URM Bearing Wall

jill's picture

An unreinforced masonry (URM) bearing wall is a URM wall that provides vertical support for the floor or roof of a structure. URM buildings are not strengthened (reinforced) with embedded steel bars, which makes them extremely hazardous in seismically active regions. Materials used in these kinds of buildings are generally unreinforced adobe, clay, concrete or concrete block, brick, or rubble. These buildings are popular all over the world, even though they tend to collapse in strong earthquakes.

Of all the different types of buildings, URMs have caused the greatest number of deaths due to collapse. Occupants of these structures during strong earthquakes sometimes run outside during the shaking, only to be crushed by the outside walls which are prone to separating from the building’s vertical supports.

Retrofits for URMs are expensive. Recommended improvements to URMs usually include “tying” the building to its foundation, or tying the roof and walls to each other, so the building moves as a single unit. If you live in a city or town with URMs, and most people do, one way to figure out if a building has been retrofitted is to look for roof-to-wall ties that bolt into plates or architectural “stars” that have been attached to the outside walls. Click here for photos of this type of retrofit. The up-side to retrofitting is that it generally saves lives; the down-side is that the building may not be inhabitable after a damaging event.

If you live in or work in a URM building, you'll want to find out if the building is as safe as it can be. Find out if the building owner has consulted with a registered civil or structural engineer or a licensed architect, and whether the building needs to be retrofitted. They will know what needs to be done to provide life-safety in case of an earthquake.


DavidAlexander's picture

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sedegesev's picture

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