2023 Seismic Design Competition

2023 Undergraduate Seismic Design Competition

The 2023 Undergraduate Seismic Design Competition will be held in San Francisco, California, from April 11 to April 14!

We hope to see you at the 2023 Undergraduate Seismic Design Competition!

Please click through the above menu links for more information!



Announcement 5: 01/15/2023
Hi teams, any damping device proposals are due by 11:59 pm PST on Tuesday, Jan 31, 2023. Additionally, as per the Official Rules, the top 9 proposals will receive bonuses during the competition. This list is as follows (in alphabetical order, NOT placement order):

    Cornell University
    Istanbul Technical University
    Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra
    Technical University of Civil Engineering Bucharest
    Technical University of Cluj-Napoca
    The University of British Columbia
    Universidad Iberoamericana
    University of Massachusetts Amherst
    University of Victoria

We can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with and are excited to see y’all at the event in San Francisco, CA!! : D

Announcement 4: 01/06/2023
Hi teams, thanks to all of the teams that have submitted a proposal and congrats to all of the teams whose proposal has been accepted and invited to the competition!! The list of schools invited to the competition can be found below in alphabetical order:

    Ain Shams University
    Altinbas University
    Brigham Young University
    Cal Poly Pomona
    Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
    California State University, Northridge
    Cornell University
    Helwan University
    Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay
    Instanbul Technical University
    Izmir Katip Çelebi University
    McMaster University
    New York University
    North Carolina State University
    Oregon State University
    Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra
    Purdue University
    Seattle University
    Technical University of Civil Engineering Bucharest
    Technical University of Cluj-Napoca
    The University of British Columbia
    The University of Memphis
    The University of Texas at Austin
    Universidad de las Fuerzas Armadas
    Universidad Iberoamericana
    Universidad Politecnica Salesiana
    Universitas Indonesia
    University at Buffalo
    University of California – Berkeley
    University of California – Los Angeles
    University of California – San Diego
    University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
    University of Massachusetts Amherst
    University of Michigan
    University of Nevada, Reno
    University of Southern California
    University of Toronto
    University of Victoria

Announcement 3: 11/21/2022

Hi teams, the Clarifications form is out now! Please go to the “Clarifications” tab and click on the “Clarification Submission” link to go to the form. Please fill it out and your question shall be answered as soon as possible. Answers for all clarification questions can be found on the “Clarifications” tab.

Thanks and good luck with y’alls proposals!! : D

Announcement 2: 10/29/2022

Hi teams, the rules for SDC 2023 are finally out!! Please refer to the “Rules & Competition Documents” Section to find all of the rules documents and read each one carefully. The proposal this year is due on Friday, December 16, 2022 at 11:59 pm PST. Good luck to all of the teams this year!! : D

If your team hasn’t filled out the interest survey but would still like to participate, it’s not too late! Just shoot an email to: sdc@eeri.org

Announcement 1: 10/04/2022

The 2023 Seismic Design Competition (SDC) season is fast approaching! While the rules and regulations are still being finalized by the Student Leadership Council (SLC)’s SDC chairs, the SLC wants to know in advance how many undergraduate teams are interested in competing next year! Please fill out the interest form below (One per school)!

SDC 2023 Interest Form


Important Dates

Please note that all dates are subject to change! Also all cutoffs are 11:59 pm PST.

Milestone Date / Deadline
Interest Form Friday, November 4, 2022
Rules Released Saturday, October 29, 2022
Proposal Submission Friday, December 16, 2022
Damping Proposal Submission Tuesday, January 31, 2023
Final Registration Deadline TBD
Floor Area Calculations and Performance Predictions Submission TBD



If you would like to submit a clarification request, please do so here: 

Clarification Submission Form


Please click on the questions to see the answers!


1. Introduction

  • Q1.1: The document states "...the client would like to lease the lowermost and the uppermost two floor level of the structure as retail space." Does this mean the top floor of each tower equaling 2 floors, or the top 2 floors of each building equaling 4 floors top and bottom?

    A: There are a total of 4 floors designated as retail space: floors f=1, f=2, f=n-1, and f=n. The floor designation is for both towers (i.e., floor f=1 consists of the bottom floor for both towers, even though they are not connected to each other). Figure 9, elevation A-A in the design guide is a helpful visual.

