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Seismic assessment of existing and strengthened stone-masonry buildings: critical issues and possible strategies


The seismic performance of stone masonry buildings is known to be generally poor with respect to other structural typologies. However, significant differences can be observed for different architectural configurations, structural details and masonry mechanical properties. In particular, the seismic vulnerability of existing stone masonry structures is often governed by local failure modes, typically consisting of out-of-plane overturning of structural portions or crumbling of outer wythes in multi-leaf walls. In buildings with an adequate masonry quality, an overall behaviour controlled by the in-plane capacity of walls can develop and govern the global failure mode, provided that proper connections between perpendicular walls and between walls and floors are effective in contrasting the activation of early local failures. In these cases, the in-plane stiffness of diaphragms (typically vaults and timber floors/roofs) can play a significant role in coupling the response of the different walls, hence controlling the global building capacity. Recent experimental testing campaigns carried out in different laboratories have focused on several aspects of the seismic response of stone masonry buildings and on the effect of several strengthening techniques. The availability of such experimental results allowed validation and improvement of analysis tools and procedures for the assessment of the seismic capacity of existing stone masonry structures. In order to make them available to all practitioners, the research achievements need to be incorporated in codes and guidelines for the assessment and strengthening of existing stone masonry buildings. The procedures currently proposed in several codes are already based on a rational approach, which starts from the acquisition of an adequate structural knowledge level and allows for using nonlinear analysis procedures. They could straightforwardly include new research findings and practical developments.

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This article was inspired by a keynote presentation given at the Vienna Conference on Earthquake Engineering and Structural Dynamics, within a minisymposium organised by Prof. K. Beyer and Dr. T. Wenk, who are gratefully acknowledged. Parts of the presented work have been developed within the framework of the EUCENTRE Executive Projects 2005-08, 2009-12 and 2012-13, and the Reluis Executive Projects 2006-09 and 2010-13, funded by the Italian Department of Civil Protection. Prof. G. Magenes, Dr. A.A. Costa, Dr. A. Galasco, Dr. M. Rota, Dr. I.E. Senaldi and a number of students contributed to the experimental and numerical results presented in this work. The manuscript benefited from the useful suggestions and accurate corrections of two anonymous experts.

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Penna, A. Seismic assessment of existing and strengthened stone-masonry buildings: critical issues and possible strategies. Bull Earthquake Eng 13, 1051–1071 (2015).

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  • Stone masonry
  • Seismic assessment
  • Shaking table tests
  • Multi-body dynamics
  • Equivalent frame