Recent earthquakes as the 2012 Emilia earthquake sequence showed that recently built unreinforced masonry (URM) buildings behaved much better than expected and sustained, despite the maximum PGA values ranged between 0.20 - 0.30g, either minor damage or structural damage that is deemed repairable. Especially low-rise residential and commercial masonry buildings with a code-conforming seismic design and detailing behaved in general very well without substantial damages. The low damage grades of modern masonry buildings that was observed during this earthquake series highlighted again that codified design procedures based on linear analysis can be rather conservative. Although advances in simulation tools make nonlinear calculation methods more readily accessible to designers, linear analyses will still be the standard design method for years to come. The present paper aims to improve the linear seismic design method by providing a proper definition of the q-factor of URM buildings. These q-factors are derived for low-rise URM buildings with rigid diaphragms which represent recent construction practise in low to moderate seismic areas of Italy and Germany. The behaviour factor components for deformation and energy dissipation capacity and for overstrength due to the redistribution of forces are derived by means of pushover analyses. Furthermore, considerations on the behaviour factor component due to other sources of overstrength in masonry buildings are presented. As a result of the investigations, rationally based values of the behaviour factor q to be used in linear analyses in the range of 2.0 to 3.0 are proposed.