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Carlos M. Villaraza1
Vice President, Association of Structural Engineers of the Philippines
Principal Engineer, GEOSEED

Abstract : Technology on building instrumentation for seismic monitoring has improved tremendously in the past decade.
The purpose of this report is to provide information on why placement of accelerographs are required in certain building
structures as provided in the National Structural Code of the Philippines.
The recorded response data from these buildings are important for the safety of the inhabitants, building operations, and
emergency response of the government agencies. It will also be used to improve building codes and therefore reduce loss of
lives and properties during damaging earthquakes.
The report will discuss different instrumentation schemes, use of these instruments for disaster prevention, and the
transmission of data whether it be only for recording waveform, centralized control for each building, or to send the data
to a data center of the Government.


Installation of earthquake recording instrumentation in the

National Structural Code of the Philippines [NSCP] first
appeared in NSCP 1992. Every building over 14 storeys in
height is recommended to be provided with no less than 3
approved recording accelerographs. The instruments shall
be located in the basement, midpoint and near the top of the
building. At this period, structural engineers were only
interested in the strength design capacity of the buildings.
This provision in the Code was never implemented except
for the nuclear power plant in Bataan which has these

In the NSCP 2001, the provision stated that Unless

waived by the building official, every building in Seismic
Zone 4 over six stories in height with an aggregate area of
5500 square meters or more, and every building over ten
storeys in height regardless of floor area, shall be provided
with not less than three approved recording accelerographs.
The accelerographs shall be interconnected for common
start and common timing. Code developers started to
recognize the importance of strength but serviceability as
well. The experiences from the 1994 Northridge and the Figure1. Accelerograph used for earthquake observation
1995 Kobe earthquakes gave credence to these and building health monitoring.
considerations. But still the placement of instrumentation to
the buildings was not given that importance due to the Objectives for Seismic Instrumentation
reliance of the Code makers to the researches done in the
United States and Japan. The main objective of the seismic instrumentation program
of NSCP 2010 is to improve the understanding of the
The NSCP 2010 states Unless waived by the building dynamic behavior of structures subjected to earthquake
official, every building in Seismic Zone 4 over 50 m in loading. As a result of this understanding, design and
height shall be provided with not less than three approved construction practices can be improved with the building
recording accelerographs. The accelerographs shall be behavior more reliably predicted and keeping the damage to
interconnected for common start and common timing. The a minimum level.
Code developers feel that the Philippines need to have its
own sets earthquake records in order to have a degree of The recorded response data are important for building
confidence in the seismic parameters being used in its operations. They may be used as automatic switch off for
seismic load provisions. utilities such as gas lines, electric power lines and elevator.
Alarms may be set off at specified intensity levels.
The recorded response data from several buildings in a vibrational modes or on higher modes based as the
particular area or several areas will assist the emergency case may be. Therefore, elastic properties of the
response of the government agencies in its disaster and structure can be determined.
relief operations.

It will also be used to improve building codes thereby

reducing loss of lives and properties during strong
earthquakes. . Transforming the present Philippine seismic
two zones map into spectral acceleration or velocity maps
similar to those being used in the International Building
Code or the ASCE 7-10 would require a good number of
on-site data. It is a known fact that time history data is Figure 2. Within the accelerograph are 3 accelerometer
affected by the type of faulting and soil characteristics. To sensing heads that can measure full motion in 3
use values from another country with different fault zone dimensions.
characteristics may not be realistic and can also be
dangerous. 4. Dynamic Analysis

