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Copyright © 1996 IFAC 5a-052

13th Triennial World Congress, San Francisco. USA

EARTHQUAKE PROTECTION THROUGH SEISMIC ISOLATION

James M. Kelly

Earthquake Engineering Research Center


University of California at Berkeley

Abstract: The basic problem in designing earthquake-resistant low- to medium-rise structures it that their fundamen-
tal frequency of vibration is in the range of frequencies where earthquake energy is the strongest. The building.
therefore. acts as an amplifier of the ground vibrations. with the floor accelerations increasing over the height of the
building. The goal of the seismic design should be to reduce the accelerations in buildings to below the level of the
ground accelerations. To do this the building must be flexible.the necessary flexibility can only be achieved by using
base isolation at the foundation level. Mter a slow start. the use of isolation is increasing rapidly in the United States
for buildings, retrofit. bridges, and certain types of industrial structures. The concept was met initially by consider-
able skepticism by the structural engineering community. but is now on the leading edge of seismic design and is
being selected where levels of earthquake protection beyond code minimums are required.

Keywords: seismic isolation. seismic retrofit, earthquake-resistant design. rubber bearings. earthquake protective
systems.

1. INTRODUCTION out due to wind loads. partition walls may crack. and floors
may vibrate under foot. For a low- or medium-rise building.
A basic problem in designing earthquake-resistant low-to the necessary flexibility can only be achieved by using base
medium-rise structures is that their fundamental frequency of isolation at the foundation level.
vibration is in the range of frequencies where earthquake
energy is the strongest; therefore. the building acts as an Recent developments in rubber technology have made the
amplifier of the ground vibrations, with the floor accelera- idea of base isolation a practical reality. Rubber bearings are
tions increasing over the height of the building. These ampli- now used almost everywhere as thermal expansion bearings
fied accelerations cause stresses in the frame and interstory for bridges. The mechanical roller or rocker bearings that
drifts, which may damage the columns between floors. In had been used previously had a number of problems associ-
addition, the amplified accelerations at each floor act on the ated with them: they were vulnerable to attacks by salt. had
contents and occupants of the floor and can cause severe atendency to lock-up, and performed badly in earthquakes.
damage to these contents even when no damage occurs to the The rubber bearings that replaced them are inexpensive.
structure itself. durable, and reliable. some now having been in service for
over twenty-five years. Many buildings in Europe and the
The goal of the seismic design should be to reduce the accel- United Kingdom have been built on rubber bearings to iso-
erations in buildings to below the level of the ground acceler- late them from vibrations from underground railways. and
atioos. To do this the building must be flexible. Incorporating these bearings have performed well over substantial periods
flexibility in a structural frame may cause windows to fall of time.

