American Society of Civil Engineers

Finite Element Modeling of Tall Buildings: The Importance of Considering Foundation Systems for Lateral Stiffness

by Audrey Bentz, (DYNAMO Laboratory, University of Notre Dame, 156 Fitzpatrick Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556 E-mail: and Tracy Kijewski-Correa, (DYNAMO Laboratory, University of Notre Dame, 162 Fitzpatrick Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556 E-mail:
Section: Selected Issues in Analysis and Computation, pp. 207-218, (doi:

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Document type: Conference Proceeding Paper
Part of: 20th Analysis and Computation Specialty Conference
Abstract: Structural analysis and design is often conducted under the assumption of rigid base boundary conditions, particularly if the foundation system extends to bedrock, though the extent to which the actual flexibility of the soil-foundation system affects the predicted periods of vibration depends on the application. While soil-structure interaction has mostly received attention in seismic applications, lateral flexibility below the ground surface may in some cases influence the dynamic properties of tall, flexible structures, generally greater than 50 stories and dominated by wind loads. This study will explore this issue and develop a hybrid framework within which these effects can be captured and eventually be applied to existing finite element models of two tall buildings in the Chicago Full-Scale Monitoring Program. It is hypothesized that the extent to which the rigid base condition assumption applies in these buildings depends on the relative role of cantilever and frame actions in their structural systems. In this hybrid approach, the lateral and axial flexibility of the foundation systems are first determined in isolation and then introduced to the existing finite element models of the buildings as springs, replacing the rigid boundary conditions assumed by designers in the original finite element model development. The evaluation of the periods predicted by this hybrid framework, validated against companion studies and full-scale data, are used to quantify the sensitivity of foundation modeling to the super-structural system primary deformation mechanisms and soil type. Not only will this study demonstrate the viability of this hybrid approach, but also illustrate situations under which foundation flexibility in various degrees of freedom should be considered in the modeling process.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Finite element method
High-rise buildings