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Butterworth August 2005

BUCKLING OF COLUMNS
[Reading CIVIL210 lecture notes; Megson I, Ch 18; Megson II, Ch 21]
EQUILIBRIUM AND STABILITY

not in equilibrium
stable equilibrium
unstable equilibrium
neutral or critical
equilibrium

The concept of equilibrium has been explored and applied to a range of structural problems and should be
reasonably familiar. There are a number of equilibrium criteria including those based on Newtons laws,
and a range of others based on virtual work and energy principles.
Stability of equilibrium is a concept about which we have intuitive notions as illustrated by the figure
above showing a ball rolling over a curved surface. As with equilibrium, there are a number of criteria that
can be used to verify the stability of an equilibrium state. For example:
Energy criterion:
If the rolling ball settles in a position at which its energy is a minimum then it will be in stable equilibrium.
Dynamic criterion
If, following a small disturbance from an equilibrium position, the ball executes dynamic oscillations (of
decreasing magnitude) about the equilibrium position, then equilibrium is stable.
This criterion depends on the argument that the borderline between stable and unstable equilibrium is
characterised by a state of neutral (or critical) equilibrium, as illustrated by the middle case in the
figure. If equilibrium is neutral the ball can be given a small displacement either way and remain in
Of these criteria the dynamic one is the most robust but also the most difficult to apply. We will continue
to use the adjacent equilibrium state criterion which is the easiest to apply.
P
P
CR
P >P
CR
STABLE - equilibrium unconditionally
stable (deflections dont result in extra
bm)
CRITICAL - equilibrium also
UNSTABLE - vertical position
now unstable.
New stable positions appear
at large deflection

Column_Buckling_Notes.doc p2 Copyright J .W. Butterworth August 2005
This case, often referred to as Euler buckling, (after Leonhard Euler who first derived it) is presented in
Megson (Megson I, 18.1; Megson II, 21.1). Edition II uses a different coordinate system from Edition I,
and the derivation below is in the coordinate system of Edition I (the difference is slight - a nuisance
that we will have to live with).
Consider a light, straight, slender, uniform, pin-ended column of length L, with a cross-section property I
and elastic modulus E. An axial load P is gradually increased until the column is on the point of buckling.
We argue that the column, in its critical equilibrium state can be in equilbrium in an adjacent (slightly
displaced) state.
v
P
z
L
y
z
v
M(z)
0
P

BM at z Pv ) z ( M =
Substituting in the moment-curvature relationship, v EI ) z ( M = :
v EI Pv =
0 Pv v EI = +
(governing equation)
Divide through by EI and let
2
EI
P
= :
0 v v
2
= +
This differential equation (linear, 2
nd
order, homogeneous, constant coefficients) has the solution (can
check by differentiating)
z cos B z sin A ) z ( v + =
The solution is completed by imposing the boundary conditions:
= 0 ) 0 ( v 0 B =
Thus z sin A ) z ( v = ,
showing that the deflected shape (buckling mode) is a sine curve.
= 0 ) L ( v 0 L sin A =
Either 0 ) z ( v 0 A = = -i.e. the column remains straight (but OK, this is a possible solution),
Or 0 L sin = , meaning that etc , 3 , 2 , , 0 L = .
Thus L 3 , 2 , 1 , 0 n , n L = =

L
n
=
and since ,
EI
P
2
=

2
2 2
L
EI n
P

=
Column_Buckling_Notes.doc p3 Copyright J .W. Butterworth August 2005
defining the critical or buckling loads of the column.
The least value of P (>0) corresponds to n=1 giving the lowest critical load as

2
2
CR
L
EI
P

= , the critical or Euler load.
The associated buckled shape or mode will be

L
z
sin A z sin A ) z ( v

= = - i.e. a half sine wave, similar to the sketch on previous page.
Note that although we know the shape is a half sine wave, we have no information about the amplitude. A
bit like the ball on the level surface, we have merely established that we can displace it from its original
equilibrium position and it will still be in equilibrium.
Higher Modes
For other values of n we obtain increasing values of P
CR
and the associated (higher) mode.
n P
CR
Mode v(z)
0 indeterminate

