Assessment of RC columns subjected to horizontal and vertical ground motions recorded during the 2009 L'Aquila (Italy) earthquake

L. Di Sarno, A. S. Elnashai, G. Manfredi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


In the aftermath of recent earthquakes there has been substantial field evidence demonstrating that the collapse of several existing structures was caused by the effects of the vertical component of seismic ground motions. Such field evidence has not yet been supported by comprehensive analytical assessment and experimental tests. The present work focuses on preliminary analyses of the seismic response of reinforced concrete (RC) members subjected to horizontal (HGMs) and vertical (VGMs) ground motions recorded during the 2009 L'Aquila (Italy) earthquake. Normalised axial loads in beam-columns as well as the peak ground acceleration ratios between horizontal and vertical ground accelerations are emphasised as they are considered parameters of paramount importance for the assessment of structural components and systems subjected to combined horizontal and vertical ground motions (HVGMs). Results of extensive parametric nonlinear dynamic analyses carried out on simplified structural models are discussed in detail. The sample models comprise cantilever RC columns and a two-storey, two-bay plane frame designed for gravity loads. The structural response quantities for the performed analyses are expressed in terms of axial loads, axial deformations, bending moment-axial load interaction and shear demand/capacity ratios. It is found that the variation of axial loads is significant in columns under HVGMs, especially in compression. For values of normalised axial loads (ν) corresponding to actual RC columns in framed building structures, e.g., normalised axial load ν>0.10, the average increase of the compression load ranges between 174% (ν=0.20) and 59% (ν=0.50). For high values of normalised axial loads the computed axial load-bending moment pairs lie beyond the threshold interaction curves and, in turn, the RC members may fail. The shear demand-to-supply ratio is also detrimentally affected by the high fluctuations of axial loads in the columns. Net tensile forces were computed for columns with low-to-moderate axial gravity preload. In multi-storey framed buildings, the response of central columns is significantly affected by the HVGMs. Reliable seismic performance assessment of framed systems requires that combined HGMs and VGMs should be accounted for in the analyses. Further experimental and numerical research is needed to formulate efficient mechanical models to evaluate the shear capacity of structural members of existing RC framed buildings under earthquake loading.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1514-1535
Number of pages22
JournalEngineering Structures
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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