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Front. Struc. Civ. Eng.

2012, 6(3): 210–216


DOI 10.1007/s11709-012-0165-7

RESEARCH ARTICLE

Concepts and implementation of strain-based criteria in


design codes for steel structures

Reidar BJORHOVDE*
The Bjorhovde Group, Tucson, Arizona 85750 USA
*
Corresponding author. E-mail: rbj@bjorhovde.com

© Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012


ABSTRACT A uniaxial tension test is commonly used to determine the mechanical properties of steel, but it has no
meaning for the response of the material in a structure. The test was developed as a consensus solution by producers,
fabricators, designers and code writers, to have a standard by which similar materials could be compared to a common
base. It does not represent the actual behavior of the steel in a structure, and was never intended to do so. To study the true
behavior of the structure and how the material responds it would be better to determine the strains and deformations that
will take place during actual service condition. Such characteristics reflect the real behavior, whether in the elastic or
inelastic range. If stresses or forces are needed, these are easily determined by the value of the strain and the relevant
material modulus, along with the type of cross section, whether elastic or inelastic. The paper addresses the properties of a
range of structural steels, how these are incorporated into design standards and how the standards define deformation
characteristics and demands for bolted and welded connections.

KEYWORDS steel, stress-strain characteristics, tension test, strain design, actual behavior, improved design codes

1 Introduction phase, and the quality of fabrication and construction


continues to improve as staff training and equipment are
As a construction material, steel has significant advantages enhanced. However, much of the advanced software is not
over many others: it offers high strength and stiffness, has suitable for design purposes, and most of this work
adequate deformation capacity and stress redistribution therefore continues to be strictly research-oriented.
ability for many applications; it does not crack or otherwise It is a major problem that the material itself is not
fracture under normal service conditions, and is available adequately understood by the professionals who specify its
in several strengths and geometric forms. Finally, for most use for structural purposes. This includes the complexity of
practical purposes it may also be regarded as isotropic, its chemical and metallurgical makeup, as well as the fact
with resulting benefits. that the models that are used by codes to represent its
On the other hand, many structures will experience mechanical response bear little resemblance to what the
“non-normal” conditions many times during fabrication, steel will experience under actual fabrication and service
construction or service. A dynamically loaded structure conditions. For one, it is known that steel is anisotropic, as
such as a bridge will experience fatigue; seismic events a result of production operations as well as other plastic
impose major deformation demands on structural compo- deformation effects. Although the anisotropy normally is
nents and details; and fabrication methods such as of no particular consequence, it will affect the response of
punching of holes and all forms of welding place very the steel in extreme loading and deformation demand
high demands for local deformation ability of the steel in situations. For another, the behavior of steel is a function of
certain regions of the structure. The state of the art of deformation history, to the effect that otherwise ductile
computation technology is such that it is possible to steel may respond as a high strength, low ductility material,
incorporate many of these effects explicitly in the analysis given the prior occurrence of large displacements.
In brief, the complex nature of the response is not
Article history: Received March 12, 2012; Accepted May 25, 2012 generally appreciated. The common measures, namely, the
Reidar BJORHOVDE. Concepts and implementation of strain-based criteria in design codes for steel structures 211

data obtained from simple uniaxial tension tests, have no


bearing on the in-structure performance. The tension test
was developed as a consensus solution to have the
convenience of a performance standard by which similar
materials could be compared to a common base. This test
does not represent the actual behavior of steel in a
structure, and was never intended to.
Many designers tend to consider the requirements of the
materials standards as reflecting actual performance ability.
Two- and three-dimensional effects are not recognized, at
least in part due to the inability of design standards to
correlate such effects with the elementary material
behavior models that are used. This is done in spite of
the fact that multidimensional response is the key to the
behavior of some of the most important regions of the
structure. In particular, experience has shown that this is
Fig. 1 Engineering vs. true stress-strain curves
where problems tend to develop, much more than in any
other areas of the structure [1–4].
Nevertheless, the focal point for designers continues to levels of engineering and true strain, the true stress is
be the design codes. For rational decisions and proper significantly higher than the engineering stress.
recognition of material abilities, it is essential to appreciate
the relationships between strength and deformation
demands, and to assess which one governs the end result. 3 Uni- and multi-dimensional response
characteristics

