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Charles CLIFTON2
Borislav BELEV3


Abstract: A steel eccentrically braced frame (EBF) is a relatively new

structural system for providing seismic resistance of buildings which

employs the structural fuse concept in a ductile building design (i.e.
which is designed to undergo controlled damage in a severe earthquake).
The conventional EBFs are expected to sustain significant damage during
a design level earthquake through repeated inelastic deformations of their
active links. In these EBFs, the active link is traditionally made
continuous with the collector beam and supports the floor slab, although it
is not made composite with the floor slab. This continuity of active link
with the adjacent collector beam or beams means that, following yielding
of the active links, a repair is expected to be costly and disruptive, even if
the structure has met its goal of providing life safety during an
earthquake. The first detailed New Zealand design procedures for EBFs
were published in 1986 by the Heavy Engineering Research Association
(HERA) [6]. Following the 2010/2011 Christchurch earthquake series, in
which most EBF structures were pushed into the inelastic range,
necessitating replacement of active links in some buildings, the design
procedures have been adapted to accommodate the replaceable link
concept for EBF. This concept will allow for rapid inspection and
replacement of yielded and damaged links following a major earthquake,
thereby permitting the structure to be economically brought back to its
original safety level. A new HERA design guide [9] has been issued to
incorporate these changes in design practice. An overview of the
performance of buildings with EBFs in these earthquakes is also included
in this paper.
Keywords: EBF, link, seismic resistance, damage, energy dissipation, ductility

Angel Ashikov, PhD student at Department of Steel, Timber and Plastic Structures, University
of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy, Bulgaria, e-mail:
Dr. Charles Clifton, Associate Professor at Department of Civil and Environmental
Engineering, The University of Auckland, New Zealand, e-mail:
Dr. Borislav Belev, Professor at Department of Steel, Timber and Plastic Structures, University
of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy, Sofia, Bulgaria: e-mail:

1. Introduction
A steel eccentrically braced frame (EBF) is a relatively new structural
system for providing seismic resistance of buildings designed for controlled
damage which employs the structural fuse concept (Fig. 1). Seismic resistant
eccentrically braced frames (EBFs) are a lateral load-resisting system for steel
building that combine high stiffness in the elastic range, with good ductility and
energy dissipation in the inelastic range. EBFs can be considered as a hybrid
between moment resisting frames (MRFs) and concentrically braced frames
(CBFs). The bracing members and configuration in the EBFs provide the high
elastic stiffness characteristic of CBFs, permitting code drift requirements to be
easily met economically. The active link is the ductile fuse, which, when well
designed and detailed, provides global ductility and energy dissipation capacity
comparable to those of MRFs.

Figure 1. Examples of eccentrically braced frames (source: [1])

a - link; b - collector beam; c - diagonal brace; d - column

The distinguishing characteristic of an EBF is that at least one end of

every brace is connected so that the brace force is transmitted either into another
brace or into a column through shear and bending in a beam segment called an
active link. Under severe cyclic loading, the inelastic deformation is restricted
and localized primarily in the links, which are designed and detailed to sustain
large inelastic deformations without loss of strength.

In the design of a seismic-resistant EBF it is necessary to determine the

plastic rotation demand on the link. This is most easily accomplished through
the use of energy dissipation mechanisms (also commonly called collapse
mechanisms), constructed by assuming rigid plastic behaviour of the members.
Plastic mechanisms of two types of EBF are illustrated in Fig. 2.

Figure 2. Link rotation angle and frame interstorey drift (source: [1])

The following relationships can be derived from Fig. 2:

p =

p = p


where: p plastic interstorey drift; p plastic storey drift angle;

p link plastic rotation angle; h storey height; L bay width
The links act as ductile fuses, dissipating energy through stable hysteretic
behaviour, while limiting the forces transmitted to the other components. By
applying the capacity design procedures the designer can force the yielding to
occur in the ductile link elements, while preventing yielding and failure of other
elements. In this way the braces are designed not to buckle, regardless of the
severity of the lateral loading on the frame, making the performance insensitive
to the level of severe earthquake loading.
Capacity design procedures are an integral part of ultimate limit state
(ULS) seismic considerations for a structure which is intended to undergo
controlled damage at the ULS. This approach is used in most multi-storey
normal importance buildings in high seismic regions. Capacity design is a
process in which it is pre-selected which members or components of the seismic
resisting system are permitted to yield and which are to remain elastic. In
capacity design of seismic resisting systems, the principal energy dissipating
mechanisms are chosen and are suitably proportioned and detailed. All other
elements of the seismic-resisting system are provided with sufficient reserve
strength to ensure that the chosen energy dissipating mechanisms are
maintained throughout the deformations that may occur.

