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A macroelement approach to the threedimensional seismic analysis of masonry

Article January 1998





3 authors:
Antonio Brencich

Luigi Gambarotta

Universit degli Studi di Genova

Universit degli Studi di Genova





Sergio Lagomarsino
Universit degli Studi di Genova

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Available from: Sergio Lagomarsino

Retrieved on: 19 April 2016

11th European Conference on Earthquake Engineering 1998 Balkema, Rotterdam, ISBN 90 5410 982 3

A macroelement approach to the three-dimensional seismic analysis

of masonry buildings
A. Brencich, L. Gambarotta & S. Lagomarsino
Department of Structural and Geotechnical Engineering DISEG, University of Genoa, Genoa, Italy

Keywords: Masonry buildings, shear walls, macroelement model, damage, hysteretic response
ABSTRACT: A procedure for the three-dimensional simplified analysis of masonry buildings is
proposed, based on a two nodes macroelement, and formulated so as to take into account the overturning, damage and frictional shear mechanisms experimentally observed in masonry panels. The
overall response of buildings to horizontal forces superimposed to the vertical loads is obtained assembling shear walls and flexible floor diaphragms. The former are made up of both macroelements, representative of piers and spandrels, and rigid elements, representing the undamaged parts
of the walls, which displacements control the kinematics of the shear wall. After the constraints
deriving from the connections of the shear walls between themselves and with the floor diaphragms
are imposed, a reduced non-linear problem is formulated, that is solved through an incrementaliterative procedure, able of representing both force- and displacement- controlled load processes.
Information on the lateral strength of masonry buildings and on the hysteretic response of the postpeak phase can be obtained considering monotonic and cyclic load histories. Finally, an example is
presented to show the capability of the proposed method.
Once the out-of-plane mechanisms have been prevented, the evaluation of the response of masonry
buildings to seismic actions requires to take into account the three-dimensional assembly of shear
walls and floor diaphragms. The former have to sustain both vertical and horizontal loads, while
their mutual co-operation depends on the in-plane stiffness of the floors. All this calls for a complete modelling of the three-dimensional structure, which implies very complex structural models
based on finite element approaches. Moreover, lateral strength is not the only information on the
structural response required to characterise the structural response, and post-peak strain-softening,
cyclic and dynamic responses need to be investigated. To this end, simple models may assume a
great importance in the evaluation of the seismic performance of masonry buildings.
Several simplified models had been proposed: in some of them piers and spandrels are regarded
as macroelements reproducing some collapse mechanisms (Braga & Liberatore 1991, DAsdia &
Viskovic 1994), while in other models the wall is reduced to a frame which columns and beams are
considered as elasto-plastic elements with stiffness and ultimate strength related to the constituent
material and to the geometric configuration (Magenes & Calvi 1996). Modern masonry structures,
and often ancient buildings after structural rehabilitation, present reinforced concrete floors that can
be considered as rigid slabs; the resistance to horizontal actions can then be evaluated floor by floor
considering a system of shear walls, each one characterised by its own elasto-plastic properties
(Braga & Dolce 1982). Although such models may provide good estimates of the lateral strength
of the masonry buildings, the need for more detailed but still simple models, able to include both
damage and dissipative mechanisms, seems to be still without answer.
This paper presents a model based on an assembly of shear walls connected both one to the
other and to the flexible floor diaphragms. Since experimental evidence shows that shear and
overturning damage is localised in some parts of the walls (piers and spandrels) while some other
regions remain almost undamaged, each shear wall is modelled through macroelements, which are

11th European Conference on Earthquake Engineering 1998 Balkema, Rotterdam, ISBN 90 5410 982 3

