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John Nigel
memoria nostra durabit,
si vita meruimus
John Nigel
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Table of Contents

1. Photographs and Memories 9

Often you and I had tired the sun with talking 9
G. Michele Calvi
Remembrance will endure, if the life shall have merited it 15
Michael P. Collins
His efforts will be significant for a long time into the future 19
Athol J. Carr
An implacable search for truth 25
André Filiatrault
Never able to touch the same water twice 29
Rob Chai
He let out a subtle smile and said: “damn it” 33
Mervyn Kowalsky
The Gracefield connection 37
Sri Sritharan
“My supervisor taught me that”…and this is the end of the discussion 41
Jason Ingham
His influence on engineering practice here (in the US) has been enormous 43
Joe Maffei
You know, Nigel would say… 45
Katrin Beyer

2. Practical Lessons from Nigel 47

Joe Maffei, Carlos Blandón, Sri Sritharan and Katrin Beyer

3. The World’s Greatest Structural Systems Experimentalist 57

José I. Restrepo, Christopher Latham, Sri Sritharan and Nihal Vitharana

4. The Development of Direct Displacement-Based Design 69

Mervyn Kowalsky, Tim Sullivan and Greg MacRae

5. Seismic Design and Retrofit of Bridges 89

Sri Sritharan, Jason Ingham, Rob Chai, Mervyn Kowalsky, Jay Holombo and Mark Yashinsky

6. Masonry and Earthquakes: Not a Matter for Blockheads 115

Katrin Beyer, Jason Ingham, Guido Magenes and Rob Chai

7. From the Pioneering Work on Presss-Technology to the New Paradigm of Low-Damage Design 131
Stefano Pampanin, James Conley, Suzanne Dow Nakaki, Sri Sritharan, Christopher Latham
and John F. Stanton

Gian Michele Calvi and José I. Restrepo

Michael John Nigel Priestley was born in 1943 and passed away in 2014.
He has been a scientist, a designer, a carpenter, a gourmet, a poet and a free man.
His influence on the growth of many people and on the evolution of several areas of structural
engineering has been enormous.
For this reasons, his name has been borrowed to entitle a number of initiatives in earthquake engineering,
including an international seminar, a scientific prize, a museum.
For this same reason a number of friends, colleagues, fellows and alumni have devised a volume of
memories, in which his scientific and human heritage will be presented and discussed from several
points of view, in the hope of further disseminating seeds of sapience.
Michael Collins was one of Nigel schoolmates in the early sixties at the University of Canterbury. The
closure of his contribution may possibly best describe our feelings when remembering Nigel:
Nigel Priestley changed my life in a number of positive ways. First in 1963 he showed me how
to lift my academic performance by devoting some hours each day to studying the fundamentals
of engineering. Then in 1997 he demonstrated that you could be a successful North American
academic and still spend two or even three months a year in New Zealand where the spectacular
scenery that we both loved is inspiring and helps the creative spirit. Finally in 2001 he made
me part of the ROSE School at Pavia with the concept of teaching intensive graduate courses
on seismic design of structures in a whole new way.
As the Roman statesman, consul, governor of Britain and keeper of the aqueducts, Julius
Frontinus stated when writing to Pliny about the death of a mutual friend:
“Remembrance will endure, if the life shall have merited it.1”
For Nigel the life has merited it.

The following friends of Nigel have contributed to this volume:

Katrin Beyer, Carlos Blandón, Gian Michele Calvi, Athol J. Carr, Rob Chai, Michael P. Collins, James
Conley, André Filiatrault, Jay Holombo, Jason Ingham, Mervyn Kowalsky, Christopher Latham, Greg
MacRae, Joe Maffei, Guido Magenes, Suzanne Nakaki, Stefano Pampanin, José I. Restrepo, Sri
Sritharan, John F. Stanton, Tim Sullivan, Nihal Vitharana and Mark Yashinsky.

1 Gaius
Plinius Caecilius Secundus (Pliny the Younger) Epist. IX.XIX.1, 6: Vetuit exstrui monumentum; sed quibus verbis?
Impensa monumenti supervacua est; memoria nostra durabit, si vita meruimus.

1. Photographs and Memories

Often you and I had tired the sun with talking

G. Michele Calvi

Nigel Priestley studies and academic appointments

July 21st, 1943 Born in Wellington, New Zealand.
1956 – 1959 High School at Wellington Technical College.
1959 – 1966 University studies at the University of Canterbury, at Christchurch: Bachelor of
Engineering with first-class honours and PhD (with a thesis on Moment redistribution
in prestressed concrete continuous beams).
1968 – 1969 Post-Doc at the Laboratorio Nacional de Engenharia Civil, Lisbon, Portugal.
1969 – 1975 Head of the structures laboratory at the Ministry of Works and Development central
laboratories in Lower Hutt, New Zealand.
1976 – 1986 Senior Lecturer and then Reader, University of Canterbury.
1986 – 2000 Professor, University of California, San Diego.
2000 – 2014 Founder, Co-Director and later Emeritus Director, ROSE School, IUSS Pavia, Italy.
Dec. 23rd, 2014 Decease.

Nigel Priestley main Awards and recognitions

1973 Fulton Gold Medal (Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ)).
1983, 1989 Raymond C. Reese Award (American Concrete Institute (ACI)).
2003 Honorary Doctorate (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH), Zürich, Switzerland).
2006 Honorary Doctorate (Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, Mendoza Argentina).
2008 ROSE School Prize (IUSS Pavia, Italy).
2010 Freyssinet Medal (International Federation for Structural Concrete (fib)).
2014 Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (the Queen in Right of New Zealand).
2014 Housner Gold Medal (Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI)).

Figure 1.1 - Nigel Priestley in 2007.

Early days
I met Nigel for the first time in 1987, in La Jolla, at a meeting of the TECCMAR project, which aimed
to reduce the seismic risk related to masonry buildings in Southern California.
He had recently moved to the University of California San Diego from New Zealand and instead of
sitting silently and humbly listening to more established and older colleagues, he was playing the agent
provocateur, asking questions and expressing statements that in literature would sound like the king
has no clothes.
One of the reasons why his name was well known to me was that a few years earlier, when I was sitting
in Vitelmo Bertero’s class at Berkeley, the number one reference he was recommending was a book
edited by Emilio Rosenblueth, titled Design of Earthquake Resistant Structures, published in 1980
(Rosenblueth, 1980). Nigel was the author of the chapter on masonry structures and considering the
eminent authors listed in the table of contents, I was expecting to meet a senior and mature professor.
On the contrary, he looked like a young actor and had the scathing irony of a GB Shaw.
It is a matter of fact that Nigel in his thirties was already a recognized star in earthquake engineering,
namely on masonry, one of his first engineering passions.
I soon learnt that his area of expertise was indeed much wider (including prestressed concrete, bridges,
shear wall buildings, tanks and silos, seismic response, etc.) and that he had gone through an incredibly
fast and varied education, entering university at the age of 16, obtaining a PhD when he was 23, going

for a Post-Doc in Lisbon and then heading a public laboratory for seven years before joining back the
university of Canterbury at the age of 33.
One of many examples of his encyclopedic knowledge stood out a few years later, while we were
working together on the repair and strengthening of the Anatolian Viaduct, which had been shortened
of about 1.5 m by the 1999 Duzce earthquake, with a similar permanent lateral displacement.
We decided to transform 119 simply supported spans into six continuous decks of about 800 m each
(Priestely and Calvi, 2002).
A problem to be checked and solved was originated by the stresses induced by differential temperature
variations in the upper and lower parts of the deck.
I confess I was surprised to learn that a viable simple approach to face this problem had been developed
and published by Nigel some fifteen years earlier. I quote here from our design report: “Differential
thermal loading, with top surface hotter than soffit will tend to cause the spans to hog upwards. In
the current configuration this is unrestrained, but making full continuity over supports will mean that
hogging is restrained, inducing tension stress on the soffit. The method of analysis is that developed by
Priestley (see chapter 5, The Thermal Response of Concrete Bridges in (Cope, 1987))”.
Another enlightening example of his influence on engineering practice can be derived by the
observation that most codes used worldwide to design tanks against seismic action are based on similar
approaches. The reason is simple: they are all essentially derived from the same document: “Seismic
Design of Storage Tanks” (Priestley et al., 1986).

US times
In Christchurch, he was third in line of a breed of giants, spaced ten years apart by birth: Tom Paulay,
Bob Park and himself. One of the reasons to move to San Diego might have been some need of more
independency, but he always kept strict and friendly relations with his mentors, particularly with Tom
Paulay. Actually, in 1992 they published together the first of Nigel’s bestsellers: Seismic design of
reinforced concrete and masonry buildings (Paulay and Priestley, 1992).
Though published when Nigel had been living in Solana Beach for about six years, I believe that this
book (the drafting of which actually started eight years earlier) could be considered the summary of his
work in Christchurch, only marginally influenced by his American experience.
Once in California, he was the most relevant player in launching UCSD in the arena of structure and
earthquake engineering and in constructing and extensively using the new experimental laboratory. The
timing was perfect, since the earthquakes of Loma Prieta (1989) and Northridge (1994), followed one
year later by the event in Kobe (1995), demonstrated the inadequacy of the design approaches applied
worldwide and required extensive experimental testing and revisiting of equations and detailing used
in practice, as well as the development of dependable though immediately applicable strengthening
In those years Nigel proposed novel equations to estimate the shear strength of columns and walls
(known as the UCSD model), equations to estimate the flexural capacity in presence of inappropriate bar
termination or insufficient overlapping, techniques to enhance shear strength and flexural deformation
capacities based on steel or composite encasing.
Most of this enormous amount of work is distilled in another bestseller, published in 1996: Seismic
design and retrofit of bridges (Priestley et al., 1996).
This book constituted the answer waited for worldwide to change the logic of bridge design,
construction, assessment and strengthening. It was immediately translated into Japanese and Chinese
and it is still the internationally recognized reference on the subject. A very fortunate book, still selling.
The book is permeated with Nigel’s way of approaching problems and life, of his spirit, thoughts and

work on earthquake engineering. A book that undoubtedly had an influence on engineering practice
and on the intellectual growth of younger generations of engineers.
Similarly to what I stated with reference to the book published with Tom Paulay, I believe that this book
can be considered the summary of Nigel’s work and developments while living in the US.

ROSE School times

While still mainly living in California, Nigel was extensively travelling all over the world, for consulting
on major structural projects, such as the Anatolian Viaduct mentioned earlier, but as well because of his
unceasing curiosity for places and humanity.
We had many opportunities to discuss about art and philosophy, often deviating to art and philosophy
of structural and earthquake engineering. One of the outcome of these symposia was the inception of
a new graduate school focusing on seismic design, based on the association of a group of well known
professors who accepted to teach intensive courses in series, with students fully immersed in a single
course at a time. The school had an enormous success and is now recognized as one of the world
leading places to study earthquake engineering.
In his last public appearance, Nigel stated: “professor Calvi and I spent a lot of time discussing the
format and mechanics of this rather unusual school. This association with the ROSE school has been
the most enjoyable part of my technical career. I feel cheated that this association has to terminate”.
The representative legacy of these years’ work is undoubtedly another book, published in 2007:
Displacement Based Seismic Design of Structures (Priestley et al., 2007).
To express the relevance and impact of this book, I like to borrow some words from a review published
on a major international journal by Graham Powell, Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley:
“It is rare for a book on structural engineering design to be revolutionary. I believe that this is such
a book. If you are involved in any way with seismic resistant structural design, this should be on your
bookshelf, and you should read at least the first three chapters”.
Displacement based design is actually today the subject of studies of hundreds of researchers and
students, who are working on refinements and extensions, thus confirming Powell’s statement.

The end
Nigel Priestley was a lover of poetry and a poet himself all through his life. For this reason I believe
it is appropriate to close this memories quoting a message he sent me some time before passing away.
“Caro Michele, I came across this translation of a poem by Callimachus (310/305-240 BC) on the
death of his friend Heraclitus. I think it is rather beautiful, and thought you might appreciate it:

They told me, Heraclitus: they told me

you were dead.
They brought me bitter news to hear
and bitter tears to shed.
I wept when I remembered how often
you and I
Had tired the sun with talking, and
sent him down the sky”

I feel that Nigel’s final legacy is his intimate pleasure in tiring the sun with talking, provided that the
arguments have adequate substance and intensity to send him down the sky.

Figure 1.2 - The essence of displacement-based design in one figure:
· The real structure is represented by a single degree of freedom model.
· The actual non-linear response is simulated considering a secant stiffness to the design displacement and a damping equivalent
to the energy dissipated in the response loops.
· The equivalent damping ratio is estimated on the base of the ductility demand.
· A displacement spectrum reduced according to the equivalent damping is entered with the design displacement, to obtain a
period of vibration, and consequently a value for the equivalent stiffness and for the required design strength.

Callimachus (310/305-240 BC). Epigrams, II. (the Greek original text follows).

Cope R.J. (1987) - Concrete Bridge Engineering: Performance + Advances, Elsevier Applied Science.
Paulay T., Priestley M.J.N. (1992) - Seismic design of reinforced concrete and masonry buildings. John Wiley.
Priestley M.J.N, Calvi G.M., Kowalsky M.J. (2007) - Displacement Based Seismic Design of Structures, IUSS Press.
Priestley M.J.N, Seible F., Calvi G.M. (1996) - Seismic design and retrofit of bridges. John Wiley.
Priestley M.J.N., G.M. Calvi (2002) - Strategies for Repair and Seismic Upgrading of Bolu Viaduct 1, Turkey, Journal of Earthquake
Engineering, 6:SP1, 157-184.
Priestley M.J.N., Wood J.H., Davidson B.J. (1986) - Seismic Design of Storage Tanks, Bulletin of the New Zealand National Society for
Earthquake Engineering. 19:4, 272-284.
Rosenblueth E. (1980) - Design of Earthquake Resistant Structures. Pentech Press.

Remembrance will endure, if the life shall have merited it
Michael P. Collins

Nigel and I met in 1961 as fellow undergraduate students at the University of Canterbury. The 62 of
us in that Civil Engineering class were privileged to be there at the start of what was to be a golden
era for structural engineering at Canterbury. The School of Engineering had just moved to a new
campus where, under the long-term leadership of Professor Harry Hopkins (a structural engineer, a
Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and the winner of the Distinguished Flying Cross), Civil Engineering now
had a large, modern Structures Laboratory and excellent technical support staff. Most importantly,
Hopkins had hired some very talented academic staff with the newest addition being Tom Paulay, a
graduate of Canterbury who after eight years as a structural engineer in Wellington had been hired to
teach Structural Design. There was a sense that this was a special place and a special time with serious
problems to be solved but like nearly all engineering students our belief was that we should work hard
but play even harder.
Nigel and I became friends because we enjoyed the same courses, went to the same parties, and both
loved the mountains and skiing. It also helped that our girlfriends were cousins. For our final year of
undergraduate studies Nigel and I moved out of student residences and with another student, Dave
Murray, rented a house some miles from the campus. We had many memorable parties at the house
attended not only by our fellow students and their partners but also by a number of the faculty including
Harry Hopkins, Frank Henderson and Tom Paulay. Dave and I learnt that Nigel was a wonderful
cook and we happily acted as dish washers and kitchen help to this chef. I also observed that while
Nigel always seemed to pick up difficult
technical material effortlessly, this
academic brilliance was kept polished
by long hours of intense study late at
night. I decided to try out this novel idea
of studying for hours each night and as
a result, like Nigel, earned my BE with
First Class Honours and went on to win
a scholarship to pursue graduate studies.
In fact seven of us from this class of
1963 went on to earn PhD degrees.
Both Nigel and I returned to the
University of Canterbury in 1975-76, he
as a new faculty member in Structural
Design and me as a visiting lecturer
on sabbatical from the University of
Toronto. It was a very productive time
for us all with daily exchanges of ideas
over morning and afternoon cups of tea
or coffee and then later a few beers at the
Faculty Club. The staff-student cricket
match was particularly memorable with
Harry Hopkins again demonstrating the Figure 1.3 - With Nigel in Mount Hutt, Canterbury.

sporting mastery that had earned him his Rhodes Scholarship. The three P’s, Tom Paulay, Bob Park
and Nigel Priestley, all hired by Harry Hopkins were now in place and the golden years at Canterbury
were well under way.

Figure 1.4 - John Berrill, Nigel, Harry Hopkins and Russell Poole... Christchurch 1976.

Nigel had a sabbatical at Toronto in 1981. At that time he was completing his research on “Thermal
Stresses in Concrete Structures” which had demonstrated that just the sun shining on a concrete
structure could, in some cases, result in significant cracking of the structure. A key insight was that
these thermal events imposed not loads on the structure but rather caused deformations of the structure.
Thus we need to design for the deformations not the loads.
Nigel joined the University of California San Diego in 1986 and began an ambitious research program
aimed at upgrading the seismic resistance of California’s bridges. After the Loma Prieta earthquake
of October 1989 the program was accelerated with significant funding increases from Caltrans, the
agency responsible for the highway bridges in California. In 1995, 1998 and 1999 we spent time in
San Diego often when Nigel was in New Zealand. One of the Caltrans engineers who came on a site
visit while Nigel was away explained to me why they liked funding Nigel’s research. He said that if
Nigel asks for two million dollars to solve a given problem in two years, at the end of the two years he
has spent the money and the final report gives you the solution to the problem. Most other professors,
given the same opportunity, will spend the money and the final report will typically explain why,
although progress has been made, another two years and another two million dollars are needed to
solve the problem. Probably this is why at the 2008 Lake Tahoe symposium honouring Nigel, the
former Caltrans Chief Earthquake Engineer Ray Zelinski, stated that in his opinion no one had done
more for the safety of the people of California than Nigel Priestley.

Figure 1.5 - Nigel is “hands on” both in the experiment and at the barbecue afterwards, California, San Diego 1995.

Figure 1.6 - Tom, Nigel, Jan and Judy at Pegasus Bay Vineyard, Canterbury.

Figure 1.7 - Five members of the class of 1963 at Waipara Vineyard, Canterbury, February 2014.

Figure 1.8 - Nigel, Jan, grand-daughter and Judy, Diamond Harbour, Canterbury, March 2014.

Nigel Priestley changed my life in a number of positive ways. First in 1963 he showed me how to lift my
academic performance by devoting some hours each day to studying the fundamentals of engineering.
Then in 1997 he demonstrated that you could be a successful North American academic and still spend
two or even three months a year in New Zealand where the spectacular scenery that we both loved is
inspiring and helps the creative spirit. Finally in 2001 he made me part of the ROSE School at Pavia with
the concept of teaching intensive graduate courses on seismic design of structures in a whole new way.

As the Roman statesman, consul, governor of Britain and keeper of the aqueducts, Julius Frontinus
stated when writing to Pliny about the death of a mutual friend:
“Remembrance will endure, if the life has merited it.”
For Nigel the life has merited it.

His efforts will be significant for a long time into the future
Athol J. Carr

Student Days
My contacts with Nigel go back to our First Professional Year Civil Engineering studies in 1961 at the
University of Canterbury where Mike Collins (now University of Toronto). John Berrill (Canterbury
Seismic Instruments) and I, together with many others, were class-mates. Through the undergraduate
course Nigel quickly became regarded as one of the out-standing members of our class.
After completing our BE (Civil) degrees Nigel started on a Ph.D programme at the University of
Canterbury. Nigel later went to Portugal on a post-doctoral study and then came back to join the New
Zealand Ministry of Works. I worked in a consulting engineering practice for 10 months before going
to the University of California to complete an M.S.Eng. and a Ph.D with Professor Ray Clough as my
graduate advisor as well as the supervisor for both degrees. On my return to New Zealand I joined the
Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Canterbury as a lecturer in Civil Engineering.
My major interest at that time was finite element analyses and structural dynamics, and we lost contact
over this period.

Ministry of Works
In the early 1970s one of the major engineering concerns in New Zealand was the behavior of box-
girder bridges subjected to thermal loadings, with severe distress showing in some of the bridges. The
National Roads Board had set up a study group to investigate the problem and a group of researchers
was established to carry out appropriate research. Nigel Priestley was then in charge of the Central
Laboratories of the Ministry of Works who were carrying out measurements of the effects on the
bridges as well as determining a means of calculating the thermal profiles in the bridges under the
effects of solar radiation (Priestley 1976; Priestley & Buckle, 1978). At the University of Canterbury,
I was working with a Ph.D student, T.A. Moore, (Moore, 1975) to develop a finite element analysis
for non-prismatic box-girder bridges which included the thermal effects using the data Nigel was
gathering. We later showed that for some multi-span reinforced concrete box-girder bridges the
thermal loading case was the critical design case, see Figure 1.9. The team from the Civil Engineering
Department at the University of Auckland was working on finite strip analysis techniques for the same
types of reinforced concrete bridges. These three research groups met three to four times a year to
report progress, compare results and work out strategies for the next stage of the research.
Nigel was also instrumental in developing a code of practice for the seismic design of reinforced
concrete tanks and reservoirs in New Zealand.

University of Canterbury
In 1976 Nigel left the Ministry of Works and joined the Department of Civil Engineering as a Senior
Lecturer. He brought with him his analytical and experimental skills and immediately fitted into the
concrete laboratory with Professors Park and Paulay, forming the team known locally as the Three Ps
(Park, Paulay and Priestley).
Nigel carried out research with Professor Park on concrete structures and as a large part of the funding
for the research came from the National Roads Board bridge structures and bridge substructures

featured strongly in the research (Priestley and Park, 1984). Nigel worked with Professor Park to get
funding for the Dartec test machine that was later installed in the Concrete laboratory in the Civil
Engineering Department. The installation was not that easy with the very high water-table at the Ilam
Campus. Nigel was given charge of the laboratory and of the Dartec test machine. This test machine,
see Figure 1.10, has enabled many research projects for both Master of Engineering and Doctor of
Philosophy students.

Figure 1.9 - Cumberland Overpass, Dunedin. This box-girder bridge divides into three on-ramps at the near end and two on-ramps
at the far end.

Besides his interests in reinforced concrete structures and tanks Nigel was also interested in the seismic
performance of masonry structures (Priestley, 1977).
Nigel also led the development of a shake-table for the Civil Engineering Department. This simple single
acting shake-table uses the same hydraulic pumps as those for the Dartec test machine but the table has
been in very heavy demand ever since its installation for both ME and Ph.D students (Priestley, 1978),
(Kao, 1998) as well as for demonstration of inelastic behavior to both final year and post-graduate
students. See Figures 1.11 and 1.12. With the shake table installed Nigel had students studying rocking
systems. While the experimental results were very good Nigel was concerned with getting a good
computational model that would replicate the experimental results. Nigel, as with Professor Paulay,
realized that with good computational models further parametric studies could be obtained analytically
much faster and more easily than by repeated experimental work. Nigel worked with me in getting the
appropriate computational models that could be input into the non-linear dynamic analysis program
Ruaumoko (Carr, 1982, 2016). Nigel and I collaborated with several research projects where non-
linear computational models were involved.
This shake-table is now over 30 years old and although it has a number of problems it is likely to
remain in use for many years to come.

University of California, San Diego
In 1987 Nigel moved to a professorship in California at UCSD. He was in his element with large
scale experimental work in the PRESSS programme and also did considerable work with non-linear
dynamic analyses. He obtained a license for Ruaumoko for UCSD, the second overseas university
license and the first in the USA.

Figure 1.10 - University of Canterbury Dartec Test Machine.

Figure 1.11 - Shake Table with Rocking Joint Low Damage Frame (Murahidy, 2004).

Figure 1.12 - Frame with Replaceable Plastic Hinges with Semi-Active Control System Attached (Franco-Anaya, 2008).

There seemed to be a feeling that for computer software that if it was not written in the USA it did
not exist. I still have a feeling that that belief still exists even today as I note that things that we
incorporated into our software in 1979 have only been put into software in the US within the last year.
This was the start of the spread of Ruaumoko in the USA. As Nigel’s graduate students finished their
degrees and moved to other universities they also wanted the computational facilities of Ruaumoko
and obtained further academic licenses. I have much to thank Nigel for. During his time in San Diego
Nigel also maintained his strong contacts in New Zealand and he and Professor Tom Paulay produced
their book on the design of reinforced concrete walls and masonry structures in 1992 (Paulay, 1992).
During this time Nigel also pursued his push to change the ways engineers designed structures to
resist earthquake excitation, from designing for so-called earthquake forces to designing for seismic

Pavia and the Rose Program

In the late 1990s, Nigel and Professor G.M. Calvi established the Rose School at the University of
Pavia, Italy. This is a post-graduate program, taught in English, using top academic researchers and
teachers from around the world to give the best students the best post-graduate education and research
in earthquake engineering. Since the turn of the century this program has produced a large number of
exceptional engineers who have found academic positions throughout the world. The students have had
the best of laboratory and computational opportunities as well as a range of very good graduate courses
to give them the tools to carry out their studies. In 2004 Nigel asked me if I would offer my particular
non-linear dynamic analysis course as part of the Rose program. I was honoured to be asked and the
course has now been given four times during the past twelve years. I have been most impressed by
the calibre of the students in the Rose Program. With the Rose School Nigel made great contributions
to research and teaching as well as furthering his efforts in displacement-based design. A large part
of Nigel’s research involved non-linear analyses and many of the features in Ruaumoko are there

because researchers needed those features. Nigel has made a major change in the way a large part of
the world designs structures. His design concepts tested by many research students led eventually with
Professors Calvi and Kowalsky, to the creation of their book on Displacement-Based Design in 2007
(Priestley, 2007). In this book Nigel wanted the readers to be able to follow the non-linear analyses
aspects covered in the examples in the book, and he obtained a license for a restricted version of
Ruaumoko to be made available with the book.

The Canterbury Earthquakes

Following the 4th of September 2010 Darfield earthquake and the 22nd of February 2011 Christchurch
earthquake the New Zealand Government established an engineering advisory group for the recovery
and a Royal Commission to investigate the collapse of some of the buildings during the Christchurch
earthquakes. Nigel was one the eminent engineers chosen to help guide the engineering profession
through the assessment and evaluation of consequences of the strong shaking that Christchurch
buildings had been subjected to.

Nigel has had a major influence on structural design, on research and the teaching of structural
engineering in New Zealand and throughout the world. The results of his efforts will be significant for
a long time into the future.

Carr A.J. (1982) - Ruaumoko manual. Report, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Carr A.J. (2016) - Ruaumoko manuals. Volumes 1-5, Carr Research Ltd., Christchurch, New Zealand.
Franco-Anaya. R. (2008) - Use of Semi-Active Devices to Control Deformation of Structures subjected to Seismic Excitation., PH.D
Thesis, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Canterbury, 2008.
Kao G.C. (1998) - Design and Shaking Table Tests of a Four Storey Miniature Structure Built With Replaceable PlasticHinges. ME Report.
Department of Civil Engineering, University of Canterbury, February 1998, 224p.
Moore T.A. (1975) - Finite element analysis of box-girder bridges. Ph.D Thesis. Department of Civil Engineering, University of Canterbury,
Christchurch, New Zealand, 1975. 288p.
Murahidy A.G. (2004) - Design, Construction, Dynamic Testing and Computer Modelling of a Precast Prestressed Reinforced Concrete
Frame Building with Rocking Beam-Column Connections and ADAS Elements. ME Report, Department of Civil Engineering,
University of Canterbury, February 2004. 154p.
Paulay T., Priestley M.J.N. (1992) - Seismic Design of Reinforced Concrete and Masonry Buildings. J, Wiley and Sons Inc. New York, 1992, 744p.
Priestley M.J,N., Buckle I.G. (1978) - Ambient thermal response of concrete bridges. RRU Bulletin 42, Bridge Seminar 1978, Volume 2.
Road Research Unit, National Roads Board, Wellington, New Zealand.
Priestley M.J,N., Park R. (1984) - Strength and ductility of bridge substructures. RRU Bulletin 71, Bridge Design and Research Seminar,
Auckland 1984. Road Research Unit, National Roads Board, Wellington, New Zealand.
Priestley M.J.N, Calvi G.M., Kowalsky M.J. (2007) - Displacement-Based Seismic Design of Structures. IUSS Press, Pavia, Italy. 2007, 719p.
Priestley M.J.N. (1976) - Design thermal gardients for concrete bridges. New Zealand Engineering, 15 September 1976, pp 213-219.
Priestley M.J.N., Crosbie R.L., Carr A.J. (1977) - Seismic Forces in Base-Isolated Masonry Structures. Bulletin of N.Z. National Society
for Earthquake Engineering. 10 (2), June 1977: 55-68.
Priestley M.J.N., Evison R.J., Carr A.J. (1978) - Seismic Response of Structures Free to Rock on Their Foundations. Bulletin of the N.Z.
National Society for Earthquake Engineering, 11 (3), September 1978: 141-50.

An implacable search for truth
(We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives1)
André Filiatrault

Unlike most contributors to this volume, I have not had direct technical interactions with Professor
Nigel Priestley. I have not been one of his students. I have not had the privilege to co-author technical
papers with him. I have not participated in consulting projects with him. Yet, I felt compelled to
contribute to this volume to stop and thank Professor Nigel Priestley for making a difference in my life.
I first met Professor Nigel Priestley in 1987 when I was a PhD student in Civil Engineering at the
University of British Columbia (UBC). Professor Don Anderson, one of my mentors at UBC, had
spent a sabbatical year at the University of Canterbury a few years back and became a good friend
with Professor Priestley. Don invited Professor Priestley to visit the UBC campus after he had moved
to the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) earlier that year. Among the various seminars
and activities scheduled during the visit, I had the opportunity to participate in a dinner with Professor
Priestley and a few senior PhD Students. This meal, like many others to come, provided an opportunity
to meet up close an upcoming giant in our field. I was impressed by his interest with the various subjects
that the students were working on and immediately felt that Professor Priestley had a genuine thirst for
the truth. Professor Priestley was never blinded nor limited by politics. He lived his professional career
in search of true innovations that ultimately would save lives during earthquakes. Although this purist
approach may have perhaps prevented him from being recognized by some peers and organizations to
the highest level that he deserves, it also allowed him to focus his multiple talents to truly making a
difference in the field of earthquake engineering. It is during that dinner that he asked me to call him
Nigel. Despite the short time that we had met, I felt that he was my friend.
My next significant personal contact with Nigel was during a sabbatical leave that I spend at the
University of Canterbury from the fall of 1994 to the spring of 1995. Nigel was on a three-month visit at
Canterbury during that time and we interacted often during the “sacrosanct” morning teatimes under the
strict supervision of the Department’s Bishop (a.k.a. Professor Thomas Paulay). I have fond memories of
Nigel bursting out laughing at Tom’s “daily jokes”. Beyond everything else, Nigel loved and enjoyed life.
The proudest period of my professional career was the short time that I was able to call myself a colleague
of Nigel, when we shortly overlapped from 1998 to 2000 at UCSD. At that time, Nigel was at the tail
end of directing the US-PRESSS Program and his research directly inspired the development of self-
centering steel structures that Constantin Christopoulos and I initiated at UCSD. Through interactions
with his graduate students and while serving on some of his students PhD defense committees, I could
witness first-hand Nigel’s genius and his passion for the truth. Nigel amazed me on how he could take
a complicated problem and turn it into a simple applicable solution. To me Nigel embodied the famous
quote by Albert Einstein: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”. It was
during that period that Nigel changed my life. I will never forget the day that I walked in front of the
old army barracks at UCSD (the 409 Building) and met Nigel coming down the short stairs. While
we walked together towards the Price Center, Nigel told me that he was starting a new earthquake
engineering graduate school (the so-called Rose School) in Pavia in Italy with a peculiar academic
program. He told me that they were looking for someone to teach a course on seismic isolation and

1 John F. Kennedy

supplemental damping and casually asked me if I was interested in teaching it. This short exchange
with Nigel was the starting point of my long-time association with Pavia that has steadily intensified
over the last 15 years. In fact, it is from Nigel’s old apartment in Pavia that I write these lines today.
Through Nigel’s casual request, I was given the opportunity to grow through the rich professional and
cultural experiences with the wonderful people of Pavia.
As Nigel’s health was failing, I felt sad and helpless. I kept contact with Nigel through occasional
messages but mostly through his long-time friend and confident Michele Calvi. In 2012, I decided
to pose a symbolic gesture to celebrate the life of my friend. I have been running marathons for
many years and I had registered to run the Goodlife Fitness Marathon in Toronto that year. Running
a marathon for me represents the metaphor of life and I decided to dedicate my race to Nigel. I asked
for Nigel’s permission to print his name on my running shirt (Figure 1.13) and I was thrilled when he
accepted. I spent the nearly four hours that I required to make it to the finish line thinking positively
about Nigel and the severe health challenges that he was facing. The several thousands of people that
lined up the streets of Toronto during the race that day encouraged runners by their names when they
see it on their running shirt. For 42.2 kilometers, I was Nigel to them. Although I am not a religious
person, I believed that thousands of people shouting encouragements at Nigel’s name sent positive
energy his way. I was happy to receive Nigel’s positive response after the race (Figure 1.14). The
marathon concluded with a copious meal at Constantin Christopoulos’ house with Judy and Michael
Collins (Figure 1.15), where we toasted several times to our friend Nigel.

