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Cost Optimum Design of Reinforced Concrete


Simply Supported One-way Slabs

I. Merta1 and S. Kravanja2


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1
PhD, Institute for Building Construction and Technology, University of Technology
Vienna, Karlsplatz 13/206/4, 1040 Vienna, Austria; PH +43 1 58801 215 12; FAX
+43 1 58801 215 99; email: ildiko.merta@tuwien.ac.at
2
Prof. PhD, Faculty of Civil Engineering, University of Maribor, Smetanova 17,
2000 Maribor, Slovenia; PH +386 2 229 4348; stojan.kravanja@uni-mb.si

ABSTRACT

The paper presents the cost optimization of reinforced concrete simply supported
one-way slabs under uniformly distributed load with the nonlinear programming
approach. A detailed objective function of the slab’s manufacturing costs was given
including the material costs of the concrete, reinforcement and formwork panels as
well as the labour cost items. The slabs were designed in accordance with the
European Building Code. A multi-parametric cost optimization was carried out for
variable spans from 5 to 8m and variable uniformly distributed imposed load of 2
and 5kN/m2. Additionally, at the serviceability limit state, two different deflection
limitation designs have been performed. In the first the slenderness ratio of the slabs
was limited while in the second the slabs deflection was controlled. The comparison
of the results shows that the slenderness controlled design results in a considerable
lower slab's depth and consequently a lower manufacturing cost.

INTRODUCTION

The majority of the structural optimization applied on RC structures involves


heuristic methods such as genetic algorithms, threshold accepting, tabu search, etc.
(Coello et al. 1997, Ferreira et al. 2003, Govindaraj and Ramasamy 2005, Azmy and
Eid 1999). A very limited number of research deals with the exact methods which are
based on the (non)linear programming approach. So far the optimization of RC
beams of rectangular- and T cross-section has been proposed (Merta and Kravanja,
2009a; Merta and Kravanja, 2009b) and the obtained results for rectangular section
has been compared with the results of steel beams (Merta et al., 2008).

In this work the cost optimization design of RC one-way slabs was performed by the
nonlinear programming (NLP) approach by taking into account design constraints
defined by the European Building Code for reinforced concrete structures (Eurocode
2, 2005). A detailed objective function of the slab's manufacturing costs is given
including the material and labour cost items. At the serviceability limit state
Eurocode 2, allows two design ways for deflection control, namely the limitation of
the real calculated deflection and a simplified way where solely the slab's slenderness
ratio has been limited. The task of the research was to perform a comprehensive
comparison of the obtained optimal cross-sections as well as manufacturing costs of

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the slabs designed by the two different deflection controls. In order to do it a


comparative multi-parametric NLP cost optimization of the RC slab was performed
and the slab's optimal cost development as well as optimal depth was investigated for
different spans of the slab (5, 6, 7, and 8m) and two different live loads (2 and 5
kN/m2).
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REINFORCED CONCRETE SIMPLY SUPPORTED ONE-WAY SLAB

Generally to design a reinforced concrete (RC) slab as a one-way spanning slab one
of the following two cases should hold:
• the slab is supported on four sides and has a much longer span in one direction
lx/ly >2, thus the slab may be assumed to be supported only along its longer side,
• the slab is supported on two sides.

One-way slabs are typically divided into a series of beam strips (Figure 1.) and the
depth of the slab and reinforcement is determined for a 1m wide strip using the
classical beam theory.

At the ultimate limit state (ULS) the slab strip was checked for bending moment. The
ultimate strength design of the RC sections under the bending moment is defined by
the non-linear constitutive laws of concrete and steel. The actual stress-strain
diagram of concrete is replaced with a simplified equivalent rectangular stress-strain
diagram. A bi-linear design stress-strain law with a horizontal top branch was
considered for the reinforcing steel. At the ULS it should be verified that the acting
moment does not exceeds the flexural capacity of the section:
M Ed ≤ M Rd
α ⋅ f ck f
M Rd = ⋅ 0.48 ⋅ b ⋅ x 2 + y ⋅ As ⋅ ( d − x )
γc γs
where MEd is the design bending moment, MRd is the design bending moment
resistance, fy is the yield strength of main reinforcement, fck is the characteristic
cylinder strength of concrete, α is the coefficient which takes into account the long-
term effects on the compressive strength of concrete, γc, γs are the safety coefficients
for concrete and structural steel, respectively, As is the cross-sectional area of the
main reinforcement per unit width of the slab, d is the distance between the main

Ast As
lx
h

b=1m
l

Figure 1. Reinforced concrete one-way slab


with the cross-section of a 1m slab strip

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reinforcement's center of gravity and the section's most compressed fiber, x is the
depth of the section's compression zone and b=1m is the width of the beam (slab
strip).

