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Seismic Resistance of Prestressed

Concrete Masonry Shear Walls

Peter Laursen* and Jason Ingham**

*PhD Student and **Lecturer, Department of Civil and Resource Engineering, University of Auckland, Private Bag
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92019, Auckland, New Zealand, e-mail: plau015@ec.auckland.ac.nz

An approach for the in-plane design of post-tensioned concrete masonry (PCM) walls with
unbonded tendons is proposed. The concept of PCM walls is briefly presented, followed by a
discussion of a method for prediction of the wall in-plane force-displacement response. A dynamic
analysis procedure is proposed for deriving the seismic demand, notably in terms of structural
displacement demand for given wall dimensions and post-tensioning layout. The seismic demand on
a 5 storey PCM cantilever wall is derived by time-history analysis, and is compared with seismic
demands imposed on ductile and nominally elastic reinforced concrete masonry walls of similar
Keywords: concrete masonry, structural wall, prestressing, in-plane response, seismic design.

Recent research by Laursen and Ingham (2000b) explored the in-plane response of post-tensioned
concrete masonry (PCM) walls by structural testing of single-storey walls and methods for
prediction of the in-plane force-displacement behaviour were derived by Laursen and Ingham
(2000a). It can thus be argued that understanding of the structural behaviour of PCM is well
established. However, the dynamic response of such walls, when subjected to seismic excitation, is
uncertain and remains a controversial issue because many researchers worry that the inherent low
energy dissipation associated with unbonded tendons may lead to excessive displacement demand.
This paper therefore attempts to quantify the seismic demand by proposing a simple dynamic
analysis method and suitable seismic design criteria.


Using unbonded post-tensioning, walls are vertically prestressed by means of strands or bars which
are passed through vertical ducts inside the walls. As the walls are subjected to lateral in-plane
displacements, gaps form at the horizontal joints reducing the system stiffness. As long as the
prestressing strands retain a significant force they will return the walls to their initial position. Thus,
the lateral force-displacement response may be described by a nearly non-linear elastic relationship.
The integrity of the walls is maintained as no flexural cracking occurs in the plastic hinge region
and there are no residual post-earthquake displacements. Consequently minimal structural and non-
structural wall damage can be expected.


It was shown by Laursen and Ingham (2000a) and Laursen and Ingham (1999) that curvature
integration along the wall height can be applied to find the wall displacement, d, corresponding to
the base shear, F. For an idealised cantilever wall with effective height, he, the four wall stress states
at the wall base shown in Fig. 1 were examined, each limit state defining a point on the loading

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Fig. 1Stress states at wall base

Fig. 2Vertical strain evaluation

Beyond nominal flexural strength, observations from structural testing have shown that a rocking
model is appropriate. The displacement of the top of the wall may then purely by means of
geometry be related to the tendon stress state and the wall strength. In this way, the wall flexural
strength denoted 1st tendon yield, is defined as the wall state corresponding to first tendon yield.
Evaluation of the extreme masonry strain at displacements beyond nominal flexural strength
necessitates definition of a plastic hinging zone at the bottom of the wall. Assuming that all lateral
displacement at the top of the wall is due to rotation, , of the plastic hinge as shown in Fig. 2, the
masonry strain, , can be evaluated as a function of the wall lateral displacement, d:
c P + P + N
= where c =
h p (h e h p / 2 )
d (1)
0.72 f m b w

where P is the initial prestressing force, P is the prestressing force increase due to lateral
displacement, N represents the dead and live loads in the wall and bw is the wall thickness. It was
found by structural testing (Laursen and Ingham (2000b)) that the plastic hinge length, hp, amounted
to approximately 200 mm for 2.8 m high walls. For higher walls this length may be extrapolated
linearly according to the effective wall height, assuming that the plastic hinge length is proportional
to the moment gradient along the height of the wall. Extreme vertical strains in the unconfined
masonry of the order of 0.01 to 0.015 were recorded in the experiments at wall maximum lateral
strength. It can therefore safely be assumed that confined masonry can sustain extreme vertical
strains of at least 0.02 before initiation of wall strength degradation. This assumption does however
merit further investigation.
It is noted that masonry strength in excess of 18 MPa has consistently been measured in laboratory
testing using blocks specific to the North Island in New Zealand, and that strength of 20-30 MPa
readily can be achieved by specifying stronger grout. Contrary to the general perception, high strain
capacity can be achieved using fully grouted concrete masonry in conjunction with confinement
plates, refer to Priestley and Elder (1983).