Thank you Professor Priestley for pushing the boundaries of earthquake engineering through
your implacable search for truth.
Thank you Professor Priestley for being such an inspiration.
Thank you Nigel for changing my life.
Your friend forever.

From the Toronto Marathon

“The several thousands of people that line
up the streets of Toronto during the race
always encourage runners by their names
when they see it on their running shirt.
Although i am not a religious person.
I believe that thousands of people shouting
encouragements at Nigel’s name can only
send positive energy his way.”

Prof. André Filiatrault

May 6th 2012

Figure 1.13 - Celebrating Nigel’s life during the 2012 Toronto Marathon.

Figure 1.14 - Post-marathon dinner in honor of our friend Nigel.

Dear Andre,
Your impressive T-shirt has been delivered, and is currently prominently displayed in our new apartment in Pavia. Regarding the positive
thoughts you put into my health during your run: I am feeling rather better at present. Perhaps it is as a result of your thoughts, or possibility
just being in Pavia, or a combination of the two. Let’s hopr the improvement continues.

Many thanks, and Cheers,


Figure 1.15 - Post-marathon message from Nigel.

Never able to touch the same water twice
(just like the passing of time, but warm memory from reflection of calm flowing water never fades)
Rob Chai

My days as a graduate student saw the dawn of Nigel’s era at UCSD. I still remember that incredible,
reverent feeling when I first came to the Powell Lab, first among the series of great laboratories at
UCSD. It was the spring of 1987 when Nigel offered me a research assistantship to work as a PhD
student. It was still early in my career, but I knew then the opportunity to work with a great mentor
while conducting cutting-edge research in a world-class facility was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
In those fledging days though, Powell Lab was a facility waiting to be discovered. When I first joined,
the lab was filled by no more than two or three projects at any given time, and the unused floor area
was spacious enough for a forklift to make a full 360 degree turn, but that all changed once Nigel
arrived. A career transition from California to New Zealand would be challenging for most, but not
for Nigel. He was in the company of some of the top bridge engineers in the world at the admirable
young age of 43. The late 80s was an opportune time for bridge research, as the State of California was
embarking on Phase II of their retrofit program for bridge substructures. Nigel was fully cognizant of
the various structural deficiencies of old
California bridges, and he immediately
initiated a comprehensive and innovative
retrofit program for these substructures.
His efforts proved to be very successful,
garnering respect and praise from the
research community. Capitalizing on
his earlier work with Rob J.T. Park Jr.
in New Zealand on steel-encased piles,
son of Professor Park, he immediately
saw an almost natural, application of
steel tubes as jackets to enhance the
ductility capacity of deficient flexural
columns, regain their flexural capacity
from inadequate lap-splice length, or
increase the force capacity of the shear-
critical columns. The retrofit technique
was later extended to fiber-reinforced
polymer jackets with equally promising
results when compared with steel-
jacketed columns. His leadership on
the substructure test program brought
California to the forefront of seismic
retrofit research for highway bridges
around the world.
I have always enjoyed Nigel’s writing.
He was, without a doubt, a prolific
author. He taught me generously in Figure 1.16 - Nigel in the 2008 dedicated to him.

technical writing, lessons for which I
am forever grateful. I still remember
his frequent, patient reminders: “Don’t
forget your punctuation!” I admit I still
struggle with writing to this day, but
thanks to his little prompts, I have since
learnt to recognize the intricacy and
importance of punctuation in the English
language. In 1992, Nigel’s research on
steel jacketing received the K. B. Woods
Award, presented by the Transportation
Research Board in recognition of a paper
of outstanding merit. I felt immensely
proud and honored to be associated with
Nigel as a co-author on the paper, and I
tagged along for the award ceremony on
my first ever red-eye flight to Washington
D.C. Little did I know that Nigel needed
little or no sleep on the long flight, and
his ability to focus during the exhausting
journey was nothing short of impressive.
On our return flight to San Diego, which
took about 6 or 7 hours including a short
layover, Nigel was able to finish a hand-
written draft of a paper, probably 10 or 12
pages long, ready for final typeset the next
Figure 1.17 - Nigel next to a test column with a steel jacket. day. His clear thinking, skillful writing,
and the drive to get things done were
an inspiration to all fortunate enough to
witness it.
The seismic retrofit program in California and around the world was given further impetus after the
1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, despite the tragic backdrop. I made a reconnaissance trip to Oakland
with Nigel and Dr. Seible immediately after the earthquake, primarily to learn about the collapsed
double-deck Cypress Street Viaduct on Interstate 880. Prior to the trip, Nigel asked me, with a sincere
and fatherly tone, if I was fully aware of the dangers of traveling to ground zero in an earthquake-
ravaged region. I knew he expressed concern due to the imminent birth of my son, but how could I stay
behind when disaster had struck so close to the core topic that motivated our research? The slow walk
along the 1.6 miles stretch of the collapsed freeway was poignant and emotionally draining. When
I first approached the structure, I was speechless for what I felt was the longest time. I kept asking
myself how such a highly-engineered structure could have collapsed the way it did when seemingly old
warehouses, designed and built with much less scrutiny, remained unscathed no more than 200 or 300
feet away. I had driven on the lower deck of the Cypress structure several times while visiting the Bay
Area, so as I walked, I could only count my blessings when I saw crashed cars between those decks.
When I looked at Nigel, he remained calm and collected, taking occasional notes, despite the horrid
images unfolding in front of us. The earthquake added nine months to complete my dissertation but it
was the best extension I could have asked for. For in the process, Nigel taught me one lesson of utmost
importance, which is that one must start by appreciating the complex seismic response of structures,

Figure 1.18 - Nigel and Rob in Idyllwild in 2014.

for only after that one can seek simple solutions. His tutelage subconsciously planted my feet firmly on
the ground, allowing me to learn to be an engineer.
I often ask myself how I want to remember Nigel and what I would consider as his legacy. He has
set examples that many of us have try to emulate. One of my guiding principles is that I would
like to treat my students the way Nigel had so kindly treated me. When I talk to my students about
concrete structures, whether it is confinement requirements or ductility estimation, or capacity design
principles, or displacement-based design, I am invariably carrying on the Priestley legacy. He had
always encouraged us to take the road less traveled, for challenges in life not only shape our characters,
they also instill in us the belief that humanity is better served by our strong will to make things better.
I am also reminded of a fitting quote I read some time ago: “The first test of a truly great man is his
humility”. Many of us wish we had spent more time with him, professionally in the lab or socially over
a glass of wine, but on days like this, thinking of him and seeing his picture on the wall makes me feel
better already. He will always remain an inspiration to me and I can never thank him enough.

He let out a subtle smile and said: “damn it”
Mervyn Kowalsky

I suspect just about everyone who has taken courses, or observed Nigel’s teaching will come away with
similar observations to mine. I present the observations below from multiple perspectives, starting
with my time as an undergraduate student at UCSD.
UCSD utilizes a very transparent system with regards to course evaluations, which is referred to as
‘CAPE’ (Course and Professor Evaluations). At the end of the quarter, a CAPE representative, would
come to the class and hand out the forms to be filled by each member of the class and then collected by
the CAPE representative. During this time, the professor would not be present. Each year, the annual
‘CAPE’ book was published and sold at the bookstore for $1 or $2. Faculty at UCSD needed to have
thick skin, as these books would not only provide quantitative results regarding the number of enrolled
students who recommend the course and instructor, but also a summary of written comments, many
of which would be rather honest, and often brutal in assessment. The system is still in place at UCSD,
although it is now electronic, and participation voluntary (a quick review of the UCSD-CAPE site
shoes 20 to 30% participation, in many cases). During the 1990’s, participation was 100% of people
who were in class on the day of the evaluation.
Each quarter, as students planned their courses, we would consult the CAPE book, and where possible,
choose instructors that were highly rated. I recall suffering through some courses from instructors who
received scores of 10 to 20% in prior quarters. Back then, one could assume that instructors receiving
60 to 70% would likely be very good teachers. I recall looking at all of the courses in the structures
curriculum early in my undergraduate degree, and dreading the courses and instructors that received
low scores, and delighting in the anticipation of an instructor who approached 80% recommended. I
also recall each year, a professor by the name of Nigel Priestley earning scores that seemed impossible,
always above 90%, and in many cases 100%, in courses with 40+ students, where nearly every student
submitted an evaluation. It was so far outside the norm at the time, great anticipation built until finally,
in the second quarter of my senior year in 1993, I enrolled in AMES 135 – Reinforced Concrete Design.
It was immediately obvious how Nigel managed to earn such high scores. As faculty, we often debate
the merits of student evaluations suggesting that the scores are proportional to the grade distribution, or
ease of a course. In my experience the opposite is often the case. Nigel’s courses were not ‘entertaining’,
i.e., he didn’t tell jokes or try to amuse us (at least no intentionally!). They most certainly were not easy.
Instead, he earned his high evaluations via an uncanny ability to communicate concepts clearly, with
no wasted words, in a manner that built your confidence in the subject matter (while also identifying
when a particular code provision was ‘total rubbish!’). We did have one amusing instance during that
first course I took with Nigel. As anyone who has taken AMES 135 from Nigel will know, he always
brought a large three ring binder to class. It was several inches thick, with several well-worn pieces of
paper sticking out from it. The brick colored notebook was placed (closed) each day on a table at the
front of the class. Nigel would then proceed to give each day’s lecture purely from memory, including
several detailed numerical examples. Even though he was not trying to entertain us, the manner in which
he delivered the material left us feeling as if we were watching an incredible performance, all the while
learning at the same time. His classes were not to be missed. One day, towards the end of the semester,
Nigel was working a problem on the board when he paused. For several seconds, he was simply looking
at the chalk board, and then he sheepishly glanced at his closed three ring binder on the table. At this
time, the class was silent, and holding their breath, wondering if the lonely notebook was finally about

to be opened. Nigel let out a subtle smile and said, “Damn it!”, as he walked over to his binder to open
to a page to find a number in a calculation that he had apparently forgotten. In much the same manner
as a baseball pitcher who carries a perfect game into the ninth inning only to give up a hit and receive a
nice ovation from the crowd, our class erupted in applause for his incredible performance over the entire
semester, not once having looked at his notebook. It would be the first of two such ovations Nigel would
receive during that course, the second of which occurred after the last lecture. In the 1990s (and perhaps
still today), it was a tradition that spanned all classes at UCSD where instructors would be applauded
after the last class was held, however, the cheering was especially robust in AMES 135. As far as that
one instance during the course when Nigel consulted his notebook, I still wonder if it was intentional,
aimed at determining if the class was paying attention! In several more classes I would take with Nigel
over the coming years, I never again saw him consult his notebook. Nigel’s teaching technique was one
of treating the student with respect while expecting you to pay attention, and to be engaged in the topic
at hand. He could make difficult material very accessible, as long as you were paying attention. Nigel
taught as he wrote, deliberately, with no wasted words.
As a graduate student, we had the opportunity to observe Nigel’s teaching style in smaller settings
during meetings about our respective research topics. Research discussions with Nigel during my
days as a student would often last an hour or more, usually with me feeling mentally exhausted as a
consequence of the depth of discussion that took place. However, Nigel had a way to make every student
feel that their work was special – you couldn’t help but feel that you were working on a problem of great
importance, which of course motivated us even further. He would also give us great freedom to pursue
our own vision of the research. I recall during my PhD work suggesting to Nigel that instead of doing
static knee-joint tests on light weight concrete, that we explore a multi-column bent shake table test that
would allow us to evaluate joint performance while also providing experimental data for verification of
displacement based design. He endorsed the idea, which for a young student was a wonderful feeling.
Nigel also appreciated when we were honest about what we didn’t know. In the immediate aftermath
of the Northridge earthquake, Nigel and Frieder Seible visited Los Angeles to conduct reconnaissance.
Upon their return, and after securing bridge plans for many of the collapsed bridge structures, it was
all hands on deck. Each bridge was assigned to 2 or 3 students, reporting to either Nigel or Frieder.
The goal was to conduct an assessment of all collapsed bridges to determine the mode of failure, while
preparing a detailed technical report summarizing the findings, and to do so as quickly as possible. I
was 22 years old and had only been in graduate school for 4 months at the time, and in our first meeting
to discuss the analysis plans for the bridge, Nigel in rapid fire described what we were to do. Described
quickly, and with no wasted words, he asked us: “Got it?”. Five to 10 seconds of silence passed – I most
certainly did not “get it” and after pondering my options, I responded with a “No”. He immediately
smiled and said, “Honesty! That is what I like.” I use this example with my own students now, always
encouraging them to be honest about what they know, and what they don’t.
Throughout graduate school each of us had many opportunities to present at conferences. Much of
the work we were doing was considered ‘controversial’ at the time, in my case being displacement-
based design and shear capacity models for reinforced concrete columns. I remember several instances
early in my career as a student where Nigel would listen to my presentations from conspicuous (or up
front!) seats in the audience, and providing welcomed feedback after. If we got in trouble answering a
question, he wouldn’t hesitate to jump in and help out.
For many of us, our graduate student time with Nigel not only included mentorship, but also friendship.
This took the form of lunches at Round Table pizza, tennis matches, visits to his home in honor of
a student finishing their degree, visits to the mountains on New Year’s Day, or discussions on some
new wine he had discovered. Around 2001 or so, Nigel retired from UCSD – several of us who had
moved away to start our own academic careers returned for his retirement party, and Rob Chai gave a

speech that I think every former student of Nigel could relate to. Rob, who is one of the most eloquent
speakers I know, stood up and told the crowd: “Whenever I am in a difficult situation, about research,
teaching, or life in general, I ask, what would Nigel do?”
I was fortunate to continue my friendship with Nigel beyond graduate school, and had the opportunity to
see how he mentored other students at UCSD as well as the Rose School. When I first taught at the Rose
school in 2004, he alerted me to a student auditing my course and warned me that she was exceedingly
sharp, and that I would need to be on my toes at all times when she would ask a question. Needless to
say, Katrin Beyer herself has become a successful professor, a talent that Nigel was immediately able to
identify early on in her graduate career. One year earlier, upon my first extended visit to Pavia, he brought
me to the grocery store and taught me the proper techniques for securing produce, while also looking out
for me when I rented my first vehicle abroad. These are small things, but are remembered well for their
kindness. Nigel would always look out for his students, even after they had ‘grown up’.
I also had the wonderful opportunity to work with Nigel and Michele on our textbook on displacement-
based design. When it was completed in 2007, we had numerous trips around the world – a sort of
book tour, where we would give 1 to 2 day seminars on the textbook. The first seminar that I was
involved with were held in December of 2007 in North Carolina. It was a wonderful experience to have
Nigel visit the area, and although our turnout was modest, it was a great experience. We followed that
with seminars in the Dominican Republic, Vancouver, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, amongst other
locations. The last two seminars with Nigel were done in San Francisco in 2013 and Los Angeles in
2014, and were the only ones to include all three of us. We had seminars in Alaska in late summer of
2014, but at that time, Nigel was no longer able to travel. At the February, 2014 seminar in Los Angeles,
Nigel had been ill for some time, yet gave an incredible performance. There were over one hundred
people in attendance, and as was customary, Nigel was the ‘closer’, always teaching, and driving home
the case for Displacement-Based Design. During that seminar, Michele and I sat in the back during
Nigel’s lectures and were amazed at his performance. For me, it was as if I was transported back to
AMES 135. While he wasn’t moving around as normal, the seminar was vintage Nigel. Fittingly, at the
end of the lecture, the attendees rose and gave Nigel a standing ovation.

Nigel and Tom catching up at Pigeon Bay, 2005.

The Gracefield connection
Sri Sritharan

Most of you know by now that Nigel began his professional career in 1967 at Central Laboratories
in Gracefield, a small suburb of Wellington in New Zealand. My professional career also began in
Gracefield, about 200 meters from Central Laboratories in the Department of Scientific and Industrial
Research (DSIR), in 1989-22 years later. I took this position after receiving my MS degree at the
University of Auckland under the mentorship of Richard Fenwick. Richard, an incredible and talented
researcher, was Tom Paulay’s first PhD student. Richard assigned a nonseismic project to me, thinking
that I would not have much interest in seismic research as my home country of Sri Lanka is not a
country that experiences frequent earthquakes.
While at Auckland, I developed interest in seismic engineering and I further delved into it when I
joined DSIR as an Engineering Seismologist. While I enjoyed this research, it quickly became clear
that I wasn’t appreciating terms such as plastic hinge length, ductility and concrete spalling as I never
had a feel for what these terms meant in real structures. To overcome this challenge, I decided to
find the best experimental university to pursue my PhD. David Dowrick, my colleague at the time,
suggested that I write to Nigel to see if I could work with him to pursue my PhD. Though he noted that
Nigel’s interest was more in masonry, which was true at that time, I followed David’s advice and asked
Nigel if I could study with him. I did, however, question if this plan would materialize, so I applied to
a few other schools.
Now and then, I would get a fax from Nigel informing me about the application process. I finally
received a communication from Nigel indicating that the University of California at San Diego
(UCSD) would accept my application, despite some restrictions by the UC system to limit admissions
to international students. Nigel wrote happily that I was the only international student allowed to join
his department that year. To this date, I have no idea why Nigel gave me a life-changing opportunity to
study under him, but I think that it must be the Gracefield connection!
I was accepted, with full financial support, by a few other universities, including Stanford University.
Several of my friends and colleagues encouraged me to attend Stanford, as it’s a more prestigious
university. I knew that Stanford was another excellent opportunity, that my seismology background
would be well received at this institution. However, this opportunity was not in line with why I wanted
to do a PhD at the first place. I informed Nigel of my dilemma and he didn’t hesitate to tell me that
there was no better place to pursue my PhD than at UCSD! Thus, my decision was made.
As I was preparing to move to San Diego, a couple of unexpected events happened. First, my application
for New Zealand citizenship came through and I was advised to go through a special ceremony so that
I could go to San Diego as a “Kiwi”. I happily went through the ceremony, though doing so created
some immigration-related challenges. Second, a few days before my departure a young beautiful girl
walked into my office and introduced herself as Rebecca Priestley. Apparently, Rebecca was hired as a
journalist at DSIR. I asked her if she had any connection to my new boss in San Diego… with a smile,
she blurted, “He is my dad …you like that concrete stuff? Condolences!” Later I found out Rebecca
came to see me after she found out that I was leaving DSIR to join Nigel’s research group.
I left for San Diego a couple of weeks early as Nigel advised me to attend the Tom Paulay symposium.
I previously met Tom during my MS study at Auckland. When he found out that I was working with
Richard, he fondly suggested that I call him a “grandpa”, given that I was his student’s student. When I
arrived in San Diego and met Nigel at the Tom Paulay symposium, his first concern was about my well-

being. Then with a smile, he reminded me that I made the right decision to come to UCSD. As the school
quarter began, I started taking classes, including one taught by Nigel. The depth and breadth of topics that
he covered in his classes were incredible. He was ready to tackle any questions that the students posed.
There were plenty of them partly because the class had some experienced engineers from California-
-including Jay Holombo and Robert Dowell. I recall Nigel enjoying the interactions he had with the
students and often challenging them (on the spot) to make sure they learned and retained what he taught.
One day in class, I asked a silly question without thinking it through. He turned, looked at me with a
cunning smile, paused until I realized whatever I said was “nonsense” (one of Nigel’s favorite words),
and finally turned back without saying a word and continued to teach class. No matter how blunt Nigel
might have been, he readily appreciated when there was good feedback from his students. He took a
great deal of pride in his students’ success, whether it was in doing well on exams, oral defenses or
conference presentations.
Over the course of my PhD career, I took every class that Nigel offered; this included seismic design,
bridge design, assessment and retrofit of structures, masonry, and prestressed concrete. The classes
were useful, informative, and challenging. I also started making frequent visits to the Powell lab where
there was a seismic test almost every other day. If Nigel happened to be in the lab, he made sure the
students understood what was being tested and what could be learned from the test observations. The
combination of Nigel’s classes and the opportunity to witness tests in the lab tremendously enhanced
my fundamental seismic knowledge. I knew then that I was at the right place with the right professor.
Knowing what I know now, “clearly” (another Nigel’s favorite word) seismic design knowledge
grew significantly through the 80s and 90s and Nigel/ UCSD played integral roles in creating that
knowledge. I now realize that some of us were incredibly fortunate to be students in the middle of
such tremendous seismic advancements at UCSD, as well as being closely associated with Nigel.
This unique opportunity, along with what I gained from Nigel’s classes, formed the foundation of my
seismic knowledge and provided me with the confidence to teach seismic-related courses.
Nigel recommended a few topics for my PhD research; then we narrowed it down to two: bridge joints
and displacement-based design (DBD). Both were excellent choices, but the bridge joint project had
a clearly defined experimental program. I chose to do research on a new design method for bridge
joints. My first test went very well and I gained confidence in experimental research. Nigel left me in
charge of the second test and that didn’t go well. We applied the first load step, expecting a 2.5 mm
(0.1 in.) of displacement at the column top and the next thing I knew, the column was leaning with a
displacement of about 115 mm (4.5 in)! There was noticeable damage to the column and cracking on
the joint, though we hadn’t even started the test. The technician acknowledged this and indicated that
he knew what went wrong. I ran back to Nigel’s office, thinking that this would be the end my PhD
research. When he saw me, he knew something went wrong in the lab and that I was really stressed. As
I anxiously explained the mishap, he was very calm and attentive. He put his arm around my shoulder,
and said things happen and that we could still get useful information from the test. He walked back
with me to the lab, assessed the situation and made sure we had a plan to move forward. This is just
one example of how gently he treated his students. Looking back, he was absolutely right that I was
still able to extract valuable information from that test. Interestingly, I have witnessed mishaps in the
tests conducted by my own students. A big “thank you” to Nigel for teaching me to remain calm and
help my students get through their tests. What a wonderful mentor!
As I progressed through more tests in the lab at UCSD, I continued to gain confidence and was then
ready to perform more complex tests. Instead of testing one joint at a time, I wanted to test multiple
joints in a frame, knowing we could learn more from such tests. Nigel was at ease in providing such
freedom to his students as they matured and strongly encouraged them to be as independent as possible.
I’m not sure if he ever realized this, but when he supported a research idea or test plan, it gave his

students a moral boost and the confidence that they were heading down the right path.
At the end of my first quarter in 1993, Nigel checked with me to see what my plan for the Christmas
holiday was. I was new to California and had no plans. He invited me to his Idyllwild house where
he spent his Christmas holidays with his family. He made sure there was a means for me to get there.
I joined him and his family and friends for Christmas Eve dinner and stayed at his house. The next
morning more people joined. Nigel and Jan’s (his wife) New Year’s Day tradition included a walk up
into the mountains and lunch—we all had great time! This then became my tradition during Christmas
breaks. Just like we learned about concrete, we learned about other aspects of life from Nigel—like
how to relax and enjoy life. I then realized Nigel wanted to make sure each of his students had a plan
for the Christmas holidays. The domestic students went back to their families and he made sure the
international students had some plans or that they were invited to join his family.
After I earned my PhD, I stayed at UCSD and continued to work with Nigel for about 18 months as a
post-doc. My main responsibility was to build and test the PRESSS building. This consisted of precast
concrete and unbonded post-tensioning—the very first test structure designed to resist seismic loads
using unbonded post-tensioning as the primary thesis. This building was also the largest and tallest to
be tested inside a laboratory at that time!
My research efforts related to the PRESSS building precipitated another unique opportunity for my
academic growth and continued close interactions with Nigel. After completing this research project,
I accepted a position at Iowa State University. Nigel wanted to know how I felt about accepting the

Figure 1.19 - Students and spouses following Nigel’s lead in 1994.

position of assistant professor, since being a student and researcher is one thing, but being a teacher
and building a research program of my own was a completely different challenge. I expressed my
doubts and how I wasn’t sure if I could succeed. His response was—being over-confident is not good,
but understand that a little bit of lack of confidence is good for you; “it helps you to be successful in
what you do,” he said with a smile. That statement has resonated with me to this day and has helped me
during successful times and challenging times.
My purpose in sharing this tribute to Nigel is not just to impart what I think of Nigel and what my
interactions with him were. I want you to get a sense of his personality and his life. If you have known
Nigel and interacted with him, I’m sure you felt his presence just as I did. Nigel was “clearly” one-of-
a-kind—brilliant, elegant, quick, and witty—with no patience for (technical) “nonsense”.

Figure 1.20 - Group photo taken during a hike in 1994.

“My supervisor taught me that” …and this is the end of the discussion
Jason Ingham

Nigel undoubtedly had by far the most significant influence on my professional career of any of my
mentors or teachers. In 1990 I arrived in San Diego to study with Nigel, as a naive young 23 year
old research student having never previously left New Zealand, looking forward to spending a few
years in California before becoming a professional structural engineer. Instead I have become a career
academic and barely a day goes by when I don’t share with my own research students some of Nigel’s
wisdom. Sometime I find myself saying ‘My supervisor taught me that …’ and for my students this is
the end of the discussion – case closed, because it remains unthinkable that I would be advocating an
alternative approach to the one that Nigel would have recommended.
When I arrived in San Diego I recall that there was some university paperwork for international
students that required me to have a nominated guardian, and so of course the obvious solution was to
ask Nigel if he would be my guardian. After a year in San Diego I had mastered ‘driving on the wrong
side of the road’ and was ready to purchase a car. It transpired that Nigel wanted to sell his Volvo and
so it was convenient for both of us that I bought his car. When I later opened the glovebox I found that
Nigel had left behind some old ownership documents that recorded his date of birth and I realised that
Nigel was very similar in age to my own father. So for these and many other reasons it remains natural
for me to think of Nigel as more than just my doctoral supervisor, and instead as a father figure.
Soon after my arrival at UCSD I was designing my first experiment in the lab and labelled it ‘Specimen
1’. Nigel’s reaction was that ‘specimen’ made it sound like a urine sample, so to this day that word is
outlawed in my research group and we only ever build ‘test units’ instead. On more than one occasion
I have repeated the urine sample anecdote to my students and it always has the same effect on them as
it did on me.
After about a year at UCSD I had an opportunity to make my first ever conference presentation at a
Caltrans conference. The night before the conference Nigel asked several of us eager young researchers
to drop by his room to discuss and practice our presentations, and I remember seeing a novel sitting
on the bedside table in Nigel’s hotel room. It seems a bit comical now as I think back to more than 25
years ago, but at the time I remember it being quite a stunning revelation – Nigel seemed to always be
so up-to-speed with any and every issue that I had somehow assumed that he spent all of his spare time
absorbing vast amounts of technical literature. But instead, he was reading a novel!
During my studies at UCSD I recall meeting Michele a few times when he visited San Diego, and I
was aware that Nigel was working with Michele and others on some new things in Italy, but it was
only years later when I eventually managed to visit the Rose School in Pavia that it really dawned on
me just how significant this achievement was. Whilst myself and the other students at UCSD where
busy tackling our studies, Nigel was already looking well ahead to a whole new set of challenges and
an entirely new model for teaching earthquake engineering. Somehow this realisation made me think
that it was ‘classic Nigel’, conceiving and implementing opportunities that people like myself cannot
even see.
As I approached the end of my doctoral studies Nigel made a comment, on several occasions actually,
that it was completely to be expected that at the end of a doctoral study the student should know more
about the topic than does the supervisor. It is a comment that I completely agree with, and that I tell my
own students from time to time. The problem is – I’m pretty sure that I failed this test because at the
end of my doctorate I still felt like Nigel knew far more about what I was studying than I did myself,

perhaps because he ended up publishing his text book ‘Seismic Design and Retrofit of Bridges’ with
Frieder and Michele soon after I graduated. My only consolation is that I expect that I was not alone,
and that there were few people who knew more than Nigel about any subject where Nigel had invested
energy into considering and solving the complex problems.
In October 2000 I was 5 years into my academic career and I delivered a presentation at the annual
concrete industry conference at Wairaki in New Zealand. At the end of the presentation Nigel got up to
ask a question and I recall feeling as if all the blood had just drained out of my checks. Sure enough,
Nigel had some insightful comments to make but I recall a ‘deer caught in the headlights’ feeling
as I replied to Nigel by saying something like ‘I agree’ to avoid any further anxiety on my part. As I
type this I can’t help but suspect that there will be others who recall a similar experience, as I have
seen a number of young (and sometime not so young) researchers make what they no doubt thought
was a very successful presentation, only to see Nigel raise his hand with a question and the presenter
suddenly look a little panicked.
In 2011 I was a member of the management committee of NZSEE and I had the honour of reading
Nigel’s Life Member citation at the annual NZSEE conference dinner. It did not begin to ‘balance
the books’ for all the wisdom and insights that Nigel had shared with me during my studies and
beyond, but I was immensely pleased to have been able to speak publically about Nigel’s extensive
achievements and to present the citation to him. Soon afterwards I bumped into Nigel and Jan while
we were all waited in the frequent flier lounge at Auckland airport. Having known Nigel for more than
20 years at this point, it seemed that I was able to finally relax in his presence enough to simply chat.
Somehow we returned to the subject of his achievements, and Nigel made a comment along the lines
that perhaps if he could do it all over again he might have instead chosen medicine as his career choice.
I was gobsmacked – to think that one of the most preeminent thinkers within the realm of earthquake
engineering in our lifetime could be so casual about his own achievements. But on reflection it was
rather typical of Nigel, that he was always looking way beyond my horizons. Sadly, that was my last
conversation with Nigel.
In closing I note that I regard Nigel as the most brilliant thinker that I have ever met, and that I consider
myself to have been very lucky to have been one of his students. Thank you Nigel.

His influence on engineering practice here (in the US) has been enormous
Joe Maffei

I first had the chance to fall under the influence of Nigel when I went to Christchurch in 1992 to start
what would become my Ph.D. research at the University of Canterbury. I had Bachelor and Masters
degrees from the U.S., and five years of work experience in structural engineering in San Francisco.
My topic was bridge retrofitting, and my supervisor Professor Bob Park encouraged me to work closely
with Nigel, who at that time was based in San Diego, but was beginning a fellowship in which he spent
three months per year back in New Zealand. I came to my PhD studies with a practical bent, and I was
immediately drawn to Nigel’s way of thinking about problems.
I leaned heavily on Nigel’s wisdom, and I studied the extensive and unparalleled body of research on
reinforced concrete and bridge design and retrofitting that he was producing at UC San Diego. This
was a thrilling time for me. Nigel’s book with Professor Tom Paulay was fresh off the presses, and, with
my break from the world of consulting, I made a pointed effort at Canterbury to take time to just read
and learn, exploring topics that sparked my curiosity. I appreciated the lack of immediate deadlines,
and I treasured the chance to interact closely with Nigel, Tom, and Bob. Nigel was always gracious,
generous, patient, and encouraging. I still remember his multi-page hand-written notes about fruitful
PhD topics for me.
I benefited from the international-minded outlook of Nigel, Tom, and Bob, and I had a chance to meet
new professional colleagues from around the world. After completing my PhD in 1996, I spent 3
months doing post-doctoral work in Japan before returning to a practice in San Francisco that focused
on seismic-structural design related to new and existing buildings, including design practice, applied
research, and code and standard development.
In these subsequent years of busy consulting practice, I would often refer to Nigel’s books and papers.
The book on bridges (with Frieder Sieble and Michele Calvi) is surprisingly valuable to me even
when I am working with buildings-there is great material there, for example, on lap splices. I had
opportunities to meet with Nigel infrequently, typically at a conference or workshop, but after every
meeting I would go back to my work and wish that Nigel could be stationed at a desk nearby, so that
I could get his viewpoint on any question that came up for me. I have worked on a wide range of
structures: new construction and seismic retrofitting, in concrete, steel, and other material. When I look
back at almost any particular project, I can find the DNA of Nigel in some technical aspect of how I
approached a solution.
I have always found this about Nigel’s work: Not only do I immediately learn from it, but it catalyzes
me to think more, and explore new ideas on my own. Although Nigel was never an insider in the world
of U.S. codes and standards, his influence on structural engineering practice here has been enormous.
To me this is the triumph (over inertia and bureaucracy) of the truth and practical value of Nigel’s work.

