With Discussion by Messrs. Joseph Wright, S. Bent Russell, J.R. Worcester,
L.J. Mensch, Walter W. Clifford, J.C. Meem, George H. Myers, Edwin Thacher,
C.A.P. Turner, Paul Chapman, E.P. Goodrich, Albin H. Beyer, John C. Ostrup,
Harry F. Porter, John Stephen Sewell, Sanford E. Thompson, and Edward
Not many years ago physicians had certain rules and practices by which they were guided as to when and
where to bleed a patient in order to relieve or cure him. What of those rules and practices to-day? If they were
logical, why have they been abandoned?
It is the purpose of this paper to show that reinforced concrete engineers have certain rules and practices
which are no more logical than those governing the blood-letting of former days. If the writer fails in this, by
reason of the more weighty arguments on the other side of the questions he propounds, he will at least have
brought out good reasons which will stand the test of logic for the rules and practices which he proposes to
condemn, and which, at the present time, are quite lacking in the voluminous literature on this comparatively
Destructive criticism has recently been decried in an editorial in an engineering journal. Some kinds of
destructive criticism are of the highest benefit; when it succeeds in destroying error, it is reconstructive. No
reform was ever accomplished without it, and no[Pg 55] reformer ever existed who was not a destructive
critic. If showing up errors and faults is destructive criticism, we cannot have too much of it; in fact, we
cannot advance without it. If engineering practice is to be purged of its inconsistencies and absurdities, it will
never be done by dwelling on its excellencies.
Reinforced concrete engineering has fairly leaped into prominence and apparently into full growth, but it still
wears some of its swaddling-bands. Some of the garments which it borrowed from sister forms of construction
in its short infancy still cling to it, and, while these were, perhaps, the best makeshifts under the
circumstances, they fit badly and should be discarded. It is some of these misfits and absurdities which the
writer would like to bring prominently before the Engineering Profession.
The first point to which attention is called, is illustrated in Fig. 1. It concerns sharp bends in reinforcing rods
in concrete. Fig. 1 shows a reinforced concrete design, one held out, in nearly all books on the subject, as a
model. The reinforcing rod is bent up at a sharp angle, and then may or may not be bent again and run parallel
with the top of the beam. At the bend is a condition which resembles that of a hog-chain or truss-rod around a
queen-post. The reinforcing rod is the hog-chain or the truss-rod. Where is the queen-post? Suppose this rod
has a section of 1 sq. in. and an inclination of 60\u00b0 with the horizontal, and that its unit stress is 16,000 lb. per
sq. in. The forces,a andb, are then 16,000 lb. The force,c, must be also 16000 lb. What is to take this force,
in. Will some advocate of this type of design please state where this area can be found? It must, of necessity, be in contact with the rod, and, for structural reasons, because of the lack of stiffness in the rod, it would have to be close to the point of bend. If analogy to the queen-[Pg 56]post fails so completely, because of the almost complete absence of the post, why should not this borrowed garment be discarded?
If this same rod be given a gentle curve of a radius twenty or thirty times the diameter of the rod, the side unit
pressure will be from one-twentieth to one-thirtieth of the unit stress on the steel. This being the case, and
being a simple principle of mechanics which ought to be thoroughly understood, it is astounding that
engineers should perpetrate the gross error of making a sharp bend in a reinforcing rod under stress.
The second point to which attention is called may also be illustrated by Fig. 1. The rod marked 3 is also like
the truss-rod of a queen-post truss in appearance, because it ends over the support and has the same shape. But
the analogy ends with appearance, for the function of a truss-rod in a queen-post truss is not performed by
such a reinforcing rod in concrete, for other reasons than the absence of a post. The truss-rod receives its
stress by a suitable connection at the end of the rod and over the support of the beam. The reinforcing rod, in
this standard beam, ends abruptly at the very point where it is due to receive an important element of strength,
an element which would add enormously to the strength and safety of many a beam, if it could be introduced.
Of course a reinforcing rod in a concrete beam receives its stress by increments imparted by the grip of the
concrete; but these increments can only be imparted where the tendency of the concrete is to stretch. This
tendency is greatest near the bottom of the beam, and when the rod is bent up to the top of the beam, it is
taken out of the region where the concrete has the greatest tendency to stretch. The function of this rod, as
reinforcement of the bottom flange of the beam, is interfered with by bending it up in this manner, as the beam
is left without bottom-flange reinforcement, as far as that rod is concerned, from the point of bend to the
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