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7th EUROMECH Solid Mechanics Conference J. Ambrsio (eds.

) Lisbon, Portugal, September 7-11, 2009


Leroy Gardner1 and Facheng Wang2
Imperial College London Department of Civil Engineering, South Kensington Campus, London, SW7 2AZ, UK Imperial College London Department of Civil Engineering, South Kensington Campus, London, SW7 2AZ, UK
2 1

Keywords: Bending, Continuous beams, Deformation capacity, Indeterminate structures, Plastic design, Portal frames, Steel structures, Strain hardening. Abstract. The influence of strain hardening on the behaviour and design of steel structures is examined herein. Traditional plastic analysis and design of indeterminate steel structures is based on the formation and subsequent rotation of plastic hinges at their full plastic moment capacity Mpl. However, the occurrence of strain hardening results in moment capacities that are often significantly higher than Mpl. This paper outlines recent advances in the development of a deformation based approach to steel design, referred to the continuous strength method (CSM), focussing primarily on extension of the method from isolated elements to indeterminate structures. Comparisons are made between test results on continuous steel beams, generated as part of the present study, and the predictions of the CSM and Eurocode 3. Comparisons with the collapse load of a steel portal frame are also presented. For all cases considered, the continuous strength method, through a rational exploitation of strain hardening, offers more accurate prediction of observed physical behaviour.

Leroy Gardner and Facheng Wang


Indeterminate steel structures, such as continuous beams and portal frames, are generally designed using traditional plastic analysis methods, which are based on the formation and subsequent rotation of plastic hinges at their full plastic moment capacity. The formation of each plastic hinge causes a progressive reduction in stiffness of the structure until the final hinge forms resulting in a collapse mechanism. In reality though, plastic hinges do not rotate at a constant moment equal to Mpl of the section due to the occurrence of strain hardening, with stockier sections often achieving resistances significantly beyond those predicted by current design approaches. A new design approach, the continuous strength method (CSM), has been developed offering a systematic means of utilising strain hardening, based on crosssection deformation capacity. The method allows the attainment of bending resistances beyond Mpl and enables the accurate prediction of ultimate structural collapse loads. Development and application of the method to indeterminate structures are described herein. 2 CSM FOR DETERMINATE STRUCTURES

The continuous strength method (CSM) [1] is a deformation based approach to structural steel design, presented as an alternative to the current practice of cross-section classification, which is a step-wise system of allowing for the influence of local buckling. The CSM recognises that the resistance of structural cross-sections is a continuous function of their deformation capacity, as controlled by the slenderness (and hence propensity to local buckling) of the constituent plate elements. The method employs a continuous base curve, defining the relationship between cross-section slenderness and cross-section deformation capacity, together with a material model that allows for the influence of strain hardening, and applies only to fully effective (i.e. non-slender) sections. Determination of cross-section capacities in compression and bending, incorporating recent developments to the method, are summarised in the following sub-sections. 2.1 Cross-section compression resistance

Within the continuous strength method, cross-section slenderness is defined through Eqn. 1 by the plate slenderness of the most slender constituent element in the section:

p = f y / cr


where fy is the material yield strength and cr is the elastic buckling stress, taking due account of element support conditions and applied stress distribution, as set out in EN 1993-1-5 [2]. The corresponding normalised deformation capacity of the cross-section LB/y is then obtained through the base curve, given by Eqn. 2.
LB 1.65 = 1.15 + 2.2 2.7 15 p y p for p <0.748 (2)

in which y=fy/E is the yield strain of the material, where E is Youngs modulus, and LB is the local buckling strain of the section. The base curve (Eqn. 2) was generated, as described in [1], on the basis of stub column tests. In interpreting the test data, for stocky sections, where the ultimate load Fu is greater than the yield load Fy, the local buckling strain is defined as the end shortening at ultimate load u normalised by the stub column length L, as given by Eqn. 3, while for slender sections (Fu<Fy), where the response is influenced by elastic post-buckling behaviour, the normalised local buckling strain LB/y is defined as the ratio of the ultimate

