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Punching shear


Structural design of foundations

Therefore punching shear is checked by determining the

shear stress on this critical section.

In this lecture we will learn how to calculate the shear stresses and bending moments
in a spread foundation such that its structural elements can be designed.

The shear stress is given by:

Figure 1


The foundation forms the link between the man-made structure and the natural soil
and is part of a whole area of geotechnical and structural engineering called soilstructure interaction. It is a complex subject because structural materials such as
concrete and steel have very different properties from naturally occurring soil yet the
stresses in each must interact to support the structure until equilibrium is reached
and without excessive deflection of the soil or structure. This is further complicated
by the variability of the natural soil and the variability of loads in a structure.


Punching shear, as shown in Figure 1, occurs around a

critical section at a distance of 1.5t from the faces of the
column (where t = thickness of pad foundation).

(Vd BL )(BL A)
(2 x + 2 y + 2 1.5t )d

where A is the area within the critical section and d is the effective depth of the pad.
column load, Vd


Foundations can be constructed from unreinforced concrete, particularly for

lightweight buildings, and this was quite common for older buildings. However, these
days and with larger buildings it is more usual to use reinforced concrete. This means
that an element of reinforced concrete design is needed for the foundations.


Blinding is a thin layer of lean mix (low cement content) concrete that is laid over the
soil at foundation level before construction of the foundation. It creates a clean, dry
surface on which to assemble the reinforcing bars of the foundation and to pack the
steel bars for cover. It also protects the soil from deterioration due to rain and sun.

Area, A

Pad foundations
These rectangular foundations are used to support single column loads. There are
three elements to the structural design of a pad foundation:


Critical section for

punching shear

a) determine depth of section to avoid punching shear,

b) estimate maximum bending moment for reinforcement design
c) check maximum shear stress.
The procedure for determining shear stresses and bending moments for each of
these is described below. For verifying ultimate limit states refer to your Reinforced
Concrete Design lecture notes and EN1992. If the design vertical load Vd is used in
these calculations, then the resulting values of bending moment and shear stress will
be design values ready for verification in accordance with EN1992.

Figure 2: Critical section for punching shear

Bending moment


Assume that the column load is distributed evenly over the base of the pad (as the
bearing pressure qd). The maximum bending moment occurs on the critical section
(Figure 3) below the face of the column. The bending moment is calculated from the
moment of the total bearing pressure on the area of the pad on one side of the critical


q d cL

Raft foundations

Md = Vd/A x f x f/2

in kNm per m length of pad.

Where a large number of closely-spaced columns need foundations, it may be more

economical and more convenient to install one foundation that supports the whole
building. This is called a raft foundation (Figure 4).

column load, Vd
critical section for bending
critical section for shear

Multiple column loads



Bearing pressure qd = Vd/A


Figure 5: Local deepening of

section under large column loads

Figure 4: Raft foundation

They are also used on soils with low bearing resistance in order to distribute loads to
the soil more effectively and where it is necessary to avoid differential settlement
between columns. These types of foundations are also common in Cyprus because
they provide a stiff foundation that increases the seismic resistance of buildings.
Mesh reinforcement is installed in the top and bottom of the section across the entire
raft in order to resist bending moment at any point. For larger buildings where column
loads are high, the depth of the raft section can be increased locally below columns
(Figure 5) in order to increase moment resistance.

Figure 3: Critical sections for bending moment and shear stress

Structural design
The structural design of raft foundations is highly complex. We cannot assume (like
for the pad foundation) that the raft acts as an inverted slab with maximum bearing
pressure this would lead to an expensive design and a very stiff raft.

Shear stress
For pads of uniform thickness, the maximum shear stress occurs on a critical section
1.5 x effective depth from the face of the column (Figure 3). As for bending moment
above, assume that the column load is distributed evenly over the base of the pad.
The shear stress is calculated from the total bearing pressure to one side of the
critical section divided by the area on the critical section.

Why is a very stiff raft not good?

Column loads vary and so does soil stiffness. These create deformations in the raft
and in the soil. If the raft is very stiff, it will not deform with the soil and instead of
being supported everywhere by the soil, the raft will try to span the depressions in the
soil. This creates very high bending moment and shear force in the raft which needs

a deeper section and more reinforcement, thereby making the raft even stiffer, and
so on.
A balance needs to be made between having a stiff, expensive raft with minimal
deflections in the building and having a cheaper, more flexible raft with more
deflection in the building.
more differential
more deflection in

low raft

high raft

low BM and SF,

cheaper raft,
cracking in raft

less differential
less deflection in

high BM and SF,

expensive raft,
cracking of raft
more likely

The geotechnical engineer needs to estimate the total and differential settlement of
the foundation. The structural engineer and architect need to allow for deflections in
their designs. The raft foundation is then designed to achieve the deflection limits in
the building.
The design of raft foundations cannot be achieved effectively by simplified methods,
as with pad foundations. Due to the interactions between the soil stiffness and raft
stiffness (soil-structure interaction) and the multiple column loads, such designs are
best performed by finite element methods.