You know, Nigel would say…
Katrin Beyer

I first met Nigel when I was doing my Master’s project with Tom Paulay in Christchurch 2000/2001. He
walked into Tom’s office and I – awestruck by the fact that I was just meeting the third of the three big
P’s – did not say much. I am sure Nigel would not remember that encounter. I had decided to first work
some years in industry, but already pounded on the idea of doing a PhD at a later stage. Jose Restrepo,
then a young professor at the University of Christchurch and just about to leave to follow Nigel’s path
to San Diego, told me to consider the Roseschool in Pavia that Michele Calvi just had founded, should
I ever start a PhD. This idea never left my mind and so two years later, I decided to apply. I wrote Tom
Paulay about my plans and asked him whether he could write me a reference letter. Tom agreed but
also wrote that more importantly he would have “a little chat with Nigel”. I presume that this was the
key for me entering the PhD program at the Roseschool. When I arrived in Pavia for the Roseschool
seminar in 2003, which was followed by the PhD admission exam, it was very hot and humid and I did
not know anybody. It made all the difference to me that Nigel Priestley knew my name and introduced
me to various people. All but myself and one other student taking the exam were already Roseschool
students and I fear that my answers to some questions might have been more of the unusual type. I
remember Nigel asking me how it went after the written exam and saying some encouraging words. I
appreciated his kindness even more during the oral exam, when he gave me some time to think about
the difference between intensity and magnitude, which I had learnt during the exam, bevor having to
answer the question.
In 2004, Nigel was to teach the course “Fundamentals of Seismic Design”. To me this course was
really a game-changer, because for the first time I saw the flaws of force-based design and started to
think about earthquakes as a displacement load case. It was a unique course because Nigel was just
preparing the DDBD-book with Michele Calvi and Mervyn Kowalsky. Our course documentation
consisted largely of the first drafts of some of the chapters and many of us did course projects on
problems Nigel wanted to have confirmed. Though at the time I was certainly not yet in the position
to appreciate just how revolutionary DDBD is, I was absolutely excited at seeing for the first time
what research could lead to. My task was to look into torsion and I carried out parametric studies on
in-plan asymmetric structure, focusing on the displacement demand on the structural elements. In the
discussions, I could see how Nigel distinguished quickly between factors that mattered and factors that
a theoretical person would have considered but from an engineering point of view did not play any
significant role.
My PhD project, which I did under the supervision of Alessandro Dazio on the seismic behaviour
of U-shaped walls, Nigel co-supervised but followed it at a certain distance as I moved to Zurich to
conduct my experimental work and Nigel spent only some months a year in Europe. The meetings we
had were true review meetings and I always tried to prepare them as well as I could and try to have
clear arguments in place. His approval meant that what we had done was not too wrong and gave me
the confidence to seek a career in research.
Having had the opportunity to attend Nigel’s courses and to work with him was a true gift and I am
extremely grateful for it. I miss his guidance and the possibility to share with him successes and
failures. But Nigel has also left us with an amazing group of students and colleagues who are all on
similar wavelengths. I met many of them for the first time during the Nigel Priestley Symposium at
Lake Tahoe, which Mervyn Kowalsky and Sri Sritharan had organized for Nigel’s 70th birthday. With

this group and the RoseSchool-Alumni one meets at every conference a unique group of friends and
colleagues, with whom one can discuss technical matters as well as share memories. Mervyn and Sri
became very good friends and took on the mentor role, Nigel can no longer fill. Often their advices
start with “You know, Nigel would say…”.
2. Practical Lessons from Nigel
By Joe Maffei, Carlos Blandón, Sri Sritharan and Katrin Beyer

2.1 Introduction
In August of 2008 many of Nigel’s collaborators and former students gathered at Lake Tahoe, California
for a symposium in honor of Nigel’s 65th birthday. The presentations showed the wide range of Nigel’s
influence, and the questions and discussion represented the atmosphere of curiosity and collaborative
energy present at every meeting and institution that has absorbed Nigel’s inspiration. The proceedings
are published by the IUSS Press (Kowalsky and Sritharan, 2008) and include a number of revealing
short tributes in addition to the technical papers. It was clear that Nigel’s work had a meaningful
objective: to serve the practicing structural engineering community worldwide.
Many noted Nigel’s clear thinking, creativity, and personal connection to his students. The students
recalled his ability to deliver lengthy lectures from memory. (Many of us recall the laboratory
technicians at the University of Canterbury saying how Nigel could remember long strings of four-digit
dial gage readings without ever making a mistake.) We suggest that you find and read this proceedings
volume; here are a few excerpts from the tributes:
Mervyn Kowalsky: The reluctant leader is in almost all cases, the most effective …such leaders
possess brilliance and talent and are always the most humble and genuine…
John Stanton, referring to the PRESSS project on precast seismic systems: He put together a
terrific group of people, fed them a diet of intellectual challenges and culinary delights, and
expected them to give their best as he led them into uncharted territory.
Michael Collins: It amazed me how quickly Nigel found and rectified my mistake.
Rob Park: Nigel Priestley was the clearest thinking and most innovative engineering thinker I
have ever met.
José Restrepo: Complex work landing on his hands has always been distilled into beautifully
simple solutions.
John Mander: …his presented work, in whatever form, is clear, no-nonsense, concise, and
Rob Chai: …a giant whose height can only be dwarfed by his modesty and humility.
Scott Arnold: …he explained ‘I understand what you are referring to, but the structure has not
read the code and the hinges will form as I’ve described.’
Greg MacRae: …and I also want to say that I am really sorry about the …shaking table test
where we put the wrong scale factor into the controller…
In his two “Myths and Fallacies” publications (Priestley, 1993, 2003), Nigel critically challenged
assumptions about stiffness, elastic analysis, and detailing that are still commonly made in seismic
design and are prescribed by building codes. He found that such assumptions are not only false, but
they can also impede or distract the structural engineer from conceiving an appropriate design. The
following section describes some of Nigel’s practical lessons.

2.2 Practical lessons from Nigel

Here is a sampling of the lessons from Nigel, many arising from projects and problems where the
authors have done their best to think like Nigel.

a. Love your work and dedicate to it
It is clear that Nigel had great passion for his work and followed his passion. His productivity was

b. Work isn’t everything

For example, we should all admire Nigel’s expertise in the Italian distilled spirit grappa.

c. Have conferences in beautiful places

The International Bridge Workshop held in 1994 in Queenstown, New Zealand attracted many of
Nigel’s collaborators and friends the world over in a beautiful setting (Figure 2.1). Figure 2.2 shows
presentation by Rui Pinho at the Rose School Seminar, May 2006 in Pavia Italy; Rui’s slides of fragility
curves had to compete for the attention with the room’s frescoes.

d. There is a “flexure-then-shear” failure mode in reinforced concrete

We are not sure if it was Tom Paulay or Nigel who first identified a mixed failure mode where nonlinear
response first takes place in flexure and then switches to shear, resulting in failure soon after. This mode
of failure is evidenced in Figure 2.3 on a wall tested by Mestyanek (1986). Nigel clearly identified it
in bridge column failures in Loma Prieta, and subsequently developed the UCSD model for shear
strength, applicable to columns, and extended to walls in FEMA 306 (ATC, 1999) and by Krolicki et
al. (2011). The UCSD model was a major milestone in understanding and predicting the behavior of
reinforced concrete elements in earthquakes. An interesting aspect of the model is that is shows that
the expected behavior mode is not sensitive to the level of axial load.

Figure 2.1 - Bridge workshop in Queenstown New Zealand, 1994 with participants from around the world. The program was equal
parts skiing and technical discussions. Those pictured include Peter North, Joe Maffei, Des Bull, John Berrill, Athol Carr, Howard
Chapman, Barry Davidson, Richard Fenwick, Kazuhiko Kawashima, Donald Kirkcaldie, Bob Park, Toru Terayama, Hajime
Ohuchi, Ian Billings, Mick Pender, Dale Turkington, Brian Maroney, Po Lam, Greg Fenves, Eduardo Carvalho, Nigel, Michele
Calvi, Frieder Seible, and Camillo Nuti.

Figure 2.2 - The ROSE School Seminar 2002 at the Salone degli Figure 2.3 - Shear failure of a wall after flexural yielding
Affreschi of the Collegio Borromeo. (Mestyanek, 1986).

e. Here’s how to design or evaluate pier structures

With Rutherford + Chekene, the first author contributed to the retrofit of a pier structure for the
Exploratorium, a hands-on science museum in San Francisco (Figure 2.4). Nigel’s methodology for
this type of structure is clear and to the point - in refreshing contrast to many other US codes and
Port facilities located in the west US coast required improvement in the design methodologies that were
used before the Loma Prieta (1989) and Northridge (1994) earthquakes. Nigel was actively involved
in providing analytical and design approaches that incorporated key but basic principles of structural
design such as limit states, plastic hinge length, and moment curvature of reinforced concrete sections,
among others.
A good example of his capacity to simplify complicated problems is the design example that he produced
for the design of typical wharves existing in the west coast (Priestley, 2000). In a few pages, the design
example addresses the effect of the soil, the nonlinear behavior of the pile and the connection, the axial
load variation and even the torsional response to obtain the displacement capacity of the wharf.
Nigel was always driven to test that the values he used for design were adequate, and he helped lead
a team that carried out full scale testing of connections and piles of wharf structures (Figures 2.5 and
2.6). The design principles and experimental findings developed and applied by Nigel are now part of
design guidelines for such structures (ASCE-COPRI, 2014).

Figure 2.4 - The Exploratorium in San Francisco, built on a 1930s wharf with existing non-ductile concrete piers, seismically
strengthened with new 6-ft (1.8m) diameter piers. Nigel’s clear methodology for wharf structures was the technical basis for the design.

Figure 2.5 - Photo of the team that developed design regulations for the Port of Los Angeles and that now are the base of recent
ASCE-COPRI design guidelines (2014). Participants include Po Lam, Arul Arulmoli, Max Weismair, José Restrepo, Peter Yin,
Nigel, Geoff Martin and Omar Jaradat.

Figure 2.6 - Full-scale tests carried out at the University of California, San Diego. The pictures were taken by Nigel during a short stop
at the Engelkirk Research center. The appreciation and respect from the laboratory staff for Nigel was evident as everybody quickly
mobilized to excavate the rock fill around the pile, so Nigel could take a photo of the damage.

f. Here’s how to design unbonded PT for frames

Another unique and influential contribution of Nigel was in convincing structural engineers about
the use of unbonded prestressing in seismic-resistant design. Though the concept was previously
investigated, it was the PREcast Seismic Structural Systems (PRESSS) program that pushed the
boundaries and facilitated the use of unbonded post-tensioning broadly in seismic design practice
(Priestley et al., 1999). This system and its impact in practice is described in more detail in Chapter 7
of this volume.
As the leader of the PRESSS program, Nigel worked with academic and industry partners to design
multiple precast frame and wall systems that used unbonded post-tensioning as a means to connect
the precast members with each other or with the foundation. The unique benefits of this concept
include minimal structural damage and re-centering capability for the seismic force-resisting system
that is designed to experience a dependable yield mechanism while providing adequate lateral force
The ductile response of four precast seismic frame systems and one jointed wall system were
demonstrated successfully in the PRESSS five-story building-the largest structure to be tested inside
the laboratory at that time in 1999. In addition to the innovative lateral-force-resisting systems, the
test building included two realistic types of floor structures: pre-topped double-tee precast floors and
hollow core slabs with in situ topping. The value and success of the PRESSS program is evident in
that (a) several precast buildings have been built using the unbonded post-tensioning in high seismic

Figure 2.7 - Parking garage for Mills Peninsula hospital in Burlingame California, by Culp and Tanner structural engineers, using the
PRESSS moment frame system. The owners of the new base-isolated hospital desired operational performance from their parking
garage. The PRESSS system provided it at a cost lower than competing systems.

regions in the U.S., New Zealand and other countries, and (b) the unbonded post-tensioning concept
has been used by other researchers and practitioners for other structural systems developed using
materials such as steel, masonry, and timber.

g. Here’s how to do it for structural walls

Based on the principles and design approach defined by Nigel and his team, vertical unbonded pre-
stress for walls has become increasingly common. In the San Francisco Bay Area, such walls are
commonly cast-in-place, with about ten projects having been constructed in the last several years,
including new structures and walls used in retrofitting.

h. Walls can rock and that can be good

Early on Nigel published work related to foundation rocking, following on from the approach by
Housner (Priestley et al., 1978). At the time, few engineers in practice thought about such things.
Recently, a major retrofit project in San Francisco -The War Memorial Veterans Building, by SGH
Structural Engineers- used an innovative system of rocking walls.

i. The C-column bridge bent and the problem of unbalanced moment

Nigel’s study of C-shaped bridge bents showed that having a large gravity moment at a column or
wall plastic hinge zone can lead to undesirable ratcheting of displacement in one direction only. In a
practical application of this concept, the design of the tower at the DeYoung museum in San Francisco
used unbonded post-tensioning in the tilted walls to counteract the gravity moment, so that the plastic
hinge region sees balanced cyclic moment demands under earthquakes (Figure 2.8).

Figure 2.8 - The tower of the DeYoung museum in San Francisco, structural design by Rutherford + Chekene.

Figure 2.9 - Twelve-story concrete wall building retrofitted by Rutherford + Chekene, including horizontally oriented carbon fiber to
change walls from shear governed to flexure governed. Nigel’s colleague Frieder Sieble acted as a Peer Reviewer.

j. Here’s how to retrofit using fiber composites

The recommendations from Nigel and his collaborators on how to use fiber for shear strength and (in
elliptical configurations) for confinement have provided structural engineers with practical seismic
retrofit methods, (Figure 2.9).

k. Slab flanges contribute to coupling beam strength

Related to the project shown in Figure 2.9, Nigel’s publications provide clear recommendations on
practical topics such as “how much slab width contributes to a coupling beams strength?” Nigel’s
answer: ½ of clear span on each side of beam web.

l. Distribute the flexural reinforcement

Tom Paulay and Nigel seemingly were the first to realize that concentrating flexural reinforcement near
the extreme fibers of a wall or beam is neither necessary nor useful for seismic-dominated designs. This

practice, shown in Figure 2.10a, is efficient for resisting static loads such as those coming from gravity
or static earth pressure. This efficiency no longer holds for reversing seismic loads. The arrangement
shown if Figure 2.10b provides nearly equivalent flexural strength while reducing reinforcement
congestion, improving the performance of beam-column joints, better controlling of shear deformation
in beam plastic hinge regions, and reducing the potential for sliding shear failure.

(a) Conventional (b) Distributed

reinforcement reinforcement

Figure 2.10 - Arrangements of flexural reinforcement in beams (Priestley, 2003).

m. Here’s how masonry works

While the world was thinking in working stress seismic design for reinforced masonry buildings,
Nigel had developed capacity design guidelines (Priestley, 1986) and had introduced the concept of the
confinement plate to increase the compression strain capacity and limit crushing at the toe of masonry
walls (Priestley and Bridgeman, 1974). His book with Tom Paulay (Paulay and Priestley, 1992) moved
the seismic design of masonry buildings many notches up.

n. Concrete is not as stiff as you think

Nigel’s method for estimating the stiffness of concrete elements, based on simple principles to estimate
yield curvature, show how many other methods for estimating stiffness are off the mark (Priestley,
2003; Schotanus et al., 2007; Maffei et al., 2004).

o. Stiffness and strength are not independent

This is of course a major contribution from Nigel, and a key underpinning of his work in displacement-
based design. It is well highlighted in his Myths and Fallacies paper of 2003. What amazes us is how
quickly Nigel realized all of the consequent implications of this fundamental truth. In contrast, the
structural engineering community remains slow to incorporate this concept into design practice.

p. Here’s how to design a coupled wall

In the US, most new tall buildings in high-seismic areas are using concrete core walls, typically with
coupling beams. These are designed using non-prescriptive approaches with nonlinear response-history
analysis. Despite the design freedom of such an approach, some engineers are uncomfortable deviating
from elastic analysis results, even though those results are based on stiffness assumptions shown by
Nigel to be false. In the displacement-based design textbook, Nigel emphasizes that the strength
for coupling beams can be assigned almost arbitrarily and he gives useful rules for proportioning,
considering the total coupling strength compared to the wall axial load and strength.

q. Stand on the shoulders of others, even as you blaze new paths

Refreshingly, we have found that Nigel has always been scrupulous about acknowledging contributions
that precede his efforts.

r. Here’s how to know when it really is the vertical earthquake component
We have seen a number of presentations in which an instance of damage is attributed to the vertical
earthquake component. Typically this has seemed speculative, as most types of damage that might be
attributed to vertical motion (e.g. buckling of vertical wall reinforcement) could also be caused by
lateral motion only. Nigel is the only one we know who found clear evidence of damage that could
only have come from vertical motion. This was a case of damage to a column at a basement level where
surrounding walls restrict any lateral motion.

s. Cut thru vagaries and conventional wisdom; seek clear evidence

In the professional career of the first author there have been instances where adherence to conventional
wisdom has led our profession into trouble. One case is steel moment frames. Their ductility capacity
was questioned in the early 1990s after the tests by Mike Engelhardt, but conventional wisdom held
that moment frames were an excellent seismic system and that the research must be flawed. The
1994 Northridge earthquake proved the research to be correct and conventional wisdom to be wrong.
Similarly, in Chile after the 1985 earthquake, some researchers assured the Chileans (without clear
technical evidence we see in retrospect) that since their buildings had numerous walls, tie reinforcement
was not needed. The 2010 Maule Chile earthquake disproved this proposition.
Nigel was great at dismantling of “conventional wisdom” because he valued clear truths over vague
assurances. This was his calling.

t. Earthquakes have no borders-explore the world

Like Bob Park (who took a sabbatical in China back when few westerners had been there) and Tom
Paulay, Nigel travelled the world building professional and personal ties. He was a pivotal member of
three major institutions on three different continents.

2.3 References
ASCE/COPRI (2014) - 61-14 Seismic Design of Piers and Wharves (ASCE 61-14), American Society of Civil Engineers, Reston, VA.
ATC (1999) - Evaluation of Earthquake Damaged Concrete and Masonry Wall Buildings, prepared by the Applied Technology Council
(ATC-43 project) for the Partnership for Response and Recovery, published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Report
No. FEMA 306, Washington D.C.
Kowalsky M., Sritharan S. editors. (2008) - Proceedings of the M.J. Nigel Priestley Symposium, King’s Beach, CA, August, IUSS Press,
Pavia, Italy.
Krolicki J., Maffei J., Calvi G.M. (2011) - Shear strength of reinforced concrete walls subjected to cyclic loading. Journal of Earthquake
Engineering, 15(S1), 30-71.
Maffei J., Stanton J., Priestley M.J.N., Park R. (2004) - Design Approaches, in Seismic Design of Precast Building Structures, State of
the Art Report [Robert Park editor], Commission 7, Federation International du Beton, Lausanne, Switzerland, Chapter 4, January.
Mestyanek J.M. (1986) - The earthquake resistance of reinforced concrete structural walls of limited ductility. M.E. Thesis, Department of
Civil Engineering, University of Canterbury, Christchurch New Zealand.
Paulay T., Priestley M.J.N. (1992) - Seismic Design of Reinforced Concrete and Masonry Buildings, John Wiley & Sons, New York.
Priestley M.J.N., Evison R.J., Carr A.J. (1978) - Seismic Response of Structures Free to Rock on their Foundations, Bulletin of the New
Zealand National Society for Earthquake Engineering, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp. 141-150, September.
Priestley M.J.N. (1986) - Seismic Design of Concrete Masonry Shearwalls. ACI Journal Proceedings 83(1):58-68.
Priestley M.J.N. (1993) - Myths and fallacies in earthquake engineering-conflicts between design and reality. Bulletin of the New Zealand
National Society for Earthquake Engineering, 26(3), 329-341.
Priestley M.J.N., Seible F., Calvi G.M. (1996) - Seismic Design and Retrofit of Bridges, John Wiley & Sons Inc., New York.
Priestley M.J.N., Sritharan S., Conley J.R., Pampanin S. (1999) - Preliminary results and conclusions from the PRESSS five-story precast
concrete test building. PCI journal, 44(6), 42-67.
Priestley M.J.N. (2000) - Seismic Criteria for California Marine Oil Terminals, volume 3: Design Example. TR-2103-SHR, Naval Facilities
Engineering Service Center, Port Hueneme.
Priestley M.J.N. (2003) - Myths and fallacies in earthquake engineering, revisited. IUSS press, Pavia, Italy.
Priestley M.J.N., Bridgeman D.O. (1974) - Seismic Resistance of Brick Masonry Walls. Bulletin of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake
Engineering 7(4):167-87.
Schotanus M., Maffei J. (2007) - Computer modeling and effective stiffness of concrete wall buildings, Proceedings of the International
FIB Symposium on Tailor Made Concrete Structures - New Solutions for Our Society, Amsterdam.

3. The World’s Greatest Structural Systems Experimentalist
By José I. Restrepo, Christopher Latham, Sri Sritharan and Nihal Vitharana

3.1 Introduction
Nigel was an outstanding engineer and human being with progressive and social views of the world
very hiughly esteemed by his peers, friends and his family. Many of his post-graduate students were
from various parts of the world and many from countries with developing economies who had a meager
income and he never forgot to consider their welfare, well beyond his role as a mentor. Nigel’s such
qualities would be eternally carried forward because most of his students are scattered throughout
the world contributing in various ways. Nigel was a simple and no show-off man. He could be seen
interacting with technical staff day and night doing experiments first at the University of Canterbury
then at the University of California San Diego, and lastly at the ROSE School, which he co-founded
with Michele Calvi.
Nigel’s clarity of thought, ability to understand very complex problems in very little time and ability
to propose simple and practical and economical solutions, all backed up by a sound but simplified
theoretical approach, are some of his most fascinating facets. Nigel’s theories created lively discussions
and apparent disagreements among peers. Many researchers required “further research” just to find
out, that after arduous, long and often sophisticated work, his simple theories were, in fact, quite
accurate and well within the accepted lex artis. One could say that Nigel did ninety percent of the work
in ten percent of the time, whereas the more mundane of us spent ninety percent of the time working
on the remaining ten percent. He was never afraid to look at a problem in a very different perspective
from his younger age; whether it is confined concrete, bridges under thermal gradients, soil-structure
interaction or water-retaining structures.
As a structural experimentalist, Nigel almost immediately developed a comprehensive view of an issue
in question. This proved useful when one consulted him, as he clearly (and sometimes bluntly) would
let anyone know the limitations of a proposed test or the practical value of its expected findings. There is
little doubt that Nigel was a pioneer and the best structural system experimentalist of all times. He was
incredibly talented, quick-witted, creative and prolific. He mastered not only the field of experimental
mechanics, but also the mechanics of concrete, thermal and deformation-induced loadings, masonry
and structural dynamics and soil-structure interaction, among a few. In short, Nigel was another
giant in the field of Earthquake Engineering and the fourth of a prodigious New Zealand generation
of earthquake engineers which also include: Tom Paulay, Bob Park and Ivan Skinner. His work has
inspired many academics and professionals. This chapter summarizes the main accomplishments in the
field of large-scale experimental structural engineering.

3.2 Nigel’s First Steps as an Experimentalist

Nigel’s first exposure to structural concrete experimental mechanics was during his PhD studies at the
University of Canterbury, which he carried out with minimal supervision in a startling short period
of two years between 1964 and 1966 (Priestley, 1966). Nigel completed his PhD when he was just 23
years old. In this work, he presented a comprehensive analytical and experimental investigation about
moment redistribution in prestressed concrete beams, which up until then had been rather controversial.
To support this work, Nigel tested seven simply supported and seven continuous beams and in each test
he obtained a wealth of data that he shared by appending it in his dissertation.

3.3 Accomplishments at Central Laboratories
Upon completion of his PhD, Nigel went on to become Head of the Structures Laboratory of the New
Zealand Ministry of Works (Central Laboratories). The Structures Laboratory was involved in three
different types of testing: small scale model testing in support of design efforts by Head Office, large scale
laboratory testing of concrete models, and in-situ testing of structures either built or under construction.
Routine inspection of the prestressed concrete Newmarket viaduct in Auckland, see Section 5.2, revealed
cracking in the soffit of the bridge, where conventional analysis would have indicated no tension
should exist because at that time the temperature distribution was assumed to be uniformly distributed
through the section in standards throughout the world. In Nigel’s own fashion of intuition, he knew it
could be different and he proved this by carrying out a simple 1-dimensional finite difference analysis
considering diurnal temperature and solar radiation. Few decades later, attempts by other researchers
with sophisticated 3-dimensional finite element models showed that Nigel was correct with his simple
approach. His model is now adopted throughout the world in bridge standards and is known as 5th-power
parabolic temperature distribution. Not many engineers would, however, know that this was developed
by Nigel in his hay days in New Zealand. The cracks were found to be thermally active: they opened
during days of high sunshine, and closed at night. Nigel began to study this problem, combining finite
differences and experimental work. He built a ¼ scale simply-supported prestressed box-girder span and
comprehensively instrumented it with thermocouples, strain-gauges and displacement transducers.
The top surface of the bridge was enclosed within an environmental box which included 100 infrared
light bulbs controlled through a variable output transformer to model diurnal variations of solar
radiation, and propeller fans to control night-time cooling, see Figure 3.1. The design guidelines that
stemmed from this research (Priestley, 1971; 1972; 1976; 1978a) form a major contribution to the
design of bridges for thermal loading, bridges in many parts of the world.
In 1968 Nigel took a one year leave from Central Laboratories and traveled to Lisbon, Portugal as
a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Laboratorio Nacional de Engenharia Civil (LNEC), whose Structures
group was being led by Prof. J. Ferry Borges. This period marked a turning point for Nigel, as it was at
LNEC where he acquired a strong background in structural dynamics and earthquake engineering as
he himself pointed it out (Priestley, 1996):

The writer had the great good fortune, and considerable pleasure, to spend a year in 1968/69
as a post-doctoral fellow at the Laboratorio Nacional de Engenharia Civil in Lisbon. At that
time J. Ferry Borges was the head of the Structures group at LNEC, and it was a result of his
personal decision that my application was approved. I came to LNEC with no real background
in Earthquake Engineering, and spent the year attempting to get up to speed in the general
areas of structural dynamics and earthquake engineering, while simultaneously trying to hide
my ignorance. I do not think that Ferry Borges was fooled, but he was tolerant, and patient, and
I ended up learning a great deal, to the extent that my future professional activities were to be
completely dominated by a fascination for the seismic response of structures.

Upon his return, Nigel conducted several in-situ tests on bridges and bridge components. Of these
tests, the lateral load test of an extensively instrumented 1.8 m diameter steel-encased pile embedded
on soft marine mud is a true landmark (Priestley, 1974). Nigel meticulously designed and conducted
this test. Data logged in this test enabled the calculation of the lateral pressure profile acting on the
pile and of the lateral subgrade material moduli. This was the world’s first full-scale lateral load test
performed on a pile and today it is a point of reference for such types of tests. The calibrated p-y curves
from this experiment form the basis of the recommendations made for analysis of deep foundations in
geotechnical engineering.

Figure 3.1 - One quarter scale box-girder bridge under thermal loading (Courtesy of Nigel Priestley).

3.4 The University of Canterbury Famous “Ps”: Paulay, Park and Priestley
In 1976 Nigel joined the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Canterbury after
conversations with Professor Bob Park while golfing in Wairakei, and when Professor Harry Hopkins
was ending a shining career as Head of Department and was about to be succeeded by Professor Park.
Professor Hopkins had a strong vision for the Department. He was also responsible for the hire of
Professors Bob Park, Tom Paulay. The hiring of the three “Ps” in the field of structural concrete and the
ability of all three to combine strengths, collaborate with industry and help solve complex problems in
seismic design practice, propelled the University of Canterbury to world fame in the field.
At Canterbury, Nigel carried out collaborative work mainly with Bob Park, Tom Paulay and also with
Professor Athol Carr, who worked in structural dynamics and computational mechanics. In the early
days in his new job at Canterbury, Nigel and Athol worked in rocking walls as a potential seismic system
for use in buildings (Priestley et al., 1978b). With limited and small-scale testing, they could extend
Professor Housner’s theory and propose a simple method for predicting maximum displacements of
rocking systems using the displacement response spectra and linearized properties for the rocking
system. This, in a way, was a very early precursor of the Direct Displacement Based Design method
Nigel would go on to develop in the early 90s, and is also an early precursor of the work on low-
damage walls that he developed further in the PRESSS program, which will be briefly described in the
following section and detail in Chapter 7.
Nigel is the person who identified the significance of temperature loading on the behaviour and
durability-performance of concrete cylindrical tanks which had shown various cracking patterns
despite designed with adequate “factor of safety” with respect to crack width. In mid-late 1970’s, in line
with Nigel’s’ simple approach to any given problem, he instrumented wall panels near the Christchurch
airport with rudimentary thermocouples. He borrowed a pyranometer to measure solar radiation from

the then Lincoln Agricultural College. This simple test showed various temperature gradients resulting
in significant thermal stresses. He showed that on a vertical face, the radiation from other buildings
could be up to 20% of direct solar radiation. Nigel went to develop temperature gradients for winter
and summer conditions which are believed to be the world’s first which are in AS 3735 (SA, 2001) and
NZS 3106 (SNZ, 2009). Ironically, these are used in many designs/investigations throughout the world
today probably without knowing that a young researcher developed these in New Zealand.
Nigel worked together with Bob Park in the testing of reinforced concrete columns using a NZD
300,000 servo-controlled hydraulic 10 MN dynamic tension/compression capacity universal testing
machine supplied by Dartec in the UK. He was responsible for design of the foundation, set-up and
commissioning of this machine, see Figure 3.2. The Dartec machine became a workhorse for testing
reasonably large size columns. Data acquired from column tests carried out with this machine was
used to validate the concrete confinement models of Scott et al., (1982) and of Mander et al., (1988a,
1988b), and to propose prescriptive code design requirements. The Dartec machine was also used by
Bob and Nigel on seismic pile-to-cap connections (Park et al., 1984) and was used by Nigel to conduct
seismic tests on encased steel piles (Park et al., 1983). These encased steel piles were the forerunners
of the steel jackets he would investigate at the University of California at San Diego and successfully
recommend as a retrofit scheme for use in the bridge retrofit program carried out by the State of
California after the damaging 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake (Chai et al., 1991).
Shear transfer in reinforced concrete is an aspect of research that Nigel took special interest in at the
University of Canterbury. He collaborated with Bob Park and Tom Paulay in relevant aspects of shear
transfer mechanisms in beam-column joints, with support from large scale experimental work (Paulay
et al., 1978). His work on shear extended to the shear capacity of circular columns, which involved
extensive testing and collaboration with Tom (Ang et al., 1989; Wong et al., 1993). Nigel would
culminate his work on shear in columns at the University of California at San Diego by presenting the
UCSD shear model (Priestley et al., 1993), which could predict shear failure in elements after flexural
yielding had occurred. The conceptual clarity and simplicity of this model has resulted in widespread
acceptance in the community.
Nigel also had his independent line of research on reinforced and unreinforced masonry as well as
thermal and dynamic effects on liquid storage tanks. In reinforced masonry, Nigel moved the design away
from Working Stress into Ultimate Strength, making the New Zealand Code for the Seismic Design of
Masonry Structures a role model for codes around the world (Priestley, 1985). This work was supported by
extensive testing, of which the work leading to the seismic design of masonry walls for ductility (Priestley,
1981, 1982) is worth highlighting. Chapter 6 gives a detailed description on Nigel’s work on masonry.
With Stuart Thurston, Nigel developed a methodology to predict the temperature rise and thermal stresses
in hardening concrete (Thurston et al., 1980). To prove its accuracy, Nigel monitored the concreting of the
foundation of airport hangar at the Christchurch International Airport. It also coupled heat-of-hydration
and heat-transfer in a simple but smart way. This is in fact the first such prediction model which set
the benchmark for predicting thermal stresses in early-age concrete including creep relaxation. At the
University of Canterbury, Nigel maintained his line of research on thermal action on water-retaining
structures, and with Nihal Vihtarana (Vitharana et al., 1998) he carried out a set of complex tests and
proposed a methodology to incorporate thermal loading in the design of liquid storage tanks. This was
the first reported testing on structural wall elements subjected to thermal gradients in conjunction with
applied tensile axial loads. With its findings, they developed useful guidelines for evaluating thermal
stresses in concrete structures, which are used in many modern standards on water-retaining structures,
and developed thermal stress tables by smartly manipulating beam-on-elastic foundation formulations.
On the structural dynamics side, not involving experimental work, Nigel led a group of the New Zealand
Society for Earthquake Engineering on the Seismic Design of Liquid Storage Tanks (1986). This work is

a major contribution in the field and is a point of reference for international guidelines.
When the first author was a Senior Lecturer at the University of Canterbury in the late 90s, he was
very privileged to work in two bridge seismic retrofit projects with Nigel. The Aotea Quay Overbridge,
a 1930s bridge strategically located in Wellington, was retrofitted by enlarging the footings and by
wrapping the columns with FRP jackets, a first outside the United States, see Figure 3.3. In this
project Nigel provided the design guidelines written with support from testing he had performed at
the University of California at San Diego where he had pioneered such well-known retrofit technique
(Priestley et al., 1992). We also worked together in the seismic retrofit of the Thorndon Overbridge, a
major lifeline crossed by the Wellington fault. Nigel was the primary external consultant for Beca, the
structural engineering company responsible for the design of the retrofit. The Overbridge presented
several design deficiencies such as short longitudinal bar cut-offs, small number of columns transverse
reinforcement, short seating for the girders, foundation deficiencies and various others. Proof of
concept testing was carried out on pile, pile cap column specimens, in the unretrofitted and retrofitted
conditions at the University of Canterbury, see Figure 3.4.
In 1986 Nigel looked for new challenges and moved to the University of California at San Diego. Nigel
cared for his graduate students whom he would leave behind at Canterbury. Despite all hectic work
associated with moving overseas with a young family, Nigel wanted to make sure that the students
were coping well in difficult times in various ways. As an example, the fourth author’s wife (Padmini
Vitharana, a student at Canterbury as well) was eight months pregnant. Nigel visited them at night with
a cot for their expected new arrival. The cot was passed onto another student when Nihal and Padmini
were leaving Canterbury hence passing Nigel’s legacy on kindness and care towards others.