deformable and undergo damage, and rigid elements, representing the latter parts of the wall. The
macroelement here considered is a generalisation of the panel model proposed by the Authors
(Gambarotta & Lagomarsino 1997.a, Brencich & Lagomarsino 1997), taking into account overturning, damage and frictional sliding mechanisms. The compatibility conditions at the edges require that each pier has the same vertical displacement as the adjacent one; the compatibility conditions between the shear wall and the floor diaphragms are automatically imposed by connecting
the macroelement nodes directly to the floor elements. The reliability of the model is pointed out
from the analysis of a structural system related to the building prototype tested in Pavia (Magenes
et al. 1995): the results of the approximated model point out the flexibility of the procedure and
that, in spite of the simplifying assumptions at the basis of the macroelement constitutive equations,
it is able of estimating quite accurately the peak-load and of representing the damage evolution,
stiffness degradation, strain-softening phase and hysteretic dissipation of the masonry structures.
The macroelement model for masonry buildings here considered is based on an assemblage of twodimensional shear walls connected to each other and to flexible floor diaphragms. In order to reduce the number of d.o.f. of the model, simplifying assumptions on the kinematics of each shear
walls are put forwards. In fact, each shear wall is assumed as consisting of deformable panels,
named macroelements, representative of piers and fascias, and by rigid elements that connect the
piers and the spandrels themselves. This scheme comes out from the observation that, in most
cases, the inelastic and damaging mechanisms in the masonry can be localised in piers and spandrels and are related to both opening of cracks and shear dissipative sliding, while the areas where
they are connected seldom experience any kind of damage. Both these features need to be represented by a simple model and, in fact, are used as the basis for developing the macroelement.















Figure 1. Kinematic (a) and static (b) variables of the macroelement.

The macroelement can be considered as made up of three sub-structures: the bottom and top
layers c and e, in which the extensional and bending effects are thought to be concentrated but
where no shear deformation is allowed, and the central part d, undergoing shear deformations and
which, on the other hand, does not exhibit axial and bending deformation. In this way crack opening is represented, even though it is forced to take place at the extremities of the element, while in

11th European Conference on Earthquake Engineering 1998 Balkema, Rotterdam, ISBN 90 5410 982 3

the central area adequate constitutive equations can be introduced to represent inelastic shear deformation and damage. Assuming the panel defined by the two nodes i and j, each characterised by
the three degrees of freedom in the plane of the wall, a vector of eight d.o.f.s Dt={ui wi i uj wj j
} is obtained for the macroelement, where and are the vertical displacement and rotation of
the central portion d, respectively, figure 1.a. In this description the hypothesis of extremities with
vanishing thickness (a0) is assumed.
The statics of the macroelement, figure 1.b, is described in terms of the macroelement nodal
forces, associated to the nodal and element d.o.f.s of vector Dt and collected in Tt={ni ti mi nj tj
mj v m}. The external forces consist in the weight gs and in the forces tr and tl, originated from
the compatibility conditions at the connections between the shear walls; the latter represent the actions applied to each panel by the adjacent one in order to fulfil the edge compatibility restraints.
The equilibrium of the central part d in the direction of its two internal degrees of freedom and
, provides the following equations:
v= ni nj ( tr tl )h + G,


m= mi mj +tj h ( tr tl ) bh/2,


being G=gsbh=V the weight of the panel.

The non-linear constitutive equations of the macroelement are obtained considering a unilateral
linear elastic response concentrated in the bottom and top layers, which are therefore characterised
by a non-linear elastic response; the coupled damage and frictional shear sliding, typical of masonry, is considered concentrated in the central panel. In this way the axial and bending response is
decoupled from the shear one, as well as the inelastic and damage mechanisms can be considered
separately for the different portions of the macroelement. For the upper and lower layers the constitutive equations link the kinematic variables wi, i (wj, j) to the corresponding static quantities
ni, mi (nj, mj ), they are linear and decoupled up to the limit |m/n|b/6, when the section is no longer
entirely compressed. With reference to substructure c they are given as:
ni=kA (wi)+n*i ,


mi=kAb2(i)+m*i ,


where: A=sb stands for the cross section of the panel. The inelastic contributions ni and mi are
obtained from the unilateral perfectly elastic contact condition as:
n*i =


mi* =

[ i b + 2( wi )] 2 H ( ei 16 b ) ,

[( i )b ( wi )][ i b + 2( wi )]2 H
24( i ) i



16 b ,


being H() the Heaviside function.

