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THE EFFECT OF EARTHQUAKE RELATED

TREMORS ON BUILDINGS IN MALAYSIA

BY:

Ir Ng Pek Har, BSc, MIEM, PEng


Director

Hadi Golabi, BSc, MSc


Senior Design Engineer

WEB STRUCTURES

Singapore
146 Robinson Road
#05-01 Singapore 068909

Tel : (65) 6223 9208


Fax : (65) 6220 7928
webstruc@webstruc.net
Malaysia
# 1503 Plaza 138
138 Jalan Ampang
50450 Kuala Lumpur
M a l a y s i a

Tel : (603) 2161 0907


Fax : (603) 2161 1907
webkl@webstruc.net

Date : May 2005


Ref : WEB/INFORMATIONDOC.04
THE EFFECT OF EARTHQUAKE RELATED TREMORS ON BUILDINGS IN MALAYSIA

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1: Introduction

2: What causes Earthquakes?

3: Mapping of Areas More Prone To Earthquakes

4: Measurement of Earthquakes

5: An Understanding of The Richter Scale

6: An Understanding of The Response of Buildings to Earthquakes

7: Earthquake Resistant Structures

8: Web Structures Approach Regarding Earthquake Considerations for Design of


Buildings in Malaysia

9: Approximate Guide on Additional Structural Costs for Each Option

References

Glossary of Common Seismic Terms

UBC 97 Seismic Zone Classification for Selected Cities in South East Asia

NOTE:
This is a Web structures Information document which has been compiled for the sole use and benefit of selected clients and associates of
Web Structures.

This Information document is PRIVATE & CONFIDENTIAL. While every attempt has been made to ensure the accuracy of this
compilation, Web Structures recommends that those interested in more in-depth understanding of the concepts touched upon in this
document should refer to relevant standards and expert literature.
THE EFFECT OF EARTHQUAKE RELATED TREMORS ON BUILDINGS IN MALAYSIA

1. INTRODUCTION

It is the aim of this report to provide the reader with a basic understanding of the effects of tremors in
buildings, experienced in Malaysia, arising from the earthquakes off the coast of Sumatra, after the
tsunami-causing earthquake on 26 December 2004. The reader should gain a clearer idea about the
risk factor to the structure of tall buildings and the basic principles governing the behaviour of the
structure in response to the tremors.

Malaysia does not lie in any presently demarcated seismic zone. Hence, there is at present, no code
or regulation requiring buildings to be designed for earthquakes in Malaysia. However, aftermath of
the tsunami and the recurrent tremors, the statutory bodies have announced that they will conduct a
study on this and review the building regulations if necessary.

The Uniform Building Code (UBC97) classifies Malaysia/Kuala Lumpur as seismic zone 1, in a scale
of six seismic zones of 0, 1, 2A, 2B, 3 and 4. The seismic forces recommended in UBC97 for zone 1
fall, by-and-large, within the minimum Notional Horizontal Forces stipulated in the British standards
prevailing in Malaysia. This applies to UBC97 static forces on buildings with reinforced concrete
walls/moment frames of fundamental period of more than 4 seconds, on stiff soil profile with
undrained shear strength between 50 and 100kN/m2.

This report also outlines Web Structures position and approach for the design of current and future
tall buildings in Malaysia, which will be adopted by Web Structures until such time as the statutory
bodies in Malaysia come up with more specific requirements for general design.

2. WHAT CAUSES EARTHQUAKES

The earths crust is not one continuous shell, but comprises of many plates abutting each other.
These plates are called tectonic plates. (Fig.1)

Fig. 1: Tectonic plates of earth

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Though most of us are largely unaware of it, these plates undergo many small movements against
each other. The plates can slide horizontally against each other or pull away from each other to form
new crust or come towards each other causing one plate to dive beneath the other. (Fig.2)

Fig. 2: Different type of plates movements

Most of the time, these movements are quite smooth and are not generally perceptable. But when
these movements involve large plates, the sudden movement causes huge energy to be released in
the form of waves. The waves travel inside the earth and along the ground. These waves are felt by
us as shakes and tremors. We call this event, an earthquake.

