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Designing Earthquake Resistant Buildings : Tips and Tricks

Earthquakes are dangerous phenomena. People are vulnerable to the destructive power of earthquakes. Earthquakes have unleashed their destructive power on humans time and time again. But today, with the advancement of construction technology, man has learnt to protect himself from earthquakes. Designing Earthquake Resistant Structures is indispensable. Every year, earthquakes take the lives of thousands of people, and destroy property worth billions and not everyone has home insurance, so many really suffer and have a hard time to recover. It is imperative that structures are designed to resist earthquake forces, in order to reduce the loss of life. Structural design plays an important role. Here, we will discuss different tips and techniques used in designing Earthquake Resistant structures.

What is an Earthquake?
An earthquake is a sudden, rapid shaking of the Earth caused by the breaking and shifting of rock beneath the Earth’s surface. For hundreds of millions of years, the forces of plate tectonics have shaped the Earth as the huge plates that form the Earth's surface move slowly over, under, and past each other. Sometimes the movement is gradual. At other times, the plates are locked together, unable to release the accumulating energy. When the accumulated energy grows strong enough, the plates break free causing the ground to shake. Most earthquakes occur at the boundaries where the plates meet; however, some earthquakes occur in the middle of plates. Ground shaking from earthquakes can collapse buildings and bridges; disrupt gas, electric, and phone services; and sometimes trigger landslides, avalanches, flash floods, fires, and huge, destructive ocean waves (tsunamis). Buildings with foundations resting on unconsolidated landfill and other unstable soil, and trailers and homes not tied to their foundations are at risk because they can be shaken off their mountings during an earthquake. When an earthquake occurs in a populated area, it may cause deaths and injuries and extensive property damage. It is for this reason that it is often said, “Earthquake don’t kill people, buildings do.” The dynamic response of building to earthquake ground motion is the most important cause of earthquake-induced damage to buildings. The damage that a building suffers primarily depends not upon its displacement, but upon acceleration. Whereas displacement is the actual distance the ground and building may move during an earthquake, acceleration is a measure of how quickly they change speed as they move. The conventional approach to earthquake resistant design of buildings depends upon providing the building with strength, stiffness and inelastic deformation capacity which are great to withstand a given level of earthquake-generated force. This is generally accomplished through the selection of an appropriate structural configuration and the carefully detailing of structural members, such as beams and columns, and the connections between them. In contrast, we can say that the basic approach underlying more advanced techniques for earthquake resistance is not to strength the building, but to reduce the earthquake-

generated forces acting upon it. By de-coupling the structure from seismic ground motion it is possible to reduce the earthquake-induced forces in it. This can be done in two ways:   Increase natural period of structure by "BASE ISOLATION". Increase damping of the system by "ENERGY DISSIPATING DEVICES".

Earthquake Resistant Building Design Philosophy
a) Under minor but frequent shaking, the main members of the buildings that carry vertical and horizontal forces should not be damaged; however buildings parts that do not carry load may sustain repairable damage. b) Under moderate but occasional shaking, the main members may sustain repairable damage, while the other parts that do not carry load may sustain repairable damage. c) Under strong but rare shaking, the main members may sustain severe damage, but the building should not collapse.

Protection from Earthquakes
There are various new techniques which help in reducing the impact of earthquake forces on buildings. Most of these techniques are expensive to implement. Here is a list of Earthquake Resistant Techniques…

1. Base Isolation for Earthquake Resistance
The concept of base isolation is explained through an example building resting on frictionless rollers. When the ground shakes, the rollers freely roll, but the building above does not move. Thus, no force is transferred to the building due to the shaking of the ground; simply, the building does not experience the earthquake. Now, if the same building is rested on the flexible pads that offer resistance against lateral movements, then some effect of the ground shaking will be transferred to the building above. If the flexible pads are properly chosen, the forces induced by ground shaking can be a few times smaller than that experienced by the building built directly on ground, namely a fixed base building. The flexible pads are called base-isolators, whereas the structures protected by means of these devices are called base-isolated buildings.

