Earthquake Resistant Construction

by I. S. GILL (Structural Consultant) When a building experiences earthquake vibrations its foundation will move back and forth with the ground. These vibrations can be quite intense, creating stresses and deformation throughout the structure. For the lay man the experience for the building is like travelling in a bus where you are standing in it and a rash driver is at the steering who keeps on doing suddenpickups fast turns and sudden application of brakes with a quick pickup immediately after that. In the above conditions your feet are in contact with the flooring of the vehicle and thus start moving with it while the upper part of your body is still stationery giving you the feeling of falling backwards. When brakes are applied your total body is by then in motion at the speed of the bus in forward direction. Since your feet were in contact with the bus they stopped in the same instance as the bus but the upper part of your body kept moving forward thus making your body bend forward. During a earthquake a building experiences similar forces and swings accordingly but in a more complex manner. Our body has flexibility which stops it from cracking or breaking, and it has muscles which take the stresses and try to stabilise it. Thus a building also needs to be slightly flexible and also have components which can withstand or counter the stresses caused in various parts of the building due to these horizontal movements. During construction of a building some simple precautions may be taken. 1. Providing a Separation Section: Bureau Of Indian Standards clearly gives in its codes that a Separation Section is to be provided which is defined as "A gap of specified width between adjacent buildings or parts of the same building, to permit movement, in order to avoid hammering due to earthquake ". Thus it is advised to provide adequate gap between two buildings so that they have enough space to vibrate independently. This is discussed in detail in the article " Gaps between buildings ". 2.Precautions to be taken while deciding the way Electrical conduits are to be placed so as not to create planes of weaknesses in the slabs and walls. This is discussed in detail in the article "Electrical conduits". 3. Precautions to be taken while doing Sanitary works and plumbing so as not to puncture structural components and weaken walls by chasing.

Because the bearings are very stiff in the vertical direction and very flexible in the horizontal direction. the counterbalance moves in the other and the forces acting on the structure are dampened or cancelled out. Above this the frame of the superstructure rests thus isolating it from the base that is the foundation. under seismic loading the bearing layer isolates the building from the horizontal components of the ground movement while the vertical components are transmitted to the structure relatively unchanged. Construction: A) Steel Frame Structures B) R.C Frame Structures Lets first discuss Steel Framed Structures. One of the methods being implemented in most of the new constructions is Base Isolation with the use of Seismic Isolation Bearings this is detailed below. Rubber bearings are suitable for stiff buildings up to seven stories in height. various forces and loading coming on it from the building is calculated. Base Isolation: This technology involves the installation of lead-rubber bearings in a structure. The bearings are made by vulcanisation bonding of sheets of rubber to thin steel reinforcing plates. Foundations: Here a suitable foundation is designed taking into consideration the test reports of the soil conditions. In various countries around the world where earthquakes have taken place a lot ofresearch work has been done to find procedures to be adopted for reducing the effect of earthquakes on buildings. On this rubber bearings are placed.C. or at or near the interface of a structure and the ground. Thus even though the building foundation may experience horizontal movements caused by say an earthquake having an intensity of 8 on the Richter scale the building above it would experience very low impact as if that caused by an earthquake of negligible intensity. Thus. isolation bearings allow a structure to slide back and forth fluidly on its foundation. effectively uncoupling it from destructive horizontal and vertical ground motions. For this type of building. Instead. as the ground accelerates in one direction. Although vertical accelerations do not affect most buildings.This is discussed in detail in the article "Sanitory Systems ". The result: Seismic energies are isolated and dissipated by these massive "shock absorbers." significantly buffering the damaging resonance transmitted up through the protected structure. uplift on the bearings will not occur and wind load will be unimportant. the bearings also isolate the building from unwanted high-frequency vertical vibrations produced by underground railways and local traffic. Frames: Frames of the superstructure are generally made of Steel Sections and is designed for the stresses acting on the structure with cross bracing and shear walls where required. These rubber bearings are designed to take the vertical load of the building above and the calculated horizontal displacements due to earthquake. .

