A. Shuraim, A. Charif

King Saud University

The nonlinear static analytical procedure (Pushover) as introduced by ATC-40 was applied for
the evaluation of existing design of a reinforced concrete frame, in order to examine the
applicability of the pushover for evaluating design of new buildings. Potential structural
deficiencies in the frame were assessed by the code seismic-resistant design and pushover
approaches, for the sake of comparison. In the first approach, the potential deficiencies were
determined by redesigning under one selected seismic combination in order to show which
members would require additional reinforcement. In the second approach, a pushover analysis
was conducted to assess the seismic performance of the frame and detect the locations of the
plastic hinges. The paper shows that vulnerability locations revealed from the two procedures
are significantly different, where the latter procedure tends to overestimate column strength,
consequently, concealing earlier detection of column weaknesses. The paper provides rational
explanations for the apparent discrepancy that can be taken into consideration in order to make
pushover methodology applicable when designing or evaluating existing design of new
KEYWORDS: building codes, structural, coding, seismic design.

The generalized nonlinear static analytical procedure (Pushover) is a key element in the
methodology introduced by ATC-40 for the seismic evaluation and retrofit design of existing
buildings which represents a fundamental change for the structural engineering profession.
The methodology is performance-based where the design criteria are expressed as
performance objectives, which define desired levels of seismic performance when the building
is subjected to specified levels of seismic ground motion. The generalized nonlinear static
analytical procedure incorporated in the methodology has three primary elements ( as shown
in Figure 1): capacity curve of a structure by use of a static pushover analysis, a method to
determine displacement demand by use of reduced demand spectra, and the resulting
identification of the performance point and the subsequent check for acceptable performance.
Plastic hinges observed prior to the performance point reveals the locations of the potential
deficiencies as well as the damage extent. ATC-40 asserts that although the methodology is
not intended for the design of new buildings, the analytical procedures are applicable.



Demand Spectrum

Spectral Displacement

Figure 1: schematic representation of ATC-40 method.

Over the previous decade, pushover analysis has been carried out for either user-defined
nonlinear hinge properties or default-hinge properties, available in some programs based on
the ATC-40[1] and FEMA-356 [2] guidelines. In the implementation of pushover analysis,
modeling is one of the important steps where all material plasticity is lumped at appropriately
located hinges. The capacity response of the structure is closely related to the plastic
properties assigned to the various members (beams and columns). Such a model requires the
determination of the nonlinear properties of each component in the structure that are
quantified by strength and deformation capacities. Some programs (i.e. SAP2000 [3, 4]) have
already implemented these default nonlinear properties. The use of this implementation is very
common among the structural engineering profession and researchers. In the past several
years, many researchers [5-10] have discussed the underlying assumptions and limitations of
pushover analysis. The pushover has been utilized to investigate the seismic performance of
reinforced concrete frames with emphasis on the suitability of default material assumptions

The ATC-40 [1] assertion that the analytical procedure is applicable to new buildings raises
some questions in view of the known significant differences in the underlying assumptions of
the pushover procedure in comparison to those in design codes [13-17] for new buildings. In
new building design, the code always maintains certain factor of safety that comes from load
factors, materials reduction factors, and ignoring some post yielding characteristics
(hardening). In the modeling assumptions of ATC-40, reduction factor is assumed to be one,
and hardening is to be taken into consideration. Therefore, it is important to evaluate
pushover accuracy and reliability in comparison to code design criteria that are relevant to
seismic design.
The paper addresses the applicability of the pushover to the design of new buildings, through a
2D RC frame case study having been designed for gravity load only. The adequacy/deficiency
of the existing longitudinal reinforcement in the frame for resisting moderate seismic forces
will be assessed by the code seismic-resistant design and pushover approaches. In the former
approach, new longitudinal reinforcements for the frame members will be compared with the
existing reinforcement where the increase in the reinforcement represents potential deficiency
in the original design. In the latter approach, the capacity curve, spectrum demand and
performance point will be determined on the basis of the existing gravity design. Plastic
hinges formed prior to the performance point represent the locations of the deficiency in the
original design. Locations of deficiency from the two approaches will be evaluated and
discussed. It is always believed that verifications of design/analysis procedures and their
underlying assumptions are an essential step for safety and economic considerations.
The case study is a typical regular 2D frame with three bays and three stories (Figure 2). All
column and beams sections are 300 x 500 mm but internal columns are used in the weak
direction ( b =500 mm and h =300 mm) deliberately to make them more vulnerable than
external columns. The ground beams were included in the model with a much lower loading
and the base is assumed fixed.
The frame was first analyzed and designed with SAP2000 [1] using a standard linear analysis
combining dead and live loading. Figure 3 shows the various reinforcement percentages for
the gravity load combination (U1=1.4 D +1.7 L). A unique steel percentage is given for
columns whereas for beams, top and bottom values are given at both ends as well as at mid-