Because of their high shear resistance slabs could be designed without shear
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reinforcement. To resist temperature stresses and distribute concentrated loads


secondary reinforcement in the transverse direction is placed. The area of the
transverse reinforcement Ast should be at least 20% of the main reinforcement.
At the serviceability limit state (SLS) the slab's deflection and crack were controlled.
According to the Eurocode 2 the deflection control could be provided by one of the
following two limitations:
• the calculated actual deflection of the slab is limited under the value of span/250,
• the slenderness ratio of the slab is limited to: l/d ≤ 20 (for lightly stressed
concrete).

Cracking could be limited by providing a minimum area of main tension


reinforcement required to ensure controlled cracking in the member (Eurocode 2,
2005):
A
As,min = kc ⋅ k ⋅ f ct ,eff ⋅ ct
σs
where kc is a coefficient which takes into account the nature of the stress distribution
within the section immediately prior to cracking (kc=0.4 for bending without normal
force), k is a coefficient which allows the effect of non-uniform self-equilibrating
stresses (k=1.0 for h ≤ 300 mm and k=0.65 for h ≥ 800 mm), fct,eff is the concrete
tensile strength at the appearance of the first cracks, Act is the area of concrete within
tensile zone and σs is the maximal stress permitted in the reinforcement immediately
after formation of the crack.

The additional requirements of the Eurocode 2 have been also taken into account:
− for an element of the structure to be considered as a slab, its shorter span should
be not less than five times the slab’s depth,
− the minimal amount of the main reinforcement is constrained with:
As ≥ 0.0013·b·d and As ≥ 0.26· fctm b·d/ fyk, where fctm represents the mean value of
the concrete tensile strength and fyk denotes the characteristic yield stress of the
reinforcing steel,
− the maximal cross-sectional area of the main reinforcement is constrained with:
As ≤ 0.04·Ac, where Ac = b h.

NLP OPTIMIZATION PROBLEM FORMULATION

The non-linear continuous optimization problem can be formulated as:

Min z = f(x)
subjected to: h(x) = 0 and g(x) ≤ 0
x ∈ X = { x⏐ x ∈ Rn, xL ≤ x ≤ xU }

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where x is a vector of continuous variables, defined within the compact set X.


Functions f(x), h(x) and g(x) are (non)linear functions involved in the objective
function z, equality and inequality constraints, respectively. All the functions f(x),
h(x) and g(x) must be continuous and differentiable. The vector of continuous
variables denotes different parameters of a structure, e.g. dimensions, cross-section
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characteristics, materials, stresses, loads, forces, deflections, economic parameters,


etc. The optimal values of the considered variables are obtained when the minimal
value of the defined objective function is reached. The system of equality and
inequality constraints and the bounds of the variables represent a rigorous system of
the design, load, stress, deflections and resistance functions derived from the
structural analysis and design codes.

COST OBJECTIVE FUNCTION

The manufacturing cost of the member is defined as a sum of material and labour
costs required for the fabrication, because the power consumption costs may be
neglected at the cost estimation since they usually represent less than 1% of the total
cost6.

The objective function of the manufacturing costs of RC slab was proposed as


follows:
f ( x ) = min : Cost = CM ,c,r + CM , f + CL, f + CL,r + CL,c + CL,v + CL,cc
where the variable Cost (€/m2) represents the manufacturing costs of the slab, the
notations CM,… and CL,… represent the considered material and labour costs.

The material costs of the concrete, the main and the transverse reinforcement are
defined by:
CM ,c,r = cM ,c ⋅Vc + cM ,r ⋅ρ s ⋅ (Vs ,m + Vs,t )
where cM,c (€/m3) and cM,r (€/kg) are the prices of the concrete and reinforcement; Vc,
Vs,m, and Vs,t in (m3) represent the volumes of concrete, main and transverse
reinforcement respectively; ρs (kg/m3) is the unit mass of steel.

