Track 2: DESIGN - PLANNING THE CONSERVATION OF HISTORIC PLACES / Volet 2 : Conception - Planifier la conservation de lieux historiques

Seismic behavior and assessment of masonry heritage structures

Friday, October 13
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM

The seismic behavior of ancient masonry buildings is particularly difficult to characterize and depends on several factors, namely the materials properties, the geometry of the structure, the connections between structural and non-structural elements, the stiffness of the horizontal diaphragms and building condition.
Masonry is a heterogeneous material that consists of units and joints. The mechanical behavior of the different types of masonry has generally common features: high specific mass, low tensile and shear strengths and low ductility (brittle behavior). In general, the ancient masonry structures were designed for vertical static loads (compressive behavior) not taking into account the high inertial loads caused by earthquakes.
In general, historical buildings do not present stiff floors able to provide diaphragmatic action, the so-called “box behavior”. This type of structures exhibited poor performance in many past earthquakes. Research conducted on flexible diaphragms showed that flexible diaphragms provides the following results: (a) supports at floors to behave as a spring support; (b) large deformation capacity and high strength of the floor with respect to its mass. Failure mechanisms of flexible diaphragms are related to the lack or weak connections between the masonry walls and diaphragms; (c) highly non-linear hysteretic behavior when peak ground acceleration is high; (d) strengthening of the horizontal diaphragms as a natural solution even if an increase of the in-plane stiffness per se is not enough to improve the global response of the building.
In this paper, first examples of shaking table tests on masonry structures are presented and discussed, stressing the differences between in-plane and out-of-plane failure mechanisms. Subsequently, the methods usually used for practice and research in Europe, for the seismic assessment of heritage structures are briefly reviewed, namely limit analysis using macro-blocks, pushover analyses with several load distributions, and non-linear dynamic analysis with time integration. Finally, examples of emblematic monuments and engineering applications of these methods are shown.

Learning Objectives:

Paulo B. Lourenco

University of Minho

Paulo B. Lourenço, Structural Engineer, Full Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Minho, Portugal. Head of the Structural Group and Co-Head of the Institute in Sustainability and Innovation in Structural Engineering (
Editor of the International Journal of Architectural Heritage. Coordinator of the International Master in Structural Analysis of Monuments and Historical Constructions (
Main research interests are NDT, advanced experimental and numerical techniques, innovative strengthening techniques, and earthquake engineering. Supervisor of 40+ completed PhD theses and author of 1000+ publications. Specialist in structural repair, conservation and strengthening, with consulting works in 100+ monuments worldwide, with works in several World Heritage sites, such as Cathedral of Porto, Monastery of Jeronimos (Lisbon), Castle of Guimaraes, Qutb Minar (New Delhi, India), Canterbury Cathedral (UK), Christchurch Cathedral (NZ), Ica Cathedral (Peru) or San Sabastian Basilica (Manila, Philippines).


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