The World Housing Encyclopedia (WHE) Report Database contains 130 reports on housing construction types in 43 seismically active countries. Each housing report is a detailed description of a housing type in a particular country. The description is prepared from a number of standard closed-ended questions and some narrative that have been provided by report authors. Each report has five major categories including architectural and structural features; Building Materials and Construction Process; Socio-economic Issues; Past Performance In Earthquakes, Seismic Features and Vulnerability; and Retrofit. All of the housing reports in this database have been contributed by volunteers. If you are interested in writing a housing report please contact the WHE Editorial Board.


The World Housing Encyclopedia (WHE) is a collection of resources related to housing construction practices in the seismically active areas of the world. The mission is to share experiences with different construction types and encourage the use of earthquake-resistant technologies worldwide. The technical activities of the WHE are steered by an international team of 22 professionals specializing in different aspects of seismic safety of buildings and structures. They bring relevant experience from 16 seismically active countries across the world. For more information about the World Housing Encyclopedia, visit

General Information


Report #:201
Building Type: Ductile RC Moment Frame Building
Country: Colombia
Author(s): Ana Beatriz Acevedo
Juan Diego Jaramillo
Fernando Alexis Osorio
Last Updated: 6/26/2016
Regions Where Found: Ductile RC frames can be mainly found in the urban area of Colombia, primarily in the big cities. The percentage of this typology of the existing housing stock is small.

Ductile reinforced concrete frames (RC) have been mainly designed after ...

Length of time practiced: 25-60 years
Still Practiced: Yes
In practice as of:
Building Occupancy: Residential, 20-49 units
Typical number of stories: less than 15
Terrain-Flat: Typically
Terrain-Sloped: Typically
Comments: This type of building can be found in flat, sloped and hilly terrain. The building is usually separated from adjacent structures





Plan Shape Rectangular, solid
Additional comments on plan shape The typical shape of this building type is rectangular. Nevertheless, modern buildings may have an irregular shape as can be seen in Figure 4.
Typical plan length (meters) 20m
Typical plan width (meters) 10-15m
Typical story height (meters) 2.6m
Type of Structural System Structural Concrete: Moment Resisting Frame: Designed with seismic effects, with URM infill walls
Additional comments on structural system The gravity load-resisting system consists of reinforced-concrete moment-resisting frames. The lateral load-resisting system consists of moment-resisting frames. Three levels of energy dissipation capacity are defined for the structure (i.e., minimum, moderate, and special), accordingly to the seismic detailing of the frame elements. For a given seismic hazard (low, medium and high), the structure must comply several prescribed structural and detailing conditions which will classify the structures in one of the three levels of energy dissipation. The energy dissipation capacity is indicated by behavior factor R (or q as defined in the Eurocode provisions), a factor that reduces the elastic earthquake actions to design level forces as the structure will sustain inelastic deformations under seismic loading. The R factor for RC ductile moment-resisting frames has the value of 7.0 for special energy dissipation capacity, 5.0 for moderate energy dissipation capacity, and 2.5 for minimum dissipation capacity. Although the use of large behavior factors such as 7.0 is permitted in the Colombian Code, experienced structural engineers usually use significantly lower values.
Gravity load-bearing & lateral load-resisting systems The majority of buildings have unreinforced masonry infill walls (see Figures 2 and 3). Infill walls are considered as dead load and rarely considered in the seismic design, i. e., the interaction between the masonry infill and the frames is not considered in the structural analysis. The current seismic code prescribes two alternatives for non-structural elements: to separate them from the frame or to provide them with enough flexibility so they can deform along with the frame without any separation. As masonry infill walls are not flexible enough, the only alternative is to separate them from the frame elements. This alternative, although prescribed since the code of 1998, is not always fulfilled.
Typical wall densities in direction 1 >20%
Typical wall densities in direction 2 >20%
Additional comments on typical wall densities
Wall Openings
Is it typical for buildings of this type to have common walls with adjacent buildings? No
Modifications of buildings As this type of building is more common in high socioeconomic levels, the main modification is the removal or change of the position of internal unreinforced masonry walls.
Type of Foundation Shallow Foundation: Reinforced concrete isolated footingDeep Foundation: Reinforced concrete bearing pilesDeep Foundation: Reinforced concrete skin friction pilesDeep Foundation: Cast-in-place concrete piers
Additional comments on foundation Foundations (either shallow or deep) are tied together by grade beams. Figure 5 shows the foundations of the 17-story building presented in Figure 4. Deep foundations were required.
Type of Floor System Other floor system
Additional comments on floor system Waffle slabs (cast-in-place)
Type of Roof System Concrete roof, unknown
Additional comments on roof system Solid slabs (cast-in-place)
Additional comments section 2


