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Theoretical Evaluation of Non-Planar Wall-to-Beam Connections under

Cyclic Loading
Saman Abdullah1 and David Naish2

Doctoral Student, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at

University of California, Los Angeles; Los Angeles, CA 90095-1593. E-mail:
Assistant Professor, Department of Civil Engineering at California State
University, Fullerton; 800 N. State College Boulevard, Fullerton, CA 92831. Email:
Studies of seismic behavior of non-planar wall-to-beam joints are limited
in the available literature. Furthermore, ACI 318-11 provisions are
incomprehensive with regard to seismic detailing of these joints. The common
practice is to provide a concealed column and/or a concealed beam where a
gravity beam frames into the web of a structural wall. This research, as part of a
broader experimental study, is meant to assess the performance of these joints and
the impact of concealed columns on the overall performance of these joint. To
accomplish these objectives, three half-scale RC interior beam-wall joints are
investigated. Applicability of four available RC beam-column joint shear strength
models is examined. Results from these models are compared. Also, effective
joint shear area of non-planar wall-to-beam connections is studied.
Reinforced concrete frame-shear wall and frame-tube systems are
commonly used in high-rise buildings. Due to the regular layout of beams in a
gravity system, it is common for a beam to frame into a shear wall in its out-ofplane direction. Understanding of the performance of this specific type of
connection is limited however. A cursory review of the available literature with
regards to reinforced concrete joints reveals that the focus of the vast majority of
research has been on the performance evaluation and design of beam-column,
slab-column, and coplanar beam-wall joints while very little attention is given to
the seismic performance of non-planar wall-beam joints. Furthermore, the ACI
318-11 seismic provisions are incomprehensive with regards to detailing of these
joints leaving no established method for designing and detailing this type of joint.
ACI 318-11 seismic provisions require members not designated as part of the
main seismic force-resisting system to be designed and detailed for the demand
imposed by the design displacement, which is the inelastic displacement that the
structure would experience during an earthquake. Therefore, potential seismic
hazard in these joints should not be overlooked and is worth experimental
investigation to better understand their seismic response.
Due to the lack of specific guidelines, common practices have been
developed to design wall-beam joints. One such common practice is to provide a

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concealed column, with width equal to the wall web thickness, where a beam
frames into a web of a special structural wall (Fig. 1). Structural engineers assume
that this addition improves the overall joint performance in terms of lateral
strength, stiffness, energy dissipation, inelastic deformation, shear strength, and
development of beam reinforcing bars into the shear walls. However, the effect of
these concealed columns has not been studied extensively and therefore needs
further study.

Core Wall

Shear Wall

Fig. 1-A floor plan showing beams framing into shear walls.
As mentioned previously, there are very few experimental studies
conducted on non-planar beam-to-wall (or beam-wall like column) joints. Li et al.,
(2002) performed quasi-static tests on four full-scale non-seismically and limited
seismically detailed joints. Their test results showed that due to presence of
limited joint transverse reinforcement, displacement ductility increased by nearly
Li et al., (2009) carried out experimental tests on six full-scale interior
beam-to-wall-like columns and beam-to-wall joints. The results indicated that the
axial load did not greatly influence the energy dissipation capacity, stiffness, and
nominal shear in the joint but caused significant bond deterioration through the
joint and, consequently, reduced lateral load capacity. Their test results also
showed that these joints can withstand 2.0% drift ratio without significant strength
and stiffness degradation.
Although there have been some studies conducted on performance
evaluation of non-ductile beam-column joints, the results may not reliably be
considered and applied for such joints since the joint stiffness and strength
deterioration is greatly influenced in relatively thin walls by bond slip (Kurose et
al., 1988).
Three half-scale interior non-planar RC wall-to-beam subassemblies,
hereafter referred to as WB1, WB2, and WB3, were designed, constructed and
tested under quasi-static cyclic loading by Abdullah (2013). The objective was to
observe and document cracking and damage in the joint and its vicinity. Thus, the
beams were designed to be flexurally stronger than the walls to ensure that the
majority of the cracking and damage would occur in the joint region and the wall
near the joint. However, the beams represent gravity framing beams in structural
wall building systems, without any special detailing or confinement. The walls
were designed and detailed, in the in-plane direction, to satisfy the ACI 318-11
seismic provisions for special structural walls, except that the wall web horizontal
bars are not bent within the boundary elements. The concealed columns provided

