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DOI: 10.1002/best.200710103

Norbert Randl

Load Bearing Behaviour of Cast-in Shear Dowels

Dowel bars are often used to transfer shear forces across expan- bar: With increasing shear load the concrete bearing stress
sion joints and also to create shear key connections, for example rises strongly and it can happen, like with an anchor
in precast concrete buildings, fixed on both sides into the adja- loaded in shear [2], that shell-shaped chips break out from
cent reinforced concrete elements. This article gives an overview the concrete near the surface. This spalling of the concrete
of the current state of the technology. further increases the inner lever arm of the load and the
Recent shear tests performed with cast-in rebars, away bar is increasingly loaded in bending. This failure process
from the edge, are presented and analysed. A design formula is is considered and analysed in more detail in the following
derived to determine the transverse shear capacity of dowels sections. With a cast-in length of less than about 5 ds, fail-
cast into concrete, based on a modified support modulus method ure can occur by the concrete breaking out behind the
and taking into consideration the concrete yielding, and this is
dowel. Concrete failure can also happen if the distance to
compared with existing theoretical approaches and experimental
the edge in the direction of the load is small [3]. In these
cases, approaches from fastening technology can be used
for design [3].

1 Problem statement 2 State of the technology

2.1 Investigations into the load bearing behaviour
The way that a dowel cast-in on both sides and under of shear dowels
shear load functions was first clearly described by Paulay.
In [1], he differentiates between the effects of bending, To investigate the load bearing behaviour of cast-in shear
shear resistance and inclined tension (kinking effect) of dowels, the bars should either be cast-in on both sides of
dowels (Fig. 1). For design purposes, the bending resis- the shear plane or, if they are cast-in only on one side, the
tance is of most importance; the inclined tension effect shear force has to be introduced without excentricity ide-
first builds up after considerable displacement. While the ally at the concrete surface. The precondition for the first
maximum bending moment occurs in each case slightly case is that the adhesion of the two halves of the concrete
above or below the joint, the maximum shear under ap- specimen has been effectively broken by a slip joint. Tests
proximately symmetrical conditions results at the shear where plastic sheets have been used to minimise the coef-
surface, the bending moment at this section being M = 0. ficient of friction are especially suitable for the study of the
Pure steel shear failure is, however, in general not signifi- load bearing behaviour.
cant, because the concrete cannot withstand the maxi- Paulay et al. [1] paid special attention to the shear
mum bearing stress without correspondingly yielding. capacity of cast-in bars during their investigations into
Failure finally occurs, at sufficiently large distance shear transfer at joints in 19721974: flat trowelled sur-
from the edge (min. 810 dowel diameters ds), and with a faces were subsequently painted with wax for this purpose,
cast-in length of at least 56 ds (see also section 2.2), and this reduced any friction effects to an absolute mini-
through steel rupture mainly caused by bending of the mum. The results of the investigation are shown in the
force-displacement diagram in Fig. 2. The increase of
shear capacity proportional to steel area is noticeable. Us-
ing strain measurements, it was possible to confirm that
the bars (diameter 6.3/9.5/12.7 mm) started yielding at
displacements of about 2.5 mm. With further displace-
ments up to more than 12 mm, further load increases of in
some cases up to 88 % were recorded on account of the
kinking effect.
Also worth mentioning are the tests by Bennett and
Banerjee [4] into the transfer of forces in the connections
between precast columns and beams. Their tests included
the investigation of the shear resistance of steel reinforc-
Fig. 1. Dowel action according to Paulay et al. [1] ing bars, in which they arranged a joint with polyethylene

2007 Ernst & Sohn Verlag fr Architektur und technische Wissenschaften GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin Beton- und Stahlbetonbau 102 (2007), Special Edition 31
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N. Randl Load Bearing Behaviour of Cast-in Shear Dowels

