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Earthquake resistant design of reinforced concrete buildings is a continuing area of research
since the earthquake engineering has started not only in India but in other developed countries
also. The buildings still damage due to some one or the other reason during earthquakes. The
building configuration has been described as regular or irregular in term of size and shape of the
building, arrangement of structural elements and mass. Regular building configuration are almost
symmetrical (in plan and elevation) about the axis and have uniform distribution of lateral forceresisting structure such that, it provides a continuous load path for both gravity and lateral loads.
A building that lacks of symmetry and has discontinuity in geometry, mass, or load resisting
element is called irregular. These irregularities may cause interruption of force flow and stress
concentrations. Asymmetrical arrangements of mass and stiffness of elements may cause a large
torsional force where the center of mass does not coincide with the center of rigidity.
The section 7 of IS 1893 (Part 1): 2002 [1] enlists the irregularity in building configuration
system. These irregularities are categorized in two types;


Vertical irregularities referring to sudden change of strength, stiffness, geometry and

mass results in irregular distribution of forces and/or deformation over the height of
Horizontal irregularities which refer to asymmetrical plan shapes (e.g. L-, T-, U-, F-)
or discontinuities in the horizontal resisting elements (diaphragms) such as cut-outs,
large openings, re-entrant corner and other abrupt changes resulting in torsion,
diaphragm deformation and stress concentration.

There are numerous examples enlisted in damage report of past earthquake in which the causes
of failure of multistoried reinforced concrete building in irregularities in configuration. This
paper describes the types of irregularities and possible causes of damage with some
Vertical Discontinuities in Load Path:
One of the major contributors to structural damage in structure during strong earthquake is that
discontinuities in the load path or load transfer. The structure should contain a continuous load
path for transfer of the seismic force, which develops due to accelerations of individual elements,
to the ground. Failure to provide adequate strength and toughness of individual elements in the
system, or failure to tie individual elements together can result in distress or complete collapse of
the system. Therefore, all the structural and non-structural elements must be adequately tied to
structural system. The load path must be complete and sufficiently strong.
The general load path is as follows: earthquake forces, which originate in all the elements of the
building are delivered through structural connections to horizontal diaphragms. The diaphragms
distribute these forces to vertical resisting components such as columns, shear walls, frames and

other vertical elements in the structural system which transfer the forces into the foundation. The
diaphragms must have adequate stiffness to transmitting these forces.
The failure due to discontinuity of vertical elements of lateral load resisting system has been
among the most notable and spectacular. One common example of this type of discontinuity
occurs in Bhuj earthquake in which, infill walls that are present in upper floors are discontinued
in the lower floor (floating column concept). Another example of discontinuous shear wall is the
Olive View Hospital, which nearly collapsed due to excessive deformation in the first two stories
during the 1972 San Fernando earthquake.
Irregularity in Strength and Stiffness:
A weak storey is defined as one in which the storeys lateral strength is less than 80 percent of
that in the storey above. The storeys lateral strength is total strength of all seismic resisting
element sharing the storey shear for the direction under consideration i.e. the shear capacity of
the column. The deficiency that usually makes a storey weak is inadequate strength of the frame
columns. A soft storey is one in which the lateral stiffness is less than 70% of that in the storey
immediately above, or less than 80% of combined stiffness of the three stories above [1]. The
essential characteristic of a weak or soft storey consists of a discontinuity of strength or
stiffness, which occurs at the second storey
connections. Figure 1 shows that this discontinuity is
caused by lesser strength, or increased flexibility,
the structure results in extreme deflections in the first
storey of the structure, which in turn results in
concentration of forces at the second storey
The failures of reinforced concrete buildings due to
soft stories have remained the main reason in past
earthquake. In the Bhuj earthquake of 2001,
researchers determined that soft first stories were a
major contribution of serious failure.
Figure 1 showing failure of building with soft
story during the Bhuj earthquake in 2001

Mass Irregularity:
Mass irregularities are considered to exist where
the effective mass of any storey is more than 200% of the effective mass of an adjacent storey [1].
The effective mass is the real mass consisting of the dead weight of the floor plus the actual
weight of partition and equipment. Excess mass can lead to increase in lateral inertial force,
reduced ductility of vertical load resisting elements. Irregularity of mass distribution in vertical
and horizontal planes can result in irregular response and complex dynamics as shown in figure
2. The characteristics swaying mode of a building during an earthquake implies that masses
placed in the upper stories of building produce considerably more unfavorable effects than
masses placed lower down. The center of gravity of lateral forces is shifted above the base in the
case of heavy masses in upper floors resulting in large bending moments [2]. Where mass
irregularities exist, check the lateral-force resisting elements using a dynamic analysis for a more
realistic lateral load distribution of the base shear. It is believed that the Mansi Complex, a

multistoried building has failed in Bhuj

earthquake due to massive swimming pool at
the upper floor.
Figure 2 showing failure of RC building having
mass irregularity during earthquake.

