Base seismic protection was proposed as a special measure to protect one of Romania’s historic monuments – the City Hall in the capital, Bucharest – from the danger of collapse in an earthquake. This technique relies on the introduction of bearings and dampers between the structure and the foundations, to isolate it from any forces generated in the ground during an earthquake.

  • Name of the owner
    Bucharest Municipal Department
  • Name of the client
    Rotary Constructii
  • Delivery date of the project
    December 2011

Heritage structure

The City Hall was built in two phases; construction of the basement, first and second floors began in 1906 and was completed six years later, while the two upper storeys were not added until the end of the 1940s. The structure is masonry construction with concrete slabs, and walls of up to 1.1 m thick; U-shaped in plan, the main dimensions of the building are 89 m and 65 m, and it rises to a height of almost 26 m. Critically, it is located in an area of very high seismic activity.

An active past of seismic activity

During its lifetime, the building had already been subjected to four large earthquakes of between 6.7 and 7.4 on the Richter scale, and was considered to be unsafe and at high risk of collapse. A traditional seismic retrofitting design that was proposed at the end of the 1990s was subsequently replaced by a design for base isolation, once the renovation contract was ready to proceed. By this time seismic codes had been updated and the original proposal did not meet the new standards.

Special seismic protection for this heritage structure

Freyssinet’s scope of work was to design and install the special seismic protection elements that were required for the project – a total of 262 isolators and 36 dampers. A particular feature demanded in this highly-seismic region was the significant displacement – 1.5 m in total – that these elements had to be able to accommodate.

Large-scale tests for seismic protection devices

The two types of lead rubber bearings that were designed for the base isolation each had diameters of around 1 m and heights of 0.5 m to accommodate the anticipated loads of up to 760 kNm. At the time there was no facility in Europe capable of handling such large units, and they had to be shipped to the USA in order to undergo the necessary testing.

Works by the main contractor saw micropiles installed to strengthen the raft foundation under the building, and reinforced concrete beams constructed below the main walls of the structure. Once the isolators and dampers had been introduced into their specified locations below the new beams, the loads were transferred onto them using flat jacks that were subsequently left in position.

  • 262
    Number of lead rubber bearings installed
  • 36
    Number of viscous dampers supplied

Seismic protection for the heritage structure Bucharest City Hall

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