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Flat Plate

The flat plate is a two-way reinforced concrete framing system utilizing a slab of uniform thickness,
the simplest of structural shapes.

Flat Plate System Introduction


A flat plate is a one- or two-way system usually supported directly on columns or load bearing walls.
It is one of the most common forms of construction of floors in buildings. The principal feature of the
flat plate floor is a uniform or near-uniform thickness with a flat soffit which requires only
simple formwork and is easy to construct.
The floor allows great flexibility for locating horizontal services above a suspended ceiling or in a
bulkhead. The economical span of a flat plate for low to medium loads is usually limited by the need
to control long-term deflection and may need to be sensibly pre-cambered (not overdone)
or prestressed.
Burj Dubai Copyright Imre Solt 2007 (2) Small
An economical span for a reinforced flat plate is of the order of 6 to 8 m and for prestressed flat
plates is in the range of 8 to 12 m. The span L of a reinforced concrete flat-plate is approximately D
x 28 for simply supported, D x 30 for an end span of a continuous system, to D x 32 for internal
continuous spans.
The economical span of a flat plate can be extended by prestressing to approximately D x 30, D x 37
and D x 40 respectively, where D is the depth of slab.
Flat plate floor system
Advantages of System:
1. Simple formwork and suitable for direct fix or sprayed ceiling
2. No beamssimplifying under-floor services
3. Minimum structural depth and reduced floor-to floor height.
Burj Dubai Flat Plate System Copyright Imre Solt 2007
Disadvantages of System:
1. Medium spans
2. Limited lateral load capacity as part of a moment frame
3. May need shear heads or shear reinforcement at the columns or larger columns for shear
4. Long-term deflection may be controlling factor
5. May not be suitable for supporting brittle (masonry) partitions
6. May not be suitable for heavy loads.
flat plate construction
Flat Plate The flat plate is a two-way reinforced concrete framing system utilizing a slab of uniform
thickness, the simplest of structural shapes. Flat Plate System Introduction A flat plate is a one- or
two-way system usually supported directly on columns or load bearing walls. It is one of the most
common forms of construction of floors in buildings. The principal feature of the flat plate floor is a
uniform or near-uniform thickness with a flat soffit which requires only simple formwork and is easy
to construct. The floor allows great flexibility for locating horizontal services above a suspended
ceiling or in a bulkhead. The economical span of a flat plate for low to medium loads is usually
limited by the need to control long-term deflection and may need to be sensibly pre-cambered (not
overdone) or prestressed. Burj Dubai Copyright Imre Solt 2007 (2) Small An economical span for a
reinforced flat plate is of the order of 6 to 8 m and for prestressed flat plates is in the range of 8 to 12
m. The span L of a reinforced concrete flat-plate is approximately D x 28 for simply supported, D x
30 for an end span of a continuous system, to D x 32 for internal continuous spans. The economical
span of a flat plate can be extended by prestressing to approximately D x 30, D x 37 and D x 40
respectively, where D is the depth of slab. Flat plate floor system Advantages of System: Simple
formwork and suitable for direct fix or sprayed ceiling No beamssimplifying under-floor services
Minimum structural depth and reduced floor-to floor height. Burj Dubai Flat Plate System Copyright
Imre Solt 2007 Disadvantages of System: Medium spans Limited lateral load capacity as part of a
moment frame May need shear heads or shear reinforcement at the columns or larger columns for
shear Long-term deflection may be controlling factor May not be suitable for supporting brittle
(masonry) partitions May not be suitable for heavy loads. flat plate construction