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in the walls were treated as gravity columns. All the specimens were designed to
the same level of axial compressive load, 0.2Agfc.
All the specimens generally have the same geometry but different wall
sectional reinforcement. The ratio of wall length to beam width is 3 for all
specimens. Each specimen is a part of a structural shear-wall system, where
structural walls (shear walls) are used as lateral load resistant system to resist
earthquake induced lateral loads in the in-plane direction of the wall, with story
height of 6 (1829 mm) and beam span length of 10 (3048 mm) (Fig. 2) to
represent half-scale wall-beam subassemblages of a building having 12 (3658
mm) story height and 20 (6096 mm) beam span length.
WB1 represents a baseline or reference specimen, as it is a bare wall-beam
connection, meaning that the joint is not strengthened with a concealed column.
Furthermore, the joint has no special lateral reinforcement. The web vertical bars
are located outside the beam cage. Two horizontal web bars pass through the joint
core on each face of the wall.

Fig. 2-Typical test specimen subassembly : WB1, WB2, and WB3. (Note: 1in. =
24.5 mm; #3 bar = 10 mm dia. bar; #5 bar = 16 mm dia. bar)

WB2 is similar to WB1, except that a concealed column is made out of the
web vertical bars and passes through the joint core (Fig. 3). In WB2 wall, the wall
web vertical bars are used to create a concealed column passing through the joint
core. Thus, there is apparently no vertical reinforcement in the wall web besides
the concealed column bars. The concealed column longitudinal bars pass through
the cage of the beam.
WB3 has, in addition to the reinforcement provided in WB1, a concealed
column in the wall passing through the joint core. Wall reinforcement in WB3 is
identical to WB1 with two differences. First, a concealed column is incorporated
into the wall. Second, the two web vertical bars on each side are displaced slightly
towards the boundary elements, as seen in Fig. 3. The concealed column
longitudinal bars pass through the beam reinforcing cage.
WB1 does not have any particular lateral shear reinforcement in the joint
in the form of hoops or ties. However, WB2 and WB3 have the same amount of
joint shear reinforcement, which is provided by the concealed column lateral
reinforcement passing through the joint.


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All the specimens have the same boundary elements (BEs) in terms of both
geometry and reinforcement. Moreover, all the specimens have the same beam
longitudinal and transverse reinforcement. Reinforcement details of the specimens
are shown in Fig. 2 and 3 and a summary is provided in Table 1.
4 - #5 Each End


Seismic Hook



2 - #3 Each Face

4 - #3

#3 @4.5" Each Face

24" 8 83"

4 - #5 Each End

4 - #5 Each End
Seismic Hook

Seismic Hook

4 - #4

#3 Hoops @ 5" o.c.

24" 4 14"

#3 Hoops @ 5" o.c.

24" 4 81"

2 - #3 Each Face
#3 @4.5" Each Face

#3 @4.5" Each Face

#3 Hoops @ 3" o.c.

#3 Hoops @ 3" o.c.
4" Cover (typ.)


4" Cover (typ.)


#3 Hoops @ 3" o.c.



4" Cover (typ.)


Fig. 3-Wall sectional reinforcement (Section B-B). (Note: 1in. = 25.4 mm; #3 bar =
10 mm dia. bar; #4 bar = 13 mm dia. bar; #5 bar = 16 mm dia. bar).
Table 1-Test specimen reinforcement details


Wall Web



0.0073 0.0081

WB2 0.0118 0.0118


Concealed Col.
Long. Reinf. Trans. Reinf.


#3 @ 5 o.c.

0.0073 0.0081
#3 @ 5 o.c.
Note: 1in. = 25.4 mm; #3 bar = 10 mm dia. bar; #4 bar = 13 mm dia. bar.