2. Performance of building with EBFs in recent strong

earthquakes in New Zealand
2.1. Earthquakes series of 2010/2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand.
In the period from September 4th, 2010 to July 13th, 2011, the Christchurch
city and surrounding areas have been shaken by six powerful and destructive
earthquakes. The series commenced on September 4th, 2010, with an
earthquake of Magnitude 7.1 on the Richter scale, centred some 40 km from the
Christchurch Central Business District (CBD) and at a focal depth of around 20
km. After that earthquake there have been over 18 aftershocks with magnitude
above 5.0 on the Richter scale, including that of February 22nd, 2011 which has
been the largest aftershock.
On February 22nd, 2011, an M 6.3 earthquake shook Christchurch, New
Zealand. The aftershocks epicentre was 5km from the city and a focal depth of
5km. The very close and shallow proximity to Christchurch city, coupled with
the very hard basement rock through which the fault ruptured, resulted in very
high Peak Ground Accelerations. This event caused massive damage to the city,
collapsing hundreds of buildings in the CBD. Also, while the September 4th
earthquake had struck in the night, the February 22nd earthquake struck at 12:51
p.m. local time when people had filled the offices and cafes of the CBD, leading
to 184 confirmed deaths. Widespread liquefaction in the CBD and eastern
suburbs caused foundation movement in housing and office buildings alike and
led to the destruction of thousands of houses and low rise commercial buildings.
Two medium rise reinforced concrete office buildings and one parking garage
collapsed along with hundreds of unreinforced masonry buildings, including
most number of heritage structures (see Fig. 3 and Fig. 4). Many other buildings
in the CBD have been severely damaged and some required demolition, which
necessitated carefully controlled access to the CBD in the weeks following the
earthquake. The total losses are estimated to be over NZ $40 billion.

Figure 3. URM building on the left and The PGC building on the right (source: Elwood and [11])

Figure 4. Examples of damage in reinforced concrete buildings; (a) column shear failure,
(b) precast wall damage, (c) beam-column joint, (d) wall damage (source: Sritharan)

Peak ground accelerations over 1,5g in Heathcote Valley Primary School, 1

km from the epicenter and between 0.5 and 0.8g in the CBD were reported by
strong ground motion recording stations. Unusually high vertical ground
motions, sometimes exceeding the horizontal component were recorded.
Ground motions recorded in the CBD generally exceeded the 500-year and even
the 2500-year elastic design spectrum of the New Zealand seismic design
standard (NZS1170.5 2004). Fig. 5 compares the elastic design spectra with the
5% damped response spectra for the horizontal components of the September
4th, 2010 and February 22nd, 2011 events recorded at the Christchurch Hospital.

Figure 5. Horizontal spectral acceleration for Christchurch Hospital (8km distance of epicenter)
form September 4, 2010 and February 22, 2011 events compared with NZS 1170.5 elastic design
spectra for Christchurch (source: Elwood, ground motion data from GeoNet).

2.2. Multi-storey steel structures in the Christchurch area

Historically, multi-storey buildings in Christchurch have been constructed
from reinforced concrete, however from 2000 onwards structural steel has
become more predominant. This means that most of the buildings with steel
structure in Christchurch have been designed to the latest seismic provisions in
New Zealand. Table 1 provides a listing of the multi-storey steel framed
buildings in the CBD and some in the suburbs.
Table 1. Multi-storey steel buildings with EBF system (source: [11])


