Seismic Design of Connections

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Seismic Design of Connections

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William A. Thornton, Ph.D., P.E.*

Introduction

The Northridge earthquake of January 1994 was the cause of an intense research

program into the behavior of moment connections. Another type of connection, which

is equally important for building lateral support, is the bracing connection. Compared

to the moment connection, there has not been very much research done for this

connection, but there is available some guidance for the design of these connections.

Figure 1 shows a variety of bracing arrangements used in buildings. The braced

frame is a vertical cantilever truss in which the building columns play the role of chords

and the braces are the truss diagonals. Figure 2 shows a typical bracing connection.

Note that this connection actually involves five connections which form the bracing

connection. These are: A, the brace to gusset connection; B, the gusset to beam

connection; C, the gusset to column connection; D, the beam to column connection; and

E, the connection of the beam to the column opposite the bracing connection.

Until recently, there has not been a systematic approach to the analysis and design

of bracing connections, such as the connection shown in Figure 2. There is now

available just such a method which is based on analytical and experimental results and

not on the usual simple beam and strut formulas applied to various cut sections. The

method is called the Uniform Force Method (UFM) and has been adopted by AISC for

use in the AISC Manual (AISC, 1994).

*President, Cives Engineering Corporation, Roswell, Georgia, USA

The admissible force distribution for this method is shown in Figures 3 and 4. The

force distribution is called admissible in the sense of the lower bound theorem of limit

analysis because it satisfies equilibrium for the free body diagrams shown in Figures 3

and 4, i.e., the gusset in Figure 3 and the beam and column and Figure 4, with absolutely

no additional forces required anywhere.

Research shows that the force resultants on the gusset edges fall within the regions

shown cross-hatched in Figure 5. Each cross-hatched region on Figure 5 contains the

resultants for six cases in which the connections of the gusset to the beam and columns

were varied from bolted to welded. It can be observed from Figures 3, 4, and 5, that the

UFM captures analytically the experimental behavior shown in Figure 5. While the

UFM is probably the most versatile method, there are several other methods in common

use. These are the Parallel Force Method, Figure 6, the Truss Analogy Method, Figure

7, and the KISS Method, Figure 8. These methods will yield safe but more conservative

(more expensive) designs than the UFM.

Seismic Requirements

For buildings in Seismic Design Category D, the American Institute of Steel

Construction (AISC, 1997) has special requirements for the design of bracing

connections. The seismic category depends on the seismic zone or ground acceleration

and the importance factor for the building. It can be determined from the local

controlling building code.

There are two kinds of concentrically braced frames for seismic designspecial and

ordinary concentrically braced frames. There are many differences in the design

requirements for these two types of frames, but the requirements for the connections are

the same except as follows: For special frames, the required strength, i.e., design load,

of the bracing connection is the lesser of the following: a) the nominal axial tensile

wat58c.doc/Seismic Design

Page 2

factor, Fy is the nominal yield strength, and Ag is the gross area of the brace; and b) the

maximum force, indicated by an analysis, that can be transferred to the system.

In addition to these two, ordinary frames have a third possibility, i.e., c) the force in

the brace that results from certain load combinations.

The least of the three items, a), b), and c), is the required strength or design load,

designated by the letter P in, for instance, Figure 2. From the brace forces P in each

brace and the bracing arrangement, the transfer or drag forces A (Figure 2) can be

established. With P and A known for each bracing connection, the internal force

distribution can be determined from one of the methods previously mentioned. Figure 9

lists the limit states that must be satisfied for connection design. Figures 10, 11, and 12

show these limit states applied to the gusset, beam, and column, respectively. For a

discussion of these limit states, see AISC (1994). In addition to these limit states,

seismic loads require consideration of the following limit states:

1.

Tensile Strength: The limit states of tensile rupture on the effective net

section and block shear rupture strength must at least equal the required strength, i.e., P

as determined above. If P = RyFyAg, and the brace is bolted to the gusset, this

requirement will necessitate the use of developed fillers or extra plates welded to the

brace section to increase its net or block shear strength above its gross tensile strength.

2.

Flexural Strength: In the direction that analysis indicates the brace will

buckle, the design flexural strength of the connection must equal or exceed the expected

nominal flexural strength 1.1RyMp of the brace about the critical buckling axis. Figure

13 shows what is required when the brace is a wide flange with flange to view in

elevation. This type of brace will usually buckle in the plane of the bracing. The

moment M = 1.1RyMpy must be accommodated in the brace to gusset, gusset to beam,

gusset to column, and beam to column connections. This moment need not be

wat58c.doc/Seismic Design

Page 3

considered simultaneously with the axial force, according to Tremblay (2001), because

of the small post buckling compressive strength of the brace. When the brace is a wide

flange web to view in elevation, it will likely buckle out of the plane of bracing. In

this case, either the gusset and all parts of the connection are designed for M =

1.1RyMpy, or the gusset is detailed to prevent this moment from developing as shown in

Figure 14. As shown in Figure 14, a yield line is allowed to form in the gusset by

keeping the brace to gusset connection at least 2t from a line about which the gusset may

bend unrestrained by the beam or column. When this option is used, the connection

shall have a buckling strength at least equal to the nominal compressive strength of the

brace. Figure 15 shows another interpretation of this yield line requirement.

3.

The design of gusset plates shall consider buckling. This is not a new

requirement (see Whitmore buckling in Figure 10), but because of cyclic loading and

with the critical Whitmore section being at the yield line in Figure 14, Astaneh (1998)

recommends using an effective length factor K = 1.2 rather than the usual value of 0.5 as

recommended by AISC (1994), which was established in static tests by Gross (1990).

Cheng (1999) shows that the K factor of 0.5, when used with the Whitmore section, is

conservative, even for the cyclic loads of seismic design.

Summary

This article points out the requirements for bracing connections in seismic regions.

These requirements are generally intended to increase the ductile response of bracing

connections by making the ductile limit states the controlling limit states by reducing the

likelihood of the brittle fracture limit states controlling the design.

References

1.

wat58c.doc/Seismic Design

Page 4

2.

3.

Astaneh-Asl, H., 1998, Seismic Behavior and Design of Gusset Plates, Steel

4.

Astaneh-Asl, H., 1989, Simple Methods for Design of Steel Gusset Plates,

5.

Conference, Toronto, pp. 8-1 through 8-22, AISC, Chicago, IL.

6.

7.

Chicago, IL.

8.

9.

Braced Steel Framed, Engineering Journal, Vol. 38, No. 3, AISC, Chicago, IL.

wat58c.doc/Seismic Design

Page 5

Plates, University of Tennessee Engineering Experimental Station Bulletin 16,

University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN.

wat58c.doc/Seismic Design

Page 6

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