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PRE-STRESSED CONCRETE STRUCTURES

1. BASIC CONCEPTS
What is pre-stressing?
Pre-stressing can be defined in general terms as the preloading of a structure,
before application of service loads, so as to improve its performance in specific
ways.
Examples of pre-stressed objects are:
Cart wheel and barrels where wooden parts are held in compression by
steel band around them which is in tension.
The bicycle wheel where steel rim is held in compression by spokes in
tension.
The umbrella where membrane is held in tension by ribs in compression.

2. WHY PRESTRESS CONCRETE?


Concrete is a building material that is strong in compression but relatively weak in
tension. In principle, there are two ways of overcoming this deficiency:
Embed within the concrete, reinforcement that is strong in tension
reinforced concrete;
Avoid the tension altogether by arching the structure or pre-stressing the
concrete.

In reinforced concrete construction, steel reinforcing bars are provided in the


regions where tension occurs, compensating for the low tensile strength of the
concrete as shown above.

In Pre-stressed concrete construction, steel tendons are stretched and


anchored at each end so that the compressive forces are applied to the concrete
as shown in the figure above. The forces are transmitted from the tendons to the

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concrete either by bond created between the concrete and the tendons or by
embedded anchorages, depending up on method of pre-stressing.

3. MECHANICS OF FORCE SYSTEM

PLAIN CONCRETE BEAM


Plain concrete is a brittle material. That is to say having little load carrying
capacity before lower most fibre reaches tensile capacity of the material. But if this
material is reinforced it may take more load. Three different concepts may be applied
to analyse behaviour of pre-stressed concrete.
First, pre-stressing to transform concrete into an elastic material. Concrete,
which is weak in tension and strong in compression, is compressed (generally by
steel under high tension) so that the brittle concrete would be able to withstand
tensile stresses. It is generally believed that if there are no tensile stresses in the
concrete, there can be no cracks, and the concrete is no longer a brittle material but
becomes an elastic material. The tensile pre-stress force F in the tendon produces
an equal compressive force F in the concrete, which also acts at the centroid of the
tendon. Due to the pre-stress F, a uniform compressive stress of f will be produced
across the section that has an area A.

If M is the external moment at a section due to the load on and the weight of the
beam, then the stress at any point across that section due to M is

Where y is the distance from the centroidal axis and I the moment of inertia of the
section. Thus the resulting stress distribution is given by

This is shown below.

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Second concept is Pre-stressing for combination of High Strength steel with


concrete. This is similar to reinforced concrete concept.

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In pre-stressed concrete, high tensile steel is used which will have to be elongated a
great deal before its strength is fully utilized. If the high-tensile steel is simply buried
in the concrete, as in ordinary concrete reinforcement, the surrounding concrete will
have to crack very seriously before the full strength of the steel is developed. Hence
it is necessary to prestretch the steel with respect to the concrete. By prestretching
and anchoring the steel against the concrete, one can produce desirable stresses
and strains in both the materials. This combined action permits the safe and
economical utilization of the two materials which cannot be achieved by simply
burying steel in the concrete.
Third concept is using Prestressing to achieve Load Balancing. This concept is
to visualize prestressing primarily as an attempt to balance the loads on a member.
In the overall design of a prestressed concrete structure, the effect of prestressing is
viewed as the balancing of gravity loads so that members under bending such as
slabs, beams and girders will not be subjected to flexural stresses under a given
loading condition. This enables the transformation of a flexural member into a
member under direct stress and thus greatly simplifies both the design and analysis.
The application of this concept requires taking the concrete as a free body and
replacing the tendons with forces acting on the concrete along the span.
If F= prestressing force
L = length of span
h = sag of parabola
The upward uniform load is given by

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4. DEFINITIONS
The terms used in pre-stressed concrete are explained below:
Forms of Pre-stressing steel:
a) Wires: Pre-stressing wire is a single unit made of steel.

b) Strands: Two, three or seven wires are wound to form a pre-stressing strand.

c) Tendon: A group of strands or wires wound to form a pre-stressing tendon.


d) Cable: A group of tendons form a pre-stressing cable.
e) Bars: A tendon can be made of a single steel bar which is a large diameter
wire.

