Crack initiation and propagation in unreinforced masonry specimens subjected to repeated in-plane loading during light damage

  • Paul A. KorswagenEmail author
  • Michele Longo
  • Edwin Meulman
  • Jan G. Rots


In recent years, gas extraction in the northern part of the Netherlands has been causing low-magnitude, induced, shallow earthquakes. Besides safety, the prediction and evaluation of ‘light’ damage due to these induced ground motions is important, as it is related to economic and serviceability losses, and societal unrest. An experimental and numerical campaign is ongoing at Delft University of Technology, aiming to improve the knowledge of the underlying physics of crack initiation and propagation in unreinforced masonry (URM) structures typical in the Netherlands. A damage scale and damage parameter are defined herein in order to objectively quantify cracking damage as a function of the number, length, and width of cracks in masonry walls. The cracking mechanisms are studied for URM walls and spandrels subjected to in-plane loading. Displacements, strains, and loads under which cracking starts and propagates are evaluated and correlations are sought. The Digital Image Correlation measuring system is used to accurately detect crack formation and the evolution of the cracking pattern. This is also utilised to validate and calibrate non-linear finite element models. From the experiments, drift values are obtained for the light damage state of the masonry walls. A range between 0.3‰ and 1.1‰ is set as belonging to light damage. Moreover, a damage accumulation or material degradation was observed during cyclic testing. Additionally, fracture-mechanics based, micro and macro finite element models are capable of reproducing the repetitive behaviour of the tests.


Unreinforced masonry structures Earthquake damage Crack analysis Digital Image Correlation Damage scale Material degradation 



This research was funded by Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM) under contract number UI67339 ‘Damage sensitivity of Groningen masonry building structures—Experimental and computational studies’, contract holders: Jan van Elk and Jeroen Uilenreef. This cooperation is gratefully acknowledged. The authors also express their gratitude to Piet van Staalduinen for participating in this project and linking it to damage surveys, and to Beatriz Zapico Blanco from Arup for reviewing tasks.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Delft University of TechnologyDelftThe Netherlands

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