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DESIGN FOR EARLY AGE THERMAL CRACKING
P Bamforth, independent consultant, London, UK
J Shave, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Bristol, UK
S Denton, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Bristol, UK
Abstract
The design of concrete members subject to early age thermal cracking in the UK has
previously been carried out to BD28
[1]
for bridges and BS8007
[2]
for water retaining
structures. These standards have now been replaced by the respective parts of BS EN 1992.
CIRIA C660
[3]
„Early Age Thermal Crack Control in Concrete‟ was published in February
2007 to accommodate changes that had occurred in the UK in relation to the wider range of
cements and combinations being used; the development of high performance concretes; and
the introduction of the Structural Eurocodes. The use of CIRIA C660 in combination with BS
EN 1992 represents a significant step forward in the design methodology for early thermal
cracking in the UK.
The principal objective of CIRIA C660 is to support both designers and constructors by
providing procedures to limit the extent of cracking to an acceptable level and, where
appropriate, to avoid cracking altogether. The report and the associated spreadsheets provide a
means for estimating all of the input variables for the design process, including thermal
effects and profiles, shrinkage strains, restraint factors and concrete properties, and they set
out processes for minimising the risk of cracking and the control of crack widths. These
processes are aligned with the Eurocode requirements, extended for use in the UK.
This paper focuses on critical changes in design for earlyage thermal cracking in the UK
resulting from the introduction of BS EN 1992. These changes relate specifically to the way
in which the reinforcement ratio is estimated for calculating the minimum steel ratio and the
crack spacing and width.
BS EN 1992 does not fully address design for earlyage thermal cracking. CIRIA C660 has
been developed to complement the BS EN 1992 design process and provide estimated crack
widths that reflect more reliably those observed in practice, so that a robust and serviceable
design may be achieved. In the absence of these recommendations, BS EN 1992 could be
interpreted to lead to a significant increase in minimum reinforcement, particularly in sections
thicker than about 800mm. Conversely, in some other situations the use of BS EN
1992without CIRIA C660 could lead to significantly less reinforcement than required by
previous standards BS 8007 or BD28 for controlling crack widths.
The use of CIRIA C660 is therefore recommended in the UK for the design of early thermal
cracking effects in combination with BS EN 1992.
P Bamforth, J Shave, S Denton 2
Introduction
Earlyage thermal cracking (EATC) occurs as the result of restraint to contraction as concrete
cools from its peak hydration temperature. In the UK, earlyage thermal cracking has
previously been dealt with using BD28
[1]
for bridges and BS 8007
[2]
for water retaining
structures, supported by CIRIA 91
[4]
which provided the background to the design method
and data for use in the design process. CIRIA 91 was replaced in 2007 by CIRIA C660
[3]
to
take account of the use of a wider range of concreting materials and strength classes; and
changes in the design process arising from the introduction of the Structural Eurocodes, in
particular BS EN 199211 and BS EN19922 which have replaced BS 8110
[5]
and BS 5400
4
[6]
as the general design codes; and BS EN 19923 which has replaced BS 8007 for water
retaining structures. CIRIA C660 has been cited as NonContradictory Complementary
Information in the UK National Annex to BS EN 19923.
In addition to reflecting changes in the design process (dealt with in this paper) CIRIA C660
also differs from CIRIA 91 as follows;
 Values of temperature change (T
1
) for CEM I have been revised and additional
information is provided on concretes containing fly ash and ground granulated
blastfurnace slag (ggbs)
[8]
.
 Information is provided on autogenous shrinkage which BS EN 1992 now
requires „should be considered specifically when new concrete is cast against old
concrete‟.
 Additional information is given on different forms of restraint, how they may be
calculated and how they affect crack width.
 Tensile strain capacity is dealt with more comprehensively
 A method for reinforcement design has been developed to deal with cracking
caused by temperature differentials in thick sections
 Guidance is given on methods for minimising the risk of cracking
 Advice is provided on specification, testing and in situ monitoring.
In addition, spreadsheet calculators are provided on a CD for estimating temperature rise and
temperature differentials; autogenous and drying shrinkage to BS EN 199211:2004; edge
restraint; and reinforcement for crack control.
Review of Previous Design Practice
Prior to the implementation of the Eurocodes in March 2010, design for the effects of early
thermal cracking in UK bridges was carried out to BD28.
BD28 firstly required that sufficient minimum reinforcement should be provided so that the
force required to first crack the section would not yield the tension reinforcement, as follows:
P Bamforth, J Shave, S Denton 3
c
y
ct
s
A
f
f
A