Figure 2: frame labeling numbers

Figure 3: Steel reinforcement percentages in design under combination U1

Earthquake-induced inertia forces depend on the response characteristics of the structure and
the intensity of ground motion at the site. The latter depends primarily on three factors: the
distance between the source and the site, the magnitude of the earthquake, and the type of soil
at the site. Different individual structures shaken by the same earthquake respond differently.
One important characteristic is the fundamental period of vibration of the structure. Shape or
configuration is another important characteristic that affects structure response.
It is generally uneconomical and unnecessary to design a structure to respond in the elastic
range to the maximum earthquake-induced inertia forces. Thus, the design seismic horizontal
forces prescribed in the seismic codes (UBC 97[13], IBC 2003[14], ASCE-7[15], SBC
301[16]), are generally less than the elastic response inertia forces induced by the design
earthquake. Acceptable performance can be achieved by structures elastically designed for
reduced forces, if suitable structural systems are selected, and structures are detailed with
appropriate levels of ductility, regularity, and continuity. Accordingly, structural systems are
expected to undergo fairly large deformations, allowing inelastic energy dissipation, when
subjected to a major earthquake. Some structural and nonstructural damage can be expected
due to large deformations. Therefore, seismic provisions regulate both strength and lateral
In this paper, base shear was computed and distributed vertically in accordance with UBC97
seismic provisions, assuming Ca =Cv =0.2 (Zone 2B soil S
). The total base shear computed
was modified slightly (V =428.1 kN) in order to permit comparison with one of the critical
pushover cases.
Table 1: Summary of un-factored loads on the frame
Load Case  Global 
FX, kN 
FY, kN 
 FZ, kN 
DEAD  0 0  5218.848
Live  0 0  850.56
Ex   428.1 0  0

Following the same provisions, there are a number of load combinations that need to be
considered. However, for the sake of this study, the frame was designed under one load
combination only (termed seismic 1), namely: U2 =1.1( 1.2 D +1 L+1 E).
Based on the above load combination, the RC frame was designed where the longitudinal
reinforcement ratios are presented in Figure 4. The reinforcement from U1 and U2
combinations are presented in Table 2 and Table 3 for columns and beams, respectively. The
positive percentage of change indicates the deficiency in a member if subjected to seismic
loading under U2 combination. The findings from this procedure can be summarized as:
1. Twelve columns out of the sixteen columns require additional reinforcement. Six of
them need more than one-hundred percent increase, indicating their deficiency under
U2. Column 26 exhibits the highest increase, where the original reinforcement under
gravity amounts to only 1500 mm
, and becomes 6060 mm
, under U2 and thus would
require strengthening if the frame is part of an existing building. It should be pointed
out that negative percentage of change should not be interpreted as a need for
decreasing reinforcement.
2. Four beams out of the sixteen beams require additional top reinforcement exceeding
one-hundred percent, at their right end. Other beams show modest increase. Beam 21
exhibits the highest increase, where the original top reinforcement under gravity
amounts to only 351 mm
, and becomes 998 mm
, under U2 and thus would require
strengthening if the frame is part of an existing building.
3. Overall, columns in this case study need more strengthening than beams.

