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Fundamentals of Seismic Base Isolation

Wang, Yen-Po

Professor, Dept. of Civil Engineering, National Chiao-Tung University, Hsinchu, Taiwan
Director, Large-Scale Structural Lab, NCTU
1! !! !Introduction
Over the past decades, earthquake resistant design of building structures has been largely
based on a ductility design concept worldwide. The performances of the intended ductile
structures during major earthquakes (e.g. Northridge, 1994; Kobe, 1995; Chi-Chi, 1999etc.),
however, have proved to be unsatisfactory and indeed far below expectation. High
uncertainty of the ductility design strategy is primarily attributed to:
(1) The desired strong column weak beam mechanism may not form in reality, due to
existence of walls.
(2) Shear failure of columns due to inappropriate geometrical proportions or short-column
(3) Construction difficulty in grouting, especially at beam-column joints, due to complexity
of steel reinforcement required by the ductility design.
To enhance structural safety and integrity against severe earthquakes, more effective and
reliable techniques for aseismic design of structures based on structural control concepts are
desired. Among the structural control schemes developed, seismic base isolation is one of the
most promising alternatives. It can be adopted for new structures as well as the retrofit of
existing buildings and bridges.
Strategies to achieving seismic isolation include:
(1) Period-shifting of structures
(2) Cutting-off load transmission path
The spring-like isolation bearings with considerable lateral flexibility help in reducing
the earthquake forces by changing the structures fundamental period to avoid resonance with
the predominant frequency contents of the earthquakes, as indicated by Fig. 1. Whereas the
sliding-type isolation bearings filter out earthquake forces via the discontinuous sliding
interfaces, between which the forces transmitted to the superstructure are limited by the
maximum friction forces, regardless of earthquake intensity.

o oo o
o oo o
International Training Programs for Seismic Design of Building Structures
Hosted by National Center for Research on Earthquake Engineering
Sponsored by Department of International Programs, National Science Council

Fig.1 Typical acceleration response spectra

Conventional Isolated
Fig. 2 Effects of Base Isolation
During earthquakes, the conventional structure without seismic isolation is subjected to
substantial storydrifts, which may lead to damage or even collapse of the building. Whereas
the isolated structure vibrates almost like a rigid body with large deformations or
displacements endured by the isolation bearings, as illustrated in Fig 2.The lateral forces of
the isolated building are not only reduced in magnitude but also fairly redistributed over the
floors, which further mitigates the overturning moment of the structure.

Fig. 3 Construction of LRB

Fig. 4 Construction of HDRB
Lead core
Rubber cover
rubber and
steel plates

The spring-like bearings that have seen widespread applications include the lead-rubber
bearing (LRB) and the high-damping rubber bearing (HDRB). The sliding-type bearings, on
the other hand, are impractical due to lack of restoring capability. To overcome this drawback,
the friction pendulum system (FPS) originated from the sliding-type bearings is developed by
introducing a spherical sliding interface to provide restoring stiffness, while the friction
between the sliding interfaces helps in dissipating energy. As a result, the FPS is functionally
equivalent to LRB and HDRB in lengthening structures fundamental period, with additional
advantageous features such as period-invariance, torsion-resistance, temperature-insensitivity
and durability. Although the rubber bearings have been extensively adopted for seismic
isolation, the FPS has recently found increasing applications (Buckle et al., 1990; Zayas et al.,
1987; Kawamura et al., 1988 ). The friction pendulum bearings provide strength and stability
that exceed those of rubber bearings. Its properties are not affected by aging or temperature.
The bearings low profile, high strength, and high vertical stiffness reduce installation costs.
These bearings offer versatile properties which can satisfy the diverse requirements of
buildings, bridges and industrial facilities. This article will address the basic mechanical
properties of FPS, status of its development as well as a preliminary design procedure based
on static analysis.

