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(Magnitude 9.0)
On March 11, 2011, a moment magnitude of 9.0 earthquake occurred in Japan
with an epicenter off the coast of Sanriku. This was the strongest earthquake
experienced by Japan since modern seismograms became available . The Japan
Metreological Agency (JMA) named this as “The 2011 Tohoku Earthquake”.

The epicenter of the earthquake was 130 km east- southeast of the Oshika
Peninsula at 38˚06.2’ north latitude and 142˚51.6’ east longitude and a depth of
24 km. It was a large ocean-type reverse fault earthquake occurring at a plate
boundary with a west-northwest to east- southeast compression axis. The fault
plane has dimensions of 450 km by 200 km.

The huge earthquake caused not only tremendous tsunami damage but also
structural damage due to the severe ground motion which continued for such a long
duration. The northeast coast of Japan, the region closest to the epicenter and facing
the tsunami propagation direction, suffered the most devastating effects with a wall
of water exceeding a height of 10 m in places.

As of May 12, 2011, the death toll stood at 14,998 with an additional 9,761
people still missing (Japan National Police Agency, 2011). Roads and railroad lines

were damaged as well as water and electric supply. It was estimated that there were
more than 46,000 building that were damaged or destroyed. The direct financial
damage from the disaster is estimated to be about $199 billion dollars (about 16.9
trillion yen), according to the Japanese government.

The violent shock resulting from the seismic intensity moved the Honshu island
of Japan about 3.6 m to the east, shifted the earth’s axis by 25 cm, and accelerated
the planet’s rotation by 1.8 microseconds (Chai 2011; CBS News 2011).

Structural and Non-structural Damages

Almost all of the damaged buildings were designed in accordance with the old
building code and damaged due to lack of seismic strength, short column shear
failure due to the source wall and the breast wall, or the eccentricity of structural
elements. Buildings with appropriate seismic reinforcement/retrofit were mostly
free of damage, indicating that the seismic reinforcement/retrofit of buildings was

1. Hotel Building (Osaki City, Furukawa)

Response of the Structure:

Damaged Base Isolation Devices and Damaged Lead Dampers

During the inspection of structures after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, it was
found that the lead dampers were damaged because of a huge number of
displacement cycles during the earthquake on based- isolated buildings. The
dampers were bent due to its weak compression strength and long span.

Overview: (Cause)
The structure above is an example of an Earthquake Resisting Building Design
which utilizes the use of base isolation of lead dampers a passive structural vibration
technique. This is one of the mechanisms used to reduce the effect of an earthquake
as seen in the structure above which was seen to have the least structural damage.
Although the dampers were damaged it still served its purpose of preventing a
severe damage to the structure by absorbing the impact of the earthquake.

2. 9 storey building of Tohoku University Building (Aobayama)

Response of the Structure:
Severe Cracks in the Side Shear Wall of the Structure

The Tohoku University (THU) building was heavily damaged at the bottom of the
four corner columns. Reports have stated that the severe crack in the side shear wall
was due to partial uplifting at the level of third floor.

Overview: (Cause)
The building shows a type of unsymmetrical design in which the center part
differs from its corners. This contributed to the uneven load distribution that
resulted to the damage of the 3rd floor’s shear wall.
The building structure should be simple, regular and symmetrical so that the
distribution of the moments and loads to the building during severe earthquakes is
equal. It is also a way in order to analyze and predict the behavior of a building in an
easy way.

The structure above is a proof that the more complex a building is and the
more unsymmetrical it is, the greater the damage is exerted to the critical sections
of the structure.

3. Culture Center Hall (Sendai)

Response of the Structure:

Falling of Ceiling Boards (Non-structural)

During the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, much of the non-structural damage
consisted of falling ceiling boards particularly for large spanned structures. The
photo shows the damage features of a collapsed suspended ceiling boards at a
cultural center in Sendai.

Overview: (Cause)

Judging from the damage features of the structure above, the collapse of the
ceiling appears to have been due to the lack of strength in vertical motion. The non-
structural components was not properly isolated or properly integrated with the
basic structural system. In the design of the ceiling boards, the system should have
taken the induced vertical motion into account and ensured there was sufficient
clearance for horizontal motion. The building standards for the vertical load of the
ceiling board system need to be reconsidered, especially for large span structures.
It is also important to recognize that the response of the ceiling board is affected
by the vibration characteristics of the earthquake supporting soil and structures,
including the roof slab.

4. Fuji Bridge

Response of the Structure:
Flexural-Shear Failure of Reinforced Concrete Piers

Extensive damages were seen at the bridges which were designed in accordance
with the pre-1990 design code and not yet been retrofitted in accordance with the
post-1990 design codes.
The photo shows a flexural shear failure of the reinforced concrete piers of the
Fuji bridge which renders it inaccessible to public use. Findings show that damage
due did not occur at the bridges which were retrofitted, while the damage still
continued to occur at the bridges which were not yet been retrofitted and was based
to the old provisions of the structural code.