3.5 Advancing the State-of-the Art in Structural Testing at the University of California at San Diego
The Charles Lee Powell Structures Laboratories of the University of California at San Diego, the
largest of its kind in the world, were funded in 1986 under the direction of Professors Gil Hegemier and
Frieder Seible. The University of California at San Diego looked at hiring a researcher of significant
talent and world-class trajectory to ensure the new labs were successful. Nigel was found to be the
most suited candidate for this position. He assumed this new challenge and joined the University of
California at San Diego in early 1987 and collaborated with Frieder Seible in several research projects,
including the testing of the full-scale 5-story masonry building. This work was part of the Technical
Coordinating Committee for Masonry Research (TCCMAR) program for development of a limit-
state design standard for masonry buildings in seismic zones. This program culminated in the testing
of a full-scale five story reinforced masonry building (Seible et al., 1994). The building consisted
of 150 mm wide concrete masonry blocks with concrete topped precast prestressed floor slabs. The
building was tested using hybrid simulation, termed pseudo-dynamic testing then. There were several
challenges in performing this testing. The building had a C-shape plan configuration. This necessitated
two actuators per floor level. To correctly simulate the distributed loading present in an actual structure
each actuator was attached to a long beam which had two elastomeric pads attached on the bottom of
either end. These beams were then clamped to the floor slabs to transfer the forces by friction. Initial
testing started during the day in the summer of 1992. It quickly became apparent that testing would
need to be performed at night instead. The overall vertical temperature gradient in the lab during the
day in summer was giving poor results. Also, the sun light streaming in through the labs windows was
heating up individual transducers and giving false displacement readings. The testing continued over
a period of about two months with increasing demand and damage to the structure. This showed the
effectiveness of the design methodologies developed in the small-scale component testing. Chapter 6
provides an in-depth discussion about the impact of this test program in industry.

Figure 3.3 - Seismic retrofit of the Aotea Quay Overbridge, Wellington in 1996. First seismic retrofit application using FRP jackets
outside the United States. Nigel provided design guidelines for this project (Gray and White 1997).

Figure 3.4 - Seismic retrofit of the Thorndon Overbridge, Wellington in 2000. Nigel was an external consultant in this project. Proof of
concept testing was carried out at the University of Canterbury (Presland et al., 2001). In the top left photo Bob Park (right above) and
Nigel (extreme right) inspect the construction of a test unit.

Figure 3.5 - Double-deck test component at the Powell Laboratories of the University of California at San Diego.

The 1987 Whittier earthquake and the more destructive 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in the Bay Area
called into question many of the seismic design procedures for bridges in California, and also called for
urgent research to develop assessment and retrofit techniques for buildings and bridges (Housner, 1990).
The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that caused catastrophic collapses of bridges and buildings around the
San Francisco Bay area raised the state priority to seismically retrofit the potentially “at risk” bridge stock
comprising about 4,000 bridges by 1994. Nigel’s unique ability to easily distill complex problems and
propose simple and effective solutions was what the State of California needed in those difficult times.
The most complex test carried out in the Powell Labs was a half-scale model of a double-deck viaduct
in the San Francisco bay area, which was funded by Caltrans (Priestley et al., 1992). The collapse of the
Cypress Viaduct caused concern about the seismic response of other double-deck viaducts in the State.
The test unit in the laboratory consisted of a column, half of the lower level cap beam and deck, and an
added external edge girder parallel to the superstructure, see Figure 3.5. Nigel had come up with the
idea of adding a maximum eight-foot-deep, four-foot-wide “edge beam” located on the outside of the
bridge bent and a retrofit of the joints. Not only was this solution economical, but it could easily add
significant lateral deformation capacity to these rather brittle bridge types.
Jim Roberts, the then chief of Caltrans division of structures, commented on the impact of the solution
proposed by Nigel (UCSD, 1991):

The University of California at San Diego has produced a proven, safe and cost- effective
design that we can use to provide additional strength for double-deck bridges. The retrofit
techniques we are developing in California will be the model for the rest of the world.

To appropriately simulate the boundary conditions in this test, a total of thirteen hydraulic actuators
had to be used twelve of which were controlled simultaneously - a formidable task that advanced the
state-of-the art of structural testing to new frontiers, and one that is very challenging even with today’s

highly automatized controls. Add to this the fact that this test was large-scale and was also multi-
directional, that no one in the team had any experience with multi-actuator testing of such nature, and
that the control software had to be re-written on the fly to accommodate newly behavioral modes of
response seen by Nigel as the test progressed.
It was in the early 90s that Nigel tackled a myriad of structural problems, endemic to the building and
bridge design practice, which were leading to poor seismic performance. To solve these problems, Nigel
pioneered effective retrofit solutions and supported these with theory and with design guidelines. All
this work was validated with large-scale tests and included: (i) Assessing and addressing shear problems
in columns, (ii) Assessing and retrofitting columns with longitudinal bar lap-splice deficiencies, (iii)
Lack of anti-buckling reinforcement and confinement, (iv) Assessment and retrofit of footings and (v)
Assessment and retrofit of various types of joints. The tests were performed by visiting professors,
Post-doctoral Fellows and PhD students whom today have successful academic careers and contribute
to this publication. Chapter 5 gives a detailed recount of Nigel’s research work in these areas.
Of all the research work Nigel performed during the short period from 1990-1994, it is worth
highlighting the implementation of steel and FRP jackets to retrofit bridge and building columns,
which have become a standard seismic retrofit technique worldwide. Despite the huge pressure to
deliver while keeping a lab full of research work, Nigel managed to do work on the development of
his Direct Displacement Based Design method and to publish two highly successful books, one with
Tom Paulay on the Seismic Design of Buildings and Masonry Structures (Paulay and Priestley, 1992),
and another one with Professors Frieder Seible and Michele Calvi on Seismic Design and Retrofit of
Bridges (Priestley et al., 1996).
The catastrophic 1994 Northridge earthquake in Southern California put to test the bridge seismic
retrofit schemes implemented because of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Most of these retrofit
schemes resulted from Nigel’s recommendations. The California Seismic Advisory Board reported
that despite new collapses of old bridges, retrofitted bridges performed rather well (Housner, 1994),
thus strongly endorsing Nigel’s work:

All structures in the region of strong shaking that were retrofitted since 1989 performed
adequately, thus demonstrating the validity of the Caltrans retrofit procedures; there were 24
retrofitted bridges in the region of very strong shaking and a total of 60 in the region having
peak accelerations of 0.25g or greater. The retrofitted structures resisted the earthquake motions
much better than the unretrofitted structures. The Board’s conclusion is that if the seven collapsed
bridges had been retrofitted, they would have survived the earthquake with little damage.

Nigel had a very close affinity with the Precast/prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI). PCI is a
progressive organization in the United States whose research and development committee looks for
ways to enhance the structural response of precast concrete systems. In the mid-90s, the branch of
PCI in California (PCMAC) and Caltrans funded a project for him to investigate the continuity of
precast concrete spliced-girder bridges when subjected to seismic loading (Holombo et al., 2000). The
experimental component of this project required solutions to new challenges, but for Nigel and cohorts
these challenges were welcomed. Two forty percent scale bridge structures were built in the Powell
Labs. One had a superstructure comprised of precast bathtubs, see Figure 3.6, and the other had bulb
tees. The end-to-end distance of the bridge units was 20 m, which, by the time the horizontal actuators
were deployed, the test unit practically spanned the entire length of the labs. These tests were carried
out with four vertical and two horizontal servo-controlled hydraulic actuators plus four passively
controlled plunger jacks simulating gravity loading. The horizontal actuators simulated the inertial
forces and had to be controlled considering the possible lengthening of the girder upon cracking. The

Figure 3.6 - Seismic testing of a precast concrete splice-girder bridge (Holombo et al., 1999).

vertical actuators were placed to act as points of inflection, but had to be controlled also to ensure the
lengthening of the column could occur without imposing an unnecessary constraint.
In the late 80s the PCI and the National Science Foundation (NSF) jointly funded a large multi-
university/industry program to develop a new generation of precast seismic structural systems
(PRESSS), see Chapter 7. Brainstorming in this program led to several possible connections between
the precast elements. Nigel proposed that the connection type with a high potential for superb seismic
performance had to make use of unbonded post-tensioning tendons. As the leader of the PRESSS
program, Nigel worked with academic and industry partners to design multiple precast frame and
wall systems to demonstrate the benefits that precast systems had when incorporating unbonded post-
tensioning tendons as a means to connect the precast members with each other or with the foundation.
The unique benefits of this concept include minimal structural damage and a recentering capability for
the seismic load-resisting system. Proof of concept tests on frame and wall components were carried
out by Nigel’s colleagues Professors John Stanton at the University of Washington, Richard Sause at
Lehigh University, and Greg MacRae, then a Post-doctoral Fellow at UC San Diego, all with excellent
seismic performance. The capstone test in the PRESSS program consisted of a five-story fully precast
concrete building built at two-thirds scale, see Figure 3.7 (Priestley et al., 1999). The height of the
PRESSS building was controlled by the useable height of the Powell Labs. The building was designed
using the Direct Displacement-Based Design method, which had reached maturity by then, for specific
performance objectives. The building was tested in two directions sequentially using hybrid simulation.
This test method brought a new set of challenges, such as coupling between actuators and the control
of the building’s higher modes of response. In total, ten actuators (two at each floor) were used in the
test. Because of difficulties obtaining reliable lateral displacement measurements, Nigel decided to
conduct the tests late at night when the daily temperature gradient was at the minimum. To date, the
PRESSS building remains the largest structure ever tested using hybrid simulation.

Figure 3.7 - View of the PRESSS building with Nigel on the roof top to the right of the middle column (Courtesy of Prof. Sri Sritharan).

3.6 The ROSE School

In 2000 Nigel opted for a new adventure and found, together with Professor Michele Calvi, the ROSE
School at the University of Pavia in Italy. The School became an instant success and attracted students
and visitors from around the world. Since 2000, Nigel spent most of his time carrying out analytical
work, with occasional jaunts into the experimental field both at the ROSE School and the University
of California at San Diego Labs, where, in the latter, the first two authors had pleasure in collaborating
with him in structural testing and design methods of bridges and container wharves supported on piles
(Restrepo et al., 2005, Blandon et al., 2007).
Nigel’s final major contribution to the field of Earthquake Engineering was as leader of the expert
panel put together by the Department of Building and Housing in the New Zealand Royal Commission
of Enquire set out to determine the reasons leading to the catastrophic collapse and poor seismic
performance of several buildings in Christchurch during the 2011 earthquakes for the future benefit
of the community.
We, first as his students and then as friends, undoubtedly believe that Nigel is the world’s greatest
engineer/researcher in many facets of engineering with a unique approach to any problem he was
given. With his contribution in the field of earthquake engineering, millions of lives would be saved in
several hundreds of years to come. May you rest in peace and may you attain nibbana.

3.7 Acknowledgements
We sincerely thank the generous contributions received from Dr. John H. Wood, Principal of John Wood
Consulting and former Head of Central Laboratories and of Dr. David Hopkins of David Hopkins
Consulting Ltd. John and David are former Presidents of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake
Engineering. Emeritus Professor Athol Carr of the University of Canterbury shared with me some

of his personal experiences with Nigel as his colleague at the University of Canterbury. Dr. Edward
Fyfe provided the background to the development of FRP for the seismic retrofit of columns. Finally,
Michelle Chen, PhD student at the University of California at San Diego very generously reviewed and
corrected this paper. Her numerous comments are graciously thanked.

3.8 References
Blandon C.A. (2007) - Seismic Analysis and Design of Pile Supported Wharves. Ph.D. Thesis. Rose School, Pavia, Italy.
Chai Y.H., Priestley M.J.N., Seible F. (1991) - Seismic Retrofit of Circular Bridge Columns for Enhanced Flexural Performance, ACI
Structural Journal, 88(5), pp. 572-584.
Gray A.,White B. (1997) - Seismic Retrofitting of Aotea Quay Overbridge, Wellington. In IPENZ Annual Conference 1997, Proceedings
of: Engineering our nation’s future; Volume 1, Wellington, New Zealand.
Holombo J., Priestley M.J.N., Seible F. (2000) - Continuity of Precast Spliced-Girder Bridges under Longitudinal Seismic Loads, PCI
Journal, 45(2), pp.40-63.
Housner G.W. (1989) - Competing Against Time. Report to Governor George Deukmejian from the Governor’s Board of Inquiry on the
1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, Department of General Services, North Highlands, California, p. 264.
Housner G.W. (1994) - The Continuing Challenge - The Northridge Earthquake of 17 January 1994, Seismic Advisory Board Report,
Department of General Services, North Highlands, California, p. 77.
Mander J.B., Priestley M.J.N., Park R. (1988a) - Theoretical Stress-Strain Model for Confined Concrete,” ASCE Journal Structural
Division, 114(8), pp. 1804-1826.
Mander J.B., Priestley M.J.N., Park R. (1988b) - Observed Stress-Strain Behavior of Confined Concrete, ASCE Journal Structural Division,
114(8), pp. 1827-1849.
Park R., Priestley M.J.N., Falconer T.J., Pam H.J. (1984) - Detailing of Prestressed Concrete Piles for Ductility, Bulletin of the New Zealand
National Society for Earthquake Engineering, 17(4), pp. 251-271.
Park R.J.T., Priestley M.J.N., Walpole W.R. (1983) - The Seismic Performance of Steel Encased Reinforced Concrete Piles, Bulletin of the
New Zealand National Society for Earthquake Engineering, 16(2), pp. 123-140.
Paulay T., Park R., Priestley M.J.N. (1978) - Reinforced Concrete Beam-Column Joints Under Seismic Actions, ACI Structural Journal,
75(11), pp. 585-593.
Paulay T., Priestley M.J.N. (1992) - Seismic Design of Reinforced Concrete and Masonry Buildings. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Potangaroa R.T., Priestley M.J.N., R. Park (1979) - Ductility of Spirally Reinforced Concrete Columns Under Seismic Loading, Report No.
79-8, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand, 116 pp.
Presland R. Restrepo J.I., Park R. (2001) - Seismic Performance of Retrofitted Reinforced Concrete Bridge Piers, Research Report 2001-3,
Department of Civil Engineering, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand, 2001, 513 pp.
Priestley M.J.N. (1981) - Ductility of Unconfined and Confined Concrete Masonry Shear Walls, The Masonry Society Journal, 1 (2), pp. T28-T39.
Priestley M.J.N. (1966) - Moment Redistribution in Prestressed Concrete Continuous Beams. Ph.D. Thesis. University of Canterbury,
Christchurch, New Zealand. 189 p.
Priestley M.J.N. (1971) - Effects of Transverse Temperature Gradients on Bridges. Central Laboratories Report No. 394, Gracefield, New
Zealand, 30 p.
Priestley M.J.N. (1972) - Thermal Gradients in Bridges - Some Design Considerations. New Zealand Engineering, 27(7), p.228.
Priestley M.J.N. (1974) - Mangere Bridge Foundations Cylinder Test. Ministry of Works and Development Central Laboratories, MWD-CL
Report No. 488, 98 pp.
Priestley M.J.N. (1976) - Design Thermal Gradients for Concrete Bridges. New Zealand Engineering, 31(9), p.213.
Priestley M.J.N. (1978a) - Design of Concrete Bridges for Temperature Gradients, ACI Structural Journal, 75(5), pp. 209-217.
Priestley M.J.N. (1982) - Ductility of Confined Concrete Masonry Shear Walls. Bulletin of the New Zealand National Society for
Earthquake Engineering, 15(1), March 1982, pp. 22-26.
Priestley M.J.N. (1985) - Seismic Design of Masonry Structures to the New Provisional New Zealand Standard, NZ 4230P, Bulletin of the
New Zealand National Society for Earthquake Engineering, 18(1), pp. 1-20.
Priestley M.J.N. (1996) - Simplified Limit States Seismic Design Philosophy, Paper No. 2018, 11th World Conference in Earthquake
Engineering, Acapulco, México.
Priestley M.J.N., Evison R.J., Carr A.J. (1978b) - Seismic Response of Structures Free to Rock on Their Foundations. Bulletin of the New
Zealand National Society for Earthquake Engineering, 11(3), pp.141-150.
Priestley M.J.N., Seible F., Anderson D.L. (1992) - Proof Test of a Retrofit Concept for the San Francisco Double-Deck Viaducts. Report
SSRP 92-03, Dept. of Applied Mechanics & Engineering Sciences, University of California, San Diego.
Priestley M.J.N., Seible F., Calvi G.M. (1996) - Seismic Design and Retrofit of Bridges. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Priestley M.J.N., Seible F., Fyfe E. (1992) - Column Seismic Retrofit Using Fiberglass/Epoxy Jackets. SEQAD Report to Fyfe Associates.
Priestley M.J.N., Seible F., Verma R., Xiao Y. (1993) - Seismic Shear Strength of Reinforced Concrete Columns, University of California,
San Diego, Structural Systems Research Project, Report No. SSRP-93/06, 120 pp.
Priestley M.J.N., Sritharan S., Conley J.R., Pampanin S. (1999) - Preliminary results and conclusions from the PRESSS five-story precast
concrete test building. PCI journal, 44(6), pp.42-67.
Priestley M.J.N., Wood J.H., Davidson B.J. (1986) - Seismic Design of Storage Tanks, Bulletin of the New Zealand National Society for
Earthquake Engineering. 19(4), pp. 272-284.

Restrepo J.I., Ha I., Priestley M.J.N. (2005) - Seismic Behavior of Four-CIDH Pile Supported Foundations. Proc. 21st US Japan Bridge
Engineering Conference, Tsukuba, Japan.
SA (2001) - Australian Standard: Concrete Structures for Retaining Liquids AS 3735-2001, Standards Australia, North Sydney.
Scott R.D., Park R., Priestley M.J.N. (1982) - Stress-Strain Behaviour of Concrete Confined by Overlapping Hoops at Low and High Strain
Rates, ACI Structural Journal, 79(1), pp. 13-27.
Seible F., Priestley M.J.N., Kingsley G.R., Kürkchübasche A.G. (1994) - Seismic Response of Full-scale Five-story Reinforced-masonry
Building. Journal of Structural Engineering, 120(3), pp. 925-946.
SNZ. (2009) - Design of Concrete Structures for the Storage of Liquids NZS 3106:2009, Standards New Zealand, Wellington.
Thurston S.J., Priestley M.J.N., Cooke N. (1980) - Thermal Analysis of Thick Concrete Sections. International Concrete, 77(55), pp. 347-357.
UCSD, 1991, https://library.ucsd.edu/dc/object/bb1776013p/_2.pdf Accessed 26 November 2016.
Vitharana N.D., Priestley M.J.N., Dean J.A. (1998) - Behavior of Reinforced Concrete Reservoir Wall Elements under Applied and
Thermally-Induced Leadings, ACI Structural Journal, 95(3), pp. 238-248.

Nigel, Bob Park and Tom Paulay in the early days at UC.

Tom’s birthday. Celebrating the 200th collective birthday. Late 1990s.

4. The Development of Direct Displacement-Based Design
By Mervyn Kowalsky, Tim Sullivan, and Gregory MacRae

4.1 Introduction
Here in we hope to provide some insight into the early development of what is now known as “Direct
Displacement-Based Design (DDBD)”, which was described in the 2007 textbook by Priestley, Calvi,
and Kowalsky. In order to understand the significance of Nigel’s contributions to DDBD, it is essential
to be transported back to 1993, which can be thought of as the genesis of the concept with Nigel’s
seminal papers on the topic. However, before exploring that era, a brief discussion of the history
of seismic design is warranted. In the early 1990’s, seismic design was decidedly force-based. The
engineering community was firmly entrenched in a design approach that dated back to the early 1900’s
where a corollary to wind design was drawn and the seismic lateral force estimated as 10% of the
gravity load. Over the balance of the 20th century, numerous advances were made, first with regards
to structural dynamics and the dependence of period on the dynamic response of systems (1940-
1950), followed by a deep understanding of the concept of ductility and the capacity design approach
(1960-1980). These advances led to what could be termed ‘force-based and displacement-check
methods’ which recognized the importance of calculating structural deformations (to characterize
damage), even if the design itself was conducted with traditional force based approaches. Along the
way, researchers made numerous contributions that would eventually form the foundation of DDBD.
In 1930, Lydik Jacobsen, then an assistant professor in mechanical engineering at Stanford University,
proposed the concept of “equivalent viscous damping” for machine vibrations. Over the following
thirty years, having served as the first president of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute in
1948, his research transitioned to structural engineering where he revisited his work on equivalent
viscous damping, now cast as a means for equivalent linearization of systems (1960). Jacobsen’s 1960
paper opened the floodgates of work on equivalent linearization methods throughout the 1960’s, with
examples including Rosenblueth (1964), and numerous others as summarized in the 1968 paper by
Jennings. In 1974, Gulkan and Sozen introduced the concept of the substitute structure analysis which
was extended MDOF systems, specifically multi-story RC moment frames in 1976.
It was during this time that the engineering community started to recognize the importance of ductility,
drift, and deformation in representing damage potential. In 1975, Ed Teal, a California structural
engineer, posited the importance of drift in controlling damage for moment frame buildings. Throughout
the 1980s, extensive research on ductility and non-linear behavior of systems was conducted. During
this time, Nigel led numerous efforts aimed at developing constitutive models for concrete (Mander et
al., 1988), as well as the seminal paper on the plastic hinge method for member deformations (Priestley
and Park, 1987). In 1986, Nigel moved to California to serve on the faculty at UCSD. A few years,
later, the Loma Prieta earthquake resulted in an extensive research program at UCSD on the seismic
design of bridge systems (details of which are discussed Chapter 5) that continued through several
earthquakes in the 1990s, which brings our story to June of 1993.

4.2 Observations from UCSD – Early Development of Displacement Based Design

Note: Much of this section is written in the first person from Mervyn’s perspective when he was a
student at UCSD.
I graduated with a BS degree from UCSD in June of 1993, having had the opportunity to take classes

from Nigel as an undergraduate, it was clear that I wanted to work with him, assuming he would be
willing to take me on. Thankfully, he was willing to serve as my adviser, and I vividly recall our very
first meeting after graduation. At his office, we talked about some of the work he was doing, and rather
early on in the meeting we walked down the hall to the office of Greg MacRae, who was a post-doc at
the time and who I knew as my instructor in the undergraduate steel design course at UCSD. With the
three of us standing in the hall, Nigel told Greg I’d like to have Mervyn work with you on Displacement
Based Design. At the time, I had no idea what he was talking about, of course, and to this day, I wonder
if Nigel simply decided what I would be working on in the hallway on that June day.

Figure 4.1 - Early results from SDOF displacement based design (Kowalsky et al., 1995).

During that summer of 1993, Greg (an early mentor of mine and an integral part of the first displacement-
based design efforts) and I worked with Nigel on his initial concept for displacement based design.
That summer, we formalized the method that Nigel had laid out in his 1993 Myths and Fallacies paper
published also in the proceedings of the Tom Paulay Symposium, which was held in September of 1993
in San Diego, as well as in Concrete International). During the first month or so, we struggled with
aspects of the method that in retrospect seem obvious, which is typical when solving new problems, of
course. I kept all of my notes from the very beginning of our work on displacement based design, and
reviewed them for this manuscript. From the start, we wanted to develop a design approach that would
not require any member cross section information. That is, our goal was to simply have as our initial
input parameters the height of a column, the inertia mass, and the target displacement. We used a drift
ratio of 3% and the Brawley record from the 1979 Imperial Valley earthquake as our input motion. We
were a long way from even thinking about strain limits or design spectra as the input. Since we were
adamant about not requiring any cross section information to conduct designs, yield displacement was
not known at the start of the design process. This led to an iterative approach where we attempted to
converge onto a yield displacement while maintaining a target displacement. We quickly found that in
some cases, this resulted in negative yield displacements – shown in Appendix 1 is our very first attempt
at displacement-based design where this result was observed. We eventually resolved our difficulty,
which was a function of how we calculated the yield displacement and made some minor adjustments
to our approach. Notes of the approach, as transcribed by Greg are shown in Appendix 2. After some
time, this led to a series of successful designs, with the resulting outcome of the non-linear time history
analysis shown in Figure 4.1. After some initial struggles, it was rather satisfying to see the procedure

work! We expanded our studies to include designs to different drift ratios, including some which were
designed to achieve prescribed plastic drift ratios. We met with Nigel, who was clearly happy with
the progress, and we developed a plan going forward where we conducted designs to smooth spectra,
and used spectrum compatible records for the non-linear time history analysis. Our first of several
presentations on the results of the work was in the 1994 Queenstown Conference on the Seismic Design
of Bridges (Kowalsky et al., 1994a). Nigel, Greg, and I prepared a paper on our SDOF work, while at the
same time, Michele Calvi and Greg Kingsley were formulating a plan for the design of MDOF systems
that was also presented at the conference. A more detailed discussion of the SDOF work followed in our
first research report on the topic in 1994 (Kowalsky et al., 1994) and the Earthquake Engineering and
Structural Dynamics paper in 1995 (Kowalsky et al., 1995). We eventually realized that if we knew the
cross section dimensions, calculation of the yield displacement would be straightforward, thus removing
iteration from the design approach. This was facilitated by Nigel’s observations on yield curvature and
the simple expressions that related it to the section depth and steel yield strain, such as those shown in
Priestley and Kowalsky (1998).
Some of the salient features related to the early development of displacement based design included:
(1) An emphasis on displacement as the key design parameter. While numerous researchers had
focused on accumulation of energy as a possible response parameter, in displacement based design, a
much simpler approach was taken, which related design of the system purely to the peak displacement
response and corresponding level of hysteretic damping (which does not account for cyclic dissipation
of energy) and (2) Direct use of the displacement spectra as the representation of the hazard.
Other researchers at the time started to develop methods that were also termed “displacement based
design”, however, they were largely still force-based, displacement-check methods. Nigel and I met to
discuss how we could differentiate ourselves from other work in the area. Several ideas were discussed,
and the initial decision from that meeting was to call our work ‘strain-based design’ since we felt that the
performance limit states would eventually be based on strain, at least for reinforced concrete structural
members. We drafted a conference talk with that title, however, Nigel quickly realized that such a
name would be limiting and instead proposed the name Direct Displacement-Based Design, since in
essence, what we were doing was directly designing for a specified target displacement (irrespective of
the source of that target displacement). Our last publication without direct in the title came in in 1995,
and our first with it appeared in the 1996 Caltrans Seismic Research Workshop (Kowalsky et al., 1996).
The fundamentals of the DDBD approach, so developed, are summarised in Figure 4.1. One first identifies
the “target” or “design” displacement for the limit state (e.g. a serviceability or a collapse limit state) being
examined. This requires consideration of potentially critical limit state criteria, which are typically material
strain or storey drift limits. For MDOF systems this step also relies on the use of a design displaced shape
expression and the substitute structure concept of Gulkan and Sozen (1974) and Shibata and Sozen (1976)
in order to convert from the MDOF structure to an equivalent SDOF system, as per Figure 4.2a. The next
step, shown in Figure 4.2c, is to compute the ductility demand at the limit state, as this is required for the
estimation of EVD values. A scaled displacement spectrum is then constructed at the design damping
level, as shown in Figure 4.2d, and the design displacement, Dd, is used to enter the spectrum and read off
a required effective period, Te, for the structure.
With the required effective period known, the effective (secant) stiffness, Ke in Figure 4.2b, is obtained
by rearranging the expression for the period of a SDOF system as follows:


Figure 4.2 - Fundamentals of Direct Displacement Based Design (Priestley et al., 2007).

where me is the effective mass of the equivalent SDOF system. Subsequently, the required design base
shear, Vb, can be obtained as the product of the secant stiffness and the target design displacement:


Readers will appreciate that the design approach so formulated differs greatly from force-based design
methods in numerous codes, placing the focus on displacements and identifying the required period,
stiffness and then strength as outputs from the procedure.
Also in 1996, we had the opportunity to conduct some shake table tests with the dual intention of verifying
the DDBD approach experimentally, while also studying the seismic behavior of lightweight concrete. In
Figure 4.3 below (Kowalsky et al., 2000), the time history response of a two-column bent shake table test
is shown for four limit states, along with the target displacement consistent with the limit state.
Following the work on SDOF systems, we turned our attention to MDOF systems and combined some
of the ideas presented in the Queenstown papers towards the development of an approach for multi-span
bridge structures. The primary issues addressed included the calculation of a target displaced shape for
a multi-span bridge, as well as equivalent viscous damping for a system where multiple plastic hinges
form at different levels of ductility. In 1997, we turned our attention to building structures for the
first time, developing the approach for moment frames (Loeding et al., 1998; Priestley and Kowalsky,
2000), and structural walls (which I worked on with Nigel during 1997-1998 as part of my post-doc

at UCSD). Some handwritten notes by Nigel, shown in Appendix 3, illustrate a clarity of thought
with minimal edits. Even though word processing was commonplace by the late 1990s, Nigel often
preferred to hand write material, which surely sharpened his focus even further. The notes on structural
walls will be apparent to students of DDBD, as it highlights differences between force-based design
and DDBD that were noted in future papers.

4.3 Further Development - DDBD Studies at the Rose School and Beyond
Starting around the year 2000, an explosion of research on the topic of DDBD took place with
contributions from many students across multiple universities. This could be partly attributed to
the attention brought to DDBD by Nigel during his keynote presentation at the world conference in
earthquake engineering in Auckland, New Zealand in 2000. However, it should also be attributed to
the active role Nigel took at that time with the ROSE School, a post-graduate school in Earthquake
Engineering that started in 2001 in Pavia, northern Italy. Michele Calvi and Nigel Priestley were co-
directors of the school, which is run in a non-conventional framework, inviting leading academics
from around the world to teach in Pavia for a month at a time, such that students follow a series of
courses on a range of topics in earthquake engineering. Nigel taught “The fundamentals of seismic
design” there in the school’s first year (2001) and “Seismic design and retrofit of bridges” in 2003. He

Figure 4.3 - Experimental verification of displacement based design (Kowalsky et al., 2000).