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Bearings used to isolate structures from earthquake loads undergone seismic retrofit with base isolation includes the
were directly patterned after these thermal expansion bear- following:
ings and are manufactured in the same way; the only differ-
ences between them are in the proportions of rubber to steel Foothill Communities Law and Justice Center. Rancho
and in the deformations for which they are designed. Cucamonga. California;
Rockwell International Office Building. Seal Beach.
Seismic isolation in the U.S. has been applied mainly to
California (retrofit of existing building);
buildings that house sensitive. expensive. or dllnji!:erous con-
tents. There are code requirements for the design of isolated County of Los Angeles Fire Command and Control Cen-
buildings incorporated into the Uniform Building Code ter. East Los Angeles. California;
[ICBO. 1994] and the State of California has design require-
Martin Luther King. Jr./Charles Drew Medical Center
ments for hospitals built in California [OSHPD. 1989] that
Ambulatory Care Center. Willowbrook. California;
use isolation. These code requirements are much more con-
servative than those for conventional construction. requiring Veterans Administration Medical Center. Long Beach.
"essentially elastic behavior" at the Design Basis Earth- California (retrofit of existing building. currently under
quake. incorporating near fault requirements. and requiring construction);
that the design be checked for Maximum Credible Earth-
University of Southern California Hospital. Los Ange-
quakes. These requirements give a degree of confidence that
les. California (first base-isolated hospital in California.
the design will achieve a certain level of damage control. but
completed in 1990);
will definitely result in a structure with a first cost that will be
5%-10% more than a code minimum. fixed-base structure. Los Angeles City Hall. Los Angeles. California (retrofit
Accordingly. only buildings for which a required perfor- of existing building. in design development. construc-
mance criterion post-earthquake. such a fully functional or tion scheduled for near future);
fully operational. will be considered as justifying isolation.
County of San Bernardino Medical Center. San Bemar-
dino. California (currently under construction);
Although there are no code requirements yet for seismic ret-
rofit of buildings. isolation has also been used in the United Emergency Operations Center. County of Los Angeles.
States for the retrofit of historic structures; notable among Los Angeles. California;
these are the City and County Building in Salt Lake City. the
Kaiser Regional Data Center. Corona. California;
Mackay School of Mines at the University of Nevada at
Reno. and the Oakland City Hall. Construction has begun CalTrans Fmergency Control Center. Keamy Mesa
shortly on the seismic retrofit of San Francisco City Hall and (near San Diego). California (currently under construc-
the will begin shortly on Los Angeles City Hall using isola- tion).
tion. When completed. the Los Angeles City Hall will be the
It is no coincidence that most of these base isolation projects
largest. tallest isolated structure in the world. Seismic
are for buildings that must remain operational during and
strengthening of the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge will
after a major earthquake. such as medical centers and emer-
incorporate seismic isolators in the approach spans on both
gency operations centers. Owned predominantly by city.
sides of the bridge.
county. or state agencies. these buildings house expensive
equipment and have non-structural components whose func-
Mter a slow start. the use of isolation is increasing rapidly in
tionality is essential.
the United States for buildings. retrofit. bridges. and certain
types of industrial structures. The concept was met initially
In northern California there are fewer isolated buildings with
by considerable skepticism by the structural engineering
only one new building having been completed. the San Fran-
community. but it is now at the leading edge of seismic
cisco Main Library. There are three significant retrofit
design and is being selected where levels of earthquake pro-
projects completed or underway: the Oakland City Hall. the
tection beyond code minimums are required.
San Francisco Court of Appeals. and the San Francisco City
Hall. respectively. Several other projects. both for new and
retrofit construction. are currently in the proposal phase.
2. BASE ISOLATION PROJECfS IN
Some of the base-isolated projects in California that have
CALIFORNIA
been recently completed or about to begin construction are
described in more detail below.
Base isolation has been used most extensively in the United
States in southern California. Beginning approximately ten
years ago. the list of new buildings and buildings that have

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2.1 Oakland City Hall Retrofit Project given in Walters et a1. [1995].