  • Q1.2: Due to the absence of a geotechnical reference map to show the coastline of the bay, are we allowed to choose the location of the building in any area located in San Francisco city?

    A: The location for the competition will be announced soon, but in the meantime you can go with downtown San Francisco.

  • Q1.3: Is there a limit to how much we can scale the building model to the real life building for architectural purposes? Additionally, can we use this scale to factor our cost and revenue and so it is not based on the area of the model but of the real life building?

    A: The building model can be scaled only for render purposes to show any aesthetic features of the building if it would be constructed in real life. However, for the cost and revenue, no scaling is allowed as the FABI is based on the area of the wooden model.

  • Q1.4: Clarifications in previous years have said that architectural elements, like the building facade, and balconies, can extend beyond the structural building perimeter. In the architectural renders, is it possible to have enclosed, livable spaces, extend beyond the structural model's perimeter?

    A: Facades and balconies are permitted to extend beyond the structural perimeter. However, livable spaces beyond the structural perimeter are not permitted.

  • Q1.5: With a scaling factor of 1:96, the 3" structural floor height is increased to 24' in the architectural model. This height is sufficient to allow for the creation of lofted spaces. Is it permissible to include lofted spaces in the architectural design and renders so long as they follow the California Building and Fire Codes?

    A: Any scaling factors considering the building to be a typical real life construction can be used (average height of stories is 14’ giving a scale of 1:56, not more than this). Yes, lofted spaces are permitted as long as they follow the California building and fire codes.

  • Q1.6: The rules state that: "The client requests one tower to be for residential purposes while the other is to be for commercial use." Then states that: "The client has given you, the engineer and the designer, the ability to decide how the remaining stories in the building will be rented (residential, office, etc.)." Are we allowed to determine what uses each floor has or must we maintain only commercial on one tower and only residential on the other tower. Also, when the rules state: "The skybridges will be leased as a retail space" is it only the skybridge itself or the entire skybridge floor?

    A: One tower has to be entirely commercial and the other residential. It is up to the engineer to decide on the assignment. Note that the lowermost and the two uppermost floor levels are retail spaces. All the sky bridges, and not the entire sky bridge floor, will be leased as retail space.

  • Q1.7: In past competitions, it was clarified that the scale of the building in architectural renders was at the team's discretion. Clarification Q1.5 from the 2023 SDC instead suggests that the maximum building scale for the 2023 SDC can be no more than 1:56, giving a story height of 14 feet. Is this interpretation correct?

    A: In Q1.5 we stated that any scaling factors considering the building to be a typical real life construction can be used. If the average height of a story is 14’, then the scaling factor would be 1:56, which is the average, not the maximum. Please select scaling factors that would yield “typical real life construction”.

  • Q1.8: The scaling of 1:56, as said in previous clarification and the vertical (height): horizontal (length and breadth) dimension can offer just 1 residential apartment on a floor while in a realistic construction, it's observed to have at least 2 apartments on a floor. So, should we stick with the beforementioned clarification, or can we proceed with increasing the ratio of horizontal dimension to vertical dimension (currently it is 14:3)?

    A: Participants should stick to the provided ratio and follow the response from the previous clarification.

  • 6. Design Proposals and Damping Device Approval Process

  • Q6.1:"If the damping system is removed, the balsa wood structure, with all dead load weights attached, should be stable and firmly fixed to the base plate." For the damping device, will it have to be removed during the competition? How might we need to demonstrate that it is fully removable?

    A: The damping device is not required to be designed to be removable during the competition. This section is meant to specify that damping devices should not affect the stability of the structure, rather as a supplemental element to assist in energy dissipation. It will be obvious if stability is compromised if damping devices were to be removed from the structure. Hence, in case SDC Chairs determine that the damping devices must be removed, it would benefit teams to design their devices in a way that extraction of the devices would be relatively straightforward and wouldn’t compromise the structural integrity of the tower.

  • Q6.2: We assumed that the Damping Proposal is due the same day (12/16/2022) as the design proposal, however it's not clearly stated. We wanted to confirm that the due date for the damping proposal

    A: The due date of the damping proposal will be announced to the teams soon. It will be on a separate date from the design proposal submission.

  • 7. Structural Model

  • Q7.1:In plan view, do the skybridges need to be centered between the two towers, or can the skybridges be placed at top/bottom between the towers in plan view? i.e., in elevation view, can the skybridges be staggered from each other?