0 ) z ( v =
1
2 2
L / EI

L / z sin A ) z ( v =
2
2 2
L / EI 4

L / z 2 sin A ) z ( v =
3
2 2
L / EI 9

L / z sin 3 A ) z ( v =

st
2 2
L / EI , can not be achieved unless the column is physically
restrained against lateral displacement at the necessary number of places. Otherwise the column simply
buckles at its first opportunity the lowest critical load.
Thus a column that was restrained at its mid-point would not buckle until the load reached
2 2
L / EI 4 .
L/2 L/2
P

From the sketch it can be seen that there is an inflexion point (zero BM) at mid-span, so that the column
behaves in a similar way to two pin-ended columns of length L/2.
The buckling load of a pin-ended column of length L/2 is

2
2
2
2
CR
L
EI 4
) 2 / L (
EI
P

=

=
and the original column (length L, with mid-span restraint) is said to have an effective length of L/2.
Other support conditions
By applying a similar analysis to that on p.2 to columns with other end support conditions, it is possible to
derive their buckling loads. Details can be found in Megson. The table below summarises the more common
cases.
Column_Buckling_Notes.doc p4 Copyright J .W. Butterworth August 2005

P
CR

2
2
L
EI

2
2
L 4
EI

2
2
L
EI 046 . 2

2
2
L
EI 4

2
2
L
EI

Effective
Length
L 2L 0.7L 0.5L L

Effective length
For any column, the effective length is defined as the length of a pin-ended column with the same critical
For example, in the case of a propped cantilever of length L:
2
2
CR
L
EI 046 . 2
P

=
2
eff
2
CR
L
EI
P

=
Equating:
2
2
2
eff
2
L
EI 046 . 2
L
EI
=

And so L 7 . 0 L
eff
=
The concept of effective length is widely used in design as it allows formulas,
etc, developed for the standard pin-ended case to be applied to a wide range
of other cases.
e.g. (somewhat trivial) to calculate the critical load of a propped cantilever:
Standard formula:
2
eff
2
CR
L
EI
P

= (i.e. the formula for the pin-ended case)
Subst. L
eff
= 0.7L:
2
2
2
2
CR
L
EI 04 . 2
) L 7 . 0 (
EI
P

=

=
Hence only one formula to remember (but still need to know effective length for other cases).

L
L
eff
P
CR
P
CR
same
Column_Buckling_Notes.doc p5 Copyright J .W. Butterworth August 2005

BEHAVIOUR OF IMPERFECT COLUMNS
So far the cases we have considered have been rather idealised, overlooking a number of important
features or imperfections that will be present in most practical columns, such as
initial lack of straightness
material that is not perfectly linearly elastic
non-slender cases (i.e. short, thick columns)

INITIALLY CURVED COLUMN
v
o
v
P P
natural shape
z

Note that the initial deflection (v
o
) and associated curvature corresponds to zero bm throughout - it is
only the extra deflection (v) and associated curvature that causes bm.
For equilibrium:

0
Pv Pv v EI = +
To proceed we need to know (or assume) ) z ( v
0
. Could assume a Fourier series,

=
0
n 0
L
z n
sin a ) z ( v , (as
Megson does) and get a more general result, but here we assume
L
z
sin a v
0

= (the natural buckled shape
of a pin-ended column). By doing this we make life as tough as possible for the column.
hence
L
z
sin Pa Pv v EI

= + (1)
subst.
2
EI
P
=
L
z
sin a v v
2 2

= +
CF: z cos B z sin A v + =
PI: try
L
z
sin b v

= and substitute in equation (1)
2
2
2
L
a
b

= , and the complete solution,
CF + PI is thus
2
2
2
L
L
z
sin a
z cos B z sin A ) z ( v

+ + =
Applying boundary conditions: 0 B 0 ) 0 ( v = =
L sin A 0 0 ) L ( v = =
Column_Buckling_Notes.doc p6 Copyright J .W. Butterworth August 2005
If = n L , 0 A , giving solutions at a set of discrete P values only (the critical loads of the straight
column),
2
2
2
2
cr
L
EI 4
,
L
EI
P

= , etc.
However, our interest is in what happens for values of
2
2
L
EI
P

< , so we choose the other possibility and
let 0 A = , so that the solution becomes

1
P
P
v
1
L
1
L
z
sin a
L
L
z
sin a
) z ( v
cr
0
2
2
2
2
2

=

or total deflection,
cr
0
0
P
P
1
v
v v

= + .
A plot of mid-span deflection
1
P
P
a
) 2 / L ( v
cr

= = ,
shows deflection increasing steadily with P and then increasing rapidly as
cr
P P . The initial mid-span deflection, a, is magnified by the factor
1
P
P
1
cr