Fig. 5 Construction of FPS
2! !! !Mechanical Properties of FPS
The friction pendulum bearings are stainless steel seismic isolators consisting of a
concave surface, an articulated slider, and a cover plate. The slider is coated with self-
lubricating composite liner (e.g. Teflon). During an earthquake, the articulated slider within
the bearing slide along the concave surface, causing the supported structure to move with
gentle pendulum motions. The motions of the FPS are illustrated in Fig. 6.
Fig.6 Motions of FPS
Center position Displaced position

The natural period (T ) of the friction pendulum bearing is selected simply by choosing
the radius of curvature of the concave surface ( R ) as
g R T / 2 = (1)
where g is gravitational acceleration. It is independent of the mass of the supported structure.
The lateral stiffness (
K ) of the bearing providing the restoring capability of the system is
/ = (2)
where W is the weight of the structure. As a result, the torsional motions of the structure are
minimized since the center of stiffness of the bearings coincides with the center of mass of the
supported structure.
The movement of the slider generates a dynamic friction force that provides the required
damping for absorbing the energy of the earthquake. The lateral loads (i.e. the base shear), V ,
transmitted to the structure as the bearing slides to a distance, u , away from the neutral
position include the restoring forces and the friction forces as
V ) ( + = (3)
where is the coefficient of friction. Typical hysteretic loops of the lateral force of FPS in
cyclic motion are shown in Fig. 7. The energy (
E ) dissipated for one cycle of sliding with
amplitude D is estimated as
4 = (4)
The coefficient of friction is dependent on the contact pressure between the Teflon-coated
slider and the stainless steel surface. The coefficient decreases as the pressure increased. The
value of between 3~10% is considered reasonable for the FPS to be effective.

Fig. 7 Hysteresis of Lateral Load
3! !! !Design Procedure Based on Static Analysis
Design of the seismic isolation system includes determination of the base shear, bearing
displacement, etc., in accordance with the site-specific conditions by code provisions, at
desired bearing properties ( e.g. friction coefficient, , and radius of curvature of the
concave surface, R , for FPS). In this section, a simple design procedure based on static
analysis is introduced for the preliminary design of isolation systems. This procedure alone is
sufficient for building structures with fair geometrical regularities. However, a more complex
dissipated energy
lateral load
Fundamentals of Seismic Base solation

nonlinear dynamic analysis is desired for those with geometrical irregularities.
The hysteresis of the base shear against sliding displacement of an FPS can be idealized
by a rigid-plastic linear-hardening model, as depicted in Fig. 8. The characteristic constant (Q)
of the isolation system is the maximum friction force defined as
W Q = (5)
while the effective stiffness (
k ) of the isolation system as a function of the expected largest
bearing displacement ( D) with given and R is determined by

+ =
As a result, the equivalent natural period (
T ) of the isolated building can be approximated as

g k
2 = (7)
by taking the superstructure as a rigid body, and this equivalent natural period is again
dependent on D.


Bearing displ.
Base shear

Fig. 8 Idealized Hysteresis of FPS
On the other hand, the maximum base shear (
V ) of the isolation system can be obtained by
spectral analysis using the elastic spectrum as
where Z is the seismic-hazard-based PGA of the design earthquake, I is the important factor
of the structure, C is the site-specific normalized (PGA=1g) 5% elastic acceleration response
spectrum specified in the code, and
C is the modification factor for structures with a
damping factor other than 5%. It is defined as
Fundamentals of Seismic Base lsolation

5 . 0
1 40
5 . 1

where the equivalent damping factor,
, is in turn determined by

D k

E is again the dissipated energy defined in Equ. (4). The maximum base shear is
equivalent to the mass of the structure ( g W / ) times the spectral acceleration,
S , therefore,
D a
= (11)
Using the spectral relation
( ) D T D S
e a
2 2
/ 2 = = (12)
and taking the important factor I as unity for seismic isolated buildings, the spectral
displacement ( D) turns out to be

e D
= (13)
The above equation suggests that D is a function of
T and
C which in turn are functions of
D implicitly. Therefore, an iterative procedure is required until convergence of the spectral
displacement, D, is achieved.
The base shear is then estimated by
D k V
= (14)
Distribution of the lateral force at the i-
floor is suggested as

k k
i i
u w
u w
w represents the weight of the k-
floor of the N-storey building;
u is the lateral
displacement of the k-
floor due to lateral loads at each floor proportional to its weight, that
N k
,..., 0 ,
= =