Leroy Gardner and Facheng Wang

load Fu to the yield load Fy, as given by Eqn. 4. Since slender sections fail below their yield load, where stress is proportional to strain, adoption of Eqn. 4 yields a normalised relationship between deformation capacity and slenderness that is similar to that between strength and slenderness given by the familiar Winter curve.
LB u / L = fy / E y LB Fu = Fy y

for Fu Fy
for Fu < Fy



Following recent developments, the base curve defined by Eqn. 2 now differs from that presented previously [1] due to: (1) Availability of further test data [3-4] upon which to establish the curve; (2) Element slenderness is defined using flat plate widths, in line with EN 1993-1-1 [5], rather than centreline dimensions; (3) Applicability of the method has been limited to sections where p <0.748, with more slender sections being covered by the existing effective width or direct strength methods; (4) A limitation has been placed on the normalised local buckling strain LB/y of 15, which corresponds to the material ductility requirement expressed in EN 1993-1-1 [5]. Having established the local buckling strain of the section, the local buckling stress LB is determined directly from the strain hardening material model, for which the bi-linear elastic, linear hardening representation, with a strain hardening slope of E/100, as recommended in EN 1993-1-5 [2], has been adopted. Finally, the cross-section compression resistance Nc,Rd is given by the product of the local buckling stress LB and the gross cross-section area A. While a strain hardening modulus Esh of E/100 has been adopted for all section types in the current study, this value has been found to be conservative for coldformed sections, partly due to the influence of the enhanced strength corner regions, and a value of E/50 may be acceptable.
2.2 Cross-section bending resistance

In-plane bending resistance may be calculated on a similar basis to compression resistance, whereby the deformation capacity LB of the cross-section is limited either by local buckling of the web in bending or the compression flange in pure compression, and the moment resistance may be calculated by means of integration of the material model through the depth of the cross-section, assuming a linearly varying strain distribution. Integration may not be appropriate for practical design, and in order to simplify the bending resistance calculation, a direct relationship between normalised bending resistance Mc,Rd/Mpl and normalised local buckling strain LB/y has been developed for plated sections. Three different stages of behaviour: (1) Elastic, (2) Elastic-plastic and (3) Strain-hardening have been identified. The continuous strength method addresses stages (2) and (3); in the elastic range, where LB/y <1, the moment capacity may be calculated by existing methods, such as the effective width approach [5] or direct strength method [6]. In the elastic-plastic range, where 1<LB/y3, a non-linear reduction in moment capacity from the full plastic moment Mpl at LB/y=3 to the elastic moment Mel at LB/y=1, as given by Eqn. 5 and illustrated in Figure 1, is proposed, where Mel,web= twhw2fy/6 is the elastic moment capacity of the web(s) of the section. Choice of the point at which Mpl is reached, namely LB/y=3, is based on the findings of Bruneau et al. [7]; this value was verified in the present study by analytical means and further supported by the available experimental data. Alternative transitions between elastic and fully plastic responses have been proposed Juhas [8] presented a strain based approach similar to that described

Leroy Gardner and Facheng Wang

herein, while Lechner et al. [9] proposed a linear transition with slenderness and also considered combined loading. Elastic-plastic stage: y LB

M c, Rd 1 M el, web y 2 LB 1 =1 ( ) M pl 2 M pl LB 18
fy fy


LB 3 y





Design model

Figure 1: Design model for elastic-plastic stage ( 1 < LB / y 3 )

In the strain-hardening range, where LB/y>3, capacities beyond the full plastic moment can be achieved. The associated strain and stress distributions are shown in Figure 2, together with the proposed design model, which comprises the full plastic moment capacity Mpl plus the additional moment capacity due to strain hardening. The strain hardening component is derived from a linearly varying stress distribution with an outer fibre stress equal to LB-fy. The design model is given in Eqn. 6 where ksh=E/Esh and ag=Wpl/Wel, Wpl and Wel being plastic and elastic section moduli, respectively. Strain-hardening stage:

M c, Rd 1 1 = 1 + ( LB 3) a g k sh M pl y
fy LB fy LB


LB 15 y







Design model

Figure 2: Design model for strain hardening stage ( 3 < LB / y 15 )

Figure 3 shows the normalised moment capacity (Mc,Rd/Mpl) versus normalised local buckling strain (LB/y) for the elastic-plastic (Eqn. 5) and strain hardening (Eqn. 6) stages of the continuous strength method (CSM) model for a typical I-section beam. The corresponding analytical response of the beam, as determined by direct integration, is also shown in Figure 3, together with a previous model proposed by Kemp et al. [10] that also allows capacities beyond Mpl due to strain hardening. The CSM design model (Eqns. 5 and 6) may be seen to closely follow the analytical response, which has also be verified numerically.