The intersecting edges of the tectonic plates are called faults. There are also smaller faults within
each plate but strong earthquakes happen along the bigger and more major faults and the resulting
movement lasts for a longer time (Fig 3)

1000

100
100
Seconds
Kilometers

10
10

1
1
5.5 6 6.5 7 7.5 8
5.5 6 6.5 7 7.5 8
Magnitude Magnitude

Bigger Faults Make Bigger Earthquakes Bigger Earthquakes Last Longer Time

Fig. 3: Relationship between earthquake size, length of faults and duration

South East Asia is made up of the Indian plate, the Australian plate, the Eurasian plate & the
Philippine plate (Fig 4). There are a number of different faults between these plates but most of the
earthquakes in this region is caused by the interaction of the Indian & Australian plates with the
Eurasian plate, which actually forms the Sunda Trench to the south of Indonesia (Fig 5)

The nearer one is to this fault line, the more seismic activity one experiences. Hence, the southern
parts of Malaysia, for example Kuala Lumpur, which lie closer to this fault are more prone to be
affected. All the tremors felt recently in Malaysia are due to the earthquakes along the Sunda Trench.

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Fig. 4: Names of tectonic plates

Sunda trench

Fig. 5: Global distribution of earthquakes

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3. MAPPING OF AREAS MORE PRONE TO EARTHQUAKES

The hazards caused by earthquakes take the form of ground shaking, landslide, liquefaction,surface
faults,tsunamis and tectonic deformations. Which type of hazard occurs depends on the geographical
location and the tectonic conditions such as sliding, pulling away or coming together.

With respect to building design, the main hazard that affects the structure is the effect of ground
shaking.

An earthquake risk map or seismic hazard map gives the correlation between geographical location
and the amount of probable danger experienced in a particular location, if a likely earthquake occurs
on a particular fault. Earthquake risk depends on many factors such as distance of the place from the
nearest faults, ground conditions, amount of tectonic activity along the faults, etc. It is pertinent to
note that a place with a high earthquake risk, meaning greater chances of seismic activity occurring
there, need not necessarily mean that the hazards experienced there are more severe.
Figure 6 shows part of the Global Seismic Hazard map from the Global Seismic Hazard Assessment
Program (GSHAP)

These earthquake risk maps are used together with each countrys seismic design code to design
buildings against earthquake loads.

Except for the UBC97 classification, there are no seismic design codes for Malaysia as it does not
presently lie in a demarcated earthquake-likely zone. But after the tsunami, organizations like
MACRES (Malaysian Centre for Remote Sensing) are carrying out research to prepare the required
risk maps and seismic design codes.

Peak Ground Acceleration

Fig. 6: Global Seismic Hazard Map for South East Asia & Australia by GSHAP

It is helpful to understand that GSHAPs Global Seismic Hazard Map is measured by the magnitude
of peak ground acceleration. This is because when the ground accelerates from its initial stationary
state due to the earthquake waves, the buildings resting on the ground will also be subjected to the
same acceleration. A body that accelerates is subjected to a force that is directly proportional to the
size of that acceleration and the mass of the body. This force causes earthquake loads on the
building.

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By cross referring to the Earthquake Risk Map of Indonesia & Thailand shown in Figure 7 and The
Seismic Hazard Map of 28 March 2005 in Northern Sumatra by USGS (Fig 8), we can reasonably
anticipate that should Kuala Lumpur be assigned an earthquake risk zone, it could be an extension of
the current Indonesian earthquake risk zones. This is based on proximity and the fact that the
tremors in Kuala Lumpur originate from the Sunda Trench earthquake.

Kuala Lumpur

Fig.7: Earthquake Risk Map of Indonesia & Thailand

Seismic Hazard is expressed as peak ground


2
acceleration (PGA) on firm rock, in meters/sec ,
expected to be exceeded in a 50-yr period with a
probability of 10 percent

Fig. 8: Seismic hazard map of 28March northern Sumatra earthquake by USGS

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4. MEASUREMENTOF THE EARTHQUAKES

When an earthquake occurs, the released energy travels as waves. Each earthquake produces
several types of waves that apply forces on buildings in different ways and directions as shown in Fig
9. The P wave is a longitudinal wave that causes regions of compression and expansion like sound
wave while the S wave is a transverse wave that causes the medium to vibrate up and down like a
boat bobbing on a water wave. The P Waves have higher speed than other waves and arrive first. S-
Waves have lowers speed but higher vibration. Other wave type also exist as shown in Figure 9.

