Tailor Made Concrete Structures – Walraven & Stoelhorst (eds

© 2008 Taylor & Francis Group, London, ISBN 978-0-415-47535-8
Thin post-tensioned concrete shell structures
S. Dallinger & J. Kollegger
Institute of Structural Engineering, Vienna University of Technology, Vienna, Austria
ABSTRACT: Shells are optimal structures. They can carry maximum loads over long spans on all scales, from
nano-tubes to cooling towers with a very low amount of construction material. Today the use of shells is gaining
more importance in architectural designs for facades interior design and roof structures. For the creation of large
surface structures a viable connection technique is necessary. The connection of the elements will be established
by post-tensioning. This allows for a blunt connection, that is able to transfer normal forces and moments across
the connection. This connection technology was tested in experimental investigations. Finally, a feasibility study
was carried out by erecting a very slender arch using this connection technology.
Shells are natural, logical and functional load carrying
systems. Nature has always been using these structures
long before architecture even existed. Examples are
egg shells, nuts, beaks and cranial bones. If a space is
surroundedbya minimal area of surface, the shell is the
logical optimum. Additionally, for the load transfer of
an uniformly distributed load, the shell structure is the
perfect choice because mainly normal forces appear
in the cross section (Billington 1965). Also in today’s
architecture shells are very popular because of their
elegant and spectacular design (Heinle and Schlaich
Glass fibre and textile reinforced concrete are espe-
cially suitable for shell structures due to their excellent
mechanical properties and their pronounced ductility.
The use of textile reinforcement (Brameshuber 2006),
(Hegger et al. 2006), increases the tensile strength of
concrete which is low compared to its high compres-
sive strength. Consequently, this composite material
is able to carry compressive and tensile loads without
the use of steel reinforcement. For thin shell concrete
structures steel reinforcement is not applicable, as the
required concrete cover of 2 cm to 3 cm cannot be
achieved. As textile reinforcement is not corrosive, the
required concrete cover only needs a thickness of three
to four millimetres.
This kind of concrete is usually produced as thin
prefabricated panels (Hegger et al. 2005), (Pachowand
Lind 2004) with dimensions, which are suitable for
Figure 1. Plane surface structure element with
post-tensioning cables.
transportation. For the creation of large surface struc-
tures a viable connection technique, which is able
to transfer normal forces and moments across the
connection, is necessary.
Normally concrete elements are connected by the
grouting of overlapping steel reinforcement. If pre-
fabricated elements and sloped surfaces are used, this
technology will be very time-consuming and cost-
intensive. This paper shall introduce a new joining
method, which makes it possible to connect prefab-
ricated parts of glass fibre and textile reinforced
concrete elements by means of post-tensioning. More-
over, the advantages of post-tensioning are of use.
The key element of this joining technology con-
sists of using pre-fabricated elements which are
equipped with ducts during their production. Figure 1
shows a plane surface structure element with tension-
ing ducts and pre-stressing cables in one direction.
On-site these prefabricated elements are joined by
post-tensioning cables. These post-tensioning cables
Figure 2. Arch made of four curved surface structures
are passed through the ducts to apply the post-
tensioning to the elements. Figure 2 shows an arch
made of four single curved surface structure ele-
ments. In this figure the tensioning ducts and the
post-tensioning cables, which cross all four elements,
are presented. Due to this preload force the whole cross
section experiences compressive stress. Therefore, the
structure, which is made of several separate elements,
acts like one monolithic structure – as if fabricated in
one pour.
With this technology plane as well as single or dou-
ble curved surface structures can be created. For the
construction of shells it is advisable to generate a biax-
ial post-tensioning state. This can be achieved by two
orthogonally arranged sets of post-tensioning cables.