A concrete compressive strength, fc, of 4,000 psi (27.58 MPa) was
specified. All three specimens were cast using ready-mixed normal weight
concrete of the same batch.
All the steel bars used for longitudinal and transverse reinforcement were
ASTM A615 Grade 60 deformed bars. These deformed bars are permitted by ACI
318-11 to be used for special structural walls because: 1. The actual yield
strengths do not exceed specified yield strength,fy , by more than 18 ksi; and 2.
The ratios of the actual tensile strengths to the actual yield strengths are not less
than 1.25 for any. Concrete and reinforcing steel properties are given in Table2.
Table 2-Material properties
Test-Day Age
Bar As
[ksi] [ksi] No. [in2] [ksi] [ksi]
WB1 5.493 4225 3 0.11 74.3 101
WB2 5.576 4256 4 0.2 76 110
WB3 5.576 4256 5 0.31 77 113
Note: 1 ksi = 6.9 MPa; 1 in2 = 645.2 mm2.


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Nominal Flexural Strength
To obtain a reasonable estimate of the flexural strength of any RC member,
models to represent the stress-strain behavior of concrete both confined and
unconfined and of steel reinforcement are necessary. Numerous models have
been proposed to predict the stress-strain behavior of unconfined concrete (Kent
and Park, 1971; Popovics, 1973; Thorenfeldt et al., 1987; Mander et al., 1988b)
and confined concrete (Kent and Park, 1971; Scott et al., 1982; Mander et al.,
1988b; Saatcioglu and Razvi, 1992). For this study, the method proposed by
Mander et al., (1988b) is employed to model the behavior of both unconfined and
confined concrete.
Based on their experimental results (Mander et al., 1988a), Mander et al.,
(1988b) developed a unified model for concrete confined by any general type of
confining reinforcement under uniaxial monotonic and cyclic compressive loading.
The model uses a single equation to construct the entire stress-strain relation.
Because of its generality, this approach has been widely used in both design and
To determine the peak confined concrete stress, f'cc , Mander et al., (1988b)
presented a chart (Fig. 4) which is relatively easy to use and applicable to sections
with different amount of confinement in x and y directions.

Fig. 4- Compression strength determination from lateral confining stresses for

rectangular sections (Mander et al., 1988b).
The ultimate concrete strain can be several times larger than the stain at
peak concrete strength (Paulay and Priestley, 1992). Test results by Scott et al.,
(1982) suggest that ultimate confined concrete strain be estimated as the strain
corresponding to the first fracture of the confining transverse reinforcement.
Though this limit is conservative, it can be used for design and ductility
calculations (Scott et al., 1982). Based on the above limit, Paulay and Priestley,
(1992) developed a conservative expression to estimate the ultimate concrete
compression strain.
Typical values of ultimate concrete strain, cu , ranges from 0.012 to 0.05
(Paulay and Priestley, 1992). Note that the maximum unconfined concrete
compressive strain was assumed to be 0.004 (Scott et al., 1982). That is, when the


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strain of the concrete cover and unconfined concrete in the web of the walls
reaches this limit, the concrete is considered ineffective.
In regards to modeling the behavior of the longitudinal steel reinforcement,
a constitutive model is used which incorporates strain-hardening (Selby and
Vecchio, 1997). In this formulation, a perfect bond between steel and concrete is
assumed. This elastic-plastic relation can be formulated as follows:

fs = Es s when 0 s y
fs = fy when y s sh
fs = fy +( s - sh ) Esh when


fs = Stress in steel reinforcement.
Es = Modulus of elasticity of steel reinforcement (typical value is 29000 ksi).
s = Strain in steel reinforcement corresponding to fs .
y = Yield strain, which is equal to yield stress divided by young modulus.
fy = Yield stress of steel reinforcement.
sh = Strain at the initiation of strain hardening (assumed to be 0.005).
Esh = Strain-hardening young modulus (assumed to be 1200 ksi).
f = Maximum strain in the steel reinforcement.
Because of the fact that the beams are all gravity framing beams with light
lateral reinforcement, the entire beam section is assumed to be unconfined.
However, the walls are modeled in such a way that the concrete in the wall web
and cover is considered unconfined whereas the concrete in the boundary element
cores is considered to be confined to different degrees based on the provided
volumetric reinforcement ratio, as shown in Fig. 5.

Fig. 5- Confinement layout of the wall sections.

The nominal flexural strengths, given in Table 3, are computed using
actual material strengths and a strength reduction factor, , of 1.0.
Using the principles of static equilibrium of the entire subassembly, the
lateral load capacity, Htheoretical, is calculated. Htheoretical is defined as the load
associated with the nominal flexural moment capacity of the wall at the critical
section because the walls were purposefully designed to be flexurally weaker than
the beams. The measured wall axial loads, Paxial, nominal moment strengths, Mn,
lateral load strengths, Htheoretical, and effective joint shear area, Aj, are given in
Table 3.