P Wave Travel Simulation

S Wave Travel Simulation


Fig. 9: Earthquake waves

Scientists record characteristics of these waves on seismographs, which give information on


acceleration, velocity and displacements caused by the earthquakes at different locations. Once this
information from at least 3 different locations are available, the scientists can calculate the focus of
the earthquake. The point on the surface of the earth, directly above this focus point is called the
epicenter and the distance of the focus point from the surface of the earth gives the depth of the
earthquake (Figs 10 & 11)

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Fig. 10: Mechanism and terms definition of earthquake

Fig. 11: Seismographs and defining the focus point of earthquake

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5. AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE RICHTER SCALE

There are several intensity scales used to measure earthquakes of which the Richter scale is one of
the more popularly known. Figure 12 illustrates that the Richter number depends on the maximum
ground displacement recorded and the distance of the location of the recording seismometer from
the epicenter of the earthquake. Hence, an earthquake reported as magnitude 5 means that at a
distance 220km away from the epicenter, the maximum measured ground displacement is
approximately 23mm. The same magnitude of 5 for the said earthquake would be recorded on
another seismometer located at a distance of 360km where amplitude of 5mm would be recorded.
The salient points are:-

a) The reduction in amplitude decreases rapidly as we go further away from the epicenter as the
Richter scale is a logarithmic scale.

b) The real force exerted by earthquakes on buildings is reduced as the earthquakes travel from the
epicenter through the different layers of the earth. Table 1 shows some approximate relationship
between earthquake intensities and the effects on buildings. The effects are related to
ACCELERATION as this is the factor that creates forces on a particular building.

c) Each earthquake has a single magnitude value, but its effect will vary place to place.

THE RICHTER SCALE

To determine Richter Mangnitude


at varying distance from epicenter,
connect on the chart:

A) Pick the Maximum amplitude


recorded by a standard
seismometer

B) Pick the distance of


seismometer from the epicenter 360
of the earthquake (or difference
in arrival times of P and S
waves)

C) Connect these two points with a


straight line

D) Read the magnitude on the


center scale

Fig. 12: The evaluation of Richter scale based on seismogram of an earthquake

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Approximate Acceleration Effect

- Felt slightly

0.001 - 0.003g Felt indoors

0.003 - .005g Some crackimg

0.005 - 0.01g Some movement. Alarm

0.01 - 0.025g Some damage. Chimneys fall

Panels deformed. Some buildings


0.025 - 0.05g
collapse
Considerable damage. Frames out of
0.05-0.10g
plumb. Masonry buildings collapse
M ost frame structures seriously
0.10 - 0.25g
damaged. Landslides

0.25 - 0.5g Few structures survive

Table 1: Table for approximate description of earthquake intensities

6. AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE RESPONSE OF BUILDINGS TO EARTHQUAKES

Though both wind forces and earthquake loads apply horizontal forces on buildings, there is a major
difference between them. While wind loads damage a building by externally applied pressures,
earthquake damage is caused by internally generated inertial forces induced by vibration of the
buildings mass. The buildings mass, size and shape/configuration are factors that determine the
magnitude of these forces and how well the building can stand up to these forces. The following
points are noteworthy:

a) Inertial forces are measured by the product of mass and acceleration (Newtons F = m x a)
Acceleration is the rate of change of velocity and depends on the nature of the earthquake while
mass depends on the nature of the building. Increase in mass cause increase in the forces.
Hence, lightweight construction is preferred in seismic design as a heavier building is subjected
to more force than a light building with the same height and gross floor area. So one of the ways
to make buildings cost-effective in regions with higher earthquake risk is to use more lightweight
materials, especially for non-structural members like finishes and partitions.

b) Compared to wind loads, the earthquake loads are applied on buildings over a much shorter
period of time in opposite directions (typically the longest period of an earthquake vibration is
only 10-20 seconds). The earthquake load increases from zero to its maximum value in just a
few seconds and then decreases to zero and increases in an opposite direction. Hence,
earthquake loads apply a shock-type effect on buildings.

c) When the height of the building increases, the effect of earthquake loads on it becomes more
severe, with the additional risk of the building undergoing resonance, which causes the
movements to be greatly amplified. This can be destructive.

d) The configuration of lateral force resisting elements in buildings is very important. The continuity
of vertical members and the distribution of these members on plan is the buildings most effective
response to counter earthquake loads. This is because the configuration controls the vibration
period, the damping characteristics of the building and therefore changes the reaction of the
building to earthquake loads.

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7. EARTHQUAKE RESISTANT STRUCTURES

To design a building against earthquakes is to ensure that the structure is capable of resisting the
loads and movements caused by earthquakes, preventing collapse and irreparable damage.

