Sensitivity modelling with objective damage assessment of unreinforced masonry façades undergoing different subsidence settlement patterns

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This study aims to investigate the damage response of unreinforced masonry (URM) façades resting on strip foundations and subjected to ground settlements via numerical models. The models depict the non-linear constitutive behaviour of both the masonry, via smeared cracking, and of the soil-foundation interaction, via nonlinear interface elements. The influence of building features, such as the masonry material, the length over height (L/H) ratio of the geometry, the wall thickness, the number and size of openings and different types of strip foundations (i.e. reinforced concrete and unreinforced) is examined. A sensitivity study additionally investigates the influence of the interface stiffness and its constitutive model. A Gaussian curve is used to replicate the shape of the ground settlements; These simulate the loss of support underneath the foundation due to urban subsidence. Eight settlement shapes are applied in the FE models, including both symmetric and asymmetric profiles, while the angular distortion is used to measure their intensity. A new aspect is that the extent of the induced damage to the façade is assessed objectively using a damage parameter that represents the number, length and width of cracks in a single scalar value. The method distinguishes between the applied settlement profile at the bottom of the interface and the retrieved settlement profile measured on the façade. The analyses indicate that for a value of the angular distortion equal to 2 ‰ (or 1/500), computed from the resulting deformations of the façades, 60% of the models exhibit serviceability damage associated with cracks of about 5 mm width. Accordingly, the limit values available in the literature are observed to be too optimistic and not conservative in relation to the analyses presented in this study. A key outcome is that facades with an L/H smaller or equal to 1 do not exhibit cracks wider than 1 mm. Façades on reinforced concrete foundations were observed to be less susceptible to settlement damage, compared to unreinforced ones.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116113
Number of pages15
JournalEngineering Structures
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Cracking
  • Damage assessment
  • Numerical modelling
  • Settlement
  • Unreinforced masonry


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