Figure 4: code design under seismic 1 (U2) only
Table 2: columns longitudinal reinforcment (Gravity versus seismic1)
Section Longitudinal reinforcement, mm
Gravity Seismic 1
1 EXC 1500 4018.817 168%
2 EXC 1500 1984.007 32%
3 EXC 1588.138 1500 -6%
4 EXC 3285.352 1500 -54%
9 INC 5667.08 7267.426 28%
10 INC 4295.008 8423.157 96%
11 INC 1500 4702.885 214%
12 INC 1500 1500 0%
17 INC 5667.08 6737.943 19%
18 INC 4295.008 7167.375 67%
19 INC 1500 4188.63 179%
20 INC 1500 1500 0%
25 EXC 1500 6310.764 321%
26 EXC 1500 6060.629 304%
27 EXC 1588.138 5211.875 228%
28 EXC 3285.352 4395.174 34%

Table 3: Beams longitudinal reinforcement (Gravity versus seismic1 (U2))
Section Longitudinal
reinforcement, mm

reinforcement, mm

Gravity Seismic 1
End section Mid section End section
5 GDB 0 268.644 0 285.632 6%
5 GDB 345.58 0 933.419 0 170%
6 FLB 2302.381 0 3306.89 246.005 44%
7 FLB 2230.003 0 2915.75 0 31%
8 RFB 2071.969 0 2328.786 0 12%
13 GDB 0 269.283 0 288.923 7%
13 GDB 354.61 0 874.452 0 147%
14 FLB 2227.354 0 2651.251 0 19%
15 FLB 2173.2 0 2468.543 0 14%
16 RFB 2005.8 0 2099.135 0 5%
21 GDB 351.118 0 998.118 0 184%
22 FLB 1318.269 0 3100.768 28.898 135%
23 FLB 1509.525 0 2688.267 0 78%
24 RFB 1139.567 0 1624.229 0 43%

The design results (reinforcement sections) obtained previously, were used to assess the model
performance as an existing structure designed under gravity loading only. It was aimed to
assess its seismic response in a typical earthquake zone with seismic coefficients Ca =Cv =
0.2. The static nonlinear analysis combined the application of the dead load followed by the
application of the lateral seismic forces which were increased up to failure under displacement
control. The SAP2000 default hinge properties were used for beams and columns. Hinges
were assigned at both ends of each element and for beams a mid-span hinge was also assigned
to track possible span hinges because of uniform loading. Pure bending hinges were used for
beams whereas for columns, the hinges were related to the axial force – bending moment P-M
interaction curve.
Figure 5 shows the structure capacity response up to failure. The structure developed a
maximum base shear of about 612 kN and the ultimate roof lateral displacement is about 141
mm. The nonlinear pushover curve illustrates the successive formation and evolution of plastic
hinges. These were formed in seven different steps. Figure 6 shows the plastic hinge patterns
at the third step of loading, corresponding to a base shear value of 475 kN. The figures show
the locations of the hinges as well as their state illustrated by appropriate colors.
This nonlinear response curve illustrates also the first yielding and may be used to quantify the
ductility of the structure. It cannot however serve to evaluate the actual seismic performance
of the structure unless it is compared to the actual demand of the seismic action.
Figure 5: Capacity curve

Figure 6: Plastic hinges from nonlinear analysis, at the third step, base shear =475 kN.
The seismic demand on a structure is usually expressed in the form of a design spectrum
according to the prevailing seismic code and including all structural and zoning parameters.
The seismic demand is also related to the nonlinear behavior of the structure and is obtained
iteratively. Figure 7 shows the ATC-40 [1] demand spectrum using the initial seismic
coefficients (Ca =Cv =0.2) for a standard 5% damping ratio. The intersection of the demand
spectrum with the nonlinear pushover response is called “Performance Point”. It corresponds
to the state the structure is expected to reach under the considered earthquake. Depending on
the position and state of the performance point (with respect to the actual pushover curve), the
analyst may decide on how safe or vulnerable the structure is and where possible
strengthening should be performed. For our particular example the performance point is
indicated by a base shear value of 484 kN corresponding to a roof displacement of 75 mm.
The forgoing results provide a number of interesting observations.
1. The capacity-demand intersection suggests that the frame is expected to withstand the
assumed moderate seismic shaking of 2B soil SB, even though it was not designed for
any earthquake forces.
2. All beams have reached their nominal yield capacity at one or more points and some
redistribution of moments have taken place. Plasticity promulgation at the right end of
Beam 6 is illustrated in Figure 8. The sectional moment is 463 kN-m which is higher
than its nominal yield flexural capacity of 448 kN-m, computed on the basis of SBC
304 assumptions without reduction factor. The excess moment beyond the yield is
assumed to be carried by the contribution of hardening that is not considered in the
3. Only one column has reached its nominal yield capacity, namely Column 26. This is
illustrated by the interaction diagram in Figure 9. The column is subjected to a demand
point (M=272 kN-m and an axial load of 1327 kN) which is shown to be located
approximately on the perimeter of the nominal interaction diagram.