Different types of buildings are categorized under different levels of importance, where seismic
design codes are concerned. Hospitals, power plants, fire stations, communication centers, for
example, are considered high priority buildings and the requirements are therefore more stringent.
Residential and office buildings are considered medium priority which means that the basic structural
frame of the building must not collapse but damages like cracks in partitions and non-structural
members are expected and considered acceptable.

Besides considerations about the resistance of the building against lateral loads, the codes of
practice also limit the lateral sway and acceleration. The lateral sway limit controls the verticality of
structural elements while the acceleration limit provides comfort for the occupants. It is good to note
that usually, a buildings acceleration due to wind loads which lasts longer than earthquake loads, is
more likely the governing factor for acceleration limits. So usually a building that has been checked
for acceleration due to wind loads satisfies the acceleration limits controlling earthquake loads. The
CIRIA Report 102 limits the sideways drift of each storey to be H/200, where H is the storey height.

In summary, the most important considerations in the design of earthquake resistant buildings that
are considered in the seismic design codes of various countries are:

a) The seismic risk depending on geographical location.

b) The classification of the buildings importance.

c) The sites soil conditions

d) The structural characteristics of the building in terms of resistance against lateral loads.

8. WEB STRUCTURESS APPROACH REGARDING EARTHQUAKE CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE


DESIGN OF BUILDINGS IN MALAYSIA

In view of the current situation, whereby buildings in Malaysia have suffered repeated tremors due to
seismic activities in the Sunda Trench and in the interim period while the Malaysian authorities are
carrying out studies to determine changes, if necessary, to the building codes, Web Structures
responds to the concern of clients and end users of buildings designed in Malaysia by offering the
following options:

Option 1) Design and Detail the Structural Frame in Accordance with the Current Standards
Prevailing in Malaysia Notwithstanding the Effects of Recent Tremors

In this option the building will comply with the prevailing Structural Codes Of Practice for
Malaysia and will be designed for the stipulated horizontal loads due to Wind and Notional
Horizontal forces only. The wind loads stipulated are generally not for winds that occur
weekly or monthly, but for maximum wind forces that by probability, could occur say, once
in 30 years, Therefore, by-and-large, most existing buildings in Malaysia which have not
been designed for seismic loads, are still structurally sounds after tremors experienced
recently, though the swaying was perceptible to occupants. Of course we need to bear in
mind that the actual effect as mentioned depends on the specifics of a particular building,
such as height, stiffness, etc.

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Option 2) In Addition to Option 1 Above, Design the Structural Frame to Withstand the Static
Earthquake Loads as Defined in the Uniform Building Code (UBC97) Zone 1

In this option, the structural frame will be designed to the current codes prevailing in
Malaysia; However an additional horizontal static load case for Malaysia which is that
given in the Uniform Building Code (UBC97) is applied to the structural frame.

Option 3) In Addition to Option 1 Above, Design the Structural Frame to Withstand the Static
Earthquake Loads as Defined in one of The Zones Defined in the Indonesian Seismic
Code

Since the source of the tremors in Kuala Lumpur is earthquake in Sunda Trench (off the
coast of the Indonesia island of Sumatra), Web Structures will apply the static loads
specified in the Indonesian Seismic Code for buildings located in the demarcated seismic
zones of Indonesia, to the buildings designed for Kuala Lumpur. With reference again to
Fig 8, these seismic zones are labeled zone 2 (most severe / closest to Sunda Trench) to
zone 6 (no effect/present zone for Kuala Lumpur). Depending upon the level of comfort
desired, our client will have the option of selecting the seismic zone to be designed for.
Then, Web Structures will conduct the computer modeling to assess the response of the
building subjected to the earthquake loads specified for that particular zone. Based on this
analysis, we will be able to DESIGN the building for the seismic condition.

Option 4) In Addition to Option 3 Above, Detail All Structural Components to Strictly Adhere to
the Most Stringent Detailing Requirements of the Indonesian Seismic Code

Though not required by present Malaysian building codes, Web Structures can also then,
DESIGN AND DETAIL the structure in full compliance with the Indonesian Seismic Code,
in addition to the current detailing required by British Standards for Malaysia. This detailing
includes more stringent control of minimum reinforcement sizes and maximum spacing of
bars.

9. APPROXIMATE GUIDE ON ADDITIONAL STRUCTURAL COSTS FOR EACH OPTION

For our clients who want to offer their end-users an additional measure of comfort and more
likelihood of the building complying more closely to any probable amendments to the Malaysian
Structural Code to account for seismic hazards, we recommend any one of options 2, 3 or 4 above.

