Seismic engineering is the branch of engineering that seeks ways to make structures, including buildings and bridges, resistant to damage from earthquakes. The objective of this field is to develop advanced building techniques that will prevent damage in the event of a minor earthquake as well asavoid a collapse or serious damage in case of a major earthquake.
What is seismic engineering?
Seismic engineering also referred to as earthquake engineering assists in analyzing the interaction between the ground and civil infrastructure, including various consequences of earthquakes on buildings and other structures. One of the primary aims of seismic engineering is proper designing and construction of buildings, in line with existing building codes, so as to reduce the damage due to earthquakes.
This is essentially a multi-phased process which starts with description of the sources of earthquakes, the structural response and characterization of site-effects and covers aspects such as description of different measures of seismic protection.
Primary objectives of seismic engineering
• Foreseeing the potential consequences of severe earthquakes on urban regions and civil infrastructure.
• Designing, construction and maintenance of structures to perform effectively at earthquake exposure in compliance with, and up to the expectations of building codes.
• A properly engineered building doesn’t necessarily have to be extraordinarily strong or expensive. It’s more important that it be properly designed to withstand varying levels of seismic effects while sustaining a more acceptable level of damage.
What seismic engineering design involves
• Typically, seismic engineering design which is part of structural engineering design is office-based work.
• However, there are times when it may involve site visits where site conditions and dimensions etc. are checked.
• The seismic engineers visit the site to determine the available space, as well as height restrictions etc. at the outset.
• Once these dimensions are established, the job involves office work.
• A final visit to the site would be carried out to check whether what has been proposed can actually be built.
• Once the project moves into the construction phase, the job becomes more site work; if any changes arise, the blueprints will have to be taken back to the drafts board which means some more office work will be involved.
• During construction, a resident seismic engineer carries out all the day-to-day supervision and ensures that the structure does exactly what was in the plans.
Various aspects of seismic engineering
The field of seismic engineering is ever-evolving and can include a number of methodologies and research concepts that are used in real-world situations. Some of these concepts and processes include:
• Occurrence modeling
• Ground-motion modeling
• Geophysical modeling
• Nonlinear and stochastic dynamic analysis
• Design and experimentation
Different components of these studies relate to the individual phases; however, they also relate, perhaps more importantly, to the aspects that incorporate all or some of the stages of seismic engineering.
Many recent earthquakes and the tremendous devastation and costs experiencedwhen they struck, has ledto a widening of the scope of seismic engineering to include disciplines fromvarious other fieldsof mechanical and civil engineering. In fact, disciplines such as economics, finance, political science and sociology, all of which are social sciences, are also included in this scope.
What is a seismic Engineer?
A seismic engineer aims to develop various building techniques that will help prevent any damage inminor quakes and avoid more serious damage/collapse in case ofmajor earthquakes.They could be working with local authorities, consultant firms, construction firms, developers and builders, contractors etc.
A seismic engineer is a professional who has a very good understanding of physics, mathematics as well as other sciences. In addition,
• They also have good broad general knowledge and adopt a scientific approach in their work.
• The seismic engineer will develop structural design criteria and seismic hazard maps, develop methods and models for seismic vulnerability and risk assessment.
• The key question that is addressed by seismic engineers is the assessment of losses resulting from any structural damage.
• They develop vulnerability and damage models for individual structures within the reference of performance-based engineering.
• More generic vulnerability models would also be formulated for application over larger regions to different types of structures.
Duties that a seismic engineer performs
A seismic engineer is responsible for designing structures that will remain safe and will be able to withstand minor and major earthquakes. As part of their duties, seismic engineers:
• Investigate both the demands and immediate loads on the structure.
• Likely future changes will be taken into account to ensure a structure is designed to endure those loads.
• Designing new builds that are earthquake resistant.
• Providing engineering solutions to ensure older structures also remain safe
• Design refurbishment solutions to ensure the longevity of existing structures.
Systems and tools thatseismic engineers use
Earthquake engineering has advanced by leaps and bounds and the high rises and other large structures that are part and parcel of the urban landscape require specialized explicit finite element computer coding. Massive and complex structures can be modeled using this type of coding. Aside from this software, analysis processes and systems used in seismic engineering include:
• Structural dynamics
• Modal analysis using FEM
• Earthquake simulation
• Seismic analysis software
• Vibration control
• Applied element method
• Simulation of extreme loading for structures
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