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    Seismic assessment of reinforced concrete walls in Australia
    Hoult, Ryan ( 2017)
    Some non-ductile reinforced concrete walls in buildings were observed to perform poorly in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, with most of the lives lost from the event caused by the collapse of buildings that relied on these structural elements for lateral support. Reinforced concrete (RC) walls are widely used throughout the Australian building stock as the primary lateral support elements. It is possible that some of these structural elements would perform poorly in a very rare earthquake due to the low standard of detailing that is currently required in Australia, as well as the low earthquake return period that the Building Code of Australia stipulates for their design. The aim of this research has been to assess the seismic performance of reinforced concrete structural walls, both rectangular and C-shaped, in Australia, a region of low-to-moderate seismicity. The current Australian Standard for Earthquake Actions, AS 1170.4:2007, stipulates earthquake hazard values that are based on a seismic hazard map that is over two decades old. A probabilistic seismic hazard analysis was conducted for most of the capital cities in Australia using the AUS5 model to provide a more accurate prediction of seismic hazard in Australia. The results indicate that for some cities, such as Melbourne, the response spectrum is expected to be higher for large return periods in comparison to the design spectra derived using AS 1170.4:2007. Furthermore, a site response study was conducted using equivalent linear analyses to investigate the amplification of the soil response as classified in AS 1170.4:2007 using a range of ground motions that would be expected in Australia. The primary conclusions from the study showed that there can be a large dependency of the soil amplification on the intensity of the earthquake ground motions for the softer soil classes. Moreover, the low intensity ground motions resulted in a higher spectral shape factor for soil class Be and Ce in comparison to factors derived from the current AS 1170.4:2007. An investigation was undertaken to find the displacement capacity of rectangular lightly reinforced and unconfined walls using a finite element modelling (FEM) program, with emphasis on finding the equivalent plastic hinge length. A Secondary Cracking Model (SCM) was formulated, which is a simple, mathematical model that has the potential to predict if a RC wall has a sufficient longitudinal reinforcement ratio to enable “secondary cracking” to occur. The SCM has been validated by comparison with results from the FEM analyses. Equivalent plastic hinge length equations were derived for the rectangular walls that were observed to form secondary cracking and a single, primary crack, and this can be used to predict the displacement capacity of these walls. This estimate of the displacement capacity assumes that the inelastic rotation that occurs over the inelastic region at the base of the wall can be modelled using an equivalent plastic hinge length over which the curvature is assumed to be a constant value. These estimates of the equivalent plastic hinge length are more appropriate for RC structural walls commonly found in Australia due to the parameters used in deriving them (e.g. mechanical properties of steel, longitudinal reinforcement ratio). Moreover, some expressions for the equivalent plastic hinge length that have derived by previous researchers were found to be inappropriate for the walls analysed in this research; these were particularly inaccurate for walls that do not have sufficient longitudinal reinforcement to force secondary cracks to form. The new expressions provide better estimates of the displacement capacity of lightly reinforced and unconfined walls when compared with recent experimental observations. One of the most widely used and popular cross-sections used in structural design of RC walls is the C-shaped section. There is a paucity of information available on the inelastic behaviour of such elements, and virtually no experimental data exists on non-rectangular concrete walls with inferior details commonly found in regions of low-to-moderate seismicity. An extensive number of nonlinear pushover analyses have been conducted based on FEM to investigate the seismic behaviour of C-shaped walls with detailing commonly found in Australia. Based on the FEM results, the SCM, that has been developed for rectangular walls, was found to be able to predict the potential of a single-crack forming in the walls. The direction of loading and mode of bending was found to be particularly important for the seismic performance of these walls. A non-ductile failure was observed for the majority of the walls investigated due to crushing of the unconfined concrete at the ends of the flanges in the governing direction of loading. Further analyses were conducted in the FEM program but with confined boundary ends to emphasise the importance of such structural detailing in allowing some plastic behaviour to be achieved for the governing direction of loading. The equivalent plastic hinge lengths derived from the extensive number of FEM analyses correlated poorly in comparison to the estimates from a number of expressions that exist in the literature, including a recently developed equation specifically for C-shaped walls. Therefore, equivalent plastic hinge lengths were derived from these results and for each direction of loading. A program has been written in MATLAB to derive vulnerability functions for low-rise, mid-rise and high-rise buildings in Australia that use structural walls as their lateral force-resisting system. The city of Melbourne was used as a template for conducting the analyses, and a dataset of thousands of buildings obtained from the National Exposure Information System (NEXIS) and Census of Land Use and Employment (CLUE) databases was included in the assessment. The displacement capacity of each of the buildings was estimated using a moment-curvature analysis followed by a plastic hinge analysis. A range of artificial earthquakes from GENQKE and real earthquakes from the PEER ground motion database on “weathered bedrock” conditions were obtained. These ground motions were subsequently used in equivalent linear analyses using the program SHAKE2000 to find the site response at the surface of different soil columns from shear wave velocity profiles taken predominantly from sites around Melbourne. The National Regolith Site Classification Map was used to estimate the soil conditions underlying each of the building sites. The acceleration and displacement response spectra resulting from these ground motions were used to represent the seismic demand for different site conditions in the capacity spectrum method and to ultimately estimate the vulnerability of the buildings. Thus, vulnerability functions were derived from the results.