respectively. .The safety of the human life during the worst scenario should always be of the highest consideration during the selection of structural components and the design of the building. In Japan during the recent earthquakes in Kobe the maximum velocity and maximum displacement of the earthquake motion recorded on solid ground near the JMA Kobe station were 90 cm/s and 21 cm.Slabs: The slabs used are again supported by steel sections and made of wooden sections. Thus in Japan now the termination of longitudinal reinforcement in columns at mid-height is not permitted in columns and spacing of shear reinforcement stirrups in columns should not exceed 15 cm. since in an extreme condition a falling plank from the roof has less chances of giving a fatal injury than a falling concrete slab.C.C.0 g are applied to the columns of the structure. respectively. where force levels of up to 2. Different stiffening techniques for strengthening under a constant compressive axial load and cyclic lateral loads should be investigated. an additional thin layer of steel confinement should be provided at the bottom of the pier to restrain the progress of out-of-plane deformation after local buckling. Walls: The walls are again made of wood. Thus structural isolation zones should be created for additional safety and additional supporting systems be created where considered critical.C.All connections and joints are designed to withstand shear forces and where required flexible joints are provided so that there are minimum chances of slab failure. The same measurements for the soft ground near the Higashi Kobe Bridge were 91cm/s and 49 cm. this system provides nominal flexibility and thus safety. While designing the structure precaution also needs to be taken to ensure that in case any one structural component buckles it does not trigger a chain reaction of failures of other components and thus collapse of the total building structure. This has now been made mandatory in Japan after revision of there building codes in the wake of Kobe earthquake in 1995. Research has shown that some of the new techniques for the strengthening of rectangular steel piers in bridges with inside angle and outside corner plates or inside angle plates will increase ductility as well as prevent cracking at corners after local buckling has begun in both rectangular and circular steel columns. In the case of steel structures in bridges many failures have been seen due to the failure of welding due to rupture this should also be considered in buildings. The design should be done using a ductility approach under an assumed magnitude 8 earthquake. structures a major change in approach to design has to be undertaken. The walls are also designed to be tough enough to protect you from the impacts of nature such as cyclones. and 980 gal equals 1 g (gravity force). For circular steel columns. It was observed that coloumns failed at the point where the main vertical longitudinal bars were reduced in the coloumn above the base or in between floors. storms and hurricanes and of course from people trying to break into your home. Gal is the same as centimetres per second squared (cm/s2).C Structures: In the case of R. toughened glass with flexible anchorage systems or of any other material taking precaution that in case of extreme condition of breakage they have minimum chances causing the total failure of the structure system. R.

A building needs to be slightly flexible and also have components. Bureau Of Indian Standards clearly gives in its code IS 4326 that a Separation Section is to be provided between buildings. These vibrations can be quite intense. Further it states that " For buildings of height greater than 40 metres. Gaps between Buildings for earthquake related movement When a building experiences earthquake vibrations its foundation will move back and forth with the ground.5 times the expected movement of the ground and building relative to each other and this has been recorded to be up to 49 cm. Where these were made next to each other they created stresses in both the structures and thus weakened each other and in many cases caused the failure of both the structures.t the provisions given in I. which can withstand or counter the stresses caused in various parts of the building due to horizontal movements caused by earthquakes. sanitary and drainage pipes have to be connected from the municipal connection to the building with a flexible connection so that they do not break due to the movement of the ground under the building. In Mexico earthquake it was observed that buildings of different sizes and heights vibrated with different frequencies.Separation Section is defined as "A gap of specified width between adjacent buildings or parts of the same building. creating stresses and deformation throughout the structure making the upper edges of the building swing from a few mm to many inches dependent on their height size and mass. This is uniformally applicable for buildings of all heights.While designing the building with seismic isolation bearings the total building has to be isolated from the surrounding ground thus a gap is provided all around the building. and having awareness w. Codes and the latest procedures being adopted around the world. To summarise it is essential that along with an architect you should also take the services of experienced structural designer's with experience in earthquakeresistant construction. it will be desirable to carry out model or dynamic analysis of the structures in order to compute the drift at each storey. The gap should also be sized with respect to maintenance and easy accessibility for repairs and maintenance of the sub structure. All the approaches for accessing the building such as stairs and ramps are to be cantilevered from the building and should not come in contact with surrounding ground. either left uncovered or covered suitably to permit movement in order to avoid hammering due to earthquake ". This gap should be 1. . This gap should be covered from safety point of view with slab or steel/aluminium grill cantilevered from the building. and the gap width between the adjoining structures shall not be less than the sum of their dynamic deflections at any level. so that they have enough space to vibrate." Thus it is advised to provide adequate gap between two buildings greater than the sum of the expected bending of both the buildings at their top.S. whether single storeyed or multi-storeyed in high-risk earthquake zones. All services such as water supply.r.