.
SOUTHWELL PLOT
Rewriting
1
P
P
a
cr

= as a
P
P
cr
= ,
finally

cr cr
P
a
P
1
P

giving a linear relationship between (/P) and .
Known as the Southwell Plot, it permits the experimental determination of
be determined without actually buckling the column (and probably damaging
it).
The Southwell plot can be used for a wide range of buckling problems, not just columns. The main
requirement is that the measured quantity, , should exhibit a first order (major) change with the
primary buckling mode.
a

P
P
P
cr

P
P
cr

/P

P
cr
1
slope=1/P
cr
a
Column_Buckling_Notes.doc p7 Copyright J .W. Butterworth August 2005
The behaviour of an eccentrically loaded column is similar to that of an initially curved
column.
For equilibrium in a slightly displaced position
) v e ( P ) z ( M v EI + = =
2 2
= + .
Solving, ) 1 z sin
L sin
L cos 1
z (cos e v

+ =
Mid-span deflection, ) 1
2
L
sin
L sin
L cos 1
2
L
(cos e

= ,
simplifying to ) 1
2
L
(sec e

=
or

= 1
P
P
2
sec e
cr
.
In both cases deflection starts to increase immediately any load is applied.
Consequently there is no distinct instant of buckling, merely a rapid increase in
rate of deflection as P
cr
is approached. Simultaneously the bm at mid-height will be increasing
proportionately with a likelihood that the material at that location will yield or fail in some way, initiating
complete failure of the column.
MATERIAL STRENGTH LIMITATIONS
Considering the case of a pin-ended column again, the critical load is given by

2
2
cr
L
EI
P

=
Mean stress at P
cr
,
2
2
cr
cr
L
) A / I ( E
A
P
= = .
But
2
r
A
I
= , the radius of gyration.
So
2
2
cr
) r / L (
E
= .
L/r is known as the slenderness ratio and a plot of
cr
against L/r will appear as
shown. This suggests that as L/r gets smaller the critical (buckling) stress
increases without limit. However, all real materials will yield or fail as their stress
increases.
For a simple elasto-plastic material (such as mild steel) the stress-strain behaviour
is approximately as shown to the right.
Hence, in our diagram showing buckling stress we should place a cut-off at a stress
of
y
:

P
P
cr

P
P
cr

P
e
L/r

cr
strain,

y
P
area A
Column_Buckling_Notes.doc p8 Copyright J .W. Butterworth August 2005
L/r

cr

y
short
columns
long
columns
material failure
unstable
stable
yielding

Columns with a sufficiently small slenderness ratio (L/r) will fail by squashing (yielding), whereas more
slender columns will fail (at least initially) by elastic buckling.
The dividing line between short and long columns depends on yield stress and elastic modulus. For
example, if
y
= 300MPa and E = 200,000MPa,

81
E
r / L
) r / L (
E
y
2
2
2
y cr
=

= =

The transition from short (yielding) columns to long (buckling) ones is not sharply defined in practice.
There is a transition zone in which failure involves a mix of buckling and yielding. For example, a slight
tendency to buckle may cause yielding and further deflection. Similarly buckling may be precipitated by
the first hint of yielding on one side of a column.
Actual failure loads (or the corresponding stresses) if plotted will follow a pattern as shown in the next
figure.
The curve followed will depend on factors such as initial imperfection (lack of straightness), residual
stresses resulting from manufacture and construction processes, etc.
Different curves are used for different classes of column and a considerable variety of these column
design curves have evolved. We will look at just a few of these.
Column_Buckling_Notes.doc p9 Copyright J .W. Butterworth August 2005
L/r

fail

y
short
columns
long
columns
Euler
transition
locus of actual failure stress

RANKINE FORMULA
One of the oldest and simplest column design curves is the interaction formula of Rankine:

y e
1 1 1

where is the mean stress at failure

e
is the Euler critical stress,
2 2
L / EI

y
is the yield stress.
Rankines curve is asymptotic to the Euler and yield stress
lines at 0 and r / L . It can also be written in terms of
y e
P
1
P
1
P
1
+ =
Rearranging the stress version
2 2
y
y
) r / L )( E / ( 1 +