Overview: (Cause)
The damage occurred due to noncontinuous distribution of its mass, strength
and ductility. The structure was found to have been overestimated in terms of its
shear capacity and has an inadequate development of longitudinal bars at cut-off.
The structure was also based on the provisions of 1980 and was not retrofitted
which contributed to the reason as to why it was proven unable to withstand such
magnitude of the earthquake.

5. Yuriage Bridge

Response of the Structure:
Extensive Damage at Steel Pin and Roller Bearings
The columns did not suffer any damage during the 2011 Great East Japan
Earthquake since it was repaired and retrofitted by reinforced concrete jacketing
after the Miyagi-ken-oki earthquake in 1978. However steel pin and roller bearings
suffered extensive damage.

The steel pin and roller bearings suffered an extensive amount of damage since
the proportion and detail of the connections and supports does not have a
sufficient toughness and stable hysteric behavior under repeated cycles of
The steel pin and roller bearings are vulnerable to seismic action, because the
stress builds up to failure by allowing no relative displacements at pin bearings and
the relative displacements accommodated by roller bearings are insufficient to real
displacement under a strong excitation.

6. Residential Houses (Numanoue, Fukushima City)

Response of the Structure:

Land Sliding on Slope of the Southwest Hill of Fukushima City and Sliding House

The area is located at one corner of a large scale housing where a hill was
developed. The result of visual inspection showed ground transformation by land
sliding on the slope of the hill.

Overview: (Cause)
Many of the residential houses were built near the slope of the hill which
contributed to the insufficient capacity of the soil strength to withstand severe
ground movements. The ground transformation due to the earthquake caused
serious damage to houses. As a result, some houses was in a state of sliding on the
slope of the hill. On the other hand, houses near the top of the hill suffered only
damages associated with slight transformation of housing area embankment.

7. Commercial Building (Sukagwa City)

Response of the Structure:
Collapse due to Column Failure

The 3-storey building which was at the intersection in Sukagwa City, having
more walls on the back side of the structure as compared to its front side that
extends up the third floor, was severely damaged on the first story.

Overview: (Cause)
The Column failure was due to soft first story since it was less stiffer as
compared to the stories above it. The corner columns facing the intersection were
significantly destroyed. The loss of axial load carrying capacity of the first story
columns caused the drop of the second and third floors of the building.

8. Reinforced Concrete Building (Aoba Ward Sendai City)

Response of the Structure:
First Storey Column Shear Failure

As seen in the picture, the shear failure of the two storey reinforced concrete
building occurred on the columns of the first storey. Some columns of the building
were intact after the main shock, but the succeeding aftershocks caused the shear
failure of the base columns. It was confirmed that this aftershocks increased the
damaged level of the building.

The damage on some of the columns occurred due to noncontinuous
distribution of its mass, strength and ductility. The structure’s weakness was on its
columns which absorbed a great amount of damage due to the poor distribution of
reactive mass.
It was possible that during the design of the structure, the damage due to
aftershocks was not taken into account which caused the shear failure on columns
on the latter part.

9. 14 Storey Condominium SRC Building (Oroshimachi)

Response of the structure:



This structure is an L-shaped building supported by pile foundations, the
structures are connected using expansion joints. During the March 2011 earthquake
one of the phase of the L-shaped building tilts making a gap that is illustrated in the
picture. The piles are inspected and was seen that from 7 piles that were inserted, 5
piles were damaged.

Overview: (Cause)
Based from our previous lesson, this building is considered as unsymmetrical
which proved to be weak during earthquakes since the distributuion of moments
and applied force is not uniform throughout the structure.
The pile foundation is also damaged causing one of the building to tilt which
suggests a weak foundation and inadequate type of foundation for the type of soil
it was constructed. The structure is also connected by expansion joint and has
contributed to the weak connections of the members.

10. Five storey Reinforced Concrete Building (Aobayama)

Response of the structure:
Bending Cracks at the Bottom Part of the Structure and Slight Tilting of the Stairs

A 5-story RC building with a pile foundation constructed in a valley-filled housing
land was damaged. The building, with plan of 9.3 m by 106 m (only one span in the
transverse direction and with 16 spans for each 6.45 m in the longitudinal
directions), was constructed on a steep slope near the border of the cut and fill part
of the housing land.

Overview: (Cause)
During the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, the strong ground motion in both north
and south direction caused the damage to the weak axis of stair buildings which
were inclined by 1/50 and 1/30. Due to its long length it’s observed that a severe
shear cracks are seen in the first floor level and caused a bending crack at the
bottom part of the structure.
This suggests that the connections and its structural members are not properly
given a balanced stiffness, strength and ductility since the stair section suffered an
extreme damage allowing it to tilt.

