Influence of FE Modelling Approaches on Vulnerabilities of RC School Buildings and Proposal of a CFRP Retrofitting Intervention

Valentina Gazzani1, *, Marina Poiani1, Francesco Clementi1, Giuseppe Pace1, Stefano Lenci1
1 Department of Civil and Building Engineering and Architecture (DICEA), Polytechnic University of Marche Ancona, Ancona, Italy

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Creative Commons License
© 2019 Gazzaniet al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at Department of Civil and Building Engineering and Architecture (DICEA), Polytechnic University of Marche Ancona, Ancona, Italy; Tel: (+39)0712204569; E-mail:



The vulnerability assessment of existing school buildings against earthquakes represents a priority concern for society. In recent years, several countries promote seismic rehabilitation projects of school buildings, including the allocation of funds to regions with high seismic hazard.


This research aims to highlight some key role aspects related to difficulties encountered in the numerical modelling of RC structures hosting school activities.

This work evaluates the seismic vulnerability of school buildings located in the municipality of Trecastelli (Marche, Central Italy) to quantify the effective influence of typical and specific seismic vulnerabilities detected on the global seismic behaviour of each building.

The effectiveness of a possible Carbon Fibre Reinforced Polymer (CFRP) local strengthening intervention, for the case study, aimed to confine unconfined beam-column joints is also considered.


Three different numerical models of a Reinforced Concrete (RC) school building are implemented with the lumped plasticity, the distributed plasticity (fibre) and the 3D Continuum Finite Element (FE) approaches. Nonlinear static (pushover) analyses are performed to assess the global seismic behaviour of the structure, and the limitations to represent the reality with different approaches. After the seismic vulnerability assessment of the case study, a CFRP retrofitting intervention is proposed to confine external beam-column joints.


The comparison of the numerical results of three models shows that the fibre model is the least suitable means to represent shear problems, while the lumped plasticity model is closer to reality than the previous one even if it does not take into account the concomitance of bending, shear and axial force and the interaction between them in the inelastic response. Of course, the 3D Continuum model is the most accurate representation to describe the complex and combined mechanisms developed in the joint panels. Nonlinear static (pushover) analyses carried out on unreinforced and reinforced structures of Continuum model demonstrate that the Fibre Reinforced Polymer (FRP) strengthening improves the displacement capacity of the structure.


This study has highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of different modelling types. The meaningful information about mechanisms developed in joints given by the 3D Continuum FE model is useful to identify shortcomings of the design project and to conceive a retrofitting strengthening intervention.

CFRP sheets externally bonded on beam-column joints may improve the seismic frame performances without a significant change of the structural stiffness, promoting a ductile failure mode with a higher displacement capacity than the unreinforced case.

Keywords: School building, Nonlinear static analyses, 3D Continuum FE model, Distributed plasticity model, Beam-column joints, CFRP intervention.