Concrete Frame Research Planning Meeting

Engineers from the US, Pakistan and Nepal Meet in Kathmandu to Plan Research to Make Reinforced Concrete Buildings with Unreinforced Masonry Infill Walls Safer In Earthquakes


Researchers and engineers from the United States, Pakistan and Nepal met in Kathmandu July 12-14, 2010 to discuss the steps needed to make concrete buildings with infill walls safer in earthquakes. Infill buildings have a reinforced concrete frame, often built without earthquake-resistant ductile details, and unreinforced masonry walls built afterward. Low construction cost, made possible by readily available materials and simple building practices, makes frames with infill one of the world’s most common building types. Regrettably, infill buildings built without earthquake-resistant features greatly increase global earthquake risk, as the tens of thousands of deaths caused by infill building collapses during this past decade’s major earthquakes attest.

Meeting participants sought to develop means to harness the positive aspects of this very popular structural system to improve global earthquake safety. Infill walls provide useful engineering properties – strength, stiffness and damping – that engineers can mobilize to improve seismic performance. Participants postulated that with appropriate guidance, engineers and builders could make relatively modest changes to their current practices to create what they termed framed infill buildings: new or retrofitted buildings that intentionally make beneficial use of infill walls to achieve earthquake safety benefits. 

Participants visit a framed infill building under construction in suburban Kathmandu.

Residential/commercial mixed-use infilled frame buildings such as this one being built in Kathmandu are very common in many areas of the world

This fresh approach to infill buildings informed the meeting’s three days of presentations, site visits and discussions. Through a series of intensive, focused discussions, participants identified specific products and dissemination mechanisms that would have a direct, positive impact on infill buildings’ earthquake safety, as well as a comprehensive set of research activities needed to generate those products. Eighteen people participated, including representatives from GeoHazards International, University of California Berkeley, Stanford University, Tipping Mar + Associates, NSET-Nepal, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu and NED University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi.


Participants agreed to pursue future collaborative research activities through a new cooperative framework: the “framed infill network”, an international, virtual network of earthquake engineering researchers and professionals interested in improving the behavior of infill buildings. The framed infill network will be open to all and would build on lessons from existing collaborative networks. The Pakistan-US Science and Technology Cooperation Program will provide seed funding for the network.


A summary of the research activities and products identified by meeting participants is located here.


The meeting was funded by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. OISE-1038198, with supplemental assistance provided by the Pakistan-US Science and Technology Cooperation Program, which is funded by the US Agency for International Development. NSET-Nepal, a Kathmandu-based earthquake safety organization and long-standing GHI partner, graciously hosted the meetings.