Passive control of structures for seismic loads

  • Ian G. Buckle University of Nevada, Reno, USA


The control of structures to improve their performance during earthquakes was first proposed more than a century ago. But it has only been in the last 25 years that structures have been successfully designed and built using earthquake protective systems. Today these systems range from simple passive devices to fully active systems. This paper focuses on passive control and reviews recent developments in the state-of-the-art.

Passive systems include tuned mass dampers, seismic (base) isolation systems, mechanical energy dissipators, and the like. Major developments in the theory, hardware, design, specification, and installation of these systems have permitted significant applications to buildings, bridges, and industrial plant. Applications are now found in almost all of the seismically active countries of the world, but principally in Italy, Japan, New Zealand and the United States. Noteworthy advantages have been demonstrated when retrofitting existing structures, and designing high-performance structures such as hospitals, emergency response facilities, defense installations, and critical bridges. Field experience in recent earthquakes has confirmed these expectations.

There are however limitations to the use of passive systems and these deserve further study and research. They include the uncertainty of response in the near field of an active fault, the non- optimal behavior of passive systems for both small and large earthquakes, and a lack of certainty about the ultimate limit states in unexpectedly large events. As a consequence, in some jurisdictions, code provisions for passive systems are more onerous than for conventional construction, which is a strong disincentive to their use. The limited availability of design guidance in text books, code commentaries, and other design aids are further impediments to the wider use of these systems.


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How to Cite
Buckle, I. G. (2000). Passive control of structures for seismic loads . Bulletin of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering, 33(3), 209-221.