CROSS Safety Report
Certification of seismic design software
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A reporter is concerned about third party certification of seismic design software and believes that users should carefully consider the assumptions that have been made in any such program.
Key Learning Outcomes
For civil and structural design engineers:
It is good practice to check and validate all design outputs from proprietary design software
If you are concerned with any of the outputs, consider raising this with the software technical support team and seeking clarification
Raising awareness is the first step in the process of bringing about improvements to industry guidance and practices
The importance of validating software is noted in the Institution of Civil Engineers Civil Engineering Journal August 2013 - The importance of understanding computer analysis in civil engineering
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A reporter is concerned about third party certification of seismic design software and believes that users should carefully consider the assumptions that have been made in any such program. In the opinion of the reporter certification is no substitute for the proper checks required by National Standards, such as Eurocode 8.
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Those involved in seismic design know that the frequency and stiffness of real buildings are difficult to model as they are affected by non-structural elements such as walls. Assumptions that are embedded in software must be identified such as the way in which lateral loads are distributed between the members, P-delta effects, and the consequences of non-linear behaviour.
This is another generalised warning that software should only be used in the hands of those sufficiently competent to understand its presumptions and output. Seismic design and analysis is highly specialised and an art which need to be practiced with experience and caution.
Results are affected by the number of variables that have to be set during modelling, assumptions that have been made and the possibility of errors in the programming. In practice the resilience of a building to seismic loading depends not only on the accuracy of modelling but on the correctness of the detailing.