A flat plate floor system is a two-way concrete slab supported directly on columns with
reinforcement in two orthogonal directions (Figure 1). Primarily used in hotels, multi-
family residential buildings, and hospitals, this system has the advantages of simple
construction and formwork and a flat ceiling, the latter of which reduces ceiling finishing
costs, since the architectural finish can be applied directly to the underside of the slab.
Even more significant are the cost savings associated with the low-story heights made
possible by the shallow floor system. Smaller vertical runs of cladding, partition walls,
mechanical systems, plumbing, and a large number of other items of construction
translate to large cost savings, especially for medium and high-rise buildings. Moreover,
where the total height of a building is restricted, using a flat plate will result in more
stories accommodated within the set height. The thickness of a flat plate is controlled
by the deflection requirements given in Sect. 9.5.3 of ACI 318-05. Minimum slab
thicknesses for flat plates with Grade 60 reinforcing bars, are laid out in ACI 9.5.3 and
it is a function of the longest clear span between supports. Flat plate systems are
economically viable for short to medium spans and for moderate live loads. Up to live
loads of about 50 psf, the deflection criteria usually govern, and the economical span
length range is 15 ft to 25 ft. For live loads of 100 psf or

more, punching shear stresses at the columns


and bending moments in the slab control the design. For these cases, the flat plate is
economical for spans between 15 ft and 20 ft. A flat plate floor with a live load of 100
psf is only about 8% more expensive than one with a live load of 50 psf, primarily due
to the minimum thickness requirements for deflection. Floor panels with an aspect ratio
of 2 would be about 30% more expensive than panels with an aspect ratio of 1; the
thickness of the rectangular panel is governed by the greater span length, resulting in a
loss of economy. On average, the formwork costs for flat plates represent
approximately 46% of the total floor cost. Concrete material, placing, and finishing
account for about 36% of the cost. The remaining 18% is the material and placing cost
of the mild reinforcement. Application of flat plate floor system in realtime structure is

shown in Figure 2a, 2b and 2c.

The advantages of the flat plate system are thin structure, simple formwork, and flat
soffits. The integral interaction of 2-way slab allows for wider distribution of moment
capacity and therefore a large effective width for carrying moment. This results in the
ability to use a thin structure to support the required loads. The simplicity of a flat
concrete slab with repetitive bays lends itself well to construction efficiency. Flat soffits
are of particular advantage to construction of an apartment building or hotel where
ceiling finishes will be applied directly to the underside of the slab. This allows for a
reduction in story height and ease of construction. Due to the nature of the building
being a research facility there is an extensive amount of MEP

systems. Thus, a large amount of plenum space


is necessary making ceiling finishing not of particular advantage. However, the flat
soffit also means there is are no complexities when hanging or installing MEP fixtures
due to uniformity of the supporting structure.

The flat slab has overcome all the drawback of the traditional system of beams framing
into columns and supporting slabs spanning between the beams. Though the relatively
deep beams of traditional floor system provide a stiff floor which is capable of long
spans, and which is able to resist lateral loads, yet the complications of beam
formwork, co-ordination of services, and overall depth of floor have led to a decrease in
the popularity of this type of floor.

Benefits of using Flat Plate Floor System

(A) Larger Span Length Achieved

The span L of a reinforced concrete flat-plate is approximately D x 28 for simply


supported, D x 30 for an end span of a continuous system, to D x 32 for internal
continuous spans. The economical span of a flat plate can be extended by prestressing
to approximately D x 30, D x 37 and D x 40 respectively, where D is the depth of slab.
Whereas for the traditional reinforced concrete beam-and-slab floor has an economical
span L of D x 15 for a single span and D x 20 for a multi-span, where D is the depth of
the slab plus beam. The depth of slab between the beams can be initially sized using
the span-to-depth ratios for a flat plate.

