"Smart" base isolation systems

J. C. Ramallo, E. A. Johnson, B. F. Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A "smart" base isolation strategy is proposed and shown to effectively protect structures against extreme earthquakes without sacrificing performance during the more frequent, moderate seismic events. The proposed smart base isolation system is composed of conventional low-damping elastomeric bearings and "smart" controllable (semiactive) dampers, such as magnetorheological fluid dampers. To demonstrate the advantages of this approach, the smart isolation system is compared to lead-rubber bearing isolation systems. The effectiveness of the isolation approaches are judged based on computed responses to several historical earthquakes scaled to various magnitudes. The limited performance of passive systems is revealed and the potential advantages of smart dampers are demonstrated. Two- and six-degree-of-freedom models of a base-isolated building are used as a test bed in this study. Smart isolation is shown to achieve notable decrease in base drifts over comparable passive systems with no accompanying increase in base shears or in accelerations imparted to the superstructure. In contrast to passive lead-rubber bearing systems, the adaptable nature of the smart damper isolation system provides good protection to both the structure and its contents over a wide range of ground motions and magnitudes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1088-1100
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Engineering Mechanics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Base isolation
  • Damping
  • Earthquakes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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