Don’t get “all shook up”: Wood construction can handle high wind, seismic forces

-By John Showalter, PE –

The following article is a summary of a more comprehensive article by Showalter available. Download the full article 

SDPWS-CoverYears of research, real-life events and building code development have proven that wood-frame structures can meet or exceed the most demanding design requirements for high wind and seismic forces. Wood buildings tend to have numerous nail connections—especially in the shear walls and diaphragms—that have inherent ductility. This allows them to dissipate energy when faced with the sudden loads of an earthquake or high wind event.

These facts continue to be recognized in the design community, and the following changes reflected in the “2015 Special Design Provisions for Wind and Seismic (SDPWS)” standard provide a brief overview of the more significant enhancements:

  • Clarification of open front structures and cantilevered diaphragm provisions (Arguably the primary change reflected in the 2015 SDPWS)
  • Updated horizontal shear distribution terms and torsional irregularity provisions consistent with ASCE 7-10
  • Clarification of high-aspect-ratio perforated shear-wall adjustments
  • New section on uplift force resisting systems
  • New section outlining anchorage of concrete/masonry walls to wood diaphragms
  • Inclusion of minimum depth for framing/blocking in high load diaphragms
  • Clarification of framing substitutions, a two 2x (nominal) replacing a 3x nominal
  • Addition of minimum-end distance for anchor bolts in plates/sills

Several self-study courses awarding free continuing education credits are available on this topic in the education section of the AWC website:

  • “STD415 – 2015 Special Design Provisions for Wind and Seismic Overview and Changes
  • “STD415-A – 2015 Special Design Provisions for Wind and Seismic”

    The 2015 SDPWS is available for download on the American Wood Council website, RB

    John “Buddy” Showalter, P.E., joined the American Wood Council (AWC) in 1992, and currently serves as vice president of technology transfer. He can be reached at

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