2 Basic material behavior representation The preceding developments are always based on one-
dimensional material behavior, with no restraint offered
The uniaxial test uses engineering stress (current load against deformations in the other orthogonal directions of
divided by the original cross sectional area of the the steel specimen. Once the yield stress is reached, plastic
specimen) and strain (current deformation divided by the deformation takes place, and necking (transverse contrac-
original gage length) to define the response of the steel, for tion) occurs in the area of the specimen where the failure
convenience in measurement and because the test results ultimately will occur. For a more realistic assessment of the
are ultimately intended only for use in comparison with response of the steel under multi-dimensional restraint
other steels and what the standard requires for the conditions, it has been shown that the true stress-true strain
particular grade. Although convenient and suitable as relationship is the appropriate representation, unless the
representations of the steel behavior up to and slightly yield criteria for multi-dimensional states of strain are
beyond yielding, these definitions do not recognize that the utilized. However, this is not practical, especially in view
area changes as the load increases. This part of the of the need for fairly simple material definitions.
response is recognized by the true stress and strain, which At the same time, the true stress and strain reflect the fact
is not practical for use with practical applications. For most that the steel cannot supply the amount of deformation
purposes, however, the engineering and the true strains are indicated by the results of the simple tension test. Even
equal for small strains, and the stress-strain curves coincide under minor restraint conditions, fracture takes place at
up to and slightly beyond the yield stress. After this point strains that are significantly lower than those specified by
the two curves will diverge, to the effect that the true stress the materials standards.
will continue to increase until material rupture. Figure 1 Complicating the issues further is the fact that the yield
illustrates the two forms of stress-strain representation. ratio has been shown to play a major role for the
The most common ductility measure for steel is the deformability of steel. Designating the yield ratio by Y, it
elongation at fracture, which is defined in terms of is defined as
engineering strain. Somewhat inconveniently, this is a yield  stress
function of the gage length, and steel mill test reports must Y ¼ ¼ Fy =Fu (1)
tensile  strength
therefore report its magnitude as either of the commonly
used 50 mm or 200 mm lengths. True strain is clearly a where Fy and Fu are the mechanical properties utilized by
better ductility measure, since it reflects the total all common materials standards. Examining a wide
accumulated strain at the point of failure. For equal levels range of structural steels, Kato [5] showed that the
of engineering and true stress, the true strain is significantly deformability decreases with an increasing value of Y,
smaller than the engineering strain. Conversely, for equal and the decrease is especially pronounced for Y-values in
212 Front. Struc. Civ. Eng. 2012, 6(3): 210–216

