Mexico is one of the world’s most seismically active regions, sitting atop several intersecting tectonic plates. On September 19, 2017, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake hit the Greater Mexico City area killing 370 people and collapsing 40 buildings. The quake occurred on the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, which killed around 10,000 people. The 1985 quake was commemorated, and a national earthquake drill was held, at 11 a.m. local time, just two hours before the 2017 earthquake. Twelve days earlier, the even larger 2017 Chiapas earthquake struck 400 miles away, off the coast of the state of Chiapas.

In support of ongoing U.S. Government-funded research and development projects in earthquake engineering, the Applied Technology Council (ATC) Endowment Fund is sponsoring a team of experts to investigate the performance of buildings in Mexico City following the event.

Led by Ramon Gilsanz (U.S. on-site leader), Sissy Nikolaou (U.S. off-site coordinator), and Rodolfo Valles Mattox (Mexico on-site leader), the team includes structural engineers, building instrumentation researchers, and geotechnical and seismology specialists from around the world. The team will be charged with collecting detailed information on structural design, vibration properties, site and seismological characteristics, strong ground motion records, and performance of engineered reinforced concrete structures that are relevant to ongoing ATC projects funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). It is anticipated that this data collection effort will allow for comprehensive follow-up studies in ways that have rarely, if ever, been possible before, and will support the ATC-78 and ATC-134 projects.

ATC-78 is a FEMA-funded effort to develop a simplified methodology for evaluation of non-ductile concrete buildings. The project has developed a methodology, which has been tested analytically. This earthquake provides an opportunity to review concrete building performance and obtain experience data on which to judge the methodology. The purpose will be to document concrete building performance (good and bad), and to collect potential case study buildings to help test whether the evaluation criteria in the methodology are properly calibrated.

ATC-134 is a NIST-funded effort to benchmark seismic evaluation results across multiple U.S., and international codes, standards, and guidelines. This is a multi-year effort, which is in its early stages. This earthquake provides an opportunity to identify candidate damaged and undamaged reinforced concrete case study buildings for detailed analysis using multiple methodologies.

Structural Engineering:

  • Ramon Glisanz, Team Leader (GMS)
  • Esteban Anzola (WSP)
  • Russell Berkowitz (Forrell Elsesser)
  • Laura Hernandez (GMS)
  • Saif Hussain (IDS Group)
  • Afshar Jalalian (Rutherford and Chekene)
  • Insung Kim (Degenkolb)
  • Jennifer Lan (GMS)
  • Dion Marriot (Holmes Structures)

Portable Building Instrumentation:

  • Andreas Stavridis (University at Buffalo)
  • Homero Carrion (UB-PhD)

Soil and Ground Motion Specialists:

  • Eva Garini (NTU – Athens)
  • Olga-Joan Ktenidou (UNAM)