As a guide, the following approximate cost increases may apply for each option:

Option 1: Basic cost of structural frame


Option 2: 5% more than Option 1
Option 3: 5% to 10% more than Option 1 per seismic zone
Option 4: 10% more than Option 3

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REFERENCES:

1. Uniform Building Code (UBC-91), International Conference of Building Officials, 1991

2. Code of Planning And Practice for Building to Withstand Earthquake (Tata Cara Perencanaan
Ketahanan Gempa Untuk Bangunan Gedung). Badan Standardisasi Nasional BSN ( SNI 03-1726-
2002)

3. CIRIA Report 102, Design of Shear Wall Buildings, Construction Industry Research and Information
Association.

4. The Nature of Ground Motion and its Effect on Building, Christopher Arnold, NISEE ( National
Informational Service for Earthquake Engineering), University of California, Berkeley.

5. Poster of the Sumatra-Andaman Islands Earthquake of 26 December 2004 Magnitude 9.0, USGS
(United States Geological Survey).

6. Poster of the Northern Sumatra Earthquake of 28 March 2005 Magnitude 8.7, USGS (United
States Geological Survey).

7. The GSHAP Global Seismic Hazard Assessment Program, D. Gardini (ETH Zurich, Switzerland),
G.Grunthal (GFZ Potsdam, Germany), K Shedlock (USGS, Golden, CO, USA) and P. Zhang (CSB,
Beijing, China), Global Seismic Hazard Assessment Program, United Nations, 1992 -98

8. International Handbook of Earthquake Engineering, Mario Paz, 1994 Chapman & Hall Inc.

GLOSSARY OF COMMON SEISMIC TERMS:

Earthquake
Earthquake is a term used to describe both sudden slip on a fault, and the resulting ground
shaking and radiated seismic energy caused by the slip, or by volcanic or magmatic activity, or
other sudden stress changes in the earth.

Epicenter
The epicenter is the point on the earth's surface vertically above the hypocenter (or focus), point
in the crust where a seismic rupture begins.

Crust
The crust is the outermost major layer of the earth, ranging from about 10 to 65 km in thickness
worldwide. The uppermost 15-35 km of crust is brittle enough to produce earthquakes.

Earthquake Hazard
Earthquake hazard is anything associated with an earthquake that may affect the normal
activities of people. This includes surface faulting, ground shaking, landslides, liquefaction,
tectonic deformation, tsunamis, and seiches.

Focus/Hypocenter
The hypocenter is the point within the earth where an earthquake rupture starts. The epicenter is
the point directly above it at the surface of the Earth. Also commonly termed as the focus.

Ground Motion
Ground motion is the movement of the earth's surface from earthquakes or explosions. Ground
motion is produced by waves that are generated by sudden slip on a fault or sudden pressure at
the explosive source and travel through the earth and along its surface.

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Intensity
The intensity is a number (written as a Roman numeral) describing the severity of an earthquake
in terms of its effects on the earth's surface and on humans and their structures. Several scales
exist, but the ones most commonly used in the United States are the Modified Mercalli scale and
the Rossi-Forel scale.

Love wave
A Love wave is a surface wave having a horizontal motion that is transverse (or perpendicular) to
the direction the wave is traveling.

Seismometer
A seismograph, or seismometer, is an instrument used to detect and record earthquakes.
Generally, it consists of a mass attached to a fixed base. During an earthquake, the base moves
and the mass does not. The motion of the base with respect to the mass is commonly
transformed into an electrical voltage. The electrical voltage is recorded on paper, magnetic tape,
or another recording medium. This record is proportional to the motion of the seismometer mass
relative to the earth, but it can be mathematically converted to a record of the absolute motion of
the ground.

Richter scale
The magnitude of an earthquake is determined from the logarithm of the amplitude of waves
recorded by seismographs. Adjustments are included for the variation in the distance between
the various seismographs and the epicenter of the earthquakes. On the Richter scale, magnitude
is expressed in whole numbers and decimal fractions. Because of the logarithmic basis of the
scale, each whole number increase in magnitude represents a tenfold increase in measured
amplitude; as an estimate of energy, each whole number step in the magnitude scale
corresponds to the release of about 31 times more energy than the amount associated with the
preceding whole number value.

Tectonic Plates
The tectonic plates are the large, thin, relatively rigid plates that move relative to one another on
the outer surface of the Earth.

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UBC 97 SEISMIC ZONE CLASSIFICATION FOR SELECTED CITIES IN SOUTH EAST ASIA

Note: Zone classification is noted thus 4 for each city.

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