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Novelties in Masonry Seismic Design

 Presented by Daniel P. Abrams

 Willett Professor Engineering

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Erskine Visiting Professor

University of Canterbury, NZ

Wellington Presentation: Tuesday 6th May 2014

in lecture theatre LT2 at VUW, Faculty of Architecure & Design, Vivian Street.

Drinks & nibbles starting ar 5:30pm, Presentation at 6:00pm

Auckland Presentation: Wednesday 7th May 2014 

in Room 1.439 (new circular lecture theatre) at University of Auckland, Faculty of Engineering, Symonds Street.

Drinks & nibbles starting ar 5:30pm, Presentation at 6:00pm

Video recording link:


Presentation Abstract

Reflections on advancements in seismic engineering of masonry buildings over the last five decades will be given in a retrospective tone.  Innovations, or novelties, in former seismic design methods will be emphasized as well as their shortfalls. The evolution of seismic design will be covered from early methodologies based on empirical rules, to modern methods for proportioning strength or limiting displacements to enhance performance and curtail damage.  Current design methods will be contrasted with historic ones to help identify trends, and to speculate on future design approaches.

In particular, reference will be made to seismic engineering of masonry buildings with a global view of design and construction practices in New Zealand and the United States.   Several examples will be given from past research on earthquake resistance of masonry structures.  These will include research findings from experiments on unreinforced masonry piers, shear walls, out-of-plane walls, infill panels and complete building systems, as well as structural building systems constructed of reinforced masonry, and new options for mixing masonry elements with steel frames.  Suggestions will be made for novel new methods in seismic design that will advance earthquake-tolerant masonry building construction.

Speaker Biography

Daniel P. Abrams is a Willett Professor of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  He is a member of the structural engineering faculty at Illinois and specializes in earthquake resistant masonry construction.   He is active in structural engineering education and research, and has written over 160 publications on seismic response of concrete or masonry buildings.  From March 1 to June 1, 2014, he is visiting the University of Canterbury as an Erskine Professor.

Dr. Abrams was responsible for writing the masonry chapter of the new NEHRP Guidelines for Seismic Rehabilitation of Buildings (FEMA 273/356). He chaired the Building Seismic Safety Council’s Technical Subcommittee 5 on Masonry Structures for the 1997 Update of the NEHRP Recommended Provisions for Seismic Regulations for New Buildings.  He is a past chair of the EERI Experimental Research Committee, has testified at U.S. congressional hearings in support of the reauthorization of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act, and has served as a member of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Scientific Earthquake Studies Advisory Committee, which oversees the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program. Dr. Abrams is the founding director of the NSF sponsored Mid-America Earthquake Center, and is a past President of The Masonry Society. He presently serves on the Masonry Standards Joint Committee and chairs the Seismic Subcommittee.