Leroy Gardner and Facheng Wang

1.2 1.1 LB/y=3


1 0.9 0.8 0.7 0.6 1 3 5 7

Elasticplastic stage Strain hardening stage

Analytical response CSM model Kemp et al. [11] model 9 11 13 15


Figure 3: CSM moment capacity model


Comparisons with design model

Comparison of the predictions of the CSM with the results of stub column and simple beam tests are shown in Figures 4 and 5 respectively, in which the Eurocode design model is also depicted.
1.5 1.4 1.3 1.2 1.1 1.0 0.9 0.8 0.7 0.6 0.5 0.1 0.2

p =0.748



EC3 yield limit CSM Test data







Slenderness p
Figure 4: Stub column test data and comparison with design models

The presented test data (comprising I sections and square and rectangular hollow sections SHS and RHS) were obtained from Akiyama [11], Wilkinson and Hancock [3, 12], Byfield and Nethercot [13] and Gardner et al. [4]. Section type Hot-rolled stub columns Cold-formed stub columns Mean COV No. of tests 10 16 26 26 Fu,EC3 Fu,test 0.89 0.86 0.87 0.11 Fu,CSM Fu,test 0.97 0.92 0.94 0.08 Fu,CSM Fu,EC3 1.10 1.08 1.09 -

Table 1: Comparison of the CSM and Eurocode methods with stub column test results

Leroy Gardner and Facheng Wang

In Figure 5, the CSM design model is displayed for two geometric shape factors ag 1.14 and 1.27 which correspond to the average shape factors of the presented I section and SHS/RHS test data, respectively.
Class 3-4 limit

1.2 1.0

Class 2-3 limit LB/y=15 EC3 design model CSM (ag=1.14) CSM (ag=1.27) I section test data SHS/RHS test data


0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0.0 0.1








Slenderness p
Figure 5: Bending test data and comparison with design models

Numerical comparisons, including the mean and coefficient of variation (COV) of the predictions, of the CSM and Eurocode with tests are presented in Tables 1 and 2 for compression and bending, respectively. The results show that the CSM offers more accurate prediction of the test data and a reduction in scatter. Section type Hot-rolled I sections Hot-rolled SHS/RHS Cold-formed SHS/RHS Mean COV No. of tests 32 3 44 79 79 Mu,EC3 Mu,test 0.85 0.89 0.89 0.87 0.08 Mu,CSM Mu,test 0.88 0.97 0.93 0.91 0.07 Mu,CSM Mu,EC3 1.04 1.10 1.05 1.05 -

Table 2: Comparison of the CSM and Eurocode methods with bending test results

3 3.1

CSM FOR INDETERMINATE STRUCTURES Introduction and overview of laboratory testing

The importance of strain hardening in indeterminate structures has been described by Davies [14], who observed that enhanced capacity could be attained in steel frames by considering strain hardening provided local and lateral-torsional buckling were eliminated. Experiments on continuous beams were performed as part of the present study [4] to generate supplementary test data to support extension of the CSM to indeterminate steel structures. A total of 12 continuous beam tests, with two loading configurations, were performed to assess

Leroy Gardner and Facheng Wang

moment capacities, rotation capacities and collapse loads. The results of the tests are analysed in the following sub-sections.
3.2 Design approach

