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Earthquake resistant design of reinforced concrete buildings is a continuing area of research
since the earthquake engineering has started not only in India but in other developed countries
also. The buildings still damage due to some one or the other reason during earthquakes. The
building configuration has been described as regular or irregular in term of size and shape of the
building, arrangement of structural elements and mass. Regular building configuration are almost
symmetrical (in plan and elevation) about the axis and have uniform distribution of lateral forceresisting structure such that, it provides a continuous load path for both gravity and lateral loads.
A building that lacks of symmetry and has discontinuity in geometry, mass, or load resisting
element is called irregular. These irregularities may cause interruption of force flow and stress
concentrations. Asymmetrical arrangements of mass and stiffness of elements may cause a large
torsional force where the center of mass does not coincide with the center of rigidity.
The section 7 of IS 1893 (Part 1): 2002 [1] enlists the irregularity in building configuration
system. These irregularities are categorized in two types;


Vertical irregularities referring to sudden change of strength, stiffness, geometry and

mass results in irregular distribution of forces and/or deformation over the height of
Horizontal irregularities which refer to asymmetrical plan shapes (e.g. L-, T-, U-, F-)
or discontinuities in the horizontal resisting elements (diaphragms) such as cut-outs,
large openings, re-entrant corner and other abrupt changes resulting in torsion,
diaphragm deformation and stress concentration.

There are numerous examples enlisted in damage report of past earthquake in which the causes
of failure of multistoried reinforced concrete building in irregularities in configuration. This
paper describes the types of irregularities and possible causes of damage with some
Vertical Discontinuities in Load Path:
One of the major contributors to structural damage in structure during strong earthquake is that
discontinuities in the load path or load transfer. The structure should contain a continuous load
path for transfer of the seismic force, which develops due to accelerations of individual elements,
to the ground. Failure to provide adequate strength and toughness of individual elements in the
system, or failure to tie individual elements together can result in distress or complete collapse of
the system. Therefore, all the structural and non-structural elements must be adequately tied to
structural system. The load path must be complete and sufficiently strong.
The general load path is as follows: earthquake forces, which originate in all the elements of the
building are delivered through structural connections to horizontal diaphragms. The diaphragms
distribute these forces to vertical resisting components such as columns, shear walls, frames and

other vertical elements in the structural system which transfer the forces into the foundation. The
diaphragms must have adequate stiffness to transmitting these forces.
The failure due to discontinuity of vertical elements of lateral load resisting system has been
among the most notable and spectacular. One common example of this type of discontinuity
occurs in Bhuj earthquake in which, infill walls that are present in upper floors are discontinued
in the lower floor (floating column concept). Another example of discontinuous shear wall is the
Olive View Hospital, which nearly collapsed due to excessive deformation in the first two stories
during the 1972 San Fernando earthquake.
Irregularity in Strength and Stiffness:
A weak storey is defined as one in which the storeys lateral strength is less than 80 percent of
that in the storey above. The storeys lateral strength is total strength of all seismic resisting
element sharing the storey shear for the direction under consideration i.e. the shear capacity of
the column. The deficiency that usually makes a storey weak is inadequate strength of the frame
columns. A soft storey is one in which the lateral stiffness is less than 70% of that in the storey
immediately above, or less than 80% of combined stiffness of the three stories above [1]. The
essential characteristic of a weak or soft storey consists of a discontinuity of strength or
stiffness, which occurs at the second storey
connections. Figure 1 shows that this discontinuity is
caused by lesser strength, or increased flexibility,
the structure results in extreme deflections in the first
storey of the structure, which in turn results in
concentration of forces at the second storey
The failures of reinforced concrete buildings due to
soft stories have remained the main reason in past
earthquake. In the Bhuj earthquake of 2001,
researchers determined that soft first stories were a
major contribution of serious failure.
Figure 1 showing failure of building with soft
story during the Bhuj earthquake in 2001