Building Materials and Construction Process



Description of Building Materials

Structural Element Building Material (s)Comment (s)
Wall/Frame Frame:Reinforced concreteWall: Masonry infillR/C: f'c = 21 to 28 MPa; fy = 420 MPa. Frames: Mostly pre-mixed concrete
Foundations Reinforced concretef'c = 21 MPa; fy = 420 MPa. Cement/sand/aggregates.The majority of resent ductile RC building use pre-mixed concrete.
Floors Reinforced concrete or woodRC: f'c = 21 to 28 MPa; fy = 420 MPaWood: 9.0 MPa (Abarco - Cariniana Pyriforms Miers)
Roof Reinforced concrete or woodRC: f'c = 21 to 28 MPa; fy = 420 MPaWood: 9.0 MPa (Abarco - Cariniana Pyriforms Miers)

Design Process

Who is involved with the design process? Engineer
Roles of those involved in the design process Structures built under the regulations of the 1984 code needed to be designed by a civil engineer; the code did not have requirements for the constructor, the geotechnical engineer nor the architect. Technical supervision by an architect or a civil engineer was required for buildings with more than 25 units or with an area of more than 2,000 square meters.
Expertise of those involved in the design process Structures built under the regulations of the 1998 and 2010 code need to be designed by civil engineers with graduated studies in structural engineering or a minimum of 5 years of experience in structural engineering. The geotechnical engineer has the same requirements as the structural engineer but with respect to expertise or experience in geotechnical engineering.

Construction Process

Who typically builds this construction type? Other
Roles of those involved in the building process The constructor should be either a civil engineer or an architect with a minimum of 3 years of experience.
Expertise of those involved in building process The constructor should be either a civil engineer or an architect with a minimum of 3 years of experience. Technical supervision is mandatory for buildings with more than 3,000 square meters or essential facilities, and must be performed by a civil engineer or an architect with more than 5 years of experience.
Construction process and phasing
Construction issues

Building Codes and Standards

Is this construction type address by codes/standards? Yes
Applicable codes or standards The first seismic code of Colombia dates back to 1984. Previous to this date the majority of structures were built without seismic design considerations; few engineers did seismic design mostly based on SEAOC (1966), ACI or the UBC codes.The first update of the 1984 code was done in 1998; an important change of the code of 1998 consists in more demanding drift requirements. The second and latest update of the code was done in 2010, with main changes on soil profile classification, the definition of the design response spectrum, and more demanding requirements for quality, testing and design of RC structures. Drift requirements remain invariant at the 2010 code with respect to the previous code.Reinforced-concrete frames have been commonly used in Colombia. When the first seismic code was released in 1984, a small amount of RC frames built previously to that date included seismic design. Structures designed by the criteria of the different seismic codes of Colombia should be ductile structures. Nevertheless, it must be kept in mind that in some occasions the criteria of the code are not completely followed.
Process for building code enforcement This housing type requires building permits. Design memories and blueprints are submitted and signed by each responsible professional (architect, structural engineer, hydraulic engineer, etc.) to the governmental organization that authorizes the construction.