(B) Flat Soffit i.e. Flat Ceiling

The main and unique feature of this system is that it provides a way for the architect to
achieve the concept of high and completely flat ceiling with no beam protrusion. The
services can be installed within or below the slab and there are flexibilities in relocating
vertical small penetrations. The soffit is often flat and high ceiling height can be
achieved. Whereas traditional beam column slab system, the ceiling is not flat and
hence many locations it is required to use false ceiling to get a flat ceiling, which is
again going to increase the cost of construction. Moreover the lifespan of false ceiling
few years and hence it needs to be changed several times in the lifespan of the
structure. This problem can be avoided with flat plate system. As already the soffit of
the slab is flat, there is no need of providing false ceiling. Because of this flat plate slab
system has found immense use in hotels, malls, public buildings. The difference can be
very easily made out from Figure 3 and Figure 4.
(C) Savings in Shuttering Cost

Shuttering/ Formwork constitutes a major cost of construction of reinforced concrete


structure. In a traditional beam column slab system, the need of shuttering area is
more and so the cost of formwork is also more. Whereas flat plate system requires only
soffit shuttering of slabs, which makes flat plate slab system very popular amongst the
builders as it has many fold benefits.

(D) Savings in Construction Time

As formwork and stagging time is reduced, the overall construction time also gets
reduced considerably in flat plate slab system. Keeping in mind of

the tight schedule of the projects these days, if


construction time can be saved in some means, it will give the builder/ owner early
commissioning time of the project, which in turn will reward them with early revenue
generation.

(E) Prestressing

Prestressing is not possible in traditional beam column system, whereas post-tensioned


flat plat/slabs are a common variation of the conventional plate structure where most of
the reinforcement is replaced by post-tensioned strands of very high strength steel. The
structural advantage of post tensioning over conventional RCC is that the slab is nearly
crack free at full service load. This leads to a smaller deflection compared to
conventional RCC because of the higher rigidity of the uncracked section. Hence
reduction in thickness of the slab compared to conventional RCC is the rationale for
using post-tensioning system for spans over 10m and above. Further the lack of
cracking leads to a watertight structure. Flat plat/slab design and build contractors in
India claim a 20% cost reduction compared to conventional RCC.

(F) Building Height

Traditional beam column slab system produces


building/ structure higher than flat plat slab system. The reason behind is absence of
beams in the flat plate slab system. Which is very much beneficial for malls, theaters,
hotels etc. . In malls, theaters, hotels, because of higher span requirement, the depth
of beam is very high, which adds to the floor height making the overall height of each
floor more. This again has cost impact as well as aesthetic impact on the structure. This
problem can be avoided by adopting flat plate floor system. Also by adopting to suitable
prestressing system, it is possible to do construction of higher span slabs, without any
increase in floor height which is a major concern with beam column slab system.

(G) Service

In traditional beam column slab system the penetrations through beams for large ducts
difficult to handle. This is a common need in hotels, malls, public buildings, as the
service lines are more in these time of buildings. Since making holes in large size
beams is not feasible the service lines needs to be taken through longer routes, which
again increases the cost of installation and effects the aesthetics by a great deal. With
the adoption of flat plate slab system, the large and bulky sized beams are avoided and
service lines can be very easily taken through the slab by keeping suitable and required
sized openings in the slab. Figure 6 shows one such work, where service lines were
routed through the openings in the slab.

Drawbacks of Flat Plate Floor System

Though Flat plate slab system promises a world of benefits over the traditional beam
column slab system, still all is not well with this kind of system too. The main
disadvantages of the flat plate system are deflection control, punching shear at
columns, and future core drilling. The relatively thin slab of the structure makes it
susceptible to excessive deflections and floor vibrations, in a laboratory facility such as
the MSC this could be an issue. The uniformity of the flat plate system may lend itself
to an ease of construction, however, it is not very efficient at resisting shear forces at
critical locations, namely columns. If the slab is found to be inadequate to resist
punching shear, certain measures can be introduced to strengthen these locations.
These include increasing the depth of the slab over the entire panel, increasing the
column size, adding a shear capital, or adding shear reinforcement. Furthermore, in a
research facility experiments and equipment is often changing to meet the needs of the
current industry. This often results in retrofits to the structure involving core drilling of
the slab. In a 2-way system this can be problematic because it significantly lowers
strength capacity of the floor system. The most dominant failure type in flat plate slab
system is brittle failure caused by shear failure. But it does not mean that these
drawbacks will limit the use of flat plate floor system. These limitations and drawbacks
can be overcome by adopting suitable design practice.