With the lateral force determined, the superstructure is then designed in a manner similar to
conventional structures in accordance with the building codes.
Funda ntals of S is ic Bas solation

It is noted that, torsional effect due to accidental eccentricity on the bearing displacement
should be accounted for, especially for those to be placed at the corners of the building.
Moreover, to ensure bearing stability at critical conditions, a safety factor of 1.5 is further
imposed when sizing the bearings. Stability verification of the prototype bearings prior to
implementation is based on this factored displacement demand.
Although the above discussions emphasize on the friction pendulum systems, the design
procedure described in this section is in fact common for structures isolated with any type of
seismic isolators, regardless of FPS, LRB or HDRB.
4! !! !FPS in Buildings, Bridges and Industrial Applications
The friction pendulum bearings have been specified for many seismic isolation projects
in buildings, bridges and industrial storage tanks. Among which, the U.S. Court of Appeal;
San Francisco Airport International Terminal; Greeces LNG tanks; and the Benicia-Martinez
Bridge are the worlds largest seismic isolation projects to date. (Earthquake Protective
Systems, Inc., 1998).
The seismic retrofit of the U.S. Court of Appeals building in San Francisco, upon its
completion in 1994, was the largest building in the world to have been retrofitted with seismic
isolators. The advantages of the friction pendulum bearings- its novel technical approach,
supported test results and other analysis, are found to be more effectively enhance the
buildings survivability in the event of an earthquake.

Fig. 9 U.S. Court of Appeals
The San Francisco Airport International Terminal is the largest new building in the world
constructed using seismic isolation. It has dramatic architectural features, including:
expansive interior spaces, 80 feet tall columns, 700 feet long roof trusses, and glass exterior
walls. The building was designed to resist a magnitude 8 earthquake occurring on the San
Funda ntals of S is ic Bas solation

Andreas fault. Seismic isolation provides the lowest construction cost for achieving the
desired seismic performance. Moreover, the use of friction pendulum bearings, as compared
to rubber bearings, allowed for a further reduction in column and beam sizes and saved an
additional 680 ton of structural steel.

Fig. 10 San Francisco Airport Intl Terminal
Greeces centralized liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage tanks are located just outside of
Athens. These tanks contain 38 million gallons of flammable LNG, and are situated within
one of Europes highest seismic regions. The bearing performance requirements for this
project were the mosstringent in the history of seismic isolation. The isolation bearings were
required to maintain their design properties while fully accommodating the effects of: 35 years
of aging in a marine environment; simultaneous lateral and vertical earthquake motions;
temperatures ranging from 10 to 86 "F. Friction bearings were selected over elastomeric
bearings after tests of full size bearings showed that they were best able to satisfy these
demanding performance requirements, and would thereby achieve the safest tank performance.
The Benicia-Martinez bridge is one of the largest bridges to date to undertake a seismic
isolation retrofit, and uses the largest seismic isolation bearings ever manufactured. The
friction pendulum bearings for this project have a 5 second period, a lateral displacement
capacity of 53 inches, a 5 million lg. Design vertical load, measure 13 feet in diameter, and
weigh 40,000 lbs.
Funda ntals of S is ic Bas solation

Fig. 11 LNG Tank in Revithoussa, Greece

Fig. 12 Benicia-Martinez Bridge in San Francisco
5! !! !Reference
Buckle, I. G., and Mayes, R. L. Seismic isolation history: application and performance - a
world review. Earthquake Spectra, 6, 161-201, (1990).
Earthquake Protective Systems, Inc., DM of August, 1998.
Elsesser, E., J okerst, M. and Naaseh, S. Historic Upgrades in San Francisco, Civil
Engineering, ASCE, p.50-57, October, (1997).
Fundam ntals of S ismic Bas lsolation

Kawamura, S., Kitazawa, K., Hisano, M., and Nagashima, I. Study of a sliding-type base
isolation system#system composition and element properties., Proc. 9
WCEE, Tokyo-
Kyoto, Vol. V, 735-740, (1988).
Zayas, V., Low, S. S. and Main, S. A. The FPS earthquake resisting system, experimental
report, Report No. UCB/EERC-87/01, Earthquake Engineering Research Center,
University of California, Berkeley, CA., J une, (1987).