The seismic vulnerability assessment of existing and historical masonry structures is an important priority to preserve them over time. Several mechanical models available in literature are based on the limit analysis and may require a relevant computational burden. In this paper, an adaptive numerical method to analyse the seismic response of masonry vaults is presented. The approach is developed within Heyman’s safe theorem and extends the funicular curve concept to the 3D case, by searching a ‘safe’ thrust surface within a design domain. The thrust surface is obtained by means of a Genetic Algorithm applied to a refinement adaptive finite element model. This approach can be easily implemented in existing FEM codes and gives a useful tool to assess seismic vulnerability of curved masonry structures and to design selective reinforcements. It is validated against a case study of a vault available in literature. Some numerical results dealing with a cloister vault subject to static and dynamic loads are given.
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