General Consideration for use of Flat Plate Floor System

The following are the key factors to be considered before adopting the use of the
concrete flat plate with steel/concrete column system:
Architectural layout should be well planned to fully enhance the main area where
high flat ceiling with neatly arranged steel/concrete columns are required in the design
Spacing of columns
Punching shear checks at column areas
Long term deflection of the flat plate
Early planning of routing for M&E services, opening for voids and location of
staircase
The design of flat slab structures involves three steps
Framing system
Engineering analysis
Reinforcement design and detailing

Framing System

Initial framing system formulation provides a detailed geometric description of the


column spacing and overhang. Even though the architect provides this part of the
design, the engineer should emphasize on the following
Three continuous spans in each direction or have an overhang at least one-forth
times adjacent span length in case of only two continuous spans.
Typical panel must be rectangular
The spans must be similar in length i.e. adjacent span in each direction must not
differ in length by one-third

Engineering Analysis

Flat plate/slab may be analyzed and designed by any method as long as they satisfy
the strength, stiffness and stability requirements of the IS 456:2000 or ACI-318
codes. A typical flat plate/slab can be analyzed by direct design method or equivalent
frame method as prescribed by the code. However, if the flat plate/slab is atypical with
unusual geometry, with irregular column spacing, or with big opening then the designer
may have to use finite element method model analysis using computers. The design of
flat plate/slabs irrespective of the methodology used must first assume a minimum slab
and drop thickness and a minimum column dimension to ensure adequate stiffness of
the system to control deflection. The IS 456:2000 code is not clear on these minimums.
However ACI specifies empirical formulas to arrive at these minimums. Refer to Table 1
for minimum slab thickness.

Once the slab thickness and column dimensions with boundary conditions are
selected, the structure is loaded for different load cases and combinations prescribed
by the code. The computed forces and moments in the members should be used for
reinforcement design.

Critical reactions for the load combinations are used for the design of the supporting
columns and foundations.

Seismic Design of Flat Plate/Slab

Seismic design lateral force is based on the provisions of Indian Standard IS 1893
(Criteria for Earthquake Resistant Design of Structure), however due to non-clarity of
IS1893 designer, in addition may have to use, other codes like UBC-2000 (Uniform
Building Code) to design an effective lateral system. Based on these codes a common
practice is to determine lateral force by either using static or a dynamic procedure.

Reinforcement Design and Detailing

Reinforcement design is one of the critical parts of flat plate/slab design; maximum
forces from the analysis shall be used in the design of the reinforcement.
Reinforcement required for flexure by using minimum slab thickness per table 1
typically will not require compression reinforcement. The tension steel area required
and detailing for appropriate strips can be per IS 456:2000 or ACI-318, both being
similar. However design for punching shear force (including additional shear due to
unbalanced moment) per IS 456:2000 is 32% conservative compared to ACI-318,
because Indian code underestimates the concrete two-way shear strength by 32%
compared to ACI.

Conclusion

Flat Plate slab system often provide the most economical solution for high-rise
residential/ commercial construction. The systems low floor height, compared to
traditional beam column slab system results in overall reduction of building height
which further results lesser dead load, leading to lower foundation costs. Flat plate/slab
construction is a developing technology in India. Flat plate/slab can be designed and
built either by conventional RCC or Post-tensioning. Design of conventional RCC flat
plate/slab in India, utilizing Indian codes, has many shortcomings, which have to be
addressed and revised soon. Until then Indian engineers will continue to use Indian
codes in combination with other standards like the ACI, BS or Euro Code to design and
analyze Flat slabs/plates.

Reference

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