Floor system

EBFs and MRFs

Composite deck and steel beams


EBFs and MRFs

Composite deck and steel beams




Composite deck and steel beams

Precast columns and hollowcore units with topping
Composite deck and steel beams






2.3. Seismic performance of multi-storey EBFs in Christchurch

The tallest building in Christchurch, the 22-storey Pacific Residential
Tower, consists of perimeter EBFs up to sixth floor, shifting to EBFs around the
lift core above that level, with a transfer slab designed to horizontally distribute
the seismic loads at that transition point. The design of the EBFs in the building
has been governed by the need to limit drift, with a resulting design ductility
factor equal to 1.5. This is typical of EBFs in tall buildings in New Zealands
moderate to low seismic zones. Paint flaking and residual link shear
deformations have been observed in the EBF links at that level.
The bottom 6 levels of this structure comprise a vertical car stacking
system, with very open plan structure and some regions of floor slab omitted.
This is followed by floors of hotel rooms, with many internal, non-structural
fire and acoustic rated walls, then floors of apartments with a lesser length of
such walls. The effects of this variation in non-structural stiffness up the
structure modified the earthquake response, concentrating inelastic demand into
the active links of the car parking floors. After detailed investigation of these
yielded links it was determined that 42 of them would need to be replaced; this
was achieved by cutting them out, welding endplates onto the cut ends of the
collector beam/brace region, fabricating active links with endplates and bolting
these back into the system to complete the replacement. Altogether 42 active
links were replaced in this way; details are in [13].

) Global view
b) Flaked paint on EBF link
Figure 6. Pacific Residential Tower in Christchurch (source: [11])

The Club Tower Building (Fig. 7(a)) has eccentrically braced frames
located on three sides of a lift core eccentrically located closer to the west side
of the building, and a ductile moment resisting frame (DMRF) along the east
facade. EBFs designed in compliance with the NZS 3404 provisions are
typically sized considering a ductility factor of up to 4, a level of link
deformations that would correspond to significant shear distortions of the links.
Given the magnitude of the earthquake excitations, with demands above the
ULS design level, substantial yielding of the EBF links was expected and
observed; however with peak plastic shear strains of 5% as determined from
hardness measurements and correlation with plastic shear strain. An example of
the visible extent of deformation is shown in (Fig. 7(b)). . The links are free of
visible residual distortions or any cracking; subsequent detailed evaluations
have shown that they can be left in place with sufficient post-earthquake
strength and ductility to resist another design level event. Hair line cracking of
non-structural gypsum plaster board finishes has been observed elsewhere
throughout the building. The ductile MRF along the east facade did not show
any evidence of yielding. Its design had been governed by the interstorey drift
limitations, particularly under torsional response due to the eccentricity of the
core, and its corresponding effective ductility factor has been as low as 1,25.
Following repair of non-structural wall cracking and lift guide rail realignment,
the building has been returned to full service in June 2011 and was the first
medium-rise building in the city to be returned to service.

) Global view
b) Paint flaking of partially hidden EBF link
Figure 7. Club Tower in Christchurch (source: [11])

2.4. Seismic performance of EBFs in parking garages, Christchurch

The EBFs in a hospital parking garage which is very close to the epicenter
have performed well, although some link fractures have been observed in two
brace bays (Fig. 8 and Fig. 9). This parking structure has been designed to
accommodate three additional floors. Yet, some of the links at the first story
have shown paint flaking as evidence of inelastic deformations (Fig. 8(b) and
Fig. 9(b)). The fractures as shown in close-up in Fig. 9(a) have been of
particular concern as these were the first fractures recorded in EBFs worldwide.
The most likely explanation lies in the offset of the brace flange from the
stiffener. This offset implies that the axial tensile force in the brace fed into the
active link/collector beam panel zone through a flexible beam flange rather than
directly into the stiffener. No lateral movement or twisting of the ends of the
active links (Fig. 9(b)) have been observed, indicating that the lateral resistant
provisions are adequate despite that such restraint was only applied to the top
flange and the EBFs were not integral with slab above.