The shear response of the panel is modelled considering a uniform shear strain distribution
=(uiuj)/h+ in the central portion d. In this case, the constitutive equations are given as the sum
of a classical linear elastic contribution ti and a non linear addition ti* :
ti =

ui u j + h )+ ti* ,

ti* =


f .
ui u j + h +
h 1 + Gc


The inelastic component depends on the frictional force f, that is assumed to be always in opposition to the sliding mechanisms, and on a damage variable increasing with the shear strain . In

11th European Conference on Earthquake Engineering 1998 Balkema, Rotterdam, ISBN 90 5410 982 3

the frame of the present model, the evolutions of the internal variables f and are obtained in incremental form relying on two limit conditions and on two corresponding flow rules. The friction
condition and the sliding rule, respectively, are assumed in the form:

s = f n 0 ,

 * = f  ,


where: stands for the friction coefficient,  * for the inelastic strain rate and  for the plastic
multiplier. The damage of the macroelement due to the cracking of the central region, is described
by the damage variable [1, +), which evolution is ruled by a limit condition (Gambarotta &
Lagomarsino 1997.b):

d = Y (V) R ( ) 0 ,


where Y = 1/2 c t2 stands for the damage energy release rate, R for a toughness function and V={t n
m}t for the internal forces vector. Assuming an increasing toughness R up to the critical value
c=1, and a decreasing function for higher damage levels, the model is able to represent stiffness
degradation, peak-load and strain softening.
The overall constitutive model for the macroelement may be expressed in the following finite
where T*={ t*i n*i m*i t*j n*j m*j v* m* }t collects the non-linear terms to be evaluated through the
evolution equations for the damage variable and for the friction f; T0={0 0 0 0 0 0 v0 m0 }t
considers the effect of the external forces (v0 = G + (tl tr ) h ; m0 = ( tl tr ) bh / 2 ) and finally . is
the elastic stiffness matrix:


GA / h

GA / h


GA/ h 0


121 kAb2
0 121 kAb2

GA/ h 0


12 kAb
0 12 kAb


0 12 kAb
0 12 kAb 0 GAh+ 6 kAb


Besides its geometric characteristics, the macroelement is described by six parameters: G and k
related to the shear and axial elastic response respectively, fvk0 as the shear strength of masonry; c
represents a non dimensional compliance coefficient governing the inelastic shear strain; standing for a global friction coefficient; that is related to the toughness function R governing the softening phase.
The macroelement model so forth discussed is able to represent the transition from the overturning collapse mechanism, characteristic of slender walls, to the shear mechanism, typical of
squat walls (Gambarotta & Lagomarsino 1996).
The masonry buildings taken here into account are made up of shear walls, containing openings
such as doors and windows, connected each to the other at the edges of the building and to the floor
diaphragms, which are considered anisotropic and flexible sheets in plane stress conditions. Each
shear wall is assumed as made up of macroelements, representative of the piers and spandrels,

11th European Conference on Earthquake Engineering 1998 Balkema, Rotterdam, ISBN 90 5410 982 3

which motion is related to the d.o.f.s of rigid portions connected to them (see figure 2 as an example for a bi-dimensional wall). The nodes are usually placed in the centre of the rigid elements, so
that the flexible extremities of the macroelements are eccentric with respect to the nodes themselves, and need some rigid extremes to be defined. In figure 2 transparent circles represent the
nodes, while solid ones represent the centre of the deformable end of each macroelement.




















model node


F1 =11300 N
F2 =10700 N




macro-element node

Figure 2. Example of macroelement mesh: (a) geometry and loading conditions;

(b) macroelement mesh with rigid extremes (grey areas), piers and spandrels.