Vertical Geometric Irregularity:

A vertical setback is a geometric irregularity in
a vertical plane. It is considered, when the
horizontal dimension of lateral force resisting
system in any storey is more than 150% of that
in an adjacent storey [1]. The setback can also be
visualized as a vertical re-entrant corner. The
general solution of a setback problem is the total
seismic separation in plan through separation
section, so that portions of the building are free
to vibrate independently.


Figure 3 showing failure of setback building during

Mexico earthquake in 1985.

Proximity of Adjacent
Pounding damage is caused by hitting of two buildings constructed in close proximity with each
other. Pounding may result in irregular response of adjacent buildings of different heights due to
different dynamic characteristics. This problem arises when buildings are built without
separation right up to property lines in order to make maximum use of the space. When floor of
these buildings are constructed of the same height, damage due to pounding usually is not
serious. If this is not the case, there are two problems. When the floors of adjacent buildings are
at different elevations, the floor of each structure can act like rams, battering columns
of the other building. When one of the building
is higher than the other, the lower building can
act as a base for the upper part of the higher
building; the lower building receives an
unexpected large lateral load while the higher
building suffers from a major stiffness
discontinuity at the level of the lower building.
Damage due to pounding can be minimized by
drift control, building separation, and aligning
Figure 4 shows pounding between a six story building and
floors in adjacent buildings.
a two storey building in Kocaeli, Turkey earthquake 1999.

Torsion irregularities:
Torsion irregularity shall be considered when floor diaphragms are rigid in their own plan in
relation to the vertical structural elements that resist the lateral forces. The lateral force resisting

elements should be a well-balanced system that is not subjected to significant torsion. Significant
torsion will be taken as the condition were the distance between the
Centre of rigidity and storey's center of mass is
greater than 20% of the width of the structure in the
either major plan dimension. Torsion or excessive
lateral deflection is generated in asymmetrical
buildings that may result in permanent set or even
partial collapse.
Re-entrant corners
The re-entrant, lack of continuity or "inside" corner
is the common characteristic of overall building
Figure 5 showing unbalanced location of
configurations that, in plan, assume the shape of perimeter
an L,T,H,+,
or tocombination
wall leading
torsional forcedof
shapes occurs due to lack of tensile capacity and forces
corners of
collapse in Alaska
the building are subjected to two types of problems. The first is that they tend to produce
variation in rigidity, and hence differential motions between different parts of the building,
resulting in a local stress concentration at the notch of the re-entrant corner. The second problem
is torsion. In figure, an L-shaped building is subjected to a ground motion of Alaska earthquake,
attempt to move differently at their notch, pulling and pushing each other. So the stress
concentration are high at notch. To avoid this type of damage, either provide a separation joint
between two wings of the building or tie the building together strongly in the system of stress
concentration and locate resistance elements to increase the tensile capacity at re-entrant corner.
Non-parallel system
The vertical load resisting elements are not parallel
or symmetrical about the major orthogonal axis of
the lateral force resisting system. This condition
results in a high probability of torsional forces under
a ground motion, because the center of mass Figure 6 showing damage concentration at the
and resistance does not coincide. This problem intersection of two wings of an L-shaped school, Alaska
is often exaggerated in the triangular or wedge
shaped buildings resulting from street inter-sections
at an acute angle. The narrower portion of the
building will tend to be more flexible than the wider
ones, which will increase the tendency of torsion. To
design these types of buildings, special care must be
exercised to reduce the effect of torsion or to increase torsional resistance of the narrow parts of
the building.
Figure 7 showing building collapse at intersection of glouster
and mancester streets, Lorca eartquake, 2011


Diaphragm Discontinuity
The diaphragm is a horizontal resistance element that transfer between vertical resistance
elements. The diaphragm discontinuity may occur with abrupt variations in stiffness, including

those having cut-out or open areas greater than 50% of the gross enclosed diaphragm area, or
change in effective diaphragm stiffness of more
than 50% from one storey to the next. The
diaphragm acts as a horizontal beam, and its edge
act as flanges. It is obvious that opening cut in
tension flanges of a beam will seriously weaken its
load carrying capacity. In a number of buildings
there has been evidence of roof diaphragms, which
is caused by tearing of the diaphragm.


Figure 8 showing failure resulting from diaphragm

flexibility in Loma Prieta, 1989.

IS 1893, criteria for earthquake resistant design of structure (part 1) General Provision and
buildings, Bureau of Indian Standard, 2002.

Pankaj Agarwal and Manish shrikhande, Earthquake Resistant Design of Structure, July 2014.
S.k. Duggal, Earthquake Resistant Design of Structure, 2013.