It is widely recognised that seismic design in general should be based on limit state design. The
seismic design limit states are ordinarily defined by the serviceability limit state, the damage control
limit state and the survivability limit states, refer e.g. to Paulay and Priestley (1992).
It is clear that the boundaries between the formalised seismic design limit states listed above are not
defined precisely. As shown above, well-detailed PCM walls are expected to accommodate large
displacements without significant structural damage, suggesting that structural performance
limitation suitably could apply to the magnitude of structural deformation, e.g. by imposing a
maximum building drift. The damage control limit state is thus selected for seismic design of PCM
walls, serving to protect secondary structural elements such as floors and lintels, and non-structural
elements such windows, wall cladding and internal partitions. This level of performance is expected

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in the event of the strongest feasible ground shaking at the site, as required by the applicable codes
of practice, e.g. NZS4203 or the Uniform Building Code 1997 (UBC); therefore this limit state also
protect against loss of life.
The proposed damage limit state requires a building drift (or inter-storey drift) limitation for design
which is defined as:
s = max (2)
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where s is the relative lateral displacement of the floors below and above the particular storey
caused by the effects of seismic loads and hs is the storey height. It is noted that this requirement
must be fulfilled for all storeys, however in this context the wall drift is approximately calculated
relative to the equivalent wall height and the base, this being justified by the expectation of rocking
dominated behaviour. The New Zealand loadings code NZS4203 generally specifies a maximum
building drift, max, of 0.02 for buildings lower than 15 m and max = 0.015 for buildings higher than
30 m with linear interpolation between these values (larger building drift is allowed when using
inelastic time-history analysis). NEHRP (1997) recommends using max = 0.02 for taller concrete
structures (seismic category I) but limits the building drift to 0.01 for masonry cantilever walls. It is
felt that the NEHRP (1997) recommendations unduly penalise PCM wall buildings that are
expected to retain their integrity much in the same way as concrete cantilever walls. Based on the
above, a maximum building drift of max = 0.015 for PCM wall with unbonded tendons is adopted in
this paper.


For demonstration of the lateral force-displacement prediction method, the prototype building,
shown in Fig. 3(a) was selected. The figure shows a 3.5 m long wall taken from a 5-storey
apartment or office building. 20 Series masonry blocks were selected resulting in a wall width of
190 mm. It was assumed that the walls behave as perfect cantilevers with lateral inertia forces
introduced at the 4 RC floor levels and at the roof level.
Concrete masonry confined at 200 mm intervals vertically with a crushing strength of 20 MPa was
assumed with confinement extending to a height of to 1.5 times the expected plastic hinge height.
The wall self-weight was 200 kN. The axial load due to dead and live loads transmitted to the wall
through the floors was 665 kN (1.0 MPa) at the base of the wall, representing a 300 mm RC slab at
each floor level (levels 1-4) with 6.0 m of tributary width. The roof weight was assumed to be one
half of the floor weight, as indicated in Fig. 3(b).
Four 15.2 mm high strength prestressing strands were placed near the wall centre line, each strand
having an ultimate strength of approximately 279 kN (1860 MPa). An initial tendon stress of 0.72fpy
was chosen such that the tendons were expected to remain elastic up to a roof drift of 2%. The
calculation was based on the assumption of wall rigid body rocking around the lower corners, a
conservative assumption because the wall rocking in reality occurs relative to the flexural neutral
axis at the base and because the wall elastic deformation is disregarded. It is thus probable that
tendon yielding will occur at roof drift levels higher than 2%.
Fig. 4 and Table 1 show the predicted force-displacement behaviour of the prototype wall using the
procedure outlined above. The base shear and displacements corresponding to the individual limit
states were calculated with respect to the equivalent structure assuming an effective height of he =
10.0 m (see below). The initial wall stiffness, K1, was calculated as the secant slope of the line
going through the maximum serviceability moment point on the curve. The cantilever wall effective
initial stiffness K1 corresponded to a stiffness of 62% of the wall gross sectional stiffness. This was
somewhat higher than the 45% value expected (NZS3101:1995) for a RC wall. However, this
approach gives a consistent estimate of the wall stiffness, reflecting a cracked wall section, the

