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seismic conceptual design of buildings basic principles for engineers architects building owners and authorities

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For a long time earthquake risk was considered unavoidable. It was accepted that buildings would be damaged as a result of an earthquake’s ground shaking. Preventive measures for earthquakes were therefore mostly limited to disaster management preparedness. 

Although measures related to construction methods had already been proposed at the beginning of the 20th century, it is only during the last decades that improved and intensified research has revealed how to effectively reduce the vulnerability of structures to earthquakes. 

The objective of this document is to present recent knowledge on earthquake protection measures for buildings in a simple and easy to understand manner.

The chosen method explains basic principles by matching them with illustrations, examples, and an explanatory text. 

The principles, photographs (from the author or third parties), and the texts are the result of a long research and design activity in the challenging and strongly evolving field of earthquake engineering. 

The author would like to thank, above all, the numerous photographs contributors mentioned at the end of the booklet, who have made available the results of extensive and often dangerous efforts.

 Thanks are also extended to the Federal Office for Water and Geology and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation for editing and carefully printing this document.

The conceptual design and the detailing of the structural elements (walls, columns, slabs) and the non-structural elements (partition walls, façades) plays a central role in determining the structural behaviour (before failure) and the earthquake vulnerability (sensitivity to damage) of buildings. 

Errors and defects in the conceptual design cannot be compensated for in the following calculations and detailed design of the engineer. 

A seismically correct conceptual design is furthermore necessary in order to achieve a good earthquake resistance without incurring significant additional costs.

The outlined principles are thus primarily applicable to new buildings. However, it is quite clear that they may also be used for the evaluation and possible upgrading of existing buildings. Therefore, certain principles are illustrated with applications to existing buildings.

The ideas and concepts of the basic principles were developed within a framework consisting of numerous presentations given by the author between 1997 and 2000, the contents of which were constantly elaborated and developed.

 Each principle is introduced by a schematic figure (synthesis of the principle), followed by a general description.

 Further illustration is usually provided by photographs of damage, giving either positive or negative examples, and accompanied by a specific legend.

It is obvious that not all the basic principles are of the same importance, neither in a general context nor in relation to a particular object.

 Compromises, based on engineering judgement, may be admissible depending on the hazard level (regional hazard and site effect) and the characteristics of the structure. 

Of primary importance is the strict adherence to the principles relevant to life safety, particularly those concerning lateral bracing.

 Only principles primarily intended to reduce material damage may possibly be the subject of concessions.

 This document is predominantly addressed to construction professionals such as civil engineers and architects, but also to building owners and authorities. 

It is suitable both for self-study and as a basis for university courses and continued education. 

The illustrations may be obtained from the editor in electronic format. All other rights, in particular related to the reproduction of illustrations and text, are reserved