10 Different Types of Loads on Structures | What Are Structural Loads

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Introduction of Structural Loads:

Structural analysis is a salient feature of a design of buildings as structural loads can typically cause stress, deformation, and displacement which might result in structural failure.

What Are Structural Loads?

Loads are generally the forces that can cause stresses, deformations, or accelerations. There are an ample range of distinct kinds of structural loads that can act upon a structure. It’s nature will be discrete according to the design, utilization, location, and materials.

Also, Read: Tributary Area | Tributary Area Examples | Tributary Width | Tributary Load | Tributary Area in Columns | Overview of Tributary Area

Types of Loads on Structures:


There are two types of Loads on Structures. Which is as follows.

  • Vertical Load.
  • Horizontal Load.

#1. Vertical Load.-

Vertical Load

A load applied in a vertical direction is called a vertical load. They are categorized into the subsequent types:

  • Dead Load.
  • Live Load.
  • Environmental Load.
  • Snow Load.
  • Impact Load.

#1.1. Dead Loads-

  • Dead loads, also known as static loads, historically referred to a structure’s self-weight or own weight & historically remain constant overtime throughout the structure‘s life-span.
  • These loads are additionally termed permanent loads.
  • Dead loads are additionally referred to as stationary loads.
  • Dead loads may consist of the poundage of any structural components, permanent non-structural segregations, moored attachments like plasterboard, built-in cupboards, etc.
  • These loads can be enumerated by finding the weights of cubical contents of the miscellaneous materials which are typically being utilized for constructing the structure.
  • Dead loads can be enumerated by estimating the poundage of materials & by additionally estimating their volume.


Unit Weight of Material

Plain Cement Concrete [PCC] 24 kN/m3
Reinforced Cement Concrete [RCC] 25 kN/m3
Steel 78.5 KN/m3
Brick Masonry, cement plaster 20 kN/m3
Stone Masonry 24 kN/m3
Wood 8 kN/m3
Floor Finish 0.6-1.2 kN/m3

Dead Load Calculation:

  • Dead loads are usually ascertained by considering the quantity of each & every material and then multiplying it with the unit weight of that particular material.
  • For instance, a column is created of reinforced cement concrete and having a length, breadth, and depth, then the dead load of the column is.

Dead Load = V x d

V = Indicates the volume of the structure

d  = Indicates the density of the material

Dimension of Column 

Length = 0.4 m (400 mm)

Breadth = 0.4 m (400 mm)

Height = 3 m (3000 mm)

Volume of Column Structure = 3.0 m  x 0.4 m  x 0.4 m = 0.48m3

Here, RCC Strucher Density = 25 kN/m3

Dead Load of ColumnDerived = 0.48 m3 x 25 kN/m3

Dead Load of ColumnDerived  = 12 kn

Dead Load Examples

  • Dead Loads on Beam.
  • Dead Loads on Slab.
  • Dead Loads on Column.
  • Walls & Flooring Cover.

Also, Read: Definition of Shear Force and Bending Moment | What Is Shear Force | What Is Bending Moment | Relation Between Loading, Shear Force & Bending Moment

#1.2. Live Loads-

  • Live loads, also called superimposed loads or sudden loads, such as occupants, furniture, or traffic loads, may fluctuate.
  • Live loads changes with respect to time as they depend on usage & capacity. This type of loading may come and go, hence this is dynamic.
  • An office building may experience surged live loads during week-day work hours but many bijou loads during the night or at weekends.
  • Weight of person.
  • Weight of movable furniture.
 Types of Floors  Minimum Live Loads kN/m2
Houses, Hospital Wards, Dormitory Floors, Office Floors 2.0 kN/m2
2.5 kN/m2 & 4.0 kN/m2
2.5 kN/m2 when separate storage facility provided, otherwise 4.0kN/m2
Shops, Educational Buildings, Assembly Buildings, Restaurants 4.0 kN/m2
Banking Halls, Office Entrance Halls 3.0 kN/m2
Office Floors for Storage, Assembly Floor Space, Without Seating, Public Rooms in Hotels, Dance Halls, Waiting Halls 5.0 kN/m2
Warehouses, Workshops, Factories Light Wt. Loads- 5.0 kN/m2
Medium – 7.5 kN/m2
Heavy – 10.0 kN/m2
Garages 4.0 kN/m2 to 7.5 kN/m2
Stairs, Landings, Balconies, and Floor Corridors(not Liable to Over-Crowding) 3.0kN/m2
Stairs, Landings, Balconies, and Floor Corridors(not Liable to Over-Crowding) 5.0 kN/m2
Flat slabs, sloped roofs Access Provided – 1.5 kN/m2
Access not Provided – 0.75 kN/m2

