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Published by: api-3869476 on Nov 25, 2009
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G. Michele CALVI
University of Pavia

Graduate technician


Andrea PENNA



A general review of seismic performance of infilled R.C. frames, both for global in-plane response and local out-of-plane is here presented. Some issues related to observed interaction between masonry infills and bounding frames are highlighted and analytical methods summarized. Experimental and numerical results show that frames with slightly reinforced masonry infills generally perform better than bare frames: enhanced lateral capacity and energy dissipation provide a significantly better behaviour in terms of operational limit states and cost of repair.


A lot of research activity, both numerical and experimental, has been devoted, during last 50 years, to investigate the seismic response of infilled reinforced concrete frames. Design rules and recommendations have been developed for this type of widely diffused structures on the basis of research achievements and observed seismic vulnerability. Recent earthquakes (e.g. Izmit 1999, Boumerdes 2003) have shown how much this topic is still essential at present time, both for existing and new constructions.

The importance of the so called \u201cnon structural\u201d elements in governing the global seismic
response and the corresponding level of safety against collapse has been many times highlighted
S\u00cdSMICA 2004 - 6\u00ba Congresso Nacional de Sismologia e Engenharia S\u00edsmica
(Fardis et al. [16]). Global capacity can be significantly affected by the interaction of the infills
with the frame structure, both in terms of expected failure mode and energy dissipation resources.

Several common concepts have been disproved. For example, it is usual to assess the frequency content of the response controlled by the RC structure. This assumes that in most stories infills crack and separate from the frame early in the response. However, the contrary is shown as most of the energy dissipation takes place in the infills and structural damage in beams and columns tends to be low.

When damage or serviceability limit states are considered, the effects of infills are often so dominant, that the Ductility Class and even the PGA for which the bare frame was designed plays a minor role in the response and, correspondingly, the characteristics of the infill panels become more important.

In particular it appears that serviceability displacement limits can be impossible to satisfy
considering the bare structures, while being fully achieved by the infilled frames.

The out-of-plane vibration of infill panels can have a beneficial effect on the global response by reducing the participating mass in the fundamental modes of vibration, and hence all global response parameters. However the possible expulsion is of some concern for large panels at high storeys.

The generally beneficial effect from the presence of infills on the global response, particularly for what concerns a collapse limit state, increases the interest in controlling the damage level reached in the infills for different design level earthquakes. In particular it is considered of great interest to assess the functional level of a building after a seismic event, in order to estimate the possibility of an immediate use or of a short term repair. This largely depends on the level of damage sustained by each infill panel, and particularly on the potential for out of plane expulsions.

To this end it may be noted that the clay blocks most widely used in European earthquake prone countries have low compression and tension strength, a high percentage of holes and a generally brittle type of behaviour. However, it is felt valuable to explore whether the introduction of a low percentage of horizontal reinforcement in the mortar layers or in the external plaster may be of some importance, also considering the relatively low cost of the measure. It may be mentioned that old tests on weakly reinforced infilled frames allow to expect a significant improvement in the response (Brokken and Bertero [2]) . Moreover the present version of EC8 implicitly requires some measures to preserve the integrity of infill panels.

2.1. Out-of-plane response of infill walls

Several studies (Dawe and Seah[12], Angel et al.[1] and Flanagan and Bennett[18]) have investigated the out-of-plane response of infill panels subjected to horizontal loads in last years. They all have found that masonry panels restrained by a bounding frame can develop non- negligible out-of-plane resistance due to the formation of an arching mechanism and depending on the panel slenderness (height-to-thickness) ratio and the compressive strength of infill masonry.

G. Michele CALVI, Davide BOLOGNINI, Andrea PENNA

Flanagan and Bennett also studied the influence of in-plane damage on out-of-plane capacity and they have concluded that the interaction of in-plane and out-of-plane responses is not generally significant from the load resistance standpoint: it seems to depend on the slenderness ratio and usually external infill panels are much less slender than internal ones. For high slenderness ratio infills, Angel et al.[1] have experimentally found that the reduction of the out-of-plane strength due to in-plane damage could be as high as 50%.

2.2. Out-of-plane seismic analysis

The out-of-plane capacity of infills can be effectively studied keeping into account the presence of the arching mechanism: McDowell et al.[23] and Dawe and Seah[12] have developed analytical models to evaluate the out-of-plane arching action, respectively referring to a unidirectional (2D) and a bidirectional (3D) behaviour of unreinforced masonry slabs confined by rigid boundaries. Because of McDowell et al. model tendency to overestimate out-of-plane capacity, due to the assumed elastic perfectly plastic stress-strain relation and non considered interaction with in-plane damage, Angel et al. have proposed an improvent consisting in the introduction, into the McDowell et al. model scheme, of strength reduction factors that account for the influence of in- plane damage and the flexibility of the bounding frame. Starting from a simplification of their analytical model they also proposed a practical capacity assessment procedure. As reported by Shing and Mehrabi [34], both the models of Dawe and Seah and Angel et al. tend, in some cases, to overestimate the out-of-plane resistance.

As considered in modern standards, simplified formulas are available to estimate the actual earthquake demand for infill panels out-of-plane response, keeping into account the dynamic amplification by means of global building response and local infill out-of-plane response natural periods.

3.1. In-plane seismic response

The in-plane response r.c. frames infilled with masonry panels under lateral loads is, since a long time up to present, an important research topic in structural and earthquake engineering. A number of significant experimental tests have been performed in last 50 years (e.g. Fiorato et al.[17], Klingner and Bertero[20], Brokken and Bertero [2], Zarnic and Tomazevic[38], Mosalamet

al.[27], Mehrabi et al.[24], Angel et al.[1], Calvi and Bolognini [4], Fardis et al. [15], Pinto et al.

All studies have shown that the global response of infilled frames is heavily influenced by the interaction of the infill with its bounding frame. The lateral capacity of infilled frames usually depends on the interaction between the infills and the bounding frame: it can determine both the initial and the collapse mechanism. Under relatively low lateral loads the infills remain in contact with the frame structure and their contribution significantly increases the global stiffness of the frame. Under higher loads, the masonry infills, because of their no tension behaviour partially separate from the bounding frame. This load resisting system can be classically represented as a

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