This causes buckling of the columns and walls at times of excessive stresses at the mid points (courtesy your neighbouring building) and thus the collapse of the buildings onto each other starting a chain reaction. . common wall construction is allowed and long rows of houses or commercial buildings are made with common walls without gaps. These cracks can be easily observed by just going around Delhi and Gurgaon and various cities of Gujarat. who will be sharing your external wall or structural frame with his. At this point the buildings are totally separated and a gap of 1 to 2" is provided which is filled with a flexible material. In the case of high-rise multi storeyed residential and commercial complexes expansion joints are provided when the length of the building exceeds a length specified by code. Since there is no gap between these buildings they would press into each other creating additional stresses at the points of contact.Unfortunately in India building bye-laws permit construction of adjoining houses without gap. thus no provision is provided for the additional forces coming from the neighbouring house causing initial weakening and then complete failure of structural components at contact point in earthquakes of high intensity and where it lasts for a longer duration. This expansion joint is provided for relieving stresses caused due to expansion or contraction of construction material owing to temperature changes. This situation is further compounded when the slab level of one building is near the mid level of the walls and columns of the neighbouring building. Here again engineers designing one's house cannot be aware of the forces due to earthquake which will come from the neighbouring house. The buildings constructed on them are in varying heights and levels of floors. Since one cannot predict how one's neighbour is going to build his house at the time of design it is better to take other precautions such as maintaining gap. The damage caused in the recent earthquake by the seismic forces in the high rise residential and commercial buildings at the position of expansion joints is clearly visible and indicates to the gravity of the situstion. Normally the buildings are designed as an individual. Further this is also against the provision of the I. the deflection of these independent buildings during earthquake is much more in high rise buildings than the expansion joint and since at this point these buildings are separate and of varying size they would swing and hammer with each other and weaken the buildings. However this is causing a major problem ie. This system is totally against the principle of earthquake proof construction and design since this puts in an unknown factor regarding moments and horizontal forces for which the walls or building frames are to be designed. A major problem as seen in the states adjoining Delhi is that. the walls and columns are normally not designed for taking this additional shear force caused by the horizontal force coming from the neighbouring slab. At the time of an earthquake these buildings would vibrate with different frequencies.S Code where a building or structure is to be separated every 30m for allowing expansion caused due to properties of building materials. Structural components around the expansion joint would be severely damaged and there shall be a chain reaction of forces in the total structure for which the structure has not been designed.

and hire them separately independent of the Architect to ensure proper structural design. 7. Codes. Codes used for Effect of conduits for electrical cables on strength of structures It is a normal practice to lay p. It's your life at stake and not any one else's. This should state that the reinforcement and R.c conduits no precaution is taken with respect to direction or position of the conduit which normally lies on the bottom tension reinforcement and thus not at mid depth. 6. . Instead of expansion joints proper gap as required due to bending/movement of the two parts of the building due to earthquake be provided in all buildings. drawings along with certificate from structural engineer at the time of sanction of building plans. b) Earthquake zone for which the building has been designed.As per structural design a opening can be created at centre of the slab thickness in direction of the shorter span after proper checks and calculations. Town Planners while cutting plots should also keep this provision of separation of buildings while deciding their size. Submission of Structural certificate from the designer to the governing municipal body after casting of foundations and at each floor level should be made compulsory.v.S. It should be made compulsory to submit structural design. These should give details of a) soil condition and bearing capacity. 4.S. Municipal and other housing bodies should insure that a suitable gap is provided between two adjoining buildings at the time of sanction. C) I. 5. Common wall system between adjoining buildings should be totally abolished.C casted have been verified and are as per his structural design submitted to the body at time of sanction. 3. Also start appreciating the importance of the role of the Structural Engineer.www. Building Bye . 2. During the laying of p.C.v.Thus it is advised that in areas where high intensity earthquakes are expected the following precautions be taken: 1. All relaxations in building byelaws generally given at the time of completion should be incorporated at the time of sanction only in the new byelaws and no relaxation should be permitted afterwards to ensure that no changes are made in structural design after sanction.Laws should be amended keeping in consideration all the recommendations in I.In case these are given haphazardly in curves and diagonal or other directions it can cause weakness in the slab which can be fatal at times of earthquakes. To summarise.c or steel pipes for electrical cables in R.C slabs.indiaarchitectureinfo.

