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Journal of Constructional Steel Research 62 (2006) 893905

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Buckling strength of multi-story sway, non-sway and partially-sway frames
with semi-rigid connections
Georgios E. Mageirou

, Charis J. Gantes
1
Laboratory of Metal Structures, Department of Structural Engineering, National Technical University of Athens, 9 Heroon Polytechniou, GR-15780, Zografou,
Athens, Greece
Received 2 August 2005; accepted 30 November 2005
Abstract
The objective of this paper is to propose a simplied approach to the evaluation of the critical buckling load of multi-story frames with semi-
rigid connections. To that effect, analytical expressions and corresponding graphs accounting for the boundary conditions of the column under
investigation are proposed for the calculation of the effective buckling length coefcient for different levels of frame sway ability. In addition, a
complete set of rotational stiffness coefcients is derived, which is then used for the replacement of members converging at the bottom and top
ends of the column in question by equivalent springs. All possible rotational and translational boundary conditions at the far end of these members,
featuring semi-rigid connection at their near end as well as the eventual presence of axial force, are considered. Examples of sway, non-sway and
partially-sway frames with semi-rigid connections are presented, where the proposed approach is found to be in excellent agreement with the
nite element results, while the application of codes such as Eurocode 3 and LRFD leads to signicant inaccuracies.
c 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Buckling; Effective length; Stiffness coefcients; Multi-story sway; Non-sway and partially-sway frames; Semi-rigid connections
1. Introduction
Nowadays, the buckling strength of a member can be
evaluated using engineering software based on linear or also
non-linear (in terms of large displacements and/or material
yielding) procedures with analytical or numerical methods [15].
Nonetheless, the large majority of structural engineers still
prefer analytical techniques such as the effective length and
notional load methods [26]. These two methodologies are
included in most modern structural design codes (for example,
Eurocode 3 [9], LRFD [23]).
The objective of this work is to propose a simplied
approach for the evaluation of critical buckling loads of multi-
story frames with semi-rigid connections, for different levels
of frame sway ability. To that effect, a model of a column in a
multi-story frame is considered as individual. The contribution
of members converging at the bottom and top ends of the

Corresponding author. Tel.: +30 210 9707444; fax: +30 210 9707444.
E-mail addresses: mageirou@central.ntua.gr (G.E. Mageirou),
chgantes@central.ntua.gr (C.J. Gantes).
1
Tel.: +30 210 7723440; fax: +30 210 7723442.
column is taken into account by equivalent springs. Namely,
the restriction provided by the other members of the frame
to the rotations of the bottom and top nodes is modeled
via rotational springs with constants c
b
and c
t
, respectively,
while the resistance provided by the bracing system to the
relative transverse translation of the end nodes is modeled
via a translational spring with constant c
br
. This is shown
schematically in Fig. 1. The rotational stiffness of the springs
must be evaluated considering the inuence of the connection
non-linearity. This model has been used by several investigators
(for example, Wood [27], Aristizabal-Ochoa [1], and Cheong-
Siat-Moy [6]) for the evaluation of the critical buckling load of
the member, and is adopted by most codes.
The stiffness of the bottom and top rotational springs
is estimated by summing up the contributions of members
converging at the bottom and top ends, respectively:
c
b
=

i
c
b,i
, c
t
=

j
c
t , j
. (1)
A frame is characterized as non-sway if the stiffness c
br
of
the bracing system is very large, as sway if this stiffness is
negligible, and as partially-sway for intermediate values of this
0143-974X/$ - see front matter c 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.jcsr.2005.11.019
894 G.E. Mageirou, C.J. Gantes / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 62 (2006) 893905
Notations
A, B, C, D integration constants
E modulus of elasticity
G distribution factor at the end nodes of the column,
according to LRFD
I moment of inertia
K effective buckling length coefcient
L span length of adjoining members
M bending moment
N axial force of adjoining members
P compressive load
factor of slope deection method
a factor of slope deection method, factor for the
effect of the boundary condition at the far end
nodes of the member
c stiffness coefcient
c ratio of exural stiffness to span
c
#
dimensionless rotational stiffness
d factor for the effect of the axial force
h column height
k non-dimensional compressive load
effective buckling length coefcient, according to
EC3
n ratio of members compressive force to Eulers
buckling load
x longitudinal coordinate
z dimensionless distribution factor at the end nodes
of the column
w transverse deection
relative transverse deection between the end
nodes of the member
distribution factor at the end nodes of the column,
according to EC3
rotation at the end nodes of the member
Subscripts:
A bottom end node of the column
B top end node of the column
E Euler
EC3 Eurocode 3
FEM Finite Element Method
LRFD Load Resistance Factor Design
c column
cr critical
b bottom
bm beam
br bracing system
i member i
n node
r rigid connection
t top
stiffness. Eurocode 3 and LRFD provide the effective length
Kh of columns in sway and non-sway frames via graphs or
Fig. 1. (a) Multi-story steel frame; (b) proposed model of column under
investigation.
analytical relations as functions of the rotational boundary
conditions without considering the connection non-linearity
and the partially-sway behaviour of the frame. The critical
buckling load is then dened as:
P
cr
=

