You are on page 1of 3


Pressures for
Formwork Design
A review of the formulas to determine the pressure of fresh concrete

By M.K. Hurd


resh concrete exerts pressure on vertical form surfaces,
and an assessment of that pressure is needed for
designing forms. In the simplest theory, fresh concrete acts
as a fluid exerting pressure equally in all directions at
whatever point the measurement is made—essentially
assuming a hydrostatic pressure effect. This is reasonable
because the fresh concrete behaves much like a fluid at
least briefly during vibration, or for a longer time if
flowability of the mixture has been enhanced through use of
admixtures or special proportioning and materials selection.
But concrete is not a true fluid, and some method of
evaluating the concrete’s actual pressure is needed.
Evaluating pressure has been a significant part of the
work of ACI Committee 347, Formwork for Concrete. As
early as 1958, Committee 347 (then Committee 622)
studied available field measurements of lateral pressure
on formwork and used the data to develop pressure
formulas that could be safely used for form design. A
report was published in 1958,1 and the formulas, with
some modifications, were included in ACI’s first formwork

standard, ACI 347-63.2 In the days before the advent of the
personal computer, the committee considered it important
to keep the equations simple, reasoning that this would
encourage their use and minimize mathematical errors.
These formulas were carried forward through successive
ACI standards until 2001, when accumulating data3 on
lateral pressures enabled the committee to introduce
new coefficients for unit weight and chemistry of the
mixture, expanding coverage of the formulas to mixtures
with cement replacements, admixtures, or both. I wrote
about those changes for CI readers in October 2002.4
Further modifications were issued in ACI 347-04,5
however, and clarification of the present status may
be needed. To avoid possible confusion, the formulas
presented here are given the same identifying numbers
as in ACI 347-04.

Basic Formula

Although the pressure at any given point within the
form varies over time, the designer usually doesn’t need
Concrete international

/ june 2007


81 N/kg. (2. and III cements without retarders* Types I. retarding mid-range water-reducing admixture. p is the lateral pressure. (2.4 Blends containing more than 70% slag or 40% fly ash 1.2 Other types or blends containing less than 70% slag or 40% fly ash with a retarder* 1.5[1 + (w/2320)] but not less than 0. and III cements with a retarder 1.2).2 m) or less. that delays setting of concrete to know the variation in detail. If multiple placements are to be made.80 140 to 150 lb/ft3 (2240 to 2400 kg/m3) More than 150 lb/ft3 (2400 kg/m3) 1. and h is the depth of fluid or plastic concrete in meters from the top of a placement to the point under consideration in the form. and (2.5[1 + (w/145)] but not less than 0.1b). in. This formula is applicable for all conditions other than those specifically defined for the use of Eq. w is unit weight of the fresh concrete.0 1. h should be taken as the full height of the freshly placed concrete. For concrete with a slump of 7 in. If a form is filled rapidly before any stiffening of the concrete takes place. For the equation in SI units.2 Other types or blends containing less than 70% slag or 40% fly ash without retarders* 1. in kPa.-lb units . II. in lb/ft3.5 ft (2 m). in. Custom form assembly permitted the contractor to place the wall and projecting corbels monolithically (Photo courtesy of EFCO Corp. ρ is the concrete density.1a). retarding water-reducer. the equations for lateral formwork pressure provide only the maximum to be used for design.0 1. (175 mm) or less and placed in column forms with normal internal vibration to a depth of 4 ft (1. g is the gravitational constant of 9. II.4).80 Cw = 0.0 Cw = w/145 Cw = w/2320 Note: w = unit weight (density) of concrete. p is the lateral pressure. in kg/m3. in lb/ft2.2).4 *Retarders include any admixture. such as a retarder. in lb/ft3 (kg/m3) Table 2: Chemistry coefficient Cc used in form pressure equations Cement type or blend Cc Types I.-lb units p = ρgh (2. and h is the depth in feet of fluid or plastic concrete from the top of a placement to the point under consideration in the form.) 32 june 2007 / Concrete international For the purpose of pressure determination.3).-lb version) Cw (SI version) Cw = 0. h should be taken as the distance between construction joints.-lb units. or high-range water-reducing admixture. Column Form Pressure Heavy-duty steel formwork resists concrete pressure in a 16 ft (5 m) high retaining wall. SI units For the equation in in.Table 1: Unit weight coefficient Cw used in form pressure equations Unit weight (density) of concrete Less than 140 lb/ft3 (2240 kg/m3) Cw (in. The basic formula is: p = wh (2. Committee 347 defines columns as elements with no plan dimension exceeding 6. ACI 347-04 recommends the following equation for calculating the maximum pressure pmax in lb/ft2 (kPa) to be used for column form design: pmax = Cw Cc [150 + 9000 R T ] (2. Hence.