.

\

=
*
(1)
The area of concrete was taken as the gross cross sectional area unless the section was thicker
than 500mm, in which case a surface zone of 250mm at each face is taken.
A further check was then made, to satisfy crack width requirements.
( )  
ult th sh c
b
ct
s
R
w
A
f
f
A c c c

5 . 0
2
*
÷ +


.

\

=
(2)
Although given directly as a required area to control cracking, the equation contains elements
relating to crack spacing and crack widths, combined into a single formula. By rearranging
Equation (2) to give crack width expressed as the product of crack spacing and crack inducing
strain as in Equation (3), comparisons with other standards may be more readily made.
cr r
S w c
max ;
=
(3)
Where:
µ
 


.

\

÷


.

\

=
b
ct
s
c
b
ct
r
f
f
A
A
f
f
S
* *
max ;
5 . 0
2
(4)
and
( )  
ctu r ctu th sh cr
R c c c c c c 5 . 0 5 . 0 ÷ ÷ ÷ + =
(5)
For comparison, BS8007 had the following calculation procedure:
c
max max
S w =
(6)
Where:
µ

2
max ;


.

\

=
b
ct
r
f
f
S
(7)
and
( )  
6
10 100
÷
× ÷ + =
te cs
c c c or
( ) T R A = o c
(8)
Once expressed in this form it can be seen that the requirements of BS8007 and BD28 were
reasonably well aligned, with BS8007 presented in a similar style to the method in the
Eurocodes and CIRIA C660. There were, however, some differences in the way in which
creep and restraint were accounted for in BD28 and BS8007. Notwithstanding these
differences, the principles and the overall approach of BS8007 and BD28 were similar. For
completeness, comparisons have been drawn in this paper with both BD28 and BS8007 where
possible, relative to Eurocodes.
P Bamforth, J Shave, S Denton 4
The Eurocode Design Approach
The Eurocode design method comprises two stages. Firstly, the magnitude of free contraction
c
free
is estimated and a restraint factor R
ax
is applied to determine the restrainedstrain which,
if of sufficient magnitude, may result in cracking. The way in which the restrainedstrain is
distributed as cracking is then estimated based on the volume and distribution of
reinforcement and the nature of the restraint.
BS EN 19923 deals with two forms of restraint; continuous edge restraint and end restraint.
The nature of the restraint is assumed to influence the way in which cracking develops and
different approaches are adopted to estimate the magnitude of crackinducing strain, i.e. that
component of strain which is relieved and exhibited as cracking.
Estimating the Risk of Cracking
Estimating restrained contraction
Similarly to the previous standards, BS EN 19923:2006 uses a strain based approach and
assumes that all compressive stresses induced during heating are relieved by creep. The
restrained contraction c
r
is estimated using the expression;
c
r
= R
ax
c
free
(9)
where R
ax
is the degree of external axial restraint and ε
free
is the free contraction assuming no
restraint. For earlyage deformation ε
r
is estimated using the expression (10);
c
r
= (o
c
. T
1
+. c
ca
) K. R
ax
(10)
T
1
is the temperature drop; o
c
is the coefficient of thermal expansion of concrete; c
ca
is
autogenous shrinkage; and K is a coefficient for creep. A spreadsheet model for predicting T
1
is provided in CIRIA C660 which derives adiabatic temperature rise curves for a variety of
UK concretes. It is based on extensive testing at the University of Dundee
[7]
and was
validated against in situ measurements
[3]
. Autogenous shrinkage is calculated using the
expression of BS EN 199211.
Estimating the risk of cracking
The risk of cracking is estimated by comparing the restrained strain ε
r
with the tensile strain
capacity of the concrete ε
ctu
; for no cracking ε
ctu
> ε
r .
ε
ctu
is estimated from the ratio of the
mean tensile strength, f
ctm
(t) and the modulus of elasticity E
cm
(t) at earlyage (the 3day value
is recommended if the specific time of cracking is not known). f
ctm
(t) and E
cm
(t) are estimated