excess of approximately 0.6. As an illustration, Table 1 relevance in design, as it is lost if small overloads or
gives the yield ratios and relevant mechanical properties misalignments occur”. Specifically, utilizing dislocation
for a number of the current American structural steels. The theory as the basis for yielding or plastic deformation in
standard numbers are those of the American Society for steel, the upper yield point mobilizes dislocations, and the
Testing and Materials (ASTM); the relevant stress levels lower yield point maintains the “movement” of the
are given in units of MPa (N/mm2). These steels have very dislocations. In essence, yielding is caused by crystal
similar counterparts within European, Chinese, Japanese structure (lattice) defects, in the form of dislocations.
and Korean steelmaking practices, to mention some of the These issues have not been addressed by a number of
major steel production countries. Similarly, the standards studies, among them many seismic projects, their reports
published by the International Standards Organization noting that “...50% of the material actually incorporated in
(ISO) also reflect these types of materials. a project will have yield strengths that exceed these mean
It is clear that adequate structural performance cannot be values. For the design of facilities with stringent require-
guaranteed by basing the material choice only on the ments for limiting post-earthquake damage, consideration
standards’ basic properties. In fact, Kato [5] recommended of more conservative estimates of the actual yield strength
that in order to assure reasonable and reliable deformation may be warranted.” [4]. The same reference notes that
capacity of steel members and connections, as a minimum, “Design professionals should be aware of the variation in
an upper limit of the yield stress and/or the yield ratio actual properties permitted by the ASTM specifications.
should be specified for each steel grade. This is especially important for yield strength. Yield
Based on the above recommendation as well as strengths for ASTM A36 material have consistently
substantial research work performed in the aftermath of increased over the last 15 years....” [4].
the 1994 Northridge earthquake, an enhanced 350 MPa As a result of these developments, the American seismic
steel grade was developed and marketed by steel mills in design code has specifically recognized the variability of
the United States, starting in 1997, using a maximum Y- the material properties beyond the use of a resistance factor
value of 0.85 [6]. The specified minimum yield stress is [8]. The code has introduced the concept of the expected
350 MPa; the standard also requires a maximum value of yield stress and the expected tensile strength, and these are
Fy of 450 MPa, and the minimum tensile strength is Fu = used in design rather than the values provided by the
450 MPa. Detailed chemistry requirements are provided, material standards. As an example, the expected yield
as is an upper limit on the carbon equivalent, to ensure a stress is given by the expression RyFy — the multiplier Ry
satisfactory weldability. reflects the variability of the yield stress of the particular
steel grade, and this is applied in addition to the resistance
factor for the relevant limit state. For example, for the most
4 Additional response considerations commonly used American structural steel today, A992, the
value of Ry is 1.1, demonstrating that this steel grade has
The preceding issues are further complicated by the way relatively small strength variability. For what used to be the
tension tests are performed and reported by steel most common structural steel, ASTM A36, with a yield
producers. Specifically, the upper yield point is commonly stress of 250 MPa, the value of Ry is 1.5, emphasizing
given as the value of the representative Fy. Although the the very significant strength variability of this material.
use of this property is understandable, from a production In fact, this level of variability was one of the reasons for
viewpoint, it is not a dependable, realistic value, since it the development of steel grade A992, since structural
relies heavily on the specifics of the method of testing. As failures during the Northridge earthquake were prompted
noted by Lay Ref. [7], “the upper yield stress is not of by overstrength A36 material in some members and

Table 1 Yield ratios for common American structural steels


ASTM steel grade yield stress Fy tensile strength Fu yield ratio Y
A36 250 410–550 0.62–0.45
A572 (50) 350 450 0.77
A588 (50) 350 480 0.71
A852 480 620–760 0.78–0.64
A913 (50) 350 450 0.85 (max)
A913 (65) 450 550 0.81
a)
A992 350 450 0.85 (max)
A514 (t£63 mm) 700 760–900 0.91–0.77

a) A992 has a specified minimum (350 MPa) as well as a specified maximum (450 MPa) yield stress. It is believed that this constitutes the first time, as a steel grade has
had required, the lower and upper limits for its yield stress.
Reidar BJORHOVDE. Concepts and implementation of strain-based criteria in design codes for steel structures 213

