What are nonstructural elements?

The main body of your building typically includes foundations, columns, floor/roof systems and the lateral force resisting systems. 

Nonstructural architectural components include exterior walls, interior partition walls, suspended ceilings, elevators, medical equipment, stairs, glazing, veneer, furniture, and fixtures. Mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) nonstructural components include ductwork, piping, conveyors of hazardous gases, generators, pumps, fire protection systems, communication equipment, utilities and lighting fixtures, to mention a few. 

What happens to nonstructural elements during an earthquake?

During an earthquake, the building will undergo motion that may result in nonstructural damage due to rocking, bumping, sliding and overturning of components. 


When restraint systems for nonstructural components are properly designed and correctly constructed, risk of the following damage occurring can be greatly reduced.

  • Collapse of egress stairs, which will eliminate or reduce safe egress for patients and hospital staff.
  • Failure of fire protection systems due to poor detailing may limit or reduce the capacity to extinguish fires
  • Ceiling system collapse in lobby spaces and corridors may cause injury/death or reduce path of egress for building occupants 
Operational loss of critical patient life support or emergency equipment due to component damage or shutdown when emergency power fails, which will affect the ability to treat new patients arriving from other earthquake related damage.

These are only a few concerns regarding healthcare institutions and properly restrained nonstructural components.