Also, Read: What Are Walls | What Is Interior Walls | Types of Interior Wall Materials | Types of Wall Construction | Types of Load Bearing Wall

#1.3. Snow Loads-

This is the vertical load which is generally affected by the deposition of snow and happens more in geographic regions where snowfall is ponderous and frequent.

Consequential or huge quantities of snow can accumulate, adding a considerable load to a structure & that generally has a tendency to fail the structure or cause significant cracks.

The intensity snow load is due to various factors:

  • Roof geometry
  • Size of the structure
  • Insulation of the structure
  • Wind frequency
  • Snow duration
  • Geographical location of the structure

Snow loads are enumerated by the projections made by snow at distinct parts of the structure,

e.g., In hilly areas like in China, Russia, Europe, Asia, India, and Pakistan, this kind of load is observed.

Enumeration of Snow Loads on a Structure

The minimum snow load on any area is obtained by the expression:-

S= μS0


S = Design snow load

μ = Shape coefficient

S0 = Ground snow load.

#1.4. Impact Load-

  • Load applied on a structure abruptly is known as impact load. Impact load is treacherous than a uniformly disseminated load because of the intensity. The intensity of the impact load is always greater than a homogeneously disseminated load.
  • If the value of the impact load is extremely high, it will directly fail & it won’t even provide a chance for the structure to crack.

#1.5. Environmental Loads-

  • It is a kind of vertical load in which the load may be affected on a structure as a result of topographic disturbance or tyrannical weather conditions such as temperature rise at a high or low level leading to mutilation.

Also, Read: Introduction of Gantry Girder | Load on Gantry Gutter | Types of Load on Gantry Gutter

#2. Horizontal Load-

Horizontal Load

It is typically the load applied on structure in a horizontal direction. Horizontal loads are basically on the x-axis.

Usually, when a horizontal load is applied on the structure, the structure will tend to fail or develop some significant cracks.

The categories of horizontal load are given below:

  • Wind Load.
  • Earthquake Load.
  • Thermal Load.
  • Settlement Load.
  • Imposed Load.

#2.1. Wind Loads-

Wind loads are often applied by the drift of air relative to a structure (when the wind is obstructed), & analysis draws upon an understanding of meteorology & aerodynamics.

Wind load usually might not be a major concern for bijou, colossal, low-level buildings, where the dead weight of a structure is insufficient to resist wind loads, but it often procures momentousness with greater apogee, the utilization of lighter materials & also the use of shapes that will affect the flow of air.

Main effects are

  • Corner streams or jets often arise around the corners of buildings.
  • Vortex shedding frequently arises within the wake of a building.
  • Through-flow, or passage-jets, that frequently arise in a passage through a building or bijou gap betwixt two buildings.

Enumeration of Wind Loads on a Structure

  • The intensity of wind load depends upon the rate of wind, expansion & aggregate elevation of the building.
  • To calculate the aggregate wind load, the subsequent equation is required:-

Pz= 0.6 Vz2


Pz Is in N/m2 at loftiness Z

Vz is in m/sec

  • Up to the pinnacle of 30 m, the wind pressure is taken into account to act homogeneously. Above 30 m the wind pressure increases notably.
  • To enumerate Vz the subsequent expression is required:-

Vz = k1k2k3Vb


k1 = Risk coefficient.

k2 = Coefficient based on height and structure size.

k3 = Topography factor.