2. Energy Dissipation Devices for Earthquake Resistance
Another approach for controlling seismic damage in buildings and improving their seismic performance is by installing Seismic Dampers in place of structural elements, such as diagonal braces. These dampers act like the hydraulic shock absorbers in cars as much of the sudden jerks are absorbed in the hydraulic fluids and only little is transmitted above to the chassis of the car. When seismic energy is transmitted through them, dampers absorb part of it, and thus damp the motion of the building.

3. Active Control Devices for Earthquake Resistance
The system consists of three basic elements:

a. Sensors to measure external excitation and/or structural response. b. Computer hardware and software to compute control forces on the basis of observed excitation and/or structural response. c. Actuators to provide the necessary control forces.
Thus in active system, it has to necessarily have an external energy input to drive the actuators. On the other hand passive systems do not require external energy and their efficiency depends on tunings of system to expected excitation and structural behavior. As a result, the passive systems are effective only for the modes of the vibrations for which these are tuned. Thus the advantage of an active system lies in its much wider range of applicability since the control forces are worked out on the basis of actual excitation and structural behavior. In the active system when only external excitation is measured, system is said to be in open-looped. However when the structural response is used as input, the system is in closed loop control. These techniques have been successfully employed in many projects across the world. They are most widely used in Japan. These techniques are also being used in earthquake prone areas of California, Indonesia and other such places. Source :

Earthquake engineering
Earthquake engineering is the study of the behavior of buildings and structures subject to seismic loading. Eminent authority on seismic risk mitigation, Caltech professor George W. Housner is widely considered as the 'father' of the modern field of earthquake engineering. Stanford University professor John Blume’s contributions to the dynamics of structures have earned him the title of the 'father' of earthquake engineering too. The main objectives of earthquake engineering are:
  

Understand the interaction between buildings or civil infrastructure and the ground. Foresee the potential consequences of strong earthquakes on urban areas and civil infrastructure. Design, construct and maintain structures to perform at earthquake exposure up to the expectations and in compliance with building codes.

A properly engineered structure does not necessarily have to be extremely strong or expensive.

The most powerful and budgetary tools of earthquake engineering are vibration control technologies and, in particular, base isolation.

Shake-table crash testing of a regular building model (left) and a base-isolated building model (right) at UCSD

Seismic loading
Seismic loading means application of an earthquake-generated agitation to a structure. It happens at contact surfaces of a structure either with the ground, or with adjacent structures, or with gravity waves from tsunami. Seismic loading depends, primarily, on:
   

Anticipated earthquake's parameters at the site Geotechnical parameters of the site Structure's parameters Characteristics of the anticipated gravity waves from tsunami (if applicable).

Seismic loads, sometimes, exceed ability of a structure to resist them without being broken, partially or completely. Due to their mutual interaction, seismic loading and seismic performance of a structure are intimately related.

Seismic performance
Earthquake or seismic performance is an execution of a building's or structure's ability to sustain their due functions, such as its safety and serviceability, at and after a particular earthquake exposure. A structure is, normally, considered safe if it does not endanger the lives and wellbeing of those in or around it by partially or completely collapsing. A structure may be considered serviceable if it is able to fulfill its operational functions for which it was designed.

Basic concepts of the earthquake engineering, implemented in the major building codes, assume that a building should survive the most powerful anticipated earthquake though with partial destruction.

Seismic vibration control
Seismic vibration control is a set of technical means aimed to mitigate seismic impacts in building and non-building structures. All seismic vibration control devices may be classified as passive, active or hybrid where:
 

passive control devices have no feedback capability between them, structural elements and the ground; active control devices incorporate real-time recoding instrumentation on the ground integrated with earthquake input processing equipment and actuators within the structure; hybrid control devices have combined features of active and passive control systems.

When ground seismic waves reach up and start to penetrate a base of a building, their energy flow density, due to reflections, reduces dramatically: usually, up to 90%. However, the remaining portions of the incident waves during a major earthquake still bear a huge devastating potential. After the seismic waves enter a superstructure, there are a number of ways to control them in order to soothe their damaging effect and improve the building's seismic performance, for instance:

to dissipate the wave energy inside a superstructure with properly engineered dampers; to disperse the wave energy between a wider range of frequencies; to absorb the resonant portions of the whole wave frequencies band with the help of so called mass dampers.