Figure 4.4 - Examples of mixed structural systems together with possible force-displacement relationships and corresponding system
ductility capacities.

also taught courses with similar titles in years to come. These courses were particularly stimulating
and inspirational for the students who took them, and many of the students from these courses are now
successful academics or leading consulting engineers. In addition to courses, masters students in Pavia
are also required to undertake research and to this extent, the subject of displacement-based design
lent itself wonderfully as a masters research topic; students could be given the opportunity to go and
develop means of applying DDBD to a specific structural system or develop simple means of dealing
with complex phenomena within the DDBD process. Nigel was a key supervisor in the studies that
were conducted of this nature, and is likely to have sparked the interest of other academics who became
active in this field of research.
One of the first masters projects assigned in Pavia related to the subject of DDBD was to the second author
of this chapter, who was charged with comparing eight different displacement-based design methods

available in the literature at the time to five different case study buildings. This work, co-supervised
mainly by Mervyn and Michele, revealed (Sullivan et al., 2003) a number of the strengths of the DDBD
approach relative to other methods in the literature and helped further motivate its development.
When developing the DDBD method for mixed structural systems, the benefits of explicit calculation
of design ductility quickly became apparent. In this discussion, a mixed structural system will be
defined as any system that possesses a number of lateral load resisting systems that are characterized
by different force-displacement relationships. As such, mixed systems would include not only dual
systems, such as the frame-wall structure shown in Figure 4.4c, but also those buildings that possess
walls or frames of different length, such as those shown in Figure 4.4a and 4.4b. The right side of
Figure 4.4 illustrates possible force-displacement relationships for the different mixed systems and
includes the characteristics of the individual lateral load resisting sub-systems.
Nigel recognized that the yield displacement and hence ductility capacity of a mixed structural system
will be a function of its geometrical proportions and material properties. However, if a mixed structural
system possesses components with different values of yield displacement, how can the system yield
displacement be defined? In such cases, Priestley et al. (2007) recommended that the system yield
displacement, Dy,sys, be found by using flexural strain energy proportions (building on the proposal of
Shibata and Sozen, 1976) as follows:

y, sys = y,i i

where Dy,i is the yield displacement of sub-system i and Vi is the equivalent SDOF base shear resistance
offered by sub-system i at the development of the system design base shear, Vb. The system ductility
capacity, msys, can therefore be computed by dividing Eq.(3) into the system design displacement, to give:

µ sys = d b
y,i i

where all of the symbols have been defined above. Figure 4.4 illustrates the calculation of the system
ductility capacity in this way for a few different types of mixed structural system. The values are
presented for an arbitrarily selected maximum displacement of 5.0 (no units are required for this
example but one could imagine 5.0 cm if desired), which could be dictated by the ductility capacity
of one of the sub-systems (such as Wall B in Figure 4.4a) or a non-structural drift limit (of say 2%, as
presumed in Figure 4.4b and 4.4c).
The specific values shown in Figure 4.4, which range from 1.6 to 3.6, are presented only to demonstrate
that the system ductility capacity calculation is simple, once the force-displacement relationships of
the sub-systems are known. Also note that for a mixed system, the ductility capacity is always less than
the ductility capacity of the sub-systems but the actual system ductility capacity will depend greatly
on the structural geometry, strength proportions and material properties, which becomes evident when
one considers the yield displacement expressions presented previously.
Reflecting on the implications of the points made above, current code guidelines tend to neglect the
mixed nature of the frame and wall systems indicated in Figures 4.4a and b, recommending that such
systems be assigned the same value of system ductility factor irrespective of structural geometry, strength
proportions and material properties. For mixed systems of the type shown in Figure 4.2c, international
codes provide differing recommendations with the Eurocode 8 (CEN, 2004) recommending that they
be treated in a similar fashion to frame or wall systems (depending on the proportion of base shear
resisted by the frames and walls in the dual system) and with the New Zealand Concrete Design

Standard (Standards New Zealand, 2004) recommending that the design seismic action for mixed
systems be determined by a rational analysis (without providing details for such a rational analysis).
Such mechanics-based reasoning, as used for mixed structural systems, was ubiquitous in Nigel’s
teaching at the time (and, one imagines, throughout his career). At the ROSE school Nigel would
teach using an overhead projector (commonly referred to as OHP) in which his hand written reasoning
would be clearly projected onto the wall as he talked. An example projection from his 2003 class on the
seismic design of bridge structures is shown in Figure 4.5, where the type of reasoning just described
for mixed systems is clearly presented and easy to follow.
One can also see from Figure 4.5 how Priestley et al. (2007) would recommend the evaluation of equivalent
viscous damping for mixed systems. The case shown above is for the specific case where the displacement

Figure 4.5 - An illustration, from an OHP slide prepared by Nigel during his 2003 ROSE School course on Seismic Design and Retrofit of
Bridges, of the clear reasoning Nigel would use to explain how ductility and equivalent viscous damping could be found in mixed systems
– in this case a bridge with piers of different height.

demand on all sub-systems is the same and in general, Nigel would argue that it should be found as follows:

V ξi
i i
ξ sys = (5)
i i

where xi is the damping and Di the displacement of sub-system i and xsys is the total system damping. This
expression could therefore be used to account for the possibility of different hysteretic characteristics
being present within a mixed system when relating inelastic and elastic spectral displacement demands
(Figure 4.2c and 4.2d). This provides an improved alternative to the use of expressions such as the
equal displacement rule present in current codes.
Early critics of DDBD identified the use of equivalent viscous damping as a limitation of the method.
This was overcome through the use of equivalent viscous damping expressions that are calibrated to
the results of non-linear response history analyses - thus giving them equivalent accuracy to empirical
R-m-T relationships used in FBD. However, whereas in FBD the use of the equal-displacement rule
appears to be prevalent for any type of structural system, in DDBD different EVD expressions were
developed for a wide range of structural systems. This included studies by Blandón (2004) and Grant
et al. (2005), Dwairi et al. (2007), and more recently Pennucci et al. (2011).
By around 2006, guidelines for the DDBD of a number of different structural systems had been
developed and verified, including various MSc and PhD studies at the ROSE School covering DDBD
of bridges (Alvarez, 2004), moment resisting frame structures (Pettinga, 2004), RC wall structures
(Beyer, 2005), and dual frame-wall systems (Sullivan et al. 2006). In addition, some means of dealing
with issues such as torsion, P-delta, soil-structure interaction, and elastic damping had been formulated.
Thus, in 2007, the first text on DDBD was published by IUSS Press (Priestley et al., 2007) representing
a huge milestone for the approach.

4.4 Future of the DDBD

By developing the DDBD method, Nigel has provided the engineering community with an approach
that addresses many of the shortcomings and issues with current code design practice. In addition, the
methodology provides engineers with a better sense of the role that structural proportions, material properties,
member detailing, and capacity design concepts all play in the seismic risk of a building or structure.
Despite the significant developments made to the Direct DBD procedure and the extensive testing it
has undergone, the approach is not yet widely used in practice. The reasons for this may well be that (i)
it is not a codified procedure, (ii) is not implemented in commercial software and (iii) does not appear
worthwhile financially to consultants, principally because it is not a codified procedure. Reflecting on
these points, they are all non-technical issues and can be addressed with time. To this extent, a model
code was included in Chapter 14 of the DDBD book, in an effort to illustrate how the approach might
be transitioned into practice. This model code was developed further in the years that followed, and
Nigel was co-editor of a more detailed version published in 2012 (Sullivan et al., 2012a). This model
code incorporates the results of various developments that were made at the ROSE School and in other
areas of Italy as part of a national effort by the RELUIS consortium (www.reluis.it). Software for
DDBD has also undergone development (see, for example, Sullivan et al., 2012) but will require more
development before being widely used in consulting.
Developments of the DDBD method for specific structural and non-structural systems are expected to
continue for years to come, widening its applicability. Of course, none of this would have happened
had it not been for the foresight of Nigel in establishing a design methodology that at the time of its
inception represented a complete inversion of traditional seismic design approaches.

4.5 References
Alvarez Botero J.C. (2004) - Displacement-based design of continuous concrete bridges under transverse seismic excitation. ROSE School
MSc dissertation, Supervised by Nigel Priestley, IUSS Pavia, Pavia, Italy.
Beyer K. (2005) - Design and analysis of walls coupled by floor diaphragms. ROSE School MSc dissertation, Supervised by M.J.N.
Priestley, G.M. Calvi and R. Pinho, IUSS Pavia, Pavia, Italy.
Blandon C. (2004) - Equivalent viscous damping equations for direct displacement-based design, ROSE School MSc dissertation,
Supervised by Nigel Priestley, IUSS Pavia, Pavia, Italy.
CEN. (2004) - Eurocode 8: Design of structures for earthquake resistance – Part 1: General rules, seismic actions and rules for buildings.
EN 1998-1, Comité Européen de Normalisation, Brussels, Belgium.
Dwairi H.M., Kowalsky M.J., Nau J.M. (2007) - Equivalent damping in support of direct displacement-based design. Journal of Earthquake
Engineering, 11 (4), pp. 512-530.
Grant D.N., Blandon C.A., Priestley M.J.N. (2005) - Modelling Inelastic Response in Direct Displacement-Based Design, Research Report Rose
Gulkan P., Sozen M. (1974) - Inelastic response of reinforced concrete structures to earthquake motion, ACI Journal Vol. 71, pp. 604-610.
Jacobsen L.S. (1930) - Steady forced vibrations as influenced by damping, ASME Transactions 52(1), pp. 169–181.
Jacobsen L.S. (1960) - Damping in composite structures, Proceedings, 2nd World Conference on Earthquake Engineering, Vol. 2, Tokyo
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Appendix One
First Displacement Based Design Calculation (3m Tall Column designed to Brawley, 1979 EQ Record)

Appendix Two
Handwritten notes prepared by Greg MacRae based upon meetings with Nigel

Appendix Three
Notes on DDBD of Walls Prepared by Nigel

5. Seismic Design and Retrofit of Bridges
By Sri Sritharan, Jason Ingham, Rob Chai, Mervyn Kowalsky, Jay Holombo and Mark Yashinsky

5.1 Introduction
One can state with confidence that practicing engineers, professors, researchers and graduate
students working on topics associated with the seismic design of bridges have come across multiple
contributions from Nigel and that they have advanced their knowledge based on his contributions.
This observation speaks volumes for Nigel’s natural talent for understanding technical challenges
and producing impactful research in a manner that was simple, elegant and easily applicable. One
can also make the same statement for several of Nigel’s other research areas, including masonry,
structural walls, precast structural systems, and displacement based design. His bridge research
work has significantly influenced seismic design practice in all earthquake-prone states in the U.S.
(e.g., California, Alaska, South Carolina, and Washington) as well as by extension bridge practice
across many other states. Similarly, several seismic countries and regions have also embraced Nigel’s
recommendations (New Zealand, Costa Rica, Japan and Chile, to name a few).
While there is little that this paper could do to draw more attention to Nigel’s bridge related work
than it has already received, the purpose of this article is to provide a few highlights to show how
he influenced the art and practice of the seismic design and retrofit of bridges during his incredible
professional career. Because the authors were fortunate enough to participate in Nigel’s bridge related
research and field implementaion, they are able to present these studies based on their personal
interactions and experiences.
Nigel published hundreds of technical articles and reports on bridge related studies, but his textbook
published more than 20 years ago on Seismic Design and Retrofit of Bridges (Priestley et al., 1996)
is still considered to be the definitive source on this topic. While most of his publications are from
the 1980 and 1990 era when he was a professor at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD),
Nigel’s interest in bridge related work started earlier in the 1970s. Following his PhD at the University
of Canterbury, with the thesis focus on moment re-distribution-not directly related to earthquake
engineering-he began his career at the Central Laboratories of the Ministry of Works in Gracefield,
which is a suburb of Wellington in New Zealand, where he developed an interest in bridge structures.
From this point onwards, Nigel’s research involved two key elements: large-scale structural testing
(Priestley, 1971) and formulation of design recommendations (Priestley, 1972). These two aspects
not only became the signature elements of Nigel’s research, but also made UCSD known for seismic
related research. Nigel’s attention turned towards seismic design of bridges after he joined the
University of Canterbury, with his first publication on the topic titled “Seismic Design of South
Brighton Bridge - A decision against mechanical energy dissipaters” (Priestley and Stockwell, 1978),
followed by a publication on soil-structure interaction in 1979 (Priestley et al., 1979) and reinforced
concrete filled steel piles in 1983 (Priestley et al., 1983).
It was a series of publications in the mid 1980’s that set the stage for an incredible run that would take
Nigel and his family from Christchurch, New Zealand to San Diego, California. In the early 1980s,
John Mander, worked on his PhD dissertation on seismic design of bridge piers under the guidance
of Nigel and Professor Bob Park. Their work led to a unified concrete stress-strain model, frequently
referred to as the Mander model, which is commonly used in seismic design and analyses worldwide.
Built on the early work of Richart and others (dating back to the 1920’s), this constitutive model defines
the confined concrete strength and ultimate concrete compression strain and establishes the stress-

strain curve as a function of the amount of confinement provided by the transverse steel (Mander et
al., 1998). Nigel’s work on the behavior of bridge columns continued, leading to his seminal work
with Bob Park on the plastic hinge method for member deformations (Priestley and Park, 1987) and
publications on the design of reinforced concrete bridge columns for strength and ductility (Zahn et
al., 1986). Combined, these publications set the course for consideration of the nonlinear behavior
of bridge sub-structure components in earthquakes that had far-reaching consequences not only for
seismic design and detailing, but in a broader sense for performance-based seismic design.
Nigel’s seismic bridge work continued in California after he joined UCSD in 1986. After examining
the details adopted in bridge columns in California, he was convinced that bridge columns and cap
beams were being designed with several deficiencies and that they would need immediate upgrading
to prevent them from experiencing catastrophic failure when exposed to earthquake action. Using
hand calculations, he showed that not only were flexure and shear deficiencies prevalent in these
members, but that the longitudinal bars were being terminated at incorrect locations with insufficient
development length. He also argued that the longitudinal steel in the cap beams were placed in the
wrong location, and yet gave credit to the working stress method used for designing these bridges
as that procedure provided some beneficial consequences (Priestley et al., 1996). In collaboration
with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), Nigel began to evaluate the expected
performance of as-built columns and develop retrofit strategies for them, which of course included
large-scale testing. This effort led to the use of steel jackets for column retrofitting. This technique,
lovingly referred to by one of his daughters as ‘Priestley’s full metal jackets’ in her piece honoring
his lifetime of achievements towards seismic safety, was very effective in overcoming both flexural
and shear deficiencies. Then PhD students Rob Chai, and Ravindra Verma, worked on these projects
as part of their dissertation work.
The 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake struck northern California before Nigel’s findings could be
implemented in practice, causing widespread damage to bridges including the collapse of a portion
of the Cypress Street Viaduct in Oakland. This collapse was responsible for 42 of 63 fatalities that
resulted from this earthquake. While Nigel’s concerns regarding bridge column deficiencies were
proven, the earthquake also unearthed other structural deficiencies. One major concern related to
the seismic performance of cap beam to column joints, which was partly responsible for the collapse
of the Cypress Viaduct. Nigel began to focus on bridge joint work by first evaluating the as-built
condition, then developing retrofit strategies and finally producing new effective designs using what
is known as the force transfer method. Jason Ingham, and Sri Sritharan, were the PhD students on
these projects that also included several large-scale tests.
In parallel, several other research projects that related to the seismic design of bridges were undertaken
with extensive funding from Caltrans and in collaboration with his colleague Frieder Seible. The late
James Roberts was the State Bridge Engineer for Caltrans at that time and Nigel appreciated his
full support for advancing seismic bridge design and implementing the findings in design practice.
The additional research included topics such as the use of lightweight concrete, relocation of plastic
hinges, architectural flares in bridge columns, hanging bridge decks, hollow columns, shear capacity
models for reinforced concrete columns, and improving foundation design practice.
In 1993 Nigel published a paper entitled “Myths and Fallacies in Earthquake Engineering” (Priestley,
1993), in which he argued that a number of fundamental principles, on which the seismic design of
structures is based, are, in his own words, “deeply flawed”. This paper, which received significant
attention among the earthquake engineering community and was updated and published by different
organizations, prompted Nigel to work on the Displacement-Based Seismic Design procedure.
Graduate student Mervyn Kowalsky, and Greg MacRae, worked closely with Nigel on this topic and
developed the procedure first for RC bridge columns see Chapter 4. Nigel continued his passion for

Displacement-Based Design for many years, even after he departed UCSD in 2000, and produced
a textbook on this topic with Calvi, Professor at Istituto Universitario di Studi Superiori (IUSS) di
Pavia, Italy, and Kowalsky in 2007 (Priestley et al., 2007).
As evident from this introduction, it is clear that a handful of people had the privilege and honor to work
closely with Nigel on seismic bridge related work, received guidance and learned from him directly
in multiple ways. The reminder of this paper presents more detailed accounts of Nigel’s research
advancements and impact in seismic design and retrofit of bridges from several of these individuals.

2. Research in New Zealand

In 1978, Nigel published his first paper related to the earthquake response of bridges (Priestley and
Stockwell, 1978). The existing South Brighton bridge in Christchurch was an old timber structure built
in 1926, and it was proposed that a replacement bridge be constructed with the superstructure supported
on elastomeric bearing pads and steel-cantilever dampers. Dynamic analyses were undertaken that
showed that the dampers were relatively ineffective, and it was advocated that a conventional ductile
design based on then-current New Zealand bridge design philosophy would be more cost effective
without increasing seismic risk. Computer modelling was undertaken for both longitudinal and transverse
response (see Figure 5.1a) using a program named TWODEE that was developed by Richard Sharpe for
his doctoral dissertation at the University of Canterbury, with time history analyses undertaken using
the 1940 El Centro N-S record and the 1977 Bucharest N-S record. From this modelling, it was found
that the proposed dissipaters had little influence on response, and the findings were elegantly presented
by illustrating that the benefit (or detriment) associated with the period shift derived from the inclusion
of bearing pads was dependent on the specific attributes of the particular earthquake record (see Figure
In 1979, Nigel again published finding based upon computational dynamic analyses using the
TWODEE software, which examined the influence of foundation compliance on the seismic
response of bridge piers as illustrated in Figure 5.2 (Priestley et al., 1979). Both natural and synthetic
earthquake records were used, and the influence of foundation flexibility was modelled using an
equivalent spring system. A methodology is presented to show the significant change that foundation

(a) Details of the computer model for transverse loading (b) Relationship between period shift and response spectra.

Figure 5.1 - Computer modeling of the South Brighton bridge in Christchurch (Priestley and Stockwell, 1978).

flexibility has on the relationship between overall displacement ductility and local curvature ductility
at the pier plastic hinges. Again referring to aspects of period shift, Nigel proposed that then-current
New Zealand practice for medium to long period structures may be very conservative, but that for
short-period bridge piers the existing practice may be slightly non-conservative.
In 1980, Nigel led a discussion group of the New Zealand National Society for Earthquake Engineering
to conduct a special study on bridges (Priestley et al., 1980). The focus of this exercise was to identify
specific problems associated with specific bridge types and make appropriate recommendations about
suitable methods for analysis and design. Whilst a number of bridge types were considered, it is noted
that several topics addressed here continued to be features of Nigel’s later research, including bridges
with tall piers or piers of differing heights, highly skewed bridges (see Figure 5.3a), long bridges with
internal movement joints, and bridges sited across or near active faults where it was proposed that
bridge piers be provided extra confinement via an inner confined core (see Figure 5.3b).
In 1983, Nigel co-authored an article led by his postgraduate student Robert Park (Jr), son of Nigel’s
close collaborator Bob Park, investigating the seismic performance of bridge piles encased within
a steel jacket (Park et al., 1983). The reported study had both an experimental and a theoretical
component. The study was partly funded by New Zealand Railways, who at that time commonly
neglected the presence of the steel casing when considering earthquake response of piles. Six
piles were tested with a central lateral load and applied axial compression (see Figure 5.4a) and
the theoretical response was developed via determination of moment-curvature relationships that
accounted for both the hoop and longitudinal stresses developed in the steel encasement, and the
associated elevation of concrete confinement (see Figure 5.4b). From this study, it was concluded
that the seismic performance of piles could be adequately predicted in terms of strength and that the

Figure 5.2 - Influence of elastic deflection of foundation on overall ductility capacity of a cantiler bridge pier (Priestley et al., 1979).

(a) Direction of rotation of skewed bridge (b) Circular bridge column with inner confined core

Figure 5.3 - Topics addressed in a 1980 report on bridges requiring special study (Priestley et al., 1980).

(a) Test set-up (b) Theoretical moment-curvature responses

Figure 5.4 - Investigation of steel encased bridge piers (Park et al., 1983).

ductility capacity exceeded the then-current requirements for bridges and buildings in New Zealand,
but that the local buckling of the steel casing at moderate levels of ductility limited the potential for
full ductile response of the system.

5.3 Research at UCSD

Extending the work from New Zealand, one of Nigel’s first research projects at UCSD was centered on
seismic retrofit of bridge columns by steel jacketing. The premise was that full or partial encasement of
columns by a steel jacket can reduce the seismic hazards associated with older bridges in California. The
vulnerabilities of these older Californian bridges were evident after several earthquakes, including the

1971 San Fernando earthquake, the 1987 Whittier earthquake, and the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
Major deficiencies in the substructures, as identified by Nigel in his retrofit program, included:
• Inadequate flexural strength: Base shear coefficients were typically less than in the pre-1971
design of bridges, resulting in lateral strength that is significantly lower than the strength
required in the current Caltrans Acceleration Response Spectra (ARS). As satisfactory seismic
performance of bridges depends on a ductile response, the low lateral strength in these older
bridges results in large ductility demands in the supporting columns.
• Inadequate flexural ductility: Pre-1971 bridge columns in California were typically detailed with an
insufficient amount of transverse reinforcement, resulting in limited ductility capacity. The limited
ductility capacity was further compromised by inadequate lap-length of the transverse reinforcement
in the cover concrete instead of welding of the lap-splices or bending of the reinforcement into
90-degree hooks back into the core concrete. Large lateral displacement demands under intense
earthquake ground motions would cause the poorly anchored transverse reinforcement to unravel,
rendering the confinement reinforcement ineffective and hence precipitate a brittle failure.
• Undependable flexural capacity: Pre-1971 guidelines permitted the splicing of column longitudinal
reinforcement with starter bars from the footing at a lap-length of times the bar diameter. This lap
length was short compared to the current requirements, and was inadequate to fully develop the
yield strength of the reinforcement, especially when larger diameter bars were involved. The short
lap-splices would degrade rapidly under cyclic loading, resulting in undependable flexural strength
of the column.
• Inadequate shear strength: For pre-1971 bridges supported on short columns, the shear force
associated with a ductile yielding mechanism may exceed the shear capacity of the column. The
inadequate shear strength arose from the widely spaced transverse reinforcement and poor anchorage
of the transverse reinforcement. Consequently, a common failure mode for short columns involved
brittle shear failure, accompanied by low ductility capacity and poor energy dissipation.
• Footing failures: Pile caps or footings in older bridges were often provided with only a bottom
layer of reinforcement. Top steel and shear reinforcement were considered unnecessary and
routinely omitted. Such practice was attributed to the use of elastic design in the pre-1971 era,
which assumed full gravity load acting during the seismic event while concurrently prescribing
unrealistically low values of lateral seismic forces.
• Joint failures: Joint regions between the column and footing, or between the column and bent-
cap, are subjected to very high shear stresses during a severe seismic attack. These regions were
traditionally not designed to high seismic shear stresses. A joint failure would result in a brittle
response in the structure.

Steel Jacketing of Columns

Nigel was, as previously noted, a pioneer in seismic retrofit of highway bridges in California and
his research program was undoubtedly very successful and results-oriented. He extended his earlier
work on steel-encased piles in New Zealand to steel jacketing of columns at UCSD to improve the
ductility capacity of deficient columns, as well as their shear strength, and to mitigate undependable
strength from inadequate lap-splices. Under the combined action of axial compression and bending,
the compression region dilates as the flexural strength of the column is approached. The dilation
would be restrained by the radial stiffness of the jacket, placing the jacket in circumferential
tension and the column concrete in radial compression, as shown in Figure 5.5a. For a in. (1.52

m) diameter column retrofitted with a typical 0.5 in. (13 mm) thick A36 steel jacket, the level of
confining pressure from the steel jacket is about 590 psi (4 MPa), which would be near the upper
limit of confinement by hoops or spirals in current design. The presence of steel jacket enhances both
the compressive strength and the toughness of the concrete. The enhanced compressive response
of confined concrete is shown schematically in Figure 5.5b. A steel jacket bonded to the column is
also effective in resisting a portion of the total column shear force. The shear strength contribution
by the steel jacket can be readily derived assuming an equivalent truss mechanism similar to the
conventional transverse reinforcement of either hoops or spirals. It may also be expected that the
lateral confining pressure from the steel jacket would improve the bond transfer, possibly preventing
a bond failure at the lap-splices of the column longitudinal reinforcement. Benefits offered by steel
jacketing can significantly reduce the seismic hazard of the older bridge structures. The effectiveness
of steel jacketing was verified by Nigel through a comprehensive column test program at the UCSD
Powell Laboratory (Priestley et al., 1996; Chai et al., 1991). Figure 5.6 compares the performance of
a steel jacketed column with the performance of a deficient column having pre-1971 reinforcement
details (e.g., inadequate lap-splices).

(a) Lateral confinement of steel jackets (b) Compressive responses of concrete

Figure 5.5 - Confining action of steel jacket on column concrete.

During testing, bond failure, initiated fairly early on during loading, occurred in the lap-splices of
the longitudinal reinforcement in the deficient column, as evidenced by the vertical splitting cracks
in Figure 5.6a. Strain measurements on the column reinforcement indicated that the maximum
stresses of the reinforcement barely reached the yield strength, causing the column to not attain its
intended flexural strength. Sliding of the reinforcement, as a result of the bond failure, translated into
a rapidly degrading system with poor strain energy dissipation, as can be seen by pinched hysteresis
loops in Figure 5.6b. The onset of lateral strength degradation, which occurred at a displacement
ductility factor of μ Δ =1.5, was subsequently used by Caltrans for performance assessment of their
old bridges. In comparison, the steel jacketed column shown in Figure 5.6d exhibited a very large
displacement ductility capacity. Hysteresis loops, which are shown in Figure 5.6e, were stable up

(a) Bond failure in lap-splices (b) Undependable strength from poor lap-splices

(c) Fatigue bar fracture

(d) Large deformation capacity of steel jacketed columns (e) Ductile hysteresis loops of steel jacketed columns

Figure 5.6 - Lateral response of columns enhanced by steel jacketing.

to a displacement ductility factor of μ Δ ≥ 8. The maximum lateral force of the column exceeded the
theoretical flexural strength due to strain-hardening of the reinforcement. However, the presence of
a steel jacket reduced the column plastic hinge length, causing higher strains in the reinforcement.
Under large displacement amplitude cycles, the steel jacketed column failed by low-cycle fatigue
fracture of its longitudinal reinforcement, as indicated in Figure 5.6c. Despite the fracture of the
longitudinal reinforcement, the enhanced ductility capacity in jacketed columns was deemed more
than adequate for the level of seismic hazard that can be expected in older bridges. As a tribute,
photographs in Figure 5.7 highlight the success of Nigel’s retrofit program, showing importantly the
translation of research from the laboratory to actual implementation in practice.

(a) Steel jacketed column tests at UCSD (b) Steel jacketed columns, Coyote Wells, California

Figure 5.7 - Nigel’s contribution to seismic retrofit of bridges - translation of research from laboratory to engineering practice.

Bridge Joints and Force Transfer Mechanisms

Nigel’s attention to design and retrofit procedures to address the seismic response of concrete freeway
bridge bent joints stemmed from his reconnaissance following the Loma Prieta earthquake in Northern
California in October 1989 (Priestley and Seible, 1992). In particular, construction of the I-980

Oakland Southbound Connector had been completed in 1985, just four years before the earthquake,
and yet the west column-cap joint of bent 38 sustained considerable damage to the outrigger knee
joints in the earthquake (see Figure 5.8). Following the earthquake, Nigel noted the lack of consistent
assessment and evaluation models for the treatment of bridge bents (Priestley et al., 2007) and set
about developing appropriate assessment and design models in conjunction with Caltrans. A feature
of this assessment procedure for bridge joints was a departure from the conventional approach of
solely relying on quantifying the shear demand within the joint panel to treating the shear force
as part of the force transfer mechanism in the joint zone, which extends outside of the joint panel
dimensions. This approach also opened up different concepts for designing bridge joints to minimize
reinforcement congestion. The magnitudes of principal compression and tension stresses estimated
for the joint region were used to control damage and identify the extent of reinforcement needed
in the joint panel region. Figure 5.9 shows examples that Nigel used to demonstrate the possibility
of using different reinforcement configurations in the joint region, including the effects of turning
column bar hooks into rather than away from the joint as was common practice at the time, the
contribution of cap beam reinforcement adjacent to the joint to aid the transfer of forces through the
joint, and the effects of applying cap beam prestressing in improving joint performance.
With the objective of identifying the need for assessment and design procedures for bridge joints, it
was recognized that in comparison to the reasonably comprehensive extent of laboratory test data for
the joints of building frames, there was a paucity of laboratory test data pertaining to the earthquake
response of concrete bridge joints. The significance of this distinction is that in buildings it is typical

(a) View of damage (b) Joint reinforcement detailing

Figure 5.8 - I-980 Bent 38 joint failure following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake (Priestley et al., 1996).

(a) Lap splice failure in closing (b) Column bars bent into tee joint (c) Incorporating external vertical joint
knee joint reinforcement

Figure 5.9 - Joint force transfer mechanisms for concrete bridge joints with and without cap beam prestressing (Priestley et al., 1996).

to target plastic hinge formation in beams, whereas in bridge frames it is more common to expect
hinging to occur in piers/columns. In addition, the detailing in bridge joints is typically distinctly
different from common joint detailing in building frames (see Figure 5.9b), partly due to the differing
geometries of the sections framing into the joint.
Experimental programs were first undertaken by Ingham to address bridge knee joint response
(Ingham et al., 1997; 1998), followed by a companion project undertaken by Sritharan that considered
the testing of isolated bridge tee joints and multiple-column bents consisting of knee and tee joints
(Sritharan et al., 1999; 2001). The knee joint test program first considered replication (see Figure
5.10a) and then retrofit, repair and new design strategies for the I-980 connector in Oakland, followed
by a study of the joint detailing adopted in the then-recently constructed I-105 Airport Viaduct in Los
Angeles that contained detailing representative of 1991 design practice in the State of California. The
knee joint test program was extended by considering the response of tee joints replicating an interior
joint from the Santa Monica Viaduct in Los Angeles (see Figure 10b), followed by three further tests
to demonstrate new joint design concepts. The first test minimized the amount of reinforcement in

(a) Bridge knee joint test (see also Figure a) (b) Bridge tee joint test (test set-up inverted by 180 degrees)

Figure 5.10 - Bridge joint tests undertaken at UCSD (Priestley et al., 1996).

the joint panel by placing external joint reinforcement in the cap beam while the second and third
units achieved the same objective by using partial prestressing and full prestressing in the cap beam.
The isolated knee and tee joint testing was then extended by Sritharan to test multiple-column bridge
bents consisting of a knee and a tee joint (see example in Figure 5.11). This testing program had the
objectives of: a) verifying recently proposed guidelines for designing ductile bridge columns; b)
finalizing the external strut force transfer model, a modified version of which is being widely used
today for designing bridge joints; c) investigating the feasibility of a precast construction procedure
for bridge bents; and d) confirming a suitable pin detail that can be used at the base of the bridge
column (Sritharan et al., 2001). The testing and subsequent research formalized the force transfer
design methodology (Sritharan and Ingham, 2003) and the modified external strut force transfer
design method (Sritharan, 2005), demonstrated the effectiveness of prestressing the cap beam to
simply the details and improve the performance of bridge joints, and confirmed the suitability of the
straight bar anchorage details for the column longitudinal column reinforcement embedded into the
joint and pin details used at the column base. These studies on bridge cap beam joints were further
supplemented by testing of footing and pile cap details (Xiao et al., 1996).
In conjunction with the above studies Nigel developed mechanical models to describe the anchorage,
development and splicing of reinforcement both within the joint and in the members adjacent to

(a) Test set-up

Figure 5.11 - Testing of a multi-column bridge bent (Sritharan et al., 2001).

(b) Response at peak lateral displacement

Figure 5.11 - Testing of a multi-column bridge bent (Sritharan et al., 2001).

the joint (see Figure 5.12). Prior to this work, it was common to specify a standard reinforcement
development length for column bars projecting into joints, regardless of the force transfer mechanisms
that were developed. In some cases, this practice led to inadequate embedment and an incomplete
force transfer pathway. Similarly, Nigel developed a model to forecast the onset of lap-splice failure,
including the scenario where 90 degree hooked top beam reinforcement may fail when closing
moments are applied to a bridge knee joint (see Figure 5.9a).

Precast Spliced Girders

Although the vast majority of bridges in California are cast-in-place concrete bridges, the number
of precast prestressed concrete bridges constructed in that state significantly declined in the years
following the San Fernando earthquake in 1971 through to the 1990’s. In large measure, this
decline can be attributed to opinions about the seismic performance of precast girder bridges, as
bridge engineers were reluctant to consider the connection between precast girder superstructures
and columns as fixed under severe seismic forces. To compensate for this lack of continuity, the

Figure 5.12 - Lap splice failure of column bars in bridge piers (Priestley et al., 1996).

substructures were made larger, and hence more costly than equivalent cast-in-place bridges.
As a result, precast girder bridges were relegated to locations where falsework placement was
impractical (Holombo et al., 2000).
With funding from Caltrans, Nigel together with his student Holombo and industry partners developed
cost-effective integral precast girder superstructure to column connections that can resist severe
seismic forces. In their approach, they included the development of a working group of industry
professionals from Caltrans and the Precast Concrete Manufacturers of California (PCMAC), now
the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) West.
The investigation focused on two new girder shapes for California that could span long distances and
were suitable for continuous post-tensioning and splicing (Holombo et al., 2000). These shapes were
the California Bulb-Tee and Bathtub girders (Figure 5.13), which have the following characteristics:
• Bathtub girders - simulate the appearance of cast-in-place box girder construction and require
temporary shoring towers if splicing is used. For the purposes of the study, the girders terminated
at the face of the cap beams.

• Bulb-tee girders - suitable for cantilever construction if spliced, where continuous segments pass
over or through the pier cap (pier segments), and segments within the span (span segments) are
temporarily suspended from the pier segments with strong-back beams during construction.

The results of this investigation demonstrated that seismic resistant integral connections between
precast concrete superstructures and columns can be constructed cost-effectively. These integral
connections relied on many of the methods and details that Nigel and his research staff had recently
developed, including external strut mechanisms for column joint design and the use of shear friction
for torsion resistance as described in this paper and elsewhere (Priestley et al., 1996).