Fig. 2. Results of the tests from Paulay [1]

foil at the inner bearing edge of a single-field test beam. into a concrete cube were tested in a total of 27 shear
The shear force at the bearing had to be transferred en- tests. Above these ribbed steel bars, a total of up to six
tirely by the reinforcing bars crossing the joint. The most small thin tubes were cast in at 13 mm spacing, so that
important result was the proportionality between shear re- displacement transducers could be installed later and
sistance and steel cross-sectional area. The cause of fail- thus the deformation of the bar during the loading
ure in the end was the formation of a plastic hinge in the process recorded. The first shell-shaped spalling of con-
connecting reinforcement. crete ocurred at about 80 % of the peak load, as also ob-
In connection with their investigations into aggregate served by other researchers, and the final cause of failure
interlock across cracks, Millard and Johnson at the Uni- was yielding of the bars. The development of the curva-
versity of Warwick carried out a series of tests in order to ture could be established from the measured deforma-
establish the effect of the reinforcement [5]. Half of the tions. The calculations showed that the first yielding of
test samples were cast in steel formwork and covered with the steel occurred at about 40 % of peak load; with fur-
two thin polyethylene sheets to minimise the friction ef- ther loading, the yielding extended rapidly, starting from a
fect. The other halves of the test specimen were then cast point about one bar diameter below the concrete surface.
against the plastic sheet. Strain gauges were glued to the According to the details in [6], the yield zones finally ex-
reinforcing bars in grooves (about 1 mm deep). Only for tended over a length of about 1 to 2ds.
the 8 mm-bars, they were glued directly to the surface of
the bar without grooves (which incidentally did not dis- 2.2 Influence of the embedment depth
turb the bearing behaviour). The measured strain values
showed a large scatter overall and allowed no clear con- There are many investigations and parameter studies into
clusions. Because of the short distance to the edge in the the influence of the relationship of embedment depth to
loading direction of mostly not more than 6ds, splitting bar diameter (lb/ds) on the shear bearing capacity of cast-
failures occurred in some places in the concrete specimen, in shear studs, which are all based on bars cast-in on one
so that the measured ultimate loads lie on average some- side. However, because of the comparable load transfer in-
what under those of other researchers. to the concrete, the observations regarding the influence
At the end of the 1980s, tests were carried out at the of embedment depth can be made use of.
Polytechnic University of Milan to record the shear resis- Starting with the support modulus method, Friberg
tance of steels under transverse loading [6]. These de- [7] suggested as far back as 1938, in connection with in-
serve special attention, in connection with the research vestigations into the joints in pavement slabs in the USA,
into the load bearing capacity of cast-in shear studs, be- the selection of a length of at least 75 % of the distance
cause a special experimental setup was used to make sure from the concrete surface up to the second zero crossing
that the shear load acted exactly in the plane of the con- in the concrete stresses of an endlessly long bar. This cor-
crete surface without lever arm. A section of the test spe- responds to an embedment length of about 6ds. From de-
cimen (the load introduction zone) is shown in Fig. 3. formation measurements of the bar at the concrete sur-
Bars of diameters 14, 18 and 24 mm cast-in on one side face, Friberg calculated figures for the modulus of dowel

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N. Randl Load Bearing Behaviour of Cast-in Shear Dowels

Fig. 3. Testspecimen at the Polytechnic University of Milan [6]

support from 270 to 400 N/mm3. The maximum calculat-

ed concrete pressures reached about four times the cylin-
der strength.
Extensive investigations into this question were pub-
lished in issue 386 of the DAfStb [8]. Based on tests and
FE calculations, the conclusion is made that an embed-
ment length of about 5ds is sufficient to reach the full
shear bearing capacity. This statement agrees with the in-
vestigations carried out by Fuchs in connection with his
dissertation [2].
Fig. 4. Shear dowel embedded in an elastic mass [7]
2.3 Models for calculating the load bearing capacity