2
EI
c
(Kh)
2
(2)
where EI
c
is the exural resistance.
The main source of inaccuracy in the above process lies
in the estimation of the rotational boundary conditions. LRFD
makes no mention to the dependence of the rotational stiffness
of members converging at the ends of the column under
consideration on their boundary conditions at their far end or
their axial load. Annex E of EC3 is more detailed in accounting
for the contribution of converging beams and lower/upper
columns, but ignores several cases that are encountered in
practice, and are often decisive for the buckling strength. Both
codes ignore the partially-sway behaviour of the frames as well
as the connection non-linearity.
This problem has been investigated by several researchers.
The work of Wood [27] constituted the theoretical basis of
EC3. Cheong-Siat-Moy [5] examined the k-factor paradox
for leaning columns and drew attention to the dependence
of buckling strength not only on the rotational boundary
conditions of the member in question but also on the overall
structural system behavior. Bridge and Fraser [4] proposed
an iterative procedure for the evaluation of the effective
length, which accounts for the presence of axial forces in
the restraining members and thus also considers the negative
values of rotational stiffness. Hellesland and Bjorhovde [11]
proposed a new restraint demand factor considering the vertical
and horizontal interaction in member stability terms. Kishi
et al. [14] proposed an analytical relation for the evaluation of
the effective length of columns with semi-rigid joints in sway
frames. Essa [8] proposed a design method for the evaluation
of the effective length for columns in unbraced multi-story
frames considering different story drift angles. Aristizabal-
Ochoa examined the inuence of uniformly distributed axial
load on the evaluation of the effective length of columns in
sway and partially-sway frames [2]. He then examined the
behavior of columns with semi-rigid connections under loads
G.E. Mageirou, C.J. Gantes / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 62 (2006) 893905 895
Fig. 2. Model of column in (a) non-sway frame, (b) sway frame, and (c) partially-sway frame, and (d) the sign convention used.
such as those produced by tension cables that always pass
through xed points or loads applied by rigid links [3]. What
is more, Kounadis [16] investigated the inelastic buckling of
rigid-jointed frames.
Christopher and Bjorhovde [7] conducted analyses of a
series of semi-rigid frames, each with the same dimensions,
applied loads and member sizes, but with different connection
properties, explaining how connection properties affect
member forces, frame stability, and inter-story drift. Jaspart
and Maquoi [12] described the mode of application of the
elastic and plastic design philosophies to braced frames
with semi-rigid connections. The buckling collapse of steel
reticulated domes with semi-rigid joints was investigated by
Kato et al. [13] on the basis of a nonlinear elasticplastic hinge
analysis formulated for three-dimensional beamcolumns with
elastic, perfectly plastic hinges located at both ends and
mid-span for each member. Lau et al. [17] performed an
analytical study to investigate the behavior of subassemblages
with a range of semi-rigid connections under different test
conditions and loading arrangements. They showed that
signicant variations in the M response had a negligible
effect on the load carrying capacity of the column and the
behavior of the subassemblage. A method for column design
in non-sway bare steel structures which takes into account
the semi-rigid action of the beam to column connections
was proposed by Lau et al. [18]. In [19], closed-form
solutions of the second order differential equation of non-
uniform bars with rotational and translational springs were
derived for eleven important cases. A simplied method
for estimating the maximum load of semi-rigid frames was
proposed by Li and Mativo [20]. The method was in the
form of a multiple linear regression relationship between the
maximum load and various parameters (frame and section
properties), obtained from numerous analyses of frames. Liew
et al. [21] proposed a comprehensive set of moment-rotation
data, in terms of stiffness and moment capacity, so that a
comparative assessment of the frame performance due to
different connection types could be undertaken. Reyes-Salazar
and Haldar [24], using a nonlinear time domain seismic
analysis algorithm developed by themselves, excited three steel
frames with semi-rigid connections by thirteen earthquake time
histories. They proposed a parameter called the T ratio in
order to dene the rigidity of the connections. This parameter
is the ratio of the moment the connection would have to
carry according to the beam line theory and the xed end
moment of the girder. In [25], the equilibrium path was traced
for braced and unbraced steel plane frames with semi-rigid
connections with the aid of a hybrid algorithm that combines
the convergence properties of the iterative-incremental tangent
method, calculating the unbalancing forces by considering the
element rigid body motion. Yu et al. [28] described the details of
a test programof three test specimens loaded to collapse and the
test observations for sway frames under the combined actions
of gravity and lateral loads.
However, all these studies mention nothing about the
dependence of the rotational stiffness of the members
converging on the column under consideration, from the
boundary conditions at their far ends and from their axial loads.
This dependence is investigated in the present work for multi-
story frames with semi-rigid connections for different levels
of lateral stiffness c
br
. Easy to use analytical relations and
corresponding graphs are proposed for the estimation of the
columns effective length for sway, non-sway and partially-
sway frame behaviour. Furthermore, analytical expressions are
derived for the evaluation of the rotational springs stiffness
coefcients for different member boundary conditions and
axial loads accounting for the connection non-linearity. Results
obtained via the proposed approach for sway, non-sway and
partially-sway frames with semi-rigid connections are found to
be in excellent agreement with nite element results, while the
application of design codes such as Eurocode 3 and LRFDleads
to signicant inaccuracies.
2. Buckling strength of columns in multi-story frames
2.1. Non-sway frames
Consider the model of a column in a non-sway frame, shown
in Fig. 2(a), resulting from the model of Fig. 1(b) by replacing
the translational spring with a roller support. Denoting by w
the transverse displacement and by