 

Devices of the last kind, abbreviated correspondingly as TMD for the tuned (passive), as AMD for the active, and as HMD for the hybrid mass dampers, have been studied and installed in high-rise buildings, predominantly in Japan, for a quarter of a century.

Portrait image of Taipei 101 from Songzhi Road, Taipei, Taiwan. It is the world's second tallest skyscraper, after the Burj Dubai. For earthquake and wind protection, the building is equipped with the tuned mass damper

However, there is quite another approach: partial suppression of the seismic energy flow into the superstructure known as seismic or base isolation. For this, some pads are inserted into or under all major load-carrying elements in the base of the building which should substantially decouple a superstructure from its substructure resting on a shaking ground.

Mausoleum of Cyrus, the oldest base-isolated structure in the world The first evidence of earthquake protection by using the principle of base isolation was discovered in Pasargadae, a city in ancient Persia, now Iran: it goes back to VI century BC. Below, there are some samples of seismic vibration control technologies of today.

Dry-stone walls control

Dry-stone walls of Machu Picchu Temple of the Sun, Peru

People of Inca civilization were masters of the polished dry-stone walls, called ashlar, where blocks of stone were cut to fit together tightly without any mortar. The Incas were among the best stone masons the world has ever seen, and many junctions in their masonry were so perfect that even blades of grass could not fit between the stones. Peru is a highly seismic land, and for centuries the mortar-free construction proved to be apparently more earthquake-resistant than using mortar. The stones of the dry-stone walls built by the Incas could move slightly and resettle without the walls collapsing which should be recognized as an ingenious passive structural control technique employing both the principle of energy dissipation and that of suppressing resonant amplifications.

Lead Rubber Bearing

LRB being tested at the UCSD Caltrans-SRMD facility

Lead Rubber Bearing or LRB is a type of base isolation employing a heavy damping. Heavy damping mechanism incorporated in vibration control technologies and, particularly, in base isolation devices, is often considered a valuable source of suppressing vibrations thus enhancing a building's seismic performance. However, for the rather pliant systems such as base isolated structures, with a relatively low bearing stiffness but with an high damping, the so-called "damping force" may turn out the main pushing force at a strong earthquake. The video shows a Lead Rubber Bearing being tested at the UCSD CaltransSRMD facility. The bearing is made of rubber with a lead core. It was a uniaxial test in which the bearing was also under a full structure load.

Tuned mass damper

Tuned mass damper in Taipei 101, the world's tallest skyscraper

Typically, the tuned mass dampers are huge concrete blocks mounted in skyscrapers or other structures and moved in opposition to the resonance frequency oscillations of the structures by means of some sort of spring mechanism. Taipei 101 skyscraper needs to withstand typhoon winds and earthquake tremors common in its area of the Asia-Pacific. For this purpose, a steel pendulum weighing 660 metric tons that serves as a tuned mass damper was designed and installed atop the structure. Suspended from the 92nd to the 88th floor, the pendulum sways to decrease resonant amplifications of lateral displacements in the building caused by earthquakes and strong gusts.

Friction pendulum bearing

FPB shake-table testing

Friction Pendulum Bearing (FPB) is another name of Friction Pendulum System (FPS). It is based on three pillars:
  

articulated friction slider; spherical concave sliding surface; enclosing cylinder for lateral displacement restraint.

Snapshot of a shake-table testing of FPB system supporting a rigid building model is presented above.

Building elevation control
Building elevation control is a valuable source of vibration control of seismic loading. Thus, pyramid-shaped skyscrapers continue to attract attention of architects and engineers because such structures promise a better stability against earthquakes and winds. Besides, the elevation configuration can prevent buildings' resonant amplifications due to the fact that a properly configured building disperses the shear wave energy between a wide range of frequencies.

Transamerica Pyramid building

Earthquake or wind quieting ability of the elevation configuration is provided by a specific pattern of multiple reflections and transmissions of vertically propagating shear waves, which are generated by breakdowns into homogeneity of story layers, and a taper. Any abrupt changes of the propagating waves velocity result in a considerable dispersion of the wave energy between a wide ranges of frequencies thus preventing the resonant displacement amplifications in the building. Tapered profile of a building is not a compulsory feature of this method of structural control. A similar resonance preventing effect can be also obtained by a proper tapering of other characteristics of a building structure, namely, its mass and stiffness. As a result, the building elevation configuration techniques permit an architectural design that may be both attractive and functional.

