AbstractRC shear walls are commonly used as lateral load-resisting elements in seismic regions, and the estimation of their shear strengths can become simultaneously design-critical and complex when they have so-called squat geometries, i.e., height-to-length ratios less than two. This paper presents a study on the training and interpretation of an advanced machine-learning model that strategically combines two algorithms for the said purpose. To train the model, a comprehensive shear strength database of 434 samples of squat RC walls is utilized. First, the eXtreme Gradient Boosting (XGBoost) algorithm is used to establish a predictive model for estimating the shear strength, wherein 70% and 30% of the data are respectively used for training and validation. This effort resulted in an approximately 97% validation accuracy, which well exceeds current mechanics-based/semiempirical models. Second, the SHapley Additive exPlanations (SHAP) algorithm is used to estimate the relative importance of the factors affecting XGBoost’s shear strength estimates. This step thus enabled physical and quantitative interpretations of the input-output dependencies, which are nominally hidden in conventional machine-learning approaches. Through this setup, several squat wall attributes are identified as being critical in shear strength estimates.

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