Structures incorporating damping devices: Are we correct in our design thinking?


  • Athol J. Carr Professor Emeritus, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
  • Arun M. Puthanpurayil Beca
  • Richard Sharpe Senior Technical Director, Earthquake Engineering, Beca, Wellington
  • Rob Jury Chief Engineer, Structural Engineering, Beca, Wellington



The use of discrete damping devices in New Zealand buildings is increasing as designers seek to limit damage to both architectural and structural building elements in moderate earthquakes.  The overall damping of the structure becomes a combination of inherent material damping, hysteretic damping from yielding of building elements at specific locations and damping from discrete devices.  For over 60 years, engineers have used simplified analysis procedures (e.g., modal response spectrum analysis) to predict building response under seismic actions.  The design of structures incorporating viscous dampers requires a paradigm shift in approach as the force each damper resists is a function of the relative velocity between its ends.  Popular pseudo-static design methodologies promote the use of a viscous strut in the analysis model to represent them.  However, it is incorrect to use elastic, mode-based analysis for a structure incorporating damping devices and relying on significant inelastic behaviour.  This paper elucidates the complex mechanics of damper-structure interaction by reviewing some of the established classical, modal‑based, simplified analysis techniques used in seismic design.  A series of numerical investigations demonstrate how these techniques are usually invalid for structures that incorporate viscous dampers because they violate the laws of physics. The reason why mode-based techniques are invalid is explored with reference to the imaginary components of the natural modes of vibration and the effect on them of significant inelasticity within the structure.  The dynamic characteristics of viscous dampers challenge conventional design approaches such as displacement-based design.  This paper establishes that nonlinear time-history analysis is the only meaningful way of predicting the dynamic response of a structure incorporating viscous dampers when significant inelastic behaviour of the structure is expected.


Lord Rayleigh (1877). Theory of Sound. Cambridge University Press, UK.

Love AEH (1892). A Treatise on the Mathematical Theory of Elasticity. Cambridge University Press, UK.

Priestley MJN, Calvi GM and Kowalsky MJ (2007). Displacement-Based Seismic Design of Structures. ISBN: 978-88-6198-0006, IUSS Press, Pavia, Italy, 721pp.

Sullivan TJ and Lago A (2012). “Towards a simplified direct DBD procedure for seismic design of moment-resisting frames with viscous dampers”. Engineering Structures, 35: 140-148. DOI:

ASCE (2017). “ASCE 41: Seismic Evaluation and Retrofitting of Existing Buildings”. American Society of Civil Engineers, USA.

FEMA (2000). “FEMA 369: NEHRP Recommended Provisions for Seismic Regulations for New Buildings and Other Structures”. Building Seismic Safety Council, USA, 460pp.

Carr AJ and Tabuchi M (1993). “Potential problems in design for maximum flexibility”. Proceedings of Tom Paulay Symposium, La Jolla, California. Sept. 20-22, pp 169-187.

Carr AJ (1980-2023). “Ruaumoko2D Users Manual”. Carr Research Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand, 101pp.

Sharpe RD (1974). “The Seismic Response of Inelastic Structures”. PhD Thesis, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Canterbury, New Zealand, 125pp.

Maniatakis CA, Psycharis IN and Spyrakos CC (2013). “Effect of higher modes on the seismic response and design of moment-resisting RC frame structures”, Engineering Structures, 56: 417-430. DOI:

Park R and Paulay T (1975). “Reinforced Concrete Structures”. ISBN:9780471659174, Wiley, USA, 782pp. DOI:

Veletsos AS and Newmark NM (1960). “Effect of inelastic behaviour on the response of simple systems to earthquake motions”. Second World Conference on Earthquake Engineering, July 11-18, Tokyo, Japan, pp 895-912.

Crisp DJ (1980). “Damping Models for Inelastic Structures”. ME Thesis, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Canterbury, New Zealand, 42pp.

Clough RW, Benuska KL and Wilson EL (1965). ”Inelastic earthquake response of tall buildings”. Third World Conference on Earthquake Engineering, Jan 22-1 Feb, Auckland and Wellington, II-68 – II-84.

Andriono T and Carr AJ (1991). “Reduction and distribution of lateral seismic inertia forces on base- isolated multi-storey structures”. Bulletin of NZ Society for Earthquake Engineering, 24(3): 225-237. DOI:

Bathe K-J (1996). Finite Element Procedures. Prentice-Hall, New Jersey, USA.

Marriott D (2017). “A direct displacement-based seismic design procedure for moment frames with nonlinear viscous dampers - Part 1: Development of the design procedure”. Journal of the Structural Engineering Society of New Zealand (SESOC), 30(1).

Wilson EL (2002). “Three-Dimensional Static and Dynamic Analysis of Structures”. CSI Berkeley.

Puthanpurayil AM and Sharpe RD (2022). “Fast & furious: drive your analysis engine carefully”. Annual Conference of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering, April 14-16, New Zealand.

Chopra AK. (2017). Dynamics of Structures, 5th Edition. Pearson, Hoboken, NJ, 960pp.

Clough RW and Penzien J (1993). Dynamics of Structures, 2nd Edition. McGraw-Hill, NY. 738pp.

Veletsos, AS and Ventura CE (1986). “Modal analysis of non-classically damped linear systems”. Earthquake Engineering Structural Dynamics, 14(2). DOI:

Hurty WC and Rubinstein MF (1964). Dynamics of Structures. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 455pp.

Liang Z and Lee GC (1991). “Damping of Structures – Part 1: Theory of Complex Damping”. Technical Report NCEER-91-0004. University of Buffalo, NY. 248pp.

Adhikari S (2000). “Damping Models for Structural Vibration”. PhD Thesis, University of Cambridge, UK.

Chang CJ, Elghadamsi FE and Mohraz B (1989). “Modal analysis of nonlinear systems with nonclassical damping”. American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc. DOI:

Caughey TK and Kelly MEJ (1965). “Classical normal modes in damped linear dynamic systems”. Journal of Applied Mechanics, 32(3): 583-588. DOI:

Wilson EL and Penzien J (1972). “Evaluation of orthogonal damping matrices”. International Journal for Numerical Methods in Engineering, 4(1). DOI:

Caughey TK (1960). “Classical normal modes in damped linear systems”. Journal of Applied Mechanics, 27: 269-271. DOI:

Puthanpurayil AM, Lavan O, Carr AJ and Dhakal RP (2016). “Elemental damping formulation: An alternative modelling of inherent damping in nonlinear dynamics”. Bulletin of Earthquake Engineering, 14: 2405-2434. DOI:

Engelkirk RE (2003). Seismic Design of Reinforced and Precast Concrete Buildings. Wiley, 848pp.




How to Cite

J. Carr, A., M. Puthanpurayil, A., Sharpe, R., & Jury, R. (2024). Structures incorporating damping devices: Are we correct in our design thinking?. Bulletin of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering, 57(1), 43–57.