using the expressions provided in EN 199211 and coefficients are applied to the ratio
f
ctm
(t)/E
cm
(t) which take account of both creep (0.65) and the effect of sustained loading (0.8).
The net effect of these coefficients is to increase ε
ctu
under short term loading by 0.8/0.65 =
1.27.
Estimating Minimum Area of Reinforcement
The minimum area of reinforcement A
s,min
is that which ensures that, if all of the tension in the
concrete prior to cracking is assumed to be transferred to the steel immediately after cracking,
P Bamforth, J Shave, S Denton 5
then the stress in the steel will be below its yield strength. Expressions used by BS 8007 and
BS EN 199211 are shown in Table 1.
In the design approach of BD28 and BS 8007 it was assumed that cracking is initiated from
the surface
[8]
. In practice however, it is more likely that, under conditions of external restraint
in which there is tension across the full section, cracking will be initiated at the point where
the temperature drop is the greatest, i.e. at the centre of the section (see Figure 1). Stress will
therefore be transferred from the full section to the reinforcement when a crack occurs. Hence
the underlying assumption regarding the surface zone may not be valid.
BD28 BS 8007 EN 199211
y
*
ct
c s
f
f
A A =
crit c
y
ct
c s ρ A
f
f
A A = = ) ρ A k (k
f
f
A k k A crit ct c
ky
eff ct,
ct c min s, = =
A
c
is the gross
cross section or a
surface zone of
250mm at either
edge
A
c
is the gross cross
section or a surface
zone of 250mm at
either edge
A
ct
is the area of concrete in tension
( )
7 . 0
. 0
cu ct
f 12 f =
f
ct
is the tensile
strength of the
concrete
f
ct,eff
is the tensile strength of the
concrete
f
y
is the yield
strength of the
steel
f
y
is the yield
strength of the steel
f
yk
is the yield strength of the steel
k allows for nonuniform and self
equilibrating stress which leads to a
reduction in restraint forces
k = 1 for h ≤ 300mm
k = 0.65 for h ≥ 800mm
intermediate values are interpolated
k
c
takes account of the stress
distribution in the section = 1 for
pure tension
Table 1. Expressions for estimating the minimum area of reinforcement
R
e
s
t
r
a
i
n
t
R
e
s
t
r
a
i
n
t
R
e
s
t
r
a
i
n
t
R
e
s
t
r
a
i
n
t
Cracking propagated
from the centre where
temperature change is
greatest
t0
t1
t2
t3
Temperature profile
P Bamforth, J Shave, S Denton 6
Figure 1. Crosssection through a thick wall subject to external restraint
This revised view of crack development is reflected in the change in EN 199211 and has
been extended for the case of EATC in CIRIA C660 which has increased the coefficient k
(see Table 1) from 0.65 to 0.75 for h ≥ 800mm to take account of both the (generally)
parabolic temperature profile and the fact that in practice some compressive stresses must be
relieved by a drop in temperature before tensile stress are generated. A comparison of the
effective surface zones is shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Surface zones used in estimating the minimum area of reinforcement in
sections that are dominated by external restraint
The difference is most significant in thick sections that are at risk of cracking due to external
restraint, where the methods of EN 199211 and C660 assume that stress is transferred from
a much higher proportion of the section thickness (i.e. a much higher effective surface zone)
and hence lead to the requirements for more minimum reinforcement compared with BS 8007
and BD28.
Estimating Crack Spacing and Crack Width
The characteristic crack width w
k
(expected to be about 30% higher than the mean value
[9],
[10]
)
is estimated from the product of the crackinducing strain ε
cr
and the crack spacing S
r,max
.
Crack spacing
The expressions for calculating crack spacing are given in Table 2. The same expressions
apply for both edge restraint and end restraint. The second term in the BS EN 199211:2004
P Bamforth, J Shave, S Denton 7