    A: The skybridges need to be centered between the two towers, i.e., they cannot be staggered from each other. This is further clarified in the Design Guide, Section 4, Floor Requirements.

  • Q7.2:For the roof plate, it specifies that "no part of the roof plate is allowed to not land on the roof surface." However, the dimensions of the sky bridge make it so that it can’t fully attach to the roof. How are we supposed to attach the roof plate so that all parts land on the roof surface?

    A: The roof plate needs to be touching the two towers and the skybridges. We will accept that there are minor areas where the roof plate will not be touching anything, however, it needs to be centered in the building and touching the skybridge and the two towers. Please click here to see  illustrative sketch (not drawn to scale).

  • Q7.3: Can a curtain wall be used in the sky bridge? (For example gusset plates)

    A: Curtain walls as non-structural elements should not be in the actual physical model but can be added in the architectural rendering. Furthermore, gusset plates are not curtain walls. Gusset plates are permitted but shall not be in contact with any wall members. A gusset plate shall be in contact with and glued to at least two frame members in contact. Each gusset plate shall fit in a 0.100 in. by 1 in. by 1 in. box. Also, each individual wall member in its final state attached to the model shall fit in a 0.100 in. by 3.000 in. by 11.000 in. box.

  • Q7.4: For an area of dimensions 3.67*2.75 (in) with only cross (X) floor element. Are these dimensions valid rentable area?

    A: Refer to Figure 12 in the Design Guide, especially to the top left X bracing orientation for the floor rentable area. For an area to be counted as rentable area, a span from any point perpendicular to a beam bordering the opening has to be 2.5 inches or less.

  • Q7.5: Is there any restriction on how the sky bridges are connected to the towers? For example, does the skybridge have to be connected on the outside of the tower or can members of the bridge extend into the towers? Also, for the topmost skybridge since it must be between the top two floors, does that mean it should have 2 crosswalks between the towers (in floors n and n-1) or should it only have one?

    A: There is no restriction on how to connect the sky bridges to other structural elements as long as you abide by the other rules mentioned in the “Design Guide”. The topmost skybridge has to have two crosswalks.

  • Q7.6: Can we place members to define the roof of a skybride? For e.g. we keep a skybridge at F=10. Then its roof would be at F=11. Can we place any members in the skybridge area (central 3x3 sq. in) of F=11 which will act as its roof?

    A: No, If you use the area on the roof of the skybridge, you will use it for your rentable area. So you are not allowed to put any members on the top of the skybridge as the roof is not counted as a rentable area!

  • Q7.7: “A wall member shall span at least 1 in. vertically. Measured parallel to the plane of the base plate, one of the measured dimensions shall measure at least 1 in.” Are we allowed to have triangular or diamond shaped shear walls or does having a vertex (part of shape will be 1in) violate this 1 in rule?

    A: The measured dimensions parallel to the base plate must be a minimum of 1 in. A shape with a vertex would not meet those requirements. The wall member can be cut in any way as long as it fits the box dimensions of 0.100 in. by 3.000 in. by 11.000 and meets the minimum requirements mentioned in Section 7.3a.

  • Q7.8: Are frame members allowed to be glued on any surface of the wall members? Is there any specification of frame to wall member connections that could result in violations?

    A: Any member glued to a wall must meet the requirements of Section 7.4a. The glue can only be present at the fraying surface of the individual members. For example, the section states: “any members in contact must have glue between the faying surfaces of the two members.” In addition, “excess glue must be confined to 0.5 in. in any direction of the edge of any faying surface.” Each violation of the members’ connection will result in 3 added to V. 

  • Q7.9: We are requesting clarification for the sentence "An 18.00 in. by 18.00 in. square continuous wooden (Plywood or MDF) base plate will be used to attach the model to the shake table." Is it permitted to laminate two pieces of plywood together (one on top of the other) to make up the required 0.25 inch to 0.5 inch thickness for the base plate? Furthermore, is it permitted to use dowel pins to connect two pieces of plywood together (one on top of the other) to make up the required 0.25 inch to 0.5 inch thickness for the base plate?

    A: Lamination of two plywood plates to make up for the required thickness is accepted as long as there is no space (gap) between the two sheets. On the other hand, dowel pins are not accepted. However, the SLC strongly encourages the team to use a single 0.5-in thick plate if possible.

