How do brick masonry houses behave during earthquakes?
Behaviour of Brick Masonry Walls
Masonry buildings are brittle structures and one ofthe most vulnerable of the entire building stock understrong earthquake shaking. The large number ofhuman fatalities in such constructions during the pastearthquakes in India corroborates this. Thus, it is veryimportant to improve the seismic behaviour ofmasonry buildings. A number of earthquake-resistantfeatures can be introduced to achieve this objective.Ground vibrations during earthquakes causeinertia forces at locations of mass in the building.These forces travel through the roof and walls to thefoundation. The main emphasis is on ensuring thatthese forces reach the ground without causing majordamage or collapse.
Of the three components of amasonry building (
) (Figure1a), the walls are most vulnerable to damage causedby horizontal forces due to earthquake. A wall topplesdown easily if pushed horizontally at the top in adirection perpendicular to its plane (termed
), but offers much greater resistance if pushedalong its length (termed
) (Figure 1b).The ground shakes simultaneously in the verticaland two horizontal directions during earthquakes(IITK-BMTPC Earthquake Tip 5). However, thehorizontal vibrations are the most damaging to normalmasonry buildings. Horizontal inertia force developedat the roof transfers to the walls acting either in theweak or in the strong direction. If all the walls are nottied together like a box, the walls loaded in their weakdirection tend to topple (Figure 2a).To ensure good seismic performance, all wallsmust be joined properly to the adjacent walls. In thisway, walls loaded in their weak direction can
of the good lateral resistance offered bywalls loaded in their strong direction (Figure 2b).Further, walls also need to be tied to the roof andfoundation to preserve their overall integrity.
Figure 2: Advantage sharing between walls
–only possible if walls are well connected
(b) Wall B properly connected to Wall A (Note: roof is not shown): Walls A (loaded in strong direction)support Walls B (loaded in weak direction)
(a) For the direction of earthquake shaking shown,wall B tends to fail
Direction of earthquakeshaking Direction of earthquakeshaking
Toothed jointsin masonry coursesor L-shaped dowel bars
Figure 1: Basic components of a masonrybuilding
– walls are sensitive to direction of earthquake forces
(b) Direction of force on a wall critically determinesits earthquake performance
Pushed in the plane of the wall
Direction of earthquakeshaking Direction of earthquake shaking
Strong DirectionWeak Direction
Pushed perpendicular to the plane of the wall
(a) Basic components of a masonry building