A Safer Earthquake Design Approach

by Oscar G. De Pineres, Partner; ODeP Engrg. Inc., San Francisco, CA,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1987, Vol. 57, Issue 5, Pg. 52-54

Document Type: Feature article


The Uniform Building Code earthquake code permits taking advantage of a frame's capacity to absorb energy at stresses beyond yield. Dropping that provision would save lives. The author recommends designing for the design earthquake in such a way that the structure is not stressed beyond yield, and says that is the approach used in designing nuclear facilities. The author also says that in the most seismically active areas, an extra step should be taken in designing certain types of buildings such as hospitals, communication centers and computer facilities. Dynamic forces imposed by the earthquake on each floor should be calculated. This permits designing each floor's contents and nonstructural components to survive the design earthquake. This approach is well proven by use in the nuclear industry. The approach will cost more. It is estimated that the frame of a typical building in the seismically active areas will cost 60-100% more than today, and the frame of a taller or essential building, 40-80% more. However, typically the structure cost is only 25% of a facility's total cost, so the added facility cost is about 10-25%. The benefit would be less damage to building structures, nonstructural components and contents, and fewer lives lost.

Subject Headings: Frames | Safety | Earthquakes | Seismic design | Permits | Seismic tests | Seismic effects | Health care facilities

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