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250 st
1 Tendon
Nominal flexural yield

Base Shear (kN)

Max Serviceability

he = 10.0 m, lw = 3.5 m,
100 st
1 cracking bw = 0.19 m, 4 tendons, 0.72fpy
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50 Analytical prediction
Bilinear Approximation
0 y
0 50 100 150 200 250 300
Displacement (mm)

Fig 3Prototype and equivalent structures Fig. 4Prototype wall behaviour

applied axial load and the utilised material. Using hp = 0.2 m*10.0 m/2.8 m = 0.714 m, an extreme
masonry strain of 0.02, N = 865 kN and P = 950 kN (all tendons at yield), Eqn. 1 provided an
allowable displacement of 0.208 m at the equivalent wall height, thus the maximum building drift
must be limited to 0.021 in order to protect the integrity of the concrete masonry compression zone.
Consequently, the codified building drift limitation of 0.015 stipulated above governs the seismic
design of the 5-storey prototype building.
Table 1Wall force-displacement characteristics for equivalent structure
Lateral force (kN) Lateral displacement (mm)
1st Cracking: 90.3 3.2
Max Serviceability moment: 195.2 10.3
Nominal flexural strength: 236.2 28.9
1st tendon yield: 272.4 304.1
Pseudo yield: 234.0 12.4
Stiffness: Initial: K1 = 18.9 MN/m
Post-yield: K2 = 0.131 MN/m

The fundamental period for the prototype structure was estimated using UBC, which provided T =
0.37 sec. Based on the estimate, a fundamental period of T = 0.4 sec was selected for analysis. For
comparison with the PCM wall yield strength given in Table 1, the seismic base shear demand on a
RCM wall of similar dimension was calculated according to the New Zealand loadings code
NZS4203:1992, assuming intermediate soil conditions, a zone factor of Z = 1.2, a structural
ductility factor of = 4 and T = 0.4 sec, resulting in a lateral force coefficient of 0.22g and a
required yield strength of 156 kN. Using UBC with T = 0.4 sec, R = 4, Seismic zone 4 and soil
category SD, a required yield strength of 205 kN was calculated. The calculated yield force for the
PCM structure of 235 kN therefore appears to be of relevant magnitude.


Inelastic time-history analysis was conducted on the prototype structure to investigate the seismic
demand. Ordinary acceleration spectra for ductile design are normally based on a linear elastic-
perfectly plastic response characteristic which inherently cause large hysteretic energy dissipation.
It is clear that the design acceleration spectra are inappropriate for derivation of the seismic demand
on PCM walls because of the limited hysteretic energy dissipation associated with unbonded
tendons. While it is apparent from the above calculations of flexural response that the seismic
demand in terms of base shear for a given PCM wall with unbonded tendons is limited by the base
flexural strength, the displacement demand remains uncertain and is expected to be larger for PCM
than for RCM.

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Inelastic time-history analyses were carried out using equivalent single degree of freedom (SDOF)
oscillators. It can be shown that the geometry of the equivalent structure can be defined by the total
structural mass, M, placed at the equivalent wall height he = 0.68hw as depicted in Fig. 3(c),
assuming the mass distribution shown in Fig. 3(b) and triangular seismic acceleration distribution. It
is noted that he may be taken as 2/3 hw and that elastic analysis shows that the periods of the first
natural modes of vibration of the structures shown in Figs. 3(b) and 3(c) vary by less than 5%. An
equivalent wall height of he = 10.0 m was calculated for the prototype building and a seismic mass
of M = 76600 kg was determined to obtain an initial natural period of vibration of T = 0.4 sec.
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Three force-deflection characteristics were used

for the dynamic analyses: (a) A bi-linear elastic 1.2 1.01g NZS 4203 (Z=1.2)