  • Q7.10: The plywood we have acquired for our baseplates comes with a varnish coating. According to Rule 7.11, "the finish on all frame and wall members must be bare wood. Paint or coatings will not be allowed on any portion of the model. Burned surfaces from laser cutting are permitted." We are wondering if the varnish coating on our plywood baseplate is acceptable, as it is not a frame/wall member and does not affect the performance of our structural model

    A: Paint or coating is not allowed on any portion of the model no matter if it is baseplate or not! 

  • Q7.11: According to Section 7.4d, there are no restrictions on the length of the faying surface in connections between wall members. However, it remains unclear whether there is a faying surface limit when gluing wall members to frame members. For example, is it permissible to glue a frame member to the wall member along its entire vertical length?

    A: Any member glued to a wall must meet the requirements of Section 7.4a. The glue can only be present at the fraying surface of the individual members. For example, the section states: “any members in contact must have glue between the faying surfaces of the two members.” In addition, “excess glue must be confined to 0.5 in. in any direction of the edge of any faying surface.” Each violation of the members’ connection will result in 3 added to V. 

  • 8. Strong Ground Motion Testing

  • Q8.1: It is stated that there are 2 different weight models specified for 2 different earthquake directions specified in the design guide. These loads are min. and max. values are certain, but the dead load weights to be installed in the mezzanine floors are not clearly expressed. Since we do not want to make any mistakes regarding this, we kindly ask you to indicate how much weight will be applied for the given two directions for different floor levels.

    A: The floor dead loads are installed at specific floor levels only. The details can be found in section 8.3 of the ‘Official Rules’ and section 5 and 8 of ‘Design Guide’.

  • Q8.2:In the design guide, it is stated that the accelerometer to be placed on the model will be fixed with the help of clamps. Since we could not find any clear information about the weight of the accelerometer and the clamp, we kindly ask you to share the accelerometer and the total clamp weight to be used in order to calculate the maximum displacement and acceleration values of the structural model.

    A: Please refer to section 8.3b of the ‘Official rules’.

  • Q8.3: Under section 8.3/8.4, the rules specify a 1/2 in. diameter rod to be inserted for dead load installation. In the 2022 rules, the length of the rod is specified as 20 in. long, however we were not able to find the length in this years' rule book. As the tower dimensions are different from 2022 to 2023, we were wondering what this years' 1/2 in. steel threaded rod length is

    A: The rods that will be used in this year’s competition will have the same dimensions as the previous year: 0.5 inch diameter and 12 inch long.

  • Q8.4: What are the specifications of the accelerometers to be used? What is their range? What is the sampling rate that will be used at the competition?

    A: The teams don’t have to bring their accelerometer. The SDC organizing committee will provide the accelerometer and perform the post-processing based on standard practice.

  • Q8.5: Our team is wondering what specific Butterworth Filter parameters will be used to process the raw accelerometer data at the competition? Ex. What order, low/high frequencies will be used to filter the data?

    A: A suitable low pass filter to remove noise from the obtained data will be used. The filter is calibrated based on the shake table and the same post processing will be used for all the teams.

  • Q8.6: We are requesting for the names of the earthquake records associated with the ground motions (GM1 and GM2) and if possible, also the names of the station at which they were recorded.

    A: The ground motions are artificial and not based on an actual earthquake event, therefore they do not have a corresponding recording station. The ground motions are based on the geographic location and the structural response of this year’s design challenge. 

  • 11. Judging and Appeals

  • Q11.1: Will the teams be allowed to work on the building model on day one of the competition? (to repair any damage that may occur to the model during transportation)

    A: The teams will be able to work on the first day of the competition until we start the preliminary judging. Roughly the students have until 6 pm of that day to fix any damages that might occur from the transportation process. However, once we start the preliminary judging  the students are not allowed to touch the building.

  • Q11.2: Will there be an address to be delivered by SLC EERI after the model is delivered to the USA by cargo? Will there be a place where the model will be kept until our team comes to America?

    A: Yes, dedicated space with a mailing address will be provided. The details will be provided soon.

  • Q11.3: We would like to know if we need to have a chapter by the time we submit the proposal. This is the first time that a team from *** University will participate in the Seismic Design Competition. We do not have a chapter yet and we haven't been approved for the chapter. We were a bit worried that it would disqualify us. Do we need to have a chapter by the time we submit the proposal ?