11. Ten Storey Residential Building (Aoba Ward, Sendai City)

Response of the structure:

Non- structural Wall Damage

The non-structural walls around the front doors from low-rise to top floors were
subjected to shear failure, while the doors were deformed on the 10 storey SRC
residential building. In addition, shear cracks were observed on the million walls on
balconies in some of the low rise floors.

Overview: (Cause)
The damage to the non- structural wall occurred since it was not properly
integrated with the basic structural system, during its construction . Investigations
stated that the cases where shear cracks occurred on the non- structural walls
around the front door or on the mullion wall on the balcony were relatively often
observed in urban residential buildings.

12. Two Storey Reinforced Concrete Building (Hitachiomiya City)

Response of the structure:

Shear Crack on Column with Framed Steel Braces

The 2 storey reinforced concrete building was retrofitted with framed steel
braces in the longitudinal direction since the seismic index of the structure on the
first storey of the building in 2003 was below the seismic demand index of the
structure. The steel braces are eccentrically installed to the center axis of the beams
and columns.

Overview: (Cause)
Shear cracks had occurred on the columns with the framed steel braces due to
poor reinforcement details prior to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake although the
remarkable damage such as yield of steel was not seen on the braces.
Based on the investigation, the retrofitted buildings in the area were hardly
damaged of slightly harmed, it means that the seismic strengthening on existing
buildings worked effectively against the earthquake.

13. Residential House (Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture)

Response of the structure:
Damage to Retaining Wall and House Movement

In one corner of a large scale residential area a ground transformation was
developed by sliding of the housing site embankment to the slope direction and a
damage to the retaining wall by ground transformation occurred.
Many of the houses on the site have different damage patterns such as
movement, subsidence and tilting without structural damage and fractured

Overview: (Cause)
Damage to the retaining wall occurred due to the soil beneath the building
which caused the retaining wall to move and subsequently move the structure. It
suggest that soil investigation must not have been properly performed in the area
since many of the houses have shown similar damages and results.

14. Adjacent Commercial Buildings (Irifune)

Response of the structure:

Settlement of Support Mechanism (Foundation)

A difference in settlement occurred in two adjacent commercial buildings in
Irifune, having different foundations.

Overview: (Cause)
The settlement of the support occurred due to the soil deformation and the
effects of the adjacent building to the ground. The first building with a spread
footing subsided about 35 cm from the front sidewalk while the building with the
pile foundation elevated about 30 cm.

15. Commercial Establishment (Inashiki City, Ibaraki Perfecture)

Response of the structure:
Sand boiling on the Sidewalks and Tilting due to Settlement

The commercial building was tilted about .7/100 in the longitudinal direction.
The building used a pile foundation that was seen on an opening that occurred
between the surrounding fissures as seen on the picture.

Overview: (Cause)
The finished of a large scale commercial establishment along Route 11 of
Prefectural road were scattered due to sand boiling of the soil beneath the

structure. There was also a subsidence of the surrounding ground about 40 cm and
the settlement of the facility itself was slight.
This suggest that proper soil investigation was not properly performed and that
the soil movement was not taken into account to the design and analysis of the

16. Residential House (Oritate)

Response of the structure:

Damage of House due to Ground Transformation


After the earthquake, many ground deformations have occurred in the area
which also caused retaining walls to collapse, landslides and damage to houses. This
is due to the fact that the soil has a tendency to move or perform a slight settlement
during large earthquakes.

Overview: (Cause)
The damage to the house was caused by ground transformations. This suggest
that soil investigation and analysis was not taken into consideration upon the design
and analysis of the structure .

17. School Buildin (Furukawa, Osaki City)

Response of the structure:
Tilting due to Settlement and Soil Liquefaction

The school building received 60–70 cm of subsidy and 1/30 tilting. There was
liquefaction in the soil surrounding the school building due to the severe motion
during the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. This building was built under the old building
code of Japan in 1978 making it unprepared for the 2011 earthquake.

Overview: (Cause)
Based from our previous lesson, the soil type has a large impact to the building
when an earthquake comes that is why the earthquake loads and soil types are
classified. In this example, an earthquake liquefaction damaged the school building,
the older codes may have been one of the reasons why this building is not prepared
in the liquefaction.

18. Steel Moment Frame Building (Minamisanriku)

Response of the structure:

Undamaged Steel Frame but Damaged Non- Structural Walls due to Tsunami


The steel moment frames remained undamaged because the moment frames
itself were intact. While the non-structural walls are damaged.

Overview: (Cause)
It shows that a lighter weight structure can withstand severe soil movements
since the use of unnecessary mass that contribute to the load distribution was
avoided. This example also has a shorter span making it more stable during an
earthquake. The frames are also made in steel which is high in tensile strength and
steel moment frames behave well during an earthquake. Steel offers the highest
ductility and allows the resistant building steel structures to bend considerably
without breaking. Though the non-structural walls were damaged due to the
tsunami which occurred after the high magnitude earthquake.

