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Last edited 14 Jan 2022
Load bearing - or loadbearing - describes a structural element that has been designed to support its own dead load in addition to the weight of other structural and non-structural elements. The weight of this load is carried down to the foundations of the building.
The most commonly used load bearing structural elements include:
- Size – a thick wall can take higher loads than a thinner wall of similar material and construction. A tall concrete-block wall may be more prone to buckling than one which is less tall and of identical material, construction and loading.
- Density – dense materials, such as stone and concrete, are typically better able to resist failure under loading.
- Material properties such as compressive strength, resistance to shear forces, bending, vibration and so on.
- Structural design – by virtue of its shape. For example, a folded-plate roof may be able to accept higher loads than one that is a simple flat slab. Similarly, a diagonally braced structure will have a higher load bearing capacity than an identical structure that is unbraced.
- Environmental conditions such as wind, temperature, fire, frost, moisture and so on.
 Load bearing and road construction
Load bearing can also be used in the context of roadway construction in relation to the capacity of the road to accommodate vehicles of a certain weight. In this instance, the term ‘load’ refers to weight of the materials being carried by the vehicles being used to transport them. Load bearing capacity is used to express the impact that a vehicle combined with its load will have on a roadway and the surface beneath it.
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