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Wind Loads on Screen Walls and Roof Top Equipment

How does your office approach the design of roof top screen walls?  They are all too common since they do well to hide roof top equipment or offer privacy on residential buildings.  However, in the past, they have not been explicitly addressed in the code. Some engineers use the provisions for roof top structures and equipment, others use solid freestanding signs, and some argument could be made for using the parapet provisions.  

In the November 2019 SE University session, Emily Guglielmo, SE, from Martin/Martin, presented Wind Loads on Non-Building Structures.  Emily reviewed the ASCE7 wind provisions for non-building structures, but also offered some guidance on non-building structures that are not specifically addressed in ASCE7.  She also provided some additional resources available to engineers to help fill in the gaps where the code may be silent on some situations.

Emily explained new language added to the commentary of ASCE7-16.  As you can see in the slide below, the commentary now makes it clear that screen walls should be designed in accordance with Section 29.5.1.

Using this new guidance from the code, the design of screen walls is now more explicit, however, an obvious follow up question would be whether shielding can then be considered for equipment surrounded by a screen wall.  Although each case is unique, Emily offered some guidance on this situation. Watch this short 3 minute video to hear Emily’s recommendation on the use of shielding on roof top structures.