I Semester


  • Chiara Smerzini

The goal of the course is to provide the students with the knowledge base regarding the design, assessment and retrofit of civil engineering constructions in contexts of high natural and anthropic risks. The interaction of structures with natural hazards, especially earthquakes, are addressed, by introducing the theoretical models, applicative tools and normative references at the basis of the risk-based design.

In the last few decades, losses induced by natural disasters have shown a dramatic increase on a worldwide scale, partly due to the development of highly exposed regions and to the high vulnerability of modern societies. In terms of social and economic losses, earthquakes represent one of the most important natural risks and the largest losses result from the physical damage to structures.

To lessen the effects of earthquakes on built environment, structures shall be design according to earthquake-resistant design criteria, so that two basic objectives are met: human lives are protected and damage is limited. To achieve these objectives, structures shall be designed in such a way that they have a predictable performance under prescribed design earthquakes with given intensities within a given time frame. To guarantee an effective seismic design, a strict collaboration between the architect and the engineer must be achieved from the beginning of the project so that seismic issues and architectural requirements are taken into account and matched at every stage of the design process. It is therefore relevant that in the architect’s education the concepts of seismic hazard, vulnerability and risk are addressed. The architect should have a basic understanding of the physical processes that create earthquakes, of the dynamic response of structures during earthquake shaking, as well as of the seismic design criteria.

The objective of the course is to provide the basics for these understandings, presenting the theoretical models, applicative tools and normative references needed for a conscious design in earthquake-prone regions. With reference to the current normative framework, the principles of seismic design are presented, focusing on the ways in which architectural design solutions may affect building seismic performance. Besides earthquakes, constructions can be exposed to other natural risks, such as floods and landslides. Hence, an introduction to the hydraulic and hydro-geological risks is provided, with the aim of identifying the impacts of those hazards on the built environment, identifying the main elements of vulnerability and analyze risk mitigation measures. Some topics of the course will be addressed through innovative teaching methodologies, in the form of flipped classrooms, where autonomous thinking, critical discussion and comparison will be stimulated.