Types of Loads on Building

Types of Loads on Building
  • Author: Farhan Khan
  • Posted On: April 28, 2020
  • Updated On: April 28, 2020

Loading is the act of applying force to an object. The performance of a material depends on the loading conditions and can be subjected to a wide range of loading scenarios. Tension, compression, bending, shear, and torsion are the five basic types of loading.

The two portions of the material on either side of a plane tend to be drawn apart or lengthened under tension pressure. In contrast to tensile loading, compression entails forcing the material together when a force is applied so that a material curves, it is compressed on one side and stretched on the other.

This is known as loading by bending. Higher loads can affect the economic level of that structure. If we consider fewer loads, then it will lead to safety problems. So, the building should be able to resist these loads and fulfill the requirements economically.

Types of Loads on Structures | Types of Loads on Beams

This article provides a discussion of some preliminary aspects of the analysis of structure. It also deals with a brief explanation of various types of loads. These loads are considered appropriate for the analysis and design. Types of loads and economy both have a connection with each other.

It is important to build the structure so that it can withstand any form of load that it may encounter over its lifespan. The total load acting on the structure or the total load anticipated to operate on the structure in the future must be estimated to design the structure.

The design loading is often specified in two types of codes.

General Building Codes (Minimum load designs for government bodies)

Following is the classification of loads in terms of their direction.

  1. Vertical Loads (Loads that occur vertically)
  2. Horizontal Loads (Loads that occur horizontally)

Now, we will study these loads to illustrate their effects practically.

1)Vertical Loads

Vertical loads include dead, live, snow, and impact loads.

a)Dead Loads

The loads that contain the weight of the structural members and a load of permanent objects are called Dead loads. These members include beams, columns, girders, floor slabs, walls, windows, electrical fixing, etc.

This formula is used for the calculation of Dead Loads

Dead load = Volume * Unit weight

Below are the minimum densities of the materials for design loads. These are the common materials used for structural members that consider dead loads. Using these design loads and unit weights, we can easily estimate dead loads for each member. They can be calculated in pounds/ft2 and kN/m2.

minimum densities of the materials for design loads

b)Live Loads

These are the vertical loads that can change both magnitude and direction. Live loads may be due to the following reasons.

  • Weights of temporary objects
  • Due to the movement of vehicles
  • Due to the natural forces

Live loads can vary with time. These are one of the main loads in any structure. These loads are mainly depending upon the type of building. They can be concentrated as well as uniform live loads.

  • Commercial Building
  • Residential Building
  • Educational Building
  • Office buildings
  • Hospital
  • Mall
  • Industry

These are some minimum live loads according to the codes of design.

minimum live loads according to the codes of design.

The types of buildings with large floor areas have different design codes. According to these codes, there is an allowance for reducing uniform live loads. By using these equations, we can calculate the reduced live loads.

calculate the reduced live loads

c)Snow Loads

It is a type of vertical load on a building due to snowfall. There are many countries where snow loads are considerable. They have a severe effect on the roof of that building. Design loadings for snow loads depend upon the following factors.

  • Shape of building
  • Height of building
  • Geometry of roof
  • Wind exposure
  • Location of building
  • The period of snow

Using this formula, we can calculate the design snow load for the structure.

design snow load for the structure

d)Impact Loading

A sudden load that acts on any structural member is called Impact loading. Usually, there is no practical example of impact loading on building structures.

For example, if you throw a bed from the 15th floor to the ground, the ground will experience an impact load.

2)Horizontal Loads

These loads include wind loads, Earthquakes loads, and other types of loads.

a)Wind Loads

It is a type of horizontal load due to air pressure on the building. Wind load is considerable when the height of the building is greater than 15 m. If the speed of the wind is high, it can cause severe damage to the structure.

The effects of this loading may cause crackling or leaning of the building frame. Engineers take the following measures to resist these effects.

  • Cross Bracing
  • Diagonal Bracing
  • Knee Bracing
  • Shear walls

Cross Bracing

Diagonal Bracing

For design purposes, there are two approaches to wind loading.

  • Static approach or Dynamic approach

In the static approach, the wind pressure is approximately equal to the mean velocity pressure acts on the structure.

q = 1/2 (ρ V2)


Rho ρ is the density of the air

V is the velocity

This equation is further modified to account for the structure’s height and the location of its terrain. These are the following modified equations.

qz = 0.00256 Kz Kzt Kd V2 (lb / ft2)

qz = 0.613 Kz Kit Kd V2 (N / m2)


V = basic wind speed in mi/h or m/s

Kz = Velocity pressure exposure coefficient

Kzt = Topographic factor

Kd = Wind directionality factor

qz = Velocity pressure at height z

Open Front Structure Wind Pressure Design

b)Earthquake Loads

The lateral loading on a structure is due to the earthquakes through the structure’s interaction with the ground. This type of load involves the vibrations that cause loadings on the building.

Earthquake LoadsThe intensity of vertical load is much lesser than the horizontal loads in opposite directions. Those structures vulnerable to earthquake loads should be designed with extra safety. According to ASCE 7-10 Standard, we can determine the base shear by the following steps.

  • Determine the value of the seismic response coefficient.
  • After determining Cs, multiply it with the dead load W to get the base shear in the structure.

Base shear

V = Cs W

Seismic response coefficient

Cs = (SDS) / (R / Ie)


SDS = spectral response acceleration for short periods of vibration.

R = response modification factor

Ie = Importance factor

Ie = 1 for agriculture and storage facilities

Ie = 1.5 for hospitals and other essentials

Other Natural Loads

Several other types of live loads are also considered for the design of a structure, depending upon the location and its use. Some types of these loads are due to the following:

  • Change in temperature
  • Settlement of foundation
  • Blast effects
  • Soil Pressure


We can conclude that the design of a structure should be according to the design codes and standards. A structural engineer should take this responsibility with proper care. Safety and the economy should be the top priorities for designing a structure.

Avatar photo
Author: Farhan Khan

Farhan is a highly experienced civil engineer from the Southern side of Texas and has been associated with ConstructionHow since 2020. Over almost a decade, his wide span of expertise enabled him to bring forth his fair share of stories and experiences related to the most iconic engineering examples worldwide. He has also contributed to online and offline publications on requests. Engineering is his passion, which is why he chose to become part of our honorable team of industry experts looking to provide authentic and credible guidelines to the reader.