5. CLASSIFICATION AND TYPES OF PRESTRESSING


a) Externally or Internally Prestressed.
Most of structures designed and constructed as Prestressed are internally
prestressed; however, in externally prestressed structures jacks are used to
provide necessary force externally on the structure to be prestressed.
b) Linear or Circular Prestressing.
Circular prestressing is a term applied to prestressed circular structure such
as round tanks, silos and pipes where the prestressing tendons are wound
around in circles. All other structures are linear prestressed structures.
c) Pre-tensioning or Post Tensioning.
In this type of prestressing, the tendons are tensioned and anchored between
fixed supports before the concrete is places around the tendons. The
concrete is either case in moulds or formed by an extrusion or slip-form
process to provide the required cross section. When the concrete has
achieved sufficient strength, the tendons are slowly released from the support
at one end. The prestressing force is transferred from tendons to the concrete
by the bond existing between the hardened concrete and the tendons.

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Pre-tensioning may be used on site where large numbers of similar precast


units are required, but is usually carried out in a factory where permanent
stressing beds have been installed.
Post-tensioning is a method where prestressing the tendon is done after the
concrete has hardened.

d) Bonded or Unbonded Tendons.


When there is adequate bond between the pre-stressing tendon and
concrete, it is called a bonded tendon. Pre-tensioned and grouted posttensioned tendons are examples of bonded tendons.
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When there is no bond between the pre-stressing tendon and concrete, it is


called unbonded tendon. When grout is not applied after post-tensioning, the
tendon is an unbonded tendon.
e) Pre-cast, Cast-in- situ or composite construction.
Precasting involves the placing of concrete away from its final position. The
members being cast either in a permanent plant or somewhere near the site
of the structure and eventually erected at the final location.
Cast in- situ or cast in place concrete requires more formwork and false
work per unit of product but saves the cost of transportation and erection and
it is necessary for large and heavy members.
Sometimes it is economical to precast part of a structure, erect it and then
cast the remaining portion in place. This is composite construction.
f) Partial or Full Prestressing.
When a member is designed so that under the service load there are no
tensile stresses in it, then the concrete is said to be fully prestressed. If some
tensile stresses will be produced in the member under service load, then it is
termed as partially prestressed. For partial prestressing, additional mild steel
bars are frequently provided to reinforce the portion under tension.

6. STAGES OF LOADING
One of the considerations peculiar to prestressed concrete is the multiple stages
of loading to which a member or structure is often subjected.
a) Initial Stage:
The member or structure is under prestress but is not subjected to any
superimposed external load.
Before prestressing: Before the concrete is prestressed, it is quite weak in
carrying load; hence, the yielding of its supports must be prevented. Provision
must be made for the shrinkage of concrete if it might occur.
During prestressing: This is a critical stage for the strength of tendons. The
maximum stress to which the tendons will be subjected throughout their life
occurs at this period. For concrete, the prestressing operations impose a
severe test on the bearing strength at the anchorages. Since the concrete is
not aged at this period while the prestress is at its maximum, crushing of the
concrete at anchorages is possible.
b) Intermediate Stage:
This is the stage during transportation and erection. It is occurs only for
precast members when they are transported to the site and erected in
position.
c) Final Stage.
This is the stage when the actual working loads come on the structure.

7. ADVANTAGES OF PRESTRESSING
1) Section remains uncracked under service loads
Reduction of steel corrosion
o Increase in durability.
Full section is utilised
o Higher moment of inertia (higher stiffness)
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o Less deformations (improved serviceability).


Increase in shear capacity.
Suitable for use in pressure vessels, liquid retaining structures.
Improved performance (resilience) under dynamic and fatigue
loading.

2) High span-to-depth ratios


Larger spans possible with prestressing (bridges, buildings with large columnfree spaces)
Typical values of span-to-depth ratios in slabs are given below.
Non-prestressed slab 28:1
Prestressed slab 45:1
For the same span, less depth compared to RC member.
Reduction in self-weight
More aesthetic appeal due to slender sections
More economical sections.
3) Suitable for Precast construction
The advantages of precast construction are as follow:
Rapid construction
Better quality control
Reduced maintenance
Suitable for repetitive construction
Multiple use of formwork
Availability of standard shapes.