19. Reinforced Concrete Building (Fukushima)

Response of the structure:
Structural Damage (Column Sshear Failure)

During the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, the severe seismic motion damaged many
reinforced concrete structures in Fukushima as seen in the picture.

Overview: (Cause)

The building collapsed due to a soft-story mechanism, wherein, the ground floor
story is typically taller than succeeding story. The structure does not have uniform
and continuous distribution of stiffness and strength.
The structure also experienced sand boilings or ground transformation due to
liquefaction which caused structural columns to perform shear failure. Due to this
the said structure is rendered to be not functional.

20. 4 Storey Concrete School Building (Sendai)

Response of the structure:
No Structural Damage

The 4-storey concrete school building in Sendai was seen to have no evidence of
structural damage.

Overview: (Cause)
During the investigation, it was found that the reinforced concrete construction
have a complete seismic detailing and was designed in accordance with the current
seismic code in Japan. This suggest that the building structure has a uniform and
continuous distribution of its mass, stiffness, strength and ductility.


The earthquake code of the Philippines prescribes requirements which, if

followed, ensure that homes and buildings will not sustain major structural damage
when an earthquake strikes. In effect, it protects homeowners and building
occupants. It is developed and updated regularly by the ASEP and is approved by the
Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the national government agency
mandated to enforce structural standards in the Philippines.

The Earthquake code of the Philippines derives its provisions from the
National Building Code of the Philippines, which was enacted by Congress in 1972,
years after the Casiguran Earthquake destroyed the Ruby Tower in Manila.

It was the revised by former President Ferdinand Marcos in 1977 through
Presidential Decree No. 1096, which allowed updating of structural standards
without a need for new legislation.
Updates are integrated by the ASEP when hazard scenarios, which are not yet
factored in when the previous versions of the code were drafted, crop up. Since
1972, the Structural Code has been updated 6 times.

Two years after the 7.8-magnitude Luzon earthquake, a crucial update was
made to the structural code. The Luzon quake severely hit Baguio City, Cabanatuan
City in Nueva Ecija and Dagupan City in Pangasinan, leaving 2,412 people dead and
around US$369.6 million worth of damage to property. A number of luxury hotels in
Baguio, including Hotel Nevada, collapsed during the 45-minute tremor. (READ: Faith
and science: Lessons from the 1990 Luzon earthquake)

The 1992 update to the structural code improved standards for ductility of
the whole structure, according to former ASEP Presidents Miriam Tamayo and Toby
Tamayo (Rappler, 2015). Seismic provisions of the structural code have always been
patterned from the Structural Engineers Association of California (SEAOC) code and
the Uniform Building Code of the United States, according to Engineer Cesar
Pabalan, National Director of the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers and former
ASEP President.

The provisions on the NSCP continues to progress and adopted the Universal
Building Code 1997. Building codes are intended o establish minimum requirements
for providing safety to life and roperty from hazards.

The NSCP 2010 Edition spearheaded by Engineer Adam Abinales, President of
“Associaion of Structural Engineers of the Philippines(ASEP_2009-2010)”, establishes
minimum requirements for building structural systems using a prescriptive and
performance-based provisions. It is founded on broad-based principles that make
possible the use of new materials and new building designs. This code also reflected
seismic design practice for earthquake resistant structures. The code can only
withstand 250-kilometer per hour winds.

At the end of the tear of 2016, NSCP 2015 was released. This is the latest
edition of the NSCP and is still used up to this date. This edition is made in response
to the country’s experience with 315-kilometer per hour winds during Typhoon
Yolanda (international code name: Haiyan), said Pabalan.
The present NSCP was written in an “ultimate strength basis.” This means
structures following the code should be able to withstand earthquakes with
magnitudes 8 to 9 on the Richter scale, according to engineer Cesar Pabalan,
National Director of Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers and former ASEP President


The earthquake provisions of the Philippines which have undergone many

revisions since 1972 is proven to be more economical, conservative and more

defined through structural analysis and details mandated in the code. This serves as
a definite basis in considering the safety of the public and a more sustainable
It can also be observed that the provisions in the new code eliminates the
unnecessary loads or overestimates stated on the old ones. The reduction of
factored loads and the related formulas in solving each member of the structure was
done to ensure a more precise value in the analysis and design of structures. This
results to a more economical design and a stiffer and a more ductile structure that
could withstand various loads.
The earthquake loads analysis in the code is very crucial in the construction
industry specially in the Philippines since it is near the ‘ring of fire’ which experiences
a lot of tectonic movements. This is why the provisions should be strictly
implemented for the safety of the public without compromising the integrity of the


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