Seismic Acceleration Coefficient (g)

model representing the proposed idealised bi- UBC
El Centro
linear elastic PCM wall behaviour shown in Fig. Taft
4, (b) an idealised bi-linear elastoplastic system 0.8 Matahina
considered to represent RCM walls and (c) a
linear elastic oscillator of unlimited strength used 0.6
for reference. The yield strength, yield
displacement and the post-yield stiffness, K2,
used for the bi-linear models are given in Table 1. 0.2
It is noted that the strain hardening ratio K2/K1 T = 0.4 sec
for this system of less than 1% was rather low. 0
0 0.5 1 1.5 2
All oscillators were assigned the same initial
Period (sec.)
stiffness, as given in Table 1. An equivalent
viscous damping of = 5% was assumed for all Fig. 5Seismic acceleration spectra
Fig. 5 shows the NZS4203 elastic acceleration spectrum for intermediate soils and a seismic zone
factor of Z = 1.2 (zone of highest seismicity) specified for inelastic time-history analysis. It is noted
that the elastic seismic acceleration coefficient for T = 0.4 sec amounts to 1.01g. For reference, the
UBC elastic spectrum for seismic zone 4 and soil category SD is also shown in Fig. 5, suggesting
similar level of seismicity. Four strong motion earthquake accelerograms were chosen for analysis:
El Centro 1940 NS, Taft 1952 S-69E, Hachinohe 1968 N-S and Matahina Dam 1987 N83E. Fig. 5
shows their un-scaled spectral response. Each accelerogram was modified in three ways resulting in
12 earthquake records: (i) normalised (using the program SIMQKE, in reality becoming artificial
records) to comply with the NZS4203 elastic spectrum shown in Fig. 5, (ii) scaled to comply with
the NZS4203 elastic spectrum shown in Fig. 5 for T = 0.4 sec and (iii) scaled to give a peak ground
acceleration of 0.4g.


Fig. 6 graphically presents response of the PCM wall (bi-linear elastic oscillator) to the NZS4203
normalised El Centro record. In Fig. 7, the force-displacement response for the three deformation
characteristics are plotted for the NZS4203 normalised El Centro record for comparison. From Fig.
7 it is seen that the bi-linear elastic model relative displacement (ductility) demand amounted to 8.6
or about three times that required by the other models. It is furthermore seen that the bi-linear
elastoplastic and linear elastic models were subjected to similar ductility demands of about 3. It is
noted that the bi-linear elastoplastic model ended up with a permanent offset of about 0.15% drift
while the other models returned to their original zero position.
A summary of results for all analyses is shown in Table 2 in terms of wall drift demand for
verification of allowable building drift max = 0.015. It is seen that the bi-linear elastic model
representing the PCM wall was subjected to the largest wall drift demand in all cases and that the
bi-linear elastoplastic and linear elastic models were subjected to nearly the same drift demands,
suggesting validity of the equal displacement approximation. It is seen that the El Centro record in

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1.25 1.25
1.00 = 0.05 1.00
Initial period T = 0.4 sec.
0.75 0.75
0.50 0.50

Base Shear / Fy
Wall Drift (%)

0.25 0.25
0.00 0.00
-0.25 -0.25
-0.50 -0.50
-0.75 -0.75
-1.00 -1.00
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-1.25 -1.25
0 5 10 15 20 0 5 10 15 20
Time (s) Time (s)
(a) Displacement response (b) Shear force response

1.25 0.5
1.00 0.4
0.75 0.3
0.50 0.2

Acceleration (g)
Base Shear / Fy

0.25 0.1
0.00 0.0
-0.25 -0.1
-0.50 -0.2
-0.75 -0.3
-1.00 -0.4
-1.25 -0.5
-10 -8 -6 -4 -2 0 2 4 6 8 10 0 5 10 15 20
Displacement / y Time (s)
(c) Bi-linear elastic model (d) El Centro normalised wave