8. LIMITATION OF PRESTRESSING
Although prestressing has advantages, some aspects need to be carefully
addressed:
Prestressing needs skilled technology. Hence, if it is not as common as
R.C.C.
The use of high strength materials is costly.
There is additional cost in auxiliary equipments.
There is need for quality control and inspection.

9. MATERIALS
a) CONCRETE
The concrete grade required for prestressing is of high strength and
production of concrete is govern by IS 456 and IS 1343. Minimum grades of
concrete are specified as M-30 for post-tensioned members and M-40 for pretensioned members with characteristic of developing strength early.

b) STEEL
The development of prestressed concrete was influenced by the invention of
high strength steel. It is an alloy of iron, carbon, manganese and optional
materials.
In addition to prestressing steel, conventional non-prestressed reinforcement
is used for flexural capacity (optional), shear capacity, temperature and
shrinkage requirements.
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10.

LOSSES IN PRESTRESS
When stress is applied to concrete, it undergoes dimensional
changes: an immediate elastic deformation followed by a time-related creep
deformation. These changes are in addition to the shrinkage caused by
changes in moisture content. Any shortening of the concrete that occurs after
the tendons have been tensioned and anchored causes a loss of prestress
that must be allowed for in the design of the member.
Concrete shrinks over time by an amount that varies with the initial
water content of the mix, the thickness of the section and the relative humidity
of the environment. The shrinkage develops rapidly at first and continues at a
reducing rate for many years. The resulting loss of prestress that occurs in
the tendons depends on the age of the concrete at transfer, and is greater
with pre-tensioning than with post-tensioning.
The loss of prestress due to the elastic deformation of the concrete
that occurs at transfer is greatest in pre-tensioning, since the tendons are
already anchored by bond, and all the stress is applied to the concrete at the
same time. In post-tensioning, there is no loss if all the tendons are stressed
at the same time, since the elastic deformation takes place before the
tendons are anchored. When the tendons are stressed sequentially, a
progressive loss occurs in any tendons that are already anchored. The total
loss is then intermediate between nil and half the value that occurs in pretensioning.
Concrete under applied stress also undergoes an inelastic creep
deformation. Like shrinkage, creep develops rapidly at first and continues at a
decreasing rate for many years. The creep value depends upon the thickness
of the section, the relative humidity of the environment and the maturity of the
concrete at transfer of prestress. As a result, the loss of prestress that occurs
in the tendons is greater with pre-tensioning than with post-tensioning.

11.

ECONOMICS OF PRESTRESSED CONCRETE

From an economic point of view, conditions favouring pre-stressed construction


can be listed as follows:
a) Long spans, where the ratio of dead to live load is large, so that savings in
weight of structure becomes a significant item in economy. A minimum dead
to live load ratio is necessary in order to permit the placement of steel near
the tensile fibre, thus giving it the greatest possible lever arm for resisting
moment. For long members, the relative cost of anchorages is also lowered.
b) Heavy loads, where large quantities of materials are involved so that saving in
materials becomes worthwhile.
c) Multiple units, where forms can be reused and labour mechanized so that the
additional cost of labour and forms can be minimized.
d) Precasting units, where work can be centralized so as to reduce the
additional cost of labour and to obtain better control of the products.
e) Pre-tensioning units, where the cost of anchorage, sheathing and grouting
can be saved.
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There are other conditions which, for certain situations are not favourable to the
economy of prestressed concrete but which are bound to improve as time goes on.
These are:
a) The availability of contractors experienced with the work of prestressing.
b) The availability of equipments for post-tensioning and of plants for pretensioning.
A pre-stressed concrete structure is different from a conventional reinforced
concrete structure due to the application of an initial load on the structure prior to
its use. The initial load or `pre-stress is applied to enable the structure to
counteract the stresses during its service period.
For concrete, internal stresses are induced for following reasons:
The tensile strength of concrete is only about 8 to 14% of its compressive
strength.
Cracks tend to develop at early stages of loading in flexural members
such as beams and slabs.
To prevent such cracks, compressive force can be suitably applied in the
perpendicular direction of the loading.
Pre-stressing enhances the bending, shear and torsion capacities of the
flexural members.

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