expression appears to be very similar to that of BS 8007. However, the way in which ρ
e,eff
is
calculated leads to very different results. Consider a 500mm thick wall; if c = 40mm and φ =
20mm, the effective surface zone, h
e,ef
= 2.5(40 +20/2) = 125mm. For a 500mm wall this is
only half the value of 250mm used by BD28 and BS 8007. As the value of ρ
p,eff
is inversely
proportional to h
e,ef
this will result in ρ
p,eff
being double the value used by BD 28 and BS8007,
thus halving the value of the second term in the crack width expression. This difference is
partially offset by a cover term (3.4c) but the net effect is that, in this example, the crack
spacing estimated using EN 199211 will be significantly lower than the crack spacing
estimated using BS 8007. With no other changes this would lead to a significant reduction in
crack control reinforcement compared with BS 8007 as shown in Figure 3 (a).
BS 8007 and BD28/87 EN 199211
ρ f
φ f
0.5 S
b
ct
max r,
=
eff p,
1
max r,
ρ
φ k
0.425 3.4c S + =
NO cover term c is the cover (mm)
f
ct
/f
b
is the ratio of the
tensile strength of the
concrete to the bond
strength, which for type 2
deformed bars = 0.67
k
1
is a coefficient which takes account
of the bond properties of the
reinforcement = 0.8 (and increased in
C660 to 1.14)
φ is the bar diameter (mm)
ρ is the steel ratio based
on a surface zone of
250mm or h/2, whichever
is less
ρ
e,eff
is the effective steel ratio based
on an effective surface zone h
e.eff
to a
depth of 2.5 (c + φ/2) or h/2,
whichever is less
Hence,
ρ
φ
0.335 S
max r,
= and,
eff p,
max r,
ρ
φ
0.34 3.4c S + =
Table 2. Expressions for the calculation of crack spacing
30 mm
40 mm
50 mm
60 mm
70 mm
0
20
40
60
80
100
120
140
160
180
200
300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1000
Thickness (mm)
P
e
r
c
e
n
t
s
t
e
e
l
r
e
l
a
t
i
v
e
t
o
B
S
8
0
0
7
Cover
30 mm
40 mm
50 mm
60 mm
70 mm
0
20
40
60
80
100
120
140
160
180
200
300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1000
Thickness (mm)
P
e
r
c
e
n
t
s
t
e
e
l
r
e
l
a
t
i
v
e
t
o
B
S
8
0
0
7
Cover
(a) k
1
= 0.8 (EN 199211) (b) k
1
= 1.14 (CIRIA C660)
P Bamforth, J Shave, S Denton 8
Figure 3. The ratio of reinforcement requirements for design to EN 1992 and BS8007
(C30/37 concrete; plywood formwork; limiting earlyage crack width to 0.15 mm; cover
as shown)
Observations by the authors suggest that the requirements of BD28 and BS 8007, while
having been generally applicable, have occasionally led to excessive crack widths and that it
would be unsafe to adopt a design that significantly reduces the current requirements. The
design parameters were therefore investigated. BS EN 199211:2004 recommends a factor
of 0.7 is applied to bond stress in cases when “good” bond cannot be guaranteed. In C660,
this factor has been considered applicable to k
1
in cases of EATC, so the bond coefficient k
1
is
increased from 0.8 to 1.14, since 0.8/0.7 = 1.14. Calculations using the increased value of k
1
are shown in Figure 3 (b) and lead to steel requirements that are closer to those of BS 8007
within the normal range of cover. Higher steel ratios than those suggested by BS 8007 are
generally associated with high cover.
Crack width
Up to this point in the design the nature of the restraint has not been considered. However, in
estimating crack width, BS EN 19923:2006 uses different expressions for estimating the
magnitude of crackinducing strain ε
cr
.
For continuous edge restraint informative Annex M of BS EN 19923:2006 assumes ε
cr
= ε
r
i.e. the restrainedstrain. CIRIA C660 proposes the expression ε
cr
= ε
r
– 0.5ε
ctu
i.e. ε
r
less
the residual strain in the concrete after cracking. (This approach is also taken by BD28.) In
each case the assumption is that the crack width is strain limited.
For end restraint only a different expression is used as follows;
ρ α
1
1
E
. .k.f .k 0.5α
e s
eff ct c e