connections. The designers realized that they could not code like Eurocode 3 [11] maintains through thickness
depend on the yield stress being the specified minimum requirements that are not needed.
value, as given by the relevant ASTM standard, since The basic quality and variety of structural steels
unanticipated limit states (failures) governed the behavior available to designers and fabricators have therefore been
of some members and connections. improved significantly, yet problems persist. As demon-
Several other factors also play important roles, such as strated earlier in this paper, this has at least partly been
the steel production methods (e.g., conventional and caused by misinterpretation of materials standards and
thermo-mechanical control processes [9]). The changes what they imply for the actual in-structure performance of
that have taken place over the past 25 years in North the steel. Of equal importance are clearly functions that are
America in going from iron ore and coke-based ingot steel controlled directly by the designer and the fabricator: it is
to scrap-based continuous cast steel have resulted in unrealistic to expect the material to provide for all of the
materials that are significantly different, but have been stiffness, strength and deformability that are needed by the
clearly improved as far as metallurgy and mechanical structure under all expected service conditions.
properties are concerned. Steel chemistry and weldability, An evaluation of the ductility and deformability
and especially the carbon and alloy contents further requirements of the current American structural steel
emphasize the complex problems facing the designer and design specification for non-seismic applications [12] is
the fabricator in the steel selection process. These issues provided in the following. It is emphasized that most of
were taken into account in the development of the criteria these requirements, where they exist, are implied rather
for what is now the most commonly used structural steel in than explicit. This has frequently been the result of an
the United States, the A992 steel [6]. engineering tradition of focusing on stress and strength
rather than strain and deformation. The AISC seismic code
[8] obviously has very detailed deformation requirements,
5 Performance indications of current but these are necessitated by extreme performance needs
structural steels and go far beyond the intent of this paper. However, a
discussion of some of the seismic criteria will be provided
Current structural steels in the United States span the range in certain cases, since they have evolved from non-seismic
from the mild, carbon-manganese A36, to the high requirements.
strength, quenched and tempered A514 and the quenched
and self-tempered A913. For hot-rolled shapes the old
methods have given way to continuous casting. For 6 Deformation criteria for some elements
structural shapes in the United States, almost all production and connections
is based entirely on this technology. As a result, steel
chemistry has changed perceptibly, such that steel now 6.1 General observations
gains its strength less from carbon and more from a variety
of alloying elements. The current steels have significantly Between structural strength, stiffness and deformability,
lower levels of carbon than previous production runs. the first two are supplied relatively easily, although
Values of C-content less than 0.10% are the norm; this improvements continue to be made through higher material
contrasts with a carbon content of 0.2% and higher for strength and improved production methods for the steel.
earlier steels. Further, many structures are controlled by the need for
The lower carbon and higher alloying elements contents stiffness, in the form of deflection or drift limits or dynamic
result in steels with acceptable strength and ductility response characteristics. For these cases the use of higher
characteristics, as defined by the material standards. strength steel is not advantageous. Framing system, high
Further, the lower carbon, in particular, means that redundancy, well-defined load paths and less reliance on a
weldability is significantly improved. Fracture toughness limited number of structural elements are keys to
is improved as well, indicating that fatigue performance successful performance.
and resistance to brittle fracture are enhanced [9]. Never- Possibly of the greatest significance are the problems
theless, localized effects of cold straightening, for and solutions for the variety of connection types and
example, continue to affect the performance of the steel, details that are utilized in structures. These are the regions
especially in connection regions. On the other hand, the where the material will be exposed to the highest degrees
issue of through-thickness strength and ductility, which of restraint and the highest local deformation demands,
used to be regarded as critical for the performance of during shop fabrication and field erection, as well as during
seismic connections, for example, has been found to be high-demand service conditions. The connections influ-
much less important than originally conceived. In the ence local ductility demands and framing performance, as
extensive study by Dexter et al. [10] the through thickness evidenced by numerous examples from various fabrication
limit state never governed the behavior. It is unfortunate and construction operations. Similarly, problems have
that in spite of these findings, a major international design developed during many of the earthquakes that have taken
214 Front. Struc. Civ. Eng. 2012, 6(3): 210–216

