Design of base-isolated buildings: An overview of international codes
Base isolation is arguably the most reliable method for providing enhanced protection of buildings against earthquake-induced actions, by virtue of a physical separation between the structure and the ground through elements/devices with controlled force capacity, significant lateral deformation capacity and (often) enhanced energy dissipation. Such a design solution has shown its effectiveness in protecting both structural and non-structural components, hence preserving their functionality even in the aftermath of a major seismic event. Despite lead rubber bearings being invented in New Zealand almost forty years ago, the Christchurch Women's hospital was the only isolated building in Christchurch when the Canterbury earthquake sequence struck in 2010/11. Furthermore, a reference code for designing base-isolated buildings in New Zealand is still missing. The absence of a design standard or at least of a consensus on design guidelines is a potential source for a lack of uniformity in terms of performance criteria and compliance design approaches. It may also limit more widespread use of the technology in New Zealand. The present paper provides an overview of the major international codes (American, Japanese and European) for the design of base-isolated buildings. The design performance requirements, the analysis procedures, the design review process and approval/quality control of devices outlined in each code are discussed and their respective pros and cons are compared through a design application on a benchmark building in New Zealand. The results gathered from this comparison are intended to set the basis for the development of guidelines specific for the New Zealand environment.