Using Computer Automation to Simplify Seismic Evaluation of Existing Buildings

October 17, 2019
Publication: 2019 SEAOC Convention

Several commercially available software packages automate the structural design process for new buildings, allowing engineers to deliver projects with unparalleled efficiency. These software packages contain structural engineering standards (e.g. ASCE 7) in pre-programmed routines, facilitating efficient iteration and convergence on appropriate design solutions. Similar automation is not available for the seismic evaluation of existing buildings using seismic rehabilitation and retrofit standards (e.g. ASCE 41).

This paper presents two case studies (steel moment frame and reinforced concrete shear wall) that use software automation for seismic analysis of existing buildings. The automation refines the process of using commercially available software packages for structural analysis using linear-elastic procedures. A description of automation methods, with comparison to traditional methods (e.g. spreadsheet post processing), clearly shows analysis efficiencies associated with integrating Python code and industry-standard software. Both case studies identify engineering efficiencies that can free the engineer to explore a wider range of potential retrofit strategies, resulting in optimized retrofit designs that tend to reduce construction costs. Some automation can also improve the use and presentation of analysis results, improving communication between engineers and clients.