) EBFs
b) Evidence of EBF link yielding
Figure 8. EBFs in a parking garage of Antigua St., Christchurch (source: [11])

) Fractured link at lower level EBF

b) Evidence of inelastic deformations of link
Figure 9. Damaged seismic links in parking garage of Antigua St., Christchurch (source: [11])

3. Historical development of design provisions and guidelines

for EBFs
The first detailed New Zealand design procedures for eccentrically braced
frames (EBFs) were published in 1986 by the Heavy Engineering Research
Association as a set of notes for a seminar series on the design of seismicresistant multi-storey steel-framed buildings [6]. A research project commenced
at the University of Canterbury to study the inelastic behaviour of steel-framed
EBFs and to develop an appropriate design philosophy and procedures for this
structural form has been successfully completed in 1990 by MacRae [7]. That
has led to the design procedures for EBFs presented in HERA Report R4-76
entitled Seismic Design Procedures for Steel Structures [8]. These design
procedures covered the full range of expected inelastic demand, from fully
ductile response to elastic response for EBFs, moment resisting frames (MRFs)
and concentrically braced frames (CBFs).
The last HERA design guide for EBFs was published in 2013 [9]. This
guide incorporates changes in design practice that have occurred since the
publication of R4-76. The design procedures have been adapted to
accommodate the replaceable link concept. This concept was developed
following the performance of EBFs in the Christchurch earthquakes series 2010
and 2011. It allows for rapid inspection replacement of yielded and damaged
links following a major earthquake, thereby permitting the structure to be
economically brought back to its original safety level.
In AISC Seismic provisions 2010 [1], Eurocode 8 [2] and NZS3404 [3],
the active links are classified into 3 categories according to the type of plastic
mechanism developed:
-short links, which dissipate energy by yielding essentially in shear;
e < es = 1,6 M p ,link / V p ,link

-long links, which dissipate energy by yielding essentially in bending;

e > eL = 3,0 M p ,link / V p ,link
-intermediate links, where plastic mechanism involves bending and shear.
es < e < eL
A classification in three groups is made in terms of link rotation angle p
between the link and the element outside of the link. The classifications
purpose is to limit local rotation consistent with global deformation.
-short links
p pR = 0,08rad


-long links
p pR = 0,02rad


-intermediate links
p pR = linear interpolation between the above values


In the majority of the buildings in New Zealand with EBFs the active
links are chosen as short links as they do not generate a large bending moment
in the collector beam, permitting the frame to be economically designed.
Structural displacement ductility demands on the 4 categories of seismicresistant systems for the ultimate limit state are specified in Table 2.
Table 2. Relationship between category of structure and structural displacement ductility demand
for the ultimate limit state (source: [3])



Fully ductile

ductility demand
m > 3.0

Limited ductile

3.0 > m > 1.25

Nominally ductile

m = 1.25


m = 1.0

Based on observations of the performance of steel buildings in the 22

February 2011 Christchurch earthquake [8], it is suggested to limit the ductility
demand to m=3 when minimization of post-earthquake repair is an important
design criterion. An alternative approach to reduce repair costs and disruption is
to use removable links for EBFs and this has now become standard practice in
New Zealand.

4. New concepts and research findings

4.1. Bolted replaceable active links
Conventional steel eccentrically braced frames (EBFs) are expected to
sustain significant damage during a design level earthquake through repeated
inelastic deformation of the active link. In these EBFs, the yielding link is
traditionally continuous with the collector beam and supports the floor slab,
although it is not made composite with the floor slab. Repair is otherwise
expected to be costly and disruptive, even if the structure has met its goal of
providing life safety during an earthquake. These drawbacks can be mitigated
by designing EBFs with replaceable active links. The replaceable active link
concept allows for quick inspection and replacement of damaged links
following a major earthquake, significantly minimising time to reoccupy the
building. A bolted replaceable active link allows the link element to be
fabricated from a lower steel grade, or modified section dimensions, thereby
assuring an elastic response of the collector beam outside the removable link
element. With the replaceable link the designer has greater flexibility to choose
a section that best meets the required strength, without automatically changing
the floor collector beam section. This concept was studied by Mansour [15].
HERA have also undertaken finite element analysis to verify the design
procedures for EBFs with replaceable links. The results showed that the
proposed design procedure achieves the objectives of suppressing inelastic
demand away from the active link.
Furthermore, built-up sections with relatively thin webs and thick flanges
can be used to optimize the design EBFs and, if deemed beneficial, links made
of different grades of steel can also be used. This new type of a replaceable link
with built-up cross-section, connection configurations, welding details and
intermediate stiffener spacing were studied by the first author under the
guidance of Professor Charles Clifton. The active links exhibited a very good
ductile behaviour, developing repeatable and stable yielding.

