Bayesian analysis of uncertainty for structural engineering applications

T. Igusa, S. G. Buonopane, B. R. Ellingwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


There has been recent interest in differentiating aleatory and epistemic uncertainties within the structural engineering context. Aleatory uncertainty, which is related to the inherent physical randomness of a system, has substantially different effects on the analysis and design of structures as compared with epistemic uncertainty, which is knowledge based. Bayesian techniques provide powerful tools for integrating, in a rigorous manner, the two types of uncertainties. In a purely probabilistic viewpoint, the uncertainties merge, resulting in widened probability densities. From the viewpoint of design or experimentation, however, the two types of uncertainties have widely different effects. The purpose of this paper is to develop insight into these effects, using Bayesian-based analytical expressions for the aleatory and epistemic uncertainties. The paper goes beyond standard Bayesian conjugate distributions by incorporating the effects of model uncertainty, where the applicability of two or more analytical models are used to describe the structure of interest. The influence of multiple model uncertainties is explored for two problems: the Bayesian updating process as data is acquired, and the design of simple parallel systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-186
Number of pages22
JournalStructural Safety
Issue number2-4
StatePublished - 2002


  • Aleatory uncertainty
  • Bayesian analysis
  • Epistemic uncertainty
  • Model updating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality


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