place in the past several years. Many reports of fractured beams, and sections of Chapter B detail local buckling and
welds and base metal details have been publicized. The other compactness issues. Chapter I gives the criteria for
basic concept that cyclic loads above yield for low- composite members; these will not be examined here.
ductility steel will cause fracture after a few cycles (and The overall behavior of beams is based on ultimate limit
conversely for a high-ductility steel) continues to be states involving in-plane or out-of-plane failure. For
correct, but the problem is severely aggravated under example, for a laterally supported, compact beam, the
multi-dimensional degrees of restraint. ultimate limit state is the development of a plastic hinge at
The following examples examine some of the primary the location of the maximum moment. The strength in this
American design criteria for steel members and connec- case is therefore governed by the fully plastic moment, Mp,
tions. of the cross section. As another example, for a laterally
unsupported beam with an unbraced length larger than Lr,
6.2 Tension members the ultimate limit state is governed by elastic lateral-
torsional buckling.
Chapter D of the AISC Specification [12] detail the However, in all of these cases there is no clear indication
strength criteria for tension members. These are possibly of a required deformation or rotation capacity. This is
the simplest structural elements, and the ones whose implied only through the criteria used to define compact-
performance is closest to the uniaxial conditions of the ness or the capacity of the cross section to rotate after
basic tension test. The limit states of gross cross section reaching the fully plastic moment. Specifically, flange and
yielding and effective net section fracture are well defined, web width-to-thickness ratios are established to allow full
although the reliability of the fracture case is less than that yielding in the cross section. In addition, the beam has to
of the overall yield. The reason for this is the greater be capable of rotating a certain amount beyond what
variability of the tensile strength (Fu) of the steel, as well as constitutes the theoretical full plastification rotation, θp,
the influence of the geometry of the net section and the before local buckling or strain hardening occurs at the
shear lag associated with the cross-sectional shape and the ultimate rotation value, θu. The deformation demand is
placement of the end connection. therefore inelastic and concentrates on the ability of the
Ductility is recognized through the reference to strain compression flange to deform sufficiently longitudinally
hardening, stress concentrations, and the importance of without buckling locally, and of the tension flange to
large deformations accompanying the yielding of the gross deform sufficiently longitudinally before strain hardening
cross section. These observations are based on various full- or fracture occurs. The deformation capacity is therefore
and reduced-scale tension member tests, but no data are very much a function of the type of steel, or, in other
presented on actual deformation demands. However, in words, the level of the yield stress as well as the shape of
view of the relatively simple (other than within the end the stress-strain relationship. The rotation need also
connection regions) condition of these members and their depends on the type of loading, to the effect that structures
satisfactory behavior over the long-term, it is generally in seismically active areas must be capable of supplying
accepted that ductility and deformation needs have been significantly larger inelastic rotations. A summary of some
assessed correctly. Deformation data are judged to be of the key compactness criteria are given in Table 2.
roughly comparable to tension specimen tests, although Only the requirements for the flange of a W-shape are
specific results in support of this finding are not presented. given in Table 2, as an example. It is interesting to note that
However, it is understood that the deformations that will the current seismic b/t-criterion was used for non-seismic
occur in full-size tension members will be larger than those applications as recently as the 7th edition of the allowable
of the material tests, primarily due to residual stress, initial stress design specification of AISC (1970); the change of
crookedness and eccentric application of the axial load. the constant from 0.30 to 0.38 was made in the 8th edition
(1980).
6.3 Columns
Table 2 Compactness criteria and associated beam rotation demands
non-seismic seismic
Chapter E of the AISC Specification [12] gives the design
criteria for columns and other compression members. flange b/t-ratio 0.38 √(E/Fy) 0.30 √(E/Fy)
( = 65/√Fy) ( = 52/√Fy)
Since column buckling is primarily a stability phenomenon
that is not related to local or overall deformation demands, rotation demand ratio θu/θp ≥3 7 to 9
the questions of material performance are not central to the unbraced length, Lp 1.76ry√(E/Fyf) —
issues at hand. unbraced — 0.086ry(E/Fy)
length, Lpd
6.4 Beams

Chapter F of the AISC Specification [12] addresses the In the table, the term ry is the y-axis radius of gyration; θu
design criteria for laterally supported and unsupported is the rotation developed before local buckling or strain
Reidar BJORHOVDE. Concepts and implementation of strain-based criteria in design codes for steel structures 215