=
E
2
y

is replaced by a constant a which is adjusted to take account of imperfections, giving

failure stress
2
y
) r / L ( a 1 +

=
and failure load, A P =
By using L
eff
in place of L, the formula is applicable to columns with any type of end restraints:

2
eff
y
) r / L ( a 1 +

=
EXAMPLES
FAILURE LOAD OF A PROPPED CANTILEVER COLUMN
A 200mm x 200mm x 5mm hollow box section column is 5m long, fixed at
one end and propped at the other.
y
= 300MPa. What axial load will
cause failure if Rankines ) E / ( 9 . 0 a
2
y
= ?
Effective length: m 5 . 3 L 7 . 0 L
eff
= =
Section properties:
2 3
m 10 x 9 . 3 A

=
L/r

e
(Rankine)
P
200mm
5mm
5m
Column_Buckling_Notes.doc p10 Copyright J .W. Butterworth August 2005

4 6
m 10 x 73 . 24 I

=
m 0796 . 0 A / I r = =
Slenderness ratio 95 . 43 r / L
eff
=
Rankine a
6 2
y
10 x 78 . 136 ) E / ( 9 . 0 a

= =
Failure stress MPa 3 . 237
95 . 43 10 x 78 . 136 1
300
2 6
=
+
=

Failure load kN 925 10 x 9 . 3 3 . 237 A P
3
= = =

Note: kN 1170 A P
y y
kN 3984
L
EI
P
2
eff
2
E
=

STRESS IN AN INITIALLY CURVED TUBULAR COLUMN
A pin-ended steel tube 1.5m long, 25mm outside diameter, 2mm wall thickness, has initial curvature
) L / z sin( a v
0
= , where a = 5mm. What is the maximum stress due to an axial load of 3.5kN?
Section properties:
4 3 3
mm 9556 2 5 . 11 t r I = = =

2
mm 5 . 144 rt 2 A = =
1
P
P
v
v
cr
0

=
or
cr
0
0
P
P
1
v
v v

= +
Need P
cr
: kN 38 . 8
L
EI
P
2
2
cr
=

=
At mid-height, total deflection mm 58 . 8
38 . 8
5 . 3
1
5
v v
0
=

= +
Bending moment Nm 30 00858 . 3500 ) v v ( P M
0
= = + =
Stress: MPa 5 . 63
9556
1000 5 . 12 30
5 . 144
3500
I
My
A
P
=

+ = + =
A strut is subjected to axial force in a testing machine and the resulting increments in mid-span lateral
deflection measured as follows:
v(mm) 0.23 0.38 0.55 0.75 0.96 1.27
P(kN) 6.85 8.90 9.80 10.54 11.20 11.75
What is the predicted buckling load?
The Southwell plot (p.6) is a plot of

against
P
. We have and P so just need to calculate
P

:
(mm) 0.23 0.38 0.55 0.75 0.96 1.27
P(kN) 6.85 8.90 9.80 10.54 11.20 11.75
P

.0336 .0427 .0561 .0712 .0857 .1081

Column_Buckling_Notes.doc p11 Copyright J .W. Butterworth August 2005
0
0.02
0.04
0.06
0.08
0.1
0.12
0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1 1.2 1.4

/
P

Using the two points indicated calculate the inverse of the slope:
kN 85 . 13
0561 . 1081 .
55 . 27 . 1
P
cr
=

=
(Alternatively one could plot
P
against

and calculate the slope)
NONLINEAR ELASTIC MATERIALS TANGENT MODULUS THEORY
Many materials exhibit nonlinear elastic behaviour but with no clear yield point.
Engesser showed that for such materials buckling occurs (theoretically) when

2
eff
t
2
cr
2
eff
t
2
cr
) r / L (
E
or ,
L
I E
P

=

=
where E
t
is the tangent modulus at the critical stress (i.e. the slope of the tangent to the stress-strain
curve).
However, experiments generally revealed a higher buckling load than that given by the tangent modulus
theory.
Shanley, using a more accurate theoretical model showed that a better prediction is given by the reduced

