Construction practices#

Crowley et al. (2020) describe examples of the most common residential, industrial, and commercial building classes found across Europe:

  • Unreinforced masonry: These structures are typically used in residential buildings. In urban areas, they usually feature multiple housing units with 2-4 stories, whereas, in rural areas, they are mostly single dwellings with 1-2 stories. The lateral load resisting system is characterized by unreinforced masonry walls, made of fired clay solid or hollow bricks with lime or cement mortar or rubble/dressed stone in mud/lime mortar or without mortar.

  • Confined masonry: These building types are used in some parts of Europe in residential buildings, both in urban and rural areas. The lateral load resisting system consists in masonry walls confined with cast-in-place reinforced concrete tie columns and beams. The masonry walls are typically composed of clay units or concrete blocks.

  • Reinforced concrete: Reinforced concrete frame or infilled frame buildings, and concrete dual frame-wall or wall structures, are typcally used for multiple housing units in urban areas of Europe. The lateral load resisting system of frame structures, which are typically of 3-7 stories, features reinforced concrete columns and beams, with or without masonry infill walls (generally made of fired clay hollow bricks) and cast-in-place reinforced concrete floor slabs. In some cases, the ground floor is built without infill panels for parking or commercial activities, thus being prone to soft storey mechanisms. The lateral load resisting system of wall buildings, which are typically of 6-15 stories, instead, comprises columns, beams, and walls (or only walls) and the slabs are often either precast or reinforced concrete cast-in-place floor systems. This building typology is also commonly used for commercial buildings. This type of building is normally found across Europe as detached shops, which are commonly made of reinforced concrete infilled frames or reinforced concrete frames, with 1-2 stories. Reinforced concrete dual frame-wall or wall office buildings with 3-5 stories are commonly used by banks, insurance companies, research institutions, engineering companies, etc. Buildings used for accommodation commonly vary from 3 to 5 or more than 6 stories.

  • Precast concrete: Several industrial buildings in Europe are precast reinforced concrete structures, built without seismic design prescriptions. These buildings are usually low-rise (the majority with a single story), rectangular in plan, with precast cladding panels for the exterior walls, and reinforced concrete floor slabs. They are typically characterized by a poor connection between the beams and columns and thus can be described with a post and beam lateral load resisting system. Precast concrete is also used for commercial buildings, which are mostly found as detached shops of 1-2 stories, e.g. for hairdressers, car sales and maintenance, large and small retail, shopping centers, department stores, service stations, food shops and other wholesale and retail.

  • Steel Steel portal frames are commonly used for industrial buildings across the European countries, which are mostly low-rise (with height up to 5 m), with single-span symmetrical portal frame up to 25 m. Steel structures typically feature hot-rolled beams and columns for the roof rafters and supporting columns, although cold formed sections may be adequate for some small span structures.

Additional details about construction practices in Europe are available in the references collected below.


Crowley H., Dabbeek J., Despotaki V., Rodrigues D., Martins L., Silva V., Romão, X., Pereira N., Weatherill G., Danciu L. (2021) - European Seismic Risk Model (ESRM20), EFEHR Technical Report 002, V1.0.0,

Crowley H., Despotaki V., Rodrigues D., Silva V., Toma-Danila D., Riga E., Karatzetsou A., Sousa L., Ozcebe S., Zugic Z. and Gamba P. (2020) - Exposure model for European Seismic Risk Assessment. Earthquake Spectra, 36(1), 252-273,