Simplified Vibration Response for Slender Monumental Stairs

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Simplified Vibration Response for Slender Monumental Stairs

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discussions, stats, and author profiles for this publication at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/269198109

Slender Monumental Stairs

Conference Paper April 2014

DOI: 10.1061/9780784413357.223

CITATION

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187

2 authors:

Brad Davis

Onur Avci

University of Kentucky

Qatar University

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Retrieved on: 31 May 2016

Brad Davis, Ph.D., S.E.1 and Onur Avci, Ph.D., P.E.2

1

KY 40506; PH (859) 257-4916; email: dbraddavis@uky.edu

2

Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering, Qatar University, P.O. Box 2713, Doha,

Qatar; PH (+974) 4403-4183; email: onur.avci@qu.edu.qa (corresponding author)

ABSTRACT

Slender monumental stairs are major architectural features in hotels,

condominiums, hospitals, and other high-end building structures. Architectural

requirements for these are usually very aggressive, with long spans and slender

stringers being the norm. Slender stairs often have fairly massive treads and

guardrails, which combined with slender stringers, results in natural frequencies

within reach of the very large lower harmonics of the force caused by a person

descending the stair. Stair designers must be able to predict the vertical vibration

response of a stair during the design phase. Current prediction methods rely on finite

element analysis based response prediction methods which are outside the reach of

many structural engineering firms. This paper presents a simplified response

prediction method, based on the fundamental natural mode of the stair, which is

suitable for manual calculations. Response predictions are compared to experimental

measurements to show that the predictions are accurate enough for design use.

INTRODUCTION

Slender stairs are architecturally impressive structures located in buildings

such as airports, hospitals, convention centers, condominiums, and hotels. From an

aesthetics point of view, slender stairs usually have long clear spans with slender

stringers, and are typically loaded with heavy treads and guardrails. This results in

low natural frequencies which makes them vulnerable to resonant responses to stair

ascents or descents. For the purposes of this research, slender monumental stairs are

those with natural frequencies below about 10 Hz.

The vertical forces generated by humans ascending and descending are

especially unfavorable. Humans typically ascend and descend stairs at step

frequencies up to 4 Hz, which is much higher than step frequencies observed for

walking on a regular flat surface. Ascents are comfortable at 2 Hz and 3.3 Hz, and

uncomfortable at other frequencies; descents are comfortable at any step frequency

below about 4 Hz (Kerr 1998). Thus, the second harmonic can match any natural

frequency below about 8 Hz, which allows it to excite most slender stairs, and the

third harmonic can match the natural frequency of any slender stair. (Descriptions of

footstep force harmonics and Fourier amplitudes are provided in Murray et al. (1997)

and Smith et al. (2007).) The situation is even less favorable because footstep forces

while ascending and descending stairsespecially the second harmonic of a

descentare much larger than forces applied while walking on a flat surface.

Overall, the structural design of monumental stairs is a major challenge from

vibrations serviceability point of view. The potential for annoying vibration is high,

so engineers need access to a stair vibration evaluation method for use during design.

The major floor vibrations serviceability design guides (Murray et al. 1997,

Smith et al. 2007) do not provide guidance to address stair vibrations. The relatively

recent study by Davis and Murray (2009) was conducted to gain insight and provide

guidance for evaluating vibration of slender stairs. In that study, a slender

monumental stair was modal tested to estimate natural modal properties.

Accelerations due to stair ascents and descents were also measured. A detailed,

unadjusted, finite element model was created of the stair using only information that

would be available to a designer. The finite element model was used to predict the

modal properties and frequency response function (FRF) magnitude for load and

acceleration at midspan. The FRF magnitude was then used with established

harmonic footstep forces from Kerr (1998) to predict steady-state acceleration due to

ascents and descents. The ratio of measured peak acceleration to predicted steadystate acceleration was consistent enough to allow a 0.35 reduction factor to be

established. Based on Kerr (1998), Davis and Murray (2009) recommended the stair

evaluation be performed for a 76 kg (168 lbf) walker and the design dynamic load

factors (DLF) (ratio of harmonic force amplitude to bodyweight) shown in Table 1.

(Average DLFs are used for comparisons of measured and predicted accelerations.)

Because stair descent step frequencies more easily match natural frequencies, and

because descents have higher forces, they are always more severe than ascents. Davis

and Murray also recommended a 5.0 Hz lower limit on the natural frequency to

prevent first harmonic excitation and resulting severe accelerations.