respectively. visit the Concrete Knowledge Center at www. 35-42.8 T + 17. M. and Österberg.3) and (2.. 52 pp. V. She has received numerous awards for her service and contributions to ACI. R is the rate of placement. applies to walls with a rate of placement less than 7 ft/h (2. A number of studies have been or are being conducted­—for example. in ft/h (m/h). Silfwerbrand. Farmington Hills.2 m) or less.” Concrete International. Cw and Cc are the unit weight and chemistry coefficients shown in Tables 1 and 2. Concrete international / june 2007 33 . and click on the “Form Design Spreadsheet” button. Concrete Aesthetics.1). MI. 7. Turner Medal (1995). p max = C w C c [150 + 43.M. “Putting the Pressure on Formwork.4) does not apply for rates of placement greater than 15 ft/h (4. pp. 2005. NC. Hurd is the first female recipient of the Marston Medal. 7th Edition.” American Concrete Institute. To use the spreadsheets. Reference 6— but definitive results have yet to be found. formerly a Professor of Construction Management at California State Polytechnic University.5 ft (2 m). With rapid placement and intensive vibration or with self-consolidating concrete. MI. “Modification Factors for Improved Prediction of Fresh Concrete Lateral Pressures on Formwork.K.concrete. No. and the Henry C. 32 pp.W. 24. (2. Then go down to the bottom of the page and select “Walls. click on the “Construction” button. in.3). Oct. Formwork for Concrete.1).K.. Eq. and T is the temperature of the concrete during placement. Formwork for Concrete (SP-4). 90 pp. Hurd is a member of ACI Committees 124. (2. ACI Committee 347. and Johnston. “Pressures on Formwork.1). but in no case greater than Eq. 516 pp. applies to all walls with a placement rate of 7 to 15 ft/h (2. 10. pp. Wall Form Pressure For purposes of pressure determination. M.2). Aug. Proceedings V. J. 2. Formwork for Concrete. Eq. 2005. North Carolina State University. (2. it is possible to have concrete remaining in a fluid condition for the full duration of the placement. but having a placement height greater than 14 ft (4.2 m) or less: p max = C w C c [150 + 9000 R T ] (2. including the ACI Construction Award (1982 and 1988). As in the case of the column formula. Farmington Hills. SI units with a minimum of 600Cw lb/ft2 (30Cw kPa).4).” Institute of Construction.2 + T + 17. D. refer to the 7th Edition of ACI SP-4. (175 mm) or less and vibration to a depth of 4 ft (1.. Committee 347 didn’t have sufficient test data to develop separate provisions for self-consolidating concrete. Oct.” Concrete International. ACI 347-04 gives two equations for wall form pressure. 4.” References 1. 3. in. Formwork for Concrete. ACI Honorary Member M. 55.785 R   p max = C w C c 7.4).” ACI JOURNAL. ACI 347-04 defines a wall as a vertical structural element with at least one plan dimension greater than 6. Raleigh. Eq. ACI Committee 347. Because Committee 347 has insufficient data on observed pressure at higher rates. both are applicable to concrete with a slump of 7 in.5 m/h). American Concrete Institute.4). (2. and to walls placed at less than 7 ft/h (2. but not greater than Eq. 6. Selected for reader interest by the editors.2 m). 1963. Bloem Award for Distinguished Service (1990 and 2006). 27.4).8   (2. V.5 m/h). Hurd.. 49-55. Barnes..8   (2.1 to 4. The first.. J..1 m/h) and a placement height of 14 ft (4.2 m/h).400 T + 2800 R T ] (2. and 347. “Form Pressures Generated by Self-Consolidating Concrete. P.2 + T + 17. Department of Civil Engineering. in which case the only theoretical pressure limit will be as in Eq. SI units Additional Information For examples showing how to apply these formulas. T. (2. 10.K. the highest award bestowed by the College of Engineering at Iowa State University. in °F (°C). MI. the Delmar L. Billberg. 1958.3). Farmington Hills. 173-190. Hurd. 5.3). The second equation. Epstein. 1999.8   (2.2 + T + 17. pp. San Luis Obispo.” American Concrete Institute. pmax should be a minimum of 600Cw lb/ft2 (30Cw kPa). SI units For both Eq. (2. 2004. No. “Guide to Formwork for Concrete (ACI 347-04). CA.7 Lateral pressure calculations are also presented in the interactive spreadsheet program made available to ACI by William C. (2.-lb units 785 R   p max = C w C c 7. Oct.-lb units 1156 244 R   + p max = C w C c 7. “ACI Standard Recommended Practice for Concrete Formwork (ACI 347-63). ACI Committee 622. The author of seven editions of ACI SP-4.