These d.o.f.s are defined in the plane of the wall and consist of the in-plane translations and rotations. They are collected: in a nodal d.o.f. vector Di={ui, wi, i}t for each of the i nodes of the shear
wall, in Dh={uhx, uhy }t for each of the h nodes of the flexible floor, and in Dk={k, k }t for every k
macroelement, being x and y the two directions in the floor plane, and u and w the displacements in
two orthogonal directions in the plane of the wall. Moreover, the flexible floor diaphragms are
modelled by means of isoparametric elements with some of their nodes coincident with the macroelement nodes. It is worth-while noting that the rigid elements, in fact, do not need to be defined at
all, provided that the eccentricity of the macroelements with respect to the node is properly taken
into account.
The consistency conditions at the edges of the building require that the relative vertical displacement both between the adjacent macroelements and the adjacent rigid elements have to be nil.
To guarantee this condition, non-vanishing interactive forces tl and tr are interchanged among the
connected macroelements at their interfaces, figure 1.b, that reduce to equivalent internal axial
forces n0 and moments m0.
The compatibility conditions, in fact, reduce the number of d.o.f.s and consequently reduces the
dimensions of the original problem. The final equilibrium equations can be solved either by means
of a force or a displacement controlled process, employing an incremental-iterative procedure
based on the modified Newton-Raphson method. The iterative procedure consists of a standard
predictor-corrector scheme, where an elastic prevision of the displacements due to the current load
increment is repeatedly corrected by non-linear increments due to the nodal residual forces. The
internal variables of every k-th element {k, fk } are updated by integration of the non-linear constitutive equations in the load step.
To show the capability of the proposed procedure, a simple example (figure 2) has been analysed,
derived from the prototype building tested by Magenes et al. (1995); materials for the unreinforced
masonry of the building consist of solid fired-clay bricks and mixed hydraulic mortar, representing

11th European Conference on Earthquake Engineering 1998 Balkema, Rotterdam, ISBN 90 5410 982 3

a typical old urban construction in many european cities. It is here considered a meaningful
application of the presented simplified model because the experimental data and the large number
of numerical simulations enlighted many features of its bi-dimensional response (CNR-GNDT
1995, Gambarotta & Lagomarsino 1997). Besides, it has already been used as a successfull test for
the bi-dimensional application of the proposed simplified procedure (Brencich & Lagomarsino
1997), which allowed the definition of the model parameters, summarised in table 1, both on the
basis of experimental results on small masonry units and on the entire building.

Figure 3. Full 3-D structure with loading conditions

Table 1. Model parameters


G (MPa)

E (MPa)

r (MPa)




Figure 3 also shows the simplified mesh, which reduces to 15 nodes (dark circles) and 14
elements (transparent zones) while the shadowed areas represent the rigid elements. The simulated
displacement-controlled loading history consists of a first step in which the dead loads are applied,
and then of horizontal displacements imposed at the floor level, and mantaining the relative ratio
1.0/0.65; both monotonic and cyclic loading has been considered. The slabs were not present in the
experimental prototype since they had been considered as typical woodden floors, and therefore
they were omitted too in the analysis that is presented in this example.
In order to point out the net effect of connections between adjacent walls, two models were considered: at first a plane model consisting of the door wall only, and then a complete model for the
three-dimensional building. Both the models were subjected to a monotonic and a cyclic load history; figures 4 and 5 represent the obtained load-displacement response. The full model, where all
the walls contribute to the ultimate resistance, displays a peak load (point A) that is approximately

11th European Conference on Earthquake Engineering 1998 Balkema, Rotterdam, ISBN 90 5410 982 3

25% higher than the value calculated for the plane structure, and a much more pronounced softening tail. Qualitatively similar results had been obtained by Vekemans & Arce (1993). In fact, the
connection with the lateral walls can be considered roughly equivalent to an additive load at the
corners of the building; overturning is therefore inhibited and the collapse mechanism is that of a
shear collapse of the piers. The plane wall, instead, under the applied loading conditions exhibits a
prevailing overturning collapse mechanism, which allows an apparently ductile post-peak response.
In figure 5.a the classical response of overturning walls is recognised, with a very limited energy dissipation; the full model, instead, apart from a higher resistance, is able of dissipating a
much higher amount of energy, showing that overturning, if present, is a minor cause for the final
collapse, figure 5.b. It is worth noting that, in both cases, the post-peak behaviour fits exactly that
of the monotonic curve.

Figure 4. Monotonic response: 3-D model with connection with

lateral walls (bold line) and 2-D model without lateral walls (thin line).

Figure 5. Cyclic response: (a) without lateral walls; (b) connection with lateral walls.