The material costs of the formwork panels are determined as follows:


1
C M , f = cM , f ⋅ ⋅ Ac,s
nuc
where cM,f (€/m2) is the price of the prefabricated panels; nuc is the number of the use
cycles of the panels; Ac,s (m2) is the concrete slab surface area.

The labour costs for the panelling of concrete slab, the levelling, disassembling and
cleaning of the formwork may be calculated by using the expression:
CL , f = cL ⋅ T f ⋅ Ac ,s
where cL (€/h) represents the labour costs per working hour; Tf (h/m2) is the
formwork time (including panelling, levelling, disassembling and cleaning); Ac,s (m2)
is the concrete slab surface area. The panelling of the concrete slab with fully

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prefabricated formwork is assembled by skilled workers.

The labour costs for cutting, placing and connecting of the reinforcement bars in the
concrete slab are defined as follows:
CL ,r = cL ⋅ Tr ⋅ρ s ⋅ (Vs ,l + Vsw )
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where cL (€/h) denotes the labour costs per working hour; Tr (h/kg) is the time
required for cutting, placing and connecting the reinforcement; Vs,m, and Vs,t (m3)
represent the volumes of main and transverse reinforcement respectively; ρs (kg/m3)
is the unit mass of steel.

The labour costs for concreting the slab are given in the form:
CL ,c = cL ⋅ Tc ⋅ Vc
where cL (€/h) denotes the labour costs per working hour; Tc (h/m3) represents the
concreting time and Vc (m3) denotes the volume of the concrete slab.

The labour costs for consolidating the concrete are:


CL ,v = cL ⋅ Tv ⋅ Ac ,s
where cL (€/h) are the labour costs per working hour; Tv (h/m2) is the vibration time
required for the consolidation of concrete and Ac,s (m2) is the concrete surface area.
The placement and consolidation of concrete is achieved by using a concrete pump
and internal vibrators.

The labour costs for curing the concrete may be evaluated by using the following
equation:
CL ,cc = cL ⋅ Tcc ⋅ Vc
where cL (€/h) represents the labour costs per working hour; Tcc (h/m3) denotes the
curing time and Vc (m3) is the volume of the concrete slab.

MULTI-PARAMETRIC NLP OPTIMIZATION

The task of the optimization was to find the minimal possible structure’s
manufacturing costs and consequently the optimal design of one-way slabs. The NLP
optimization model OPTIRCS (OPTImization of RC Slab) was developed. All the
applied economic parameters (used in Equations above) are shown in Table 1. They
were defined according to Klanšek and Kravanja (2006), Meier (1990) and ARH
(2001). For the mathematical modelling and data input/outputs the high level
language GAMS (General Algebraic Modelling System) was used (Brooke et al.,
1988). CONOPT, (Generalized reduced-gradient method) was used for the
optimization (Drud, 1994).

The structure's optimal cost development was investigated for different spans of the
slab and various loads. Since the two allowed deflection controls of Eurocode 2
result in a considerable different slab's depth and consequently in a different
manufacturing cost, the cost optimization design for both cases has been carried out

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and compared. In this way, the comparative multi-parametric NLP (non-linear


programming) cost optimization of the RC slab was performed for all combinations
of the following design parameters:
− four different spans of the slab from l=5 m to l=8 m with a 1 m step,
− two different uniformly distributed live loads of p=2 kN/m2 and p=5 kN/m2,
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− two different deflection controls i.e., slenderness ratio limitation and deflection
limitation.

Table 1: Economic parameters and input data of the model


Material and labour cost parameters
cM,c Price of the concrete C25/30 90.00 €/m3
cM,r Price of the reinforcing steel BSt 550 0.90 €/kg
cM,f Price of the prefabricated panels 30.00 €/m2
cL Labour costs 20.00 €/h

Fabrication times
Tf Time of panelling, levelling, disassembly and cleaning of the formwork 0.30 h/m2
Tr Time for cutting, placing and connecting of the reinforcement 0.03 h/kg
Tc Time of concreting 1.00 h/m3
Tv Time for consolidation of the concrete 0.20 h/m2
Tcc Time for curing of the concrete 0.20 h/m2