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Table 3- Calculated design parameters

Aj [in2]
[k] ACI 318-11 NZS 3101
Note: 1 in. = 25.4 mm; 1 k = 4.448 kN; #3 bar = 10 mm dia. bar; #4 bar = 12 mm dia.
bar; #5 bar = 16 mm dia. bar.

Paxial Mn,wall Mn,beam

[k] [k-in] [k-in]
74.75 577

Nominal Joint Shear Strength

Nominal joint shear strength is another parameter investigated
theoretically in this study. There have been numerous approaches and models for
assessment of interior beam-column joint shear strength, with and without joint
shear reinforcement. Some of these models are simplified and incorporated in
building codes of practice such as ACI 318, NZS-3101, etc. Most of these
building codes attribute joint shear strength failure to the failure of diagonal
concrete strut. However, the shear strength of joints can be very complicated as it
is influenced by many factors such as concrete compressive strength, column axial
load, amount of transverse reinforcement in the joint, joint dimensions,
confinement provided by transverse members (beams and slabs) framing into the
joint, and beam-column strength ratio (Wang et al., 2012). In this study, four
existing models for interior beam-column joints are examined. This is of special
interest because these models are particularly developed for beam-column joints,
but not necessarily wall-beam joints, which are different in dimensions and,
sometimes, shear strength mechanism due to different reinforcement layout in the
ACI 318-11. This code limits the nominal joint shear strength for beamcolumn joints in special moment frames as
a) Vn = 20 f'c Aj Joints confined on all four sides by beams.
b) Vn = 15 f'c Aj Joints confined on three sides or two opposite sides
by beams.
c) Vn = 12 f'c Aj Other cases.
Since the joints tested in this study were interior joints and were confined
from the transverse sides by the concrete in the web and boundary elements, the
first case might be applicable to assess the nominal shear strength of the joints. As
it is evident from the above equations, the ACI 318-11 model is a function of
concrete compressive strength, f'c , and is independent of the joint transverse
reinforcement and column axial load. This is based on tests reviewed by ACIASCE 352-02. Furthermore, Li et al., (2009) tested beam-wide column and beamwall connections subjected to different axial load levels (0.0 fcAg, 0.1 fcAg, and
0.35 fcAg). Their test results exhibited that axial load level did not have
significant effect on the nominal joint shear strength. They, however, assumed that
the insignificant effect of the axial load could have been because of the
combination of strong columns-weak beams. Park and Mosalam, (2009)
investigated the effect of column axial load from their constructed database for
exterior beam-column joints without joint shear reinforcement. They observed
little and unclear influence of the column axial load on the joint shear strength
when the column axial load is less than 0.2f'c Ag . Lin et al (1997) presents that


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higher nominal joint shear can be expected when the beam-column joint is
subjected to axial loads higher than 0.1 fc Ag, and they suggested an equation to
predict the increase:

N* is the column axial and Njh is the joint shear strength without axial load
on the joint. Specimens in this study were not subjected to axial loads significantly
higher than 0.1fcAg, as shown in Table 3.
Li et al. (2002) performed quasi-static cyclic loading tests on oblong
beam-wide column joints with beam to column width ratio of 3. They found that
joint transverse reinforcement did not have impact on maximum nominal joint
shear stress but caused significant increase in ductility.
NZS-3101. This document specifies maximum joint shear strength for
interior beam-column joints with non-seismic detailing to be between (0.11f'c to
0.17f'c ). Li et al., (2009) and Li et al., (2002) found their test results of specimens
with column to beam width ratio of 3.56 and 3.0, respectively, to be correlated
well with these limits.
Hakuto et al. (2000). They developed a relation (Vjh = 0.17 fc (MPa)) to
predict nominal joint shear strength for interior beam-column joints without joint
transverse reinforcement based on analyzing a limited test data.
Wang et al. (2012). Recently, Wang et al. (2012) proposed a model to
predict the nominal joint shear strength of both exterior and interior beam-column
joints. Their model incorporates the contribution of the joint reinforcement (both
horizontal joint shear reinforcement and intermediate vertical column
reinforcement) through increasing the nominal tensile strength of concrete. They
calibrated their model by comparing with a broad available experimental database
of 106 tests on both exterior and interior beam-column joints.
It should be noted that the joints tested in this investigation did not have
intermediate vertical reinforcement passing through the joint core. However,
specimens WB2 and WB3 had horizontal joint shear reinforcement from the
concealed column transverse reinforcement.
The last two models (Hakuto et al., 2000; Wang et al., 2012) were
developed for two dimensional beam-column subassemblages where there are no
transverse beams framing into the joint; that is, the joint is not confined laterally.
Thus, results from these two models are multiplied by an amplification factor 1.33,
as specified by ACI 318 and ACI-ASCE 352 for joints confined on all four sides
by beams. The joint shear stress coefficients, , are calculated as the predicted
joint shear stress (v) divided by square root of concrete compressive strength (fc)
and are presented in Table 4.
Table 4-Joint shear stress coefficients,
Unit ACI 318-11 NZS-3101-06 Hakuto et al. Wang et al.