4.2. Research activities on EBFs performed at University of Auckland

The second author is currently involved in PhD supervision either at first
or second supervisor level with students who are looking at the following
aspects of EBF system performance in severe earthquakes:
a. Slab participation to the strength and stiffness including selfcentring capability. This work has been completed [14]. When the out-of-plane
stiffness of the composite floor slabs is taken into account, the building exhibits
self-centring by showing a tendency to go back to its original position.
b. Enhanced performance of EBF active links - improving the
performance of bolted replaceable active links through changes to stiffener and

end-plate details. It is a joint research effort between University of Auckland

and Portland State University, USA.
c. Studies on soil-structure-foundation interaction and its influence on
EBFs on pad foundations.
d. Determining a field-based method for establishing the postearthquake residual capacity of yielded EBF active links. This PhD project is
nearing completion.

5. Conclusions
Steel structures with EBFs generally performed very well during the
Christchurch earthquake series of 2010 and 2011. However, poor design and/or
detailing resulted in a few fractures at link zones. This shows the importance of
good detailing, load path development and robust connections [9].
The replaceable active link concept is very promising because it allows
the structural fuses to be designed with desired cross-section dimensions and
different steel grade, if needed. The damaged active links can be easily replaced
following a major earthquake without costly and time consuming repair works.

The authors gratefully acknowledge the funding provided by AUSMIP+
program of European Union for the PhD mobility of the first author to the
University of Auckland.

[1] ANSI/AISC 341-10, Seismic Provisions for Structural Steel Buildings; American
Institute of Steel Construction, Chicago, USA, 2010;
[2] EN1998-1.Eurocode 8: Design of structures for earthquake resistance - Part 1:
General rules, seismic actions and rules for buildings; European Committee for
Standardization: Brussels, 2004;
[3] NZS 1170.5:2004, Loading Standard, Volume 1 Code of Practice; Standards New
Zealand, Wellington, New Zealand;
[4] NZS 3404: Part 1:1997, Steel Structures Standard; Standards New Zealand,
Wellington, New Zealand;
[5] NZS 3404: Part 2:1997, Commentary to the Steel Structures Standard; Standards
New Zealand, Wellington, New Zealand;
[6] Clifton, G.C. and Mcllroy, C.J.; Notes prepared for a Seminar on SeismicResistant Multi-Storey Construction; HERA, Manukau City, New Zealand, 1986;
[7] MacRae, G.A.; The Seismic Response of Steel Frames; University of Canterbury,
Civil Engineering Department, Christchurch, New Zealand, Research Report 90-6;
[8] Freeney, M.J. and Clifton, G.C.: Seismic Design Procedures for Steel Structures,
HERA Report R4-76, Heavy Engineering Research Association, Manukau City,
New Zealand, 1995;

[9] Clifton, G.C., Seismic Design of Eccentrically Braced Frames; HERA Publication
4001:2013, Manukau City, New Zealand, 2013;
[10] Cowie, K., Fussell, A.J., and Clifton, G.C., Eccentrically Braced Frames with
Removable Links Design Methodology, Steel Advisor EQK1006, Steel
Construction New Zealand, Manukau City, 2012;
[11] Clifton, C., Bruneau, M., MacRae, Gr., Leon, R. and Fussell, A. (2011) Steel
Building Damage from the Christchurch Earthquake Series of 2010/2011, SESOC;
[12] Clifton, G.C., Nashid, H., Ferguson, G., Hodson, M. and Seal, C.; Performance of
Eccentrically Braced Framed Buildings In The Christchurch Earthquake Series of
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[13] Gardiner, S., G. C. Clifton, et al. (2013). Performance, Damage Assessment and
Repair of a Multistorey Eccentrically Braced Framed Building Following the
Christchurch Earthquake Series. Steel Innovations 2013. SCNZ. Christchurch,
New Zealand, Steel Construction New Zealand.
[14] Momtahan, A., Effects of out-of-plane strength and stiffness of composite floor
slab on inelastic response of eccentrically braced frame structures, The University
of Auckland, New Zealand;
[15] Mansour, N., Development of the design of eccentrically braced frames with
replaceable shear links, Thesis, University of Toronto, 2010.
[16] Kasai, K. and Popov, E.P.; A study of seismically resistant eccentrically braced
frames; University of California, Berkeley, California, 1986.