Fig. 6Bi-linear elastic response to El Centro normalised record

all earthquake groups (i, ii and iii) caused the largest drift demands for the bi-linear model, possibly
because this record had a significantly larger spectral response for larger periods than the other
earthquake records, refer to Fig. 5. Only in one case (ii) did the PCM drift demand exceed the
allowable building drift. On an average basis, the PCM wall drift demand stayed below 1%.
Response of the PCM wall to the code normalised earthquakes in group (i) should be given most
weight in evaluation of the drift demand. Thus, an average drift demand of 0.75 and a maximum
value of 1.07 (El Centro) must be regarded as acceptable according to the design criteria.
Comparison of the bi-linear elastic and bi-linear elastoplastic models give a good impression of the
relative magnitude of PCM wall drift demand. It is seen that the average PCM wall (bi-linear elastic
model) drift demand for the individual earthquake groups (i, ii and iii) remained below twice the
drift demand for the RCM wall of similar dimensions (bi-linear elastoplastic model). It should be
noted that the bi-linear elastoplastic model favours the RCM solution because of exaggerated
hysteretic damping, suggesting that the PCM wall solution may in fact result in drift demand less
that twice the drift demand of a RCM wall. If the calculated drift demand is excessive, damping

1.25 1.25 3.50

= 0.05 3.00
1.00 = 0.05 1.00 = 0.05
Initial period 2.50
Initial period T = 0.4 sec. Initial period
0.75 0.75 2.00 T = 0.4 sec.
T = 0.4 sec.
0.50 0.50 1.50
Base Shear / Fy

Base Shear / Fy
Base Shear / F y

0.25 0.25
0.00 0.00 0.00
-0.25 -0.50
-0.50 -0.50 -1.50
-0.75 -0.75 -2.00
-1.00 -1.00
-1.25 -1.25 -3.50
-10 -8 -6 -4 -2 0 2 4 6 8 10 -4 -3 -2 -1 0 1 2 3 4 -4 -3 -2 -1 0 1 2 3 4
Displacement / y Displacement / y Displacement / y

(a) Bi-linear elastic model (b) Bi-linear elastopl. model (c) Linear elastic model

Fig. 7Force-displacement response to El Centro normalised record


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Table 2Wall drift demand (%)
(i) NZS4203 Normalised (ii) Original scale: T=0.4sec. (iii) Original scale: 0.4g

Average All


El Centro

El Centro

El Centro






Bi-linear Elastic 1.07 0.65 0.75 0.54 0.75 1.62 0.91 0.63 0.55 0.93 0.82 0.44 0.64 0.62 0.63 0.77
Bi-linear Elastoplast 0.41 0.43 0.39 0.37 0.40 0.57 0.46 0.42 0.36 0.45 0.28 0.42 0.42 0.39 0.38 0.41
Linear Elastic 0.39 0.41 0.38 0.40 0.40 0.41 0.40 0.38 0.40 0.40 0.28 0.38 0.38 0.45 0.37 0.39
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Table 3Wall displacement ductility demand

(i) NZS4203 Normalised (ii) Original scale: T=0.4sec. (iii) Original scale: 0.4g

Average All


El Centro

El Centro

El Centro






Bi-linear Elastic 8.63 5.21 6.06 4.38 6.07 13.1 7.32 5.09 4.43 7.47 6.58 3.55 5.14 4.99 5.07 6.20
Bi-linear Elastoplast 3.33 3.50 3.18 2.96 3.24 4.62 3.71 3.38 2.90 3.65 2.30 3.35 3.14 3.13 2.98 3.29
Linear Elastic* 3.18 3.33 3.06 3.21 3.20 3.33 3.24 3.06 3.21 3.21 2.23 3.03 3.08 3.62 2.99 3.13
* related to yield displacement of bi-linear oscillators

devices can be incorporated in the structure and the damping properties can readily be incorporated
in the SDOF model force-displacement characteristic.
Table 3 shows the analyses results in terms of wall displacement ductility demand for easy
reference to ordinary force based design (values are proportional to those shown in Table 2). It is
seen that the displacement ductility demand for the bi-linear elastoplastic model subjected to the
NZS4203 normalised records (i) were about 3.2. This corresponds reasonably well with verification
of the yield force above concluding that the required PCM yield strength was somewhat higher than
required by a RCM wall using = 4. It is observed for the PCM wall (bi-linear elastic model) that
the displacement ductility demand, ranging between 4.4 and 8.6 for the NZS4203 normalised
records, was not directly related to reduction of the seismic forces which was about threefold
compared to the linear elastic response. This verifies the inadequacy of using the code defined
approach for ductile design intended for RCM for ductile design of PCM walls.