2
eff
R
2
R
L
I E
P

=
where
( )
2
t
t
R
E E
EE 4
E
+
= is the reduced modulus (for a rectangular cross-section).
The reason for the different result is that as buckling commences, strain on the concave side of the
column increases, with a corresponding stress change dictated by E
t
, whereas on the convex side strain
decreases slightly and stress follows the unloading curve governed by E. Hence the need to use both
moduli.
Measured buckling loads tend to lie between a lower bound given by the tangent modulus load and an upper
bound given by the reduced modulus load. (The simple Euler buckling load will of course be higher than
both.) Since the reduced modulus load errs on the unsafe side it is more common to use the tangent
modulus load which is also simpler to calculate.
Column_Buckling_Notes.doc p12 Copyright J .W. Butterworth August 2005
PERRY-ROBERTSON FORMULA (BASIS OF COLUMN DESIGN TO NZ STEEL DESIGN STANDARD)
The formula underlying the NZ Steel Structures Standard is based on the Perry Robertson formula which
in turn is derived from the expression for the maximum stress in an axially loaded initially curved column.

v
o
v
P P
natural shape
z

For an initially curved shape
L
z
sin a v
0

= ,
we had on p.6, max. deflection,
cr
0
0
P
P
1
v
v v

= + = .
Hence max. bending moment
E
P
P
1
Pa
P M

= =
Stress at mid-span
I
My
A
P
max
+ =

I
P
P
1
Pay
A
P
E
max

+ =
subst.
A
P
,
A
I
r
2
= = , =
2
E
max
r
P
P
1
ay

+
Column assumed to be at its limit when this maximum stress reaches
y
i.e.

2
E
max
y
r 1
ay

+ =
Putting
2
max
r
ay
= in the previous equation gives a quadratic in :
0 )] 1 ( [
E y E y
2
= + + +
with solution
2
4 )] 1 ( [ ) 1 (
E y
2
E y E y
+ + + +
= (1)
This is the Perry formula, giving the axial load capacity, P
C
= A.
depends on initial imperfections. Test by Robertson were used to get suitable values for . Initially
was taken as 0.003(L/r) to give the Perry-Robertson formula. More recent tests have been used to refine
the value of which varies according to the types of steel column. For example
2
) r / L ( 00003 . 0 = .
Column_Buckling_Notes.doc p13 Copyright J .W. Butterworth August 2005
Noting that
y y y
C
A
A
P
P

= , divide both sides of equation (1) by

y
to obtain

+ +

+ =

=
y
E 2
y
E
y
E
y y
C
4 )] 1 ( 1 [ ) 1 ( 1 5 . 0
P
P
(2)
Using equation (2) we plot
y
C
P
P
(the load capacity ratio) against slenderness ratio
r
L
e
to obtain the column
design curves below.
The curves are plotted for sample values of
2
) r / L ( 00002 . 0 = and
2
) r / L ( 00004 . 0 = and a yield
stress of 300MPa.
0
0.1
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.5
0.6
0.7
0.8
0.9
1
0 50 100 150 200 250 300
Slenderness Ratio, L
e
/

r
A
x
i
a
l

L
o
a
d

C
a
p
a
c
i
t
y

R
a
t
i
o
,

P

C

/

P

y
Column Design Curves
Perry-Robertson
=0.00002(L
e
/r)
2
=0.00004(L
e
/r)
2
L
e
/r =44

Figure 1 Column design curves based on Perry-Robertson formula
EXAMPLE
FAILURE LOAD OF A PROPPED CANTILEVER COLUMN
A 200mm x 200mm x 5mm hollow box section column is 5m long, fixed at
one end and propped at the other.
y
= 300MPa. What is the axial load
capacity according to the Perry-Robertson criterion.
From the previous example using this column, 44 r / L
eff
= .
Using the Perry-Robertson curve based on
2
) r / L ( 00004 . 0 = , we obtain
. 9 . 0
P
P
y
C
= And since kN 1170 A P
y y
= = , kN 1053 1170 9 . 0 P
C
= = .
In practice a strength reduction factor of 9 . 0 = would also be applied to obtain a reliable load capacity
of kN 948 1053 9 . 0 = (not greatly different from Rankines value of 925kN).