A new design approach that combines features of the traditional plastic design method and the CSM has been developed to determine the collapse loads of indeterminate steel structures, with due allowance for the influence of strain hardening. For a given collapse mechanism, the critical plastic hinge is first identified as the one that undergoes the greatest rotation relative to the deformation capacity of the cross-section at that location. The demands at other plastic hinge locations, i, are then assigned in proportion to the ratio of the plastic hinge rotations in the mechanism, as shown in Figure 6, ensuring, if variable section sizes are used, that the deformation demand Hingei/y remains below the deformation capacity at that location LBi/y. Based on the resulting deformations, the corresponding bending moment diagram at collapse is determined. F F

1 2 L2




Figure 6: Plastic collapse mechanism

The key design steps, applied for illustration purposes to a continuous beam, shown in Figure 6, are summarised below: (1) (2) (3) Identify the locations of plastic hinges in a similar manner to traditional plastic design see Figure 6. Based on cross-section slenderness (Eqn. 1), calculate the corresponding crosssection deformation capacity LB1/y at hinge 1 (Eqn. 2). Determine kinematically the deformation demands (Hingei/y) at each plastic hinge location, i, on the basis of the aforementioned assumptions and Eqns. 7 and 8, where 1>i. Hinge1 y Hingei y (4) = LB1 y i LB1 LBi 1 y y (7)


Calculate the corresponding bending moments at the plastic hinges, MHingei, from Eqn. 5 or 6, to yield the collapse bending moment diagram, as shown in Figure 7. Note that the two hinges forming in the spans undergo the same rotation, and the moments at these locations are equal and have both been referred to as MHinge2 in Figure 7.

Leroy Gardner and Facheng Wang


Using virtual work, determine the final collapse load by equating the external work done by the loads to the internal work resulting from rotation of the plastic hinges, given for the continuous beam shown in Figure 6 by Eqn. 9. 2F = M Hinge11 + 2M Hinge 2 2 MHinge1 (9)



Figure 7: Collapse bending moment diagram

Satisfaction of the three conditions of equilibrium, mechanism and yield remains a strict requirement in defining the unique plastic collapse load of a structure within the continuous strength method. The key diversion from traditional plastic analysis is in the yield condition, where the moment capacity obtained for each hinge from the CSM is used in place of Mpl. Comparisons of predicted collapse loads from traditional plastic analysis and the CSM with those obtained from a series of continuous beam tests and a portal frame test are made in the following sub-sections.
3.3 Comparison of continuous beam test results with design methods

Twelve 2-span continuous beam tests on steel SHS and RHS were conducted as part of the present study; two configurations were considered in Configuration 1, load was applied centrally between the supports (i.e. L1=L2 in Figure 6), while in Configuration 2, loads were applied closer to the central support such that L1=2L2. Specimen designation HR60404-1 HR40404-1 HR40403-1 CF60404-1a CF60404-1b CF40404-1 CF40403-1 HR60404-2 HR40404-2 HR40403-2 CF40404-2 CF40403-2
Hinge1 Hinge 2 y y
M Hinge1 M pl M Hinge 2 M pl

15.0 15.0 15.0 15.0 15.0 15.0 15.0 15.0 15.0 15.0 15.0 15.0

15.0 15.0 15.0 15.0 15.0 15.0 15.0 11.2 11.2 11.2 11.2 11.2

1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10

1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.07 1.07 1.07 1.07 1.07

0.87 0.85 0.84 0.70 0.70 0.76 0.77 0.86 0.87 0.83 0.75 0.79 0.80 0.08

0.95 0.93 0.93 0.77 0.76 0.84 0.85 0.92 0.94 0.89 0.81 0.85 0.87 0.08

1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.10 1.08 1.08 1.08 1.08 1.08 1.09 -

Table 3: Comparison of continuous beam test results with design methods

Leroy Gardner and Facheng Wang

Both hot-rolled (HR) and cold-formed (CF) sections were tested, as indicated by the specimen designation in Table 3. The following part of the designation (e.g. 60404) refers to the height, width and thickness of the sections, while the final number is the testing configuration (1 or 2). For each test, Table 3 contains the normalised deformation at each hinge (from Eqns. 7 and 8), the corresponding bending moments relative to Mpl, and finally the test and predicted collapse loads. The continuous strength method may be seen to provide a more accurate prediction of the test behaviour and an average increase in capacity of 9% over traditional plastic methods.
3.4 Comparison of portal frame test result with design methods