1. Assume wall dimensions and prestressing area (initial estimate could be based on code RCM
strength demand)
2. Calculate initial tendon stress (e.g. based on tendon yield at 2.0% roof drift)
3. Calculate force-displacement characteristics (using he)
4. Define seismic design criteria (building drift limitation, material strain limitation)
5. Calculate dynamic quantities (seismic mass and T)
6. Define equivalent bi-linear elastic SDOF structure (Fy, dy, K1, K2 and )
7. Select a series of spectrum compliant accellerograms and execute the dynamic analysis
8. Verify compliance with the design criteria. If the calculated drift demand is excessive, damping
devices may need to be incorporated or the wall dimensions may have to change.
9. Design the wall according to the capacity design philosophy (e.g. Paulay and Priestley (1992))
Several iterations on wall dimension and prestressing steel quantity may be needed to find a suitable

It has been shown that prestressed concrete masonry with unbonded tendons provides a feasible
alternative to conventionally reinforced concrete masonry shear walls. The main advantage of using
PCM is that such walls can be expected to undergo large non-linear lateral displacements due to

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seismic action with little damage. Residual displacements should be negligible after the design level
Analysis of the prototype 5-storey building showed that higher drift demands must be expected
using PCM when compared to RCM. However, this drift demand stayed below the critical values
set out in the seismic design criteria and amounted to less than twice that of a RCM wall of similar
dimensions. It is noted that this was achieved without the aid of external damping devices. For some
structural shapes damping devices may be required to control the drift demand.
It is recommended to use confined masonry in the plastic hinge zone. High masonry strain capacity
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required at high drift levels can readily be achieved by embedding steel confinement plates in the
mortar bed joints.
Seismic design criteria focusing on damage control by means of building drift limitation appear
appropriate for design of PCM cantilever walls because such criteria directly limit both structural
and non-structural damage.
Using the proposed seismic design procedure, the 5-storey prototype building layout was validated.
The procedure involved a simple analytical force-displacement prediction method and numerical
analysis of the equivalent SDOF structure using code compliant accelerograms.
Experimental research is needed to confirm the plastic hinge length and the masonry strain state at
high drift demands for tall PCM walls. Such research is scheduled to begin in early 2001.

Financial support for this research was jointly provided by the New Zealand Concrete Masonry
Association and the Cement and Concrete Association of New Zealand, and is gratefully

Laursen, P.T., and Ingham, J.M. (1999), In-plane Response of Post-tensioned Concrete Masonry, Journal of the
Structural Engineering Society of New Zealand, Vol. 12, No. 2, September, pp. 21-39.
Laursen, P.T., and Ingham, J.M. (2000a), Design of Prestressed Concrete Masonry Walls, 12th International
Brick/Block Masonry Conference, Madrid, Spain, June 2000, pp. 905-919.
Laursen, P.T. and Ingham J.M. (2000b), Cyclic In-plane Structural Testing of Prestressed Concrete Masonry Walls,
Phase 1: Simple Wall Configurations, School of Engineering Research Report #599, Dept. of Civil and Resource Engn.,
September, University of Auckland, New Zealand.
NEHRP (1997), Recommended Provisions for Seismic Regulations for New Buildings and Other Structures, Part 1 -
Provisions, Building Seismic Safety Council, Washington, D.C., U.S.A.
NZS3101:1995, Code of Practice for the Design of Concrete Structures, Standards Association of New Zealand,
NZS4203:1992, Code of Practice for General Structural Design and Design Loadings for Buildings, Standards
Association of New Zealand, Wellington.
NZS4230:1990, Code of Practice for the Design of Masonry Structures, Standards Association of New Zealand,
Paulay, T., and Priestley, M.J.N. (1992), Seismic Design of Reinforced Concrete and Masonry Buildings, John Wiley &
Sons Inc.
Priestley, M.J.N., and Elder, D.M. (1983) Stress-strain curves for Unconfined and Confined Concrete Masonry, ACI
Journal, Vol. 80, No. 3, May-June, pp. 192-201.
UBC (1997), Uniform Building Code 1997, International Conference of Building Officials, Whittier, California, USA.
Vanmarke, E.H. (1976), SIMQKE: A Program for Artificial Motion Generation, Civil Engineering Department,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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