You are on page 1of 3


Earthquake engineering is a relatively new discipline. Not long ago, earthquakes were believed to
be acts of God, and mitigation measures consisted mainly of prayers rather than the application of
scientific and engineering principles. Notwithstanding its comparatively young existence, today
we can say that earthquake engineering has come of age. It is a discipline that embraces a series of
concepts and procedures that are well established and proven successful in mitigating the effect of
earthquakes in our built environment. It is an important component of civil engineering practice
and research and is taught in virtually all civil engineering programs in the United States and many
other parts of the world. Many states within the United States now include seismic provisions in
their building codes and require civil engineers to exhibit knowledge of earthquake engineering
principles to obtain their professional license. Surprisingly however, up to now there has not been
a suitable textbook to introduce senior or first-year graduate students to the subject. There have
been several excellent books during the past four decades devoted to earthquake engineering, but,
for the most part, they have been written as reference books directed to practicing professionals or
advanced graduate students. They emphasize a general coverage with the purpose of disseminating
the current knowledge and current practice, leaving the fundamentals and the details to a compre-
hensive list of references. As such, they usually overwhelm the uninitiated, who are left unclear as
to what are the fundamental issues, and what are the more controversial and less durable ones.
Fundamental Concepts of Earthquake Engineering has been conceived as a textbook to intro-
duce beginners to the fundamental aspects of earthquake engineering. It is written primarily for
students who have had little or no exposure to the subject, although it is also written to serve as a
reference document for practicing engineers and those who need to prepare for the seismic portion
of a civil engineering professional exam. It presupposes no previous knowledge of any of the aspects
of earthquake engineering, and every attempt has been made to present all pertinent background
information. However, the level at which the text has been written presumes familiarity with basic
mathematics such as calculus, linear algebra, probability theory, and differential equations. It also
presumes knowledge of the material covered in basic undergraduate engineering courses such as
statics, dynamics, structural analysis, and matrix methods of analysis. Furthermore, it presumes a
formal training in and thorough understanding of the basic principles of structural dynamics.
Fundamental Concepts of Earthquake Engineering has been modeled after textbooks that cover
other, more established disciplines, whose main purpose is to present basic concepts, not all that
is known about the discipline or recent advances and state-of-the-art procedures. In other words,
concepts whose mastery would allow students to understand the essence of the subject, awaken
their interest for topics not discussed in this book, and facilitate the learning of these topics by self-
study. In this spirit, a great effort has been made to identify the most relevant aspects of the subject,
present them clearly and thoroughly, and integrate them in a logical sequence. Similarly, the cover-
age is at the deepest level that is possible and practical. This means the presentation of theoreti-
cal derivations and disclosure of all applicable assumptions and limitations. Additionally, several
pedagogical features are introduced. First, many numerical examples are included to illustrate,
clarify, and reinforce the covered material, and many end-of-chapter problems are given to provide
the students with the hands-on experience that is needed to master them. Second, many photographs
are inserted throughout the text as a means to inspire and motivate students, annotating each pho-
tograph with a detailed description of the subject or concept it is supposed to illustrate. Third, some
of the discussed concepts and methods are summarized in a series of highly visible boxes to draw
attention to them and facilitate their review. Fourth, relevant terms and definitions are written in
italics the first time they are introduced to highlight their relevance and also indicate they are part
of the established earthquake engineering language. Finally, ample anecdotal and historical facts