For the first estimation of shear bearing capacity, the liter-

ature often refers to the failure hypothesis of Huber/von yields from the surface down to a depth of more than
Mises. This is generally and frequently used in steel de- 1.0 ds [2]. Also not considered are the non-linear behav-
sign, because it delivers good agreement with test results iour of the concrete and the contribution of the concrete
and takes into account that the shear yield limit is lower to the side of the dowel. Nonetheless, the support modu-
than the tension yield limit. Theoretically, one would then lus theory delivers useable values for estimating the load
obtain an ultimate shear load for a cast-in bar under pure bearing capacity of dowels; the calculated ultimate load
shear loading of 0.58 As fy. In practice this bearing ca- reacts relatively unaffected by a variation of the support
pacity is actually not reached on account of the yielding of modulus.
the concrete and, in consequence, the bending of the bar. The semi-empirical method of Rasmussen is still used
Refined methods of calculation mostly assume the today. Rasmussen makes no assumption in his model [10]
failure at the section of maximum bending moment, al- for the distribution of the stresses under the dowel, more
though only bars cast-in on one side are considered. This he uses an average value for the concrete pressures under
is a simplification, which is justified in the case where the the dowel. From the conditions, that at the section of
concrete strengths above and below the joint are similar. A maximum moment in the dowel the shear force becomes
full collection of the most important knowledge and zero and that max M = 1/6 fy ds2, the ultimate load can
methods is to be found in [9]. In the following sections be calculated as follows:
only those approaches are mentioned, which were innova-
tive and are still relevant today. Fu = k ds2 fc,cyl fy (1)
Using the theory of a beam on an elastic foundation,
Friberg first developed equations in 1938. The basis for The value for the constant k has been experimentally de-
these was the mathematical formulation of the problem termined at 1.3. Using this empirical constant, Rasmussen
based on the support modulus theory, where an elastic bar calculates maximum concrete pressures for his tests
of endless length, embedded into an elastic continuum, is reaching about 4 to 5 times the cylinder strength.
considered (Fig. 4). Friberg chose as failure criterion the The formula developed by Vintzileou and Tassios
reaching of the maximum stress in the concrete directly [11] for the shear bearing capacity in failure mode I
under the steel bar close to the concrete surface. In reality, (concrete spalling and formation of a plastic hinge) is
this peak of stress does not occur, rather the concrete based on the same basic premises (Fig. 5). Assuming that

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N. Randl Load Bearing Behaviour of Cast-in Shear Dowels

Table 1. Survey of the experimental program (concrete com-

pression strength measured with 200 mm cubes)

Base- Roughness Number Bar dia- fcw,bottom fcw,top

plate of tests meter [mm] [N/mm2] [N/mm2]
3b very smooth 2 6 54 44
(release oil) 6 12 54 44
2 20 54 44
4 very smooth 1 6 23 20
(plastic sheet, 1 12 23 20
steel plate) 1 20 23 20

Fig. 5. Model of Vintzeleou and Tassios [11]

Typical force-displacement curves for various dowel
sizes are shown in Fig. 7. With respect to serviceability
limit state only the displacement until reaching the first
the concrete between surface and plastic hinge is fully plateau in the force-displacement curve is considered.
plasticising and the pressures reach 5 times the cylinder The load reached was proportional to the steel cross-sec-
strength fc,cyl, the following condition for the ultimate load tion area and increased with about the square root of the
can be derived: concrete strength. The reaching of this yield plateau can
be explained by the formation of plastic hinges in the rein-
Fu2 + (10 fc,cyl e ds) Fu 1, 7 ds4 fc,cyl fy = 0 forcement bar above or below the shear surface. A re-
( e = lever arm) (2) newed slow increase of the load was observed with in-
creasing deformation of up to 20 mm and more. The rea-
For e = 0, the equation corresponds to the ultimate load son for this is the increasing kinking effect of the joint re-
derived according to Rasmussen. inforcement (Fig. 1). The final failure thus occurred after
large deformations, either through steel breakage or some-
3 More recent investigations with reinforcement bars times by the deformed bar being pulled out (Fig. 8), ac-
companied by concrete spalling around the bar.
In the years 19951997, the load bearing behaviour of
shear joints with a subsequently added layer of new con- 4 Model for the determination of the failure load
crete for various joint roughnesses was investigated in de-
tail in a project carried out at the University of Innsbruck The shear resistance of cast-in steel studs can be derived, if
in cooperation with the Hilti Corporation [9], [12], [13]. the arrangement is symmetrical, from the consideration of
In the course of this investigation, the shear resistance of a bar cast-in on one side. A realistic estimation of the
reinforcing bars crossing the joint and cast-in on both shear capacity can be gained by regarding it as an elasti-
sides was also analysed, in order to filter out their contri- cally supported beam and additionally taking into account
bution to the total shear resistance. To this purpose, con- that yielding of the concrete occurs near the surface. The
crete slabs were cast, then turned over with the formed limit state is reached when the steel bar forms a plastic
side upward and reinforcing bars of BSt 500 with various hinge at the section of maximum moment.
diameters (6 mm, 12 mm, 20 mm) subsequently mortared The starting point for the following calculations is an
in (test programme in Table 1). The friction effect along approach from Ackermann/Burkhardt [14], which is re-
the surface of the joints was minimised by applying oil as fined and extended. Near the surface, yielding of the con-
normally used for formwork release agent and additional- crete is assumed, so that there are two zones for the calcu-
ly plastic sheets and thin steel plates were inserted. Final- lation: below the concrete surface there is a plastic zone,
ly, concrete cuboids with the dimensions 0.20 0.30 and the distribution of the pressure for the failure condi-
0.40 m were cast on top and, after hardening, sheared off. tion is approximated here by a rectangle. Connecting to
A special test-setup ensured that there was no eccentricity this, from a depth to be determined, simplified ideal-elas-
of the shear load to the joint (Fig. 6). tic behaviour of the concrete is assumed and the bar in

