildings
3. Buildings sited in hurricane regions and having glazed openings not protected from windborne
4. All other buildings
The Primary Structural System
Sustained wind speeds are usually less of a problem than gusts. A gust is a brief increase, or surge,
in the wind velocity. Due to its higher velocity and slamming effect, the gust actually represents the
most critical wind effect in most cases. Gusts can be 20 to 30 percent faster than the prevailing wind
speed, and cladding and components can fail within 1 to 3 seconds of a gust [Cook 1993, p. 30]. Wind-related failure of the main structural system is much more rare. Compared to cladding, the main
structural system is usually much heavier and slower to move, and is less affected by gusts which
usually last only a fraction of a second.
Wind-related failure of the primary structural system is more likely to occur if it depends on the cladding
system for bracing and the cladding system fails. There were some examples of this in Dade County,
Florida, during Hurricane Andrew. Precast concrete double-Tee decking failed in several cases [Mays,
p. 112]. This type of construction is used for such partially open buildings as parking garages, and the
concrete Tee is typically not designed to take lateral loads, or uplift loads greater than the counteracting
dead load. In cases where the double-Tee decking was the only thing providing bracing to the columns,
entire buildings failed. Similarly, the loss of roof sheathing in gabled stick-built construction caused
truss failure during Andrew, in cases where the sheathing was the only thing providing bracing for the
trusses [Mays, p. 112]. Due to their very different responses to wind loads, the type and amount of
dependance between a building’s cladding and it’s primary structure can become an issue.
Other ASCE-7 95 Revisions
While the major revision in ASCE 7-95 is the greatly expanded section on wind loads as summarized
above, new requirements have also been added in ASCE 7-95 for flood loads and ice loads. There is
also a new appendix providing guidance for the design of building serviceability and the comfort of
building occupants as affected by deflection, vibration, drift, and other environmental effects.
The ASCE-7 Standard in Baltimore
ASCE 7-93 has been adopted by all major building codes (BOCA National Building Code [NBC], SBCCI
Standard Building Code [SBC], and ICBO Uniform Building Code [UBC]). ASCE 7-95 can be expected
to be adopted across the nation as codes are updated. The Baltimore City Building Code uses NBC
1993. Other jurisdictions in Maryland already use, or will be adopting, NBC 1993 as a requirement of
state building code legislation enacted in 1995. NBC is updated every three years, and the new
NBC1996 has already been released. NBC 1996 however, still incorporates ASCE 7-93. Therefore,
even when Baltimore City and other Maryland jurisdictions update to NBC 1996, ASCE 7-95
requirements will not be included, unless separate local amendments are made.
The Pedestrian Environment
It is important to remember that high winds affect not only buildings, but the spaces around them.
Terraces, plazas, park areas, and other pedestrian environments next to tall buildings can have
unacceptable wind effects [CTBUH, p 52]. ASCE 7 addresses the effect of environmental forces on
structures, but not the sometimes significant effect of structures on the environmental forces.
Come let us mock at the great
That had such burdens on the mind
And toiled so hard and late
To leave some monument behind,
Nor thought of the leveling wind.
ASCE 7 is a minimum standard. It specifically advises the use of wind-tunnel testing, instead of its
guidelines, for determining the wind-loading and structural response of structures with unusual
geometries, response characteristics, or site location.
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