How safe are our wall structures under the shadow of increased seismic hazard level in AS1170.4?

Study level



Vacation research experience scheme

Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


External supervisors

  • Jake Ring, Concrete Masonry Association of Australia


In 2018, the Australian Earthquake Loading Code AS1170.4 and two major structural design standards (AS3600 and AS3700) have made significant revisions. These changes potentially affect the safety of wall structures that are significant components that save the buildings (especially 3 - 30 stories high) from earthquake events.

The AS1170.4 has increased the minimum seismic hazard coefficient from 0.05 to 0.08 (an increase of 60%) across Australia; many major population centers, including Brisbane are affected by this change.

Concurrently, the Concrete Structures Design standard AS3600 increased stringency of design of structural walls with single layer (at mid thickness) of reinforcing bars with the rationale of these bars could rupture under seismic action.  The Australian Masonry Structures Design standard AS3700, without regard to seismic actions, modified the compression capacity calculation method, which made the reinforced masonry walls competitive for taller buildings for the first time.

There is a wealth of literature on each of these areas (seismic loading and pushover analysis, seismic response of reinforced masonry shear walls, seismic performance of reinforced concrete shear walls). However, there is lack of information on the simultaneous changes of design and loading standards to the potential safety of the walls and hence the buildings - which are the highest valued assets in Australia.

Research activities

This research project aims to examine the effect of these changes in a systematic manner through case studies, numerical modelling and experimental investigations. This project has a vast scope and hence is suitable for Vacation Research students who typically work for about 12 weeks, Honours research theses students who work for a year and PhD students who work for three years.  A number of students can work on the project - each with a specific focus.

Typically the project involves,

  1. Critical review of literature, classifying them into narrow focus areas and documenting their summaries. Identifying gap in the knowledge
  2. Push-over Analysis: Learn and establish the method and perform sample calculations
  3. Case studies: Consider typical multi-storied building systems containing shear walls. Develop methods of design of the walls using the previous and the revised provisions. Compare the designs and discuss the impact of changes to building industry.
  4. Numerical Models: Establish Finite Element (FE) models - allowing for material nonlinearity and damage and carry out analysis of shear walls subject to vertical and in-plane lateral loading.
  5. Experimental Investigation (PhD only): Identify key parameters requiring urgent examination and develop method of testing taking note of the structural testing facilities in Banyo lab. Identify resources and build wall specimens, attach sensors and test them to destruction and analyse data.  Use the data to validate FE results.


There are many outcomes at various levels possible. Some of the expected outcomes are:

  1. Safety of existing and new wall structures considering the changes
  2. Potential recommendations to changes/ modification to design standards
  3. Academic outputs such as journal publications, theses

Skills and experience

  • Vacation Research Students must be enrolled in Civil Engineering (Structural/ construction majors/ minors) and must have completed EGB375; completion of EGB386 is preferred, but not essential.
  • Honours Research Students should have completed EGB375; completion of EGB386 is preferred.
  • PhD students must have interest in reinforced masonry / earthquake engineering.


You may be able to apply for a research scholarship in our annual scholarship round.

Annual scholarship round



Contact the supervisor for more information.