Input data
g Self weight of the floor construction (without the concrete slab) 1.00 kN/m2
fck Characteristic compressive cylinder strength of concrete (C25/30) 25 N/mm2
fctm Mean value of the concrete (C25/30) tensile strength 2.6 N/mm2
fct,eff Effective tensile strength of the concrete (C25/30) 3.0 N/mm2
Ecm Secant modulus of elasticity of concrete (C25/30) 30.50 kN/mm2
Es Modulus of elasticity of steel 200 kN/mm2
fyk Characteristic yield strength of tension reinforcement (BSt 550) 550 N/mm2
fykw Characteristic yield strength of transverse reinforcement (BSt 550) 550 N/mm2
a Concrete cover 2.50 cm
ρc The unit mass of concrete 2500 kg/m3
ρs The unit mass of steel 7850 kg/m3
γc Partial safety factor for concrete 1.5
γs Partial safety factor for steel 1.15
α Coefficient taking into account the long-term effects on the concrete 1.0
nuc Number of the use cycles of the panels 30

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

With increasing span of the slab its depth increases as well. However, there is an
obvious difference in the slab's depth in the design case where the slenderness of the
slab is limited and in case if the slab's deflection is limited (Figures 2. and 3.). In the
deflection controlled design the obtained optimal slabs are much thicker than by the
slenderness controlled design. For slabs loaded with 2kN/m2 the depth of the slabs is

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about 11% to 15% higher (for spans 6 and 7m respectively) as in the slenderness
controlled design. At higher loads of 5kN/m2 the depth increase is even higher and
represents 18% to 26%.

Whereas by the slenderness controlled design the load level has no influence on the
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slab's depth and manufacturing costs by the deflection controlled design the load
increase from 2 to 5kN/m2 results in a 17% and 10% increase of the slab's depth (for
spans 5 and 7m respectively) and consequently to a cost increase.
For both design ways the manufacturing costs increase in the same manner as the
slab's depth increases. Whereas at the deflection controlled design the increase of the
slab's manufacturing costs is much more rapid.

The deflection controlled design results a much uneconomic design and the
manufacturing costs of the obtained optimal slabs are up to 8%-19% higher (for
spans 6 and 7m respectively) than the slabs designed with slenderness limitation. At
higher loads of 5kN/m2 the cost increase is even more distinctive i.e., 11% to 27%
(for spans 5 and 7m respectively).

At the slenderness controlled design (where the slenderness ratio l/d should not be
higher than 20) the most economic slabs are those with a depth of exactly d=l/20. If
the design is controlled with the deflection limitation the most economic slabs have
considerable lower slenderness (Figure 4.) resulting in a higher slab's depth and
consequently higher manufacturing costs.

Slenderness limitation Slenderness limitation


50

5kN/m2 80 5kN/m2
Manufacturing costs [€/m2]
Depth of the slab [cm]

2kN/m2 2kN/m2
40
70

30
60

20 50
5 6 7 8 5 6 7 8
Span [m] Span [m]

Figure 2. Depth and manufacturing cost of the RC slab


in case of slenderness controlled design (l/d ≤ 20)

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Deflection limitation Deflection limitation


50

80

Manufacturing costs [€/m2]


Depth of the slab [cm]

40
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70

30 5kN/m2 5kN/m2
60
2kN/m2 2kN/m2

20 50
5 6 7 8 5 6 7 8
Span [m] Span [m]

Figure 3. Depth and manufacturing cost of the RC slab


in case of deflection controlled design (deflection ≤ l/250)

Deflection limitation
20

2kN/m2
19
Slenderness of the slab

5kN/m2
18

17

16

15
5 6 7 8
Span [m]

Figure 4. Slenderness of the slab in dependence of the slab's span


in case of a deflection controlled design

CONCLUSIONS

The paper reports the cost optimization design of the RC one-way slabs. The
structural optimization was performed by the non-linear programming approach. The
objective function of the manufacturing costs was subjected to a rigorous system of
design, load, resistance and deflections (in)equality constraints.

A comparative multi-parametric NLP cost optimization of the RC slab was


performed and the slab's optimal cost development was investigated for different
spans of the slab (5, 6, 7, and 8m), two different live loads (2 and 5 kN/m2) and for
two allowed deflection controls according to Eurocode 2, namely the slenderness
ratio limitation and the real deflection limitation. The two different deflection control
designs result in a considerable different slab's depth and consequently in a different
manufacturing cost.

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It has been shown that if at the SLS the slab's deflection is limited, the depth of the
obtained optimal slab is considerable higher than if the slab's slenderness ratio would
be limited. Consequently the manufacturing costs of the slabs designed with
deflection control are much higher than of the slabs designed with slenderness
control.
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REFERENCES

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