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The applications of Sections 12.3.3.4 and 12.10.2.1 have caused some confusion, and we hope that this Code Simple will clear things up.

Section 12.3.3.4 states that for seismic design category (SDC) D-F buildings having listed irregularities, the design forces determined from the equivalent lateral force procedure of Section 12.8.1 must be increased 25 percent for connections of diaphragms to vertical elements and to collectors, and for connections of collectors to the vertical elements of the seismic force-resisting system. The listed irregularities are: torsional irregularity, extreme torsional irregularity, re-entrant corners, diaphragm discontinuity, out-of-plane offsets of the vertical lateral force-resisting elements (Horizontal Structural Irregularity Type 1a, 1b, 2, 3, or 4 of ASCE 7-05 Table 12.3-1) and in-plane discontinuity in vertical lateral force-resisting elements (Vertical Structural Irregularity Type 4, ASCE 7-05 Table 12.3-2). with overstrength apply, no further increase is warranted.”

The primary source of confusion has been the last sentence of Section 12.3.3.4, which states that collectors and their connections should also be designed for the increased forces, unless they are designed for the seismic load combinations with overstrength factor in accordance with Section 12.10.2.1. Section 12.10.2.1 requires collector elements and their connections to be designed to resist load combinations with overstrength factor in structures assigned to SDC C-F.

The question that is asked by engineers is: For the design of collectors and their connections, doesn’t Section 12.10.2.1 always govern and therefore Section 12.3.3.4 won’t apply? In order to answer this question, it is helpful to summarize Sections 12.3.3.4 and 12.10.2.1 as follows:

ASCE 7-05 Section 12.3.3.4
(25 percent increase in design force)
ASCE 7-05 Section 12.10.2.1
(design using load combinations with overstrength factor)
Triggers: Trigger:
  • SDC D-F
  • Irregularities
  • SDC C-F
Applicable to: Applicable to:
  • Design of collectors
  • Connections of collectors elements to vertical elements
  • Connections of diaphragms to vertical elements
  • Design of collectors and splices
  • Connections of collectors to resisting

In cases where both sections 12.10.2.1 and 12.3.3.4 apply, there is no point in using Section 12.3.3.4 for the design of collectors and their connections because Section 12.10.2.1 is more restrictive. It should be apparent from the table that there is no situation covered by Section 12.3.3.4 that isn’t already covered by Section 12.10.2.1.

Please note that Section 12.3.3.4 has been improved in ASCE 7-10. The new language corrects the incorrect reference to the equivalent lateral force base shear in ASCE 7-05 Section 12.8.1 (and, by implication, the corresponding vertical distribution) and refers to the diaphragm design force in ASCE 7-10 Section 12.10.1.1 instead. Also, a part of the last sentence is deleted and replaced with the following:



EXCEPTION: Forces calculated using the seismic load effects including overstrength factor of Section 12.4.3 need not be increased.

This change in ASCE 7-10 makes the intent of the provision in ASCE 7-05 clearer.

Another question that is asked regarding these two sections is: Section 12.10.2.1 has an exception applying to light-frame construction. Can that exception be carried over when applying Section 12.3.3.4?

No. There really is no exception to Section 12.3.3.4. This section addresses a potentially weak link in SDC D-F structures having the irregularities specifically identified in the section. Section 12.3.3.4 does refer to Section 12.10.2.1, but that doesn’t mean the exception to Section 12.10.2.1 applies to Section 12.3.3.4. The exception to Section 12.10.2.1 would need to be repeated in Section 12.3.3.4 in order for it to be applicable. If your structure is assigned to SDC D-F, is of light-frame construction, and has one of those irregularities listed in Section 12.3.3.4, the collectors and their connections need to be designed for either 1) design forces increased by 25 percent, or 2) forces given by Section 12.4.3.2 load combinations with overstrength factor.


S.K. Ghosh Associates Inc. is a structural seismic and code consulting firm located in Palatine, Ill., and Aliso Viejo, Calif. Presidents S. K. Ghosh, Ph.D., and Susan Dowty, S.E., are active in the development and interpretation of national structural code provisions. They can be contacted at skghosh@aol.com and susandowty@gmail.com, respectively, or at www.skghoshassociates.com.

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