This study investigates the seismic demands due to the catastrophic 1999 M (w) = 7.4 Kocaeli and the M (w) = 7.1 Duzce earthquakes. The inelastic response spectra for the Kocaeli and Duzce earthquakes are investigated for systems with known strength and ductility. An analytical fiber element model is developed for a typical reinforced concrete building in Turkey. The interstory drifts are calculated from nonlinear dynamic analysis using 26 recorded strong-motion data from the 1999 Kocaeli and the Duzce earthquakes. In the dynamic analysis, the structural members are modeled by employing distributed plasticity fiber elements and both geometrical as well as material nonlinearities are taken into account. This study shows that the ductility and interstory drift demands due to the Kocaeli and the Duzce earthquakes were very severe (well above the code prescribed values) even for moderately inelastic structures. It is apparent from the results that the forward directivity effect is the most influential factor on the interstory drift demand. Both the distance to the fault rupture and the site conditions affect seismic demands, but the site conditions and the local topography are more influential than the distance from the fault rupture. This study shows that substantial damage should be expected in a future earthquake at all districts of Istanbul, but especially at Avcilar, Cekmece, Fatih, Bakirkoy and the Zeytinburnu districts. It is also shown that base isolation may substantially improve the performance of a structure in the inelastic domain and base isolated structures may be designed for lower minimum lateral strengths and higher strength reduction factors. (C) 2007 Published by Elsevier Ltd.