By the post-tensioning process a state of compres-
sive stress is created in the concrete. The external load
has to reduce this compressive stress before tensioning
stresses andcracks canappear. Structures made of con-
crete, which stay free of cracks, have a higher exten-
sional and bending stiffness than structures showing
cracks. Post-tensioning causes the cracking of the con-
crete under a higher external load and therefore the
structure experiences less deformation. Especially for
thin walled surface structures, which have a non-linear
load-deflection behaviour, this advantage can be very
useful. On the one hand the deformations caused by
the external load can be minimised, on the other hand
the stability of the construction can be improved.
This new construction method and technique is
suited for application, when a fast erection on-site is
required and the time-consuming setting up of form-
work is not possible. The pre-fabricated parts are easily
transported and assembled in dry construction, which
reduces the construction time on-site as well as the
costs. This technique also enables easy and fast assem-
bling and disassembling and is therefore a technique
for temporary buildings, like pavilions and exhibition
halls. Due to the formability of the surface structure
elements, applications in the field of architecture are
infinite and enable architects to design a wide range
of structures. Particularly for shells a fast, simple and
inexpensive building method is essential so that in
future these structures, which are fascinating because
of their shape and thinness , are going to be used
more often. Applications for shell structures can be
found in various fields of infrastructural facilities.
Especially for pavilions, exhibition halls, stadiums,
churches and government buildings, where aesthet-
ics and elegance are of enormous importance, shells
are favoured. Moreover, this joining technology can
be used in the field of facade technology, for curved
roofs and lost formwork as well as in other fields where
double curved surfaces are requested.
Two experimental series and one feasibility study on
the described joining technology were carried out. The
aim of the first experimental series was to detect the
essential mechanical properties of the used glass fibre
reinforced concrete plates. The second series consisted
of testing the joining technology. To arrive at a sig-
nificant conclusion, these first experiments dealt with
plane surface structures. By using these plane surface
structures experiments are easily carried out because
membrane forces do not have to be taken into account
and boundary conditions are clearly defined. The sim-
ple execution of the test and the simple state of stress in
the test specimens allow a better evaluation of the fail-
ure mode and an exact identification of the mechanical
properties. Moreover, a feasibility study was carried
out by erecting a very slender arch with the new con-
nection technology. It is important to mention that
these experiments are preliminary tests on this con-
necting technology for thin post-tensioned concrete
shell structures. Further experiments, especially on
double curved surface structures, are planned.
3.1 Experiments on the connecting technology
In this experimental series, plane surface structure ele-
ments were joined together by post-tensioning and
were then tested in a four-point-bending-test. Every
test specimen consisted of four plates. Each of these
plates had a dimension of 375 ×270 mm and a thick-
ness of 13 mm. During the production three tensioning
ducts were established in each plate. One duct was
located in the centre of the cross section and the other
two were situated in a distance of 125 mm. For these
experiments the ducts were laid out eccentrically so
that the distance between the centre of a tensioning
duct and the top surface with compressive stress in the
tests amounted to 10 mm. The cross section of such a
plate is shown in Figure 3.
Four of these plates were connected with three post-
tensioning cables with a diameter of 5 mmto one plate
Figure 3. Half of the cross section of a plate with ducts in a
distance of 125 mm.
Figure 4. Stress distributions in the cross section of the
plate and in the interface due to post-tensioning and external
of 375 ×1080 mm. The tensioning cables of speci-
men 1 and 2 experienced a force of 3 kN; the post
tensioning force of specimen 3 and 4 was equal to
7 kN. These connected plates were tested in a four-
point-bending-test with a span of 930 mm. The applied
forces as well as the displacement in the centre of the
specimen were measured. The connection is capable
of transporting compressive and tensile forces as well
as bending moments. Figure 4 shows the stresses in the
cross-section of a plate without cracks and in an inter-
face. The cross section experiences a post-tensioning
(P) and a bending moment (M).