hardening occurs; and θp is the rotation developed as the 6.6 Welded splices in heavy shapes
fully plastic moment is reached. The unbraced length
criteria pertain to the maximum length that will allow the The criteria for welded splices in very heavy wide-flange
development of the fully plastic moment for a laterally shapes are qualitative, but clear recognition is given to the
unsupported beam. Since plastic design response char- fact that the combination of residual stress, localized high
acteristics are needed for seismic conditions, the require- deformation demand due to fabrication operations, high
ments are much more demanding. localized hardness, and low fracture toughness in the core
The key data in Table 2 are the rotation demand ratio, area of hot-rolled shapes have the potential for leading to
θu/θp. The original data for the non-seismic ratio are based cracks and propagation of cracks [2,3]. The event that
on numerous beam tests, as reported by Yura et al. [13]. caused this change in the AISC Specification was the
The history of the seismic deformation demand is not as bottom chord fracture in one of the trusses for the Orange
clear; the demand ratio value of 7 to 9 is primarily based on County Civic Center in Orlando, Florida. The core area
studies by Popov and others, but specific references for this problem is much less important now, since continuous
work cannot be cited. cast shapes have smaller and less pronounced cores. The
For beams in 250 and 350 MPa yield stress steel, the shapes that cracked in the Florida structure were all ingot-
rotation demand ratios are governed by the occurrence of based.
local buckling or strain hardening in the compression
flange. Limited studies have been made of higher strength 6.7 Overlap in fillet welded joints
steel, but research work at the US Steel Research
Laboratory in the 1960s and early 1970s showed that for Single lap welded joints will rotate when subjected to axial
Fy = 700 MPa, tension flange fracture governed the beam forces in the longitudinal direction, due to the eccentricity
behavior. At the time, US Steel was exploring the potential of one plate relative to the other. Figure 2 shows a typical
development of hot-rolled shapes in such high strength connection example. The Specification recognizes the need
steel; this was unsuccessful as a result of the limited for a certain length of overlap between the plates or
rotation capacity. members in the joint, equal to five times the thickness of
Studies of beams with yield stress values from 380 to the thinnest part, but not less than 25 mm. If this is
550 MPa are very limited at this time, and no definitive satisfied, “… the resulting rotation will not be exces-
conclusions can be reached for such members. However, sive....” [12]. Specifics are not given as regards to rotation
the practical utilization of higher strength beams is magnitudes.
questionable, especially in seismic areas. This is in part
caused by the “strong column, weak beam” concept, as
well as the fact that beam size is frequently governed by
stiffness, rather than strength. Since the modulus of
elasticity is independent of the level of yield stress, using
higher strength material for beams is unnecessary.

6.5 Connections

Welds and bolts are addressed in Chapter J of the AISC


Specification and connection details are covered in Chapter Fig. 2 Fillet-welded lap joint with load eccentricity
K [12]. These are the most complex sections of the
specification and the attention given to strength limit states
as opposed to deformations is very substantial. This is done 6.8 Short vs. long bolted joints
in spite of the fact that the deformation response often
controls the actual ultimate limit state. Short bolted joints generally deform in such a fashion that
In the following only some of the requirements will be localized yielding allows for a redistribution of the bolt
examined. However, in view of the severe deformation forces to load each bolt equally. This is not the case with
demands that are placed on many types of connections, it long bolted joints, for which the non-uniform strain
would seem important to assess all of these specification distribution leads to significant differences in the actual
criteria in detail in order to gain a clear understanding of bolt loads. In particular, the outermost bolts will have the
what is expected of the material when the connections are higher loads, leading to the potential for an “unzipping”
designed according to the Specification. This is especially type of failure. The AISC Specification recognizes this
important for many types of beam-to-column moment behavior by reducing the tabulated bolt strength values by
connections and some welded tension member splices, for 20% for connections longer than 1270 mm. However, the
which localized material deformation demands can be very actual deformation demand is only accounted for qualita-
high [2,3]. tively.
216 Front. Struc. Civ. Eng. 2012, 6(3): 210–216

6.9 Bearing strength at bolt holes through 1) material choice, 2) local and overall structural
design, and 3) shop and field fabrication techniques and
This is one of the few cases where deformation and operations, will overall performance demands be met. In
strength limit states are explicitly recognized. Research has all cases strict adherence to specified procedures is
shown that the hole deformation will increase beyond essential. Future developments may see improved material
6 mm when the nominal factored bolt load exceeds 2.4 standards, particularly if upper and lower limits are placed
dtFu [12], where d is the bolt diameter, t is the thickness of on the specified yield stress values, as was done in the case
the material and Fu is the tensile strength of the steel [14]. of the steel grade ASTM A992, and/or yield ratios are
Under many circumstances this will be unacceptable, due defined and required.
to the contribution of such deformations to overall
connection deformations. If the bolt load increases to
3 dtFu, the limit state will be that of hole ovalization or References
“dishing”.
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