P
200mm
5mm
5m
Column_Buckling_Notes.doc p14 Copyright J .W. Butterworth August 2005
STEEL STRUCTURES STANDARD, NZS 3404:1997
The strength limit state design criterion for a steel column requires that it satisfy both

S
*
N N , and

C
*
N N
Where N
*
is the maximum design axial force in the member due to the action of the factored loads,
N
S
is the nominal section axial force capacity,
N
C
is the nominal member axial force capacity, and
is the strength reduction factor (0.9).
NOMINAL SECTION CAPACITY, N
S

N
S
is the axial force capacity of a length of column sufficiently short that overall buckling has no effect
(i.e. it is more or less identical to the squash load P
y
). It is defined as

y n f S
A k N = ,
where k
f
is a form factor ( 1) that reduces the cross-sectional area of the column if its shape is prone
to local buckling, and
A
n
is the net area of the cross section (gross area minus any holes, etc).
For rolled sections and welded columns k
f
is usually close to 1.0, but there is a significant range of
columns composed of slender plate elements, and these will buckle locally before the squash load is
reached. This is why the squash load (A
n

y
) is modified by the local buckling form factor (k
f
).
Section capacity will govern the design of very short columns or columns with closely spaced restraints.
NOMINAL MEMBER CAPACITY, N
C

For longer columns the tendency to buckle dominates and determines the member capacity, N
C
.
NZS3404 defines N
C
/N
S
, the ratio of member capacity to section capacity, in terms of a modified
member slenderness ratio, and presents the results as a table (see pages 17 and 18). Plotting the table
data gives column design curves which are very similar to the plots of P
C
/P
y
based on the Perry-Robertson
relationship, but with the following refinements:
1. Allowance for different types of member
Different column design curves are provided for different types
of column. These recognise the effects of residual stress due to
manufacturing process and geometric imperfections.
2. Varying yield stress
Rather than have different curves for different column yield
stresses, a modified slenderness ratio,
n
, replaces the simple
L
e
/r previously used.

n
is defined as
250
k
r
L y
f
e
n

= (value is dominated by the L
e
/r component)
The 250 appears because the standard structural steel grade at the time NZS3404 was written was
250MPa. The design curves are tabulated for this value and the correction term is only required for
yield stress values other than 250MPA. The standard grade is now 300MPa and it is probable that the
tabulated values will be changed to reflect this in the next edition of the Standard.
The form factor k
f
, also appears in the modified slenderness ratio, taking account of reduced
effective area due to local buckling.
MEMBER SLENDERNESS REDUCTION FACTOR,
c
.
This is the name used in NZS3404 for the axial load capacity ratio N
C
/N
S
.
Column_Buckling_Notes.doc p15 Copyright J .W. Butterworth August 2005
i.e.
S
C
c
N
N
=
Figure 2 shows the NZS3404 column design curves (with a couple of Perry-Robertson curves
superimposed for comparison). The similarity between the older Perry-Robertson curves and the more
recent curves can be seen.
0
0.1
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.5
0.6
0.7
0.8
0.9
1
0 50 100 150 200 250 300
Modified Member Slenderness
A
x
i
a
l

L
o
a
d

C
a
p
a
c
i
t
y

R
a
t
i
o
,

N

C

/

N

S
Column Design Curves
NZS 3404 Steel Structures Standard

b
=-1.0

b
=-0.5

b
=0.0

b
=0.5

b
=1.0
Member section type constant,
b
for example:
-1.0: Hot-rolled RHS and CHS
-0.5: Cold-formed RHS and CHS (stress-relieved)
0.0: Hot-rolled UB and UC (flange thickness <40mm
0.5: T-sections flame cut from universal sections
1.0: Hot-rolled UB and UC (flange thickness >40mm)
Perry-Robertson formula
- samples for comparison

=
250
k
r
L y
f
e
n

Figure 2 Column design curves from NZS3404
Table 6.3.3(2) of NZS3404, reproduced on pages 17 and 18, tabulates values of ) N / N (
S C c
= for each
of the five member section constants (
b
= -1, -0.5, 0, 1, 0.5, 1) against a range of modified slenderness
ratios.
COMPRESSION MEMBER SECTION CONSTANT,
b
.
The value of this constant varies according to the member type as noted in Figure 2. Selecting the
appropriate
b
selects a column design curve suited to the particular type of column being designed (hot
rolled, cold-formed, welded, etc). Table 6.3.3(1) on p.16 sets out the various member types and the
corresponding section constants.
FURTHER EXAMPLES OF RESIDUAL STRESS PATTERNS
The figure shows typical patterns of residual stress due to
manufacturing. With hot rolled sections, shrinking of the late-cooling
regions induces residual compressive stress in the early-cooling regions,
and these are balanced by equilibrating tensile stresses in the late-
cooling regions. In a hot-rolled I-section the flange-web junctions are
the slowest cooling and so acquire residual tensile stress, whilst the the
more exposed flange tips are regions of residual compressive stress. The
presence of residual stress is of most significance in intermediate length
columns (longer columns tend to buckle elastically at low stress, short
columns achieve full plasticity regardless of initial stress).