    A: No, you do not need to have the student chapter officially established. We understand that it takes time to establish the chapter, and you are actively working on getting the approval for an official chapter. We welcome your participation and encourage you to follow up with EERI about your student chapter status.

  • 12. Design Guide

  • Q12.1: Are the dimensions for the skybridges denoted as 'outside-to-outside'? Or center-to-center? Or inside-to-inside? Or does it not matter too much?

    A: The dimensions of any skybridge needs to be on the same level as the floor it exists on. Furthermore, the minimum and maximum clear distance between the skybridges needs to be maintained as mentioned in the design guide. They will be measured with the level of the floor. If you maintain the horizontal level of the skybridge with the floor with no members higher or lower, then it should be fine.

  • Q12.2: For the steel angles that will be clamped with the base plate and shake table in figure 17 of the design guide, will we have to provide the angles ourselves or will it be provided during the competition?

    A: The teams don’t have to bring the steel angles. The SDC organizing committee will provide them.

  • Q12.3: It says that “There are no restrictions on how each member is cut as long as it is able to fit in the box in its final state before any glue is applied.” It also says that each Wall member must span one inch. Triangular walls can fit both of these requirements. They can span more than one inch vertically (design guy does not mention that every part of it has to) and can fit within the box. A clarification says that triangular members are not allowed however. Can we cut 1” tall rectangle walls with a triangular shape on top (all parts will span 1” vertically but will still have triangular shape on top?)

    A: Any shape that has a minimum vertical height of 1” at all horizontal points and has a minimum horizontal dimension of 1” will satisfy the requirement. The example shape described in the question will satisfy the requirement provided it has a minimum horizontal dimension of 1”.

  • Q12.4: We would like to know if there are any limitations regarding the depth of the notchings at the base plate.

    A: No limitations as long as the surface remains flat and smooth. Typically, teams notch the entire thickness to get a bigger surface area.

  • Q12.5: We would like to know if we need to manufacture and make our own deadloads following the characteristics given , or they will be provided at the competition?

    A: Dead loads are provided at the competition.

  • Q12.6: In the wall member section, figure 3 states that the maximum wall member dimensions are 3" x 0.1" x 11", and also states in the paragraph above that the member has to fit in a box with these dimensions. Does that mean a wall member can 3" as it states in figure 3, or it has to be less than 3"?

    A: The wall member can be a maximum of 3” as shown in Figure 3 of the Design Guide. 

  • 13. Damping Proposal Requirements

  • Q13.1: The rubric says an excellent proposal should discuss "the cost of implementing the damper in a real building"; does a "real building" mean our physical model or its hypothetical real-life, full-scale counterpart?

    A: If your damper was inspired from an existing damper implemented in a real building, then provide a cost of implementing the damper, if available. However, if your damper is unique and wasn’t implemented before, please provide a prediction of how much it will cost to implement a hypothetical real-life, full scale counterpart.

  • Sponsors

    Many thanks to generous sponsors of SDC!




    Top 9 Proposals (in alphabetical order)
      Cornell University
      Istanbul Technical University
      Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra
      Technical University of Civil Engineering Bucharest
      Technical University of Cluj-Napoca
      The University of British Columbia
      Universidad Iberoamericana
      University of Massachusetts Amherst
      University of Victoria


    Full Results

    The results for the 2023 Seismic Design Competition are here! To download a copy of the score pdf, just click on the title and you can download it from there.

    Congratulations to all of the teams that participated this year! We hope you learned a lot and hope to see you next year! : D



    1st Place: Technical University of Cluj-Napoca

    2nd Place: University at Buffalo

    3rd Place: Cornell University


    Charles Richter Award for Spirit of the Competition: The University of Texas at Austin

    Egor Popov Award for Structural Innovation: Cornell University

    T-Shirt Design: Technical University of Cluj-Napoca (Honorable mentions: Technical University of Civil Engineering Bucharest and Universidad Iberoamericana)


    Best Seismic Performance: The University of Memphis

    Best Communication Skills Award: The University of British Columbia

    Best Architecture Award: Technical University of Civil Engineering Bucharest


    Most Improved Team: University at Buffalo

    Rookie of the SDC Award: Altınbaş University


    Full Scores