the differentiation with
respect to the longitudinal coordinate x, and using the sign
convention of Fig. 2(d), the equilibrium of this column in its
buckled condition is described by the well-known differential
equation:
w

(x) + k
2
w

(x) = 0 (3)
where:
k =
_
P
cr
EI
c
=

Kh
. (4)
896 G.E. Mageirou, C.J. Gantes / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 62 (2006) 893905
Fig. 3. Effective buckling length factor K for different levels of frame-sway ability.
The general solution of this differential equation is given by:
w (x) = A sin (kx) + B cos (kx) + Cx + D. (5)
The integration constants A, B, C, and D can be obtained by
applying the boundary conditions at the two column ends:
Transverse displacement at the bottom:
w(0) = 0. (6)
Moment equilibrium at the bottom:
EI
c
w

(0) = c
b
w

(0) . (7)
Moment equilibrium at the top:
EI
c
w

(h) = c
t
w

(h) . (8)
Transverse displacement at the top:
w (h) = 0. (9)
The four simultaneous equations (6)(9) have a non-trivial
solution for the four unknowns A, B, C, and D if the
determinant of the coefcients is equal to zero. This criterion
yields the buckling equation for the effective length factor K:
32K
3
(z
t
1) (z
b
1) 4K
_
8K
2
(z
t
1) (z
b
1)
+ (z
t
+ z
b
2z
t
z
b
)
2
_
cos
_

K
_
+
_
16K
2
+20K
2
(z
t
+ z
b
) + z
t
z
b
_

2
24K
2
__
sin
_

K
_
= 0 (10)
where z
b
and z
t
are distribution factors obtained by the non-
dimensionalization of the end rotational stiffnesses c
b
and c
t
with respect to the columns exural stiffness c
c
:
z
b
=
c
c
c
c
+ c
b
, z
t
=
c
c
c
c
+ c
t
(11)
where:
c
c
=
4EI
c
h
. (12)
Eq. (10) can be solved numerically for the effective length
factor K, which is then substituted into Eq. (2) to provide the
critical buckling load. Alternatively, the upper left graph of
Fig. 3, obtained from Eq. (10), can be used.
2.2. Sway frames
The simplied model of a column in a sway frame, shown in
Fig. 2(b), is considered, resulting from the model of Fig. 1(b)
by omitting the translational spring. Three boundary conditions
G.E. Mageirou, C.J. Gantes / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 62 (2006) 893905 897
are described by Eqs. (6)(8), while a fourth condition
expresses horizontal force equilibrium at the top:
EI
c
w

(h) Pw

(h) = 0. (13)
Thus the buckling equation for the effective length factor K
is derived, following the same procedure as above:
4 [z
t
(2z
b
1) z
b
]

K
cos
_

K
_
+
_
z
t
z
b
_

K
_
2
16 (z
t
1) (z
b
1)
_
sin
_

K
_
= 0. (14)
Alternatively, the bottomright graph of Fig. 3, obtained from
Eq. (14), can be used.
2.3. Partially-sway frames
Finally, consider the simplied model of a column in
a partially-sway frame, shown in Fig. 2(c). Similarly, the
boundary conditions are described by Eqs. (6)(8) and the
following equation, representing horizontal force equilibrium
at the top:
EI
C
w

(h) Pw

(h) = c
br
w (h) . (15)
The effective length factor K of a column in a partially-sway
frame is then obtained from the following equation:
32K
5
c
br
(z
t
1) (z
b
1) + 4K
_
8K
4
c
br
(z
t
1) (z
b
1)
+ K
2
c
br
(z
t
+ z
b
2z
t
z
b
)
2
+ (z
t
z
b
+ 2z
t
z
b
)
4
_
cos
_

K
_
+
_
4K
4
c
br
(4 5z
t
5z
b
+ 6z
t
z
b
)
16K
2

2
(1 z
t
z
b
+ z
t
z
b
)
K
2
c
br

2
z
t
z
b
+
4
z
t
z
b
_
sin
_

K
_
= 0 (16)
where:
c
br
=
c
br
h
3
EI
. (17)
Easy to use graphs such as those presented in Fig. 3 are
obtained from the above equation for several values of c
br
.
3. Stiffness distribution factors
The rotational stiffness of each member converging at the
top or bottom node of the column in question is derived using
the slope-deection method [22]. The moments M
AB
and M
BA
at the two ends of a member AB with span L and exural
stiffness EI , without axial force or transverse load (Fig. 4), can
be obtained as a function of the end rotations
A
and
B
and the
relative transverse deection of the end nodes from:
M
AB
=
2EI
L
_
2
A
+
B
+
3
L
_
,
M
BA
=
2EI
L
_
2
B
+
A
+
3
L
_
. (18)
Fig. 4. Undeformed (dotted line) and deformed (continuous line) state of a
member AB, and the sign convention of the slope-deection method.
If, in addition, the member is subjected to a compressive
axial force P, then Eq. (18) becomes:
M
AB
=
2EI
L
_
a
n

A
+ a
f

B
+
_
a
n
+ a
f
_

L
_
M
BA
=
2EI
L
_
a
n

B
+ a
f

A
+
_
a
n
+ a
f
_
L
_
(19)
where:
a
n
=

n
2
_

2
n

2
f
_, a
f
=

f
2
_

2
n

2
f
_ (20)

n
=
1 kL cot kL
k
2
L
2
,
f
=
1
k
2
L
2
_
kL
sin kL
1
_
. (21)
Using the above equations, the rotational stiffness expres-
sions have been derived for members with all possible boundary
conditions at the far end and a semi-rigid connection at the close
end, with or without axial force, and are shown in Table 1. The
derivation of the rotational stiffness factors is described next for
two characteristic cases: one for a member without and one for
a member with axial force.
3.1. Member with a xed support at the far end and a semi-
rigid connection at the near end, without axial force
Consider the member AB of Fig. 5(a), with span L
i
and
exural stiffness E
i
I
i
, where A refers to the bottom or top
node of the column under investigation, while B is the far
node, attached to a xed support. The connection at node A
is considered as semi-rigid with a rotational stiffness c
n
.
The slope-deection equations are given by (18), with
indices i referring to the specic member. Firstly, the
connection at node A is considered as rigid. The rotational
stiffness c
r,i
of the member AB with a rigid connection was
evaluated in previous work by the authors [10].
The moment at node A of the member with rigid connections
is given by the equation:
M
AB
=
2E
i
I
i
L
i
(2
A
+
B
) . (22)
Furthermore, there is no rotation at node B:

B
= 0. (23)
898 G.E. Mageirou, C.J. Gantes / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 62 (2006) 893905
Table 1
Converging members rotational stiffness expressions for different boundary conditions at the far end and for a semi-rigid connection at the near end, with or without
axial force
Rotational boundary conditions of far end Without axial force With axial force
Fixed support c
i
=
4 c
i
cn
4 c
i
+cn
c
i
=
4 c
i
cn(10.33n
i
)
cn+4 c
i
1.32 c
i
n
i
Roller xed support c
i
=
c
i
cn
c
i
+cn
c
i
=
c
i
cn(10.82n
i
)
cn+ c
i
0.82 c
i
n
i
Pinned support c
i
=
3 c
i
cn
3 c
i
+cn
c
i
=
3 c
i
cn(10.66n
i
)
cn+3 c
i
1.98 c
i
n
i
Simple curvature c
i
=
2 c
i
cn
2 c
i
+cn
c
i
=
2 c
i
cn(10.82n
i
)
cn+2 c
i
1.64 c
i
n
i
Double curvature c
i
=
6 c
i
cn
6 c
i
+cn
c
i
=
6 c
i
cn(10.16n
i
)
cn+6 c
i
0.96 c
i
n
i
Roller support c
i
=
0 c
i
cn
0 c
i
+cn
c
i
=
c
i
cn(00.97n
i
)
cn+0 c
i
0.97 c
i
n
i
Rotational spring support c
i
=
c
i
cnc
#
( c
i
+cn)c
#
+cn
c
i
=
c
i
cn[c
#
(1.047n
i
+1.773)n
i
]
cn(0.591n
i
c
#
+c
#
+1)+ c
i
[c
#
(1.047n
i
+1.773)n
i
]
Pinned and rotational spring support c
i
=
4 c
i
cn(c
#
+3)
4 c
i
(c
#
+3)+cn(c
#
+4)
c
i
=
2 c
i
cn[(c
#
(c
#
+9)+24)n
i

2
30(c
#
+3)(c
#
+4)]
2 c
i
(c
#
(c
#
+9)+24)n
i

2
15(c
#
+4)[4 c
i
(c
#
+3)+cn(c
#
+4)]
G.E. Mageirou, C.J. Gantes / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 62 (2006) 893905 899
Fig. 5. Model of a member with a xed support at the far end B and a semi-
rigid connection at the near end A: (a) without axial force, (b) with axial force.
Then, by virtue of (23), Eq. (22) becomes:
M
AB
=
4E
i
I
i
L
i

A
. (24)
Thus, the rotational stiffness representing the resistance of
member AB to the rotation of node A is given by:
c
r,i
=
4E
i
I
i
L
i
(25)
which can be written as
c
r,i
= 4 c
i
(26)
where:
c
i
=
E
i
I
i
L
i
. (27)
Two rotational springs with rotational stiffness c
r,i
and c
n
in series are considered, in order to evaluate the rotational
stiffness c
i
of the member AB with a semi-rigid connection.
The total rotation is the sum of the rotations of the two springs.
Therefore:

i
=
r,i
+
n
. (28)
Considering that the springs have the same moment, Eq. (29)
is written:
1
c
i
=
1
c
r,i
+
1
c
n
. (29)
Thus, the rotational stiffness c
i
of member AB with a semi-
rigid connection is evaluated from Eq. (29):
c
i
=
c
r,i
c
n
c
r,i
+ c
n
. (30)
By substituting (26) into (30), the rotational stiffness c
i
of
the member AB with a semi-rigid connection is evaluated:
c
i
=
4 c
i
c
n
4 c
i
+ c
n
. (31)
3.2. Member with a xed support at the far end and a semi-
rigid connection at the close end, with axial force
Now consider the member of Fig. 5(b), with span L
i
and
exural stiffness E
i
I
i
, where A again refers to the bottom or
top node of the column under investigation, while B is the
far node, rotationally xed. The member AB is subjected to
a compressive axial force N
i
. The rotational stiffness c
i
of the
member AB with a semi-rigid connection is evaluated in the
same manner as above.
Firstly, the member AB is considered having rigid
connections. The slope-deection equations are given by (19),
with indices i referring to the specic member. The moment at
node A of the member with rigid connections is given by the
equation:
M
AB
=
2E
i
I
i
L
i
_

n,i

A
+
f,i

B
_
. (32)
As there is no rotation at node B (
B
= 0), the previous
equation is rewritten:
M
AB
=
2E
i
I
i
L
i

n,i

A
. (33)
Therefore, the rotational stiffness representing the resistance
of member AB to the rotation of node A is given by:
c
r,i
=
2E
i
I
i
L
i

n,i
(34)
which, by means of (20) and (21) and k
2
i
= N/E
i
I
i
, N
E,i
=

2
E
i
I
i
/L
2
i
, becomes:
c
r,i
=
4E
i
I
i
L
i

n
i
_
_

n
i
cot
_

n
i
_
1
4

n
i
8 tan
_
1
2

n
i
_
_
_
(35)
where n
i
is the ratio of the members compressive force to
Eulers buckling load N
E,i
:
n
i
=
N
i
N
E,i
. (36)
A Taylor series expansion of Eq. (35) gives:
c
r,i
=
4E
i
I
i
L
i
_
1

2
30
n
i

11
4
25 200
n
2
i


6
108 000
n
3
i

509
8
2328 480 000
n
4
i
. . .
_
. (37)
Keeping the rst two terms, Eq. (38) is obtained:
c
r,i
=
4E
i
I
i
L
i
_
1