Fig. 6. Test specimen and load appli-

cation [9]

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N. Randl Load Bearing Behaviour of Cast-in Shear Dowels

Fig. 8. Test specimen after failure

Fig. 7. Load-displacement curves due to shear loading

Fig. 9. Modelling the cast-in dowel under shear loading

this lower zone is treated like an elastically supported

beam (Fig. 9). M1 = + V0 L e sin + M0 e (cos + sin ) (5c)
Starting with the basic formula for the average con-
crete pressure under the bar b = c y and assuming a 2 M0
V1 = + V0 e (cos sin ) e sin (5d)
constant support modulus, the differential equation for L
the elastically supported beam can be derived:
The boundary conditions at depth h are for the elastically
d4y supported bar (plus/minus, again as per Fig. 9):
EI =cy (3)
V0 = F pmax ds h (6a)
In the solution of this differential equation, the following
expression occurs as parameter: h2 d
M0 = F h pmax ds = h (F pmax s h) (6b)
2 2
4 EI
L=4 (4)
ds c b (z1 = 0) = c y1 (z1 = 0) = pmax (6c)

It has the dimension of a length and is normally called Substituting equation (5a) in (6c) gives:
elastic or characteristic length. Under the assumption
that the embedment length lb 3 L, one can solve the dif- 2 V0 2 M0
c y1(z1 = 0) = + = pmax (7)
ferential equation by using the solution for an endlessly Lds L2ds
long bar (the error is less than 5 %).
The boundary conditions for moment and shear at For V0 and M0, the boundary conditions from (6a, b) are
the bar end are then M = 0 and V = 0. Thus the mathe- now substituted into (7):
matical solution for a bar loaded by a horizontal load and
a moment simplifies to (for plus/minus definition, see ds
2 (F pmax ds h) 2 h (F pmax 2 h)
Fig. 9): + = pmax (8)
L ds L2ds
2 V0 2M z
y1 = e cos + 2 0 e (cos sin
n ) and := 1
Ldsc L dsc L which gives after reworking:
h 2L 2
2 F h L 2FL
2 V0 4 M0 d + d p 2 +
ds ds pmax ds 3
y1 = e (cos + sin ) e cos (5b) s s max d s (9)
L2d sc L3dsc

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N. Randl Load Bearing Behaviour of Cast-in Shear Dowels

