Smart Shear Walls

The construction industry began using pre-manufactured components and lightweight construction methods  over 50 years ago in order to improve the efficiency of the construction process and to reduce costs associated with materials.
One of the major things that many firefighters have written and taught about over the years is Metal Gusset Plates. Metal gusset plates are often used to join members in truss systems. These gusset plates are thin pieces of metal with small teeth that hold the wood members together. Many of these gusset plates are designed with teeth that only penetrate 0.38 inch into the wood that they hold together. These metal gusset plates have primary only been used for roof trusses and in some cases floor structural components.
However, that has now recently changed and some are now expanding the use of metal gusset plates in shear walls.
In this article I will take a look at this unique development called Smart Shear Walls.
Let’s first begin with a short review of shear walls.
A shear wall is a wall that counteracts the effects of lateral loads such as wind and earthquakes. (1)
Wind load is the force applied to a building by the wind. The architect and builders can counter this force by using shear walls.Prior to smart shear walls most framers used plywood sheathing over the studs to provide the needed shear strength. For more general information on shear walls,check out Construction Concerns. (2)

Smart shear walls are pre-fabricated trussed frames and panels engineered to resist all lateral forces (wind and seismic) applied to a building. (3)

Integrating traditional truss construction and all-thread rod technology, smart components are “designed” to meet the critical demand loads for each project while providing architects and engineers with the ultimate design flexibility.

Smart Components replace structural wall sheathing, costly prefabricated shear walls and steel moment frames.

Smart Shear Wall Benefits:

  • Reduced construction cycle time    
  • Lower labor costs
  • Reduced installation time—No on-site assembly and minimal connections make installation simple compared to conventional walls.
  • Greater aspect ratios and per-linear-foot capacity than conventional shear walls
  • Replace structural wall sheathing (plywood/osb)—reducing nail penetration problems and potential for mold growth
  • Manufactured in a quality-controlled environment rather than on-site—eliminating special shear inspections
  • Project-specific engineering—Sealed designs that meet Engineer of Record (EOR) demand loads are provided for every component on every project
  • Versatility—All components are designed and built to exact wall thickness, heights and lengths, and allow for most window and door openings
  • Easy electrical access—Pre-drilled holes offer trouble-free electrical chase access
  • No job-site waste—Prefabricated components don’t require field modifications or adjustments


Smart Shear Walls in 5 & 6 Story Wood Frame Podium Construction Video:

Smart Shear Wall Components:



Hopefully this short piece has raised the awareness of metal gusset plates being used in certain wall framing applications. This was something that I hadn’t seen before. So if you have additional information that you would like to share I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to share this article to help raise the awareness of these construction components that will influence future structure fires.

A special thanks to Dennis Beck for bringing this to my attention.

Stay Safe

John Shafer


  1. Brannigan’s Building Construction for the Fire Service 5th Edition

Additional reading:

Structural Building Components Articles

1 Comment

  • Lee Dunham says:

    Just another thing we as firefighters will need to be aware of under fire. Gusset plates will fail at 1000 degrees. Fires today are well over that. So know besides floor and roofs, we need to worry about walls collapsing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *