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*Analysis of a three-flight, free standing staircase- 1

A. B. Choudhury

A free standing staircase is a highly redundant structure and is very complex in behaviour.
Analysis of such a structure gets further complicated if there are three flights. Though there is a
growing body of literature on the analysis of a free standing staircase, they all suffer from certain
weaknesses. Using the principles of rotational compatibility and equilibrium, a direct general
method of analysis has. been developed and simplified formulae presented. In this, the first
part of the paper, the first stage of the analysis is presented. In the subsequent part the second
stage, together with a numerical example will be published.

A free standing reinfcrced concrete staircase is a very years many papers on the analysis of two-flight
attractive structure and therefore of special interest to free standing straircases have ap~ared1.23,4”17,10.1 **t3*r4*
architects and engineers. Usually a free standing staircase Most of them are based on either the consideration of
has two flights and an intermediate landing, and has symmetrical flights loaded with ‘symmetrical loads, or
supports only at the upper and lower floor levels. Such very simplified assumptions, which have got their own
a structure is highly redundant and very complex in limitations. One paper analysing the three-flight free
behatio~r. Analysis @s more complicated if an inter- standing staircase has appeared”. But the structure
mediate flight is introduced in the landing slab. IO recent

,i--------,,~ , I
-+- __..- lb-.__.


Fig 1 Skeletal rigid frame and projections on different planes of the three-flight free stmding staircase

A B. Choudhuv. BE, DCT (bnd), MSC (En@, CENG MICE (landon), oivil
w~needw oxPat Sotmtrriat of Howing, Gomrnent of Libya, Trfpolf, Lfbya

distance on X-Y plane between torsional, in-plane bending
the inner edges of the two end moment of flight elements at
flights joint i due to primary analysis
depth of the flight elements torsional, in-plane bending
A, B, C, respectively moment at joint i towards joint
modulus of elasticity for bending i due to primary analysis
modulus of elasticity for shear torsional, in-plane bending
moment of the flight elements at
horizontal reactions along joint i
X-axis at joint i due to primary torsional, in-plane bending
analysis and secondary analysis, moment at joint i towards joint i
axial force at joint i hr the
moment of inertia about X-axis elements A and B, respectively
for the cross-section of element,
C R;, i imaginary support reaction at
joint [2] and [3] respectively,
moment of inertia about Y-axis
for the cross-se&on of tight due to primary analysis
elements A and B, respectively R:, R; imagimuy support reaction at
joint P] and [3], rewctively
moment of inertia about Zaxis
fbr the cross-section of the due to secondary analysis
elements A, B and C, unbalanced reactionat joints [2]
respectively and [3] due to primary and
inclined length of the flight secondary analysis, respectively
e~p~~;lyA. B ami C, width of the flight elements
torsional moment of inertia of width of the tight element C
the elements A, B and C, vertical reactions along Z-axis
at joint i due to primary,
length of elements A, B, C on secondary analysis, respectively
X-Y plane respectively angle of inclination of the
elements A, B and C with X-Y
ML MZi. 4 = moment about X-axis, Y-axis,
Z-axis, respectively at joint i plane
due to primary analysis rotation about X-axis at joint i
cross-sectional area of elements net deflection of the structure in
A and B, respectively X-Z direction respectively
moment about X-axis, Y-axis, diffxential deflection in X-Z
Z-axis, respe&ively at joint i due direction respectively between
to secondary analysis joints [2] and [3]

chosen for anaIysis in that paper, ‘is a gomehricslly

symmetrkal structure foaded with symmetrIcu1 loads.
The analysis of the frame is carried out in two stages,
The skeletal rigid frame has been assumed to stimulate namely, primary aualysis, and secondary anaIysis.
the structural behaviour of a three-flight free stauding
staircase, F& 1. It is considered to be a rigid space fPame (2) prr’rinary a&e&: step I -eqzdLib* in X-Zpk:
oom sdoftm-cndB&$tt&me~ts, Amdbean& cbnskfering the overaff equifitium of the structure as
rigicry to tie toznsverse intermediate tight element, C a whole, Fig 2
along the junction line 2” - [2]-2’-3’-[3]--3”,Rgl(b).
The pmtion line 2”-[2]-2’-3’-[3]-3’is cons&red
to be an inclined girder conuecting the tlight elements A
aud B.
To solve this highly redundant space frame, it is
initially assumed that the tight elements A and B remain
in their respective vertical plane; i.e. X-Z plane under XM, = 0 or -MI’-H, tana -I- MI*- c$? +
the action of loadings and that the angle between the
flights at the landing remain unchanged under the
action of loadings. vfir, =o l l (3)

Fig 2 Overall equilibrium diagram

ZM4 = 0; or - My: -HiLO+Lb+LC) tan a-ML Fig 4 Mz diagram of element C

Since the tight elements, A and B are rigidly connected

to the intermediate flight element C, the angle in X-Z
. .w plane between the tights A and B at the element C
remain unchanged under the action of loadings.
Referring to the free body diagram, Fig 3, and comparing Rotation of joint [2] with respect to [l] = rotation of
the compatibility conditions of rotations in X-Z plane [2] with respect to [4] = rotation of [2] with respect
and satisfying the equilibrium conditions of stability, to [3] + rotation of [3] with respect to [4].
the joint moments, ~~~ and the support reactions, Rotation of [2] with respect to [l]
HIr and Vri are evaluated as followS. (wg cos’a) I,’
For compatibility of rotations-rotation of element (24EIJ
A at joint [l] with respect to [2] due to loads and
fixed end moments = 0. Referring to Fig 4, rotation of [2] with respect to [3]
M:t i, -Mz2i,, - (w, s cm2 a) i,” o
(3EI.J + (6EI.J 24EI,, =

or J(r = (wg cda)i,2 * .(5)

8 2
Similarly, at support [4]
iufi = ( wbs cos2a)ii - Mr3- * - (6)
8 2

Rotation of [3] with respect to [4]

Fii 3 Free body diagram

8 reactive couple equal to H,PL, in X-Y plane. Let
M,= joint moments about Zaxis due to this couple
as shown in pig 5.
There are .no horizontal reactions in Y-direction, Hii
at supports[l] and [4].

H,!!= 0; or (“l)r-M”) = 0; or Mr, = &f12.


Similarly, Mzl = Mz;, Let 8, = displacement of the

structure in Y-direction. Referring to Fig 5, and
applying the principles of moment area theorem, the
displacement of joint [2] with respect to [I] in
Y-direction is given by

Fig 5 /Wz diagram I~ cosai,) Mfii

sy2 = t”’
(2EIzJ (‘I = (2 EI, Cosa)
Again for equilibrium of element C
Similarly, the displacement of joint [3] with respect to [4]
in Y-direction is given by
kf,,~ + i&f:3 = !$f - H”, ctana . .@I
Solving equations (1) to (8) s
” = (2 E&, COS a)

F2- 1*5(L=-LL,) Fl
La 4 J’3 1 For compatibility, Sy2 = Sy3 = 8,

J&t d L; - .(9)
(2 EZm ws a) = (2 EI,acos a)

For equilibrium, M,i + M,‘3 = HIL, . .(lO)

Solving equations (9) and (10)


= 0.5 w,- (MS- Md +H,tana ,

L&Z step 3 -equilibrium in Y-z plane: h?t M;, Mz, Mp

= joint moments about X-axis, torsional moments 0s
Jc = w, + w, + w, - v;, the flights, in-plane bending moments of the flights,
respectrvely. Adding vector-rally the joint moments as
shown in Fig 6, Mri and Mz are given by

M: = MI: CQS a - Mz sin a

2 + 1.5c Mi’= Mz sin a + MI; cos a

- - l.%(L,,--Lb)(K, +2Q)
F, = Referring to Figs 7 and 8, and considering the compati-
I’% Lb (Ka + & + 4e)] tana bility conditions of rotations at joints [2] and [3] about
F2X3~(w.+w,,+w,+;~ X-axis, the joint moments Mz can be evaluatrd as
K, wb Lb + (K,+2Q) W, t
12 2(K, + Kb + 4Q) I The loadings on the girder [2] to 31 ‘are treated as
shown in Fig 7(b) and the principles oc superposition is
Step 2- equilibrium hi X- Yplane: The flight elements A used. Referring to Fig 7(b) (i), ,Rz~ and Ry, = fictitious
and B are in different vertical planes placed at a distance support reactions at bends 2’ and 3’, respectively;
Xz and X3.= moments at supports 2’ and 3’, respectively.
[2] - [3] = L, apart. The horizontalreactions Hxpin X- Applying the theorem of the three moments, X2* and
‘direction at supports [l] and [4] due to step 1, will induce Xs~aregivenby, *. ;
II -4 =I,, ; I2 =Ixccosa

I, = 1, = ; ; l2 = c

41 =43 =(w1tJ; q2 =(w,t)

Because of symmetry, x2 = x,,; R? = ~~

Let x,. = X3s=Xand R2=R3,=R

Therefore, solving equation (1 I), X and R are given by

X = (wt13 cos a + w 0 tcs

[ 8
[4(3c + s cos a)]
1 . .(III)

R =(F +(@; + ‘+

For the girder element [2] - [3], the end [2] will rotate
due to loading, Fig 7(b) (i)

41x2 = _ (w)s3 xs
(a) (192EI~ + (12EI~
Due to loading, Ng 7(b) (ii)

=- Rr(2c + 4
Due to loading, Fig 7(b) (iii)

Due to loading, Ng 7(b) (iv)

The total rotation of joint [2] about X-axis is given by

CL2 +22 +fL+Lz.

For the tight element [l]- [2], the rotation of the end [2]
about X-axis due to torsional end moment& iUz is
..(Il) given by


+ (jU~cosa-- Misina)L,

- h&ana)L.
Similarly for joint [3]
(w&s3 xs wk + s)
- (192EZxJ + (m - W&l

. .(12b)

Solving the equations (12a) and (12b)
al2 I al2 1 c cl2 rl2
1 I 1 .’


(w r> f + tan [Qb <Q, - 342

i Oj’; - (Q,-W..l] /(Q,vQb-1)

@,‘,i t -
3” X2’
“3’ Ri M;=(Qe-1) (&) [32c+s)- X] . .(lv)
--(IQ,-1) (3:$) x&t);

(v,*t) Q,, = 2 + 6Ezxck
(r1.t) 2’ #’ (J,GL, cos a)
II /’ 3/@i

Qb = 2 + 6EJ&b
3u @ (J&L, COS a)

Referring to the free body diagram of the elements, A,
B and C, Fig 9, reactions at joints [2] and [3] are
given by

Fig 7 hl> diagram

For compatibility of rotations about X-axis,

hOs3 XS Rr(2c + s)
- w=I,,) + (am - @-wc~ \

p’ ’ #
=- Ma- Miian a)& . .(12a) Fig 8 I$ diagram

Rotation on [2] with respect [l]

Similarly, rotation of [3] with respect to [4]

= (JbG cos a)
Therefore, for compatibility of rotations

. .(16)
(J,G cos a) = (JbG cos a)
Again for equilibrium
Fig 9 Free body diagram of A, B and C Mi* -I- Mx: = &
Solving the equations (16) and (17)

Taking into account the directions of the moment

vectors as shown in the diagrams, the Bnal joint moments
Mx: due to primary analysis are given by

..(v> 4l =Mx;=M: +M,q;

Let, R3’ - R,‘= 2rb . .(13)

To satisfy the conditions of equilibrium in X-Z plane

the imaginary vertical reactions at joints [2] and [3] shall
each be equal to

R ’ = HItan a, and

R’I + R:=IR, . .(14)

From equations (13) and (14),

R3 = Rp+ rp and
Rz a RP- ,’ . .(15)

From equation (15) and Fig 10, it is obvious that a

reactive couple of (fLc) about X-axis has to be induced

in the structure to .maiatain equilibrium conditions due
to analysis of ,steps I and II. l’his couple will tend
to rotate the structure as whole about the X-axis.
Let, Mxl ,= joint moments due to this couple. For
compatibility of rotations about X-axis, rotation of *
[2] with respect to [l] = rotation of [3] with respect
Fig 10 MI/ diagram
to [4] = rotation of girder [2] - [3].

FEBRUARY 1982 53
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stairs under symmetrical loading. Conerere and Constructiona
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. 3. CUSBNS, A. R. and KUANO, J. G. Experimental study of a
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Fig 11 Torsional and in-plane bending moment for C
6. -International Recommend&ions for the design and
construction. of concrete structures, Cornit&. Europeran du
Reton and F&deration de la h&ontrainte. published by
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Slough, UK.
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stairways. l%e Structural Engineer, May 1960. Vol 38,
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Milano, 1968. pp. 282-298.
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P .-. 0
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d + $Js

P P. P
&r-r = Ma-2 ma + Mam2sib a

M’tf-2’ = MtEA eos a + MflT4 sinor

Mm-* =Mt3~,sina- Mi4cosa