Difference Between Load Bearing Structure & Framed Structure in Structural System

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A combination of components connected together in such a way to serve a useful purpose is called structure. Structures can be approached in numerous models: solid, framed, shell, membrane, trusses, cables and arches, surface structure etc. These are mostly classified based on the geometry due to which these achieve strength to resist different types of loads.

It is the geometrical configuration of the structure that defines its load resisting capacities. Frames and walls are the most popular configurations used in modern day buildings. They are popularly known as framed and load bearing walls.

In a framed structure, a framework or ‘skeleton’ of beams and columns is used to carry different loads down the building to the foundations.  The framework is usually of steel or reinforced concrete, but in small (usually single-storey) structures, they may be of timber or even aluminium.

In the load bearing structure, the wall itself is load-bearing. These load-bearing walls are usually built in masonry, but they can be of reinforced concrete too. Here the walls transmit the loads to the foundations.
The main difference between load bearing structure and framed structure is their members who are responsible for bearing and transferring the load to the subsoil.

In load-bearing structure, load-bearing members are walls, while in a framed structure, load-bearing members are beams and columns.
Listed below are the basic differences between load bearing structure and framed structure.

Load Bearing Structure
Framed Structure

01. Definition

  • According to ‘Frederick S. Merritt’ (Author of Building Design and Construction Handbook), load bearing structure is probably the oldest and commonest type of structure, and it is the structure in which the loads of the roofs as well as lateral loads such as  earthquake, wind etc. are borne by walls, and through walls they are transferred to lower floor and eventually to foundations. It is also known as wall bearing structure.
  • A framed structure is a structure having the combination of structural components i.e. beam, column and slab connected together to resist the gravity and different lateral loads. These structures are generally used to overcome the large forces, moments developing due to the applied loads. It is also known as beam column structure.

02. Components

  • Load bearing structure consists of heavy masonry walls of brick or stone that support the entire structure.
  • Framed structure consists of beam, column, and slab.
Also Read: Difference between One-way Slab and Two-way Slab

03. Load Transfer Path

  • In load bearing structure, vertical load transfer path is from slab/floor to walls and walls to load bearing footing i.e. soil.
  • In a framed structure, vertical load transfer path is from slab/floor to beams, beams to columns and columns to load bearing footings and then to soil.

04. Height of Structure

  • Limited storey buildings can only be constructed. According to ‘SP 62’ (S & T, 1997, Handbook on Building Construction Practices), For load-bearing construction, so far buildings up to 6 storeys have gone up. In many countries, even 14 storeys have been built only with masonry.
  • Multi storey buildings of any heights can be constructed. According to ‘R. Chudley’ (Author of Building Construction Handbook), these buildings are usually designed for office, hotel, residential apartment and contain the means of vertical circulation in the form of stairs and lifts occupying up to 20% of the floor area.
Also Read: Which is Best Load Bearing Structure or Frame Structure?

05. Resistant to Earthquake

  • Load bearing structures are poor resistant to earth quake, as they are constructed with masonry units like stone, brick bonded together. (If it is not done correctly.) However, for low rise buildings, it performs equally well. It needs meticulous designs and details.
  • Framed structure is more rigid and more resistant to Earthquake as entire frame made of column, beam and slabs act as one unit. However, the horizontal load path needs to be clearly defined, designed and detailed.

06. Thickness of Wall

  • In load bearing walls are thicker.
  • In framed structure all the walls are thinner.
Also Read: Different Types of Partition Wall that are being Commonly Used in Home!

07. Walls Construction

  • In load bearing system, beams and columns are not there. Hence walls have to be built first.
  • In framed structures, walls are constructed after the frame is ready.

08. Carpet Area

  • In these types of structures less carpet area is available, as walls are thicker and hence carpet area efficiency of planning is less.
  • In these types of structures more carpet area is available, as walls are thinner.

09. Popularity

  • Rarely used form of construction at present. The load bearing walls are the earliest form of construction known to the civilization.
  • Most used form of construction.

10. Excavation Required

  • Excavation for this type of construction is more.
  • Excavation for this type of construction is less for a similar building.
Also Read: Precautions for Safe Excavation Work

11. Labour Required

  • It is more labor intensive.
  • It is less labor intensive, but it needs different skills.

12. Speed of Construction

  • Speed of construction is less.
  • Speed of construction is more.

13. Material Required

  • It is more material intensive. Hence dead load is also more. It consumes less cement and steel.
  • It is less material intensive. It consumes more cement and steel.

14. Repair Cost

  • Cost of repair of load bearing structure is less.
  • Cost of repair of framed structure is more.

15. Life of Structure

  • Life is not much affected even though some standards are not strictly followed.
  • Life is reduced if not done with proper technique, and specifications i.e. codes are not strictly followed.
Also Read: Difference Between RCC Framed Structure & Load Bearing Structure

16. Worker Required for Construction

  • Skilled as well as non-skilled worker can construct.
  • Only skilled workers are needed for its construction.

17. Uniformity of Wall

  • Thickness of wall cannot be maintained uniform throughout. Thickness of wall increases with increase in height. Hence plan dimension changes on all floor.
  • Thickness of wall can be maintained uniform throughout. Thickness of wall remains same with increase in height. Hence plan dimension does not change on different floor.

18. Purpose/Function of Wall

  • In load bearing structure the purpose of wall is to bear load and hence almost all the walls are load bearing apart from privacy and security. Limitation of wall over wall/ room over room is a handicap. In load bearing structural system external & internal walls serve as a structural element as well as serve the purpose of enclosure for protection from weather i.e. rain, sound, heat, fire etc.
  • Here the walls are for privacy and security. No limitation exists in form of taking walls over walls and rooms over rooms. In framed structural system, external & internal walls serve only the purpose of enclosures for creation of rooms and protection from weather.