Simple roller bearing
Simple roller bearing or Earthquake-Protective Building Buffer is a base isolation device which is intended for protection of various building and non-building structures against potentially damaging lateral impacts of strong earthquakes. This metallic bearing support may be adapted, with certain precautions, as a seismic isolator to skyscrapers and buildings on soft ground. Recently, it has been employed under the name of Metallic Roller Bearing for a housing complex (17 stories) in Tokyo, Japan. Earthquake-Protective Buffer

Elevated building foundation

Bottom view of the Municipal Services Building sitting on abutments of its elevated building foundation, City of Glendale, CA

Elevated building foundation (EBF) is a kind of seismic vibration control technology which remains an integral part of a building superstructure. It is conceived to shield the building's superstructure against potentially destructive components of the anticipated earthquakes including both lateral and vertical shaking. This goal can be achieved by means of a proper choice of building materials, dimensions, and configuration of EBF for the particular construction site and local soil conditions.

As a result of multiple wave reflections and diffractions, as well as energy dissipations of the seismic waves in a process of their vertical propagation through horizontal strata of the EBF, any transmission of seismic wave energy into the building superstructure furnished with EBF will be decreased considerably which will decrease seismic loads and enhance seismic performance of the structure

Springs-with-damper base isolator
Springs-with-damper base isolator installed under a threestory town-house, Santa Monica, California is shown on the photo taken prior to the 1994 Northridge earthquake exposure. It is a base isolation device conceptually similar to Lead Rubber Bearing. One of two three-story townhouses like this, which was well instrumented for recording of both vertical and horizontal accelerations on its floors and the ground, has survived a severe shaking during the Northridge earthquake and left valuable information for further learning.

Springs-with-damper close-up

Hysteretic damper
Hysteretic damper is intended to provide better and more reliable seismic performance than that of a conventional structure at the expense of the seismic input energy dissipation. There are four major groups of hysteretic dampers used for the purpose, namely:
   

Fluid viscous dampers (FVDs) Metallic yielding dampers (MYDs) Viscoelastic dampers (VEDs) Friction dampers (FDs)

Each group of dampers has specific characteristics, advantages and disadvantages for structural applications. Source:

Building Safety and Earthquakes
Earthquake Resisting Systems

This describes the types of structural systems and lateral-force-resisting elements used in buildings and how they can be used in combinations.

Structural Systems Defined
The Uniform Building Code (UBC) earthquake provisions define three basic types of building structural systems: bearing wall systems, building frame systems, and moment resisting frame systems. Bearing wall systems consist of vertical load carrying walls located along exterior wall lines and at interior locations as necessary. Many of these bearing walls are also used to resist lateral forces and are then called shear walls. Bearing wall systems do not contain complete vertical load-carrying space frames but may use some columns to support floor and roof vertical loads. This type of system is very common and includes wood-frame buildings, concrete tilt-up buildings and masonry wall buildings. Building frame systems use a complete three dimensional space frame to support vertical loads, but use either shear walls or braced frames to resist lateral forces. Examples of these include buildings with steel frames or concrete frames along the perimeter and at intervals throughout the interior supporting vertical loads from floors and roof. Building frame systems typically use steel braced frames or concrete or masonry shear walls to resist lateral forces. A building frame system with shear walls is shown in Figure 1(a).

Building Frame System with Shear Walls (a)

Moment Resisting Frame System (b)

Figure 1. Building frame systems. Moment-resisting frame systems can be steel, concrete, or masonry construction. They provide a complete space frame throughout the building to carry vertical loads, and they use some of those same frame elements to resist lateral forces. Shear walls (and braced frames) are not used in this system, as shown in Figure 1(b). Occasionally buildings are defined as dual systems when they have a complete space frame that supports vertical loads and combine moment-resisting frames with either shear walls or braced frames to resist lateral loads.