Table 1. Dynamic Load Factors

Dynamic Load Factor,

Ascending

Descending

Harmonic

Average Design Average Design

Second

0.13

0.22

0.20

0.33

Third

0.06

0.11

0.09

0.16

Fourth

0.03

0.07

0.06

0.13

The resulting evaluation method, based on an FEA of the stair, is useful but

the procedure is not fast or easy enough for routine structural engineering design

office usage. A simplified and more feasible method is needed for the vibration

serviceability evaluation and design of slender monumental stairs. Thus, the

objective of this paper is the development of a simplified method using manual

calculations. The method is simple as the name implies and the procedure is fast

enough for routine structural engineering office use. The scope of the method

developed herein is limited to linear stairs such as the example shown in Figure 1.

The FEA-based method by Davis and Murray (2009) should be used for other slender

stairs.

EXPERIMENTAL PROGRAM

Experimental modal testing was conducted on an elegant slender monumental

stair located in the lobby and restaurant area of a high-rise hotel and condominium.

Testing was conducted in an attempt to find estimates of the natural frequencies,

acceleration response (FRF magnitude), and responses to ascents and descents. The

tested stair and surrounding features combine to form a major architectural feature in

the lobby and restaurant area. The stair consists of a main flight of stairs from the

lobby to an intermediate landing and a shorter flight from the intermediate landing to

the second floor, as shown in Figure 2. The main span is of primary interest for this

study.

The stair main span is very slender, with two stringers at approximately a 30

degree angle, spanning 9.49 m (31 ft) horizontally between supports. The stringers

are spaced 1.17 m (3 ft 10 in.) apart, center-to-center. The stringers are 305 mm tall

by 203 mm wide by 15.9 mm thick (12 in. by 8 in. by 5/8 in.) steel hollow structural

sections (HSS). The stringer size was limited to satisfy architectural slenderness

requirements. Each stringer bears on a steel angle seat at the lobby end and is

suspended from a small HSS hanger from the second floor. The laminated glass

treads are 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in.) long, weigh approximately 1.5 kPa (31 psf), and are

supported on thin rubber pads as shown in Figure 3. The treads are through-bolted to

bent plates which are welded to the top of the HSS stringer. The approximately 1.2 m

(4 ft) high clear glass guardrails weigh approximately 0.48 kPa (10 psf) and are

connected to the stringers using spider fittings (Figure 3). The guardrails are in

discrete sections as shown in Figure 3 except they are connected by the handrails.

Experimental modal analysis (EMA) techniques were used to estimate the

FRF magnitude. Due to time and site constraints, impulse hammer strikes to the

bottom of the stringers (strikes were at about 30 degrees from vertical) were used as

the excitation. Interestingly, strikes at the bottom of treads provided low quality

excitation because the energy resulted mainly in variations of rubber bearing pad

contact pressure rather than excitation of the entire stair. No person stood on the stair

during tests. Accelerometers measured vertical acceleration at various locations on

the stair. The estimated FRF magnitude plot (force at the bottom of the stringer and

vertical acceleration at the treat over the impact location) indicates the fundamental

mode is at 7.3 Hz and has 0.0679 %g/N (0.302 %g/lbf) magnitude and 1.1% of

critical viscous damping. Other modes were detected also, but they were much less

responsive. See Davis and Murray (2009) for more detailed information on the EMA

testing program.

After the EMA tests, accelerations were measured while individuals ascended

and descended the main span of the stair. Four healthy male walkers participated in

the testing program. They varied from 84 kg (185 lbf) to 105 kg (230 lbf), and

stepped on each tread rather than skipping treads. During each test, the step

frequency, controlled by listening to a metronome, was such that a force harmonic

frequency matched the fundamental frequency, thus causing resonance. To exclude

unrepresentative peaks, acceleration waveforms were bandpass filtered to include

frequency content between 1 Hz and 15 Hz only. Resonant build-ups were observed

in most tests. Table 2 shows the measured peak accelerations (Davis and Murray

2009). As expected, the accelerations due to descents were higher than accelerations

due to ascents. For more information, see Davis and Murray (2009).

Table 2. Measured Peak Accelerations

Description

Peak Acceleration (%g)

Ascending, Second Harmonic

4.1

Ascending, Third Harmonic

1.1

Descending, Second Harmonic

4.7

Descending, Third Harmonic

1.7

The acceleration response of a stair is the superposition of the response of

numerous natural modes, each having its own natural frequency, mode shape, modal

mass, and damping. Because slender stairs are often linear structures spanning from

one floor to the next, such as the one shown in Figure 1, their natural modes resemble

those of a pair of parallel beams connected by closely spaced transverse bending

elements. Thus, the fundamental mode resembles that of a simply supported beam

with uniform mass, i.e., a half-sine wave. The second mode is often a torsional mode

with one stringer going up as the other stringer is going down, each following a half

sine wave pattern. Other modes are either bending or torsional modes following

multiple curvature patterns.

