Structural Systems Graphic Vignette Tips:

Source: [Norman Dorf seminar ]

Design as if “you are on the moon”

  • There are no lateral forces on the moon
    Moon dust has no weight – but the clerestory does
    • Provide a beam under the clerestory to support it

Major Points

1. The clerestory window must be supported by a beam or bearing wall on the lower lever.

2. A column on the upper level must be supported by a column or bearing wall on the lower level.

3. While bearing walls, used appropriately, are acceptable, many candidates feel that this vignette is simpler to solve using only steel column and beam construction.

4. Columns do not need to align in plan.

5. Columns on the upper level may not bear on beams.

6. Columns within bearing walls are unnecessary.


The program calls for the design of a two level roof

There will be different level/layers for each roof level

– Show support

– Columns

Bearing walls, Joists, Beams/lintels, Roof decking

– Use ALL STEEL construction

– For bearing walls don’t forget to include lintels over openings

– Bearing walls will require additional consideration (opportunities for error)

Start on the upper floor and work down. 

– Recommendations (economy)

– Span in the short direction

– Try to span in same direction if possible.

– 30 foot span range is considered economical for joists

– Spacing derived  check program on deck span and use that as your joist spacing – this will result in economy.

– Support Beams – 20 feet to 40 feet +/- economical span

– Adjust joist spacing/layout to middle of existing walls (less than 30′ spans are ideal)
– Stretch deck to middle of walls

 Pitfalls to Avoid

– Over-structure is an definite FAIL

– No lateral forces or end beams required (think less is more)

– Fatal Errors

– Missing elements
– Columns inside rooms (keep in walls)
– Columns in openings
– Clerestory location (don’t forget beam under clerestory window)

– Inefficiency

– Over-structured
– Redundancy
– Unnecessary bearing walls

– Technical

– Unreasonable spans

– Decking (4′ spans or min 4′-0″ on center for joist)
– Joists/beams (span around 30′ is ideal)

– Improper support

– Upper columns
– Column offsets
– Beam/joists
– Deck support – all edges
– Bearing wall openings

– Beam offset

– Mis-alignment

– Deign Logic

– Too many columns







3 thoughts on “Structural Systems Graphic Vignette Video Tutorial

  1. Hi,
    This solution is missing a beam at the lower level between the Covered Entry and the Common Area. For sure this is going to pass.
    I suggest verifying before posting because it gives negative impression.

    1. Hi Smoka, Actually that would be over-building, there is no need for a beam there, there would be a joist there running north-south. Careful not to overbuild, you just need beams to support joists and the deck.

  2. This seems to be a a big item of contention. The NCARB study guide says there needs to be a beam to support all interior walls coming from the floor above. They show a beam here.

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