Lateral-Force-Resisting Elements

Lateral-force-resisting elements must be provided in every structure to brace it against wind and seismic forces. The three principal types of resisting elements are shear walls, braced frames, and moment-resisting frames. Shear walls can be made of sheathed woodframe walls, reinforced masonry, or reinforced concrete. Steel braced frames are often used in combination with concrete shear walls or masonry shear walls. Braced frames are essentially vertical, cantilevered trusses and may be either concentric or eccentric in configuration. Concentric frames have diagonal braces located so that the lateral forces act along the direction of their longitudinal axis. Eccentric braced frames use both axial loading of braces and bending of sections of horizontal beams to resist the forces. Figure 2 shows typical braced frame configurations.


Chevron Brace


Eccentric Brace

Figure 2. Types of braced frame elements. Moment-resisting frames can be constructed of steel, concrete, or masonry. Moment frames consist of beams and columns in which bending of these members provides the resistance to lateral forces. There are two primary types of moment frames, ordinary and special. Special moment-resisting frames are detailed to ensure ductile behavior of the beam-to-column joints and are normally used in zones of higher seismicity. Because of damage observed following the 1994 Northridge earthquake, steel momentresisting frames have been under intensive study and testing. The goal is to determine the causes of the damage and to recommend changes in steel moment-resisting frame design and construction to ensure ductile behaviour of the joints. The selection of the type of lateral-force resisting elements to use in a building is often based on economics. A single type of resisting element is commonly used in most building types, such as in houses where wood-framed shear walls are used, or in concrete tilt-up buildings where concrete shear walls are used. However, other types of buildings may need to use combinations of more than one type of seismic element. The building code allows combinations to be used but they are also subject to very specific structural design rules. For example, if concrete shear walls that are also bearing walls are combined with braced frame elements along one axis and ordinary moment-resisting frames are used along the other axis, the braced frame elements need to be designed using slightly larger forces than if they were the only type of resisting element used along that axis. On the other axis, the moment-frame elements also need to be designed for forces larger than if they were the only type of resisting element in the building. These adjustments in design forces are required to account for the differences in strength,

stiffness, and ductility among the three types of resisting elements when used in combination. References ICBO, 1997, Uniform Building Code, International Conference of Building Officials, Whittier, California. Source:

Strengthening Buildings for Earthquakes
Earthquakes cause sideways forces on buildings, sometimes making them sway from side to side. The forces on a building during an earthquake produce a similar effect to horizontal (or sideways) forces trying to push the building over.

A model building swaying on the shaking-table during an artificial earthquake.

The same model being pushed sideways by somebody.

Notice how the model bends in the same way for both forces. These are some of the structural systems used to resist sideways forces.

Horizontal structural systems
Usually floors and roofs. They share the sideways forces on the building between its vertical structural members. They include:



Vertical structural systems
Made up from columns, beams, walls and bracing. They transfer the sideways forces on the building to the ground. They include:
  

Braced frames Moment resisting frames Shear walls

Braced Frames
Braced frames use trussing to resist sideways forces on buildings. Trussing, or triangulation, is formed by inserting diagonal structural members into rectangular areas of a structural frame. It helps stabilise the frame against sideways forces from earthquakes and strong winds. In a braced frame, bracing is usually provided in every storey of the building.

Braced Frames - Single Diagonals

If a single diagonal, or brace, is used, it must be able to resist tension (stretching) and compression (squashing) caused by sideways forces in both directions on a frame.

Single diagonals in a 3-storey frame.

Cross Bracing
If two diagonals are used, in the form of cross-bracing, they only need to resist tension. This is because one brace is in tension for the sideways force in one direction on the frame, while the other brace is in tension when the force is reversed. Steel cables can be used for cross bracing, as they can be stretched, but not squashed.

Cross-bracing in a 3-storey frame

Braced Frames - Miscellaneous Methods

Knee Bracing

K Bracing

V Bracing

Inverted V Bracing

Moment Resisting Frames
In moment resisting frames, the joints, or connections, between columns and beams are designed to be rigid. At a rigid joint, the ends of the columns and beams cannot rotate. This means that the angle between the ends of the columns and beams always remain the same. Rigid joints should be designed carefully to make sure they do not distort. This causes the columns and beams to bend during earthquakes. So these structural members are designed to be strong in bending. Moment resisting frames simply means frames that resist forces by bending.

