International Journal of Architecture, Arts and Applications

Submit a Manuscript

Publishing with us to make your research visible to the widest possible audience.

Propose a Special Issue

Building a community of authors and readers to discuss the latest research and develop new ideas.

Unexpected Seismic Damage vs. SLS Building Code Anomalies

The 1992 advent of the Serviceability Limit State (SLS) was for the purpose of eliminating structural and non-structural damage to buildings subjected to small or moderate SLS Earthquakes (EQs). However, moderate direct structural damage and large indirect losses occurred to many medium-rise concrete-framed buildings as a result of small or moderate EQ ground motions in Christchurch CBD 2010 and in Wellington CBD 2013 and 2016. This is shown to be because of SLS flaws in the New Zealand (NZ) building code, (compared with international codes.) Theses flaws explain most of this unexpected damage. It is important to note that if the SLS flaw was not present in the building code and an Sp factor of 1.0 had been used in the design then a more robust building would have resulted and some of the damaged blamed on incompetent engineering may not have occurred. A cost-benefit study is performed here to measure the benefits of correcting the SLS building code flaw. This is important because the Reserve Bank calculates there is now a 30% increase in New Zealand’s projected annualised average loss due to earthquakes. This vulnerability is mostly due to the SLS flaws in the building code, but is also due to deficiencies in engineering building design.

Flawed Design, Serviceability Limit State, Structural Damage, Earthquakes, Cost-benefit Analyses, Drift Limit, Building Losses, Structural Performance Factor

APA Style

Thomas Allan Moore. (2019). Unexpected Seismic Damage vs. SLS Building Code Anomalies. International Journal of Architecture, Arts and Applications, 5(4), 89-104.

ACS Style

Thomas Allan Moore. Unexpected Seismic Damage vs. SLS Building Code Anomalies. Int. J. Archit. Arts Appl. 2019, 5(4), 89-104. doi: 10.11648/j.ijaaa.20190504.12

AMA Style

Thomas Allan Moore. Unexpected Seismic Damage vs. SLS Building Code Anomalies. Int J Archit Arts Appl. 2019;5(4):89-104. doi: 10.11648/j.ijaaa.20190504.12

Copyright © 2019 Authors retain the copyright of this article.
This article is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License ( which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

