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Traditional timber joint constructions as a solution for creating new residential buildings in the earthquake area of Groningen: An exploratory research into the possibility of using traditional timber joints as an earthquake resilient building method



Last Updated: 12-2019


The built environment in Groningen, the most northern province of the Netherlands, is prone to damage because of induced earthquakes. These earthquakes are a result of an under pressure in the gas reservoir, three kilometers below the surface. The damage to the residential buildings of the citizens in the earthquake area are not only creating a devaluation of the property but a feeling of unsafety as well. Because the earthquakes are relatively new, the buildings in the area are not engineered to be able to withstand the seismicity. In contrast to Groningen there are countries around the world which design for seismic activity. What these countries have in common is that the traditional buildings rely on some sort of timber construction. The fact that a large amount of these wooden structures still exist and are capable of withstanding earthquakes, implies that there can be a solution in building with traditional timber structures in earthquakes areas in the present time. This research explores the possibility of adding a traditional timber structure to new to be build earthquake resilient residential buildings in Groningen.
The timber joints were the focus of the analysis. In the analysis two Dutch and one updated Japanese traditional timber structures were evaluated and scored on criteria. The criteria on which these structures were scored were derived from the literature. It captured the possibility for ductility and energy dissipation, the overall theoretical displacement of the structure, the usage of different types of fasteners and scored the structure on the level of embedment in the environment of Groningen. These scores were then used in a pairwise comparison using the analytic hierarchy process (AHP). The improved Japanese timber structure turned out to have the highest potential of energy dissipation and would allow for the smallest displacement of the construction.
Additionally, a case study was used to verify whether the traditional timber structure could be used to build a residential building. This case study showed that there is a possibility for these type of timber structures in new to be build earthquake resilient residential buildings. However, further research into the exact behavior of the timber structure in an earthquake situation will be necessary before the method can be applied to the built environment.

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