horizontally.These weaknesses can become fatal at the time of severe earthquakes.Where ever possible it should be tried to do surface conduiting or other non-invasive arcitectural possibilities should be looked into. These chases should be repaired properly with cement mortar before plastering or applieng P. Rings / stirrups take the major brunt of the shear forces created by seismic forces and normal loading incase these are only cut or displaced from position then how safe is the building. Here even the rings provided for shear in beams are shifted.C.C slab these should only be provided along the shorter span of the slab and care should be taken to provide spacers below it so that it remains in the centre of the slab thickness.This causes weakness in these walls. During the early years of the last century all cable work used to be provided on the surface of walls and below slabs this used to help maintain the strength of supporting structures. firstly due to the hammering the mortar joint is weakened and secondly from where ever the chase passes it creates a plane of weakness. In case conduiting is to be embedded in walls then it should be provided in wall portions which are oversized for the load coming on them or in portions which are not load bearing. In the case of walls chases ar cut indescriminately in all directions ie.t the postion of conduits in slabs and the cutting of chases in load bearing brick walls.r. But in the recent years a trend has started to embedd these pipes with in walls in smallerhousing. vertically and diagonally in both 4.O. Pipes should not be grouped together in the slab. Thus it is very much necessary to take approval of the structural designer w.P.Secondly at places near main boards these come in from various directions with negligible gaps between them causing reduction in concrete mass and effective depth thus reduction in strength of slab. Effect of sanitory systems on strength of structures Where ever proper planning is done during construction sanitary vertical stakes are fixed on outer faces of walls. . totally twisted or cut to accomodate these pipes this can be a major point of weakness at times of Earthquakes. In case conduits are to be provided in R. Chases when cut should be done with electrical chase cutting machines or with small cutters used for cutting stones thus avoiding hammering of walls with chisels and hammers. Diagonal andr horizontal chases should be avoided and generally should be vertical only. For getting better looks and creating designs inside the toilets and on the outer face from elevation point of view these pipes are hidden by embedding. This causes these pipes to pass through structural members such as beams at times in positions of maximum shear or bending moment.5" and 9" thick walls.

. IS 1893 . 4. IS 13827 . IS 13828 . secondly from where ever the chase passes it creates a plane of weakness.5" and 9" thick walls.If possible provide the G. 3. 5. IS 4326 . In the case of walls chases ar cut indescriminately in all directions ie. horizontally and vertically in both 4.W. 2. firstly due to the hammering the mortar joint is weakened.1993 : Code of practice for ductility detailing of reinforced concrete structures subjected to Seismic forces. Where ever pipes cross beams the structural designer should be informed so that he adjusts the structure accordingly.1993 : Improving Earthquake resistance of low strength masonry buildings Guidelines. IS 13920 .1993 : Guidelines for improving earthquake resistance .r.I pipes on the surface of walls as was the practice in C. Thus it is very much necessary to take approval of the structural designer w.1993 : Earthquake resistant design and construction of buildings code of practice.D during the good old days.t the postion of vertical stakes and the cutting of chases in load bearing brick walls.These weaknesses can again become fatal at the time of severe earthquakes.Earthen Buildings .P. It is always advisable to provide the vertical stakes outside the wall since incase of earthquake if these pipes are affected then it would be easy to repair them without breaking the wall and secondly this would not weaken the structural frame.This causes weakness in these walls.Thus care should be taken that vertical sanitory stakes should not pass through beams. LIST OF IS CODES IN INDIA FOR EARTHQUAKES issued by Bureau of Indian Standards INDIAN STANDARD 1.1984 : Criteria for earthquake resistant design of structures.

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