19. Flexibility in Design

  • It is not flexible in design as you cannot remove/shift walls, hence effectiveness becomes less. In load bearing structure, it is necessary to construct wall over wall, as walls are load bearing components. Therefore, you cannot change the location of wall resulting in less flexibility in use.
  • It is flexible in design as you can shift location of walls. More functional architectural design is possible. Flexible utilization of space. No necessity to construct walls on walls. Any wall can be taken anywhere. Hence, flexibility in use.

20. Room Dimension

  • Room dimensions cannot be changed as walls have to be above walls only

21. Feasibility of Cantilever Elements

  • Inclusion of Cantilever element is difficult task in this system. Also, it is permitted up to short span only.
  • Cantilever elements can be easily provided in this system.

22. Span in Structure

  • In case of a load bearing structure, large span areas are not possible. Limitation of span i.e. room sizes.
  • In case of a framed structure, large span areas are possible. No Limitation of span i.e. room sizes.

23. Cost Variation According to Foundation Depth

  • Foundation cost of Load Bearing is more than the Framed Structure if the depth of foundation increases beyond 1.5m, and sometimes may become costlier than RCC framed structure.

24. Flexibility in Construction

  • Construction of a load bearing structure is cumbersome, particularly for earthquake resistant structures.
  • Construction of a framed structure is otherwise simple.

25. Materials for Construction

  • Load bearing walls can be from Brick, Stone, concrete block, etc.
  • Frame can be of RCC frame, Steel, Wooden, etc.
Also Read: Types of Wood and Their Uses

26. Opening in Wall

  • Limitations for providing openings in walls, which will affect the light and ventilation in room.
  • Large openings in walls are possible.

27. Design Complexity

  • Design of load bearing structure is simple.
  • Design of framed structure is not simple as compared to load bearing structure. You need design skills and software tools.
Also Read: What is a Structural Design and Why it is Required?

28. Plant & Machines for Construction

  • Load bearing structures can be constructed without expensive plant and machines as compared to a framed structure.
  • Framed structures require expensive plant and machines to construct.

29. Carpet Area Efficiency

  • If the land price is very high, then the saving resulting by way of less cost of construction will be useless as your ultimate usage of carpet area i.e. usable area will be less. Resulting higher rate and cost of construction per sq.ft. of carpet area.
  • As the carpet area efficiency is more, framed structure is not only efficient but also cost effective particularly when the land prices in urban areas are huge; for example, if there is a saving in area by 5%, and even if one spends Rs. 50.00 to 70.00 per sq.ft. extra for the cost of construction for using RCC framed structure but, in such case if the land prices are say Rs. 10,000.00 per sq.ft. and FSI is 2 the saving in terms of cost of land would be Rs. 500.00 to Rs. 1000.00 per sq.ft depending upon FSI per sq.ft. of carpet area built.
Also Read: What is the Difference Between Carpet Area, Built-up Area and Super Built-up Area?

30. Use of Construction Based on Load Bearing Capacity of Soil

  • It is used in low rise buildings where good soil for foundation is available at 1.2 to 1.5 mt. According to ‘Frederick S. Merritt’ (Author of Building Design and Construction Handbook), such construction is often limited to relatively low structures, because load-bearing walls become massive in tall structures. Nevertheless, a wall bearing system may be advantageous for tall buildings when designed with reinforcing steel. It can only be constructed on hard strata.
  • It is mostly used for High rise buildings and for Low rise buildings where good soil for resting load bearing foundation is not available, say up to 1.5 to 2.00 mt and simultaneously cost of bricks is also more. It can be constructed on any type of soil i.e. black cotton soil, reclaimed soil, soft soil.
Also Read: Soil Bearing Capacity: Definition & Ground Improvement Methods

31. Time for Completion

  • Walls have to be built first as they support the slab / roof and hence all walls have to be built simultaneously which is time consuming.
  • Generally, RCC framed structure is constructed first and the external as well as partition walls are constructed later, hence speed is more.

32. Strength of Masonry Unit Required

  • Bricks having good compressive strength, as defined by local codes, mostly 75 kg per cm2 are needed as these are the elements which ultimately take the load.

33. Alteration of Structural Element

  • Walls are the active structural elements and thus no change in it can be done at any time. Walls cannot be altered.
  • The frame is an active structural element and all components are important hence if any change in the structural element is done it may endanger the safety of the entire building. However, walls can be altered.

To sum up, Load bearing structures as such are way cheaper as compared to the framed structures. However, this is true only if the bricks used in load bearing structures have low prices as compared to concrete used in beam and column for framed structures, and depth of foundation is not more than 1.00 m to 1.2 m. When the structures are large and where you need flexibility in design i.e. you don’t want a wall over wall and when you have large span structures, R.C.C. framed structure is always favored, as load bearing structures have a lot of limitations.

Load bearing structure is economical only if the bricks and stones are available easily and at a competitive price. In area, where clay for bricks is not available easily, the cost of the load bearing structure may shoot up or might not be very competitive as compared to the framed structure. The cost of a load bearing structure will also increase with increase in height, as the thickness of walls will be inflating.

Must Read:
Difference Between RCC Framed & Steel Framed Structure
Difference Between Steel Framed & Load Bearing Structure
Difference Between Beam & Lintel in Structural System

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