Built in 1914. Oakland City Hall was the tallest building on 2.2 Traffic Management Center, Kearny Mesa, California
the west coast at the time of its construction. It was super-
ceded in that capacity by the Los Angeles City Hall built in Emergency control centers are examples of essential facili-
1926. The seismic rehabilitation of Oakland City Hall using ties. buildings that must remain functional during and after a
base isolation has just been completed and it is now the tall- major earthquake. Such buildings are not designed according
est seismically-isolated building in the world. It is due to be to the provisions of the Uniform Building Code. but with
once more superceded within a few years when the seismic performance-based requirements similar to those applied for
rehabilitation of the Los Angeles City Hall is completed. and hospitals. It is not surprising that several such centers are
the Los Angeles structure will then become the tallest seis- seismically isolated because isolated buildings are less
mically-isolated building in the world. expensive to build than conventional buildings when com-
pared on a performance-based assessment.
Nineteen stories high and 97.5 m (320 ft) tall. the Oakland
City Hall has a full basement. a 3-story podium. a lO-story The most recent example of an isolated emergency center is
office tower. and a 2-story base for the clock tower. that is the construction of a 2-story Traffic Management Center for
itself 26.5 m (87 ft) high. The structure of the building is a Caltrans in Kearny Mesa. California near San Diego. The
riveted steel frame with infill masonry walls of brick. granite. superstructure has a steel frame with concentrically-braced
and terra cotta. Because of extensive damage from the 1989 panels at the perimeter. The isolation system has 40 high-
Loma Prieta. California earthquake. this building had been damping natural rubber isolators provided by Bridgestone
closed since the earthquake. Rubber Co. of Japan. The isolators. Bridgestone compound
KL301. are 600 mm (24 in.) in diameter. The nominal isola-
The interior of the building housing the city council cham- tion period is around 2.5 sec and the maxinlum credible iso-
bers and the city offices is extremely ornate. Because the lator displacement is around 254 mm (10 in.). The design
building is listed on the historic register. any retrofit strategy base shear for the superstructure is around 15% of the struc-
would require preserving the interior architecture and the tural weight. This design is quite conservative and the struc-
historic fabric. After extensive studies. it was concluded that ture is very stiff. The expected interstory drift at the MCE is
a seismic isolation retrofit was the best solution. This might not expected to exceed 0.1 %. implying that there will be very
seem unlikely at first sight. The original building had a little non-structural damage. even at the MCE.
period of around 2 sec and it is located 5 km from the Hay-
ward fault. which has been assessed by seismologists to have Because the isolators were tested to a shear strain of 280%
=
a 44% probability of producing an earthquake. M 7. on the before delivery (with an MCE strain of less than 100%). the
northern segment of the Hayward fault within the next 30 isolators are unlikely to be damaged in the event of an earth-
years [Dames and Moor. 1990]. As mentioned above. isolat- quake of unanticipated magnitude. In addition. there is no
ing a structure can significantly reduce its interstory drift. moat around the structure. and. hence. no wall; therefore.
thereby mitigating damage to brittle infill and historic fin- there is no possibility of an impact on the superstructure in
ishes. Stiffening elements were added to the tower and cou- such an event. thus eliminating the possibility of high floor
pled to horizontal trusses in the basement to transfer the accelerations that could effect sensitive equipment. For more
shear to the isolation system. This reduced the fixed-base information on this project. see Walters et al. [1995].
period of the building to 1.3 sec.
23 Los Angeles City Hall
The isolation system uses a combination of 36 lead-rubber
bearings and 75 ordinary rubber bearings. The bearings A notable example of an isolation retrofit project [Youssef et
range from 737 mm (29 in.) to 940 mm (37 in.) in diameter al., 1995] aboot to begin construction is the Los Angeles City
and are 445 mm (17.5 in.) tall. A moat was constructed Hall, a 32-story steel frame building built in 1926. The total
around the building to provide a seismic gap of 508 mm (20 floor area is close to 92.900 sq. meters (one million sq.ft.).
in.). The installation of these isolators was a very compli- The lateral resistance is provided by several different ele-
cated process and required shoring up of the columns. cut- ments, including steel cross-bracing, reinforced concrete
ting of the columns. and the transfer of the column loads to walls. and interior clay hollow core tile walls. with the most
temporary supports. In order to protect the interior. the col- of the superstructure's stiffness provided by masonry infill
umns were raised not more than one-tenth of an inch during perimeter walls. There was some damage to the building in
the jacking process. The cost of the retrofit was very substan- the January 17, 1994 Northridge earthquake, with the most
tial - in the range of $50 million U.S - and the isolators severe damage occurring on the 25th and 26th floors -the
were around 4% of that figure. Details of the retrofit are characteristically soft stories.