11th European Conference on Earthquake Engineering 1998 Balkema, Rotterdam, ISBN 90 5410 982 3

In figures 6 and 7 damage distribution is represented for the peak-load (point A) and at the end
of the monotonic load history (point B) for both the door wall (figure 6) and the lateral wall (figure
7). It can be seen that the lateral walls make the collapse mechanism to a pure shear one: after the
collapse of the spandrels, it is the base upwind pier that collapses at the peak-load. If the load process is forced beyond this point, the mechanism is still that of a shear collapse for all the three piers
at both floors (violet and green colours in the figure). The parallel lines represent the open mortar
courses under the simplifying assumption of a material not sustaining tensile stress.
The plane wall exhibits a different mechanism at the peak load, with the central pillar and the
right-hand side architrave collapsing; such an asymmetric collapse mechanism can be found up to
the very end of the numerical simulation.
Figure 7 is related to the lateral walls, and shows that no damage at all is found inside; on the
other hand quite a relevant part of the walls are subjected to openings, coherently with the experimental results. One of the walls experiments an increase in compression (on the left), while the
opposite one is relieved by the torsional response of the full structure (on the right). It is worthwhile noting that the corners tend to be opened in both the walls, as a consequence of the compatibility condition imposed at the corners.
3-D structure connected to lateral walls

2-D structure without lateral walls

Figure 6. Damage distribution under monotonic loading, point A and point B.

From the numerical results, it can be said that connection with lateral walls not only gives a significant increase in the global resistance, quite expected, but also alters the collapse mechanism,
forcing shear collapses, and exhibiting a cyclic response that is many times more dissipative than
that of the plane wall. Only by means of three-dimensional models it is possible to describe the

11th European Conference on Earthquake Engineering 1998 Balkema, Rotterdam, ISBN 90 5410 982 3

collapses observed in real cases, which consist of shear mechanisms but for some very rare example; on the other hand, simplified bi-dimensional models almost always foresee an unrealistic
overturning collapse mechanism, underestimating the dissipative effects.
Lateral wall - right

Lateral wall - left

Frontal wall

Frontal wall

Frontal wall
Frontal wall

Figure 7. Openings of the mortar joints in the lateral walls.

Braga, F. & Dolce, M. 1982. A method for the analysis of seismic-safe multi-storey buildings, Proc. 6th
I.B.Ma.C., Rome: 1088-1099.
Braga, F. & Liberatore, D. 1991. Modeling of seismic behavior of masonry buildings. Proc. 9th I.B.Ma.C.,
Berlin, Germany.
Brencich, A. & Lagomarsino, S. 1997. A Macro-Element dynamic model for masonry shear walls. In G.N.
Pande & J. Middleton (ed.s), Computer methods in structural masonry - 4 ; Proc. Intern. Symp., Pratolino (FI), 3-5 september 1997. Swansea: Books a& Journals International.
D'Asdia, P. & Viskovic, A. 1994. Seismic analysis of masonry structures (in italian). Ingegneria Sismica XI
(1): 32-42.
Gambarotta, L. & Lagomarsino, S. 1996. In L. Gambarotta (ed.), Masonry Mechanics between theory and
practice, Proc. Nat. Conf. , Messina, 18-20 september 1996: 451-462. Bologna: Pitagora.
Gambarotta, L. & Lagomarsino, S. 1997.a Computational models for the seismic response of damaging
structures, In D.P. Abrams & G.M. Calvi (eds.), US-Italian Workshop on Seismic Evaluation and Retrofit,
Proc., Columbia University, New York, 1996, National Centre for Earthquake Engineering Research,
Tech. Rep. NCEER-97-003.

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Gambarotta, L. & Lagomarsino, S. 1997.b Damage models for the seismic response of brick masonry shear
walls. Part I: the mortar joint model and its applications - Part II: the continuum model and its applications. Earthquake Engineering and Structural Dynamics (26): 424-462.
Magenes, G. & Calvi, G. M. 1996. Perspectives for the calibration of simplified methods for the seismic
analysis of masonry walls. In L. Gambarotta (ed.), Masonry Mechanics between theory and practice,
Proc. Nat. Conf. , Messina, 18-20 september 1996: 503-512. Bologna: Pitagora.
Magenes, G., Kingsley, G.R. & Calvi, G.M. 1995. Static testing of a full-scale, two-story masonry building:
test procedure and measured experimental response. In Experimental and numerical investigation on a
brick masonry building prototype, CNR-GNDT, Report 3.0 Numerical prediction of the experiment, 1.141.
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numerical investigation on a brick masonry building prototype, Report 3.0 Numerical prediction of the
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