Building Permits and Development Control Rules

Are building permits required? Yes
Is this typically informal construction? No
Is this construction typically authorized as per development control rules? Yes
Additional comments on building permits and development control rules

Building Maintenance and Condition

Typical problems associated with this type of construction In some occasions the criteria of the code are not completely followed.
Who typically maintains buildings of this type? Owner(s)
Additional comments on maintenance and building condition

Construction Economics

Unit construction cost The building cost is approximately US$ 1,750 per square meter (Colombian pesos 3'500,000/square meter). Building cost varies according to the socio-economic level, mainly on the cost of the non-structural elements such as facades and interior finishes such as floor material. In addition, the type of soil plays an important role on the building costs as in many occasions buildings must be supported by deep foundations.
Labor requirements
Additional comments section 3


Socio-Economic Issues



Patterns of occupancy A housing unit of this type of building is usually occupied by a single family.
Number of inhabitants in a typical building of this construction type during the day Other
Number of inhabitants in a typical building of this construction type during the evening/night Other
Additional comments on number of inhabitants Each building typically has between 4 to 6 housing units per floor. The average number of units for each building is 50 units. The number of inhabitants in a building during the day or business hours is approximately 80 as the majority of adult people work outside the house and children attend school during the day. At night, the number of inhabitants increases to about 200.
Economic level of inhabitants Middle-income classHigh-income class (rich)
Additional comments on economic level of inhabitants
Typical Source of Financing Owner financedPersonal savingsCommercial banks/mortgages
Additional comments on financing The main source of financing for the middle-income class is personal savings and commercial banks. Mortgages vary from seven to fifteen years.
Type of Ownership RentOwn outrightOwn with debt (mortgage or other)Units owned individually (condominium)Long-term lease
Additional comments on ownership When the owner is from the middle-income class, he/she usually lives in the unit. Many upper-income class owners buy this type of unit as a mean of investment; therefore, there are many inhabitants from the middle-income class that rent this type of housing unit.
Is earthquake insurance for this construction type typically available? Yes
What does earthquake insurance typically cover/cost Insurance of this type of building is available. If the owner has a mortgage on the housing unit, the mortgage will include earthquake and fire insurance. Although insurance is available, it is not common for an owner without mortgage to acquire it, mainly in low and middle-income class. In the particular case of the Pizarro earthquake of 2004, for the 45 building units "Vientos de Guadalupe" which had to be retrofitted, only half of the owners had insurance as reported in
Are premium discounts or higher coverages available for seismically strengthened buildings or new buildings built to incorporate seismically resistant features? Off
Additional comments on premium discounts
Additional comments section 4





Past Earthquakes in the country which affected buildings of this type

YearEarthquake Epicenter Richter Magnitude Maximum Intensity
13/8/2013 (1)5.75N, 78.25E. Pacific ocean, west coast.
09/02/2013(1)1.11N, 77.56E. Narino, South-west region.
30/09/2012(1)1.97N, 76.55E. Cauca, South-west region.
10/09/2007(1)2.93N, 78.21E. Pacific ocean, west coast.
15/11/2004(1)4.81N, 77.70E. Pizarro. Pacific region, west coast.
25/01/1999(2)4.41N, 75.72 E. Eje Cafetero, Andean region.
08/02/1995(3)4.13N, 76.74 E. Valle del Cauca, South-west region.
18/10/1992(3)7.15N, 76.84 E. Murindo(Antioquia). Andean region.
31/01/1906(2)1.00N, 81.50 E. Tumaco. Pacific region, west coast.
18/05/1875(2)Near Cucuta, north-west region.
M 6.5
M 7.0
M 6.8
M 7.2
M 6.0
M 6.8IX
M 7.3
M 8.2X
M 7.7

Past Earthquakes

Damage patterns observed in past earthquakes for this construction type The main event that has affected ductile RC frames has been the Armenia earthquake of 1999. An overall good behavior was observed for the structural elements. In general, non-structural elements have a poor behavior in moderate earthquakes, as was the case of the earthquake of Murindo (1992) where an important economic loss took place in the city of Medellin, even though acceleration values were small (Martinez et al., 1994). The earthquake of Pizarro (2004) caused damage to several buildings in the city of Cali. Most of the damage was limited to wall cracking or wall collapses. Although structural elements sustained no damage, families needed to be evacuated in order to retrofit some buildings ( A similar situation took place in the city of Bogota where the earthquake of Quetame (2008) caused damage to non-structural elements.
Additional comments on earthquake damage patterns (1) Red Sismologica Nacional de Colombia - RSNC(2) INGEOMINAS (1999)(3) Espinosa (2003)(4) Engdahl et al. (1998)

Structural and Architectural Features for Seismic Resistance

The main reference publication used in developing the statements used in this table is FEMA 310 “Handbook for the Seismic Evaluation of Buildings-A Pre-standard”, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Washington, D.C., 1998.

