Interior masonry partition walls in three different buildings were found to fail when subjected to significant unanticipated lateral loads due to air pressures. These walls were built around the 1970's and were empirically designed. Governing codes then, as now, commonly required that an interior partition be designed to sustain a lateral load of 5 Ibs. per sq ft (24.4 kg per sq meter). In one case, loads of 15 Ibs. per sq ft (73.2 kg per sq meter) were recorded by instrumentation of the walls.
The investigation and its findings are presented for each of the three case studies. Lessons learned from these examples about lateral loads and the design of masonry partition walls are presented to assist in future designs. This paper also reviews empirical design and minimum design load provisions in current codes and standards to examine whether they accurately account for such load cases.
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