Last Updated S022020


Unit Code MCS603
Unit Duration 1 Term (online) or 1 Semester (on-campus)

Master of Engineering (Civil: Structural)

Duration: 2 years   

Year Level 2nd
Unit Creator / Reviewer Professor Jason Ingham
Core/Elective: Core
Pre/Co-requisites None
Credit Points



Masters total course credit points = 48

(3 credits x 12 (units) + 12 credits (Thesis))

Mode of Delivery Online or on-campus. 
Unit Workload

10 hours per week:

Lecture – 1 hour

Tutorial – 1 hour

Practical / Lab – 1 hour (where applicable)

Personal Study recommended – 7 hours (guided and unguided)

Unit Description and General Aims

Throughout history earthquakes have caused catastrophic destruction to communities. Whilst major advances in understanding have occurred, earthquakes remain one of the primary design hazards both in Australia and in many parts of the world. This unit will involve a review of how and why earthquakes occur and how earthquake waves are transmitted through the earth to generate building shaking. The primary metrics used to describe the size of an earthquake and the shaking effect on a building will be reviewed, along with more detailed information about the character of the shaking and its frequency content.

The focus will then shift to a study of how buildings respond to earthquake shaking, by first reviewing fundamental aspects of structural response for dynamically excited structures and then introducing design philosophies to address this loading type. The unit will conclude with a study of emerging topics in this field, including the use of instrumentation to better understand seismic hazard characteristics at a site and the resulting building response, and how structural behaviour is influenced by the building’s underlying soil characteristics.  The unit will close with a review of several major recent earthquakes and a summary of topics in this subject area that remain less well understood.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this Unit, students are expected to be able to:

  1. Evaluate the primary attributes of earthquake shaking for both inter-plate and intra-plate earthquake scenarios.
    • Bloom’s Level 5
  2. Evaluate seismic loads from relevant earthquake loading standards such as AS 1170.4.
    • Bloom’s Level 5
  3. Determine ductile design and the selection of appropriate seismic design parameters for different building forms, including capacity design considerations.
    • Bloom’s Level 5
  4. Synthesise ductile seismic detailing.
    • Bloom’s Level 6
  5. Compose a hypothesis for soil-structure interaction in earthquake design.
    • Bloom’s Level 6
  6. Optimise time-history analysis, including the appropriate selection of earthquake records.
    • Bloom’s Level 5

Student assessment

Assessment Type

(e.g. Assignment - 2000 word essay (specify topic)

Examination (specify length and format))

When assessed

(eg Week 5)
Weighting (% of total unit marks) Learning Outcomes Assessed

Assessment 1

Type: Multi-choice test (Proctored) / Group work / Short answer questions / Role Play / Self-Assessment / Presentation

Example Topic: Material from topics 1-3 inclusive, related to historical events, seismology, ground shaking and spectra.

After Topic 3 15% 1

Assessment 2

Type: Proctored test / Report / Research / Paper / Case Study / Site Visit / Problem analysis / Project / Professional recommendation

Example: Short/Long answers and Problems to solve

Topic: Up to topic 6

After Topic 6 25% 2-4

Assessment 3

Type: Project Report / Practical assessments, Remote labs, Simulation software or Case studies.

Word length: 3000

Example Topic: Reinforced concrete design: This project will extend the Reinforced Concrete office building design project completed for MCS504, by establishing earthquake design loads for 2 scenarios: 1) a moderate seismic zone in Australia; and 2) a high seismic zone in New Zealand. The previous design will be extended to include ductile seismic detailing.

After Topic 10 25% 1-6

Assessment 4

Type: Project Report

Word length: 4000

Topic: Nonlinear time-history structural earthquake analysis: This project will further develop the Reinforced Concrete office building design developed in the Midterm project by selecting an appropriate suite of earthquake ground motions, modelling the structure using nonlinear structural engineering software, and accounting in the model for soil-structure interaction results.

After Topic 12 30% 1 - 6

Tutorial Attendance and Participation

Continuous 5% 1 - 6

Prescribed and Recommended readings

Required textbook(s)

Y. Bozorgnia and V. V. Bertero, Earthquake Engineering: From Engineering Seismology to Performance-Based Engineering, CRC Press, 2004. (ISBN 9780849314391)

Reference Materials

  1. AS 1170.4 and NZ 1170.5 Australia and New Zealand Earthquake Loadings Standards and Commentary
  2. R Villaverde. Fundamental concepts of earthquake engineering, CRC Press, 2009. (ISBN 9781420064957)
  3. H. Sucuoğlu and S. Akkar. Basic earthquake engineering, Springer, 2014. (ISBN 978-3-319-01026-7)
  4. A. S. Elnashai and L. Di Sarno. Fundamentals of earthquake engineering, John Wiley & Sons, 2008. (ISBN 978-0-470-02483-6)
  5. A.K. Chopra. Dynamics of Structures: Theory and Applications to Earthquake Engineering, Prentice Hall, 4th Edition, 2011.
  6. R. W. Clough and J. Penzien. Dynamics of Structures. 3rd edition. 
  7. Other material to be advised during lectures

Unit Content

One topic is delivered per contact week, with the exception of part-time 24-week units, where one topic is delivered every two weeks.