The total width of door and window openings in a wall is: For brick masonry construction in cement mortar : less than ½ of the distance between the adjacent cross walls; For adobe masonry, stone masonry and brick masonry in mud mortar: less than 1/3 of the distance between the adjacent cross walls; For precast concrete wall structures: less than 3/4 of the length of a perimeter wall.
Structural/Architectural Feature Statement Seismic Resistance
Lateral load pathThe structure contains a complete load path for seismic force effects from any horizontal direction that serves to transfer inertial forces from the building to the foundation.True
Building Configuration-VerticalThe building is regular with regards to the elevation. (Specify in 5.4.1)True
Building Configuration-HorizontalThe building is regular with regards to the plan. (Specify in 5.4.2)True
Roof ConstructionThe roof diaphragm is considered to be rigid and it is expected that the roof structure will maintain its integrity, i.e. shape and form, during an earthquake of intensity expected in this area.True
Floor ConstructionThe floor diaphragm(s) are considered to be rigid and it is expected that the floor structure(s) will maintain its integrity during an earthquake of intensity expected in this area.True
Foundation PerformanceThere is no evidence of excessive foundation movement (e.g. settlement) that would affect the integrity or performance of the structure in an earthquake. True
Wall and Frame Structures-RedundancyThe number of lines of walls or frames in each principal direction is greater than or equal to 2.True
Wall ProportionsHeight-to-thickness ratio of the shear walls at each floor level is: Less than 25 (concrete walls); Less than 30 (reinforced masonry walls); Less than 13 (unreinforced masonry walls);N/A
Foundation-Wall ConnectionVertical load-bearing elements (columns, walls) are attached to the foundations; concrete columns and walls are doweled into the foundation.True
Wall-Roof ConnectionsExterior walls are anchored for out-of-plane seismic effects at each diaphragm level with metal anchors or straps. False
Wall OpeningsTrue
Quality of Building MaterialsQuality of building materials is considered to be adequate per the requirements of national codes and standards (an estimate). True
Quality of WorkmanshipQuality of workmanship (based on visual inspection of a few typical buildings) is considered to be good (per local construction standards).True
MaintenanceBuildings of this type are generally well maintained and there are no visible signs of deterioration of building elements (concrete, steel, timber).True

Additional comments on structural and architectural features for seismic resistance The seismic performance of this type of building mainly depends on the seismic code used for its design (code of 1984 or codes of 1998 and 2010). There is a significant improvement on the seismic provisions of the code of 1998 with respect to the 1984; mainly in the treatment of non-structural elements and the maximum allowed drift. Regardless the existence of a seismic code, some structures are built without fully complying with the seismic regulations as there is not a proper design review by the authorities. In addition, informal construction (non-engineered structures) is common in marginal areas of the cities.The majority of ductile RC buildings include infill walls which are not considered in the design. It is common to find fragile partitions walls and their interaction with the structure may affect its seismic behavior as was observed in the Armenia earthquake of 1999 (Pujol et al., 1999). In addition, the presence of captive columns due to the masonry walls is quite common; mainly in the RC frames built prior 1998 (see Figure 6).
Vertical irregularities typically found in this construction type Other
Horizontal irregularities typically found in this construction type Other
Seismic deficiency in walls
Earthquake-resilient features in walls
Seismic deficiency in frames Irregularities in plan and elevation may become visible in recently constructed buildings.Many of these buildings are founded in sloped and hilly terrain, which generate elevation irregularities.In some occasions the first level of this type of buildings is used as parking, which also generates an elevation irregularity.
Earthquake-resilient features in frame
Seismic deficiency in roof and floors
Earthquake resilient features in roof and floors Generally, slabs have a good performance as a diaphragm floor system.
Seismic deficiency in foundation If the building is located on soil with a low bearing capacity and/or in hilly terrain, sometimes piles are not long enough to reach a good type of soil.
Earthquake-resilient features in foundation Moderate earthquakes have shown a general good foundation performance.

