Bearing Shear Wall
A bearing shear wall is another term used by structural engineers and builders to describe a type of wall, or actually a wall system designed to provide strength to a building by transferring stress to the foundation.
Braced or anchored panels are usually made from wood (plywood or oriented strand board) or layered resins, but also of other materials such as thin reinforced concrete. Whatever material is used, the purpose is to reinforce the building’s walls to resist stress from external forces. Strong wind, strong ground motion, settlement loads, or even the collective weight of the building and its occupants are different types of stress. These stresses sometimes cause buildings to twist or move in ways they weren’t meant to. If the force is strong enough, it could literally tear (shear) a building apart.
A bearing shear wall helps support other building parts such as floor joists and ceiling beams. Without a bearing wall (or several, depending on the size of the building), the whole building is weaker, and less likely to stand up to strong wind or shaking. Shear wall systems are commonly used in two types of buildings: wood-frame buildings and reinforced concrete shear wall buildings. This latter type of building is usually a tall reinforced concrete office or apartment building. Whether wood or concrete, a building with shear walls delivers better performance -- and therefore safety -- during earthquakes.
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John Rundle is a Distinguished Professor of Physics and Geology at UC Davis and the Executive Director of the APEC Collaboration for Earthquake Simulations. He chaired the Board of Advisors for the Southern California Earthquake Center from 1994 to 1996. Read John's blog.