The fundamental modal frequency must be at least 5 Hz to prevent the very

large first harmonic from matching the fundamental natural frequency and causing

severe responses (Davis and Murray 2009). In the authors experience with FEA of

slender stairs, the second modal frequency is at least double the fundamental

frequency, thus placing it above 10.0 Hz for any usable stair design. The authors

opinion is that it is unlikely that modes over 10.0 Hz will experience resonant buildups due to human walking. Therefore, the maximum stair acceleration is

approximately the resonant response of the fundamental mode only.

Fortunately, simple equations are available for the fundamental natural

frequency and modal mass of a simply supported beam with uniform mass. The

natural frequency, in Hz, is computed using Eq. 1 (Murray et al. 1997).

fn =

gEI

2 wL4

(1)

where

g =gravitational acceleration

E =stringer elastic modulus

I =stringer moment of inertia

w=uniform weight (force per length along the diagonal) supported by the stringer,

including the stringer, treads, guardrail, and a minimal allowance for people on

the stair

L =stringer length (diagonal distance between supports)

Some stairs have more than two stringers, and in those cases, the stringers

often have unequal load and moment of inertia. For those, I is the sum of the

individual stringer moments of inertia and w is the sum of uniform weights supported

by each stringer.

The simply supported beam fundamental modal mass, for transverse load and

acceleration at midspan, is half the beam mass. Thus, the stair fundamental modal

mass is approximately half the total stair mass. For a stair with two stringers:

M = wL/g

(2)

the stringer due to sinusoidal load perpendicular to the stringer:

a sMidspanPerp =

FPerp

2 M

(3)

where

=viscous damping ratio, usually 0.01 (Davis and Murray 2009)

The vertical acceleration due to vertical load is required for vibration

serviceability evaluation. The vertical load is Q, where is the DLF (Table 1) and

Q is the walker bodyweight, usually taken as 749 N (168 lbf). For a stair at an angle

, the vertical steady-state acceleration at midspan due to vertical load at midspan is:

a sMidspan =

Q cos

Q cos 2

cos =

2 M

2 M

(4)

midspan. For example, engineering judgment might dictate that potentially annoyed

occupants are most likely to stand at an intermediate landing not located at midspan.

Similarly, the most likely path for a several step resonant build-up might be centered

at a location other than midspan. For those cases, the midspan steady-state

acceleration is adjusted using the unity normalized (1.0 amplitude at midspan) mode

shape amplitude at the response and walker locations:

as =

Q cos 2

r w

2 M

(5)

x r

L

x

w = sin w

L

r = sin

(6)

(7)

where

xr =distance from end of stringer to response location, measured on the diagonal

xw=distance from end of stringer to walker force location, measured on the

diagonal

The peak acceleration due to walking is much less than the value computed

using Eq. 5 because resonant build-ups do not last long enough to achieve a steadystate response, and because footsteps are not perfectly periodic. Davis and Murray

(2009) found that the peak acceleration due to walking can be predicted by

multiplying the predicted steady-state acceleration by a reduction factor, R.

ap = R

Q cos 2

r w

2 M

(8)

showed that FEA predicted an FRF maximum magnitude within 4% of the measured

value. Eq. 5 produces the same steady-state acceleration as the FEA method used by

Davis and Murray for linear stairs with no features included in the finite element

model, but not included in the simplified method. Thus, the reduction factor, R =

0.35, applies when using the simplified procedure also.

As described above, the tested stairs natural frequency was 7.3 Hz. Using

Eq. 1, the predicted natural frequency was 5.0 Hz, which is 32% below the measured

value. The difference is most likely explained by differences in the actual and

assumed masses and lack of the methods consideration of the stiffness provided by

the intersecting flight (Figure 2). The Davis and Murray (2009) FEA more accurately

predicted the natural frequency (6.2 Hz, 15% low). When the Davis and Murray

finite element model was modified to remove the intersecting landing (making it a

more direct comparison to Eq. 1), the predicted natural frequency dropped to 5.4 Hz,

which is only slightly more than predicted by Eq. 1. The remainder of the difference

between the equation and FEA predictions is explained by partial continuity of the

guardrails, which is included in the model, but is not possible to include in the

equation.

