Seismology Committee Works to Update SEAOC Blue Book
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
By Jesse Karns, S.E., Committee Chair
The Seismology Committee is a technical committee that supports the activities of the Structural Standards Committee. Specifically, in assisting in those activities related to the provisions of building codes and national standards related to design, materials and construction requirements associated with seismic resistance and performance of new construction. In essence, the Seismology Committee is here to help engineers with seismic design issues for new construction. This can include developing a position on a difficult code interpretation problem, authoring a code change proposal, or assisting the SEAOC Board in developing a position on proposed legislation by providing background on technical merits of such.
Amongst the committee’s other charges; starting in 2016 and continuing over the next two years, the Seismology Committee is actively involved in updating the SEAOC Blue Book to bring it current with not only current codes, but with current practices. This activity includes revising and bringing existing articles to date, as well as developing new articles on current topics in seismic design. Beyond just code design, it is the hope that the Blue Book can ultimately provide a “forward looking” approach that can be a practical guide for engineers on how to use currently available performance based design methods and provide recommendations for implementing important research findings.
Since 1959, the Recommended Lateral Force Requirements “Blue Book” published by the SEAOC Seismology Committee has heavily influenced the way seismic design of structures has been performed. The intent of the Blue Book up until the seventh edition (1999) was to act as a vehicle for writing recommended minimum code requirements and providing commentary regarding best practice. Following the seventh edition, the Blue Book has been electronically published as a collection of informal articles titled Seismic Design Recommendations and no longer contains code-type recommendations.
Recently there has been momentum for building more earthquake-resilient structures, and growing public awareness regarding the expected performance of minimum code designed buildings and their potential economic impact on a community in a major earthquake. A significant barrier to implementing such change is that code provisions are characteristically minimum requirements, and affecting major improvements within the code amendment framework is difficult and takes a significant length of time before adoption. There is clearly a need for the industry to have a reputable set of consensus guidelines the practicing engineer can use to meet the challenge of “better than code” seismic design for improved performance, which has historically been the role of the SEAOC Blue Book commentary.
In addition to the Seismology Committees update of the SEAOC Blue Book, the committee is coordinating efforts with the newly formed Resilient Buildings Committee to focus on providing new Seismic Resiliency content/articles that can be included in the 2019 BB publication, as well as identifying and developing design issues and methods important in providing structurally resilient structures.