Figure 5.13 - The bathtub and bulb-tee girder prototypes studied were typical overcrossings, and represented a range of construc-
tion methods.

Caltrans and their industry partners were satisfied with this cost-effective approach, with the
caveat that the seismic resistance be verified through large-scale tests. This verification required
the construction of two large-scale bridge test structures with hydraulic actuators that simulated
horizontal seismic forces and displacements, parallel to the direction of traffic. One test incorporated
Bulb-tee girders that extended continuously through the cap and were spliced at the dead-load
inflection points, and the second test incorporated Bathtub girders that terminated at the face of the
cap beam (Figures 5.14 and 5.15). Both model test structures were continuously post-tensioned.
Dimensions and forces for both model bridge structures were scaled to 40% of full size, and included
a column, a cap beam, precast girders and a deck extending from midspan to midspan of a multi-
span prototype design example. The midspan was selected as a boundary because it corresponds to
the inflection point of the superstructure moment diagram under horizontal earthquake forces acting
parallel to the bridge centerline.

Figure 5.14 - Dimensions for both precast girder model bridge structures were scaled 40% from full size. Large hydraulic actua-
tors simulated realistic seismic forces and displacements.

Significant effort was made to correctly simulate gravity and seismic forces throughout construction
and testing. Of particular concern was maintaining correct moments, shears and axial forces within
girder end regions near the cap beam without applying forces in areas where resistance was being
studied. Force were applied via hydraulic actuators at each end and hold downs were applied near the
prototype dead load moment point of inflection (Holombo et al., 2000).
The tests validated the effectiveness of the innovative design approach developed during the
investigation. Ductile plastic hinges formed at the ends of the columns, while the connections

between the precast girder superstructure and the columns remained essentially elastic during
fully reversing cycles applied incrementally to a displacement that exceeded 150% of the design
requirement. Further, the data obtained from the tests provided useful insights, which have resulted
in improved design and construction practices (Holombo et al., 2000).
This investigation under Nigel’s leadership resulted in the development of practical seismic resistant
precast concrete girder bridge design practices using rational methods. These details have been
further refined and now are in widespread use. As a consequence, precast girder bridges are now
routinely being selected for projects in California, even in situations where limitations on falsework
are not a concern. This is especially true for larger projects, where the economy of off-site fabrication
is enhanced (Holombo et al., 2000).

The UCSD Shear Capacity Model

Nigel’s contribution to the development of predictive shear capacity models for reinforced concrete
members is often referred to as the “UCSD Shear Model”. However, the origins of the model date
back to one of Nigel’s last students in New Zealand, Ang Ghee. While shear design equations have
long been shown to be conservative, their application for predictive purposes often lead to erroneous
results. Nigel recognized this early on, realizing that in order to conduct accurate assessments of
existing structures, more robust models to predict shear capacity would be needed. Such models, with
appropriate reduction factors, could then be safely used for design as well.
The development of the UCSD Shear Model can be traced over a series of four publications spanning
11 years, each of which built upon earlier work. In 1989, Ghee et al. published the first of these,

Figure 5.15 - Testing of precast girder bridge details validated the innovative approach and provided useful data leading to
improved design and construction practices.

identifying the importance of ductility on the strength of the concrete shear resisting mechanism
(Sritharan et al., 1999). The most important contribution from that first paper (in addition to the
extensive series of tests which were reported), was a ductility dependent shear capacity model (see
Figure 5.16). While the importance of ductility on shear capacity had been established in the past
as early as ATC-6 (Applied Technology Council, 1981), Ghee’s model was the first to quantify this
reduction in a non-binary manner (i.e., some codes at this time represented shear capacity at two
levels - strength within and outside of the plastic hinge region, but without any consideration of a
degradation envelope).

Figure 5.16 - Ghee model for strength of the concrete shear resisting mechanism (Ghee et al., 1989).

In 1994, with Ravindra Verma and Yang Xiao, Nigel proposed a model, which for the first time aimed
to decouple the contribution of axial load on shear capacity from that of the concrete. The rationale
for the coupling of the two related to the impact that the axial load has on crack widths, allowing
an increase in the shear friction along the cracked surface as a function of axial compression force.
Verma et al. (Priestley et al., 1994) postulated that the axial load contribution could be separated
from the concrete contribution, thus simplifying the model, while also more accurately representing
the behavior by suggesting that the horizontal component of the diagonal compression strut formed
by the axial load can be directly added to concrete and steel contributions. The Verma et al. model
for the concrete contribution is shown in Figure 5.17, while the axial load contribution is shown in
Figure 5.18.
In 1996, Gianmario Benzoni and Nigel further recognized that the degradation of the concrete
contribution did not stop at a displacement ductility of four. Aided by tests on columns with low
longitudinal reinforcement, which failed at high levels of ductility, they proposed a change to the
concrete contribution to shear strength. The previously constant capacity beyond ductility 4 now
reduced further to ductility 8 (Priestley and Benzoni, 1996).

Figure 5.17 - Concrete contribution to shear strength (Priestley et al., 1994).

Figure 5.18 - Axial load contribution to shear capacity (Priestley et al., 1994).

Over the following four years, the shear capacity model was further studied and the existing database
of tests were reexamined. This led to several changes to the UCSD shear capacity model, which
would be expressed in its final form by Kowalsky and Priestley (Kowalsky and Priestley, 2000).
Amongst the proposed change were: i) constant slope degradation between ductility 4 and 8 (see
Figure 5.19); ii) inclusion of the impact of reinforcement ratio and aspect ratio on the strength of the
concrete shear resisting mechanism (Figure 5.19); and iii) for the first time, a change to the steel truss
contribution, which now recognized the impact of the compression zone on mobilization of the steel

truss mechanism (Figure 5.20). The axial contribution remained the same in the final version of the
model. The final model was shown to greatly reduce the scatter in shear capacity prediction (Figure
5.21). An independent study by a group at the University of Washington (Camarillo and Haili, 2003)
confirmed this model to be the most accurate when compared against other models available at the
time of that study.

(a) Ductility dependence

(b) Aspect ratio dependence

(c) Steel ratio dependence

Figure 5.19 - The three components of the concrete contribution to shear strength (Kowalsky and Priestley, 2000).

Figure 5.20 - Impact of compression zone on steel truss mechanism (Kowalsky and Priestley, 2000).

Figure 5.21 - Accuracy of final version of the UCSD shear model (Kowalsky and Priestley, 2000).

5.4 Impact on industry practice

In parallel with leading the seismic research at UCSD, Nigel was instrumental in helping Caltrans
retrofit its oldest bridges and design its latest bridges to survive large earthquakes. But more
importantly, Nigel made himself available during every step of Caltrans’ journey from a damaged and
vulnerable infrastructure following the Loma Prieta earthquake to a seismically resistant highway
system with state-of-the-art seismic design procedures.

When Nigel moved from New Zealand to UCSD, Caltrans was still relying on cable restrainers to
hold older bridges together during earthquakes and force-based methods to determine the capacity of
new bridges. However, when the “cable restrained” I-605/I-5 Connector almost collapsed due to shear
damage of its columns during the 1987 Whittier earthquake, Nigel was ready with a solution, which is
to use steel jackets to improve the ductility and shear resistance of bridge columns. He had also already
developed procedures to determine the displacement capacity of columns with and without steel jackets.
This combination of physical tools to improve a bridge’s performance along with analytical tools to give
designers insight into the bridge’s capacity was what made Nigel so important to Caltrans during the
many traumatic events that followed.
Nigel joined UCSD at a critical time in Caltrans’ development of seismic analysis and design
procedures for bridges. After the 1971 San Fernando earthquake, Caltrans had made progress in
developing site-specific ground motions and a ductile bridge design that allowed bridges to take
damage without collapse. However, Caltrans was stuck in procedures halfway between the force-based
methods of the past and the displacement-based methods of the future. Caltrans was determining the
displacement capacity of bridge columns by calculating the displacement at yield and multiplying
by a factor. Nigel provided a simple way of determining displacement capacity based on a moment-
curvature analysis of the column section. This was the missing piece of the puzzle, which allowed
Caltrans engineers to make sure that the displacement capacity of their columns was greater than the
displacement demand from the design earthquake.
When the Loma Prieta earthquake occurred two years later, Nigel jumped into the many tasks required to
come up with solutions to retrofit a variety of Caltrans bridges. Whenever Caltrans had a question, Nigel
was able to immediately perform research and come up with solutions that were quickly put into practice.
By the time that Nigel left UCSD in early 2000, Caltrans had retrofitted most of its vulnerable bridges and
had written modern retrofit (Caltrans, 2008) and seismic design criteria (Caltrans, 2013).
To highlight Nigel’s ability to focus on research needed to improve the seismic performance of
bridges and the corresponding impact on Caltrans seismic retrofit program and improving its design
methodologies, selected examples are presented below in a chronological order.
• Steel Column Jacketing (1988)
As previously noted, this program was initiated in 1987 and executed in 1988 at UCSD to test large-scale
circular and rectangular columns in ‘as-built’ and retrofit conditions for flexural and shear responses.
Columns were constructed to a 0.4 geometric scale using materials and design details appropriate for
columns designed in the 1960’s. The results of these tests were the basis for the thousands of bridges that
were subsequently retrofitted after the 1989 Loma Prieta and 1994 Northridge earthquakes.
• Seminar on Seismic Assessment and Retrofit of Bridges (1991)
In July of 1991, Nigel with the assistance of Frieder Seible held a seminar, which provided the
state-of-the-art in the practice of displacement-based design procedures for existing bridges. The
report SSRP-91/03 (Priestley and Seible, 1991) that was published as part of this seminar became
the bible used by engineers involved in Caltrans’ big retrofit program of the 1990s.
• Rocking Response of Bridges (1991)
Allowing a bridge to rock during earthquakes is a way to dissipate energy and protect columns
that otherwise could be damaged. This concept was used by Nigel for some New Zealand bridges
in the late 1970’s. Nigel provided a simple procedure for determining if rocking will occur in the
seminar report and it became a popular retrofit strategy by Caltrans.
• Southern Freeway Viaduct (1991)
The City of San Francisco was so eager to remove the double-deck viaducts from their city that

Caltrans was reluctant to tear down damaged or vulnerable parts of the Southern Freeway Viaduct
because the city might not allow them to rebuild it. Instead, using Nigel’s research outcomes,
Caltrans jacked up the double-deck structure and replaced the columns with stronger, more ductile
members and provided additional edge beams to increase the capacity of the superstructure. The
resulting retrofit was designed to keep the bridge in service for the largest earthquake likely to
occur on the nearby San Andreas or Hayward Faults.
• Santa Monica Viaduct (1992)
Caltrans was concerned about how to retrofit the two mile long Santa Monica Viaduct in Los
Angeles with its thousands of vulnerable columns. Nigel came up with a retrofit strategy that
included the use of struts between vulnerable columns in a bent that would allow considerable
damage to the Viaduct during earthquakes, but would prevent a collapse.
• Column-Footing Interaction (1992)
Before the 1971 San Fernando earthquake, Caltrans’ bridges were often built without a top mat
of footing reinforcement. Testing at UCSD showed that such footings could be so badly damaged
during large earthquakes to allow the bridge to fall over. A top mat of footing reinforcement
became a part of retrofit whenever the bridge was at risk of collapse if the column-footing
connection deteriorated to a pin.
• Fiber Reinforced Polymer (FRP) Composites Column Casings (1992)
Nigel could see the benefits of having FRP Column casings for situations where steel jackets
couldn’t be used. He made the UCSD Powell Laboratories available for testing of FRP column
casings similar to the testing of steel column casings and found similar performance.
• Shear Strength of Reinforced Concrete Columns (1994)
The shear model that Nigel developed at UCSD included the reduction of shear strength as plastic
hinges formed and damaged the column. This model is used as needed in the seismic retrofit of
bridges, even though another shear model developed at UC Berkeley is used in new bridge design.
• Damage Analysis of Bridges after the Northridge Earthquake (1994)
An excellent contribution that Nigel, Frieder, Chia-Ming Uang and their students made to
help Caltrans was a report of their quick analysis of the bridges that collapsed during the 1994
Northridge earthquake (Priestley et al., 1994). This report allowed Caltrans to check if they were
addressing all of the vulnerabilities shown by the bridge damage during this earthquake. This
report has stood the test of time and was remarkably insightful. Previously unconsidered issues
like unbalanced spans, bents, and columns and lack of uniformity such as flared columns, have all
been shown to cause bridge collapse and were not considered before the Northridge earthquake.
• Seismic Design and Retrofit of Bridges (1996)
In 1996 Nigel, Frieder, and Michele Calvi published a book that described state-of-the-practice
seismic procedures for bridges, based on the last 10 years of working closely with Caltrans.
Another Caltrans seminar was held and the new book was distributed to be used by engineers
involved in retrofitting bridges and writing seismic criteria.
• Seismic Response Modification Device (SRMD) Test System (1997)
Retrofitting Caltrans’ big toll bridges usually required using isolation and damping devices to
protect the vulnerable substructures from the large inertial force of the long span superstructure.
Every giant toll bridge isolator had to have a long proof test before it could be put on a bridge.
Nigel and Frieder had a testing facility built on UCSD’s campus, which could test these huge
bearings in all directions with the full ground motions from any earthquake.

5.5 Conclusions
In tribute to Professor Nigel Priestley’s significant contributions to concrete structures, this paper
has summarized some of his research and the corresponding impact, especially in California, in
the area of seismic design and retrofit of bridges. It is shown that over a period of approximately
15 years, Nigel was able to uncover several basic deficiencies that have existed in seismic bridge
design and come up with retrofit strategies and new design solutions. Despite the complexity of the
problems, his solutions are generally simple. He always came up with elegant ways to use large-
scale testing to demonstrate that the proposed solutions would be effective and established suitable
recommendations that can be incorporated in design practice.
While the 1971 San Fernando earthquake exposed the vulnerabilities of bridges in California,
advancements to Californian seismic design practice did not materialize until after Nigel joined
UCSD. As reported herein, Nigel’s early focus on studying the seismic response of bridges whilst
at the University of Canterbury was the perfect launching pad for further development and then
implementation of these innovative seismic assessment and design procedures into practice,
particularly at a time when Caltrans was particularly receptive to considering and adopting new
approaches. Nigel’s training, his insight, his warmth and humor, his discipline and intelligence, all
made him the right person at the right time when Caltrans faced hundreds of structural issues over a
decade, during which the Whittier Narrows, Loma Prieta, and Northridge earthquakes continued to
demonstrate that poorly detailed bridges would experience significant damage in moderate and large
Nigel’s eminent contributions to bridges and other areas can be attributed to his keen mind, which
seemed to see deeper into the behavior of structures than most people. When he believed, he stood
by ideas even when he was strongly criticized for them. More often than not, he turned out to be
right. His hard work, his intelligence, and his willingness to help implement research was critical in
getting Caltrans through the big retrofit program in the 1990s. Despite all these successes, Nigel was
humble and considerate, and enjoyed the friendships he formed with students, colleagues, practicing
engineers and many others.

5.6 References
Applied Technology Council (1981) - Seismic Design Guidelines for Highway Bridges, funded by Federal Highway Administration.
Buckle I.G., Goodson M., Cassano R., Douglas B., Hegemier G., Imbsen R., Jones D., Liu D., Mayes R., North P., Priestley M.J.N.,
Rojahn C., Seible F., Selna L., and Viest I. (1990) - Bridge Structures, Earthquake Spectra, 6(S1), pp. 151-187.
Caltrans (2008) - Seismic Retrofit Guidelines for Bridges in California, Memo to Designers, MTD 20-4, Sacramento, CA, 13 p.
Caltrans (2013) - Seismic Design Criteria, Ver. 1.7, Sacramento, CA, 180 p.
Camarillo Haili R. (2003) - Evaluation of Shear Strength Methodologies for Reinforced Concrete Columns, Master’s Thesis,
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Washington.
Chai Y.H., Priestley M.J.N., Seible F. (1991) - Seismic Retrofit of Circular Bridge Columns for Enhanced Flexural Performance, ACI
Structural Journal, 88(5), pp. 572-584.
Ghee A., Priestley M.J.N., Paulay T. (1989) - Seismic Shear Strength of Circular Concrete Columns, ACI Structural Journal, 86(1),
pp. 45-59.
Holombo J., Priestley M.J.N., Seible F. (2000) - Continuity of Precast Spliced-Girder Bridges under Seismic Loads, PCI Journal, 45(2),
pp. 40-63.
Ingham J.M., Priestley M.J.N., Seible F. (1997) - Seismic Response of Bridge Knee Joints having Columns with Interlocking Spirals,
Bulletin of the New Zealand National Society for Earthquake Engineering, 30(2), pp. 114-132.
Ingham J.M., Priestley M.J.N. Seible F. (1998) - Cyclic Response of Bridge Knee Joints with Circular Columns, Journal of Earthquake
Engineering, 2(3), pp. 357-391.
Kowalsky M.J., Priestley M.J.N. (2000) - An Improved Analytical Model for Shear Strength of Circular RC Columns in Seismic
Regions, ACI Structural Journal, 97(3), pp. 388-396.
Mander J.B., Priestley M.J.N., Park R. (1998) - Theoretical Stress-Strain Model for Confined Concrete, Journal of Structural
Engineering, ASCE, 114(8), pp. 1804-26.
Park R.J.T., Priestley M.J.N., Walpole W.R. (1983) - The Seismic Performance of Steel Encased Reinforced Concrete Bridge Piles,
Bulletin of the New Zealand National Society for Earthquake Engineering, 16(2), pp. 123-140.

Priestley M.J.N. (1971) - Effects of Transverse Temperature Gradients on Bridges, Central Laboratories, Report No. 394, Gracefield,
New Zealand, 30 p.
Priestley M.J.N. (1972) - Thermal Gradients in Bridges - Some Design Considerations, New Zealand Engineering, 27(7), 228 p.
Priestley M.J.N., Stockwell M.J. (1978) - Seismic design of South Brighton Bridge–A Decision Against Mechanical Energy Dissipaters,
Bulletin of the New Zealand National Society for Earthquake Engineering, 11(2), pp. 110-120.
Priestley M.J.N., Park R.J.T., Heng, N.K. (1979) - Influence of Foundation Compliance on the Seismic Response of Bridge Piers,
Bulletin of the New Zealand National Society for Earthquake Engineering, 12(1), pp. 22-34.
Priestley M.J.N., Stanford P.R., Carr A.J. (1980) - Seismic design of bridges – Section 11 Bridges Requiring special study, Bulletin of
the New Zealand National Society for Earthquake Engineering, 13(3), pp. 302-307.
Priestley M.J.N. Park R.J.T. (1987) - Strength and Ductility of Concrete Bridge Columns under Seismic Loading, ACI Structural
Journal, 84(1), pp. 61-76.
Priestley M.J.N., Seible F. (editors) (1991) - Seismic Assessment and Retrofit of Bridges,” University of California, San Diego,
Structural Systems Research Project, Report No. SSRP-91/03, 507pp.
Priestley M.J.N., Seible F. (1992) - Performance Assessment of Damaged Bridge Bents After the Loma Prieta Earthquake, Bulletin of
the New Zealand National Society of Earthquake Engineering, 25(1), pp. 44-51.
Priestley M.J.N. (1993) - Myths and Fallacies in Earthquake Engineering – Conflicts between Design and Reality, Bulletin of the New
Zealand National Society for Earthquake Engineering, 26(3), pp. 329-341.
Priestley M.J.N., Seible F., Uang C.M. (editors) (1994) - The Northridge Earthquake of January 17, Damage Analysis of Selected
Freeway Bridges, University of California, San Diego, Structural Systems Research Project, Report No. SSRP-94/06, 266 p.
Priestley M.J.N., Verma R., Xiao Y. (1994) - Seismic Shear Strength of Reinforced Concrete Columns, ASCE Journal of Structural
Engineering, 120(8), pp. 2310-2329.
Priestley M.J.N., Benzoni G. (1996) - Seismic Performance of Circular Columns with Low Longitudinal Reinforcement Ratios, ACI
Structural Journal, 93(4), pp. 474-84.
Priestley M.J.N., Seible F., Calvi G.M. (1996) - Seismic Design and Retrofit of Bridges, John Wiley & Sons.
Priestley M.J.N., Calvi G.M., Kowalsky M.J. (2007) - Displacement-Based Seismic Design of Structures, IUSS Press, Pavia, Italy.
Sritharan S., Ingham J.M. (2003) - Application of Strut-and-Tie Concepts to Concrete Bridge Joints in Seismic Regions, PCI Journal,
48(4), pp. 2-26.
Sritharan S. (2005) - Improved Seismic Design Procedure for Concrete Bridge Joints, Journal of Structural Engineering, 131(9), pp.
Sritharan S., Priestley M.J.N., Seible F. (1999) - Enhancing Seismic Performance of Bridge Cap Beam-To-Column Joints Using
Prestressing, PCI journal, 44(4), pp. 74-91.
Sritharan S., Priestley M.J.N., Seible F. (2001) - Seismic Design and Experimental Verification of Concrete Multiple Column Bridge
Bents, ACI Structural Journal, 98(3), pp. 335-346.
Xiao Y., Priestley M.J.N., Seible F. (1996) - Seismic Assessment and Retrofit of Bridge Column Footings, ACI Structural Journal,
93(1), pp. 79-94.
Zahn F.A., Park R.J.T., Priestley, M.J.N. (1986) - Design of Reinforced Bridge Columns for Strength and Ductility, Report 86-7,
Department of Civil Engineering, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand, 330 p.
Zahn F.A., Park R.J.T., Priestley, M.J.N., Chapman H.E. (1986) - Development of Design Procedures for the Flexural Strength and
Ductility of Reinforced Concrete Bridge Columns, Bulletin of the New Zealand National Society for Earthquake Engineering,
19(3), pp. 200-212.

6. Masonry and Earthquakes: Not a Matter for Blockheads
By Jason Ingham, Guido Magenes, Katrin Beyer and Rob Chai

6.1 Introduction
In the early 1970s, masonry was almost completely absent from university structural engineering
curricula in most earthquake prone countries worldwide, given its perceived deficiencies when compared
to more modern construction materials such as reinforced concrete and structural steel. At that time, the
international scientific literature on structural masonry was either dedicated to the study of historical
masonry (e.g. Heyman, 1966) or was developed in non-seismic countries where gravity loading and wind
loading were the dominating actions in design (e.g. Sahlin, 1971). However, at that time several factors
were decisive in drawing new attention to masonry structures in earthquake-prone countries, namely:
- Developments in the construction industry prompted advancements towards more robust masonry
structural systems through the use ofconfined and well-detailed reinforced masonry, with equally
promising results for earthquake resistance compared to other systems
- The growing interest in assessing the safety of existing buildings and their retrofit options when
subjected to earthquakes
- The spread of strength or ultimate limit state design methods as opposed to working stress methods
that were shown to be inadequate to assess the real safety against building damage and collapse,
especially when structures are subjected to horizontal loading.

Seismic design in masonry was given further impetus in the early 1970s when New Zealand was
pioneering the ductile seismic design principles for reinforced concrete structures, mainly through the
work of Professors Bob Park and Tom Paulay (Park and Paulay, 1975).It was in this environment that
Nigel’s creative work on masonry began, and his subsequent decades of research produced findings
and results that remain fundamental to this day for engineers and scholars worldwide interested in
understanding the seismic behavior of masonry structures. The authors of this paper had, at different
times, the privilege of being introduced to the subject and exposed to Nigel’s thoughts and work. This
opportunity has been a constant source of inspiration for their own work on structural masonry and this
paper serves as their humble attempt to pay homage, not only to Nigel’s contributions to the subject,
but also to his mind-opening, profound and at the same time solid and straight-to-the-point approach to
engineering problems. His immense contributions brought forth the fascinating albeit complex subject
of seismic design and assessment of masonry structures, much to the attention of structural engineers.

6.2 The University of Canterbury Years

Prior to the early 1970s, little research attention was given to the appropriate seismic design procedures
for reinforced clay brick and concrete block masonry (Holmes, 1968), and that lack of attention
became the motivation for a number of published studies on the topic in New Zealand over the next
two decades. These efforts were partly motivated by the conservative assumptions that had traditionally
been applied to masonry design prior to this time, and further motivated by the combined development
of a new seismic design code for New Zealand (Glogau, 1972; SANZ, 1973) and observed damage in
the 1968 Tokachi-oki earthquake and 1971 San Fernando earthquakes. In that period in New Zealand,
greater attention was particularly given to the implementation of the limit state design philosophy,
and the associated need to quantify behavioral factors for masonry design such as available levels

of ductility capacity, observed levels of damping, quantification of the extent of strength reduction
associated with repeated cyclic loading, and maximum levels of design masonry shear stress.
In 1974 Otto Glogau (Chief Structural Engineer at the New Zealand Ministry of Works) reported on
the performance of masonry buildings in past earthquakes, including the effects of infilled masonry in
framed buildings and the performance of masonry veneer fixed to timber frames (Glogau, 1974). In the
same issue of the NZSEE Bulletin, Priestley and Bridgeman (1974) reported on research undertaken
on behalf of the New Zealand Pottery and Ceramics Research Association that specifically addressed
the cyclic response of reinforced clay brick masonry units using the test setup in Figure 6.1. The study
investigated a larger size hollow clay brick unit than had been previously considered, with attentions
given to the mechanism and control of shear failure and the extent of load degradation. A total of 18
tests were reported, with 14 test walls constructed from two skins of 230 × 75 × 70 mm clay brick
units separated by a 64 mm grout gap, and 4 tests constructed of hollow clay blocks having a nominal
width of 140 mm. The main variable in the reported testing program was the quantity of horizontal
and vertical reinforcement. Five walls contained horizontal steel confinement plates and two walls
contained overburden axial load simulated by a vertical prestressing force. Important conclusions from
this research were that distributed horizontal reinforcement was effective in improving the nominal
wall shear strength and that cyclic load degradation could be greatly reduced by providing stainless
steel confining plates in the bottom few horizontal bed joints at each end of the wall.
Nigel left the Ministry of Works in 1976 and joined the Department of Civil Engineering at the
University of Canterbury as a Senior Lecturer. His masonry research interests continued to be motivated
by developments in New Zealand standards, and in particular by a proposed draft for a new masonry
code (SANZ, 1980). The specific focus of Nigel’s masonry research efforts at this time were to establish
suitable maximum shear stress limits. In 1977 a testing program that investigated six heavily reinforced
concrete masonry shear walls was reported (Priestley, 1977). Test parameters included the longitudinal

Figure 6.1 - Masonry wall test set-up used for cyclic testing of clay brick masonry walls (Priestley and Bridgeman, 1974).

reinforcement ratio, the applied axial load, and the horizontal bed joint confinement plates, similar to
his earlier work investigating clay brick masonry walls (Priestley and Bridgeman, 1974). Particular
attention was given to ensure that the walls tested were constructed using realistic levels of construction
quality, and construction detailing included the lapping of vertical starter bar reinforcement projecting
from the foundation, the use of open ended masonry units, and the inclusion of clean-out ports in the
bottom course of masonry. The concrete masonry units had a width of 143 mm and the associated
masonry prism strengths ranged between 18.3-24.5 MPa. The principal finding from this testing was
that existing limits for the maximum masonry shear stress were unrealistically low, with all walls
exceeding the maximum shear stress value permitted at that time by substantial margins, and with two
walls having shear strengths of four times the code level. It was therefore concluded that as long as the
provided horizontal reinforcement was adequately anchored, higher shear stresses should be allowed in
future masonry design codes. In particular, it was recommended that a maximum shear stress of 1.25
MPa be allowed for walls expected to sustain displacement ductility factors of up to 4 and that a higher
shear stress limit of 2.5 MPa should be allowed when the displacement ductility factor does not exceed
2. In addition, it was concluded that the existing recommendation for a strength reduction factor for
masonry of φ=0.65 was unnecessarily low, and that the factor should be increased to φ=0.85.
In 1979 Nigel again collaborated with researchers from the New Zealand Pottery and Ceramics Research
Association to investigate the dynamic performance of brick masonry veneer panels (Priestley et al.,
1979). This research was motivated by the poor reputation of unreinforced masonry veneers when
subjected to earthquakes, with much of this reputation being attributed to the failure of brick masonry
facades and walls during the 1931 Napier and the 1968 Inangahua earthquakes. Seven unreinforced
and two reinforced clay brick masonry veneer walls tied to conventional timber-frame backings
were subjected to out-of-plane sinusoidal accelerations in the appropriate frequency range imitating
earthquake loading, see Figure 6.2, where the stud spacing, veneer-tie type and the initial distribution

Figure 6.2 - Test set-up for out-of-plane dynamic loading of clay brick masonry veneer walls (Priestley et al., 1979).

of pre-formed cracking were the main variables. Out-of-plane face loading was specifically considered
because the draft Code of Practice for light timber frame construction required the entire in-plane load
demands to be carried by the timber frame bracing to which the masonry veneer wall is fixed. From
this testing, it was concluded that when unreinforced masonry veneers were built to the specifications
prescribed in the draft Code of Practice, acceptable response could be expected for earthquake loading
levels in excess of those expected for the highest seismic zone in New Zealand. Furthermore, it was
found that pre-formed horizontal or diagonal panel cracking had little or no apparent influence on the
ultimate performance of the veneers.
In 1980 Nigel embarked on a significant undertaking and wrote the background to the draft New
Zealand Masonry Design Code (SANZ, 1980a) and dedicated it to the memory of Otto Glogau,
his former colleague from the Ministry of Works (Priestley, 1980). The basis for the draft code was
based, to a significant extent, on Nigel’s previously published masonry research findings (Priestley
and Bridgeman, 1974; Priestley, 1977) that had confirmed the available but limited ductility capacity
of reinforced masonry, and on the recognition that reinforced masonry could be designed based on
the same principles of reinforced concrete design adapted for low strength materials. Three grades
of material properties were prescribed based on the extent of inspection and associated quality of
workmanship, and a procedure was presented on how to implement ductile design of reinforced
masonry buildings. Criteria were provided for masonry shear wall buildings, in cases of complex
geometry, such that individual walls could be classed as being either primary or secondary walls, where
secondary walls were assumed to not carry in-plane loads but required detailing to sustain the lateral
deformations that they would be expected to be subjected to, see Figure 6.3. In the same year Nigel
presented a paper at the 7th World Conference on Earthquake Engineering in Turkey (Priestley, 1980a)
that dealt with many similar topics, and also referred to Nigel’s research on base isolation (Priestley
et al., 1977) and the seismic response of structures free to rock on their foundations (Priestley et al.,
1978). Nigel also published a book chapter in 1980 that provided an effective summary of his thoughts
and research on masonry up to that time and brought this work to the attention of a wide international
audience (Priestley, 1980b). In 1985 Nigel published a revised provisional standard (Priestley, 1985),
in response to the code committee’s expressions of dissatisfaction regarding the format of the 1980
document, and recommended that the Masonry Design Code more closely follow the format of
the Concrete Design Code, (SANZ, 1982). In 1986 Nigel contributed to a discussion paper related
to ‘Structures of Limited Ductility’ (NZNSEE, 1986), where despite good results from his earlier
research efforts, he acknowledged that the use confinement plates will ‘inevitably be unpopular, and
most masonry will continued to be unconfined’.
In 1981 Nigel went on to assess the ductility capacity of masonry wall systems, where the ductile
capacity of cantilevered unconfined reinforced masonry walls was computed using an ultimate
compressive strain εm = 0.0025 (Priestley, 1981). Figure 6.4 plots the available ductility of a wall
with a height-to-length aspect ratio of 3 for various longitudinal reinforcement and axial load ratios.
In this chart the masonry compressive strength has been normalised with respect to the value of 8
MPa assumed the construction complies with Grade B inspection. Charts were developed for both
low and high strength grades of longitudinal reinforcement, and a relationship was presented for how
the ductility capacity for unconfined masonry cantilever wall with aspect ratio µ3 could be modified
to estimate the ductility capacity of similar walls having a different aspect ratio. Shortly afterwards a
companion article was presented for the corresponding procedure to determine the ductility capacity
of confined concrete masonry shear walls, where the confinement was provided by steel plates inserted
into the horizontal bed joints within the plastic hinge zone (Priestley, 1981a, 1982). These procedures
for establishing the ductility capacity of unconfined and confined reinforced masonry walls were
underpinned by a comprehensive grouted concrete masonry prism testing program (Priestley, 1983).

Figure 6.3 - Example of subdivision of walls into primary and secondary systems (Priestley et al., 1979).

