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California Special Seismic Principles Exam Review Books

Updated on March 30, 2015
Olive View Hospital failure, San Fernando earthquake, 1971.
Olive View Hospital failure, San Fernando earthquake, 1971. | Source

Practice Exams for the California Special Civil Engineer Examination

Seismic Principles Practice Exams for the California Special Civil Engineer Examination, 4th Ed
Seismic Principles Practice Exams for the California Special Civil Engineer Examination, 4th Ed

The most recent edition is the 2012 edition. Be sure to get the 2012 ed. Notice that a few 1-star reviews are from 10 to 14 years ago; those were for early editions. Apparently, more recent editions have responded to the earlier input. Reviews for the 2012 edition are all 4 or 5 star.


California Special Exams

The State of California requires two additional exams. Besides the NCEES morning and afternoon exams, the Sunshine State also requires examinees to pass the Special Civil Seismic Principles exam and the Special Civil Engineering Surveying exam.

California Seismic Principles Exam

The photo above shows a structural failure. This occurred in 1971. The San Fernando earthquake caused the collapse you see above. What do you think is the cause? Do you think there is a soft story (vertical irregularity 1a) or perhaps an extreme soft story (vertical irregularity 1b) here?

In the fore, we see the last column line is completely stripped of concrete. But, the vertical steel remains. By the way it is bent, we see it is a fixed-fixed construction. Looking at other columns, we see the concrete is crushed at top of column and bottom.

Review some images of seismic failures. Challenge yourself. Ask, "Why did this building fail? In the ATC books, there are images of failure types. Be sure to review those. I recall that on my California Seismic Principles Exam, there were two questions that required an analysis of cracking; what type of force caused this damage?

Of course, the seismic principles exam will test more than your qualitative knowledge. You will need to quantify and analyze structural design.


Which California State-Specific Special Exam will be Tougher, in your Opinion?

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Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and other Structures ASCE 7-10

The American Society of Civil Engineers develops the procedures equations, coefficients, and tables used to calculate the theoretical approximation of forces. Engineers design buildings and structures according to forces derived using these methods.

The ASCE 7 (2010 publication date) has thirteen chapters covering seismic design:

11. Seismic Design Criteria

12. Seismic Design Requirements for Building Structures

13. Seismic Design Requirements for Nonstructural Components

14. Material Specific Seismic Design and Detailing Requirements

15. Seismic Design Requirements for Nonbuilding Structures

16. Seismic Response History Procedures

17. Seismic Design Requirements for Seismically Isolated Structures

18. Seismic Design Requirements for Structures with Damping System

19. Soil-Structure Interaction for Seismic Design

20. Site Classification Procedure for Seismic Design

21. Site Specific Ground Motion Procedures for Seismic Design

22. Seismic Ground Motion Long-Period Transition and Risk Coefficient Maps

23. Seismic Design Reference Documents

Asce 7-10

Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures, 3rd Printing (Standard ASCE/SEI 7-10)
Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures, 3rd Printing (Standard ASCE/SEI 7-10)

This is the 3rd printing. It was published in 2013 and includes revisions. This includes changes to risk-targeted seismic maps and other changes. (See description on Amazon to read about the other changes.)


Seismic Principles Practice Exams

The Seismic Principles Practice Exams for the California Special Civil Engineer Exam by Majid Baradar is a curious book. More than a few reviewers complain about the lack of content. They say it did not help them during their exam.

Others say there were many errors in the book. One reviewer said the difficulty in struggling through trying to understand the content was frustrating.

But, there are many 5-star reviews. Most of them are not "verified purchase" reviews, however. They may be students of classes which used the book. But, before you buy, you should be aware that it is possible to buy a 5-star Amazon review. And, Amazon is not very aggressive about policing the reviews. They have taken action in the past. But, this activity continues today.

There are better seismic principles exam review books. Consider other titles before this one.

Vertical Irregularity

Name the type of vertical irregularity. The 3rd floor of a 5 story building has only 50% of the stiffness of the other floors.

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Structural Irregularities

Guaranteed, you need to know how to recognize the vertical and horizontal structural irregularities. These are found in ASCE 7-10. Horizontal Structural Irregularities is Table 12.3-1. Vertical Structural Irregularities is Table 12.3-2. These are found on pages 82 and 83 of ASCE7-10.

Northridge Earthquake, 1994

The upper floors remained intact. The lower floor seems to have vaporized.
The upper floors remained intact. The lower floor seems to have vaporized. | Source

Dynamic Seismic Analysis

Dynamic Seismic Analysis

When is dynamic seismic analysis required? The adjacent video covers this question.

  • First, when in seismic zones A to C, dynamic is never required.
  • Equivalent Lateral Force (ELF) procedure is always permitted in zones A-C.
  • Even in D, E, and F, there are two situations in which dynamic analysis is never required:
  • a.) Risk Category I or II; Miscellaneous or Standard Occupancy; and maximum two stories tall.
  • b.) Light-frame construction (wooden or metal studs with sheathing.)
  • If ≤ 160' tall, and horizontal irregularity type Ia or 1b exists, then dynamic analysis required. If vertical irregularity types 1a, 1b, 2 or 3, then dynamic analysis is required.
  • If > 160 feet tall; no structural irregularities; and T ≤ 3.5 Ts, then ELF is permitted.

Professor Explains Seismic Load Path Elements

Design of Wood Structures

Design of Wood Structures-ASD/LRFD
Design of Wood Structures-ASD/LRFD

This book actually has very favorable reviews. 4.6 stars average is a very high average for engineering books. So, this looks like a good investment both for the exam and for your book shelf. In addition to being a reference used by NCEES to create the seismic exam, it covers the structural design of wood. This is part of the breadth portion of all exams.


Answer to Vertical Irregularity Quiz Question

This is type 1b. See page 83 of ASCE 7-10.


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