1. Elwood KJ, Marquis F and Kim JH, (2015) “Post-Earthquake Assessment and Reparability of RC Buildings: Lessons from Canterbury and Emerging Challenges,” Proceedings of the Tenth Pacific Conference on Earthquake Engineering Building and Earthquake-Resilient, November 2015, Sydney, pp. 218.1-218.9.
2. Hare J, Oliver S, Galloway B, (2012) “Performance Objectives for Low Damage Seismic Design of Buildings,” Proceedings of NZSEE Conference, April 2012, pp 91-99.
3. Corney S. Henry RS, Ingham JM, (2014) “Performance of precast concrete floor systems during the 2010/2011 Canterbury earthquake series.” Magazine of Concrete Research NZ, Volume 66 (11): pp 563-575.
4. MBIE Panel, (2017) “Investigation into the performance of Statistics House in the 14 November 2016 Kaikōura Earthquake.” MBIE 2017, New Zealand, 36 pages.
5. Brunsdon DR, Elwood KJ, Henry RS, (2017) “Technical Report 20170507, Technical Report for the Wellington City Council Targeted Assessment Programme,” NZ, May 2017, 59 pages.
6. Chandramohan1 R, Quincy Ma, Wotherspoon L, Bradley BA, Nayyerloo M, Uma SR, Stephens MT. (2017) “Response of Instrumented Buildings under the 2016 Kaikoura Earthquake.” Bulletin of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering, Vol. 50, No. 2, PP 237-252.
7. Amaris AD, Hoglund K, (2012) “Construction Cost Implications of the Increased Seismic Coefficient Z for Christchurch: A Case Study,” Proceedings of annual NZSEE Conference, 2012. Paper 124. 10 pages.
8. Brunsdon DR, and Clark WDC, (2001) “Modern Multi-storey Buildings and Moderate Earthquakes,” Proceedings of NZSEE annual conference, 2001. Paper 3.02.01, 9 pages.
9. McCrae GA, Clifton GC, Megget L, (2011) “Review of NZ Building Codes of Practice,” Report to Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Building Failure caused by Christchurch Earthquakes. ENG. ACA.016 59 page.
10. Hachem M, Ingham JM, and Mathias N, (2010) “An International Comparison of Ground Motion Selection Criteria for Seismic Design,” Joint IABSE-FIB Conference on Codes in Structural Engineering, Croatia, 2010. 15 pages.
11. CEN (2004) Eurocode 8, Design of structures for earthquake resistance, Part 1: General rules, seismic actions and rules for buildings. European standard EN 1998 1, December 2004, European Committee for Standardization, Brussels.
12. Dymiotis-Wellington C, Vlachaki C, (2004) “Serviceability Limit State Criteria for the Seismic Assessment of RC Buildings,” 13th World Conf. Earthquake Engineering. Vancouver. 50 pages.
13. Kam WY, Pampamin S, Dhakal RP, Gavin HP, Roeder C, (2011) “Seismic Performance of Reinforced Concrete Buildings in the September 2010 Darfield Earthquake. NZSEE Bulletin special edition 43 (4) pp 340-351.
14. Fenwick RC, MacRae GA, (2009) “Comparisons of New Zealand Standards Used for Seismic Design of Concrete Buildings,” Bulletin of NZSEE 42 (3) Sept. 2009, pp 187-203.
15. Uma SR, Dhakal RP, Nayyerloo M, (2013) “Vulnerability Assessment of Christchurch Buildings in Canterbury Earthquakes,” GNS Science Report 2013/20.
16. Bradley BA. Ground motions observed in the Darfield and Christchurch earthquakes and the importance of local site response effects. New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics, 2012, Vol 55, No 3, pp. 279-286.
17. Bradley BA, (2013) “A Summary of Strong Ground Motions Observed in the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence,” NZ – Japan Workshop on Soil Liquefaction during Recent Large-Scale Earthquakes. Auckland, NZ, Dec. 2013. 10 pages.
18. Carr AJ, (2011) “Inelastic Response Spectra for the Christchurch Earthquake Records,” Report to the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission, NZ. September 2011.
19. MacPherson C, 2005. Seismic Performance and Forensic Analysis of Precast Concrete Hollow-core Floor Super-assemblage. ME thesis, Civil Engineering, University of Canterbury, 2005, 246 pages.
20. Bradley, BA, Dhakal, RP, Cubrinovski, M. and MacRae, GA. (2009) “Seismic loss estimation for efficient decision making”, Bulletin of the New Zealand Society of Earthquake Engineering, Vol. 42, No. 2, pp. 96-110.
21. Wen YK, (2001) “Reliability and Performance-based Design”, Structural Safety. Vol 23, pp. 407-428.
22. Moore TA, and Arnold C. (1988) “Rapid Visual Screening of Buildings for Potential Seismic Hazards: A Handbook and Supporting Documentation FEMA 154 and 155) and the NEHERP Handbook of Techniques for the Seismic Rehabilitation of Existing Building. First Edition, 206 pages
23. ATC 13 (Applied Technology Council). (1985) “Earthquake Damage Evaluation Data for California,” ATC, Redwood City, CA. 1985 492 pages.
24. Mander JB, (2006) “On Improving the Seismic Performance of Precast Concrete Frames,” University of Canterbury, Final Report to EQC N0. 6RSF1C2 81 pages.
25. Bradley BA, Dhakal RP, and Mander JB, (2007) “Probable Loss Model and Spatial Distribution of Damage for Probabilistic Financial Risk Assessment of Structures”. Proceedings of 10th International Conference on Applications of Probability and Statistics in Civil Engineering (ICAPS10), Tokyo, Japan, (August 2007) Paper No 43, 423-425.
26. Dhakal RP, Khare RK, Mander JB, (2006) “Economic payback of improved detailing for concrete buildings with precast hollow-core floors.” Bulletin of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering, 39 (2): 2006, pp 106-119.
27. Gould NC, (2003) “Earthquake Performance of Non-structural Components.” IRMI.
28. Marquis F, (2015) “A Framework for Understanding Post-Earthquake Decisions on Multi-Storey Concrete Buildings in Christchurch, NZ.” Masters Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
29. “Does the building code need to be re-vamped?” on the website of Assure Legal, (June, 2019)
30. “Editorial: Wellington Risk and Insurance,” (Mar 2019) by ICNZ Website:
31. “Building law overhaul proposes tougher certification and builder guarantees,” (April 2019) by Tom Furley, RNZ
32. “Response to Canterbury Earthquakes, Royal Commission Recommendations,” (February 2017) Final report to MBIE.
33. “Engineer claims Wellington City Council ignored seismic warning on BNZ building,” (Dec 2018) by Thomas Manch and Julie Iles, RNZ.
34. “Intervention after shoddy construction revealed,” (October 2019) by Phil Pennington, RNZ.
35. “Structural engineering review finds system-wide problems and 'basic mistakes,” (October 2019) by Phil Pennington, RNZ.