Shear Walls
Shear walls are vertical walls that are used to stiffen the structural frames of buildings. They help frames resist sideways earthquake forces.

The earthquake forces are transferred to the ground mainly by shear forces in the walls. Imagine a wall is made up from a stack of horizontal layers all stuck together. Shear forces on the wall will try and make these layers slide over one another.

It is better to use walls with no openings in them. So, usually the walls around lift shafts and stairwells are used. Also, walls on the sides of buildings that have no windows can be used.

Isolated Buildings
Base Isolation systems reduce building vibrations during earthquakes. This means that the building distorts less, reducing the chance of damage. Normally, a building is supported directly on its foundations, and it is said to have a fixedbase. When base isolation is used, special structural bearings are inserted between the bottom of the building and its foundation. These bearings are not very stiff in the horizontal direction, so they reduce the fundamental frequency of vibration of a building. The frequency becomes so low that the building does not vibrate as strongly during an earthquake. During an earthquake, a fixed-base building can sway from side to side. When a base isolation system is used, the sideways movement occurs mainly in the bearings, and the building hardly distorts at all. There are many types of bearings used for base isolation. Here are two of them. 1. Rubber Bearings 2. Friction Pendulum Bearings

Rubber bearings
Rubber bearings are made from layers of rubber with thin steel plates between them, and a thick steel plate on the top and bottom. The bearings are placed between the bottom of a building and its foundation . The bearings are designed to be very stiff and strong for vertical load, so that they can carry the weight of the building. However, they are designed to be much weaker for horizontal loads, so that they can move sideways during an earthquake. Rubber bearing in place before the building is constructed above it.

Rubber bearings have been used to protect the Museum of New Zealand from large earthquakes.

Museum of New Zealand

Friction Pendulum Bearings
Friction pendulum bearings are made from two horizontal steel plates that can slide over each other because of their shape and an additional articulated slider. The bearings are placed between the bottom of a building and its foundation . They are designed to be very stiff and strong for vertical load, so that they can carry the weight of the building. However, the fact that they slide means that earthquake movements will occur mainly in the bearings.

friction pendulum bearing F between a column of the building and it's foundations.

Friction Pendulum Bearing

Friction pendulum bearings have been used in the San Francisco Airport International Terminal. The building has been designed to resist a magnitude 8 earthquake occurring on the San Andreas fault.

San Fransisco Airport Terminal

Adding Dampers
Dampers can be installed in the structural frame of a building to absorb some of the energy going into the building from the shaking ground during an earthquake. The dampers reduce the energy available for shaking the building. This means that the building deforms less, so the chance of damage is reduced. There are many types of dampers that can be installed in buildings. Here are some of them:    Metallic Dampers Friction Dampers Viscous Fluid Dampers

Metallic Dampers
Metallic dampers are usually made from steel. They are designed to deform so much when the building vibrates during an earthquake that they cannot return to their original shape. This permanent deformation is called inelastic deformation, and it uses some of the earthquake energy which goes into building.

X - Plate Metallic Damper

There are different types of metallic damper. One type, the X-shaped Plate Damper, is used where two braces meet. As the building vibrates, the braces stretch and compress, pulling and pushing the damper sideways and making it deform.

Friction Dampers
Friction dampers are designed to have moving parts that will slide over each other during a strong earthquake. When the parts slide over each other, they create friction which uses some of the energy from the earthquake that goes into the building.

This is a Pall Friction Damper installed in the Webster Library of Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. The damper is connected to the centre of some cross-bracing. The damper is made up from a set of steel plates, with slotted holes in them, and they are bolted together. At high enough forces, the plates can slide over each other creating friction. The plates are specially treated to increase the friction between them.

Viscous fluid dampers
Viscous fluid dampers are similar to shock absorbers in a car. They consist of a closed cylinder containing a viscous fluid like oil. A piston rod is connected to a piston head with small holes in it. The piston can move in and out of the cylinder. As it does this, the oil is forced to flow through holes in the piston head causing friction. When the damper is installed in a building, the friction converts some of the earthquake energy going into the moving building into heat energy. The damper is usually installed as part of a building's bracing system using single diagonals. As the building sways to and fro, the piston is forced in and out of the cylinder.

Viscous fluid damper installed in building Source: