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90 visualizzazioni55 pagineThis is a guide on using FEA to design buildings

May 04, 2018

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This is a guide on using FEA to design buildings

© All Rights Reserved

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This is a guide on using FEA to design buildings

© All Rights Reserved

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of reinforced

concrete buildings

How to make the best use

of FEA packages and

avoid potential pitfalls

TIM MESSER

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 2

Reviewed by Dr John Mullard, Associate and Newcastle office manager at Lindsay & Dynan Consulting Engineers

Acknowledgement:

Gil Brock – Australia’s Concrete Structures Code Committee BD2 and owner/developer of RAPT Software

Copyright 2014 © Engineers Australia. Endorsed by the Structural College of Engineers Australia

Published by Engineers Media Pty Ltd, Crows Nest, Sydney, www.engineersmedia.com.au, on behalf of Engineers

Australia

ISBN 9781-922107-27-5

The material contained in this practice note is in the nature of general comment only and is not advice on any

particular matter. No one should act on the basis of anything contained in this note without taking appropriate

professional advice upon the particular circumstances. The publisher and the author do not accept responsibility for

the consequences of any action taken or omitted to be taken by any person on the basis of anything contained in or

omitted from this note.

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 3

CONTENTS

Summary5

1 Introduction 5

1.1 Scope of this practice note 5

1.2. The aim of structural modelling 5

1.3 Preliminary design 6

1.4 Common myths about advanced analysis software 6

2 Types of FEA software 6

2.1 3D analysis 6

2.2 2D analysis 6

2.3 Other programs 7

3 Modelling inputs 7

3.1 Flexural tensile strength (modulus of rupture) 7

3.2 Modulus of elasticity 8

3.3 Poisson’s Ratio 8

4 Long-term deflection, AS3600-2009 9

4.1 Creep 9

4.2 Shrinkage 9

4.3 Volume change/support interaction 9

4.4 Temperature 12

4.5 Cracking 13

4.6 Long-term deflections 14

5 Modelling decisions 15

5.1 Element type 15

5.2 Size 15

5.3 Meshing 16

5.4 Discontinuity areas (D-regions) 16

5.5 Shape 17

5.6 Boundary conditions 17

5.7 Modelling elements 17

5.8 Supports 18

5.9 Column stiffness 19

5.10 Non-structural items 19

5.11 Walls 20

5.12 Beams 20

5.13 Foundations 22

5.14 Consideratin for interrupted supports and openings 23

5.15 Redistribution 23

5.16 Buckling 23

5.17 Loading 24

5.18 Construction 24

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“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 4

5.20 Changes in cross section 26

5.21 Composite construction using concrete elements 26

6 Ultimate limit state design 27

6.1 Design moment distribution (not redistribution) 27

6.2 Twisting moments 28

6.3 Classical beam theory 29

6.4 Torsion 30

6.5 P-Delta 30

6.6 Shear 31

6.7 Vertical load take down 31

6.8 Interpreting results 31

6.9 Rationalisation 32

6.10 Additional reinforcing 32

7 Serviceability limit state design 33

7.1 Deflection 33

7.2 Precamber 34

7.3 Vibration 34

8 Design 35

8.1 New programs 36

8.2 Recommended reading 36

9 Forensic engineering 37

9.1 Load sequencing 40

9.2 Anchorage of wall reinforcement 40

9.3 Backspin stiffness 41

9.4 Construction loading 41

9.5 Moments in steel support columns 41

9.6 Torsional stiffness of the band beam 41

9.7 Shrinkage restraint 41

9.8 Trusting what can be observed 42

10 Sensibility checks 42

10.1 Comparison to known limits 42

10.2 Heuristics (rules based on experience and intuition) 42

10.3 Sensitivity analysis 42

11 Validation 43

12 Closing comments 45

Appendix46

Case Study 1: Restraint effect on carpark structure 46

Case Study 2: Deflections of a concrete floor 48

Case Study 3: Royal Palm Hotel, Guam 50

Case Study 4: Sleipner offshore oil platform, North Sea 52

Case Study 5: Koro–Babeldaob Bridge, Palau 54

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 5

SUMMARY

Concrete design packages with pre/post-processors based on finite element analysis (FEA) have become a

popular method of analysing concrete slab structures for practising engineers. There are some interesting issues

that surface in the use of these packages that could catch the uninitiated off-guard. This practice note seeks to

present some common issues and potential pitfalls that arise in the modelling of concrete building structures

using these packages, especially for new users not familiar with these design packages. It provides a general

overview of the topics in finite element analysis. Readers are advised to seek further information in regard to

their specific applications and circumstances.

Keywords: Concrete, finite element, modelling, design, computers, 3-dimensional, creep, shrinkage, Poisson’s

ratio, mesh, twisting moments.

1 INTRODUCTION

Advanced concrete design packages based on finite element analysis (FEA) are popular among structural

engineers. Inexperienced engineers are drawn to FEA programs as they give them the feeling of freedom to

design almost anything an architect can envisage, from complex floors to unusual loadings, without relying on

experience.

However, if the dependence on these FEA packages is such that the engineer cannot carry out simpler

methods of analysis, his or her ability to perform a self-regulating check of their model is compromised. This

also creates a potential problem for the checking engineer (senior engineer) as it is almost impossible to check

that a complex model you have not generated yourself is correct.

There are few sources of practical advice on how to model and analyse using FEA programs. This guide

seeks to highlight some of the topics engineers must be aware of when utilising such programs. However, this

should not be considered an in-depth resource and further reading in this field is recommended.

The advantage of FEA is the ability to model complex issues such as transfer slabs, large openings, irregular

column layouts and unusual loading conditions, and to easily update calculations and adjust the structure if

changes occur. For example, for circular slabs with column supports around the outside and one column in

the centre, the equivalent slab frame method can be used but the design will be conservative without some

adjustments. FEA can handle this type of arrangement effectively without the extra adjustments.

The disadvantage of FEA in commercial finite element programs is that they require a steep learning curve

and that checking the outcomes is difficult.

This practice note discusses FEA design and analysis packages with an automatic pre/post processor,

which require fewer fundamental modelling decisions than the general FEA packages such as Strand 7, where

engineers must generate all inputs. Recently graduated engineers are normally not fully educated in the analysis

of concrete, hence errors can occur especially with modelling assumptions. Finite element design requires a

“feel” for and experience with concrete behaviour. Therefore users should not treat the software as a black box

with all the answers and should seek to understand what assumptions are made by the software in all stages of

the computations.

Most structural problems can be broken down into different classes:

1. Static analysis (linear/nonlinear stress analysis);

2. Normal modes (resonant frequencies and mode shapes);

3. Buckling behaviour (buckling coefficients and mode shapes);

4. Frequency response;

5. Random response;

6. Transient response (linear/nonlinear stress analysis).

This practice note only discusses static analysis in finite element applications.

The aim of structural modelling is to create a model that is acceptable for practical purposes. It is important to

keep in mind that we analyse a representative model of the structure, not the structure itself. The behaviour of

the model may or may not be close to the behaviour of the structure.

To create a meaningful model an engineer must appreciate the behaviour of the components that make up

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 6

the structure and be able to transform this behaviour into an analysis model.

This requires an understanding of forces and moments, plate membrane, beam and column behaviour, load

transfer, construction sequencing, deformations, cracking, yield, buckling, actual and design loads and many

other aspects.

It then requires decisions on how to model different aspects of behaviour, given the capabilities of the

available analysis methods/computer programs.

For the preliminary design of simple regular structures it is recommended that heuristics and experience be

relied upon until a working design is developed. A good reference is the Structural Engineer’s Pocket Book by

Fiona Corb. The heuristics used for preliminary design can be helpful in evaluating designs by others.

For complex or designs involving new material such as fibre composite, finite element modelling may be used

to help evaluate the preliminary designs. In these cases it is recommended that the user consider more general

software such as Strand 7 or similar so that any heuristics built into the FEA model are minimised.

• Finite element analysis returns lower bending moments or deflections – This is only true if the previous

techniques were conservative. Studies have shown that the results from FEA compared to traditional

techniques give similar results;

• Deflections will be more accurate – Previous experience indicates the best estimate of deflection is in

the range of +15% to -30% using any technique, thus FEA is only as accurate as its assumptions.

(Using the multipliers such as Kcs, as defined in AS3600-2009, in the FEA instead of modified stiffness

methods for long-term deflection will cause the analysis of deflections to become speculative rather

than calculation based);

• FEA computer programs save time – This is only true if/when the in-depth checking of the results is

omitted. Hand calculations can be used to check the models and overall a time saving maybe made;

• Using software will give accurate results – No software is “error” free. Most programs have only limited

accuracy. For example, rounding errors and modelling assumptions will have an effect on the results;

• FEA will provide “correct” design results – According to Elms 1985, “all models are wrong, some are

useful”.

FEA should be treated as a calculation with limited accuracy as to the ability to represent a concrete structure in

a model, as the model is based on many assumptions and should not be used as the only basis of design.

It is prudent to take the time to understand any design software before using it. This is especially the case with

FEA software. There are many different types of FEA software, from 3D whole-frame to 2D programs for each

floor. The common situation for a program with a complete design component is 3D analysis used to do the

load take down/lateral analysis with floors exported to a separate 2D package for reinforcement and deflection

design.

2.1 3D analysis

Normally this is a linear based analysis package with global adjustments in stiffness made to columns and floors

to correct the model (see Figure 1). The concrete is treated as an elastic material and an assumption is made that

concrete can transfer the forces as nominated in the model. This is fine for ultimate limit state if P-Delta effects

can be ignored, but for service limit state the same does not hold, hence the 2D package requirement.

2.2 2D analysis

Normally this is a nonlinear analysis package (see Figure 2). It enables the software to predict cracked concrete

properties within a set accuracy. To achieve this accuracy the software needs to be able to do the processing

interactively. Generally this is based on Branson or Bischoff modifications to Ief (effective second moment of

area), as software with the ability to take yielding of the reinforcement into account directly is considered a

rarity and generally reserved for scholarly type applications.

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 7

There are programs similar to RAPT (reinforced and post tension analysis program) which are based on FEA

but don’t create complete slab models. They should be interrogated to the same extent, but due to their simpler

nature this is less difficult.

3 MODELLING INPUTS

The following discussion in this practice note assumes the use of a 2D analysis type software package, which

enables the prediction of cracked concrete properties.

“Garbage in equals garbage out”. Selecting appropriate inputs for modelling is crucial for success.

Reinforced concrete is a material made up of reinforcing steel, aggregates, water, cementitious material (some

unhydrated), admixtures and voids.

Reinforced concrete has some unique features that distinguish its behaviour from other materials. At flexural

failure, concrete slabs develop hinge lines, which mobilise the tension reinforcement passing through the section

to resist the moment along its length. The total amount and orientation of the reinforcement along a design

section governs the collapse load.

Once a structure has cracked, the reinforcement determines the fashion in which the applied loads are

resisted. It is the orientation and the amount of reinforcement that govern the path that the load takes to the

supports. These features rely on the ability of the structure, once past the elastic limit, to redistribute forces.

Adequate ductility becomes a prerequisite; generally the reinforcement requirements contained in building

codes safeguard this ductility.

By varying the constituents of the concrete, varied results for its structural behaviour are obtained. For

example, Young’s modulus depends highly on the aggregate selected and the quantities. The properties of

concrete can be externally modified as well, such as by weather, age of loadings, workmanship and curing

conditions. The main concrete codes allow concrete to be modelled as an elastic isotropic material, but there

are a number of assumptions that are made to enable this. These assumptions will be discussed throughout this

practice note.

The flexural tensile strength of the concrete is important as the concrete cracks once the tensile strength of the

concrete is exceeded in the extreme fibre. In AS3600-2009 the tensile strength (modulus of rupture) is taken as

0.6√ f’c MPa (f’c is the characteristic compressive cylinder 28 day strength). The standard is silent on lightweight

concrete.

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 8

AS3600-2009 0.6√f’c

ACI 0.62√f’c

IS456 0.7√fck (fck = Characteristic compressive cube strength)

CSA A23 0.6λ√f’c

λ = 1.00 for normal density concrete

λ=0 .85 for semi low density concrete in which all of the fine aggregate is natural sand

λ=0 .75 for semi low density concrete in which none of the fine aggregate is natural sand

Eurocode 2 0.21fck^2/3

SABA 0100 0.5√f’c

The author recommends referring to the Canadian concrete code (CSA A23) for reference of lightweight

concrete values or requesting testing from manufacture. The tensile strength has an influence on the deflection

of slabs and shallow beams through tension stiffening.

The value reported by various investigators for the flexural tensile strength varies from 0.33√f’c MPa to 1.0√f’c

MPa. Table 1 shows the flexural tensile strength in some of the international codes. The deformation values can vary

by up to 40% using different expressions of flexural tensile strength. The tensile strength is highly variable, therefore

higher and lower bounds should be considered when evaluating critical deflections.

Factors affecting

modulus of

elasticity of

concrete

Volume Elastic

Moisture state Elastic Volume

fraction of modulus

of the concrete modulus of fraction of the

cement paste of the

at loading cement paste aggregate

and porosity aggregate

Concrete is a composite inhomogeneous material with non-linear behaviour. Most codes allow it to be modelled

as a linear isotropic material with limitations imposed. The value of elastic modulus can vary markedly depending

on aggregate type, workmanship, time and curing condition to name a few (see Figure 3).

Researchers have established several empirical equations for predicting the elastic modulus of concrete.

AS3600-2009 gives an equation based on the mean compressive strength. It should be noted that the code points

out that the Ej (Young’s modulus) can vary by 20% under good conditions. This should be taken into account

when assessing the deflections. A sensitivity analysis varying the time dependent parameters is recommended.

Normally taken as 0 to 0.2, these values ensure the compressive stresses are overestimated, which is acceptable for

concrete models and important for cracked sections. Conversely, in the primary reinforcement areas a minimum

of 20% of primary reinforcement should be provided in the transverse direction to account for errors relating to

the Poisson Ratio and transverse strength requirements.

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 9

References:

• AS5100.5-2004, Australian Standard for Bridge Design, Part 5: Concrete, Standards Australia 2004.

• AS3600-2009, Australian Standard for Concrete Structures, Standards Australia 2004.

• Lamonf, J.F. & Pielert, J.H. 2006, “Significance of tests and properties of concrete and concrete making

materials”, ASTM (the US testing and materials society) International Standard Worldwide, p 169.

• Cobb, F. 2008, Structural Engineer’s Pocket Book, 2nd Edition.

• Webster, R. & Brooker, O. “How to design concrete structures using the Eurocode”, The Concrete

Centre.

4.1 Creep

Creep is a phenomenon whereby the compressive strain in the concrete increases over time under constant

compressive stress. All building materials experience creep (plastic flow) strains. When added to the elastic

strains this can increase deflection for concrete spanning members by a factor of 2 to 7. The quantity depends

on many factors. Age at and duration of loading, environment, and proportioning of materials are some of the

main factors. To accurately predict the creep, deflections would require a large amount of effort with regards

to testing etc. The methods available to predict an upper bound deflection including the creep are the age-

adjusted effective modulus method (AEMM) and Eurocode 2. These two methods would be appropriate under

the AS3600-2009 code.

Creep shortening is important in vertical members, especially if different materials are used for the vertical

elements such as a steel truss core with concrete columns, shear walls with concrete columns or if columns

have different stress levels; this results in differential deflections. This creates extra stresses in the column slab

connections and, if the building is not symmetrical, will cause sway deflections (this is under vertical loading

and is a permanent condition).

Creep should be considered for any other permanent loading conditions, such as water, earth and equipment

loads. These loads can be either vertical or horizontal; for the horizontal loading, careful consideration needs

to be given to these effects to ensure the building doesn’t become unstable over time. Rule of thumb for tall

buildings: A good way to mitigate for moderate differential vertical creep is to ensure the entire vertical concrete

elements have the same average stress under long-term loads with the same concrete properties.

4.2 Shrinkage

The reinforcement restraint induced curvature should be included in the calculations for deflection, whereas

the supports restraint effects will be discussed further under volume change (see below). Shrinkage curvature

depends on the water/cement ratio, relative humidity and the size and shape of the member. The effect of

shrinkage in an asymmetrically reinforced section is to induce a curvature that can lead to significant deflection

in shallow members. Gilbert and others have proposed curvature equations based on the reinforcement in the

slabs/beams. This effect should be considered in the deflection calculations; it is included in the AEMM through

the equation below as suggested by Gilbert et al. fcs is the maximum shrinkage induced tensile stress on the

uncracked section at the extreme fibre at which cracking occurs and may be taken as

1.5 p

fcs = E

1 + 50 p s cs

where p is the reinforcement ratio (Ast /bd), εcs the final design shrinkage strain and Es the Young modulus of steel.

Volume change due to thermal loads, shrinkage and creep causes forces and strains to build up in restrained

concrete members; these actions should not be ignored. These strains can cause tensile stress in beams and slabs

and shear/moments in columns (see Figure 4). Since the volume changes take place over a period of time, the

effect of shortening on shear and moments is reduced due to creep and micro-cracking effects.

This causes the estimation of restraint forces to be problematic at best, with assumptions for connections,

footings etc playing a major role. For instance, if you assume fixed foundation supports, the forces will be

overestimated. Conversely, if you assume pin foundations, the forces will be underestimated. Thus slab restraint

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 10

cracking is the most common cause of deflection estimates being significantly different to recorded values.

The question is how you determine the amount of restraint. Some programs account for shrinkage restraint

caused by the reinforcing, few account for restraint forces.

A published method which attempts to give a method for calculating the restraint forces is the method

proposed by PCI (Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute). The analysis method involves the use of an equivalent

shortening principle. This allows you to compute a tensile force in the slab. This can then be used to adjust the

expected tensile strength of the concrete to assess deflections.

It can be used to work out forces imposed on columns similar to Figure 4 (see Cl 3.4 on volume change in the

PCI Precast Design Handbook 6th edition). The forces for volume change are larger and real and if not detailed

appropriately can cause problems (see Figure 5).

James Deaton provides a method for using the temperature load Tsh in the analysis package to estimate

restraint forces due to shrinkage. This method is similar to M. H. Baluch, et al.

sh

Tsh =

εsh = specified shrinkage strain

α = coeff. of thermal expansion

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 11

Alternative

positions

Figure 6a : Location of movement joints.

Figure 6b: Alternative layouts of walls and columns for different levels of restraint.

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 12

In an investigation of a carpark (see Figure 5) he found that if concrete joints had been provided, this would

have relieved shrinkage stress by a factor of 3.5. Spacing of contraction joints at 30m, instead of 95m, would

have been more appropriate.

For typical concrete structures, a qualitative approach to volume-change design is recommended as opposed

to explicit calculation of volume-change forces. Designers may rely on previous experience. Advice on primary

joint spacing for different building types can be variable and conflicting, recommending between 25m and 60m

depending on the wall layouts and pour strips. It is recommended that previous success in your local area

should be reviewed for selection of joint spacing. Secondary movement joints should be considered for walls

and finishes as required.

For atypical structures, movement joints should be considered in locations of change in building configuration

(as shown in Figure 6a).

Lockable dowels are beginning to gain wide acceptance as an alternative to delayed pour strips and careful

consideration needs to be given to how much force will be transferred to the dowels after they are locked and

how cracking can be controlled as load transfers from the slabs and into the dowel. Careful consideration should

also be paid to what areas may need to be waterproofed.

Layout of walls and columns affects the build-up of strains and stresses within the structure. Careful

consideration of wall layouts can reduce these forces significantly. See Figure 6b for an idealised good and poor

layout of walls and columns with regards to these restraint forces.

4.4 Temperature

Temperature changes in a member cause thermal expansion and contraction. Because the heat source is generally

only on one side of the member, the expansion will be asymmetric which in turn can cause tensile stress and lead

to extra deflections. This asymmetric expansion occurs in addition to the overall volume change as discussed

above. It is important for members in roofs, walls and in any other position where they are exposed to the

weather.

This effect is perhaps at its most extreme when wide precast hollow-core panels unreinforced in their

transverse direction are exposed to thermal loads. A perfect storm of factors are at play here as:

• the holes act to reduce heat transfer

• the holes act as crack inducers

• the deflected geometry of the steel support beams exacerbates the transverse arching effect

• there is often no reinforcement to carry the resultant loads.

The above issue was highlighted to spectacular effect at a car parking structure in Canberra in 2002 when one

of the large number of longitudinal cracks intersected with a saw cut around a column and partially collapsed a

section of panel. Fortunately the panel only fell 80mm before getting caught on a cleat that was a shop detailing

error. Longitudinal cracking is as closely spaced as 300mm and confined almost exclusively to areas exposed to

the sun and rain.

Finite element modelling of the panels under thermal loads identified the pointed apex of the panel voids

(top side only) as a significant contributor to the phenomenon.

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 13

Because temperature does not often affect the ultimate limit state of the structure, any deflection due to

temperature is sometimes not considered in design. For uncracked members, effects of temperature can be

included in deflection calculations in a relatively straightforward manner. For statically indeterminate systems

after cracking, the deflections, stiffness and temperature are inter-related, and an alternative procedure is

required for a correct solution. ACI 435.7R-85 (1997) provides guidance for this analysis.

Movement due to temperature can lead to problems with joints and sealants as it will cause tensile stress and

fatigue in the sealants. This should be taken into account when selecting sealants for multistorey buildings, in

situations where sealant replacement is expensive. For roof slabs a 25m maximum spacing for movement joints

should be considered.

4.5 Cracking

Deflection of structure is directly related to the amount of cracking. Cracking should be analysed in all directions

and not just assumed. Tension stiffening plays a major role in determining the amount of deflection for concrete

slabs. It is necessary to know the time of first cracking; this is of interest if the construction loadings are higher

than the service loadings, as once the slab has cracked the loss in stiffness is permanent. Figure 8 shows the

tension stiffening effect on a load versus deflection curve.

The concept of effective moment of inertia, Ief , to reflect the concrete cracking was conceived originally by

Branson. He assumed bilinear load-deflection behaviour of a cracked section and proposed Ief as a function

of the level of cracking. This concept has been developed further by others and most programs will give you a

selection of different methods, through the selection of different deflection models.

Tension stiffening, δΔ

Deflection assuming

Load no cracking

E B D

Actual response

Pservice

Concrete carries no

A C tension anywhere

P

Figure 8: Typical

cr

load v’s deflection relationship.

Concrete carries no tension

The concept of effective moment of inertia, Ief , regions

in the cracked to reflect the concrete cracking was

conceived originally by Branson. He assumed bilinear load-deflection behaviour of a cracked

section and proposed Ief as a function of the level of cracking. This concept has been

developed further 0 by others and most programs will giveDeflection you a selection of different methods,

through

Figure 8: Typical the selection

load versus of different deflection models.

deflection relationship.

Branson’s

Branson’s Formula formula

For a given

For cross-section, Ief is

Ief is calculated

a given cross-section, calculated

using Branson’susing Branson’s

formula (Branson,formula

1963): (Branson, 1963):

M

m

M

m

I ef cr* I g 1 cr*

I cr

Ms M s

where moment

Icr is the second Icr is theofsecond

area of moment of area Iofisthe

the fully-cracked; thefully-cracked;

second moment Iof g is theofsecond

area moment

the gross concreteof area

g

section about of the gross concrete

its centroidal axis; Msection

s

is the about

maximum its centroidal

bending momentaxis; M is the

ats the maximum

section and Mcrbending moment at

the cracking

moment. the section,

For AS3600-2009 a value for the index m of 3 is used, because it averages the effective section over the span

of the beam. Branson recommended a value of 4 be used as discrete sections are to be utilised. Several authors

For AS3600-2009 a value for m of 3 is used, because it averages the effective section over

have suggested a “modified Branson” model to include modifications to the formula and vary m with different

reinforcement theratios.

span of the beam. Branson recommended a value of 4 be used as discrete sections are to

While the beACI

utilised. Several authors

and Australian standardshave suggested

use Branson, a “modified

Eurocode Branson”

2 uses the Bischoff model

method.to include

modifications to the equation and vary m with different reinforcement ratios.

Engineers Australia

While the ACI and Australian standards use Branson, Eurocode 2 uses the Bischoff method.

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 14

Bischoff’s (2005) Formula

I cr

I ef

m

1 1 I cr M cr

I M *

gt

s

For Eurocode 2 a value for m of 2 is adopted. Icr is the second moment of area of the fully-cracked section; Ms is the

maximum bending moment at the section. In Brischoff’s Formula Gilbert has recommended the use of the transformed

For Eurocode

second moment of2area,a value for

Igt . β is m of that

a factor 2 isallows

adopted.

for loss of tension stiffening.

It is important to understand that these theories are all based on different tests upon which they were developed.

Each

where equation

Icr is has

the asecond

set validity range. Branson’s

moment of area offormula/theory was developed

the fully-cracked from

section; Msmedium

is the reinforcement

maximum ratios,

while Bischoff’s was based on lighter reinforcement ratios. Knowing the validity range for the methods used within

bending moment at the section. In Brischoff’s Equation Gilbert has recommended the use of

the software is important. For slabs with lighter reinforcement ratios Bischoff’s Formula is recommended.

the transformed second moment of area, Igt. is a factor that allows for loss of tension

4.6 Long-term deflections

stiffening.

AS3600-2009 allows a multiplier Kcs for long-term deflections which includes an allowance for compression steel.

This has created confusion as often the steel in the top of slabs was considered to be compression reinforcing.

It is important to understand that these theories are all based on different tests upon which

For compression reinforcing to have an effect on long-term creep, the reinforcement must at least be in the top

theyofwere

half developed.zone

the compression Eachγkudequation

, not just athas

theacompression

set validityface of theBranson’s

range. member where formula/theory was or

it may be in tension

developed

low from

compression medium

stress reinforcement

and will have no effect onratios,

creep.while Bischoff’s was based on lighter

This issue has ratios.

reinforcement been clarified

Knowingin thethe

latest editionrange

validity of the for

code. A general

the methods ruleused

of thumb

within is for

theasoftware

slab thickness

is

of less than 250mm, compression reinforcement will not affect long-term deflection significantly other than to

important. For slabs with lighter reinforcement ratios Bischoff’s theory is recommended.

provide symmetric reinforcement which in turn reduces shrinkage curvature. The AEMM or Eurocode methods

are far superior methods for estimating the deflection. They should be used for long-term deflection estimates.

The Kcs method is not usable for PT (post-tensioned) slabs or beams.

4.6.

TheLong-term deflections

Kcs multiplier fails to take into account reinforcement induced shrinkage and also ignores shrinkage and

creep features of concrete. The author’s opinion is that the Kcs multiplier should be removed from AS3600-2009.

AS3600-2009

At best it will giveallows a multiplier

a “ballpark” Kcs for long-term

on the predicted deflections

deflections and which

at worst could includes

lead an allowance

to serviceability problems

for compression steel.

for the structure in question. This has created confusion as often the steel in the top of slabs was

considered to be compression reinforcing. For compression reinforcing to have an effect on

References:

long-term

• Shen,creep, theH.reinforcement

P., Fang, & Xia, X. 2009, must

“Effectatofleast be increep

concrete the and

top shrinkage

half of the

on compression zone and

tall hybrid-structures

its countermeasures”, Frontiers of Architecture and Civil Engineering in

γ , not just at the compression face of the member where it may be in tension or low China, pp. 234-239.

kud

• Gilbert, R.I. & Ranzi, G. 2011, Time-dependent behaviour of concrete structures, Taylor & Francis, UK.

compression stress and will have no effect on creep.

• Gilbert, R.I. 2008, “Calculation of long-term deflection”, paper presented at the CIA Seminar of

Control of Long-term Deflection, Brisbane.

This issue has been clarified in the latest edition of the code. A general rule of thumb is for a

• Doug J, 2009, “Predicting the deflection of concrete structures in practice”, paper presented at the

slab thickness of less than

Concrete Solutions 250mm, compression

09 conference, Sydney. reinforcement will not affect long-term

deflection significantly

• Gilbert, other than cracking

R.I. 2001, “Shrinkage, to provideandsymmetric

deflection –reinforcement which

the serviceability in turnstructures”,

of concrete reduces

shrinkage curvature.

Electronic JournalThe AEMMEngineering,

of Structural or Eurocode pp.methods

2-14. are far superior methods for

estimating theR.I.

• Gilbert, deflection.

1988, TimeThey

effectsshould be used

in concrete for long-term

structures, deflection

Elsevier Science estimates.

Publishers, The K

Amsterdam, p cs

321.

method is notR.I.

• Gilbert, usable

1992,for PT (post-tensioned)

“Shrinkage slabs

cracking in fully or beams.

restrained concrete members”, ACI Structural Journal,

Vol. 89, No. 2, March-April 1992, pp. 141-149.

• KGilbert,

The R.I. 1999, “Deflection Calculations for reinforced concrete structures – why we sometimes get it

cs multiplier fails to take into account reinforcement induced shrinkage and also ignores

wrong” ACI structural journal 96 (6), pp. 1027-1032.

shrinkage and creep features of concrete. The author’s opinion is that the Kcs multiplier

• Scanlon, A. & Bischoff, P.H. 2008, “Shrinkage restraint and loading history effects on deflections of

shouldflexural

be removed from AS3600-2009. At best it will give a “ballpark” on the predicted

members”, ACI Structural Journal, Vol 105, issue 4, pp. 498-506.

deflections and at worst could lead to serviceability problems for the structure in question.

• Gilbert, R.I. 2007, “Tension stiffening in lightly reinforced concrete slabs”, Journal of Structural

Engineering American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Vol. 133, No. 6, pp 899-903

• ACI Committee 435, 1985, “Observed deflections of reinforced concrete – slab systems, and causes of large

deflections”, SP 86-2 ACI Journal, US.

• Gilbert, R.I. & Kilpatrick, A. 2001, “Improved prediction of the long-term deflections of reinforced concrete

flexural members”, Proceedings fib Symposium, Prague.

19 | P a g e

• Klein, G.J. & Lindenberg, R.E. 2009, “Volume-change response of precast concrete buildings”, PCI Journal

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 15

• Deaton, J.B. & Kahn, L.F. 2010, “Lessons learned from forensic FEA of failed RC structures”, paper presented

at the ACI Fall 2010 Convention.

• Iqbal, M. 2010, “Design of expansion joints in parking structures”, Structure Magazine, Oct 2010, pp. 12-14.

• DeSerio, J.N. 1971, “Thermal and shrinkage stresses – they damage structures!”, American Concrete Institute

Special Publication pp. 43-49.

• ACI Committee 435, 1985, “State-of-the-art report on temperature-induced deflections of reinforced concrete

members”, SP 86, ACI Manual of Concrete Practice, Part 3.

• Jenkins, D. 2006, “Prediction of cracking and deflections, international code provisions and recent research”,

paper presented at the Concrete Institute of Australia seminar, Sydney, 2006.

• Liao, S., Klein, G., Mikhlin, Y. & Grossman, J.S. 2010, “Vertical structural deformation estimation and control

for a deformation-sensitive building”, Structure Magazine, Sept, 2010, pp. 34-36.

• Pfeiffer, M.J. & Darwin, D. 1987, “Expansion joints in buildings”, Federal Construction Council Technical

Report No 65.

• Baluch, M.H. Rahman, M.K. & Mahmoud, I.A. 2008, “Calculating drying-shrinkage stresses”, Concrete

International, Vol 30, No 07, pp. 37-41.

• ACI Committee 435, 1985 (reapproved 1997), “State of the art report on temperature induced deflections of

reinforced concrete members”, SP 86 ACI Journal, US

5 MODELLING DECISIONS

Commercial concrete design software allows limited specific types of elements for building design. These are

generally plate and beam elements for reinforced concrete, with shell elements used for PT slabs. The plates can

be in the form of triangles and squares with either nodes at corners, or at corners and mid-edges (see Figure 9).

It should be noted that these types of elements are only of use for flexure design and should not be used

for bearing or shear applications (span on depth <10). For the latter applications brick elements should be

considered, which are not available in most commercial concrete FEA programs discussed in this practice note.

Accordingly, reference to other methods is required to supplement the finite element models.

5.2 Size

The selection of the size of elements is paramount to the accuracy of the design. Since the only place where forces

are calculated is at the nodes, the number of these is important for the accuracy of the models. For example, for

a 100m long beam modelled with three nodes, mistakes are certain and the model is unacceptable. Alternatively,

by using the same beam and providing nodes at 1m centres the model is more likely to be acceptable.

Rule of thumb: The size of the elements for slabs and beam modelling mesh size should be no greater than

1m, span/10 or half width of load patch.

4 Nodes 8 nodes

3 nodes 6 nodes

Figure 9: Typical element types.

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 16

5.3 Meshing

Most FEA programs do the meshing automatically; the larger plates that have been entered by the engineer get

turned into a smaller matrix. The engineer must assess the finesse of the mesh; generally the automated meshing

options will give choices of density. Figure 10 shows a typical surface member before and after meshing.

When a coarse mesh is selected, the results will not give an accurate representation of the structure,

particularly near supports, openings and under load points. Conversely, if too fine a mesh is selected, excessive

time to compute can be a problem. The maximum hogging moments the FEA shows will be affected by the size

of the mesh. The finer the mesh generally the more intense the support moment.

Given the software will do this automatically, it is advisable during the modelling stages to use a coarse mesh

to refine the model and to ensure it is error free, and to use the finer mesh for design. This reduces the time for

modelling and increases the accuracy for design.

Items to look for when assessing the fitness of the automatically generated mesh include:

• Mesh near re-entrant corners or sharply curved edges;

• Mesh in the vicinity of concentrated (point) loads, concentrated reactions, cracks and cut-outs;

• Changes in mesh in the interior of structures with abrupt changes in thickness, material properties or

cross sectional sizes;

• When stress maximums are of interest, check whether the stress contours are smooth in the highly

stressed areas and whether the stress changes across an element are appropriate.

Discontinuity areas or D-regions are parts of a structure with a complex variation in strain. They include portions

near abrupt changes in geometry (geometrical discontinuities) or concentrated forces (static discontinuity).

Based on St Venant’s principle, a D-region spans about one section depth on either side of the discontinuity.

Beams, flat plates and shells cannot be used to model D-regions. Finite element models are seldom capable of

reproducing the complexities of boundary conditions and related stress disturbances in the beam column joints.

Therefore commercial FEA programs should be limited to applications were the Bernoulli principle would be

applicable (see Figure 11).

between B-regions and D-regions

(with B-regions being parts of

a structure in which Bernoulli’s

hypothesis of straight-line strain

profiles applies).

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 17

In regard to D-regions it is recommended that further analysis is undertaken to ensure adequate reinforcing

is provided. Good complementary analysis methods for this are strut-tie analysis or specialist non-linear finite

element applications.

5.5 Shape

Meshing is normally carried out by the computer. However, the user needs to ensure a well-conditioned model

is created. To ensure the model is acceptable the ratio of shapes should not exceed 1:4 (the minimum length to

maximum length). It is important to ensure that in the areas in the model where forces change rapidly more

nodes are present to ensure accurate results are obtained. Figure 12 shows examples of good and bad shapes

for meshing.

Design packages often require restraint conditions to be specified at the boundary edges. The forces generated

need to be transferred to boundary elements. The design package will not check the validity of these boundary

conditions and the engineer must do so. For example, a slab or beam framing into a thin wall may be closer

to pinned than fixed. It is important that boundary conditions are reviewed for different loading stages, as the

boundary conditions may change significantly from lower to higher loads.

Boundary conditions will vary from full 3D to 2D models and a continual review of the boundary conditions

at these different analysis points is required. For 2D packages the support conditions at columns and walls need

to be consistent with the stiffness of the columns and walls (see the discussion on supports below). In 2D the

best results are given when column walls are modelled representative of their stiffness.

FEA programs require faithful modelling of the geometry accompanied by engineering judgement. Most

software packages offer a limited number of modelling elements – plates (shell for PT) and beams.

Plate elements are generally triangular or quadrilateral, with nodes at corners and sometimes include

additional nodes on the sides (see Figure 9).

Beam elements are used to model narrow beams, while plate elements are used to model wider beams. This

is due to the accuracy of the slab bending moment when beam width increases for beam elements. AS3600-2009

allows moments to be taken at an offset distance from the face of the supports such as beams for slabs and

columns for beams (Clause 6.2.3 AS3600-2009).

Engineers must keep in mind when modelling beams that torsional stiffness is important. While most

programs allow the torsional stiffness to be ignored when modelling beams, for plates this isn’t possible. This

must be taken into account for deflections where the reduction in stiffness due to cracking in torsion can be in

the vicinity of 90%. In programs where plate elements are used to design deep beams torsional stiffness may be

based on the cube of the depth rather than the cube of the width.

When a structure is not dependent on torsional resistance for equilibrium, most codes say that torsion can

be ignored. Nevertheless, if torsional stiffness is present in a computer model, torsion and the torsional stresses

developed must be included in the design. The author has found a varying array of ways that torsion is handled

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 18

by programs; the engineer must understand the assumptions implicit in their design and the computer package

being used.

Curves and circles are only able to be modelled by straight edge shapes. This should be kept in mind when

modelling, as a large mesh will give inaccurate answers. Figure 13 gives an example of this.

Figure 13: Circular meshing.

5.8 Supports

Finite element analysis programs presume that the bending of the beams and columns continues to the centre

of the beam/column joint. While this is fine for small structures with slight column and beam sizes, this is not

satisfactory for structures where the beam/column joints have larger dimensions (ie 1m x 1m) and where the

concrete is shearing – not bending.

There are ways to fool FEA software into thinking that the bending stops at the face of the beam/column

joint, but then the shear calculations may not be properly analysed. Some software programs perform this trick

well, while others do it poorly. Rigid offsets and thicker “dummy” areas are two possible methods as shown in

Figure 14. Reference should be made to the concrete code as to the location of the bending moment for design.

Infinitely sff link

(rigid offset)

thicker area rigid offset

Figure 14: Alternative methods for modelling the area of the column.

It is important to model supports in concrete slabs as accurately as possible. Supports modelled correctly

enable bending moments for punching shear calculations to be appropriate (important for edge and corner

columns in flat slabs). If the corner and edge columns are modelled as pin-roller supports, bending moment

inaccuracies in the forces around the support will be present. This could cause punching shear problems at loads

less than the ultimate design load.

The ways in which the columns are modelled can vary drastically, from the most inaccurate way at a single

node to the more appropriate ways using rigid offsets or modelling a thicker area over the column. Neither of

these latter methods is perfect, but they will provide more correct deflection than a single node support. Plastic

assumptions are not possible in FEA.

Slabs to walls can be modelled in different ways. Some finite element packages use zipper elements to allow

the walls to be meshed independently from the slabs. These zipper elements can allow larger moments to be

transferred than preferred by the designer. So it is important to check the transfer of moments between elements.

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 19

5.9 Column stiffness heavily loaded columns or lightly loaded columns. Column stiffness can vary from 0.4I to

g

Saint-Venant’s theory for1.2Ig .

torsion is used for equivalent column stiffness when calculating the bending moments

using the strip method. The equivalent columns theory has been shown to be a good theory for ultimate strength

design. It does have its Therefore

shortcomings for deflection

it needs to be takendesign. Care is

into account in required foraslarger

the model, spansbyorElwood,

explained significant

K. J. and

difference in length. Eberhard, M. O.:

This problem doesn’t exist with FEA programs as all parts of the building are modelled. However, the

column stiffness still needs to be“For

modelled. Some

example, programs

a low willofset

estimate thethe columnstiffness

effective stiffnessoftocolumns

0.7Ig forin

design, but

a moment-

this is only true for a particularresisting

load andframe

not correct for heavily loaded columns or lightly loaded columns.

usually leads to a conservative (high) estimate of the displacement

Column stiffness can vary from 0.4Ig to 1.2Ig.

demands. In contrast, a low estimate of the effective stiffness for columns in a shear-

Therefore it needs to be taken into account in the model, as explained by Elwood, K. J. and Eberhard, M. O.:

wall building would lead the designer to conservatively underestimate the elastic

“For example, a low estimate

shearof the effective

demands on thestiffness of columns in a moment-resisting frame

columns.”

usually leads to a conservative (high) estimate of the displacement demands. In contrast, a low

estimate of the effective stiffness

Edge and cornerforcolumns

columnsareinoften

a shear-wall

reducedbuilding would

in stiffness duelead the designer

to cracking. Careto

should be taken

conservatively underestimate the elastic shear demands on the columns.”

in reducing the column stiffness especially with punching shear. Care should also be taken in

Edge and corner columns are often reduced

over-estimating in stiffness

the stiffness due to cracking.

and attracting Care should

more moment be taken

to the column in reducing

than should be. The

the column stiffness especially with punching shear. Care should also be taken in

detailing of the joint should match or exceed this assumption. over-estimating the stiffness

and attracting more moment to the column than should be. The detailing of the joint should match or exceed

this assumption. Elwood and Eberhard proposed the following values for column effective stiffness

Elwood and Eberhard proposed the following values for column effective stiffness:

EI ef P

= 0.2 ≤ 0.2

EI g Ag f c '

EI ef 5P 4 P

= − 0.2 < ≤ 0.5

EI g 3 Ag f c 30 Ag f c '

EI ef P

= 0.7 0.5 <

EI g Ag f c '

Where P isand

the A is the

axial

g

gross

load area

in the of the and

column column.

Ag isMore advanced

the gross formulas

area of for effective

the column.

stiffness have been developed by researchers in recent times. These should be considered if better effective

stiffness models are required

Moreinadvanced

complex formulas

or seismicfor applications. Figure have

effective stiffness 15 shows

been the basic stiffness

developed equations

by researchers in recent

for columns for checking of models.

times. These should be considered if better effective stiffness models are required in complex

or seismic applications. Figure 15 shows the basic stiffness equations for columns for

checking of models.

4EI1 3EI1

L1 L1 L1 L1

4EI2 L2 3EI2 L2

L2 L2

28 | P a g e

Figure 15: Modelling column stiffness.

Non-structural items can affect buildings in many different ways. They can cause significant changes to the

behaviour of the structure. For instance, the framing of full-height interior walls in buildings can affect damping.

Masonry infill walls can cause short columns, which will attract extra loads due to stiffness being proportionate

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 20

to roughly a cube of their length. Such higher loads, especially lateral loads due to earthquakes or wind, must

be taken into account.

Figure 16 shows some common situations that create short columns. These should be avoided if possible.

However, if short columns are required, attention must be paid to detailing to ensure that the column can handle

the forces and displacements until the full moment or brace frame are fully activated.

It is recommended that non-structural items that can or will affect the structure be included in the models.

Load

Load

Load Load

Load

Load Load

Load

Short by Short

Short column

column created

rt column created Short ccolumn

olumn ccreated

reated Short column

Short column

Short created

column created

created created

masonry infill walls.

by masonry infill walls byby

sloping

sloping ground.

ground by

by structural

structural layout.

layout

masonry infill walls by sloping ground by structural layout

The The stiffness

stiffness ofof aa column

column iis

s aapproximately

pproximately aa ccube

ube of ofit's

itslength.

length.HHence,

ence the the short column

short

stiffness of a column is approximately a cube can

of it's

take length.

up toH8x ence the short

or more the load of the longer columns due to equal displacements.

column take can take up to 8x or more the load of the longer longer columns due

umn take can take up to 8x or more the load of the longer longer columns due

Figure 16: Multistorey frames to equal with short columns in unloaded versus loaded conditions.

displacements

equal displacements

Figure 16: Multistorey frames with short columns in unloaded versus loaded conditions.

ultistorey frames with short columns in unloaded versus loaded conditions.

5.11 Walls

It is recommended

Wall elements that non-structural

are normally modelled as verticalitems that

plates. canengineer

The or will affect

needs the structure

to decide be included

if this in There

is suitable.

ded that non-structural items that can or will affect the structure be included in

are manythe models.

possible support conditions, such as knife edge, with walls free to uplift or not. Slabs with corners can

develop corner levers as shown in Figure 17.

The Figure shows the bending moment distribution that results from the corner restrained for uplift and the

yield line5.11.

pattern.Walls

These bending moments can be seen in finite element models. They can become large in skew

slabs with acute angles. In this application extra reinforcement above the code minimums might be required.

Wall elements are normally modelled as vertical plates. The engineer needs to decide if this is

Depending

are normally modelled on the plates.

as vertical design it

The canengineer

be important

needs to account

decide iffor

toconditions, thiscorner levers in the modelling. This corner

suitable. There are many possible support suchisas knife edge, with walls free to

condition produces Mxy moments which will be discussed later.

are many possible support conditions,

uplift(e)or not. Slabssuch

with as knife can

edge, with walls free to as shown in Figure 17.

Cl 9.1.3.3 AS3600-2009 hascorners develop

a detailing requirementcorner levers

for these areas to ensure that, if corner levers develop,

labs with corners can doesn’t

cracking developbecome

corneruncontrolled.

levers as shown in Figure

Rombach 17. that approximately 20% of a slab edge will attempt to

suggests

The

uplift with Figure

a 13% showsinthe

increase bending

bending moment

moment anddistribution

an increase that resultsreactions

in support from the in

corner restrained

the walls for is able

if the wall

ows the bending moment distribution

uplift and the that

yield results

line from

pattern.

to uplift. Figure 18 shows this phenomenon. the

These corner

bendingrestrained

moments for

can be seen in finite element models.

yield line pattern. These bending

They moments

can become largecan

in be seen

skew in finite

slabs element

with acute models.

angles. In this application extra

5.12 Beams

me large in skew slabs with acute angles. In this application extra

reinforcement above the code minimums might be required.

above the code FEA programsmight

minimums presumebe that everything is co-linear and co-planar. In reference to a concrete structure, to design

required.

a T-beamDepending

properly, the slabdesign

on the shoulditbe

canmodelled at a different

be important to accountelevation to the

for corner beam

levers andmodelling.

in the integral as with the

beam.

This corner

the design it can be important conditionfor

to account produces Mxy moments

corner levers which will be discussed later.

in the modelling.

ndition produces Mxy moments which will be discussed later.

Engineers Australia

30 | P a g e

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 21

Secon A

M*2

Secon A

yield line

Figure 17: Corner levers.

Depending on the computer package the beams can be modelled using different techniques, the most common

being with horizontal level of centroids for the beam and slab matching. When the centroids match the beam,

effective depth needs to be increased for the eccentricity (for PT slabs this is not recommended and the model

should correctly represent the depth and centroid of the beam). Figure 19 shows that the equivalent beam can

be of substantial depth compared to the depth of the T-beam web for the example provided.

To ensure all the moments within the T-beam it is also important that effective flange width is used to size

the reinforcing in the beam.

Engineers Australia

centroid of the beam). Figure 19 shows that the equivalent beam can be of substantial depth

compared to the depth of the T-beam web for the example provided.

“FEA in thewithin

designtheof

T-beam it is also

reinforced importantbuildings”

concrete that effective flange width 22

is used to size the reinforcing in the beam.

Figure 19: Depth of equivalent beam hw. Extract from G.A. Rombach

Figure 19: Depth of equivalent beam hw (Extract from G.A. Rombach)

|P a g e

by slabs at the bottom of the beam rather than at the top, additional ‘hanging

reinforcement’ is required to supplement the normal shear reinforcement. Many programs will not supplement

the reinforcement as required so these situations may need to be independently checked. This problem is most

significant in short heavily loaded beams.

The above should not be confused with suspension zone reinforcement which again may not be adequately

catered for within a given design program.

5.13 Foundations

Generally foundations are between fully fixed and pinned and should be modelled as partially fixed or by way

of another conservative assumption depending on the action being considered. If you are limited to fixed and

pinned foundations it is recommended you model both cases to ensure the worst case effect is computed.

Most FEA packages allow the user to enter soil properties at different locations and estimate settlements.

This is useful on buildings with mat foundations that might be subject to differential settlement. Differential

settlement can be caused by many situations: varying loads, varying strata, clay shrink/swell, water table

variations and varying properties of the soils.

FEA programs will vary in how they model the soil conditions, with different programs using different

approaches. Some of the approaches support settlement input directly, spring supports, equivalent elements and

volume 3D elements.

Use of this feature to estimate settlements should be approached with consultation of the geotechnical

engineer on the project. Most good geotechnical engineers will be able to provide the properties required for the

different methods such that the settlements estimated by the software are similar to the settlements estimated

by the geotechnical engineer. Acceptable settlements given by different published sources are listed in Table 2.

(flexible) foundations

McDonald and Skemption 75mm clays 40mm clays

(1955–56) 50mm sands 25mm sands

Maximum angular distortion L/300

Sowers (1962) 50–100mm L/300

Bjerrum (1963) Not total maximum recommended L/150

European Committee for 50mm 20mm (L/300)

Standardization of Differential

Settlements parameters

Differential settlement rather than settlement itself is the main concern with concrete buildings. Buildings can

accept large settlements providing the differential settlements are within tolerable limits. Differential settlement

can lead to unexpected cracking and tilting of the building (see Figure 20).

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 23

Properties for use in your FEA package for the soils should be sought from the geotechnical engineer on

the project or other reliable sources. It is unlikely that the FEA program will be able to help with estimates of

differential settlement due to clay shrink/swell. Other references and programs such as SLOGS, AS2870 and

RAFTS are available to assist in this.

Soil reports only provide the designer with total settlement results. A general rule of thumb is that even

with ostensibly homogeneous soils, differential settlement should be assumed to be half the total settlement. It

is recommended that you consult with the geotechnical engineer on the project for specific recommendations.

Infinite stresses, both shear and bending, can be developed at the edge of line and point supports due to

numerical modelling. These peaks are not actual stresses and are created from the modelling process. If the

discontinuity in the line support is smaller than 15 times the depth, Rombach suggests that you can ignore

these in your bending analysis. Alternatively, if your opening is greater than 15 times the depth, it is suggested

that engineering judgment be used to decide on the redistribution required for the theoretical bending moment

versus the numerical results.

Support problems can occur for other reasons such as closely spaced walls. In these situations results will

show sharp peaks in the bending moments, shear and support reactions. This is due to singularities similar to

columns being modelled on a single node. These peaks should be distributed across sections due to cracking and

yielding. One method to handle this is to use spring supports to spread the peak moments to the surrounding

nodes. Discussion with the software developer will help to understand which of the available approaches have

been used and what the ramifications of these decisions may be.

For large openings, consideration should be given to stiffening the slab by using beams around the opening,

and torsion should be considered in beams surrounding openings.

5.15 Redistribution

How do you handle redistribution of moments with FEA? This is easy for the equivalent frame method, but

when you have moments in contours, do you redistribute the maximum moment? The average? It is common for

FEA programs to redistribute the moments from the columns due to singularities.

It is not intended for redistribution to reduce the moment taken by the columns (when modelled correctly).

This is due to punching shear being a brittle (non-ductile) failure mode and therefore redistribution of the design

moment transferred from the slab to the support is not allowed. In the author’s experience, redistribution of

moments in beams is of limited benefit because moment redistribution cannot be used for the service moments.

For design it is recommended that all actions be redistributed after the actions have been distributed into

strips. Nonlinear analysis will automatically allow some redistribution, due to cracking. The author recommends

that no redistribution of moments be undertaken if a nonlinear analysis is adopted.

It is worth noting here that the degree to which moment distribution is permitted under AS3600-2009 is also

a function of the ductility of the reinforcement.

5.16 Buckling

Buckling in concrete buildings can be a governing design consideration for slender elements. Slender columns,

slabs with large openings, slender inverted T-beams, and walls need to be taken into account during analysis.

Depending on the FEA method the program can help with this analysis.

Care should be taken when using the software as there will be strict limits to its capabilities. Selecting the

correct effective length is the normal problem for programs, with engineering judgment required to ensure realistic

response. Generally it is advisable that the engineer check any slender elements for buckling by recognised

methods, using the factored up loads as appropriate for sway and non-sway condition.

In the absence of a detailed buckling analysis section 8.9 of AS3600-2009 does of course nominate slanderous

limits that must be adhered to.

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 24

5. 17 Loading

The engineer needs to determine how many load cases are required. AS3600-2009 requires pattern loading to

be included for situations where the live load is over 75% of the dead load. The author prefers to do pattern

loading for all slabs in accordance with AS1170 because even though we treat the load as uniform for design,

loads are never uniform. This can increase the number of load combinations substantially and a checker pattern

is not a “one fits all” solution. Figure 21 provides a number of possible configurations of loadings that should

be considered for patterning of slab loadings.

It is up to engineering judgement, if point loads from the slabs above should be patterned for transfer slabs

and columns. Punching shear associated with point loading will often not be checked by the software and hand

calculations may need to be carried out to ensure code compliance.

Point loads if modelled as a single point will cause singularities; they should be distributed over an area of

the actual loading. Generally codes have foot prints for consideration of point loads; it is recommended that

these be incorporated using a high pressure load over a square rather than a point load, if possible.

5.18 Construction

For high-rise buildings commercial time pressures often lead to a requirement to strike the formwork as soon as

possible and move on to subsequent floors, with a minimum of propping. Tests on flat slabs have demonstrated

that as much as 70% of the loads from a newly cast floor (formwork, wet concrete and construction loads) may

be carried by the suspended floor directly below. This early high loading has the potential to cause deflections and

cracking of the concrete. It is essential that all members of the project design and construction team understand

the implications of this load and make adequate allowances to accommodate it.

It can generally be assumed that early striking of formwork will not greatly affect the deflection after

installing the cladding and/or partitions. This is because the deflection affecting partitions will be smaller if the

slab becomes “cracked” before, rather than after, the installation of the cladding and/or partitions.

Construction loads should not be ignored. Writing that the structure should be fully propped by the contactor

until the structure is fully stable is NOT engineering. On most projects the arrangement for back propping is to

back prop for three floors.

AS3610 outlines the minimum requirements in terms of project documentation of formwork and only the

building designer is in a position to provide a good deal of this information.

The loading sequence and timing is critical in determining the deflections, because it will influence the point

at which the slab cracks. A loading sequence from the St George Wharf study shows the relatively high loads

applied during casting of the floor above (see Figure 22). If an earlier stage proves critical, the crack depth at

that stage should be carried forward to all subsequent stages, as once a slab is cracked it remains cracked and

the stiffness reduction is permanent.

The timing of formwork removal is particularly crucial where walls over act to support structure under and

this needs to be highlighted on drawings as necessary. Staged stressing can also be a critical requirement of

construction that needs to be highlighted on the drawings. When software is used to check prestress transfer

stresses, some software for example may assume that all self-weight is present at transfer. But this is of course

only true if it has been constructed. If some loads from floors over are categorised as self-weight, it may for

example be necessary to change them to dead loads. This last point is a trap in both 3D and 2D structural

programs.

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“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 25

Load Array 1 Load Array 2 Load Array 1 Load Array 2

Load Array 1 Load Array 2

Load Array

Load Array 13 Load

Load Array

Array243

LoadArray Load

LoadArray

Array34 Load Array 4

Load Array 2

Load

LoadArray

Load Array354

Array Load

LoadArray

Load Array465

Array Load

LoadArray

Array56 Load Array 6

Load Array56

Load

Load Array

Array 7 Load

LoadArray

Load Array687

Array Load

LoadArray

Load Array798

Array Load Array 8

Load Array 10

Load Array 9 Load

Load Array910

Array Load Array 10

Load Array 8

Load Array 7 Load Array 8

Load Array 11 Load Array 12

Load Array 10 Load

Load Array 11 LoadArray

Array11

12 Load Array 12

Load Array 14

Load Array 12 Load Array

Load 1314

Array

LoadArray

Load Array13

14

Load Array 13

Figure 21: Suggested loading arrangements for pattern live loading broken into an idealised strip layout – yellow

represents imposed plus permanent, blue represents permanent only.

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 26

d 2nd slab above cast

b

f

Extract from the concrete centre study of the St George project.

If the section properties (the shape) of a beam or slab change as you cross the span, accurately modelling the

shape of the changing section is virtually impossible in FEA packages. For most situations the shape can be split

into equivalent sections. However, careful consideration is required to ensure that the approximations made are

appropriate. Generally a minimum of three sections is required to model an appropriate approximation of a

haunched area, this could be used as a guide to more complex arrangements.

by Mal Wilson

Most of the discussion presented here to this point has assumed that slabs and beams are constructed in a

single pour but there is a significant segment of the residential and commercial market that uses reinforced or

prestressed precast concrete elements to support cast in situ toppings. Such systems vary, from precast prestressed

joists with infill panels to hollow core floor panels or Beamshells. All of these systems are increasingly being

designed using concrete finite element packages. While some suppliers may indicate that these elements can be

designed as if the concrete were monolithic, this is not strictly correct for a number of reasons and great care

needs to be taken in modelling their strength as well as their serviceability performance.

These precast concrete members are often constructed using concrete many times stronger than the cast in

situ concrete surrounding them. If plate elements are used in the modelling, only one set of strength and stiffness

parameters can be set, and which is most appropriate will depend on the moment direction and the situation

being considered.

The concrete in the precast element is in a very different place in time with respect to its shrinkage and creep

history when compared to the concrete poured on site so the construction is fundamentally composite in nature.

How old the precast unit may be when it becomes part of the composite element is something outside the control

of the designer.

It is important to check that allowable longitudinal shear stresses are not exceeded at the interface between

the existing and new concrete. Consideration needs to be given not only to the stresses induced by the shear from

the ultimate load condition but also any stress that may be present due to differential creep and shrinkage. When

joists or slabs are subjected to very high shear loads longitudinal shear stresses can quickly become a critical

consideration especially in prestressed joists constructed of very high strength concrete.

In some instances in the past at least one Australian manufacturer has recommended details that do not

comply with AS3600–2009 reinforcement anchorage requirements. It is the author’s view that AS3600–2009

detailing requirements must be complied with unless it can be clearly shown (preferably through testing

programs) that any alternate detail offers the same degree of strength and ductility as well as the equivalent

robustness in the event of unexpected loading.

Precast suppliers have in the past provided advice to suggest that codified longitudinal shear stress limitations

are unduly conservative. It is the author’s experience that claims of vastly improved longitudinal shear capacity

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 27

gained through one-off testing do not stand up to rigorous scrutiny. So where such claims are made, test data,

coefficients of variation used and general test methodology should be checked first hand prior to any conclusions

being drawn. If the precast manufacturer claims the raw data is confidential, the advice should simply be ignored

as sound engineering design should be based on peer reviewed fully transparent and independently verified

findings.

Certainly finite element analysis can be used to assist in understanding the behaviour of these composite

systems but no FEA programs commonly used are set up to model the behaviour directly, and considerable

engineering judgement is required to establish what modifications to the normal design parameters are

appropriate and what conclusions may be drawn from such modelling. Particular attention needs to be paid to

anchorage of prestressed strands as many commonly used FEA programs will assume all strands are anchored

by live and dead ends which is clearly not the case in precast construction. This point alone can affect designed

reinforcement layout, shear capacity and even deflections.

Once the effects of elastic shortening, creep and shrinkage have been accounted for in the precast elements

themselves it is not necessary to fully account for them again in the same way that would be required in post-

tensioned construction. Further creep and shrinkage does inevitably occur but the amount and effect need to be

carefully considered.

References:

• Vollum, R. 2004, “Backprop forces and deflections in flat slabs: construction at St George Wharf ”, BRE

Report, No. 463, UK.

• Enochsson, O. & Dufvenberg, P. 2001, “Concrete slabs designed with finite element methods”, Lulea

University of Technology Thesis p 146.

• Elwood, K.J. & Eberhard, M.O. 2006, “Effective stiffness of reinforced columns”, Research Digest No.

2006-1, Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center pp. 1-5.

• The Concrete Society 2005, TR43: Post-tensioned Concrete Floors Design Handbook, Concrete Society

Technical Teport, UK, p 160.

• Mota M.C. & KaMara, M. 2006, “Floor openings in two-way slabs”, Concrete International Magazine,

July 2006, pp. 33-36.

• Rombach, G.A. 2004, Finite element design of concrete structures, Thomas Telford Publishing, UK.

• Skemption, A.W. & MacDonald, H.H. 1956, “The allowable settlement of buildings”, Proceedings of

Civil Engineers, Part 3, Vol. 5, pp. 727-784.

• Sowers, G.F. 1962, Shallow foundations, foundation engineering, G.A. Leonards (ed.), McGraw-Hill

Book Co, New York, pp. 525-632.

• Bjerrum, L. 1963, “Allowable settlement of structures”, Proceedings of the 3rd European Conference on

Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering, Wiesbaden, 2, Brighton, England, pp. 135-137.

• European Committee for Standardization, 1994, “Geotechnical design, general rules – Part I”, Eurocode

7, Brussels, Belgium.

Ultimate limit state design replaces working stress design. Other than this minor change structural engineering

hasn’t changed much in the past few decades.

FEA programs generally report moments and reinforcement in contours. It is recommended that moments be

distributed across the column and middle strips as appropriate, keeping in mind all detailing requirements of the

code (see Figure 23). This is due to the micro-cracking relieving the slab at the support locals to the surrounding

areas. There is a temptation to provide reinforcement to resist the peak moments; this should be avoided as this

is too conservative.

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“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 28

60

50

Bending moment

40

30

Moments from FEA

20 average bending moments

10

column strip

0

Middle Middle

0 1 2 3 4

strip strip

Distance

Design strips and sections must be defined for the serviceability and strength checks. The advantage of

FEA is that design strips can be defined after the slab has been modelled. Design strips can be defined by code

definitions or points of zero shear. Engineering judgment should ensure that the design strip is designed for the

load acting on it (see Figure 24). The point of zero shear is especially useful for complex geometries. Defining the

strips based on FEA results should lead to more economical reinforcement for complex support situations (refer

to Concrete Society report TR43 (2)). It is important for strips with moments of different signs to be integrated

separately as they produce top and bottom reinforcement and do not cancel each other out.

Figure 24: Defining the column strips.

A useful rule of thumb for verifying the results is that top reinforcement in the column strip be in about

twice the area of the bottom reinforcement. While distributing the steel the engineer needs to keep in mind the

requirements for shear.

Modelling slabs as plate elements can lead to interpretation problems for bending moments. FEA gives bending

moments in the Mx and My directions, but due to the modelling used it will give Mxy moments (see Figure 25).

This moment should be included in the design of reinforcement as it can be significant. The most common

methods for including this in the reinforcement design are proposed by Wood Armer or Denton and Burgoyne.

These methods are slightly conservative and your FEA program may use more complex methods. Most FEA

packages allow you to include Mxy in the outputs for Mx and My; this should be selected by the user. The Standards

Australia committee has recently reinforced this position.

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“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 29

The term Mxy, the twisting moment, represents the twist, that is the rate of change of slope in the x-direction

as one moves in the y-direction or vice versa. The twisting moment results in shear stress parallel to the plate

surface except near the ends. Because of this shear flow difference, the reinforcement to prevent torsional beam

failure should not be confused with the reinforcement to prevent twisting plate failure. (see Figure 26).

My Mxy

Mx

Mxy

Mx

My Mxy

Mxy

Figure 26: FE bending moment output.

Many people think the plate finite element is just a “smaller” plate and that the nodal reactive moments M’x and

M’y are the same as Mx and My in classical plate theory. Well, they are not!

Let’s take a look at Lagrange’s equation:

2 M x 2 M xy 2 M y

+2 + = q (where –q is the load).

x 2 xy y 2

This equation for plates shows that Mx, My and Mxy are coupled. Therefore, according to the Lower Bound Theory,

this allows the apportioning of Mxy moments to the Mx and My moments. For slabs, this is natural and can be easily

achieved by increasing the orthogonal Mx and My reinforcement using the Wood Armer equations or similar.

With the plane-remains-plane assumption and shear deformation excluded, the beam theory equations are

simple and will not be repeated here. However, the torsion equation will be discussed.

The torsion as shown in Figure 27 in beams is not related directly to the twisting moment Mxy. These are two

different actions and should be treated as such. If anything, torsion in beams should be related to Mx and My.

It is important to realise that:

• the placements of longitudinal reinforcement and torsional stirrups are coupled;

• beam torsion results in circular shear stress.

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“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 30

Beam

Beam

Figure 27: Basic torsion diagram for a solid section.

6.4 Torsion

Cracking of concrete can reduce the strength of concrete in torsion significantly as discussed earlier. It is

important that any torsional steel designed by the program is reviewed for accuracy, and that it is known what

assumptions the program is making when designing the amount of torsion steel required. Most programs design

the beam as single beams without taking into account the extra torsional strength provided by the internal slab

and beam arrangement.

Research by Warner & Ragan found during tests on beams integral with slabs that slab restraint increased the

shear/torsion capacity by a factor of 4 to 6. These tests were carried out on torsion beams with same depth as

the slab. Yew-Chaye Loo et al showed that the increased resistance depended on the depth of the beam relative

to the slab.

Engineering judgement should always be used when selecting the option for design with or without torsion

and when the compatibility torsion design is selected. This is particularly important to torsion members which,

if they were to fail in torsion, would compromise the structure.

Some programs use plate elements to model beam behaviour and, while these may perform satisfactorily

for shallow beams, care must be taken where beams are deeper than they are wide. Torsional properties may be

linked to the cube of the depth which will vastly overestimate the torsional stiffness of a deep beam.

6.5 P-Delta

P-Delta is a non-linear action occurring in all structures with axial loads both vertical and horizontal. The

effect is a change in structure with possible changes in deflection and moments. These second order effects are

relative to the magnitude of the applied axial force, displacement and slenderness of the elements making up

the structure.

These effects can generally be classified as:

• P-“BIG” Delta (P-Δ) – a structure effect;

• P-“little” Delta (P-δ) – a member effect.

It should be ensured that, if required, P-Delta effects (see Figure 28) are taken into account in the analysis.

Care should be taken to understand and work within the limitations of the software. FEA programs generally

don’t allow for the reduction in load-bearing capacity from slenderness, so users must review slender columns

for load distribution.

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“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 31

6.6 Shear

FEA models produce shear stress results; these results generally are unable to help in punching shear checks.

It is recommended that punching shear be checked using the requirements of AS3600-2009, and that column

stiffness included in the model be correct or upper and lower bounds be used. If you prefer to use the software

to carry out these checks, all openings (even small) must be modelled correctly especially if near the shear

perimeter.

Note: Punching shear is required to be calculated at the edges of drop panels and similar. Most software will

not carry out this check; the designer should complete this external to the program.

The requirements of the code should be included in designs including minimum transfer of moments between

columns and slabs for punching shear and detailing requirements for reo near columns. The 25% detailing rule

Cl 9.2.2 AS3600-2009 is often not well understood; the detailing is required for punching shear. The reinforcing

forms the tie in the crude strut tie over the columns. The author hopes that in the future the % steel over the

support will be included in the punching shear calculations to ensure this is clear to the design engineer.

An FEA model based on the static reaction for vertical loads can be un-conservative, as elements can be designed

to take tension from above the floor under construction, thus creating an unstable situation during construction

or a different load path.

An FEA model based on the area method for vertical loads generally is conservative as no elements are

designed to take tension. The area method or construction sequence is recommended for vertical loads and

reactions; the construction sequence method will simulate the gradual increase of the loading as the building is

constructed. This is especially important if hanging beams or outriggers are present in the building structure.

Before the invention of complete building modelling software, engineers had to analyse each design strip for

moment compression/tension, shear and torsion, combined. This gave them a good understanding of the

building and response to loadings.

Engineers should carry out this in-depth analysis of critical points using engineering judgement. If you

don’t have the experience to decide the critical points, review every point. However, because of the huge

volume of results produced by the models a single engineer will find it hard to review all results. Therefore

it is recommended that the model be reduced to more simple strips for analysis purposes, with results and

calculations being recorded.

Rationalisation of the design results is an important step in the design process. Often with highly

advanced analysis methods you can get highly varying reinforcement results which, if provided in the design

drawings, would allow for less reinforcement overall but would not represent the best cost outcome (as shown

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“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 32

in Figure 29).

Time

Slow Fast

High

Minimum overall cost

Finance

Cost

Low Material

detailed Rationalised

Level of rationalisation of reinforcement

Figure 29: Relationship between cost of building, rationalisation of reinforcement and time.

6.9 Rationalisation

Rationalisation is the process of eliminating unnecessary variation by reducing complexity so that provision of

materials is easier and efficient. Finite element reinforcement results generally do not undertake the rationalisation

process to an appropriate level, other than to select a common reinforcement bar size.

The engineer needs to review the results from the finite element program such that overly complex details are

not provided. Simple philosophies that can help with this objective are:

• Rather than detailing each element separately, the engineer can try to identify typical reinforcement

arrangements that will be suitable for common elements;

• Rather than having varying reinforcement lengths along supports, try to keep the changes in length to

a suitable number;

• Rather than providing small bars sizing at close centres, try larger bar sizes at more appropriate

centres.

This may result in some elements being ‘over designed’, but there will be subsequent cost saving because of the

reduction in the time taken to provide alternative arrangement onsite, hence this will be faster.

While the analysis provides the majority of reinforcing for the building, there is additional reinforcement

required for serviceability and detailing. While serviceability considerations will be discussed later, this section

concentrates on reinforcement due to sound engineering judgement:

• Additional steel may be required around openings (possible recesses) to prevent shrinkage cracking or

similar. Extra steel is also recommended at re-entrant corners;

• The Australian code has a requirement to offset the bending moment at a distance d (depth to tension

reinforcing centroid) in each direction. Most computer programs don’t include detail for development

length and offset d. This is important near edges of slabs and transferring moments.

The Sleipner accident should serve as a warning in regard to the importance of anchorage and detailing. While

that accident cannot be attributed to anchorage and detailing alone, detailing of the joints was inadequate and

the structure did fail more radically than it would have with correct detailing. All anchorage requirements and

lapping should be checked, most programs do not provide extra steel required for this purpose.

Over-reinforcing of slabs and thin elements can lead to restraint deflection from steel. Designers need to be

careful that all the reinforcing is included in deflection analysis of shallow members.

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“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 33

References:

• Jakobsen, B. & Rosendahl, F. 1994, “The Sleipner accident”, Structural Engineering International,

IABSE, Vol. 3, pp. 190-193.

• Wood, R.H. 1968, “The reinforcement of slabs in accordance with a predetermined field of moments”,

Concrete 2 No 2, pp. 69-76.

• Li, J. 2002, Reinforced plate design for Mxy twisting moment, Solutions Research Centre, Hong Kong, p 7.

• Timoshenko, S.P and Woinowsky-Krieger, S. 1959, Theory of plates and shells, McGraw-Hill International

Editions, p 580.

• Morris, A. 2008, A practical guide to reliable finite element modelling, John Wiley & Sons, p 380.

• FIB Bulletin 45, 2008, Practitioners guide to finite element modelling of reinforced concrete structures –

state of the art report, p 337.

Hardy Cross once wrote: “Strength is essential but otherwise not important”.

Modelling of the structure must reflect the required serviceability performance of the building with regards

to cracking, deflection, crack and stress limitation. Serviceability dominates the design of most structures,

with deflection being influenced by concrete strength (both compression and tension), creep, shrinkage, elastic

modulus, restraint, loading/time of loading/duration of loading, ambient conditions, formwork stripping

procedures and durability.

7.1 Deflection

Deflection design has many influences, none of which can be predicted accurately. Thus deflection predictions

are best estimates, and the estimates you make should be the upper bound for deflection, not the lower bound.

While there are minimum deflections quoted in the code, there are a lot of instances where deflection is

critically important. The designer needs to decide which of these apply to an individual project. Often the load

which affects the critical deflection (eg deflection affecting cladding) is not applied at the same time as the initial

loading.

Some critical situations for deflections:

• Cladding walls can only handle a finite amount of deflection, ranging from 1/250 to 1/2000, and

some cladding manufacturers state the systems can only handle 5mm of deflection. The design is best

carried out in coordination with the design of the walls. Edge beams can be used to control deflections

of the external facade. Failure to account for deflection under walls reduces the expected life of seals

and joints.

• Ceiling and light-weight partition walls need to be considered for visual deflections, and if the edge of

the slab is visible, this should be considered.

• In light-weight slabs vibration needs to be checked as well. This is extremely important in mixed-use

areas such as a gym in an office building or hospitals.

• Glass walls are sensitive to deflections.

• Operable walls have stringent requirements for deflection and manufacturers’ input should be sought

early for each project.

• Roof structures with membranes need extra care to ensure that accelerated wear of the membrane is

not a problem. Membrane problems have been experienced where deflection reduces the drainage of

the roof or where there is cracking of the supporting slab.

• Coordination with the architect or hydraulic consultant is essential to ensure that outlets are located in

appropriate locations such that minimum fall will be achieved throughout the life of the structure.

To check the deflections in complex slab systems, the author recommends the procedure shown in Figure 30.

The span is defined in any direction.

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“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 34

Note:

The maximum deflection at any

a point can be defined as 2a/n

(n = span to deflection ratio as

defined by AS3600-2009, eg

span/250 maximum deflection

a may be critical on grid lines).

Actual concrete deflections are influenced by many factors which cannot be fully taken into account. They include:

• Tensile strength of concrete (a change in strength from 2.7 to 2.1 can increase deflections by 50%)

• Modulus of concrete +/- 20%

• Early construction loading

• Shrinkage warping.

Always remember loads can only be estimated and even dead loads cannot usually be calculated to within 5%

accuracy. It is advisable to give a suitable range/warning with any estimate of deflection that others are relying

on.

Possible methods for calculating deflections using FEA:

• Deemed to comply span on depth ratio as per Cl 9.6.3 AS3600-2009 (the author questions the advantage

of finite element modelling)

• Linear analysis with section properties adjusted for cracking factored up deflections using Kcs (the

author suggests that this is guess work)

• Nonlinear analysis with adjusted elastic modulus or similar advanced modelling (the author recommends

the use of non-linear analysis with adjusted elastic modulus in accordance with AEMM or Eurocode).

With any of the above methods it is recommended that a sensitivity analysis on deflections be conducted on the

vital input parameters. This will ensure that any deflections reports are reported with the appropriate range. This

is especially important if providing deflections for the use of others.

7.2 Precamber

Modelling of precamber in slabs in FEA programs is difficult. Slab and beams can be precambered to reduce

the effect of deflection. In practice, if precamber is utilised too much it is generally estimated and the slab

remains permanently cambered. This is because of the difficulty in accurately calculating deflection and also

representing it in models to see the effect across all areas.

It is recommended that precamber be set at a conservative value. However, the author is of the opinion that

it is better to design for the deflection requirements of the AS3600-2009 rather than precamber. It is important

to remember precamber does not reduce the deflections affecting partitions or cladding.

A positive development in the industry has been that with the near universal move to levelling with laser

levels rather than taking heights off the deck there has been a major move away from precambering.

7.3 Vibration

More efficient design utilising stronger materials can lead to lighter structures with lower natural frequencies

which makes them potentially more vulnerable to vibration problems. The most common causes of vibrations

are human activities (walking, running, dancing, jumping or gymnastics).

Conventional methods of predicting floor accelerations are only suitable for a narrow range of floor layouts

and materials. FEA models allow any type of layout of walls and floors to be modelled for deflection. Using

finite element methods vibration sources can be modelled and the effects on other areas evaluated due to the

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“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 35

decreased accuracy required when dealing with small loads and strains.

FEA will allow the user to include the effects of the rotational stiffness of columns, and the effects of

partition walls, stairwells, services and finishes.

The author has found Steel Construction Institute publication P354 entitled Design of Floors for Vibration: A

New Approach describes a reasonable method for modelling in FEA which is applicable to any type of suspended

floor.

A realistic allowance for non-structural mass, due to services, fit-out finishes etc should be included. It is

normally possible to add non-structural mass to an element, and some programs also allow static load cases

to be converted to additional mass. If neither of these options is available, then the density of the material

representing the slab must be modified. In general, only include additional mass that is likely to be there in

practice. Over-estimating the mass can be non-conservative for footfall response.

The movement of some offices towards a paperless environment which has been muted for 20 years is finally

gaining significant traction. This is a situation which increasingly needs to be considered in design.

There are several parameters that can influence vibration. They include the steel, the modulus of elasticity,

damping and the extent of cracking.

In regard to steel beam connections, for strength or serviceability design structural engineers often assume

pinned end connections. For the very small strains associated with footfall-induced vibration, it has been found

from tests that connections will normally act as if they are fixed rather than pinned, and so can be modelled

without releases.

The modulus of elasticity for vibration analysis is larger than the static values, in particular when high

strength concrete is used.

Damping has an inherently high variability that is difficult to determine before a floor system is placed in

service. The recommended values from reference [Allen, D.E., and Murray, T. M., 1993] vary from 2% – 3% for

bare concrete floors to 5% – 8% with full height partitions.

Cracking reduces floor stiffness and consequently lowers its natural frequency. For conventionally reinforced

concrete it is important to allow for cracking.

When evaluating the above parameters, reference to the base method and the assumptions used both in

development and testing should be reviewed.

References:

• Buettner, D.R. & Ghosh, S. K., ACI Committee 438.8R-8, 1997, “Observed deflections of reinforced concrete

slab systems, and causes of large deflections”, SP 86-2 ACI Journal, p 47.

• Thomas, M.M., Allen, D.E. & Ungar, E.E 2003, “Floor vibrations due to human activity”, Steel Design Guide

Series 11, American Institute of Steel Construction, p 69.

• Allen, D.E. & Murray, T.M. 1993, “Design criterion for vibrations due to walking”, AISC Engineering Journal,

4th Qtr, pp.117-129.

• Smith, A.L., Hicks, S.J. & Devine, P.J. 2009, “Design of floors for vibration: A new approach”, SCI P354, The

Steel Construction Institute, p 114.

• Willford, M.R. & Young, P. 2006, A design guide for footfall induced vibration of Structures, the Concrete

Centre, Gillingham House, 38-44 Gillingham Street, London, p 79.

• AS3600-2009, Australian Standard for Concrete Structures, Standards Australia 2009.

• Elwood, K.J. & Eberhard, M.O. 2006, “Effective stiffness of reinforced columns”, Research Digest No.

2006-1, Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, pp. 1-5.

• Cobb, F. 2004, Structural engineer’s pocket book, Elsevier, UK, p 354.

• Morrison, J. & Jones, T. 2003, “Use of computers in the design of concrete structures”, Concrete

Magazine, May, 2003, pp. 40-42.

• Brooker, O. 2006, How to design reinforced concrete flat slabs using finite element analysis, The Concrete

Centre, London, p 16.

8 DESIGN

Many FEA programs handle the reinforcement and bending moment calculations for the design of the structure

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“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 36

to the relevant codes. Thus the engineer needs to have a good method for checking to ensure the assumptions

made by the software designer are in accordance with the design being undertaken by the engineer.

Simple or alternative calculations are very important for this, some possible checks are:

• Calculate wl2/8 (a basic bending moment formula) for a span and check the FEA model gives the same

value between the positive and negative moments (10% difference could be considered a pass, anything

greater would need further investigation).

• Compare the total slab weight against the total reactions under dead load.

• Span on depth ratios: again if you are well above normal limits then it would be worth checking again.

• Use alternative analysis program (like RAPT) to do a few lines up and down the building and compare.

• Is the span/depth or height/depth ratio in line with standard practice, if not why?

• Simple hand bending and shear diagrams.

• Using the direct methods from the code and compare, if these vary why?

• Are supports modelled; how are they going to really behave? Check walls to slab connections as these are

difficult to reinforce for full moment transfer.

• Do the contour plots have similar results as the Pucher influence charts (Pucher charts are a series of

contour plots of influence surfaces for various plate and loading geometries).

• Static equilibrium; compare total loads to total reactions.

• Check the load increase (and face shear) in a column at any given floor is approximately equal to the load

on the floor area notionally supported by the column.

• One of the commonly used methods for estimating the fundamental frequency is known as the self-

weight method. If the maximum gravity deflection of a single bay structure (under self-weight plus

service super-imposed load) is δ, then the fundamental frequency (Hz) can be estimated using f = 18/√δ,

where δ is the maximum deflection in millimetres. This equation works reasonably well for most single-

span beam or floor plates.

Some items to be considered in design but not discussed in this practice note are:

• How much does the slab contribute to the beam load?

• Properties of concrete flat slabs, one-way slabs, waffle slabs, and slabs acting as diaphragms supported

on steel joists.

• Torsional and flexural effects of such systems on the actual stiffness of beams.

• Interaction of shear walls and beams.

• Shear lag effects on interconnecting concrete walls (in elevator and stair shafts).

• Skewed slabs – in skew slabs infinite stress will be caused in the corners and special consideration is

required. Refer to “Finite element design of concrete structures” by G.A. Rombach for further

information on modelling possibilities.

• Most software assumes the centre of elements with different thickness will be aligned in the vertical

plane, so the offset of the drop or beam should be defined in the model.

• The output is usually in the form of contour plots, and interpretation is required at the interface of

elements with different thicknesses.

• The discussions in this practice note are not for the design of post-tensioned/pre-stressed flat slabs.

Most importantly, the discussions in this practice note are not intended to be a substitute for engineering judgement.

New programs are being created all the time. These can increase design speed, with some programs developed to

analyse design detailing and drawing from one package. The engineer using such programs must understand the

software, understand the limitations and things it doesn’t do. The possible time saved by using such programs

should be spent on checking to ensure a safe and durable structure.

This practice note has only scratched the surface of finite element modelling for reinforced concrete structures.

Further reading is recommended to fully understand the more complex issues of finite element modelling. The

author recommends:

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“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 37

• The Sleipner Accident, Jakobsen and Rosendahl.

• Theory of plates and shells, Timoshenko S.P and Woinowsky-Krieger S, McGraw-Hill International

Editions (this is an old classic book, which presents a number of solutions for elastic plates, which may

be helpful for some simple cases).

• A Practical Guide to Reliable Finite Element Modelling, Alan Morris, Emeritus Professor of

Computational Structural Analysis, Cranﬁeld University, UK.

• Practitioners guide to finite element modelling of reinforced concrete structures – state of the art report

– FIB bulletin 45.

• Influence surfaces of elastic plates, Pucher, A, 5th revised edition, Springer Verlag, New York, 1977.

9 FORENSIC ENGINEERING

by Mal Wilson

In forensic engineering we look to discover why a structural element has collapsed, cracked or deformed in a

way that is unexpected and FEA can provide a very useful tool in discovering what may have led to the situation

being explored. FEA may also contribute to an understanding as to what the response of a given element may

be under additional loading. In this form of endeavour much of the advice given in the preceding chapters needs

to be reconsidered and in certain circumstances ignored completely for a number of important reasons which

will be considered below.

It is often the case that when a structure is deflecting or cracking unexpectedly, detailing rules set out in the

Australian Standards have not have been followed. It must be remembered that design details such as where

and how positive and negative reinforcement must be curtailed can affect the ability of a structure to cope

with unexpected moment changes along a given member. Limits to the amount of flexural reinforcement may

also affect the capacity of a section to redistribute moments prior to a section failing. Much of the advice

given previously is based on the assumption that the AS3600–2009 or other code requirements have been fully

implemented. When such detailing has occurred the structure is ‘guaranteed’ a certain amount of ductility as

well as a capacity for the expected moment envelope to move left or right without catastrophic consequences. It

is this attention to detailing that means that ‘close enough really is good enough’ when it comes to FEA.

Detailing rules are in place for a number of purposes one of which is to enable the structure to more reliably

deal with unexpected loads and form an important role in the overall safety of the structure. These detailing

requirements are therefore not conditions to be lightly traded off when considering whether a structure is safe to

remain in service. Essentially it needs to be shown that the building is not only safe under a given load condition

but it should also be as safe as it would have been had all code detailing provisions been complied with in the

first instance. This requirement can be considered a measure of the structure’s robustness.

When code detailing rules are ignored it fundamentally changes the guidance on FEA given so far as suddenly

any modelling assumption we make can be extremely critical depending on the circumstances. Effectively the

safety net in terms of the structure’s ductility and its capacity to redistribute moments or carry shear loadsmay

have been compromised and a failure to model a behaviour precisely may prove critical or even catastrophic.

Under such circumstances nothing should be taken for granted and parametric studies are often required for

a full understanding of the structure in its current form as well as the potential risks under additional loading.

Such studies are a form of sensitivity analysis that lead to an understanding of how robust the current

situation is.

The other important consideration in forensic work is that we are no longer necessarily working within a

carefully controlled set of construction parameters. In design work we can, theoretically at least, control the

construction and loading process through careful documentation and prudent supervision. Our documents can

and should for example specify the:

• maximum amount and distribution of loading during construction

• sequence and method of stripping of the formwork

• prestress sequencing and staging (as necessary)

• concrete strength to be achieved before loading or stripping of form work

• maximum amount and distribution of in-service loading

• weld sizes, types and categories

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“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 38

• code requirements to be adhered to

• chemical anchor depths and type.

In design we are operating in a ‘perfect world’ where every parameter is theoretically within our control.

When carrying out forensic investigative work we too often find that some or all of the parameters listed

above are unspecified, unmonitored and unrecorded. Even the raw data gathered on site is sometimes ‘polluted’

by construction inaccuracies (initial out of plumb or level etc) which can make interpretation challenging. In

many instances this situation can devalue any attempt to model the behaviour of the structural system with

FEA as the models become a series of hypotheses, a number of which may fit the data gathered on site equally

well. When this situation occurs the physical data will quite naturally take precedence over the FEA model and

residual strength considerations may need to be based more heavily upon what can be observed on site rather

than what can be modelled on a computer. The important point to take from this is that it is often what is not

specified within our documents or recorded on site that renders our FEA questionable.

It may be difficult for some readers to grasp the significance of all of this. The following example

illustrates how failure to comply with code detailing provisions or to adequately document or record the

construction process can lead to unexpected problems within the resultant structures. Moreover, this example

highlights that FEA assumptions that may be perfectly reasonable in general design may be dangerously

un-conservative when applied to existing poorly detailed structures.

Figure 31 shows a view of a suspended slab where cracks exist at the extremity of some precast joists which

carry a cast-in-situ slab and are supported by a cast-in-situ band beam on a line between X and Y. The extent of

these cracks is indicated as a red line at the underside of the band beam (see Figure 32).

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 39

Figure 32: View of the underside of a suspended concrete floor. The red line depicts the extent of cracking.

Figure 33 is a typical cross section through the band which depicts the crack at the point where the precast

beam terminates.

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 40

From Figure 33 it can be seen that the bottom tendons in the precast beam do not continue to the support.

They do not for example continue past and above the bottom reinforcement of the band beam. Most structural

engineers will be well aware AS3600 cl 8.1.8.4 c) requires at least one quarter of the bottom reinforcement

continue past the near face of support. To a prospective FEA modeller the designer’s failure to comply with

this basic design rule should ring alarm bells as a positive moment at the slab band junction could significantly

compromise the capacity of the floor system to carry shear loads. For many structural engineers the visible

cracking at bottom of the interface and the associated face step in some places would provide more than enough

evidence to suggest a shear problem exists already at serviceability loads (see Figure 34) but let us consider for a

moment what the modelling challenges might be for this and uncracked areas with similar geometry.

Under the circumstances we can only imagine that the original designer assumed that the walls crossing the

band beam (which incidentally are three stories tall) would act to stop any beam rotation and induce a negative

moment in the adjacent slab. While this situation would not be code compliant in terms of bottom reinforcement

anchorage it would significantly enhance the shear capacity as the do (see AS3600 cl 8.7.2.1) would jump from

around 35mm to around 160mm (negative Vs positive bending).

When modelling the structure using finite elements the following matters need to be carefully considered.

To obtain the maximum benefit from the walls over it would be important that the slabs loading the bands

remain propped until the walls over are in place. In this instance no such requirement has been noted on the

drawings and the precast supplier’s web advice suggests that props can be removed 7 days after the slab over is

poured. When site records are not available this adds greatly to the complexity of the FEA task as walls coming

on after the props are removed may still act to reduce creep deflections and also to eventually carry an amount

of load, but the quantum will be difficult to predict.

The N16 vertical bars in the block walls over (see Figures 31 and 32) are called up at 600c/c but there is no

indication of what epoxy is to be used or whether the starter bars are required to finish at the ends of the walls.

The hole size nominated for the N16 bars is 18mm which is certainly not enough to correctly epoxy the bar and

we would expect that the bar may need to be hammered into its 125mm deep hole. When the performance of the

wall anchorage reinforcement is very poorly specified FEA becomes more challenging and it may be instructive

to search for gaps appearing between the blockwork and the slab, or indeed prudent to ignore the contribution

of the bars entirely. Certainly any attempt to model load stiffness behaviour of the anchor would seem futile

given the state of the specification.

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“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 41

The FEA shows the short backspan to the left of point A in Figure 35 in significant negative bending. In this

instance the backspan is passively reinforced with low ductility mesh and the longer span between B and D is

primarily in positive bending and prestressed (pre-tensioned). Clearly it will be important in any analysis to

calculate and use the correct cracked section moduli as the back span will crack far more which increases the

likelihood of a positive moment at B. Much of the FEA software available for this type of modelling is set up for

post-tensioned situations, so great care needs to be taken in using such software to model pre-tensioned beams.

Figure 35: Diagram showing deflected shape (deflections factored for clarity).

It is important in this case to fully understand the concept of plastic and elastic moment redistribution and

the effects that this may have on resultant moment at point B. For a fuller understanding we recommend Scott,

R.H. & Whittle, R.T., University of Durham, Arup Research and Development, 2005, “Moment redistribution

effects in beams”, Magazine of Concrete Research 2005, Vol. 57, Issue 1, February, pp. 9-20.

As noted earlier construction loading can have a significant effect on how much cracking occurs in the slabs and

band beams which can also effect the effective section moduli and in turn the moment distribution.

Clearly any moment that can be delivered to the column will act to increase the likelihood of a negative moment

at B. In this instance N16 bars on top of the column (see Figure 33) are specified but the number is ambiguous,

the weld procedure is unspecified and the hooks are not anchored over any bars. Reliably modelling the moment

in the column may therefore prove difficult but the moment resulting from edge loading of the column could be

considered a likely minimum.

Figure 33 shows that despite the large amount of torsion on the band beam the reinforcement documented does

not include any closed ties so hairline torsional cracks may act to significantly reduce torsional rigidity of the

beam.

With all FEA there are practical limits to the size of model that can be run and for this reason it would

be quite normal (given the complexity of the structural form) to run the size of model similar to what

we have indicated in Figure 31. One problem that can result from such an approach is that we have

neglected to include the restraining effect of the retaining walls that the car park slab has been rigidly

connected to. These retaining walls act to restrain the slab shrinkage which can also have a significant

effect on the shear capacity at the critical section (see AS3600 cl 8.2.7.1 β2). What this code rule is

effectively suggesting is that if the critical shear zone is in 3.5MPa of tension across the gross area then

Vuc = 0.

To complicate matters further the extent of stress from constrained shrinkage can be influenced by the age

and construction of the retaining walls the pour sequencing of the slab the type of curing the constituents of the

concrete as well as many other factors. The assumption of full restraint may be a prudent approach when it comes

to shear capacity of a critical element with no shear reinforcement and no anchorage of critical reinforcement.

Shrinkage stresses can also adversely affect flexural and torsional stiffness of the various elements.

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 42

When so little can be determined with confidence it is often useful to go back to the basics and measure what

you can see. In this case if we look at Figure 35 the deflection between A and B varies from 4mm to 18mm and

a line drawn between B, C and D indicates minimal deflection which all points to a positive moment at point B.

More compelling than this is the fact that there is a crack at B and the compressive zone of a negative moment

does not by definition include any cracks as fresh air is free to move in and out of the crack and cannot be

compressed. If there remained any doubt the face step in the cracks in some areas should be enough to highlight

a very significant problem that may well represent the onset of shear failure.

In other cases where these ‘smoking guns’ are not present FEA is an excellent tool but it must be used

with great care as it is not the structure itself but rather our best guess at the structure. Parametric studies (or

sensitivity analysis) hold the answer to a realistic analysis of the risks we face in any given circumstance and

we encourage engineers working in this field to see FEA as a tool to explore options rather than some type of

absolute model of structural behaviour.

10 SENSIBILITY CHECKS

FEA models are difficult to check. It is recommended that simple sensibility checks be developed to easily

establish if the structure is proportioned appropriately.

Table 3 lists a number of preferred stress ranges which the author finds helpful in determining areas within a design

that need further review.

RC slabs M°/bd 2

0.5 ~ 2.5

V°/bd 0.31 ~ 1.5

RC beams/bands M°/bd2 0.9 ~ 3.0

V°/bd 0..80 ~ 2.0

RC columns N°/A 0.2 ~ 0.51f’c

M°/bd2 0.5 ~ 3.0

PT slabs P/A 1.0 ~ 1.8

PT beams/bands P/A 1.5 ~ 2.5

Mο is the design moment, Vο is the design shear, P is the design axial force,

b is the element effective width, d is the element effective depth, A is the area.

Every engineer is going to have heuristics that they have collected or established over time, for instance span/

depth ratios. These are good tools for reviewing outputs from computer programs.

For complex models a sensitivity analysis is a useful method. Sensitivity analysis can provide the following:

• Increased appreciation of relationships between input and output variables in a model

• Recognising model inputs that cause uncertainty in the output and should therefore be the focus of

attention

• Establishing the robustness of a model

• Finding for errors in the model.

By understanding these above points a confidence level can be established in the model.

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“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 43

11 VALIDATION

With any analysis it is important to validate the software; you should request from the software developer designs/

tests/comparisons that have been used to validate the software. Often the company will have comparisons that

have been published. A plea by the author is for software developers to produce detailed documentation on the

technical assumptions made for the design analysis of the software.

Table 4 provides a checklist for evaluating the software you are using.

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 44

Does the program allow for Analysis An FE analysis based on static reaction for vertical Transfer slabs/beams,

of vertical loads using a Construction loads can be un-conservative. An FE analysis columns,

Sequence? based on area method for vertical loads generally

is conservative. The area method or construction

sequence is recommended for vertical loads and

reactions.

Ability to reduce torsion stiffness? This is extremely important for beams in torsion. Can Transfer Edge beams,

the beam generate the nominated stiffness required equilibrium torsion,

to take the torsion loading, if not can you reduce the service deflections

stiffness.

Partially cracked section properties Reduction in stiffness due to cracking is important. Deflections

calculated and recalculated for Cracked section properties vary throughout the slab

subsequent iterations for every element, and in both x and y directions.

in all directions.

What column/wall stiffness does the Column stiffness is hard to calculate due to the large Column to slab and

program assume? interaction of P/A and bending. Extremely important column moments

for flat slabs as punching shear calculations depend

on the moment in the columns.

What does the program take into The bending moments in orthogonal directions mxy Reinforcement

account when working out bending need to be taken into account for reinforcement and

moments and reinforcement. deflection design (e.g. are Wood Armer or Denton and

Burgoyne methods used for steel design?)

Does the program generate bending The unconverted moments reported by FEA (Mx, Comparing/checking

moments Mx, My and Mxy or converted My, Mxy ) are not the same as moments reported by moments

moments Mux and Muy. simple analysis (Mux, Muy ). The moments reported by

FEA need to be converted to design moments either

using Wood Armer or Denton and Burgoyne so that

checking can be completed.

Automatically apply load patterning to Ensures “worst credible” design forces obtained. Moment and shear

determine worst case design forces. AS1170 requires that patterning be taken into forces

account in design.

Does Software analyse Allows realistic analysis of structure with varying Beam stiffness and

in-plane forces ie variations thicknesses containing beams etc. step in the slabs

in centroid elevation?

Incorporate curvature due to free Required for determining deflections accurately. Deflections

shrinkage strain.

Partially cracked properties are Tensioning stiffening will prevent a fully cracked Deflections for slabs

calculated. situation in thin slabs.

Separate analysis used for ULS and SLS. Less cracking occurs at the SLS, so the slab is more Deflections

stiff.

Software calculates creep coefficients, Important for the long term deflection calculations. Long term deflections

tensile strength for each change in

loading throughout the life of the slab.

What creep or shrinkage properties are This is especially important if you have a different Column deflections/

assumed for the vertical elements? material used for vertical elements (eg a steel core slab slopes

with concrete column, as the columns will creep and

shrink and the core will not).

Areas of required reinforcement can be This automation saves time for distributing over the

averaged over a specified width. strips.

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 45

12 CLOSING COMMENTS

The ultimate end game of any design/analysis should be proportionate to the design requirements. This practice

note explores the world of modelling in finite element programs. Nonetheless, alternative models should still be

used to verify the model produced.

Most programs have a good solver, thus the results for bending moments etc are dependent on inputs by the

user. The same cannot be said for the post processor for designing reinforcement. These post-processors are less

tried and tested. The engineer needs to know how to interpret their results.

Now that you have read this practice note you should be able to evaluate your program and understand the

full implications of the models you create, validating and interpreting the results given by your FEA software.

Understand that software is a utensil to do this in a faster manner, not a substitute for engineering knowledge

or experience.

“As a rule, a program should be used only if engineers can predict the general deflection and distribution

of moments in the structure prior to obtaining a solution. The computed solution is used to verify the results

previously predicted by the engineers. If the solution is significantly different from the prediction, engineers

should use the results only if they can satisfactorily explain the reason for the discrepancy and find it acceptable.”

(ACI President’s Memo José M. Izquierdo-Encarnación, 2003.)

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“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 46

Following are five case studies – the first two illustrate failure of serviceability and the other three deal with

collapsed structures due to inexpert application of FEA. Even though case studies 4 and 5 are non-building

structures they are included here because they illustrate in a dramatic way the potentially very serious

consequences of faulty use of FEA.

The lessons learned could be put to good use in avoiding the recurrence of similar failures in the future.

These case studies are a summary of the findings from larger reports and investigations. They are the author’s

opinions and may not match the conclusions from the official investigations.

It is recommended that for further information on these case studies the references be accessed.

Introduction:

• 108m × 40m, two storey parking deck, unknown location

• Extensive early-age cracking of slabs reported

• Case study used the approach by James Deaton for the analysis; however, plate analysis is used rather

than solid elements

• FEA model that was created to represent the structure is simplistic including assumptions such as

fixed foundations, reduction in stiffness, ramps ignored, thermal effects ignored.

Findings:

• No expansion joints in the structure

• Construction sequence had no visible pour breaks in the slab

• Parking structure serviceability failure – the concrete floor had extensive cracks visible and greater

than 1mm wide.

D

for use in the finite element models for Figure 2 and 3:

∈SH = 0.00085, α = 9.9× 10-6/°C

∆Tsh = -85 °C (see chapter 4.3)

sigmax kPa

-6592.0

-487.0

5618.1

11723.2

17828.2

23933.3

30038.4

36143.5

42248.5

48353.6

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 47

sigmax kPa

-3713.5

-1763.3

186.9

2137.1

4087.3

6037.5

7987.7

9937.9

11888.1

13838.3

Figure 3: Top floor In-plane stress if contraction slab joints were provided at 36m crts; Average stress 1.1MPa.

Lessons learnt:

• Design of contraction joints at 36m versus 108m would be more suitable.

• Shrinkage performance criteria in mix design are important if joints are to be spaced above normal

recommended practices.

• Force from shrinkage can induce significant loads in stiff elements such as walls.

Reference:

• Deaton, J.B. & Kahn, L.F. 2010, “Lessons learned from forensic FEA of failed RC structures”, paper

presented at the ACI Fall 2010 Convention.

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 48

Introduction

• Office building, unknown location

• Third storey slab deflection concerns, report by Peter Taylor

• Peter Taylor reported a building slab had significant deflections and used Rapt program as the analysis

method. This showed that Rapt could provide good correlation between measured and calculated

deflections

• The slab span on depth ratio is greater than recommended by rules of thumb

• FEA model that was created to represent the structure for the purpose of this investigation is

simplistic.

• The AAEM method was used for deflection estimations.

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“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 49

Findings:

• Measured deflections are greater than predicted by both Rapt and FEA models when live load is

assumed to be 0kPa.

• Correctly constructed FEA models can provide guidance on maximum deflection results.

• Precamber was used on the slab with limited to no success.

Lessons learnt:

• AAEM method in FEA can be used to estimate maximum expected deflections

• Rule of thumb for slabs provides a good indication.

• Precamber in slabs can be problematic in practice.

Reference:

• Taylor, P.J., ‘The Initial and Long-Term Deflections of Normally Reinforced Concrete Flat Slabs and

Plates’, a special projects report for the ACSE, June, 1997.

• Taylor, P.J., “Initial and Long-Term Deflections of a Reinforced Concrete Flat

• Plate Structure”, Civil Engineering Transactions (Sydney), V. CE12, No. 1, Apr.

• 1970, pp. 14-20

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“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 50

Introduction:

• 12-storey reinforced concrete moment resisting frames

• Construction of the building was completed in 1993

• On 8 August 1993 a powerful earthquake shook the island, causing partial collapse of the structure.

Figure 7: the Royal Palm Hotel building after the earthquake. Photo Earthquake Engineering Research Institute

Figure 8: Damage to columns on the third floor. Photo Earthquake Engineering Research Institute

Findings:

• The analytical model used to design the structure had numerous errors, including several columns that

were rotated 90° from their actual orientation.

• Masonry infill walls created short-column conditions throughout the structure, these infill walls were

not included in the models.

• Strong-column weak beam principles were not applied.

• Additional confinement hoops required around column splices were not specified on the drawings.

• The contractor substituted “U” shaped stirrups for the closed ties required in the joints of the moment

resisting frame.

• The contractor omitted closed hoops in many joints of the concrete moment frame.

Lessons learnt:

• It is hard for supervising engineers to check large models.

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“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 51

• Detailing of connections in structures is important and ensuring that these are followed onsite is

paramount.

• Consideration of all structural and non-structural elements is important in modelling. Ignoring

masonry infill walls in the analysis of the structure allowed the short column conditions to go

undetected at the modelling stage. If infill walls are to be ignored, detailing of these walls is important

to ensure that short column condition cannot develop.

References:

• Guam Earthquake Reconnaissance Report, Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, Oakland

California, April 1995.

• Hamburger, R. O., “Supplemental Report: Failure Investigation, Beach Wing, Royal Palm Resort,

Tumon, Guam, EQE International Report, June 2004.

• Moehle, J. P., “Royal Palm Resort, Guam – An evaluation of the causes of the failure in the

earthquake of 8 August 1993,” Engineering Report, March 1997.

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 52

Introduction:

• Sleipner A is a condeep gravity-based offshore oil and gas drilling platform about midway between

Scotland and Norway in the North Sea.

• The original concrete support structure for Sleipner A sank in the Gandfjord near Stavanger, during a

controlled ballast test.

• The hydraulic pressure acted within the hollows formed by the intersections of the tricell joints. The

leak occurred at one of these tricell joints adjacent to shaft D3 (see Figure 9).

• The SINTEF (Stiftelsen for industriell og teknisk forskning, Norway) undertook an extensive

investigation into the failure of this platform to establish the failure cause.

Findings:

• The investigations showed that during the design of the structure theoretical fundamentals were

overlooked in several instances. The first instance required an advanced knowledge of finite element

modelling to appreciate. The second however was a disturbing omission of essential engineering

knowledge.

1. The engineer did not understand the consequences of using distorted elements in their finite element

model.

2. The engineer forgot the basic mechanics of materials which would require a linear modelling of the

shear stresses rather than a parabolic one. The resulting shear stress from the parabolic modelling

was 45% different to beam analysis results.

3. The tie reinforcement as shown in Figure 10 was too short. Increasing the length of this bar would

have increase the strength of this connection by 50%.

Lessons learnt:

• Simple verification using alternative method of analysis can be useful in evaluating the model’s

accuracy. Differences in results shouldn’t be greater than 10%, and if so this difference should be

examined.

• Detailing of joints is important and strut tie analysis is helpful in these D regions.

• Experienced engineers need to supervise the design process and provide direction on critical modelling

decisions for complex elements.

Figure 9: Sleipner A: Water Levels at the time of failure and location of failure. Graph by SINTEF

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 53

References:

• The Sleipner Platform Accident, by B. Jakobsen and F. Rosendahl, Structural Engineering

International 4(3), August 1994, pp. 190-193.

• The Failure of an Offshore Platform, by R. G. Selby, F. J. Vecchio, and M. P. Collins, Concrete

International 19(8), August 1997, pp. 28-35.

• Rettedal, W. (1993) “Design of concrete platforms after Sleipner A-1 sinking,” Proceedings of the

International Conference on Offshore Mechanics and Arctic Engineering – OMAE, pp. 309-316

Engineers Australia

“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 54

Introduction:

• The Koror–Babeldaob Bridge was a balanced cantilever prestressed concrete box girder bridge with a

main span of 240.8m and total length of 385.6m.

• It was the world’s largest bridge of its type at the time of construction.

• On 26 September 1996 the bridge suddenly collapsed.

Findings:

• Creep had caused the midline of the bridge to sag 1.2m, causing discomfort to drivers and concern for

officials.

• No final cause has ever been definitively published.

Lessons learnt:

• Oversimplification of creep structural analysis using one-dimensional beam-type analysis leads to

errors in deflections including prestress loss for box girders. To capture shear lags in slabs and webs

box girders should be analysed in three-dimensional models.

• The effects of the differences in slab thicknesses within the cross sections on the shrinkage and drying

creep rates must be considered.

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“FEA in the design of reinforced concrete buildings” 55

• The prestress loss should be computed as part of the overall three-dimensional creep analysis of the

structure.

• The experience in Palau reminds us that it is prudent to adopt measures that minimise creep

deflections and prestress losses. It is also a good idea for large structures to allow for possible upgrades

in the future such as empty stressing ducts.

References:

• SSFM Engineers, Inc: Preliminary assessment of Koror-Babeldaob Bridge Failure for United States

Army Corps of Engineers, Honolulu, Hawaii, October 1996

• Parker, D: ‘Pacific bridge collapse throws doubt on repair method’, New Civil Engineer,17 October

1996, pp 3-4

Engineers Australia

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