From this equation, the plastic depth h related to the 1, sin and e 1 (the plastic hinge is near the
diameter ds can be determined: start of the plastic zone), finally resulting in:

h 2F L F (2h L2 + 2h 2L) pmax ds h (2hL2) =

= (10)
ds pmax ds 2 ds d3
fy s (L + h)2 (18)
At the section of maximum moment, the shear force (de-
rived from equation (5d)) V1() = 0 must be: Substituting equation (10) for h, after some reworking, the
following condition can be defind:
2 M0
V1() = +V0 e (cos sin ) e sin = 0 (11) 12 L 2
L 8L 2 fy ds
F3 + F p
2 +
2 2
pmax ds max ds 3 pmax 2
Assuming that the location of the plastic hinge is close to
where the plastic zone starts, the following approxima-
tions can be made: cos 1, sin . + F ( 8 L 3 ) + 2 L4 pmax ds = 0 (19)
Thus follows:
This cubic equation can be reworked and finally be
V0 L solved, with the aid of the Cardano formula and interme-
= (12)
V0 L + 2 M0 diate steps [9]. For the range of interest in construction
applications (1 fy / pmax 10 and 1,0 L/d 2,5), the re-
From equation (10), the shear load F can be expressed sulting complex solution functions can be replaced by a
explicitly: more simple form as a good approximation, so the simpli-
fied condition for the ultimate limit load Fu becomes finally:
h L p ds2
F= + max (13)
ds ds 2 Fu = pmax ds 2
3 2
Substituting this in (6a) and (6b) gives: L fy ds ds fy
0, 46 + 0,187 0, 005
ds pmax L L pmax
h L 1 h
V0 = pmax ds 2 + = (20)
ds ds 2 ds
L h 1
pmaax ds 2 (14a) The maximum possible concrete pressures pmax under the
s ds 2
d dowel, uniformely distributed over the width of the bar di-
ameter, are about 34 times the cube strength of the con-
h L h 1 h 2 crete. There are various suggestions given in the literature
M0 = pmax ds 2 + = for the support modulus c; it is mostly assumed to be be-
ds ds 2 2 ds tween 100 and 1000 N/mm3. The calculated load bearing
Lh capacity according to equation (20) reacts insensitively to
pmax ds 2 (14b)
2 ds c, and therefore the result is scarcely influenced by the
support modulus. Following [11] and [2], pmax is set to 3.5
and further through substituting into (12) and reworking: fcwm, and a constant value of 500 N/mm3 is taken for c.
The dependency of the ultimate limit load on the in-
z1 L h dividual parameters cannot be directly concluded from
(V1 = 0) = = (15)
L L+h equation (20). Variation of the various parameters in (20)
shows that for bar diameters ds 10 mm und fy 400
The ultimate moment is, with the formation of a plastic N/mm2 the ultimate limit load Fu increases approximately
hinge, the fully plastic moment Mpl. The plastic moment proportionately with the steel cross-sectional area and the
of resistance Wpl for a circular section is around 1.7 times root of the concrete compression strength. The load bear-
larger than Wel: ing capacity can then for this limited range of validity be
approximated by the following equation, which corre-
ds3 d3 sponds to the approach of Rasmussen (equation (1)):
Wel = , Wpl = s (16)
32 6
Fu = 1.5 A s fy fcwm = 1.5 fy fcwm (21)
At the limit state, the moment according to equation (5c) 4
reaches the following maximum value:
The assumption of the increase with the root of the steel
d3 yield limit is, for fy 400 N/mm2 in connection with the
max M1 = V0 L e sin + M0 e (cos + sin ) = fy s
6 constant factor in equation (21), on the safe side. Actually
(17) the exact solution of equation (19) would result in a more
considerable increase of the load bearing capacity with fy
Equation (17) can be further developed by substituting the and thus give for the approximation formula (21) a rather
formulae (6a) and (6b) and with the approximations cos higher exponent for fy of about 0.70.8. However such an

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N. Randl Load Bearing Behaviour of Cast-in Shear Dowels