2
30
n
i
_
(38)
which can be written as
c
r,i
= 4 c
i
(1 0.33n
i
) . (39)
By substituting (39) into (30), the rotational stiffness c
i
of the
member AB with a semi-rigid connection is evaluated:
c
i
=
4 c
i
c
n
(1 0.33n
i
)
c
n
+ 4 c
i
1.32 c
i
n
i
. (40)
900 G.E. Mageirou, C.J. Gantes / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 62 (2006) 893905
Fig. 6. The frame of example 1.
4. Examples
This section gives four examples of a simple frame that
consists of a column and a beam with a variety of supports at
the far end namely, a three-story, single-bay sway frame; a
three-story, single-bay non-sway frame; and a one-story, single-
bay sway, non-sway and partially-sway frame for which the
proposed approach is demonstrated and its results are compared
to (i) buckling loads obtained via linearized buckling analysis
of nite element models, considered as exact, for verication
purposes, and (ii) buckling loads calculated by applying the
pertinent procedures of Eurocode 3 and LRFD.
4.1. Example 1
Consider the frame of Fig. 6 with a single span L = 20 m
and height h = 10 m, having a column with HEB360 cross-
section (I
c
= 43 190 cm
4
) and a beam with IPE400 cross-
section (I
bm
= 23 130 cm
4
). The column is considered to be
pinned at the base. A concentrated load P is imposed on the
beamcolumn joint. The beamcolumn joint is considered to be
semi-rigid, with a rotational stiffness of c
n
= 150 kN m/rad.
The beam has restricted translation and a rotational spring
support with a rotational stiffness of c = 500 kN m at the
far end. The frame is made of steel with Youngs modulus
E = 210 000 000 kN/m
2
.
Firstly, a linearized buckling analysis of the frame is
conducted using the commercial nite element software MSC-
NASTRAN. The critical buckling load obtained from this
analysis is P
cr,FEM
= 8981.02 kN. Secondly, the buckling
strength is evaluated by using the proposed methodology. In
order to do so, the frame is substituted by the equivalent model
of Fig. 2(b). The rotational stiffness of the beamconsidering the
semi-rigid connection is evaluated from the last row of Table 1:
c
BB
=
4 c
BB
c
n
(c
#
BB

+ 3)
4 c
BB
(c
#
BB

+ 3) + c
n
(c
#
BB

+ 4)
= 147.02 kN m (41)
where:
c
BB
=
EI
bm
L
= 2428.65 kN m (42)
c
#
BB
=
c
c
BB

= 0.206. (43)
Applying the proposed method, the distribution factor z
b
is
equal to 1 due to the pinned support, while z
t
is obtained from:
z
t
=
c
c
c
c
+ c
BB

= 0.996 (44)
where:
c
c
=
4EI
c
h
= 36 279.60 kN m. (45)
Then, the evaluation of the buckling length coefcient is
conducted by means of Eq. (10), giving K = 0.998. Thus, the
Euler buckling load is equal to:
P
cr,prop
=

2
EI
c
(Kh)
2
= 8981.01 kN. (46)
Therefore, the results of the proposed approach are in
excellent agreement with the results of the nite element
method. The previous procedure is followed for the same frame
with different supports at the far end of the beam as well as
for a single span, one-story sway and non-sway frame for the
verication of the rotational stiffness of Table 1. The results of
the proposed approach and the FEM analysis are presented in
Table 2 and are practically the same.
4.2. Example 2
Consider the three-story sway frame of Fig. 7 with a single
span L = 20 m and uniform story height h = 10 m,
having columns with HEB360 cross-section (I
c
= 43 190 cm
4
)
and beams with IPE400 cross-section (I
bm
= 23 130 cm
4
).
The columns are considered to be pinned at the base. Equal
concentrated loads P/3 are imposed on all beamcolumn
joints. The beamcolumn joints are considered to be semi-rigid
with a rotational stiffness of c
n
= 150 kN m. The frame is made
of steel with Youngs modulus E = 210 000 000 kN/m
2
.
At rst, a buckling analysis of the frame is conducted using
the same nite element software. The rst buckling mode
is obtained from this analysis, and the corresponding critical
buckling load is 22.02 kN. In order to verify the proposed
rotational stiffness coefcients, the frame is then substituted by
a series of equivalent models. The rst among them, denoted as
equivalent model 1a, is illustrated in Fig. 7(b). It is obtained by
substituting the beams at the three levels by rotational springs.
Assuming that, in the rst buckling mode, the beams deform
with a double curvature, the stiffness of the springs is obtained
from the corresponding row of Table 1:
c
bm
=
6 c
bm
c
n
6 c
bm
+ c
n
= 148.47 kN (47)
where:
c
bm
=
EI
bm
L
= 2428.65 kN m. (48)
The rst buckling mode of the equivalent model 1a is
obtained from FEM analysis, and the corresponding critical
buckling load is also 22.02 kN, thus verifying the correctness
of this substitution.
G.E. Mageirou, C.J. Gantes / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 62 (2006) 893905 901
Table 2
Critical loads according to the proposed and nite element methods for a variety of structural systems with semi-rigid connections of example 1
Frame P
cr,FEM
(kN) P
cr,prop
(kN)
Pcr,propP
cr,FEM
P
cr,FEM
(%)
8981.58 8981.16 0.005
8979.83 8979.86 0.001
9027.06 9027.30 0.003
10.98 10.97 0.091
8981.02 8981.01 0.0001
902 G.E. Mageirou, C.J. Gantes / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 62 (2006) 893905
Fig. 7. (a) The three-story sway frame of example 2, (b) equivalent model 1a, (c) equivalent model 1b, (d) equivalent model 1c.
The second equivalent model, denoted as 1b, is illustrated in
Fig. 7(c). It is obtained by substituting the top column CD by a
rotational spring with stiffness c

CD
calculated from the second
last row of Table 1:
c

CD
=
c
CD
c
n,CD
_
c
#
CD
(1.047n
CD
+ 1.773)n
CD
_
c
n,CD
_
0.591n
CD
c
#
CD
+ c
#
CD
+ 1
_
+ c
CD
_
c
#
CD
(1.047n
CD
+ 1.773)n
CD
_
= 70.18 kN m (49)
where:
c
CD
=
EI
c
h
= 9069.90 kN m (50)
c
#
CD
=
c
bm
c
CD
= 0.016 (51)
N
CD
=
1
3
22.02 kN = 7.34 kN. (52)
Alternatively, the axial design load can be used for the N
CD
,
without any signicant inuence on the results:
N
E,CD
=

2
EI
c
h
2
= 8942.56 kN (53)
n
CD
=
N
CD
N
E,CD
= 0.001. (54)
Then, the total rotational stiffness at node C of model 1b is:
c
CD
= c

CD
+ c
bm
= 218.65 kN m. (55)
The critical buckling load of the rst buckling mode of the
equivalent model 1b, obtained from Nastran, is 22.00 kN.
The third equivalent model, denoted as 1c, is illustrated in
Fig. 7(d). It is obtained by substituting column BC of model
1b by a rotational spring with stiffness c

BC
calculated similarly
from the second last row of Table 1:
c

BC
= 100.98 kN m. (56)
Table 3
Critical loads for model 1 and its equivalent models 1a, 1b, 1c of Example 2
P
cr
(kN)
Pcr P
cr,model1
P
cr,model1
(%)
Model 1 22.02428 0
Model 1a 22.01921 0.02
Model 1b 22.00429 0.09
Model 1c 21.96301 0.28
Then, the total rotational stiffness at node B of model 1c is:
c
BC
= c

BC
+ c
bm
= 249.45 kN m. (57)
The rst buckling mode of the equivalent model 1c is
obtained from Nastran, and the corresponding critical buckling
load is 21.96 kN. The critical loads of all models, as well as
their deviations from the critical load of the full model, are
summarized in Table 3, demonstrating excellent agreement.
In addition, the critical buckling load of column AB is
evaluated according to the provisions of EC3 and LRFD.
Following the procedure of Annex E of EC3, the distribution
factor
1
at node A is 1 due to the hinged support, while the
distribution factor
2
at node B has a contribution from beam
BB

assumed to deform with a double curvature and column


BC, and is found to be equal to
2
= 0.833. Then, for the sway
buckling condition, the effective buckling length coefcient is
found to be

L
= 3.996.
Thus, the Euler buckling load is calculated as:
P
cr,EC3
=

2
EI
c
__

L
_
h
_
2
= 560.03 kN. (58)
In the same manner, following the provisions of LRFD,
the distribution factor G
A
at node A is 10 due to the pinned
support, and the distribution factor G
B
at node B is equal to
7.469. Assuming uninhibited side-sway behavior, the effective
buckling coefcient is calculated to be K = 1.820.
G.E. Mageirou, C.J. Gantes / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 62 (2006) 893905 903
Table 4
Critical loads according to different methodologies of column AB of example 2
P
cr
(kN)
Pcr P
cr,FEM
P
cr,FEM
(%)
FEM 22.02428 0
EC3 560.60 2 445.37
LRFD 2702.46 12 170.40
Proposed 21.9399 0.38
Fig. 8. The three-story non-sway frame of example 3.
The Euler buckling load is equal to:
P
cr,LRFD
=

2
EI
c
(Kh)
2
= 2702.46 kN. (59)
Applying the proposed method, the distribution factor z
b
is
equal to 1 due to the pinned support, while z
t
is obtained from:
z
t
=
c
c
c
c
+ c
BC
= 0.994. (60)
Then, the evaluation of the buckling length coefcient is
conducted by means of Eq. (14) and gives K = 20.940. Thus,
the Euler buckling load is equal to:
P
cr,prop
=

2
EI
c
(Kh)
2
= 21.94 kN. (61)
The above results are summarized in Table 4, and compared
to the results of the linearized buckling analysis, which are
considered to be exact. The proposed method is in very good
agreement with the numerical results.
4.3. Example 3
Next, consider the same three-story frame of example 2, but
with inhibited side-sway at all stories, shown in Fig. 8.
The same procedure is followed for the verication of
the proposed approach. The critical buckling load of column
AB is evaluated according to the code provisions as above.
Table 5
Critical loads according to different methodologies of column AB of example 3
P
cr
(kN)
Pcr P
cr,FEM
P
cr,FEM
(%)
FEM 11 237.75 0
EC3 9 358.89 16.72
LRFD 11 745.60 4.52
Proposed 11 274.80 0.33
Fig. 9. The frames of example 4 with (a) partially-sway, (b) non-sway and (c)
sway behaviour.
The proposed method is in very good agreement with the
numerical results, while EC3 is overconservative and LRFD is
underconservative but with much smaller deviations than in the
sway-case (Table 5).
4.4. Example 4
Lastly, consider the one-story, partially-sway, non-sway and
sway frames of Fig. 9 (a), (b) and (c), respectively. The frames
have a single span L = 20 m and a story height h equal to 10 m,
904 G.E. Mageirou, C.J. Gantes / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 62 (2006) 893905
Table 6
Critical loads according to different methodologies of column AB of the partially-sway frame of example 4
P
cr
(kN)
Pcr P
cr,FEM
P
cr,FEM
(%)
FEM 5 000.636 0
EC3 (lower limit assuming sway behaviour) 898.78 82.03
EC3 (upper limit assuming non-sway behaviour) 9 980.74 99.59
LRFD (lower limit assuming sway behaviour) 3 441.23 31.18
LRFD (upper limit assuming non-sway behaviour) 11 821.70 136.40
Proposed 5 000.01 0.01
Table 7
Critical loads according to different methodologies of column AB of the non-
sway frame of example 4
P
cr
(kN)
Pcr P
cr,FEM
P
cr,FEM
(%)
FEM 8 980.67 0
EC3 9 980.74 11.14
LRFD 11 821.70 31.64
Proposed 8 980.67 0
Table 8
Critical loads according to different methodologies of column AB of the sway
frame of example 4
P
cr
(kN)
Pcr P
cr,FEM
P
cr,FEM
(%)
FEM 14.77 0
EC3 898.78 5 983.56
LRFD 3441.23 23 192.60
Proposed 14.77 0
having columns with HEB360 cross-section (I
c
= 43 190 cm
4
)
and beams with IPE400 cross-section (I
bm
= 23 130 cm
4
). The
columns are considered to be pinned at the base. A compressive
concentrated load P is imposed on the beamcolumn joints.
The beamcolumn joints are considered to be semi-rigid with
a rotational stiffness of c
n
= 150 kN m. A translation spring
with a stiffness of c
br
= 1000 kN/m simulates the partially-
sway behaviour of the rst frame. The frame is made of steel
with Youngs modulus E = 210 000 000 kN/m
2
.
The same procedure is followed for the verication of the
proposed approach. Moreover, the critical buckling load of
column AB is evaluated according to the code provisions,
considering the rst frame rstly to be sway and secondly to
be non-sway. The proposed method is in excellent agreement
with the numerical results, while EC3 and LRFD with the sway
behaviour consideration give overconservative results while the
non-sway behaviour consideration leads to underconservative
results (Table 6). The results of the proposed methodology and
the design codes are presented in Tables 68 for the frames of
Fig. 9 (a), (b) and (c), respectively.
5. Summary and conclusions
A simplied method for the evaluation of the critical
buckling load of multi-story sway, non-sway and partially-
sway frames with semi-rigid connections has been presented.
Firstly, three analytical expressions for the effective buckling
length coefcient as a function of the end nodes distribution
factors, as well as accompanying graphs, have been proposed
for different levels of sway ability. The rotational stiffness of
the members (columns and beams) converging at the bottom
and top ends of the column with semi-rigid connections
depend heavily on the boundary conditions at their far end
and on the existence of axial force in them. Thus, analytical
expressions of the stiffness distribution factors accounting
for these issues have been derived. Examples of sway, non-
sway and partially-sway structures with semi-rigid connections
and comparisons to nite element results have been used
to establish the improved accuracy of the above mentioned
procedure compared to the pertinent code provisions. It is
believed that the proposed approach maintains the inherent
simplicity of the effective length method by not signicantly
increasing the required workload, but at the same time improves
its accuracy a lot and could thus be considered to be a
competitive alternative for practical applications.
Acknowledgments
Financial support for this work is provided by the
Pythagoras: Support of Research Groups in Universities. The
project is co-funded by the European Social Fund (75%) and
National Resources (25%) (EPEAEK II)PYTHAGORAS.
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