direct verification of Eq. 5 is not possible. However, the measured FRF magnitude is

the steady-state acceleration due to a unit sinusoidal load, a quantity that is predicted

by rearranging Eq. 5, thus allowing a direct comparison. The measured FRF

maximum magnitude for vertical acceleration at midspan and force perpendicular to

the stringer was 0.0679 %g/N (0.302 %g/lbf). The vertical applied force is the force

perpendicular to the stringer multiplied by cos() = 0.866, so the measured FRF

magnitude for vertical acceleration and vertical force at midspan is 0.0784 %g/N

(0.349 %g/lbf). The predicted midspan FRF magnitude is cos2/(2M) (from Eq. 5,

noting that Q is the harmonic load in N or lbf) which gives 0.125 %g/N (0.556

%g/lbf) which is 59% higher than measured. The difference is explained using the

Davis and Murray (2009) finite element model, as follows. The model, which

included guardrail out-of-plane movement and the intersecting flight (Figure 2) - both

of which contribute to the modal mass, but are not possible to include in the

simplified formulationpredicted 0.0832 %g/N (0.370 %g/lbf), which is quite

accurate. When the effects of out-of-plane guardrail movement and intersecting flight

are removed, the model predicted 0.108 %g/N (0.481 %g/lbf) which is only 13% less

than predicted using the modified Eq. 4. Thus, the FRF maximum magnitude, and

more to the point, the steady-state acceleration, will be conservatively predicted when

the actual stair contains vibrating mass not included in Eq. 5, and accurately predicted

otherwise.

Peak accelerations due to walking were predicted using Eq. 8 with R = 0.35.

Measured bodyweight and damping were used in the predictions. Table 3 shows the

measured and predicted accelerations. The measured-to-predicted acceleration ratio

varies from 0.567 to 0.954, indicating that each prediction was conservative, and two

are very conservative. The over-prediction is explained by the lack of the inclusion

of modal mass contributed by guardrail out-of-plane movement and the intersecting

flight. The ratio of measured-to-predicted FRF magnitude is 0.0784 %g/N / 0.125

%g/N = 0.628, as described above. If the predicted accelerations are multiplied by

0.628, the measured-to-predicted acceleration ratios are 1.52, 0.873, 1.14, and 0.903

for the four lines in the table below. With the exception of the 1.52 ratio, the other

three indicate good predictions, noting that accurate and precise prediction of

vibration due to walking cannot be expected because of high variability in human

walking forces.

The authors opinion is that the simplified methods presented herein are

accurate enough for design usage.

Peak Acceleration

Load Case

Measured (%g) Predicted (%g) Meas. / Pred.

Ascending, Second Harmonic

4.1

4.3

0.954

Ascending, Third Harmonic

1.1

2.0

0.550

Descending, Second Harmonic

4.7

6.6

0.712

Descending, Third Harmonic

1.7

3.0

0.567

This paper presents simplified equations for the prediction of the fundamental

natural frequency and the vertical acceleration due to stair ascents or descents for

slender stairs, i.e, those with fundamental frequencies below 10 Hz. The scope is

limited to linear stairs, and readers are referred to Davis and Murray (2009) for stairs

of other configurations. A slender monumental stair was vibration tested to provide

estimates of natural frequencies, FRF magnitude, and acceleration due to stair ascents

or descents.

The stair vibration response is the superposition of numerous vibration modes,

each with a different frequency, shape, modal mass, and damping. Multi-modal

analysis requires the use of a computerized FEA which is outside the reach of many

structural engineering offices. However, the vast majority of the response is due to

resonant response of the fundamental mode. For linear stairs the fundamental mode

resembles the fundamental mode of a simply supported beam with uniform mass and

stiffness.

Thus, the stair fundamental natural frequency equation is identical to that of a

simply supported beam:

fn =

gEI

2 wL4

(1, repeated)

Similarly, the modal mass of a simply supported beam is used to develop the

steady-state acceleration equation, which is adjusted to provide a prediction of the

vertical acceleration at an location on the stair, due to an ascent or descent at any

location on the stair:

ap = R

Q cos 2

r w

2 M

(8, repeated)

equations. The measured stair contains features whose effects are not possible to

capture in a simplified analysis, so the natural frequency, steady-state acceleration,

and acceleration due to walking were only moderately well predicted. However, the

equations are accurate enough for design use, in view of the fact that very large

variation should be expected in floor vibration prediction.

REFERENCES

Davis, B. and Murray, T.M. (2009). Slender Monumental Stair Vibration

Serviceability. J. Archit. Eng., 15(4), 111121.

Kerr, S.C. (1998). Human Induced Loading on Staircases. Ph.D. Thesis, University

of London, London, England.

Murray, T.M., Allen, D.E., and Unger, E.E. (1997). Steel Design Guide Series 11:

Floor Vibrations Due to Human Activity, American Institute of Steel

Construction, Chicago, IL, USA.

Smith, A.L., Hicks, S.J., Devine, P.J. (2007). Design of Floors for Vibration: A New

Approach. The Steel Construction Institute (SCI), Berkshire, England.

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