Figure 7: Capacity, Demand and Performance point according to ATC- 40

Figure 8: plasticity level at the end of step 3, in member 6. 
0 50 100 150 200 250 300
Column Moment , kN‐m
P_hinge P_a
Figure 9: M-P interaction diagram of column 26 and demand point.

To understand the apparent discrepancy between the first linear code method which shows that
most columns are deficient and the pushover procedure which shows deficiency in only one
column, it is important to investigate a typical case such as column 10. Based on the code
procedure column 10 is subjected to a moment of 175 kN-m and an axial load of 2300 kN at
its end. Based on the former code procedure, the column is required to additional
reinforcement in order to withstand the seismic demand prescribed by case U2. While based
on the latter pushover procedure, it is capable of carrying the demand. Figure 10 shows the
demand point and two interaction diagrams. The outer diagram is the nominal diagram
assumed in the pushover while the inner diagram represents the reduced diagram on the basis
of code provisions of column design. The demand point is shown between the two curves.
From the perspective of code provisions, the demand point is outside the inner design curve
and thus the column is deemed deficient and requires additional reinforcement as indicated by
the linear design shown earlier. On the other hand, the pushover default assumptions ignore
these provisions and do not incorporate the code reductions factors and upper limits imposed
by the code provisions. Therefore, the discrepancy is attributed to the assumptions existed in
the two procedures, and engineering judgment should be exercised when conducting pushover
If the procedure is to be used for designing new structures, code provisions should be fully
observed regardless of the method used. On the other hand, for an existing building some
reduction of nominal capacity should be imposed based on the actual conditions and the level
of safety deemed acceptable.
0 50 100 150 200 250 300
Column Moment , kN‐m
P_hinge φP_n P_a
Figure 10: column No 10 interaction diagram.

Proceedings of the 7
Saudi Engineering Conference (SEC7)

The nonlinear static analytical procedure (Pushover) as introduced by ATC-40 has been
utilized for the evaluation of existing design of a new reinforced concrete frame, in
order to examine its applicability. Potential structural deficiencies in RC frame, when
subjected to a moderate seismic loading, were estimated by the code seismic-resistant
design and pushover approaches. In the first method the design was evaluated by
redesigning under one selected seismic combination in order to show which members
would require additional reinforcement. It was shown that most columns required
significant additional reinforcement, indicating their vulnerability if subjected to
seismic forces. On the other hand, the nonlinear pushover procedure shows that the
frame is capable of withstanding the presumed seismic force with some significant
yielding at all beams and one column. Vulnerability locations from the two procedures
are significantly different.
The paper has discussed the reasons behind the apparent discrepancy which is mainly
due to the default assumptions of the method as implemented by the software versus the
code assumptions regarding reduction factors and maximum permissible limits. In new
building design, the code always maintains certain factor of safety that comes from load
factors, materials reduction factors, and ignoring some post yielding characteristics
(hardening). In the modeling assumptions of ATC-40, reduction factor is assumed to
be one, and hardening is to be taken into consideration.
Hence, the paper suggests that engineering judgment should be exercised prudently
when using the pushover analysis and that engineer should follow the code limits when
designing new buildings and impose certain reductions and limits in case of existing
buildings depending on their conditions. In short software should not substitute for
code provisions and engineering judgment.

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Proceedings of the 7
Saudi Engineering Conference (SEC7)

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