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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Test-Based Calibration of Safety Factors for Capacity Models


A simple procedure to calibrate the safety factor of capacity models is presented. The calibration can be carried out based on any available database of experimental tests, even of limited size. The procedure aims to assess the model capability of predicting the test results and to calibrate the safety factor so that the capacity equation meets the target reliability level required by the code or sought by the calibrator. After predicting each test of the database with the capacity equation under consideration, the test-prediction pairs are checked for the property of linearity, and the relative error for the properties of homoscedasticity and normality. Once these properties are fulfilled - which may require a nonlinear transformation of the test values and/or the predictions - the closed-form equation proposed in this paper is employed to compute a target design value. The model safety factor is finally obtained by comparing such target design value with the design value obtained from the code. The paper also proposes two approximate analytical equations to compute the tolerance factor, used to attain any given fractile, as a function of the (even small) number of tests, with any assigned confidence level. A fundamental outcome of the procedure is that it yields an objective indicator of the model accuracy, measured by the standard deviation of its error, which may be regarded as a parameter useful for selecting the most reliable model among different competing ones. In the long run, the application of the proposed procedure will allow achieving a uniform reliability level throughout all capacity models used in codes and guidelines. A further advantage is that the partial safety factors so derived can be straightforwardly updated when more experiments become available. As an example, the proposed procedure is herein applied to the ACI 318 shear design capacity equation for concrete members unreinforced in shear.

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