Two series of prism tests were reported, with Series 1 testing considering 140 mm prisms and Series
2 testing considering 190 mm prisms. The influence of loading rate was investigated by considering
applied axial compressive strain rates of approximately 0.000005/sec and 0.005/sec. It was concluded
that the unconfined prisms developed a peak stress at a compressive strain of approximately 0.0015,
that stress-strain response was not significantly influenced by block width or the presence of vertical
reinforcement in the grouted flues, that increasing the strain rate by 1000 times resulted in an average
17% increase in compressive strength, and that a modified Kent-Park stress-strain relationship suitably
described the observed experimental response. The studies on the performance of unconfined and
confined masonry walls were combined and summarized along with a design example in an article
published in an early volume of the journal of the US Masonry Society (Priestley, 1981a).
In the early 1980s, Nigel began to conduct research on slender masonry walls. With Don Elder he
tested three slender concrete masonry walls (Priestley and Elder, 1982). The aim of these tests was to
specifically address the behaviour of slender walls, since previous testing had focused more towards
understanding the behaviour of squat walls. These walls were 6.3 m high, which was the limiting
height available at the Structures lab. The test units incorporated portions of the first and second floor
slabs as well as a bond beam at the wall top, see Figure 6.5. All walls had similar detailing of vertical
reinforcement, though Wall 2 had horizontal bed joint confinement plates in the plastic hinge zone,
which were absent in wall 1. Wall 3 differed from wall 1 by having a lower level of applied axial load
and had a longer lap-splice for the starter reinforcement extending from the foundation. The results of
these tests validated the procedures published previously by Nigel (Priestley, 1980, 1981, 1982) but
also highlighted a concern about lap-splicing the wall longitudinal reinforcement within the potential
plastic hinge region. This work also showed that the capacity of conventional masonry walls may be
suspect due to the lack of confinement at the wall toes, and that confining steel plates substantially
improve the response of the walls. This study was the last major experimental study related to
reinforced concrete masonry walls that Nigel undertook while at the University of Canterbury. In

(a) Low strength 275 MPa reinforcement (b) High strength 380 MPa reinforcement

Figure 6.4 - Available ductility capacity of a vertical cantilever reinforced masonry wall with an aspect ratio of 3 (Priestley, 1981).

1986 Nigel published an overview paper for the international audience highlighting all the research
accomplishments in masonry stemming from New Zealand thus far (Priestley, 1986).
Nigel’s research on masonry walls in the 1980s was driven to a large extent by preferences of the design
community and construction industry towards cantilever wall systems. Despite considerable success
and promising results from analytical and experimental studies of cantilever walls, Nigel was intrigued
by the possibility of re-configuring reinforced masonry walls into ductile moment frames for low-rise
buildings, which he later dubbed the “masonry moment-resisting wall-frames” shown schematically
in Figure 6.6(a). The beam length in a moment-resisting frame would be longer than the length of the
coupling slabs in comparable systems. The premise of his approach to the new system was that, through
capacity-design principles, the masonry wall-frame system can be designed and detailed to emulate the
strong column-weak beam mechanism, which has been advocated for the design of concrete moment-
resisting frames. Plastic hinges, involving yielding of distributed reinforcement, will be forced to form
at masonry beam ends at ultimate limit states, ensuring a dependable lateral strength to the system
and a stable source of energy dissipation when the structure is subjected to intense earthquake ground
motions. Since non-ductile response of elements in the system is to be avoided, a natural concern for
the resilience of the new masonry moment-resisting wall-frame system involves the transfer of shear

Figure 6.5 - Test set-up for multi-storey reinforced concrete masonry wall tests (Priestley and Elder, 1982).

forces from beam hinging to the connecting wall elements, highlighted for the joint region in Figure
6.6(b). The design of the wall-beam joint must also consider potential strain-hardening of the beam
reinforcement due to large ductility demand imposed on the structure. It was also recognized that
hysteretic response of the joint may degrade under reversed cyclic loading if beam bar forces cannot be
adequately transferred to the joint due to poor bond condition, which is in turn dependent on the size
of the joint and bar diameter. To demonstrate the potential ductile response of moment-resisting frames
in masonry construction, Nigel conducted the first ever full-size masonry wall-frame joint test at the
University of Canterbury in 1983. The lateral force versus lateral displacement response, which mD = 6
was monitored at the top of the test specimen and shown in Figure 6.6(c), showed remarkable ductility
capacity for what was essentially an unconfined masonry system. A displacement ductility factor of
was obtained in the specimen before 15% degradation of lateral strength was observed. Importantly,
the wall-beam joint region remained elastic and protected from any significant cracking, as can be seen
in Figure 6.6(d), while inelastic rotations occurred at beam ends as intended by the capacity design
principles. The success of a single test led to the masonry wall-frame system being accepted by the
New Zealand Masonry Code in 1985.
During these years, which were nearing the end of his time at the University of Canterbury, Nigel
added a new dimension to his research in masonry by investigating the out-of-plane response of
unreinforced masonry (URM) walls (Priestley, 1985a). This research was focused on assessing the
earthquake characteristics of existing URM walls, rather than the design of new reinforced masonry
buildings, and Nigel commented that “the response of unreinforced masonry walls to out-of-plane

(face load) seismic excitation is one of the most complex and ill-understood areas of seismic analysis”.
It is noted that the elastic analysis technique that was commonly applied at that time was focused on
masonry stress levels that were “rather insignificant for unreinforced masonry”, resulting in excessively
conservative results, and that the seismic capacity of URM walls responding out-of-plane is instead
governed by stability and energy considerations. Load paths within unreinforced masonry buildings
are discussed, as is the influence of flexible diaphragms. The conditions at wall failure are presented
in terms of displacements necessary to cause instability, see Figure 6.7, and it was recommended that
dynamic testing and corresponding analysis be undertaken to further refine the presented methodology
for assessment. It is noted that the walls in the upper levels of unreinforced masonry buildings are
likely to be most critical, and that adequately securing the walls to diaphragms is an essential step for
ensuring satisfactory earthquake performance of face-loaded URM walls.
The concepts, first presented by Priestley and Elder (1982), were subsequently incorporated, with minor
changes, in the URM section of the chapter “Masonry Structures” of the classic book “Seismic Design
of Reinforced Concrete and Masonry Buildings” which Nigel co-authored with his close friend Tom
Paulay (Paulay and Priestley, 1992). It is possible to assert that the basic concepts outlined by Nigel on
the out-of-plane response of URM walls, namely: the load paths, the filtering effect of the building and
floor response in determining the out-of-plane demand on walls, the capacity of walls being dictated
by displacement and not by force/strength, and that collapse is determined by loss of equilibrium,

(a) Proposed masonry moment-resisting wall-frame systems (b) Transfer of forces across masonry wall-frame joints

(c) Lateral force-displacement response of joint (d) Final damage in masonry wall-frame assembly

Figure 6.6 - Reinforced masonry wall-frame system (Priestley and Chai, 1985).

Figure 6.7 - Consideration of seismic loading and out-of-plane wall stability for unreinforced masonry buildings with flexible
diaphragms (Priestley, 1985).

pioneered the topics that many subsequent researchers have further pursued and, with some corrections
(mostly regarding the simplified methods that can be used to estimate the displacement demand on
walls) coming from more recent research, are still retained as valid in present methodologies for the
seismic assessment or URM walls as reflected in several modern assessment codes, such as the Italian
codes developed since 2005 (OPCM 3531, 2005 and NTC08-IST, 2009) and the seismic assessment
methodology published recently by the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering (NZSEE,

6.3 The TCCMAR years at the University of California at San Diego

When Nigel arrived at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) in early 1987, he immediately
became involved in activities associated with the U.S. Coordinated Program for Masonry Building
Research, under the direction of the Technical Coordinating Committee for Masonry Research
(TCCMAR/US). The aim of this project was to support the development of new design criteria for
reinforced masonry buildings in seismic regions. At UCSD, Nigel continued his research on the
behavior of reinforced masonry structural components focusing, as regards experimental investigations,
on flanged cantilever walls, and teamed up with Frieder Seible and Gil Hegemier and a numerous and
talented group of research engineers and graduate students to carry out, at the UCSD Charles Lee
Powell laboratory, an ambitious 5-storey full-scale building test to validate the design and analysis
procedures developed in the TCCMAR project and in previous research.
These were also the years in which Nigel was perfecting and finalizing his book with Tom Paulay,
which was published in 1992 (Paulay and Priestley, 1992). We believe that the masonry chapter of this
book represents the refined summa of Nigel’s knowledge and experience on masonry at that time, and

is still nowadays a treasure of mind-opening and stimulating ideas as well as rational and practical
design principles for anyone with an interest in the response of masonry structures subjected to
seismic loading. The chapter on masonry in this book is in great part dedicated to reinforced masonry
solutions for seismic resistance, but a final section dedicated to the assessment of URM buildings
is also present, drawing mostly from his previous work at the University of Canterbury described
above. The chapter starts with a clear discussion on the limitations of elastic working stress design for
masonry structures, also referring to two simple and effective examples, the first being the loadbearing
capacity of an eccentrically loaded slender URM wall, and the second being the influence of the
distribution of flexural reinforcement in reinforced masonry walls (see Priestley, 1986a). The chapter is
then developed by presenting Nigel’s understanding of the key features of differing masonry structural
systems. First a discussion of the different typologies of systems for seismic resistance is presented
(cantilever systems, coupled walls with pier hinging, coupled walls with spandrel hinging) together
with the expected displacement ductility associated with each system. Then the design for flexure
(out-of-plane and in-plane) of reinforced masonry walls is thoroughly discussed, first with reference
to strength, then to ductility, including simple rectangular and then complex flanged sections. Then
shear design principles are discussed, followed by thorough considerations of geometric requirements
and structural detailing. A section dedicated to masonry moment-resisting frames is then presented,
where the topics discussed in the previous work with Rob Chai (Priestley and Chai, 1985) have been
supplemented with further experimental and analytical work carried out at UCSD and at the University
of California at Los Angeles (Hart et al., 1992). A brief but effective section on the design of masonry-
infilled reinforced concrete frames follows, after which a section dedicated to minor (low-rise)
masonry buildings is presented. A precious complement to all the principles discussed in the chapter
are two detailed worked examples of the design of a seven-storey cantilever wall and a three-storey
masonry wall with openings, including the foundation system, with complete and detailed drawings of
the reinforcement and of the reinforcement details (splices, hooks). Does anybody recall “The art of
detailing” chapter of another famous book? (Park and Paulay, 1975).
Research on the behavior of flanged reinforced masonry walls carried by Nigel in the early 1990s was
an essential complement towards a better understanding of the response of three-dimensional wall
assemblages and systems. This study was carried out with quasi-static cyclic and dynamic (shake
table) tests on T-section cantilever walls (Priestley and He, 1990). In these tests the effect of confining
steel plates in bed joints was further investigated. The main findings of this work were relevant to the
non-symmetric nature of the force-displacement response, see Figure 6.8, highlighting the difference
in strength, stiffness and deformation capacity, as well as hysteretic behavior, that the wall displayed
depending on the sign of the shear force (inducing either compression or tension in the flange), as well
on the effective flange width that could be assumed in design/assessment models. The non-symmetric
response of the flanged wall also had implications for the capacity design principles to be applied to
prevent shear failure, recognizing that the required shear reinforcement was dictated by the flexural
strength in the strong (flange in tension) direction.
The design principles inferred from this study of T-section walls were added to the TCCMAR seismic
design philosophy, which was the basis for the development of the 5-storey test carried out at the
Charles Lee Powell Structures Laboratory at UCSD (Seible et al., 1994), and which form the basis
of the 1991 NEHRP provisions for the seismic design of masonry buildings (NEHRP, 1991). This
ambitious test, see Figure 6.9, had three main objectives: (i) to provide a test bed for the TCCMAR
design principles; (ii) to provide benchmark data for the calibration and verification of TCCMAR
analysis models; (iii) to advance the state of art in full-scale laboratory testing of stiff multi-degree-of-
freedom structures subjected to simulated seismic loading. Nigel was mainly involved in the activities
related to design principles and analysis methods. Among the design principles stemming from Nigel’s

(a) Test set-up (b) Non-symmetrical force-displacement response

Figure 6.8 - Experimental behaviour of flanged reinforced masonry walls (Priestley and He, 1990).

previous research that found their new implementation in the TCCMAR building were: the use of
uniformly distributed vertical reinforcement which simplifies construction and enhances performance;
reduced vertical and increased horizontal reinforcement to better control shear cracking and enhance
shear capacity; no lap splices in the first storey vertical wall reinforcement to eliminate possible brittle
bond failure; and proper detailing for ductile behavior of coupling elements between walls.
The testing procedure, which included pseudo-dynamic testing sequences, was also able to reproduce
higher mode contributions that constituted a meaningful reference for the evaluation of shear dynamic
amplification factors to be used in capacity design. The test was successful in showing how the available
design and analysis (simplified and refined) models were able to closely predict the various design and
behavior limit states. It was then shown how the design principles for reinforced masonry that had been
developed over the previous years, where Nigel had played a fundamental role, had reached a level of
maturity that allowed a reliable design of reinforced masonry wall systems for buildings.

6.4 The Direct Displacement-Based Seismic Design Years

It can be said that Nigel’s strong involvement in masonry research came to an end as more compelling
as the damage to infrastructure during the 1989 Loma Prieta, 1994 Northridge and 1995 Kobe
earthquakes drew his attention. In the early 1990s Nigel also developed what we know today as the
direct displacement-based seismic design of structures, see Chapter 4. The growing collaboration and
relationship with Michele Calvi led him, as known, to be a co-founder, together with Michele, of the

Figure 6.9 - The full-scale five-storey TCCMAR reinforced masonry building seismic test carried out at the Charles Lee Powell
Structures Laboratory at UCSD.

ROSE graduate school in Pavia, Italy, which was established at the turn of the millennium. By then,
Nigel had started to spend extended periods of time in Pavia.
As said, at this time the design of masonry structures played only a subordinate role in Nigel’s research
activities. However, one chapter of his latest book deals with the displacement-based seismic design of
masonry structures (Priestley et al., 2007). One cannot quite help but notice that this chapter seems to
be one of the least developed in the book, and few aspects seem to have been validated with numerical
simulations or experimental results. However, and maybe for this very reason, this observation allows
us to value their engineering intuition and their unique understanding for the seismic behavior of
structures. Naturally, there are also some aspects we might today - with ten years of additional research
- not fully agree with. The following paragraphs highlight some aspect of this chapter, which we
consider remarkable and trend-setting for future research on masonry structures.
By the time of publication of the book, it was generally accepted that displacement-based methods
led to more realistic results than force-based results. Because strengthening of structures can be very
costly, displacement-based methods found their way in particular into assessment codes and had by
that time also been applied to URM structures. However, one large challenge was the estimate of the
displacement capacity of URM piers, which is typically expressed as the interstory drift ratio. Up to

then, only empirical formulae were available, which were derived from the results of quasi-static cyclic
tests and the estimates that were implemented in codes led to large coefficients of variations when
compared with experimental results. Nigel and Michele proposed to our knowledge the first simple
mechanical model for the drift capacity of URM walls, which was applicable for walls failing in flexure:
εcm lw –c
θd,fl = (1)
c 2
where εcm is the strain capacity of masonry (the suggested value is εcm =0.004), lw is the wall length and
c the compression zone depth. The model seems almost too simple to be true - but we could meanwhile
show that it outperforms classical empirical drift capacity models and performs similarly well than
newer, more complicated mechanical models. Furthermore, while this drift capacity model was intended
for walls failing in flexure, it seems that models of similar form can also provide reasonable estimates
for walls failing in shear, provided the walls fail due to crushing of the bricks. Nigel and Michele
further advocated the use of bed-joint reinforcement to increase the drift capacity of URM walls. Such
reinforcement is easy to place and does not increase the construction costs significantly. Today, the first
results of URM walls with bed joint reinforcement are available and this idea seems to be very promising.
It is expected that future research will continue to develop this idea and will develop mechanical models
for predicting the increase in drift capacity that can be gained from such reinforcement.
One aspect that Nigel and Michele gave significant attention to was the role of spandrels and their effect
on global building response. Up to the time of publication, isolated spandrel elements had not yet been
tested experimentally although some numerical studies in the literature had pointed out the importance of
such elements in determining the global response mechanisms, and some very simplified, if not simplistic,
code proposals could be found regarding spandrel capacity (e.g. in the 2005 Italian seismic code OPCM
3531). Nigel and Michele had the merit of bringing to a broader audience the attention to this issue, despite
the inability of the proposed models for spandrel strength to be validated via existing experimental data,
and they might seem from today’s point of view somewhat rough. However, their attention to the spandrel
behavior contributed in anticipating the research focus on spandrels that followed in the decade after the
publication of the book and continues to remain a research topic with many open questions.
The final aspect of the chapter on masonry structures treats the out-of-plane response of URM
walls, which Nigel had already studied in 1985 (Priestley, 1985) and where he had set the path for
works by other researchers by determining the overturning capacity and the displacement capacity
from kinematic analysis. In 2007, Nigel and Michele noticed that “it is now fully recognized and
confirmed by recent experimental and theoretical research that only by considering displacement
parameters is there a reasonable prospect of predicting the actual response”. In agreement with the
direct displacement-based design methodology, the out-of-plane response of URM walls is addressed
by an equivalent secant stiffness model up to maximum displacement. The displacement demand is
determined for an equivalent viscous damping of 10%. To our knowledge, the methodology proposed
by Nigel and Michele has not yet been validated by numerical simulations by the time of publication or
today, but the appealing simplicity of the proposed approach has been the reference and starting point
for further simplified models by other researchers, which once fully validated would be highly suitable
for code implementation.
Meanwhile, displacement-based assessment procedures of the out-of-plane response have already
found their way into codes, such as the Italian structural design and assessment code (NTC08,
2008; NTC08-IST, 2009), which today is one of the most advanced codes for the seismic design and
assessment of masonry structures.

6.5 References
Glogau O. (1972) - The Objective of the New Zealand Seismic Design Code, Bulletin of the New Zealand National Society for Earthquake
Engineering, 5(4), pp. 113-127.
Glogau O. (1974) - Masonry Performance in Earthquakes, Bulletin of the New Zealand National Society for Earthquake Engineering, 7(4),
pp. 149-166.
Hart G.C., Priestley M.J.N., Seible F. (1992) - Masonry Wall Frame Design and Performance, The Structural Design of Tall Buildings,
1(2), pp. 133-158.
Heyman J. (1966) - The Stone Skeleton, International Journal of Solids and Structures, 2, 249 p.
Holmes I.L. (1968) - Masonry Construction for Earthquakes, Bulletin of the New Zealand National Society for Earthquake Engineering,
1(1), pp. 113-127.
NEHRP (1991) - Recommended Provisions for the Development of Seismic Regulations for New Buildings: Parts 1 & 2. In Earthquake
Hazard Reductions Series (Vol. 65). US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Washington, D.C.
NTC08 (2008) - Norme Tecniche per le Costruzioni, D.M. 14 Gennaio 2008, Ministero delle Infrastrutture, S.O. No. 30 alla G.U. del
4/2/2008, No. 29, Rome, Italy (in Italian).
NTC08-IST. (2009) - Istruzioni per l’applicazione delle Nuove Norme Tecniche per le Costruzioni di cui al Decreto Ministeriale 14
Gennaio 2008, Circ. C.S.Ll.Pp. No. 617, 2/2/2009, Consiglio superiore dei lavori pubblici. S.O. n.27 alla G.U. del 26.02.2009, No.
47, 2009 (in Italian).
NZC 4203P (1985) - Code of Practice for the Design of Masonry Structures, Standards Association of New Zealand, 1985.
NZNSEE (1986) - Structures of Limited Ductility, Bulletin of the New Zealand National Society for Earthquake Engineering, 19(4), pp. 285-336.
NZSEE (2016) - Section C8 - Seismic Assessment of Unreinforced Masonry Buildings, The Seismic Assessment of Existing Buildings:
Technical Guidelines for Engineering Assessment, Accessed at: http://www.eq-assess.org.nz/new-home/part-c/c8/ 14 May 2017.
OPCM 3431 (2005) - Ulteriori Modifiche ed Integrazioni all’Ordinanza n.3274 del 20/3/2003, recante ‘Primi Elementi in Mteria di Criteri
Generali per la Classificazione Sismica del Territorio Nazionale e di Normative Tecniche per le Costruzioni in Zona Sismica’. Suppl.
ord. No. 85 alla G.U. del 10/5/2005 No. 107, Rome, Italy (in Italian).
Park R., Paulay T. (1975) - Reinforced Concrete Structures. John Wiley and Sons. 769 p.
Paulay T., Priestley M.J.N. (1992) - Seismic Design of Reinforced Concrete and Masonry Buildings. Wiley, 768 p.
Priestley M.J.N., Bridgeman D.O. (1974) - Seismic Resistance of Brick Masonry Walls, Bulletin of the New Zealand National Society for
Earthquake Engineering, 7(4), pp. 167-187.
Priestley M.J.N., Crosbie R.L., Carr A.J. (1977) - Seismic Forces in Base-isolated Masonry Structures, Bulletin of the New Zealand
National Society for Earthquake Engineering, 10(2), pp. 55-68.
Priestley M.J.N. (1977) - Seismic Resistance of Reinforced Concrete Masonry Shear Walls with High Steel Percentages, Bulletin of the
New Zealand National Society for Earthquake Engineering, 10(1), pp. 1-16.
Priestley M.J.N., Evison R.J., Carr A.J. (1978) - Seismic Response of Structures Free to Rock on Their Foundations, Bulletin of the New
Zealand National Society for Earthquake Engineering, 11(3), pp. 141-150.
Priestley M.J.N. Thorby P.N., McLarin M.W., Bridgeman D.O. (1979) - Dynamic Performance of Brick Masonry Veneer Panels, Bulletin of
the New Zealand National Society for Earthquake Engineering, 12(4), pp. 314-323.
Priestley M.J.N. (1980) - Seismic Design of Masonry Buildings - Background to the Draft Masonry Design Code DZ4210, Bulletin of the
New Zealand National Society for Earthquake Engineering, 13(4), pp. 329-346.
Priestley M.J.N. (1980a) - Masonry Structural Systems for Region of High Seismicity, Proceedings of the 7th World Conference on
Earthquake Engineering, Istanbul, Turkey, pp. 441-448.
Priestley M.J.N. (1980b) - Masonry, in Design of Earthquake Resistant Structures, Editor E. Rosenblueth, John Wiley & Sons, New York,
1980, pp. 195-222.
Priestley M.J.N. (1981) - Ductility of Unconfined Masonry Shear Walls, Bulletin of the New Zealand National Society for Earthquake
Engineering, 14(1), pp. 12-20.
Priestley, M.J.N. (1981a) - Ductility of Unconfined and Confined Concrete Masonry Shear Walls, Journal of the Masonry Society, 1(2),
pp. 28-39.
Priestley M.J.N. (1982) - Ductility of Confined Concrete Masonry Shear Walls, Bulletin of the New Zealand National Society for
Earthquake Engineering, 15(1), pp. 22-26.
Priestley M.J.N., Elder D.M. (1982) - Cyclic Loading Tests of Slender Concrete Masonry Shear Walls, Bulletin of the New Zealand
National Society for Earthquake Engineering, 15(1), pp. 3-21.
Priestley M.J.N., Elder D.M. (1983) - Stress-strain Curves for Unconfined and Confined Concrete Masonry, Journal of the American
Concrete Institute, 80(3), pp. 192-201.
Priestley M.J.N. (1985) - Seismic Design of Masonry Structures to the New Provisional New Zealand Standard NZS 4230P, Bulletin of the
New Zealand National Society for Earthquake Engineering, 18(1), pp. 1-20.
Priestley M.J.N. (1985a) - Seismic Behaviour of Unreinforced Masonry Walls, Bulletin of the New Zealand National Society for Earthquake
Engineering, 18(2), pp. 191-205.
Priestley M.J.N., Chai Y.H. (1985) - Seismic Design of Reinforced Concrete Masonry Moment-Resisting Frame, The Masonry Society
Journal, 4(1), pp. T1-T17.
Priestley M.J.N. (1986a) - Flexural strength of rectangular unconfined masonry shear walls with distributed reinforcement, The Masonry
Society Journal, 5(2), pp. 1-15.
Priestley M.J.N. (1986) - Seismic Design of Concrete Masonry Shearwalls, Journal of the American Concrete Institute, 83(1), pp. 58-68.
Priestley M.J.N., He L. (1990) - Seismic Response of T-Section Masonry Walls, The Masonry Society Journal, 9 (1), pp. 10-19.
Priestley M.J.N., Calvi G.M., Kowalsky M.J.N. (2007) - Displacement-based Seismic Design of Structures, IUSS Press, Pavia, Italy, 720 p.

Sahlin S. (1971) - Structural Masonry, Prentice Hall, 290 p.
SANZ (1973) - DZ 4203 General Structural Design and Design Loadings, Draft New Zealand Code of Practice, Standards Association of
New Zealand, Wellington, New Zealand.
SANZ (1980) - DZ 4210 Code of Practice for Masonry Buildings, Part B, Draft New Zealand Code of Practice, Standards Association of
New Zealand, Wellington, New Zealand.
SANZ (1982) - Code of Practice for the Design of Concrete Structures, NZS 3101, Part 1: 1982. Standard Association of New Zealand,
Wellington, New Zealand.
Seible F., Priestley M.J.N., Kingsley G.R., Kürkchübasche A.G. (1994) - Seismic Response of Full-scale Five-story Reinforced-masonry
Building, Journal of Structural Engineering, ASCE, 120(3), pp. 925-946.

Cracks in columns… 1994.

Even bigger cracks in even bigger columns, July 1996.

7. From the Pioneering Work on Presss-Technology
to the New Paradigm of Low-Damage Design
By Stefano Pampanin, James Conley, Suzanne Dow Nakaki, Sri Sritharan, Christopher Latham
and John F. Stanton

7.1 Introduction
Sometimes, a person stands out for their keen intellect, their encyclopaedic knowledge of a subject, or
their commitment to a cause. Very occasionally, an individual possesses all three characteristics. But of
them, only a rare few also impact directly the lives of others, positively affecting both the individuals
and the larger community. Nigel Priestley was one of this rare breed, and we were all members of a
small group of people, drawn from all over the world, who were fortunate enough to have benefitted
from Nigel’s mentorship under the auspices of the PRESSS (Precast-Seismic Structural Systems)
research program of the 1990s. Tom Paulay, one of Nigel’s mentors, had a tongue-in-cheek description
for such individuals: “research victims”.
As a small tribute to Nigel, some members of the PRESSS Phase III team, see Figure 7.1, has re-
convened after approximately 20 years to provide an overview paper on his pioneering work on jointed
precast systems. Those systems are often referred to as PRESSS-Technology, from the name of the

Figure 7.1 - Nigel and the PRESSS Building Test Team during a working break in 1999. Clockwise from bottom left, Nigel
Priestley, John Stanton, Jim Conley, Stefano Pampanin, Christopher Latham and Susie Nakaki (note: Sri Sritharan who took this
photograph is missing in this picture).

Research Program PRESSS that in the 1990s embodied the innovative “jointed ductile connections”
approach for precast concrete structural systems.
The introduction of jointed systems is a breakthrough in earthquake engineering. Previously, ductility
and the corresponding inevitable and often irreparable damage had reigned supreme, but these new
systems maintained the concepts of Capacity Design yet at the same time opened the door to the use of
Damage Control, instead of just Life Safety, as a design criterion. In the past two decades, significant,
further developments have followed this ground-breaking work; the concept and technology have been
extended to different construction materials (cast-in-place concrete, masonry, steel and timber) and
structural systems (frames, single and coupled walls, dual systems, floor-diaphragms and bridges) for
both new design and retrofit applications.
In parallel with these new design concepts, Nigel was leading the development of the Direct
Displacement Based Design (DDBD), which is discussed in Chapter 4. DDBD has been proven to be
powerful, particularly for structures in which deformations and displacements dominate the response.
It also provides an approach to design that is more transparent and effective than the force-based
methods. It has naturally become the primary design methodology for innovative structures such as
those used in the PRESSS program described in Section 7.3.
This Chapter provides an overview of Nigel’s pioneering work over a period of almost twenty years,
starting from the original concepts in the late 1980s/1990s, through the various phases of development,
to preparation of code provisions and implementation in practice. His vision, intellect and personal
qualities mark every step of the way.

7.2 The New Zealand Legacy of Ductile Design

Current seismic design philosophies promote the design of ductile structural systems that can
undergo inelastic cyclic deformations while maintaining their structural integrity. Ductile design was
successfully developed in New Zealand, and in other countries, to ensure adequate nonlinear response
in the critical regions of a structural system. In the late 1960s and early 1980s, Professors Bob Park
and Tom Paulay went further and developed capacity design, to ensure that a suitable mechanism on
inelastic deformation could develop and be maintained during a strong earthquake. The basic principle
in capacity design is to ensure that the “weakest link” within the structural system is located where
the designer wants it, and that it will behave as a ductile “fuse”, protecting the rest of the structure
from potentially brittle failure mechanisms by limiting the forces that can act on it, see Figure 7.2
for a demonstration. This approach would allow the building to sway laterally without experiencing
collapse through, for example, a “soft-storey” mechanism or a “pancake” collapse. Regardless of
the structural material adopted, i.e. concrete, steel, or timber, traditional ductile systems rely on the
inelastic behaviour of the material. The inelastic action is intentionally concentrated within selected
discrete “sacrificial” regions of the structure, typically referred to as plastic hinges.
Until recently, the development of inelastic action in traditional monolithic as well as in emulative
concrete connections has led inevitably to structural damage, thus implying that “ductility = damage”,
with associated repair (or replacement) costs and business downtime. This is largely a consequence of
bonding the steel reinforcement to the surrounding concrete. To provide the desired ductility, reinforcing
bars must yield, but the associated strains in the reinforcement and concrete inevitably result in structural
damage. Achieving structural ductility without accepting damage was considered impossible.
Nigel understood the limitations of the ductility based designs and propelled the technology towards
damage-avoidance (or damage-controlled) design philosophy in the PRESSS program, while ensuring
that the capacity design is followed through in the process.

Figure 7.2 - Basic concept of capacity design: the “weakest link of the chain” concept (left) and its implementation in a frame
system to prevent a soft-storey mechanism (centre) in favour of a beam side-sway mechanism (right) (Paulay and Priestley, 1992).

7.3 Next Generation of Earthquake Damage-Resisting Systems

Communities affected by the severity of the damage caused by an earthquake demand both cost-
effective solutions and better seismic performance of the building stock. For example, the significant
socio-economic impact of the Canterbury earthquake sequence in 2010-2011 called into question
the appropriateness of structural systems designed focusing on life-safety alone. Even today, codes
embody that philosophy on the basis that they should be the guardians of public safety by enforcing
collapse prevention, while design to a higher standard to avoid the costs of damage was an economic
choice for the owner. The economic impact of the 2010-2011 Christchurch earthquake sequence was
in fact shared by the whole community, and not just the building owners. Consequently, awareness is
now growing among the public, building owners, territorial authorities and insurers, that the costs of
deaths, dollars and downtime need to be accounted for when determining the suitable design solutions.
This, in turn, is facilitating wider acceptance and implementation of cost-efficient high-performance
building and bridge technologies in countries like New Zealand, Chile, Japan and Ecuador, which have
recently experienced significant disturbance and loss of life because of strong earthquakes.
Nigel coordinated the PRESSS research program that resulted in the development of advanced structural
precast concrete systems capable of achieving high-performance (low-damage) at costs comparable
with traditional systems (Priestley, 1991, 1996; Priestley et al., 1999). This research program culminated
with the pseudo-dynamic testing of a large scale five-storey fully precast concrete building in the third
phase, see Figures 7.3 and 7.4.
The new structural systems, based on dry jointed ductile connections, developed within PRESSS were
conceived and developed for precast concrete buildings (frames and walls) in seismic regions with the
intent of creating a sound alternative to the traditional “wet” and/or “strong” connections. The intend
of the traditional connections is to emulate the behavior of equivalent cast-in-place systems.
In PRESSS frame or wall systems, precast elements were jointed together through unbonded post-
tensioning tendons/strands or bars, creating moment-resisting connections. The choice of debonded,
prestressed reinforcement was critical in reducing structural damage and promoting the re-centring
behavior when the lateral load is removed. However, it was not an obvious choice, because it violated the
professional wisdom of the time. Then, the ACI 318 building code did not allow seismic reinforcement
to have a yield strength greater than 550 MPa, thereby effectively banning the use of prestressing

Figure 7.3 - Memento of the completed construction of the Five-storey PRESSS Building, time to test. (from left to right: Stefano
Pampanin, Jim Conley, Nigel Priestley, Randy Clark, Sri Sritharan).

Figure 7.4 - The Five-storey PRESSS Building tested at University of California, San Diego (Priestley et al., 1999) and the expla-
nation by Nigel Priestley in the UCSD-TV Video Five Stories for the Future1.