Methodology in Instrumentation A finite-element model could be developed to

obtain the elastic dynamic characteristics of the
1. Selection of Cities or Municipalities building. There are several tested computer
programs available (e.g. SAP2000, ETABS,
Severity of shaking factor based on its closeness to STAAD and STRUDL).
one or more of the faults within the boundaries of
the area considered; Selection and Installation of Instruments
Site-related parameters such as soil-structure
interaction; In selecting and defining an instrumentation scheme, an
Probability of a large earthquake, i.e. M 6.5, optimum list of hardware is developed after careful
occurring within 25 years or fault classified as Type consideration of cost and data requirements. Appendix A
A per NSCP 2010. The purpose of this parameter is describes the technical capabilities of some commercially
to consider the regions where there is a strong available sample sensors and recording systems. Most
chance of recording useful data within an systems have a minimum of 12 channels of recording
approximately useful life of a structure; capability. The following general approach is followed to
Building usage, functionality, occupancy and install seismic instruments:
relevance to life safety requirements during and
after a damaging earthquake. 1. After an instrumentation scheme is developed
including the sensor locations, the earthquake
2. Requisite Information of the Structures to be engineer, equipment supplier technicians and the
Instrumented owner's representative review the site to determine
exact sensor locations. Figure 3 exhibits a sample
It is necessary to establish a baseline data to make schematic
effective use of the data to be collected from the showing the locations of sensors, routing of
accelerograph installed in the building. The following cables, and recording units.
information is required: 2. The recorder location is selected on the basis of
security, typically in a telephone or electrical
blueprints and design calculations, switch room.
dynamic analysis (mode shapes and frequencies), 3. The instrumentation undergoes a preliminary
if available, forced-vibration test results, and calibration in the strong-motion laboratory and is
ambient-vibration test results. then installed in the structure with appropriate test
3. Tests on Existing Structures to Determine Dynamic 4. If physically feasible, it is advisable to include a
Characteristics building specific free-field station. This station is
usually deployed at a distance not less than 2 times
When necessary, an ambient-vibration and/or a the height of the nearest building so that recorded
forced vibration test on an existing structure data will not be influenced by the shaking of the
should be performed to identify mode shapes and buildings. Data recorded can be used in developing
frequencies. Ambient vibration tests may be attenuation relationships.
performed using portable recorders at least in three
locations that have maximum amplitudes based on
analytical methods during the first three
2 16th ASEP INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION | Prolonging the Life of Structures

ISBN: 0-12-440652-1. All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.

Utilization of Data from Instrumented Structures
The methods used in studying structural response records
are quite diverse:

1. Mathematical modelling (finite element models

subjected to time history, response spectrum or
modal analyses);
2. System identification techniques;
3. Spectral analyses: response spectra, Fourier
amplitude spectra;
4. Simple procedures based on principles of
structural engineering.

Cost/Budget Issues

The cost of instrumenting a structure in general is based on

the number of channels of sensors
to be deployed following decision making process.
Figure 3. Sample schematic showing sensors, routing of
However, it seems feasible to provide a standardized 12-18
cables and recording units.
channel instrumentation scheme as most commercially
available recording systems have maximum 12 or 18
channels. Experience of a decade and more indicates that
the cost can be approximately estimated as follows:
It is essential to have periodic and consistent maintenance
of instruments. Unless maintenance arrangements are made,
Data Logger ~ $21K
successful recording of data cannot be accomplished. This
Each channel of sensor ~ $2K
maintenance includes the following:
Installation per channel (labor, cabling etc) ~$2K.
1. Remote calibration of period and damping.
Thus, a 12-channel system would cost approximately $48-
2. Inspection of battery terminals, load voltage, and
50K. This normally will include a triaxial free-field station
charge rate.
in the immediate vicinity of the building, if physically
3. Measurement of threshold of triggering system
and length of recording cycle.
Furthermore, the cost can go up depending upon the
Data Retrieval and Processing
difficulty with which cables that connect the various
sensors at different locations of a building can be pulled to
Modern strong motion instruments now have capabilities to
connect the sensors to the recording system.
store and transmit digital data
Instrumentation cost of $50 K for a building and its
through telecommunications links and other media,
contents is a small investment when compared with the
including the internet.
actual worth of a building (and its contents). Naturally,
larger and more complex building systems will require
1. The data from digital recordings are passed
more than 12 channels to define its vibrational behaviour.
through a correction algorithm that applies a high-
In such cases, combinations of 12 and 18 channels are used.
frequency filter (typically 50 Hz). Plots of the
corrected acceleration, velocity, and displacements
Summary of Sample Lessons from Studies of
for each channel of recording are prepared.
Recorded Structural Responses
2. Response spectra are calculated for periods up to
Instrumentation of structures as part of hazard reduction
about half of the long-period limit. Linear plots of
programs is very beneficial, as studies of this type will help
relative-velocity response spectra and the log-log
to better predict the performance of structures in future
tripartite plots of pseudo-velocity response are
prepared if specified to the instrument supplier.
3. Fourier amplitude spectra, calculated by fast
1. Studies of recorded responses of buildings help
Fourier transform, are presented on linear axes and
researches and practicing professionals to better
log-log axes. These sets of processed data are then
understand the cumulative structural and site
provided to the user community for their
characteristics that affect the response of buildings
evaluation, assessment of facilities and structures,
and other structures. Such studies impact
and research.
mitigation efforts.