Topic 1


  1. Historical earthquakes, their influence on society, and the evolution of earthquake engineering.
  2. Plate tectonics and the structure of the earth.
  3. Earthquake source mechanisms and types of faults.
  4. Intra-plate earthquakes and Australian seismicity.

Topic 2


  1. Seismic stress waves and wave scattering.
  2. Earthquake magnitude and frequency.
  3. Attenuation and intensity, intensity scales.
  4. Site effects including topographical amplification.
  5. Earthquake prediction.

Topic 3

Characteristics of earthquake ground motion

  1. Recorded earthquake motions: acceleration, velocity, displacement.
  2. Response spectra, Fourier spectra, Power Spectra.
  3. Return periods and probabilistic seismic design.
  4. Code spectra.

Topic 4

Fundamentals of earthquake structural response-SDOF Systems

  1. Dynamic properties of structures
  2. Introduction of SDOF system
  3. Period and frequency of SDOF system

Topic 5

Fundamentals of earthquake structural response-MDOF Systems

  1. MDOF system introduction
  2. Formulation of mass and stiffness matrices
  3. Period and frequency of MDOF vibration modes.

Topic 6

Lateral Load Resisting Systems and Seismic Response

  1. Moment resisting frames, wall frame systems, braced frames
  2. Response modification devices, base isolation, rocking structures.
  3. Elastic, Inelastic response and hysteretic models.
  4. Curvature, rotation and displacement ductility

Topic 7

Seismic Loadings Standards

  1. Philosophy of design
  2. Capacity design principles, over-strength, failure hierarchy.
  3. Seismic analysis methods
  4. Comprehensive treatment of AS 1170.4.
  5. A brief introduction to other international loading standards.

Topic 8

Seismic design and detailing

  1. Overview of capacity spectrum method
  2. Response spectrum- AS 1170.4
  3. Ductile and limited ductile seismic detailing for reinforced concrete structures (AS 3600).
  4. Seismic detailing for steel structures.

Topic 9

Time-history analysis

  1. Strong motion recorders and signal processing.
  2. Near source ground motion.
  3. Selecting earthquake records (synthetic versus database access).
  4. Time-history analysis.

Topic 10

Recent developments in earthquake engineering

  1. Soil-structure interaction.
  2. Building pounding.
  3. Performance based design.

Topic 11

Ground damage due to earthquake shaking

  1. Liquefaction and lateral spread.
  2. Rock fall.
  3. Land slides.

Topic 12

Recent earthquakes and emerging issues

  1. Critical review of recent noteworthy earthquakes.
  2. Post-earthquake building assessment procedures.
  3. Multi-disciplinary response and recovery issues.
  4. Lessons learned recently and emerging developments in earthquake engineering.

Engineers Australia

The Australian Engineering Stage 1 Competency Standards for the Professional Engineer, approved as of 2013. This table is referenced in the mapping of graduate attributes to learning outcomes and via the learning outcomes to student assessment.

Stage 1 Competencies and Elements Competency
1. Knowledge and Skill Base
1.1 Comprehensive, theory based understanding of the underpinning natural and physical sciences and the engineering fundamentals applicable to the engineering discipline.
1.2 Conceptual understanding of the mathematics, numerical analysis, statistics, and computer and information sciences which underpin the engineering discipline.
1.3 In-depth understanding of specialist bodies of knowledge within the engineering discipline.
1.4 Discernment of knowledge development and research directions within the engineering discipline.
1.5 Knowledge of engineering design practice and contextual factors impacting the engineering discipline.
1.6 Understanding of the scope, principles, norms, accountabilities and bounds of sustainable engineering practice in the specific discipline.
2. Engineering Application Ability
2.1 Application of established engineering methods to complex engineering problem solving.
2.2 Fluent application of engineering techniques, tools and resources.
2.3 Application of systematic engineering synthesis and design processes.
2.4 Application of systematic approaches to the conduct and management of engineering projects.
3. Professional and Personal Attributes
3.1 Ethical conduct and professional accountability.
3.2 Effective oral and written communication in professional and lay domains.
3.3 Creative, innovative and pro-active demeanor.
3.4 Professional use and management of information.
3.5 Orderly management of self and professional conduct.
3.6 Effective team membership and team leadership.

Software/Hardware Used


  • Software: N/A

  • Version: N/A

  • Instructions:  N/A

  • Additional resources or files: N/A


  • N/A