The Differences between Ordinary Moment Frames and Special Moment Frames

Due to the latest seismic ordinances passed in Santa Monica, there has been a lot of talk around different seismic solutions and options, moment frames being one of those options.  There are three different types of moment frames: ordinary, intermediate, and special. After reading this short article, it will only take a moment for you to understand the fundamental differences between Ordinary Moment Frames and Special Moment Frames.

Seismic Retrofit building structure

Ordinary Moment Frame- Seismic Retrofit

To begin, a standard moment frame is defined as a system of columns and beams which are connected by either fully or partially restrained moment connections.  As one might expect based on its name, “ordinary” moment frames, one of the three types of moment frames,  are generally found in areas described as non/low-seismic regions. The expectation is that ordinary moment frames are able to endure limited inelastic deformations caused by lateral forces. Ordinary moment frames only require onsite welding, which differs from the requirements for special moment frames. Special Moment Frames, another type of moment frame, are “special” in that they are expected to endure more significant inelastic deformation than ordinary moment frames. In addition, Special Moment Frames utilize different connections than Ordinary Moment Frames and they do not require field welding. Generally even with on-site welding the cost of Ordinary Moment Frames won’t go over that of a Special Moment Frame. These connections must be prequalified, as stipulated by the American Institute of Steel Construction.

Since Special Moment Frames can endure more deformation, they are often found in areas described as mid to high-seismic regions. Seismic retrofits constructed utilizing moment frames can sometimes be more costly and time consuming because moment frames often require more welding on site than other frames do. Traditionally, special moment frames are more expensive than ordinary moment frames because these types of frames are often found in mid/high-seismic regions. Your engineer may decide whether or not moment frames are right for your particular project but they are preferred under certain circumstances. If your building includes large open areas within your structure, such as a tuck-under parking garage, moment frames would often be the building solution that is preferred.  Considering the latest ordinances regarding soft story seismic retrofits, the Santa Monica area will be seeing moment frames of all types over the course of the next five years.

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