3 16th ASEP INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION | Prolonging the Life of Structures

ISBN: 0-12-440652-1. All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.

2. There is a large inventory of buildings within 0-10 parameters for various multistoried structures, pipelines and
km of the many major faults capable of generating power plant designs; assisted the Philippine Government after
M>7 earthquakes. the July 1990 North Luzon earthquake and the Taiwan
3. As expected in most tall buildings, higher modes Government after the 1999 Chi-chi earthquake; Member of
are excited. Higher modes play an important role PICE Earthquake Study Team sent to evaluate the effects of
in the response of building structures and therefore the 13 March 2011 M9 Honshu Earthquake handling the
must be carefully evaluated to assess their future seismology and foundation part and correlate it with the
performances. Drift ratios calculated from present NSCP2010. Lecturer on Earthquake Engineering in
observed data in certain cases exceed code drift various universities, private and government agencies both
limitations for part or all of the structural systems. foreign and local.
Assessing the drift exposure of structural systems
are ever more important since the design/analyses ACKNOWLEDGMENT
of buildings are recently being shifted towards a
performance based design procedure. The author wishes to thank the Association of Structural
4. Design of basements of tall buildings has been Engineers of the Philippines for its support in earthquake
done in the past with input motions at the ground research and development regarding instrumentation of
level. Measurements (records) from tall buildings structures.
with 2-4 floors of basements indicate that the
motions at the base mat are different than that at REFERENCES
the ground level.
5. Determination of dynamic characteristics of National Structural Code of the Philippines
structural systems is important in assessing their [4th, 5th, 6th Editions].
vulnerability and in developing procedures to A.G. Brady. Strong Motion Instrumentation.
analyse and design future structures. The data International Institute for Seismology &
recorded from instrumented structures is used to Earthquake Engineering, Lecture Notes,
determine structural characteristics. (Tsukuba,1986).
6. Studying response records from instrumented L. Abrahmczyk et al. Building Monitoring for
structures provides a means to identify the Seismic Risk Assessment. 14th WCEE, Paper
performance problems of the structures and (Beijing, 2008).
therefore devise and select the best possible Mehmet Celebi. Seismic Instrumentation of
retrofit and/or upgrade system. Buildings, SPECIAL GSA/USGS PROJECT
7. Recordings of the acceleration response of (California, 2000).
structures have served the scientific and L. Gilpin. Instrumentation of Earthquake Ground
engineering community well and have been useful Shaking. Hospital Safety Board (USA, 2013).
in assessing design/analysis procedures, improving
code provisions and in correlating the system
response with damage.


This report presents the Proposed Method of Instrumenting

Structures and discusses the benefits derived from this as
well as the extent to which a structure should be
instrumented. It also reviewed some lessons derived from
well-instrumented structures in earthquakes.


Over thirty five years of extensive experience in structural
engineering design and evaluation of structures covering low-
medium-high rise buildings, ports and harbors, industrial
facilities, bridges, machinery foundations, pressurized
pipeline structures and military installations. Involved in the
review and development of the seismic provisions of the
National Structural Code of the Philippines and the Bridge
Design Code; a member of the APEC Technical Network for
the harmonization of the Building Codes of the Member
Economies and the ISO seismic provision. Prepared seismic
4 16th ASEP INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION | Prolonging the Life of Structures

ISBN: 0-12-440652-1. All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.


5 16th ASEP INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION | Prolonging the Life of Structures

ISBN: 0-12-440652-1. All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.