1 http://www.ucsd.tv/search-details.aspx?showID=4765

in seismic design. This approach is consistent with the legacy of the response of the Four Seasons
apartment building in Anchorage, which was being constructed using unbonded post-tensioned floors
when it collapsed during the 1964 Alaska earthquake, promoted the idea that debonding the post-
tensioning was particularly unwise.
Of the various systems, an efficient solution to framing precast members is given by the “hybrid”
concept (Stone et al., 1995; Priestley, 1996; Stanton et al., 1997), see Figure 7.5a, which combines
unbonded post-tensioned tendons passing through corrugated metallic ducts with bonded mild steel
used primarily for energy dissipation. The mild steel reinforcement also adds strength and stiffness to
the connection. To date, the hybrid concept has been extended to the column to foundation and wall to
foundation connections. An alternative to using mild steel reinforcement at the foundation interface, a
wall system can accommodate an energy dissipating element to create a jointed coupled wall system,
see Fig. 7.5b. In the PRESSS building, such a system was included with U-shape Flexural Plates (UFP)
proposed by Kelly et al. (1972) as the energy dissipation element, see Figure 7.6.
Because in the all PRESSS jointed structural systems, tendons were left partially or completely
unbonded, the member lengthening caused by rocking and associated gap opening at the joint interfaces
induced only a small incremental strain that was accounted for in the design to ensure that the tendons
would remain elastic when the systems experience the target design drift. As a result, the tendons
enable the precast systems to re-centre, minimising the residual displacements that are commonly
associated with traditional structural systems.
As with other jointed concepts, the hybrid system accommodates the earthquake-induced displacements
within the connections through opening and closing of an existing interface, rather than through
inelastic deformation occurring within the members, as is the case in a conventional ductile structural
system. This is demonstrated for a wall to foundation connection in Figure 7.7. Since the members are
not subjected inelastic deformations, they sustain negligible or no structural damage.
The combined dissipative and re-centring mechanisms of hybrid systems lead to a flag-shaped
hysteretic response, whose properties and shape can be modified by the designer by varying
the amounts of prestressing steel and mild steel reinforcement. This in turn will provide different
moment contributions at the connection interface with one contributing re-centring and the other
providing energy dissipation, see Figure 7.8. A 50-50 combination between these components would
thus generate the maximum level of energy dissipation (typically in the order of 15-20% equivalent
viscous damping ratio) while maintaining the re-centring capability. In the view of those intending to

Figure 7.5 - Jointed precast a) “hybrid” frame, and b) jointed wall systems (fib, 2003; SNZ, 2006).

Figure 7.6 - U-shape Flexural Plate Dissipaters (rendering courtesy of Nakaki and Stanton) and hysteretic response.

Figure 7.7 - Comparative response of a traditional monolithic and a precast concrete hybrid wall system (fib, 2003).

maximise the hysteretic energy dissipated per cycle (a prevailing view up until the 1990s and a view
well-entrenched in the profession currently), the flag-shaped hysteretic loops are often deemed to be
inferior, because of the low hysteretic energy dissipation capacity, which were associated with larger
lateral displacement demands. Nigel proved this to be just a myth and noted that only short period
structures may experience large displacements (Priestley and Tao, 1993).
During the three Phases of the PRESSS Program, Nigel involved a large and exceptional team
comprising of many university and industry representatives. The breadth of the team can be judged
from the Acknowledgments, reproduced below, of the PCI paper entitled “Preliminary Results and

Self-centering Energy dissipation Hybrid system


+ D D

Unbonded Post
-Tensioned Mild Steel or
(PT) tendons Energy Dissipation Devices

100/0 75/25 50/50

25/75 0/100

Figure 7.8 - Flag-shaped hysteresis loop idealized for a hybrid system (after fib, 2003). Effects of varying the ratio between re-cen-
tring (post-tensioning and axial load) vs. dissipative (mild steel and dissipaters) contribution to the flag-shape hysteresis loop.

Conclusions from the PRESSS Five-Story Precast Concrete Test Building” summarising this work
(Priestley et al., 1999):
The project described in this paper has involved a large number of individuals and
organizations, all of whom deserve individual thanks and acknowledgment. A full list would
be impossibly long. Of particular importance are Dr. Chris Latham (UCSD) and Professor
Akira Igarashi (Kyoto University) whose efforts in solving the extremely difficult problems
of controlling the pseudodynamic tests were essential to the test success. The efforts of the
building designers, Professor John Stanton (plus University of Washington graduate students),
and Ms. Suzanne Nakaki, who not only did a superb job of the building design, as evidenced by
its excellent performance, but also were present during most of the long-night testing sessions,
are particularly acknowledged. Primary financial support for the PRESSS research program
was provided by the PCI (Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute), the NSF (National Science
Foundation), and the PCMAC (Precast/Prestressed Concrete Manufacturers Association of
California). The extent of industry support, in terms of financial assistance, material donation,
technical advice, and provision of precast products is unparalleled in major United States

structural research projects. Special thanks are due to Mario J. Bertolini, chairman of ATLSS
and PRESSS Ad Hoc Committee, and Thomas J. D’ Arcy, chairman of the PRESSS Phase III
Advisory Group. In addition, contributors to the testing program include A. T. Curd Structures,
Inc.; BauTech, Co.; California Field Iron Workers Administrative Trust; Charles Pankow
Builders, Ltd.; Clark Pacific; Coreslab Structures, L.A.; Dayton Superior; Dywidag Systems
International; ERICO; Florida Wire & Cable, Inc.; Fontana Steel; Gillies Trucking; Headed
Reinforcement Corporation; Horizon High Reach; JVI, Inc.; LG Design; Master Builders,
Inc.; NMB Splice Sleeve; Pomeroy Corporation; Precision Imagery; Spancrete of California;
Sumiden Wire; and White Cap.
While it was indeed a great team effort, Nigel’s leadership stood out and made the PRESSS program
a great success. The team members genuinely appreciated his inclusive and inquisitive nature and
elegantly rigorous way to tackle complex issues, by breaking them down to small problems that he
could then solve “on the back of an envelope”. He did all of this with a disarmingly humble attitude
and inspiring approach towards his postgrads, treating them as young research colleagues rather than

7.4 Implementation of the PRESSS Technology in Building Standards

Immediately after the PRESSS building test, codification of the PRESSS building systems began.
The focus was on the hybrid frame and unbonded post-tensioned walls system. With support from
the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI), these two systems have been integrated within
the ACI building code by developing Innovation Task group reports. The first version of the hybrid
frame documents was published in 2001 and the jointed wall system was codified in 2007. These
documents facilitate the design, detailing, and construction of hybrid frames and walls systems with
unbonded post-tensioning in conjunction with the ACI 318 building standard. More recently, the ACI
550 committee of the American Concrete Institute has published standards ACI 550.2R (2013) and
ACI 550.3 (2013). These two standards provide information on design, detailing, and construction of
connections between precast members in jointed systems, including moment frame and structural wall
systems that allows such designs in combination with the ACI 318 building code.
New Zealand was another early adopter of the PRESSS technology. In 2005, the New Zealand Concrete
Society held a series of seminars aimed at implementing the PRESSS structural systems, which were
going to be covered in the upcoming New Zealand Concrete Standard NZS3101 (SNZ, 2006), and
followed by the issue of a comprehensive PRESSS Design Handbook (NZCS, 2010).

7.5 Applications of the PRESSS Technology

The acceptance and standardization of the structural systems stemming from the PRESSS programme
has resulted in a wide range use of these systems and in the development of PRESSS-like systems
for structural steel and cross-laminated timber (Buchanan et al., 2009). The first and most glamorous
PRESSS technology application was the Paramount Building built in San Francisco, see Figure 7.9.
This 39-storey apartment building is the world’s tallest precast concrete structure in a high seismic
region at the time of construction (Englerkirk, 2002). Perimeter precast hybrid frames, combining
unbonded tendons and grouted mild-steel bars for hysteretic energy dissipation, were used in both
primary directions of the building to provide lateral resistance.
Given the evident structural efficiency and cost-effectiveness of these systems, e.g. high speed of
erection, off-site quality control, as well as the flexibility in the architectural features (typical of precast

Figure 7.9 - Thirty-nine storey Paramount Building in San Francisco (Englerkirk, 2002). Left, overall building view, right, tendon
stressing operation. Photos courtesy of J. Sanders of Pankow Builders.

concrete), several precast jointed framing systems have emerged in Italy, through the implementation
of the “Brooklyn System”, see Figure 7.10, developed by BS Italia of Bergamo, with draped tendons
to increase the bay length and a hidden steel corbel (Pampanin et al., 2004). Several buildings, up to
six storeys, have been designed and constructed with this concept in regions of low seismicity in Italy
(gravity-load dominated frames).

Figure 7.10 - Application in Italy of the Brooklyn System with draped tendons in Italy (Pampanin et al., 2004).

The Alan MacDiarmid building at Victoria University of Wellington, designed by Dunning Thornton
Consulting Ltd. (Cattanach and Pampanin, 2008), is the first multi-storey PRESSS-building in New
Zealand. The building has post-tensioned frames in one direction and coupled post-tensioned walls in the
other direction, with straight unbonded post-tensioned tendons. The second PRESSS-Building in New
Zealand is the Endoscopy Consultants’ Building in Christchurch, designed for Southern Cross Hospitals
Ltd by Structex Metro Ltd. (Pampanin et al., 2011), see Figure 7.11. Like the Alan MacDiarmid buillding,
lateral resistance in the Endoscopy Consultant’s Building is provided by hybrid frames and coupled walls
acting in the two orthogonal directions. The post-tensioned frame system relies upon a non-symmetric
section reinforcement with internal mild steel located on the top of the beam only and cast on site along
with the floor topping. The unbonded post- tensioned walls are coupled with UFP plates.

Figure 7.11 - Southern Cross Hospital Endoscopy Consultant’s Building (Pampanin et al., 2011).

Figure 7.12 - The world first Pres-Lam building utilising unbonded post-tensioned rocking/dissipative timber walls. Nelson
Marlborough Institute of Technology, (NMIT), New Zealand (Devereux et al., 2011).

The timber industry in New Zealand took up the findings of the PRESSS program and comprehensively
developed comparable alternatives using post-tensioned wood. NMIT building, constructed in 2011 in
Nelson, is the world’s first commercial building utilizing this technology (Devereux et al., 2011). This
building has vertically post-tensioned timber walls resisting all lateral loads as shown in Figure 7.12.
Coupled walls in both directions are post-tensioned to the foundation through high strength bars with
a cavity allocated for coupling of these bars along the building height. Steel UFP devices link the pairs
of structural walls together and provide hysteretic energy dissipation capability to the system.

7.6 Strong Earthquake Testing of a PRESSS Technology Building: When Reality Meets Expectations
The Southern Cross Hospital endoscopy building was severely tested during the Canterbury Earthquake
Sequence, and survived with only negligible damage, see Figure 7.13. Unlike many of the surrounding
structures, which experienced severe damage and were repaired extensively or demolished, this
building resumed operation the day after the 22 February 2011 earthquake and remained operational
during the other major events of that earthquake sequence.

Figure 7.13 - Negligible damage, to both structural and non-structural components, to the Southern Cross Hospital designed with
the PRESSS systems following the Christchurch earthquake of 22 February 2011.

One of the main features in the design of a rocking-dissipative solution for this building is the
possibility of tuning the level of floor accelerations (not only drift) to protect both structural and non-
structural elements including content and acceleration-sensitive equipment. More information on the
design concept and performance criteria, modelling and analysis, construction and observed behaviour
of the building can be found in Pampanin et al. (2011).

7.7 The PRESSS Program and Nigel Priestley’s Influence on the Team
Susie Nakaki and John Stanton were in charge of the design of the PRESSS Building. As they like to recall:
Nigel Priestley’s engineering education had been greatly influenced by the two senior “Ps”
in New Zealand (Paulay and Park), and his pre-PRESSS thinking was deeply imbued with the
ideas of achieving ductile deformations in conventional cast-in-place systems. Those ideas were
the seismic gold-standard of the era. He had a phenomenal grasp of the underlying principles,
and had values in his head for the appropriate limits for all the important variables involved.
These inevitably became known, behind his back, as “Nigel Numbers”.
Given that background, it is a measure of his vision that he was able to recognize a promising
idea, and embrace it, even though it violated most of the principles that had guided his
professional life up to that time. Most people are unable to let go the past and embark on a new
and largely untested concept, because of the enormous professional and intellectual risks to
which they would expose themselves. But Nigel did just that with the unbonded post-tensioned
systems that provided the backbone of the PRESSS program. He not only embraced the ideas,
but he also did what only true leaders do, which is to place trust in their team members by
delegating authority to them, and not micro-managing their work, but rather being there in the
wings when help was needed. Knowing that you were being trusted to produce, and that the
team leader was relying on you, was at once exhilarating and terrifying, but that trust was a
critical element in the success of the PRESSS project.
Nigel’s trust is all the more remarkable in view of the bizarre origins of the unbonded post-
tensioned technology. In the early 1980s, an engineer had designed a conventional seismic
moment frame for an office building in Seattle, but had added unbonded post-tensioning to
the beams purely to control gravity deflections. Through a tortuous logic, entirely associated
with money, the owner had his own building condemned as unsafe for occupation, on the basis
that the beams violated the ACI building code of the time because they used post-tensioning
“to resist earthquake forces”. Litigation followed, a frame test was conducted (Ishizuka et al,
1984), and the engineer lost his license and left the profession. Despite many inappropriate
details in the frame, the test performed remarkably well, and that outcome provided the impetus
for further investigation of the concept (Stone et al., 1995) in which, for the first time, unbonded
post-tensioning was introduced as an intentional component of the seismic resisting system.
The “Hybrid Frame” was thus born, and unbonded post-tensioning technology was adopted
into the PRESSS program largely because the early investigators had suggested it to Nigel
Priestley and were subsequently invited to play a role in the PRESSS program. The role of
Dean Stephan, then the head of Charles Pankow Builders, also proved critical. He, too, was
prepared to put faith in the system, and, in addition to sponsoring the first investigations, was
subsequently active in helping Nigel Priestley to embrace it as well. His company used the
system in many buildings, including the Paramount Building in San Francisco, at the time the
tallest concrete building in a high seismic zone. The jointed rocking wall was developed during
the PRESSS program, and followed principles similar to those of the moment frame that had
been developed earlier.

This process of placing faith in students and younger colleagues was instrumental in creating
very strong bonds within the PRESSS team and producing outstanding results. But it had other,
more personal and long-lasting effects as well. Many of the members of the PRESSS team have
forged careers that were almost certainly more successful than they would have been without
Nigel’s example, and they have been able to pass on to their own junior colleagues some of the
same lessons of professional courage and personal encouragement that he embodied. During
a PRESSS design meeting in San Diego, Rebecca Hix, then a student on the design team, at
one moment pointed out “Professor Priestley, the code does not allow you to do that.” Priestley
snorted in disgust and responded, “We are not here to satisfy the code, we are here to re-write
it!” The whole team felt enormously liberated by those words, both at the time and for years
Nigel set high expectations, especially professionally, but he also had the capacity for letting
his hair down. He learned to love good food, and to cook, early in life and he exercised those
skills to the benefit of all those who worked with him. A room-mate from his undergraduate days,
(who also went on to an illustrious career in engineering) is happy to admit now to accepting
the subservient role of dish-washer then, given that Nigel was going to do the cooking. Later
in life, Nigel’s idea of a celebration was still to cook a meal for everyone and to entertain them
lavishly at his house. For example, at a conference in Lake Tahoe, put on in honour of his own
impending retirement, Nigel hosted all the attendees for dinner at his cabin in the woods, and
was in total charge of the cuisine. He should have retired more often!
Nigel Priestley was a man of many parts: visionary professional engineer, articulate and
persuasive author, lover of life, and mentor, both professionally and personally, to many
fortunate individuals who crossed paths with him. We celebrate him, and at the same time
sorely miss him, for a life filled to overflowing.
Sri Sritharan served as the Project Manager for the building test conducted at UCSD as part of Phase III
of the PRESSS program. His reflection of his involvement in the PRESSS III project and interactions
with Nigel during this project period follows:
Following my PhD, which was supervised by Nigel, I was looking for an opportunity to move
on. To my surprise, I managed to find a position on the East Coast in a short time. Nigel and his
colleague Frieder Seible convinced me to stay in San Diego; their pitch was “enjoy the weather
and take charge of the PRESSS test program”. This turned out to be a life changing opportunity for
me because a large part of my research since leaving UCSD has focused on precast/prestressed
structures. Above all, I met all the authors of this paper, except Chris Latham, during the PRESSS
program. PRESSS III challenges were very different as we were not only in uncharted waters, but
we were also trying to accomplish a plethora of additional milestones. These included testing four
different frames, one wall system and two floor diaphragms in one large-scale building model;
constructing the largest test building in the U.S. (at that time) inside a laboratory; verifying the
DDBD methodology; and conducting the test using a pseudo-dynamic (or hybrid) procedure.
If I recall correctly, the building was brought to the laboratory in 98 precast pieces that were
fabricated at four different precast plants in California. On top of that, from the day we moved
into the laboratory until the day we completed the tests, we faced plenty of challenges with regards
to project cost, construction, erection and testing. We didn’t hesitate to overcome these challenges
individually or in groups, but when everything failed we knew we could rely on Nigel to help
us. The assurance that Nigel gave us to overcome the challenges, which he might not have even
realized that he was giving, was extraordinary and uplifting for the PRESSS group consisting of
academic and industry-based researchers-all striving to accomplish an innovative concept for

the precast industry. In addition, I believe, his passion for research and larger-than-life quality to
influence researchers made programs like PRESSS so successful.
Prior to the construction of the building, the PRESSS III team met every four to six weeks at
UCSD under Nigel’s leadership. These meetings, which were crucial for the success of the
project, were very educational and transformative for me as this was when design details were
worked out. In those meetings, it was clear who was in charge. Nigel didn’t hesitate to question
the young and old when he wasn’t convinced of a suggestion or an argument, but would offer
a rationale for his own opinions. He was so skilful at using small sketches and back of an
envelope calculations to demonstrate his viewpoint, which was hardly challenged. Once the
construction started, Nigel was comfortable and left me in charge. I relied on Susie Nakaki
and John Stanton along with Randy Clark who from Clark Pacific took charge of the erection
of the building. As the building went up, Susie, John and I could work around the clock, due to
differences in our schedules. Though I never confirmed it, I surmised from the fax and email
messages (no email attachment was possible then), that Susie went to bed when I was preparing
to head to the lab and John was in high gear when I was ready to quit by 3 pm. Nigel was busy
with other commitments and travel. Every time he returned to the lab, he made sure to check
the construction progress and asked the right questions to ensure things were going smoothly.
His ability to do this in such a short amount of time was incredible.
Nigel was so involved during the tests. They lasted weeks, and most of them had to be done
during night to minimize the thermal movements of the laboratory building, which was used
as reference points for some of the instruments. We typically started the tests after 9 pm and
ended around 2 am. Nigel was there with us, providing explanations for the test observations
and suggestions for the next steps. But just like a graduate student, he was also busy taking
his own notes and marking cracks. In addition, he made sure we had food and celebrated with
the team as we completed each critical test. As always, he was friendly and approachable
during testing and never hesitated to educate anyone about jointed construction, the PRESSS
program, seismic design or DDBD.
During the PRESSS III project, I met Rich Wargo, an employee of UCSD-TV. Rich and I decided
to work together and we produced a documentary entitled PRESSS: Five Stories for the Future2.
Nigel was very supportive of this effort and agreed to do his fair share of participation and
interviews. Figure 7.14 shows different shots taken from the documentary, demonstrating how
active Nigel was during the test. Rerunning the video has brought happy memories of a great
time, reminding me of our synergistic team effort on PRESSS III under Nigel’s leadership, and
left me wondering if any one of us thought, at that time, that unbonded post-tensioning would
become a norm for creating resilient seismic structures regardless of the construction material
(i.e., concrete, steel, masonry or timber).
Jim Conley, at that time Graduate Student at UCSD, likes to remember:
By the time of the PRESSS Project, structural analysis software had advanced to a level
that the use of multiple iterations on very complex software models was possible. However,
Nigel’s passion for simplicity showed through again in the analysis model used to predict the
performance of the walls to compare to the actual live pseudo-dynamic testing.
As one of the most junior members of the team, I remember struggling with the Ruaumoko

2 http://www.ucsd.tv/search-details.aspx?showID=4765

a b

c d

Figure 7.14 - Participation of Nigel during the PRESSS building test: a) Explaining to Rich Wargo about the industry-academic
partnership; b) monitoring the test; c) marking crack; and d) observing the building performance. (Clockwise from bottom: Nigel
Priestley, Christopher Latham, John Stanton, Sri Sritharan).

models of the walls. Nigel in his infinite wisdom sat down with me and sketched up his thoughts
on the best approach. He broke the very complex system into just 4 elements: elastic column
elements for the walls, spring elements for the unbonded tendons, no-tension springs at the
ends of rigid links for the wall boundary zones and springs at the ends of rigid links for the
U-shape Flexural Plate Dissipaters. Much to my surprise the prediction aligned very well with
pseudo-dynamic testing results, prompting me to jump out of my seat and do the ‘prediction
dance’ with the team, Nigel included.
What was most profound to me was the notion of simplicity that Nigel carried beyond the
university borders. I loved that he drove a VW bus as his main transportation. When he
was asked to present the preliminary results of the testing at the 45th Annual PCI Annual
conference in Palm Springs, he invited Stefano and me to attend along with him and the other
team members. It was exciting and well received by all attending. On the way back from the
convention Nigel invited us to his cabin in Idyllwild. We toasted the success of the event with a
bottle of wine and some grilled fare. To this day I will always remember Nigel’s grill. A simple
round grilled rack seasoned like a skillet leaning against the cabin wall. Nigel grabbed the grill
and balanced elegantly between the igneous rock common to the San Jacinto Mountains. A few
broken sticks from the surrounding Pines provided the fuel. Here we were being hosted by one
of the pioneering leaders in the field at the time and to this day. The campfire meal was just
right and one of the best meals of my life.
Nigel really had a gift for taking the very complicated and simplifying it to get the right results.
He was instrumental in encouraging that approach in all of us, certainly for me. I’ve carried

on that approach in professional practice to this day, sharing knowledge with others along
the way. It’s certainly an approach that I feel is even more valuable in professional practice
given the advances we have seen and the ever-increasing reliance on computer analysis in our
blossoming millennial Structural Engineers.
Christopher Latham, who carried out the control of the test and was responsible for data acquisition,
likes to remember:
Nigel Priestley arrived at UCSD when I was most of the way through my PhD work so did not
have too much influence on me at that time. My first real interaction with him was when my
advisor, Frieder Seible, was on sabbatical and Nigel was serving as my advisor in absentia. At
the time I was going through some health issues which affected my ability to work and Nigel
was very supportive and understanding.
One thing about Nigel is that he was always Nigel to everyone and not Prof. Priestley. After I
finished up and started working at the Powell Labs as a staff member I started to have more
interaction with Nigel providing technical support for him and his graduate students. While,
of course, I had an interest in the results of the testing programs what I was most involved
with was the process of structural testing; the practical science of the whole endeavour. What
I observe here is that Nigel was the consummate experimentalist. I remember that he was a
stickler for good documentation and correct scientific method. One phrase I remember and
repeat myself to graduate students in the lab to this day is “Scraps of paper, scraps of paper” in
reference to people taking notes on loose sheets of paper instead of lab notebooks.
Stefano Pampanin fondly remembers:
I met Nigel for the first time at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) in 1998, where I
was as a Fulbright Visiting Scholar, flying across the Atlantic to the US West Coast from Pavia
in Italy to work with ‘the number one’ in Earthquake Engineering.
Nigel Priestley had joined UCSD as a Professor in 1986 from the University of Canterbury
(UoC) in Christchurch, New Zealand, where he was already established as one of the ‘3Ps’;
the unique ‘kiwi’ legacy in earthquake engineering based at UoC: Professors Tom Paulay, Bob
Park and Nigel Priestley, born 10 years after one another.
Nigel’s contribution and impact on earthquake-engineering in the United States (and
worldwide) in the 1990s had already been extraordinary, with major impacts on research,
developments, code provisions and practical implementations following the Loma Prieta 1989
and Northridge 1994 earthquakes. He had played a primary role in making UCSD one of the
top universities in the world for Earthquake Engineering.
I clearly recall the very short brief I had received before my departure about the on-going
research projects at UCSD. It had vaguely mentioned something about ‘concrete prefabrication
in buildings’, which sounded like a topic of no immediate excitement for a young researcher.
It did not take me too long to realize that the team I was joining, led by Professor Nigel Priestley,
was pioneering the way of designing and constructing the next generation of seismic-resisting
buildings, based on rocking-dissipative systems. These are now known as PRESSS (Prestressed
Seismic Structural Systems) technology, and more recently as ‘low-damage systems’. They have
now been extended and adapted to different materials (starting from precast concrete, moving
to steel, and more recently to timber) and structural systems (frames, walls, dual systems,
bridge piers and decks).
Twenty years later the impact of such earlier developments and concepts is evident and

We have been working on this paper on the return from the New Zealand Society of Earthquake
Engineering Annual Conference, NZSEE 2017, held in Wellington from 27-29 April 2017 and
combined with the 15th World Conference on Seismic Isolation, Energy Dissipation and Active
Vibration Control of Structures. The theme of the conference was “Next Generation of Low-
Damage and Resilient Structures” and it has been impressive and overwhelming to observe the
emergence of the ‘new normal’ in earthquake engineering, with base isolation, supplemental
damping, dissipative bracing systems and rocking/dissipating (PRESSS-technology in all
materials) systems regularly featuring in the discussion between engineers, architects and
clients, both in the reconstruction of the city of Christchurch as well as for the retrofit or new
design of other cities.
The design of such jointed ductile connections, which rely upon a rocking mechanism, and thus
on the development of concentrated rotations at the interface between connected elements, can
naturally exploit the elegant simplicity of the emerging DDBD approach. This design approach
was already included in the book “Seismic Design and Retrofit of Bridges” (Priestley, Seible
and Calvi 1995), for the design of isolation devices for bridges, and was later presented in
its first comprehensive form as a Keynote Lecture at the European Conference in Earthquake
Engineering in Paris (Priestley, 1998). As a result, also DDBD is no longer seen as a strange
and scary academic beast, but rather - once you have learned its basic tricks - as an obvious
step forward where advanced design methodologies can be combined with advanced seismic-
resisting technologies”

7.8 Acknowledgments
It is a severe challenge to write a semi-technical tribute to honour Nigel Priestley, while trying to
convey the huge impact he has had, not only on the whole world of earthquake engineering but, more
particularly, on the lives and careers of a number of fortunate people. He has raised bars, both technical
and personal, to previously unknown heights.
We are humbled and sincerely appreciative of the great fortune we have had in being able to know and
work with Nigel, and we hope that this and the other papers prepared for this special tribute publication
will provide some insights of his legacy. If any of us can now see further, it is because we have had the
privilege of standing on the shoulders of a giant.

7.9 References
ACI 550.2R. (2013) - Design Guide for Connections in Precast Jointed Systems, American Concrete Institute, Farmington Hills, Michigan,
United States.
ACI 550.3. (2013) - Design Specification for Unbonded Post-Tensioned Precast Concrete Special Moment Frames Satisfying ACI,
American Concrete Institute, Farmington Hills, Michigan, United States.
Buchanan A.H., Pampanin S., Palermo A., Newcombe M. (2009) - Non-Conventional Multi-Storey Timber Buildings using Post-tensioning,
11th International Conference on Non-Conventional Materials and Technologies (NOCMAT), University of Bath, United Kingdom.
Cattanach A., Pampanin S. (2008) - 21st Century Precast: the Detailing and Manufacture of NZ’s First Multi-Storey PRESSS-Building, NZ
Concrete Industry Conference, Rotorua, New Zealand.
Devereux C.P., Holden T.J., Buchanan A.H., Pampanin S. (2011) - NMIT Arts & Media Building - Damage Mitigation Using Post-tensioned
Timber Walls, Proceedings of the Ninth Pacific Conference on Earthquake Engineering, Auckland, New Zealand, paper 90.
Englekirk R.E. (2002) - Design-construction of The Paramount: a 39-story Precast Prestressed Concrete Apartment Building. PCI Journal,
47(4), pp.56-71.
fib 2003 (2003) - International Federation for Structural Concrete. Seismic Design of Precast Concrete Building Structures. Bulletin No.
27, Lausanne, 254 pp.
Ishizuka T., Hawkins N.M., Stanton J.F. (1984) - Experimental Study of the Seismic Resistance of a Concrete Exterior Column Beam
Sub-assemblage Containing Unbonded Post-Tensioning Tendons, Dept. of Civil Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle,
Washington, United States.

Kelly J.M., Skinner R.I., Heine A.J. (1972) - Mechanisms of Energy Absorption in Special Devices for use in Earthquake Resistant
Structures. Bulletin of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering, 5(3), pp.63-88.
NZCS (2010) - PRESSS Design Handbook. New Zealand Concrete Society, Pampanin, S., Marriott, D. and Palermo, A, editors.
Pampanin S., Pagani C., Zambelli S. (2004) - Cable Stayed and Suspended Solution for Precast Concrete Frames: the Brooklyn System,
Proceedings of the New Zealand Concrete Industry Conference, Queenstown, New Zealand, September 16-18.
Pampanin S., Kam W., Haverland G., Gardiner S. (2011) - Expectation Meets Reality: Seismic Performance of Post-Tensioned Precast
Concrete Southern Cross Endoscopy Building During the 22nd February 2011 Christchurch Earthquake NZ Concrete Industry
Conference, Rotorua, New Zealand.
Paulay T., Priestley M.J.N. (1992) - Seismic Design of Reinforced Concrete and Masonry Buildings. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Priestley M.J.N. (1991) - Overview of the PRESSS Research Programme, PCI Journal, 36(4), pp. 50-57.
Priestley M.J.N., Tao J.R. (1993) - Seismic Response of Precast Prestressed Concrete Frames with Partially Debonded Tendons. PCI
Journal, 38(1), pp.58-69.
Priestley M.J.N. (1996) - The PRESSS Program Current Status and Proposed Plans for Phase III, PCI Journal, 41(2), pp. 22-40.
Priestley M.J.N., Sritharan S., Conley J.R., Pampanin S. (1999) - Preliminary Results and Conclusions from the PRESSS Five-story Precast
Concrete Test Building. PCI Journal, 44(6), pp. 42-67.
SNZ (2006) - NZS 3101 Appendix B: Special Provisions for the Seismic Design of Ductile Jointed Precast Concrete Structural Systems,
Standards New Zealand, Wellington.
Stanton J.F., Stone W.C., Cheok G.S. (1997) - A Hybrid Reinforced Precast Frame for Seismic Regions, PCI Journal, 42(2), pp. 20-32.
Stone W.C., Cheok G.S., Stanton J.F. (1995) - Beam-Column Connections Subjected to Cyclic Loads. ACI Structural Journal, 92(2),
March-April, pp. 229-249.

Nigel Priestley Symposium, Lake Tahoe, August 2008.


José I. Restrepo
Professor of Structural Engineering
University of California, San Diego, United States

Gian Michele Calvi

Professor, IUSS Pavia
Director of the section “Seismic Input and Design”, Eucentre Foundation, Pavia, Italy
Director, Studio Calvi, Pavia, Italy

Katrin Beyer
Assistant Professor,
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland

Carlos Blandón
Professor of Structural Engineering
University EIA, Envigado, Colombia

Athol J. Carr
Emeritus Professor
University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand

Rob Chai
Professor of Structural Engineering
University of California, Davis, United States

Michael P. Collins
University Professor
The University of Toronto
Ontario, Canada

James Conley
Vice President
Hope-Amundson, Inc., San Diego, United States

André Filiatrault
State University of New York at Buffalo in Buffalo, NY, United States
and School for Advanced Study of Pavia (IUSS), Italy

Jay Holombo
Senior Bridge Engineer & Project Manager
T.Y. Lin International, San Diego, California, United States

Jason Ingham
Professor of Structural Engineering and QuakeCoRE Flagship Leader
University of Auckland, New Zealand

Mervyn Kowalsky
Professor of Structural Engineering
North Carolina State University, Raleigh, United States

Christopher Latham
Research and Development Engineer 5
University of California, San Diego, United States

Greg MacRae
Associate Professor
University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand

Joe Maffei
Maffei Structural Engineering, San Francisco, United States

Guido Magenes
University of Pavia, Italy

Suzanne Nakaki
Nakaki Structural Design, Inc., Tustin, United States

Stefano Pampanin
University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
and University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Italy

Sri Sritharan
Wilkinson Chair in the College of Engineering, Interim Assistant Dean
and Professor of Structural Engineering
Iowa State University, Ames, United States

Tim Sullivan
Associate Professor
University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand

John F. Stanton
University of Washington, Seattle, United States

Nihal Vitharana
Australasian Dams and Seismic Leader
Arup Partners, Sydney, Australia

Mark Yashinsky
Senior Bridge Engineer
Caltrans, Sacramento, California, United States

At Anza Borrego in 1990.

memoria nostra durabit,
si vita meruimus