Seismic Behaviour and Design of Mixed RC-URM Wall Structures

In several countries of central Europe, many modern residential buildings are braced by reinforced concrete (RC) and unreinforced masonry (URM) walls coupled with RC slabs. Such mixed constructions, in fact, behave better under seismic loading than buildings with URM walls alone. Similarly, the insertion of RC walls is a technique used to retrofit existing modern URM constructions that feature RC slabs, since both strength and displacement capacities of the repaired structure increase with respect to the un-retrofitted configuration. Although modern mixed RC-URM wall buildings are rather common, very little is known about their seismic behaviour and codes do not provide adequate design and assessment guidelines. Hence, the thesis focuses on four objectives: (1) to provide experimental data on the seismic behaviour of mixed RC-URM wall structures; (2) to formulate recommendations for setting up numerical models for structures with both RC and URM walls; (3) to develop a mechanical model that represents the interaction between RC and URM walls; (4) to propose a displacement-based seismic approach for the design of new mixed RC-URM wall structures and the retrofitting of URM wall buildings by adding RC walls or replacing URM walls with RC ones. An experimental investigation of two mixed RC-URM wall substructures leads to new findings with respect to the actual distribution of the reaction forces between RC and URM walls and gives insight into the displacement profile of mixed RC-URM wall structures. The results are used to validate two numerical strategies and recommendations for setting up models for structures with both RC and URM walls are formulated. A simple mechanical model, which takes into account the most important parameters influencing the seismic behaviour of mixed RC-URM wall structures, is proposed and validated. The model is based on the shear-flexure interaction as URM and RC walls display dominant shear and flexural deformations, respectively. In the last part of the thesis a displacement-based design approach for mixed RC-URM wall structures is developed. The design method is verified through inelastic time-history analyses (ITHA) of three-to-five-storey case study buildings. Comparison between the design values and the results from ITHA suggests that the design methodology controls the horizontal deflection of the structures, being almost linear over their height, and avoids concentrations of deformations in the bottom storey, a typical feature of URM wall structures. On the other hand, for the three-storey configurations, it was observed that the approach overestimates the maximum horizontal displacement.

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