Risk-targeted alternatives to deterministic ground motion caps in U.S. seismic provisions

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Since their inception over 20 years ago, the maximum considered earthquake ground motion maps in U.S. building codes have capped probabilistic values with deterministic ground motions from characteristic earthquakes on known active faults. This practice has increasingly been called into question both because of spatially non-uniform risk levels that are produced (risk being higher mainly in coastal California) and practical difficulties in defining characteristic earthquakes from recent earthquake rupture forecast models. We describe two proposals developed to enable phase-out of deterministic caps. One approach modestly increases collapse risk targets nationwide based on recent information on return periods of characteristic earthquakes on major central and eastern U.S. seismic sources; adoption of this approach would remove the perceived need for caps in California. The second approach uses geographically varying collapse risk targets, being higher near the highly active faults in California and unchanged elsewhere. Neither approach was adopted for the 2020 National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program recommended seismic Provisions for new building structures, but they are described in a Part 3 document to accompany the Provisions and Commentary.




Stewart, J. P., Luco, N., Hooper, J. D., & Crouse, C. B. (2020). Risk-targeted alternatives to deterministic ground motion caps in U.S. seismic provisions. Earthquake Spectra, 36(2), 904–923. https://doi.org/10.1177/8755293019892010

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