Also, Read: What Is Superstructures | Difference Between Load-Bearing and Framed Structures

#2.2. Earthquake Loads-

  • Significant horizontal loads may be foisted on a structure during an earthquake.
  • Buildings in areas of seismic activity are required to be attentively scanned and designed to corroborate they do not fail if an earthquake occurs.
  • Earthquake load is exerted on a structure in 2 directions i.e., vertical and horizontal direction.
  • Of late, every building is designed to bear the seismic loads safely.
  • The design of the earthquake load is in complete contrast from wind loads and gravity.
  • The earthquake features a relatively greater sensitivity to the geometry of structure than wind load and gravity.

Also, Read: How to Load Calculation on Column, Beam, Wall & Slab

#2.3. Thermal Loads-

  • All materials expand or contract with respect to temperature variation, and this may deploy a considerable amount of loads on a structure leading to cracks.
  • Expansion joints can be provided at points on long sections of structures (wall or floor) in a particular order that elements are physically segregated and may enlarge without any structural defacement.

#2.4. Settlement Loads-

  • Stresses can happen in buildings when one part settles slightly more in comparison to the other.
  • A pliable structure can accommodate bijou stresses, whereas a stiff structure will significantly require careful designs.

Also, Read: What Is Structural Settlement | Causes For Structural Settlement | What Is Soil Settlement & Foundation Structural Settlement

#2.5. Imposed Loads-

  • The loads which change continuously are called imposed loads. Few common samples of such loads are the weight of a human, weights of the movable partition, dust loads & weight of the furniture. These loads were formerly referred to as live loads.
  • In a specific building, the imposed load may be discrete from one room to another room.

Loads may additionally be categorized as:

  • Concentrated loads (or point loads): Single loads that act over a comparatively bijou area, such as column loads.
  • Line loads: Line loads deploy a load along a line, like a partition’s weight on the floor.
  • Distributed (or surface) loads: These exert a load over a surface area, like the weight of floors and roofing materials.

Some other Types of Loads

Some other types of forces or loads are:

  • Foundation Movement (IS 1904)
  • Erection Load (IS 875- Part2)
  • Vibration, Fatigue
  • Soil and Fluid Pressures (IS 875- Part5)
  • Stress Concentration Effect Due to Point of Application of Load

Also, Read: What Are Walls | Classified of Walls | Load-Bearing Vs Partition Walls


Types of Loads on Structures:

  • Vertcal Loads .
    • Dead Load.
    • Live Load.
    • Environmental Load.
    • Snow Load.
    • Impact Load.
  • Horizontal Loads.
    • Wind Load.
    • Earthquake Load.
    • Thermal Load.
    • Settlement Load.
    • Imposed Load.

Live Load-

Live loads (also known as applied or imposed loads, or variable actions) may vary over time and often result from the occupancy of a structure. Typical live loads may include; people, the action of wind on an elevation, furniture, vehicles, the weight of the books in a library and so on.

Dead Load-

A constant load in a structure (such as a bridge, building, or machine) that is due to the weight of the members, the supported structure, and permanent attachments or accessories.

Also, Read: Live Load Vs Dead Load | What Is Load in Civil

Wind Loads-

The term ‘Wind Load‘ is used to refer to any pressures or forces that the wind exerts on a building or structure. There are actually three types of wind forces that would be exerted on a building.

Dead Load Calculation-

The total dead weight of a member would then be determined by multiplying that value times the length. The dead load of a floor or of a roof is generally given in terms of load per unit area (i.e. pounds per square foot or kilonewtons per square meter).

Dead Load Examples-

Dead loads, also known as permanent or static loads, are those that remain relatively constant over time and comprise, for example, the weight of a building’s structural elements, such as beams, walls, roof and structural flooring components.

What Is Live Load?

Refers to loads that do, or can, change over time, such as people walking around a building (occupancy) or movable objects such as furniture. Live loads are variable as they depend on usage and capacity. However, design codes can provide equivalent loads for various structures.

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