If the superposition of these loads (P +M) results
in compressive stresses only then all interfaces remain
closed and the connected plates act like a monolithic
plate. Therefore a certain amount of tensile stress can
be transported over the interface as long as this tensile
stress is smaller than the compressive stress created
by the post-tensioning. However, if tensile stresses as
a result of the superposition of the loads (P +M) occur
in the interface, it opens. Compared to the interface,
the plate can at least bear a small amount of tensile
stress – the tensile strength of the glass fibre or tex-
tile reinforced concrete. Therefore the interface will
always open before the concrete starts to crack, which
leads to the ductile behaviour of the system.
Figure 5 shows the load deflection diagram of the
four experiments. No sudden failure can be detected
in the specimens and in the area of the maximum load
they behave almost ductile.
At the beginning the load deflection curve showed
rising linear behaviour until the interface in the centre
of the plate opened. The higher the post-tensioning,
the higher the force which caused the interfaces to
open. Afterwards the behaviour was not linear any
Figure 5. Load-deflection diagam of the connected plates.
Figure 6. Specimen prior to failure.
more because the interface between the plates contin-
ued to open. The point at which the interface opened,
the maximal load and the beginning of the burst out of
the tensioning cables is marked in Figure 5.
This kind of failure was identical for each of the
specimens. The interface in the middle of the span
opened even wider by the increase of the deflec-
tion. The other interfaces did not open because they
experienced a smaller bending moment. Furthermore
no important deflections or scratches in the concrete
plates could be noticed. Thus the interface in the mid-
dle of the plate defined the deflection figure as the
other areas of the plate remained plane. The deflec-
tion figure is almost V-shaped, shown in Figure 6. The
total failure occurred at a very high deflection level;
the deviation force in the interface increased until the
tensioning cable finally burst out of the concrete, as
shown in Figure 6.
3.2 Arch made of curved surface structure elements
A feasibility study was made by erecting a very slen-
der arch using this connection technology. For this
experiment curved surface structure elements were
joined to one arch. This arch consisted of 39 ele-
ments, with a size of 200 ×100 mm and a thickness
of 13 mm. During the production of the curved sur-
face structure elements flexible tensioning ducts were
Figure 7. Axial force N, moment M and transverse force Q
built up in an arch by centric post-tensioning.
inserted. Every element was equipped with one duct
which was situated almost centrically. The bending of
the elements was generated by placing the fresh con-
crete slabs on single curved formwork. The rise of
the100 mm long elements amounted to 0, 7 mm only
and is therefore a barely visible curving for these small
The 39 curved surface structure elements were kept
together by one post-tensioning cable with a diameter
of 5 mm. The post-tensioning force was increased until
the interfaces were closed, a compression stress in the
interface was generated and the whole arch acted like
one monolithic structure.
As a result of centric post-tensioning in plane or
curved shell structures – which are supported restraint-
free – no external force appears. These structures only
experience a shortening along the centre line. This is
also applies to laminar centric post-tensioning struc-
tures. Figure 7 shows the stress resultants of an arch,
made of curved elements and experiencing centric
Figure 8 shows the arch after the erection. The arch
has a span width of 3300 mm and a rise of 940 mm,
therefore the arc length amounts to approximately
3960 mm. FromFigure 7 it can be noticed that this arch
is very slender. The slenderness describes the ratio of
radius to shell thickness and amounts to 147,which
is a very high slenderness ratio. In comparison, the
shell of an egg only has a ratio of approximately 60
(r/t =24 mm/0, 4 mm).
The production of thin post-tensioned concrete shells
using prefabricated elements which can be connected
Figure 8. Post-tensioned arch made of 39 curved surface
structure elements.
on site, will turn out to be a cost-effective, easy and
time-saving method. For this construction procedure
the joining technology is of great importance. On the
one hand an easy handling is required and on the other
hand forces and moments have to be transported over
the interfaces. This innovative joining technology for
thin shells with post-tensioning presented in this paper
shows that the constructionof plane andcurvedsurface
structure elements is possible and moments as well as
tensile forces can be carried across the interfaces.
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