Column_Buckling_Notes.doc p16 Copyright J .W. Butterworth August 2005

The compression member section constant
b
, is used to select the appropriate column design curve
from the five which are tabulated in the table on pages 17 and 18.

Column_Buckling_Notes.doc p17 Copyright J .W. Butterworth August 2005

The modified member slenderness is defined as
250
k
r
L y
f
e
n

= .
Column_Buckling_Notes.doc p18 Copyright J .W. Butterworth August 2005

The modified member slenderness is defined as
250
k
r
L y
f
e
n

= .
Column_Buckling_Notes.doc p19 Copyright J .W. Butterworth August 2005
STEPS IN THE DESIGN OF A STEEL COLUMN
1. Determine the effective length, L
e
, for each axis of buckling. Typically this can be taken as the
distance between restraints, or based on the standard cases tabulated earlier (see p.4).
2. Calculate the slenderness ratio, L
e
/r, for each axis of buckling.
3. Calculate the effective area, A
e
, and form factor,
g e f
A / A k = . [Topic yet to be discussed]
4. Calculate section capacity,
y n f S
A k N = .
5. Calculate modified slenderness ratio,
250
k
r
L y
f
e
n

= .
6. Select the member section constant,
b
, based on the column type (Table 6.3.3(1)).
7. Obtain the slenderness reduction factor
c
for each axis of buckling.
8. Calculate the nominal member axial force capacities,
S CX CX
N N = and
S CY CY
N N = (for major and
minor axis buckling).
9. Check that
S
*
N N , and
C
*
N N (where N
C
is the minimum of N
CX
and N
CY
).
Steel I-section column, 310UB32, fixed base,
restrained by bracing in the (weak) minor y-axis
direction, free to deflect in the major x-axis
direction. What is the axial load capacity?
Euler buckling loads are too idealised for practical
use, but are useful benchmarks.
Column is a cantilever for buckling in this direction
kN 1247
5 4
EI
N
2
x
2
CR
=

=
Or, using the effective length of
L
e
=2L,
kN 1247
) 5 2 (
EI
L
EI
N
2
x
2
2
e
x
2
CR
=

=

Column is a propped cantilever for buckling in this
direction.
kN 714
5
EI 046 . 2
N
2
y
2
CR
=

=
Or, using the effective length of L
e
=0.7L,
kN 714
) 5 7 . 0 (
EI
L
EI
N
2
y
2
2
e
y
2
CR
=

=
brace
brace
5m
x
y
310UB32
I =63.2E-6 m
I =4.42E-6 m
r =0.124m
r =0.0329m
A =4080mm
A =3733mm
=320MPa
x
y
x
y
g
e
y
4
4
2
2

unrestrained in
y direction, but
propped in x
direction by braces
fixed base
Column_Buckling_Notes.doc p20 Copyright J .W. Butterworth August 2005
CAPACITY CHECK TO NZS3404
1. L
ex
= 2 x 5m = 10m (cantilever)
L
ey
= 0.7 x 5m = 3.5m (propped cantilever)
2. 81
124 . 0
10
r
L
x
ex
= =
106
0329 . 0
5 . 3
r
L
y
ey
= =
3. A
g
= 4080mm
2
, A
e
= 3733mm
2
, and so 915 . 0
4080
3733
k
f
= =
4. Assuming no significant holes in the section, take A
n
= A
g
, giving section capacity
kN 1195 ) N ( 320 4080 915 . 0 A k N
y n f S
= = =
5. 88
250
320
915 . 0 81
250
k
r
L y
f
x
ex
nx
= =

= (for x-axis buckling)

115
250
320
915 . 0 106
250
k
r
L
y
f
y
ey
ny
= =

= (y-axis buckling)
6. Column section is a hot-rolled UB with k
f
< 1, so from Table 6.3.3(1)
b
= 0
7. From Table 6.3.3(2):
cx
= 0.624 (interpolating between values of
nx
= 85 and 90), and

cy
= 0.448
(The two values are shown on the column design curve plot below)
8. kN 746 1195 624 . 0 N N
S CX CX
= = =
kN 535 1195 448 . 0 N N
S Cy Cy
= = =
Choosing the minimum, nominal member capacity, . kN 535 N
C
=
9.
S
*
N N : kN 1075 1195 9 . 0 N
*