7.34 to 11.32
7.34 to 11.32
7.34 to 11.32



Effective Joint Shear Area

The effective joint shear areas of the joints under investigation were
difficult to determine accurately. For the case when a beam frames into a wider

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column, ACI 318-11 specifies the connection effective joint shear width as the
smaller of beam width plus joint depth or beam width plus twice the smaller
perpendicular distance from beam side to column, as illustrated in Fig. 6a. The
specimens tested in this research are wall-beam subassemblages in which the wall
length is three times the beams width. Therefore, one might be able to infer that
the latter case may fit this situation.
For the case where a narrower beam frames into a wider column, Paulay
and Priestley (1992) suggested that the effective joint width be taken as the
column width or beam width plus half of the column depth, whichever is smaller
(i.e. the sum of the narrower member width and the distance between lines of an
angle of 26.5 (slope of 1 in 2)), as schematically explained in Fig. 6b. This
method of defining the joint width was incorporated into NZS 3101-06.

Fig. 6- Effective joint area: (a) ACI 318-11, (b) Paulay and Priestley, 1992.
As seen in Table 3, there is a slight increase in wall nominal moment
strength and specimen lateral strength (approximately 4%) of WB2 in comparison
to WB1 as a result of slight increase in concrete compressive strength. On the
other hand, a noticeable improvement in wall nominal moment strength and
specimen lateral strength (approximately 19%) can be observed in WB3, which is
attributed to the addition of the concealed column in WB3.
In regards with nominal joint shear strength, the NZS 3101 gives the most
conservative predicted shear strength among all four models described here. ACI
318-11 model tends to be more tolerant to evaluate nominal joint shear strength,
which is approximately twice of that obtained by NZS 3101, as seen in Table 4.
Joint shear stress coefficients, , for Hakuto et al., (2000) and Wang et al., (2012)
are relatively close for both WB2 and WB3. However, Wang et al., (2012)
predicted less joint shear strength for WB1 than the other two. This is because
WB2 and WB3 both have some horizontal joint shear reinforcement contributed
by the concealed columns.
The method of defining the effective joint shear area described by ACI
318-11 gives higher results when used for connections under investigation
(Table3). However, these provisions are particularly stipulated for beam-column
joints in special moment frames and might not reasonably be applicable for wallbeam joints. Paulay and Priestley (1992) assumption to define the effective joint
shear area is apparently more reasonable. Hakuto et al. (2000), Li et al. (2002),

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and Li et al. (2009) used the method illustrated in Fig. 6b to calculate the effective
joint shear area. Some of their test specimens had ratio of column to beam width
of 3 or more. Furthermore, experimental observations by Abdullah (2013) suggest
that the method presented by Paulay and Priestley (1992) is a more realistic
assumption for specimens under investigation, as can be observed in Fig. 7. Thus,
this method is adopted to calculate the effective joint shear area, as shown in
Table 4. A more thorough discussion and comparison of theoretical and
experimental results of specimens described here can be found in Abdullah (2013).

Fig. 7- Explanation of effective joint shear area (Abdullah 2013).

The following general conclusions can be made:
1. Addition of a concealed column can help increase the out-of-plane flexural
strength of the wall.
2. The effective shear area of joints studied here can be best approximated as
the sum of beam width and half of wall thickness.
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