xx Preface

are disseminated throughout this book to make it more interesting and pleasant to read. Overall,
the intention is to provide students with the background that is needed to understand the strengths
and weaknesses of current methods of analysis and seismic code provisions, interpret and properly
implement these provisions, and follow with ease specialized technical literature, advances in the
field, and the unavoidable code changes.
This book emphasizes the concepts and procedures that are used in current practice to assess
the earthquake effects that control the seismic design of a structure. As, in general, these concepts
and procedures involve (a) investigation of regional seismicity, (b) definition of seismic hazard at
the construction site, (c) quantification of local site effects, (d) definition of expected ground motion
characteristics at the construction site, (e) estimation of structural response under expected ground
motions, and (f) compliance with seismic code provisions, Fundamental Concepts of Earthquake
Engineering is organized around these topics. Accordingly, Chapter 1 describes the purpose of
earthquake engineering, summarizes the type and extent of damage an earthquake can produce,
gives an overview of the main aspects of earthquake engineering, and presents some historical
information. The following four chapters, Chapters 2 through 5, are devoted to some basic con-
cepts of seismology. Knowledge of these concepts is deemed necessary to understand where earth-
quakes are likely to occur, how the mechanism of earthquake generation and propagation may
affect the ground motion characteristics at a site, how earthquakes are measured, and what the
difference is between the various scales used to quantify the size of an earthquake and its poten-
tial to cause damage. Chapter 6 describes the different ways earthquake ground motions may be
characterized for engineering purposes. Chapter 7 deals with the procedures used to determine
the characteristics of the expected earthquake ground motions at a given site, whereas Chapter 8
explains how local soil conditions may affect these characteristics and describes the traditional
methods used to quantify such effects. Chapter 9 introduces the design spectrum, a fundamental
concept that constitutes the basis of many of the methods used in current practice for the design
of earthquake-resistant structures. The following four chapters, Chapters 10 through 13, describe
the conventional methods used in earthquake engineering to compute the response of structures to
earthquake ground motions. Approximate and exact and linear and nonlinear methods, as well as
some of the methods employed to account for soilstructure interaction effects, are considered in
these chapters. Concepts dealing with the seismic design of nonstructural elements (equipment and
architectural components) and some of the methods that can be used to estimate their response to
earthquake ground motions are presented in Chapter 14. Because of the heavy damage experienced
by nonstructural elements in past earthquakes, the seismic design of nonstructural components
has become a subject of increasing interest. The following two chapters, Chapters 15 and 16, are
also devoted to topics of increasing interest. These chapters provide an introductory description of
two modern techniques for the protection of structures against earthquake effects: base isolation
and damping enhancement with added energy-dissipating devices. Finally, Chapter 17 describes
current seismic provisions and correlates these provisions with the concepts presented in previous
chapters. The appendix contains a comprehensive worldwide list of historical earthquakes, which
dramatically illustrates the frequency with which large earthquakes occur around the world and the
catastrophic effect these earthquakes have had throughout the ages.
Clearly, the material goes beyond what may be covered in a quarter or semester of study. It
offers, thus, flexibility in the selection of topics for an introductory course, a graduate course, sup-
plementary reading, or self-study. For a first 15-week graduate course, it is suggested to include
topics from Chapters 1 through 10, Chapter 12, and Chapter 17.
Many individuals and institutions have contributed to the completion of this book. The author
is grateful to the many authors and publishers who generously granted permission to reproduce
some of their tables, figures, and photographs. The contribution of the students, who throughout the
years served as a testbed for the effectiveness of the lecture notes that eventually led to this book,
is hereby acknowledged with a sincere word of appreciation. In particular, heartfelt thanks are
extended to Samit Ray Chaudhury, who through his lively discussions and expert opinions provided
Preface xxi

much needed feedback. Finally, the author wishes to express his deepest gratitude to the institutions
that introduced him to the thrills and challenges of earthquake engineering and furnished him with
the rounded knowledge that made this book possible: Universidad Nacional Autnoma de Mxico,
Japans International Institute of Seismology and Earthquake Engineering, and University of Illi-
nois at Urbana-Champaign.
A textbook, as is well known, is a compilation of knowledge generated by a large number of
individuals other than the author. Acknowledgment, however, of all the sources from which this
knowledge is taken becomes, given the required long lists of citations, an unnecessary distrac-
tion to the reader. Traditionally, therefore, textbooks omit such an acknowledgment. Fundamental
Concepts of Earthquake Engineering has followed this tradition and also omits, for the most part,
referring to the publications on which it is based. For this, the author extends his sincere apologies to
all those affected, and hopes that the inclusion of their work will be considered by itself a testimony
of the value of their contributions.
Being the first edition of a fairly large volume that contains materials from a wide range of
disciplines, it is inevitable that it will contain some errors and inconsistencies. The author will
be grateful to any reader who brings to his attention any of these errors and inconsistencies. Sug-
gestions for improvement are also most welcomed. Earthquake engineering is a field that is being
actively researched and advances are taking place at a rapid pace. Hence, it is likely that the book
will be revised from time to time.

Roberto Villaverde
Irvine, California