.

\

+ =
cr
c
E
s
is the modulus of elasticity of the steel; α
e
is the modular ratio; f
ct,eff
is the tensile stress in
the concrete immediately prior to cracking; ρ is the steel ratio based on the full area of
concrete in tension [N.B. This is not the same as ρ
p,eff
used in the calculation of crack
spacing]; k and k
c
are area coefficients described in Table 1. This expression assumes that the
crack width is limited by the stress transferred to the steel.
Under conditions of end restraint, even when the minimum steel ratio is exceeded, crack
widths may be significantly wider than achieved under conditions of edge restraint, although
fewer cracks may occur. For example, in a 400mm section with 16mm bars at 250mm centres
using C30/37, the crack width resulting from end restraint is estimated to be 1mm, while
under conditions of edge restraint the estimated crack width is in the order of 0.15mm.
The Influence of Cover
The net effect on crack width of cover alone is shown in Figure 4. This has been recognised
for many years. For example, CampbellAllen & Hughes
[11]
recommended that “the placing
of such reinforcement shall be as near to the surface of the concrete as is consistent with the
P Bamforth, J Shave, S Denton 9
requirements of adequate cover”. However, in relation to control of EATC, the effect of
cover has not previously been quantified. Furthermore, recognising that the crack profile may
differ significantly from that of a crack developed by an element in flexure, it may be
inappropriate to adopt a similar expression to derive crack spacing and further research is
recommended in this area to avoid unnecessarily high volumes of reinforcement being used
when high cover is specified.
0.00
0.05
0.10
0.15
0.20
0.25
30 40 50 60 70
Cover (mm)
C
r
a
c
k
w
i
d
t
h
(
m
m
)
0
500
1000
1500
2000
30 40 50 60 70
Cover (mm)
A
r
e
a
o
f
r
e
i
n
f
o
r
c
e
m
e
n
t
(
m
m
2
)
(a) Effect of cover on crack width (b) Area of reinforcement (mm
2
/m/face)
required to achieve a crack width of 0.15mm
Figure 4. The Effect of Cover in a 300mm Wall Subject to a 30
o
C Temperature Drop
and 70% Restraint
Comparison Between Estimated and Observed Crack Widths
Comparisons between observed crack widths and predictions using current methods are
shown in Figure 5. These graphs are based on back analysis of measured data, as explained by
Bamforth
[12]
. It is clear that both BS 8007 and BS EN 1992 (without extension as
recommended in C660) lead to unsafe predictions of crack width for many of the examples.
In some cases the difference was as much as 50%. The method of CIRIA C660, which is
based on the method of BS EN 1992 but extended as described, shows a much better
correlation with the reported crack widths.
BS8007
0.0
0.1
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.5
0.2 0.25 0.3 0.35 0.4
Measured crack width (mm)
E
s
t
i
m
a
t
e
d
c
r
a
c
k
w
i
d
t
h
(
m
m
)
EN19923
0.0
0.1
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.5
0.2 0.25 0.3 0.35 0.4
Measured crack width (mm)
E
s
t
i
m
a
t
e
d
c
r
a
c
k
w
i
d
t
h
(
m
m
)
P Bamforth, J Shave, S Denton 10
CIRIA C660
0.0
0.1
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.5
0.2 0.25 0.3 0.35 0.4
Measured crack width (mm)
E
s
t
i
m
a
t
e
d
c
r
a
c
k
w
i
d
t
h
(
m
m
)
Figure 5. Comparison of observed and predicted crack widths using the methods of
BS 8007, BS EN 19923:2006 (without extension for EATC) and CIRIA C660
[12]
Conclusions
