A simple structural model is proposed to evaluate the axial force acting on tie beams interconnecting spread footings or pile caps due to differential ground motion estimated on the basis of the travelling wave assumption. The approach is intended to supplement the "ten percent rule" or similar multipliers specified by seismic codes as design axial forces on tie beams. It is shown that the axial force demand is rather modest. However, shear forces between footing and soil may be quite large depending on maximum column displacements and superstructure rigidity. Key words: foundations, tie beams, earthquake, travelling waves, seismic codes.