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The retrofit scheme will use 560 high-damping natural rub- 3. ISOLATION SYS1EM DEVELOPMENT
ber isolators, which are to be supplied by Bridgestone Rub-
ber Co. of Japan, and supplemented by 52 mechanical Sliding systems have been the subject of much recent
viscous dampers at the isolation level. In addition, 12 viscous research at National Center for Earthquake Engineering
dampers will be installed between the 24th and 26th floors to Research (NCEER), both for buildings and bridges. In addi-
control story drifts. The total cost of this retrofit is around tion, NCEER has conducted studies on the frictional charac-
$150 million U.S., the isolators comprising $3.5 million of teristics of PfFE (Teflon) surfaces [Mokha et aI., 1988]
that figure. [Mokha et al., 1990] Constantinou et al., 1990]. One system
that has been developed is the Frictional Pendulum System
2.4 Response of LAC/use Hospital in 1994 Northridge (FPS) [Zayas et al.,1990] in which the structure is supported
Earthquake on spherically-shaped bearings with the load being applied
through a small area covered by a high-strength composite
Many of the base-isolated buildings in southern California material. The FPS was used to retrofit an apartment building
have experienced earthquakes, but the with exception of the in San Francisco damaged by the 1989 Loma Prieta earth-
University of Southern California hospital in Los Angeles in quake and is being used for the retrofit of a large Federal
the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the ground motions have Court building in San Francisco [Amin and Mokha, 1995].
been small. In the Northridge earthquake, the free-field peak
ground acceleration was 0.49g, and in the basement under
the isolation system the peak acceleration was 0.37g. 4. FUTURE DIRECTIONS IN BASE
Throughout the structure, the floor accelerations were in the ISOLATION
range of 0.10 to O.13g, with an acceleration of 0.22g on the
roof of a penthouse at the sixth-story level. The maximum It is clear that the increasing acceptance of base isolation
displacements of the isolators was around 2.5 cm, and the throughout the world will lead to many more applications of
period of major response was around l.5 seconds. The this technology. The initial scepticism that was so prevalent
design displacement for the system is around 40 cm at a when elastomeric systems were initially proposed is no
period of 2.5 seconds. Some nearby buildings in this hospital longer evident, and the newer approaches that are under
complex were very badly damaged and had to be closed. development will benefit from this more receptive climate
This represents a degree of success for the isolation approach and lead to a variety of systems based on different mecha-
and has led to an increase in tk number of projects being nisms and materials.
considered for isolation.
For all systems, the most important area for future research is
2.5 Other Isolation Projects in the U.S. that of the long-term stability of the mechanical characteris-
tics of the isolator and its constituent materials. The loog-
There are several new isolation projects in the U.S. outside term performance of isolators can best be developed from
of California that are completed or under construction. A inspection and rete sting of examples that have been in ser-
large office building has recently been completed in Mem- vice for many years. Elastomeric systems in the form of non-
phis, Tennessee for the automobile parts retailing company seismic bridge bearings have been used for upwards of thirty
AutoZone. This building, 8-stories tall with a floor area of years and a record of satisfactory performance has been
23,226 sq. meters (250,000 sq.ft.), houses the company's established [Stevenson, 1985] ITaylor et al.. 1992].
computer equipment. The isolation system was supplied by
D.I.S. and is comprised of 24 lead-rubber isolators and 19 Despite recent advances in base isolation research, the wide-
high-damping natural rubber isolators. The total cost of con- spread application of this technology is still impeded by
struction of the building, including the isolation system, was over-conservative attitudes. For example, in the ns., the
$27 million U.S. This project represents one of the very few number of bureaucratic mandates (i.e., feasibility studies,
privately-sponsored base isolation projects in the United peer reviews, and plant and site inspections) that an engineer
States. must satisfy in order to isolate a structure make it remarkable
that anyone does a base-isolated project. Unless bearings
Two other base-isolated buildings are under construction in become a catalog commodity with certified characteristics
Oregon. One is a new laboratory for the Portland Water and allied to reasonably simple design and analysis proce-
Bureau and the other is the retrofit of Campbell Hall, a build- dures that promote the benefits of base isolation, this tech-
ing on the campus of the Western Oregon State College in nology will remain difficult to implement and restricted to a
Monmouth, Oregon. Both use lead-rubber isolators supplied few projects a year. More importantly, while base isolation
byD.I.S. provisions are now in the Uniform Building Code, the
requirements are so conservative that the potential advan-

