Shear walls are vertical elements of the horizontal force resisting system. Shear walls are constructed to counter the effects of lateral load acting on a structure. In residential construction, shear walls are straight external walls that typically form a box which provides all of the lateral support for the building.When shear walls are designed and constructed properly, and they will have the strength and stiffness to resist the horizontal forces.
In building construction, a rigid vertical diaphragm capable of transferring lateral forces from exterior walls, floors, and roofs to the ground foundation in a direction parallel to their planes. Examples are the reinforced-concrete wall or vertical truss. Lateral forces caused by wind, earthquake, and uneven settlement loads, in addition to the weight of structure and occupants; create powerful twisting (torsion) forces. These forces can literally tear (shear) a building apart. Reinforcing a frame by attaching or placing a rigid wall inside it maintains the shape of the frame and prevents rotation at the joints. Shear walls are especially important in high-rise buildings subjected to lateral wind and seismic forces.