C
*
N N : kN 482 535 9 . 0 N
*

CONCLUSION: The axial load capacity (reliable ultimate strength) of the column is 482kN - this should
not be exceeded by the axial compressive load resulting from the application of strength
limit state factored loads (such as 1.2G+1.5Q).
88, 0.624136221
115, 0.447998089
0
0.1
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.5
0.6
0.7
0.8
0.9
1
0 50 100 150 200 250 300
Modified Member Slenderness
A
x
i
a
l

L
o
a
d

C
a
p
a
c
i
t
y
,

N

c

/

N

s
NZS 3404 Steel Structures Standard
Column design curve for
b
=0
250
k
r
L y
f
e
n

=
(x axis buckling)
(y axis buckling)

Column_Buckling_Notes.doc p21 Copyright J .W. Butterworth August 2005
EXAMPLE DESIGN OF AXIALLY LOADED COLUMN
A grade 300 steel column is 12m long and simply supported about both axes at each end and has a central
brace preventing displacement in the minor axis plane (i.e. L
ex
= 12.0m, L
ey
= 6.0m).
Select a suitable UC section to carry a design axial load based on nominal dead and live loads of 150kN
and 250kN respectively.
DESIGN TO NZS3404
1. Design load, kN 555 250 5 . 1 150 2 . 1 Q 5 . 1 G 2 . 1 N
*
= + = + =
2. 0 . 1 k assume and , 0 , 300
f b y
= = =
3. Get started by guessing . say , 100
n
=
From Table 6.3.3(2): 541 . 0
c
=
4. Require
*
s c
N N >
555 300 A 541 . 0 9 . 0
g
>

2
g
mm 3800
300 541 . 0 9 . 0
1000 555
A >

>
5. Try 150UC30: . mm 1 . 38 r , mm 5 . 67 r , mm 3860 A
y x
2
g
= = =

195
173
250
300
1 . 38
000 , 6
195
250
300
5 . 67
000 , 12
n
ny
nx
=
= =
= =

Hmmm,
n
is much bigger than our guessed value .
6. Try a new guess halfway between:
147
2
195 100
n
=
+
=
303 . 0
c
=

2
g
mm 6784
300 333 . 0 9 . 0
1000 555
A >

>
7. Try 200UC59: . mm 7 . 51 r , mm 7 . 89 r , mm 7620 A
y x
2
g
= = =

5 . 146
127
250
300
7 . 51
000 , 6
5 . 146
250
300
7 . 89
000 , 12
n
ny
nx
=
= =
= =

Now
n
is very close to our guessed value .
8. Check effective area (note that assuming k
f
=1 implies fully effective area)
(refer to notes on PLate Buckling for background to this step)
For 200UC59: Flange: T = 14.2mm b
1
= 97.85
y
= 300MPa
Web: t = 9.3mm d
1
= 181.6mm
y
= 320MPa
Plate slenderness ratios:
Flange: ) 4 . 2 . 6 table from ( 16 55 . 7
250
300
2 . 14
85 . 97
ey ef
< = =
Web: ) 4 . 2 . 6 table from ( 45 1 . 22
250
320
3 . 9
6 . 181
ey ew
< = =
Column_Buckling_Notes.doc p22 Copyright J .W. Butterworth August 2005
Since neither plate slenderness exceeds the yield limit slenderness, local buckling will not occur
before yielding and no reduction in width is required i.e. effective width = actual width so that
k
f
= 1 and A
e
= A
g
= 7620mm
2
.
9. Section Capacity:
kN 2057 N 300 7620 0 . 1 9 . 0 N
s
= =
10. Member Capacity:
5 . 146
n
=
0
b
=
306 . 0 ) 293 . 311 (.
) 145 150 (
) 145 5 . 146 (
311 . 0
c
=

= (interpolating, Table
kN 555 ( kN 629 2057 306 . 0 N N
c c c
> = = = )
The reliable strength of 629kN is significantly higher than the design moment of 555kN. This is
simply a consequence of the available column sizes. The next size down would turn out to be too
weak.