Seismic Vulnerability Rating

For information about how seismic vulnerability ratings were selected see the Seismic Vulnerability Guidelines

High vulnerabilty Medium vulnerabilityLow vulnerability
Seismic vulnerability class o

Additional comments section 5

Retrofit Information


Description of Seismic Strengthening Provisions

Structural Deficiency Seismic Strengthening
Presence of captive columns If the column is damaged after an earthquake, the wall is detached from the column and the column is fixed. External carbon fibers may be used to improve the column shear capacity.
Strengthening of non-structural unreinforced walls If walls are severely damaged after an earthquake, they are demolished and replaced by a reinforced wall.

Additional comments on seismic strengthening provisions
Has seismic strengthening described in the above table been performed? Yes. The Colombian seismic codes of 1998 and 2010 require vulnerability analysis and strengthening measures, if necessary, to buildings that represent a substantial hazard to human life in the event of failure (hospitals, schools, etc.). As a consequence, the described seismic strengthening provisions had been mostly performed to those types of structures and rarely to residential buildings.
Was the work done as a mitigation effort on an undamaged building or as a repair following earthquake damages? Both.
Was the construction inspected in the same manner as new construction? The repair is usually done by an expert in retrofitting. Sometimes the owner hires a company to inspect the repair work.
Who performed the construction: a contractor or owner/user? Was an architect or engineer involved? The seismic retrofit measures are usually performed by a contractor. An engineer working for the contractor or the owner is involved.
What has been the performance of retrofitted buildings of this type in subsequent earthquakes? There has not been an important seismic event that has tested the retrofitted buildings yet.
Additional comments section 6



Asociacion Colombiana de Ingenieria Sismica, AIS (1984). Codigo Colombiano de Construccion Sismo Resistente CCCSR-84. Bogota: AIS.

Asociacion Colombiana de Ingenieria Sismica, AIS (1998). Reglamento Colombiano de Construccion Sismo Resistente NSR-98, Bogota: AIS.

Asociacion Colombiana de Ingenieria Sismica, AIS (2010). Reglamento Colombiano de Construccion Sismo Resistente NSR-10, Bogota: AIS.

Consorcio Microzonificacion 2006 (2007). Microzonificacion y Evaluacion del Riesgo Sismico del Valle de Aburra. Area Metropolitana del Valle de Aburra.

Engdahl, E., R. van der Hilst and R. Bulland (1998). "Global teleseismic earthquake relocation with improved travel times and procedures for depth determination". Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 88, 722-743.

Espinosa A. (2003). "Historia sismica de Colombia, 1550-1830". Academia Colombiana de Ciencias Exactas, Fisicas y Naturales, Universidad del Quindio, CD-ROM.

INGEOMINAS (1999). "Actualizacion catalogo de sismos de Colombia para estudios de amenaza sismica 1566-1998, datos de hipocentros e intensidades". Proyecto Estudio de Amenaza Sismica de Colombia, C. Alvarado (Bogota).

Martinez, J., Parra, E., Paris, G., Forero, C., Bustamante, N., Cardona, O., y Jaramillo, J. (1994). "Los Sismos del Atrato Medio 17 y 18 de Octubre de 1992". Revista Ingeominas (2): 35-76.
Pujol, S., Ramirez, J., y Sarria, A. (1999). "Coffee Zone, Colombia, January 25 Earthquake. Observations on the Behavior of Low-Rise Reinforced Concrete Buildings". En linea.
Red Nacional Acelerografos de Colombia, RNAC. En linea.

Salgado, M. A., Zuloaga, D. y Cardona, O. D. (2013). Evaluacion probabilista del riesgo sismico de Bogota y Manizales con y sin la influencia de la Calda Tear. Revista de Ingenieria. Enero-Junio: 6-13. Universidad de los Andes, Bogota D. C.


Name Title Affiliation Location Email
Ana Beatriz Acevedo Associate Professor Department of Civil Engineering Universidad EAFIT
Juan Diego Jaramillo Research Professor Department of Civil Engineering Universidad EAFIT
Fernando Alexis Osorio Graduate Student Department of Civil Engineering Universidad EAFIT


Name Title Affiliation Location Email
Luis Gonzalo Mejia C.