5539
tages of using base isolation (reduced-design requirements in and Applications. 5:25l
the superstructure) are lost. Taylor. A.w.. A.N. Lin and J.W. Martin (1992). "Perfor-
mance of Elastomers in Isolation Bearings: A Litera-
Many of the completed base-isolated buildings have experi- ture Review." Earthq. Spectra. 8(2):279-304.
enced earthquakes and their performance has been as pre- Walters. MJ.. B. Honeck and E. Elsesser (1995). "Use of
dicted. With the exception of the USC Medical Center in the Seismic Isolation in New and Retrofit Construction."
1994 Northridge earthquake. these earthquakes have been Proc .• Joint ASME/JSME Pressure Vessels and Piping
either nearby and small or have been moderate and distant. Conf.. Seismic Shock and Vibration Isolation. Hono-
so that the accelerations experienced by isolated structures lulu, Hawaii. PVP-Vol. 319:22-228.
have not been large. As more isolated buildings are built in Youssef. N., B. Nuttall. A Rahman and 0, Hata (1995).
earthquake-prone regions of the world. we can anticipate "Passive Control of the Los Angeles City Halt" Proc ..
learning more about the behavior of such structures and it Joint ASMEflSME Pressure Vessels and Piping Conf..
will be possible to reduce the degree of conservatism that is Seismic Shock and Vibration Isolation. Honolulu.
currently present in the design of these structures. Once there Hawaii. PVP-Vol. 319:241-248.
is sufficient data detailing the response of base-isolated Zayas, VA, S.S. Low and S.A. Mahin (1990). "A Simple
buildings to major earthquakes. the next step is an alignment Pendulum Technique for Achieving Seismic Isolation,"
of the codes for fixed-base and isolated structures with a Earthq. Spectra, 6(2):317-334.
common code based on a specified level of seismic hazard
and structural performance. paving the way for cost-effective
application of this new technology for those building types
for which it is appropriate.

5. REFERENCES

Amin. N. and A Mokha (1995). "U.S. Court of Appeals


Buildings: Seismic Isolation Implementation." Proc .•
Joint ASMEflSME Pressure Vessels and Piping Conf.•
Seismic Shock and Vibration Isolation. Honolulu.
Hawaii. PVP-Vol. 319:229-240.
Constantinou. M.C.. A. Mokha and A.M. Reinhom (1990).
"Tefion Bearings in Base Isolation. 11: Modeling. J.
Struc. Engrg .. 1990. 116(2):455-474.
Dames and Moore. Inc. (1990). "Report on the Site Specific
Seismic Hazard Analysis. Oakland City Hall. Oakland.
California for the City of Oakland." San Francisco.
Calif.
International Conference of Building Officials (1994).l1ni:.
form Buildina Code. "Earthquake Regulations for Seis-
mic-Isolated Structures". Appendix Chapter 16.
Mokha. A. M.C. Constantinou and AM. Reinhom (1988).
"Teflon Bearings in Aseismic Base Isolation: Experi-
mental Studies and Mathematical Modeling." Report
No. NCEER-88-0038. Nat. Center for Earthq. Engrg.
Res .. Buffalo. N.Y.
Mokha. A. M.C. Constantinou and AM. Reinhom (1990).
"Teflon Bearings in Base Isolation. I: Testing." J. Struc.
Engrg .• 116(2):438-454.
Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development
(1989). "An Acceptable Procedure for the Design and
Review of California Hospital Buildings Using Base
Isolation." State of California.
Stevenson. A. (1985). "Longevity of Natural Rubber in
Structural Bearings." Plastics and Rubber Processing

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