The design approach for earlyage thermal cracking adopted by BS EN 19923:2006 is
broadly similar to that of BD 28 and BS 8007 but there are some significant and important
differences as follows;
1) Different values of surface zone are used to estimate the minimum area of
reinforcement
2) Different surface zones are used to estimated the steel ratio for calculating crack
width
3) BS EN 199211:2004 includes cover in the expressions for crack spacing and width.
This was not included in BS 8007 of BD 28
4) The term f
ct
/ f
b
(tensile strength/bond strength) has been replaced by the coefficient
k
1
5) Crack development and crack widths depend on whether the element is subject to
edge restraint or end restraint and this is reflected in different expressions for
calculating crack width
6) Autogenous shrinkage is assumed to occur in all grades of structural concrete
CIRIA C660 has recognised these changes and has proposed modifications to the design
parameters to complement EN 1992 and ensure that estimated crack widths reflect more
reliably those observed in practice.
Acknowledgements
The authors wish to thank the Construction Industry Research and Information Association
for their permission to publish this paper.
References
[1] BD28/87 Early Thermal Cracking of Concrete, Design Manual for Roads and Bridges
Vol 1 Section 3, Incorporating Amendment No 1, 1989, TSO
[2] British Standards Institution, 1987, Design of Concrete Structures for Retaining
Aqueous Liquids, BS8007:1987.
[3] Bamforth, P B, 2007, Earlyage Thermal Crack Control in Concrete, CIRIA Report
C660, Construction Industry Research and Information Association, London.
P Bamforth, J Shave, S Denton 11
[4] Harrison, T A, 1992, Earlyage Thermal Crack Control in Concrete, CIRIA Report
91, Construction Industry Research and Information Association, London.
[5] British Standards Institution, 1985, Structural Use of Concrete. BS8110:1985
[6] British Standards Institution , 1990, BS 54004:1990, Steel, concrete and composite
bridges. Code of practice for design of concrete bridges.
[7] Dhir, R K, Paine, K A and Zheng, L, 2006, Design data for low heat and very low heat
special cements, University of Dundee, Research Contract No. CTU/I53), Report
CTU/4006, September 2006
[8] Anchor, R D, Hill, A W and Hughes, B P, 1979, Handbook on BS 5337:1976 (The
structural use of concrete for retaining aqueous liquids) Viewpoint Publications,
Cement & Concrete Association, Slough.
[9] Narayanan, R S and Beeby, A W, Designers’ Guide to EN 199211 and EN 199212
Eurocode 2: Design of Concrete Structures. General rules and rules for buildings and
structural fire design, Thomas Telford.
[10] Beeby, A W, 1990, Fixings in cracked concrete – The Probability of Coincident
Occurrence and Likely Crack Width, CIRIA Technical Note 136, Construction
Industry Research and Information Association, London.
[11] CampbellAllen, D and Hughes, G W, 1981, Reinforcement to Control Thermal and
Shrinkage Cracking. Transaction of the Institution of Engineers, Australia, Civil
Engineering, August, Vol. CE23. No. 3.
[12] Bamforth, P B, 2008, A revised approach for the design of reinforcement to control
cracking in concrete resulting from restrained contraction  Case studies and
validation, ICE Research Project 0706, Project Report ICE/0706/007. Institution of
Civil Engineers, London. Project Report ICE/0706/007.
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