Experimental results on full scale steel portal frames are relatively scarce, though one such test has been reported by Charlton [15]. The pitched portal frame was constructed from I sections with the following key properties: fy=272 N/mm2, Mel=23.2 kNm and Mpl=27.4 kNm. The collapse load of the frame was predicted using traditional plastic analysis and the continuous strength method. The collapse loads, as given in Table 4, indicate that the CSM provides a more accurate prediction of the test response, with a 7% increase in capacity over traditional plastic analysis. Further validation of the continuous strength method, based on numerically generated structural performance data, is underway.

Specimen designation Portal frame test [14]

FTest FEC3 FCSM (kN) (kN) (kN) 107.1 92.5 99.2

FEC3 FTest 0.86

FCSM FTest 0.93

FCSM FEC3 1.07

Table 4: Comparison of portal frame test result with design methods


The importance of strain hardening in the response of determinate and indeterminate steel structures has been highlighted in this paper. Refinements and developments to the continuous strength method (CSM), which offers a rational means of exploiting strain hardening in steel design, have been presented. Extension of the method to cover indeterminate structures, following the principles of traditional plastic analysis but allowing bending moments in excess of the plastic moment capacity, has also been proposed. Comparisons have been made against test results on stub columns, simple beams, continuous beams (tested as part of the current study) and a portal frame. These comparisons show that the CSM provides a more accurate prediction of test response and enhanced structural capacity over current design methods.


[1] L. Gardner, The continuous strength method. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Structures and Buildings, 161(3), 127-133, 2008. [2] EN 1993-1-5. Eurocode 3: Design of steel structures Part 1-5: Plated structural elements. CEN, 2006.

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[3] T. Wilkinson and G. J. Hancock, Tests for the compact web slenderness limits of coldformed rectangular hollow sections. Res. Rep. No. R744, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, 1997. [4] L. Gardner, N. Saari and F. Wang, Comparative experimental study of hot-rolled and cold-formed structural steel hollow sections. Engineering Structures, Submitted. [5] EN 1993-1-1. Eurocode 3: Design of steel structures Part 1-1: General rules and rules for buildings, CEN, 2005. [6] B. W. Schafer, The direct strength method of cold-formed steel member design. Journal of Constructional Steel Research, 64(7-8), 766-778, 2008. [7] M. Bruneau, C. M. Uang and A. S. Whittaker, Ductile Design of Steel Structures, McGraw-Hill, 1998. [8] A. Lechner, M. R. Kettler, R. Greiner, N. Boissonnade, J.-P. Jaspart and K. Weynand, Plastic capacity of semi-compact steel sections. CIMS 2008, Sydney, Australia, 2008, pp. 77-84. [9] P. Juhas, Elastic-plastic local stability and load-carrying capacity of steel members, SEMC 2007, Cape Town, South Africa, 2007, pp. 964-965. [10] A. R. Kemp, M. P. Byfield and D. A. Nethercot, Effect of strain hardening on flexural properties of steel beams. The Structural Engineer. 80(8), 29-35, 2002. [11] H. Akiyama, H. Kuwamura, S. Yamada and J. Chiu, Influences of manufacturing processes on the ultimate behaviour of box-section members. Proceedings of the Third Pacific Structural Steel Conference (PSSC), Tokyo, Japan, 1996, pp. 313-320. [12] T. Wilkinson and G. J. Hancock, Tests to examine compact web slenderness of coldformed RHS. Journal of Structural Engineering, ASCE, 124(10), 1116-1174, 1989. [13] M. P. Byfield and D. A. Nethercot, An analysis of the true bending strength of steel beams, Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers Structures and Buildings. 128, 188-197, 1998. [14] J. M. Davies, Strain hardening, local buckling and lateral-torsional buckling in plastic hinges, Journal of Constructional Steel Research, 62(1-2), 27-34, 2006. [15] T. M. Charlton, A test on a pitched roof portal structure with short stanchions. British Welding Journal, 7, 679-685, 1960.