Foundation, Concrete and Earthquake Engineering

Weakness in Beam-Column Joint Connections and Retrofitting Options

Beam-column joint connections are a common structural weakness in dealing with seismic retrofitting. Prior to the introduction of modern seismic codes in early 1970s, beam-column joints were typically non-engineered or designed. Laboratory testings have confirmed the seismic vulnerability of these poorly detailed and under-designed connections. Failure of beam-column joint connections can typically lead to catastrophic collapse of a frame-building, as often observed in recent earthquakes.
For reinforced concrete beam-column joints - various retrofit solutions have been proposed and tested in the past 20 years. Concrete or steel jacketing have been a popular retrofit technique until the advent of composite materials such as Carbon fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP). 

Seismic deficiencies: weak beam-column joint (2003 Boumerdes earthquake)
Composite materials such as carbon FRP and aramic FRP have been extensively tested for use in seismic retrofit with some success. One novel technique includes the use of selective weakening of the beam and added external post-tensioning to the joint in order to achieve flexural hinging in the beam, which is more desirable in terms of seismic design.

Widespread weld failures at beam-column joints of low-to-medium rise steel buildings during the Northridge 1994 earthquake for example, have shown the structural defiencies of these 'modern-designed' post-1970s welded moment-resisting connections. A subsequent SAC* research project has documented, tested and proposed several retrofit solutions for these welded steel moment-resisting connections. Various retrofit solutions have been developed for these welded joints - such as
Column Failure Forming Hinge
a) weld strengthening and 
b) addition of steel haunch or 'dog-bone' shape flange.

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