[3] Eligehausen, R., Malle, R and Silva, J. F.: Anchorage in

Concrete Construction. Berlin: Ernst & Sohn 2006.
[4] Bennett, E. W. and Banerjee, S.: Strength of beam column
connections with dowel reinforcement; The Structural Engi-
neer, Vol. 51, No. 4, 1976, S. 133139.
[5] Millard, S. G. and Johnson, R. P.: Shear Transfer across
Cracks in Reinforced Concrete due to Aggregate Interlock
and Dowel Action; Magazine of Concrete Research, Vol. 36,
No. 126, 1984, S. 921.
[6] Dei Poli, S., Di Prisco, M. and Gambarova, P. G.: Shear
Response, Deformations and Subgrade Stiffness of a Dowel
Bar Embedded in Concrete; Journal of the American Con-
crete Institute, ACI, Vol. 89, No. 6, 1992, S. 665675.
[7] Friberg, Bengt F.: Design of Dowels in Transverse Joints of
Concrete Pavements; Proceedings of the American Society of
Civil Engineers, Vol. 64, No. 9, 1938, S. 18091828.
[8] Utescher, G. und Herrmann, H.: Versuche zur Ermittlung
der Tragfhigkeit in Beton eingespannter Rundstahldollen
aus nichtrostendem austenitischem Stahl (Tests to determine
the bearing capacity of round bar stainless austenitic steel);
Deutscher Ausschuss fr Stahlbeton, H. 346, Verlag Wilhelm
Ernst & Sohn, Berlin, 1983.
Fig. 10. Comparison of calculated and experimental results [9] Randl, N.: Untersuchungen zur Kraftbertragung zwischen
Alt- und Neubeton bei unterschiedlichen Fugenrauhigkeiten
(Investigations into the force transfer between old and new
approach would have to be verified through tests with concrete with various joint roughnesses); Dissertation, Uni-
higher strength steel in combination with various concrete versitt Innsbruck 1997, 379 S.
strengths, taking into account the possibility of early con- [10] Rasmussen, B. H.: Strength of Transversely Loaded Bolts
and Dowels Embedded in Concrete; Laboratoriet for
crete spalling.
Bygningastatik, Denmark Technical University, Meddelelse,
Vol. 34, No. 2, 1962, S. 3955 (in Danish).
5 Comparison with test results and conclusion [11] Vintzileou, E. N. and Tassios, T. P.: Mathematical Models
for Dowel Action under Monotonic Conditions; Magazine of
The shear resistance values according to equation (20) Concrete Research (Wexham Springs), Vol. 38, No. 134,
have been compared with test results from literature [1], 1986, S. 1322.
[4], [5], [6], [13] (Fig. 10). Thereby a value of 500 N/mm3 [12] Randl, N., und Wicke, M.: Schubbertragung zwischen
was chosen for the support modulus c, and for pmax three Alt- und Neubeton (Shear transfer between old and new con-
times the cube compression strength of the concrete. The crete). Beton- und Stahlbeton 95 (2000), Heft 8, S. 461473.
data for concrete strength fcwm were calculated as average [13] Hilti Konzernforschung: Concrete Concrete Load
values from the test specimen halves above and below the Transfer; Versuchsbericht Nr. A-IF6-2/96, 1997, not pub-
shear planes.
[14] Ackermann, G. und Burkhardt, M.: Tragverhalten von be-
The values predicted by calculation are shown in Fig.
wehrten Verbundfugen bei Fertigteilen und Ortbeton in den
10, related to the relevant experimental failure loads. The Grenzzustnden der Tragfhigkeit und Gebrauchs-
mean values of the calculated loads agree with the test re- tauglichkeit (Load bearing behaviour of reinforced composite
sults. The low scatter of less than 15 % shows the good joints in precast elements and in-situ concrete at the ultimate
agreement between experimentally determined and calcu- and serviceability limit states); Beton- und Stahlbetonbau,
lated loads and confirms the realistic description of the Vol. 87, 1992, H. 7, S. 165170, H. 8, S. 197200.
failure load using equation (20). If the failure loads are de-
termined using equation (21), then the scatter of the relat-
ed values rises slightly to 16 %. Taking into account the re-
stricted range of validity described in section 4, the simpli-
fied approach (21) does represent an adequate approxima-
tion to determine the load bearing capacity of cast-in
shear studs.


[1] Paulay, T., Park, R. and Phillips, M. H.: Horizontal Con- Dipl.-Ing. Dr.techn. Norbert Randl
struction Joints in Cast-in Place Reinforced Concrete; ACI Professorship for Concrete and Steel Construction
Special Publication SP-42 Shear in Reinforced Concrete, Fachhochschule Krnten
1974, Vol. II, S. 599616. 9800 Spittal an der Drau, Austria
[2] Fuchs, W.: Tragverhalten von Befestigungen unter Querlast
im ungerissenen Beton (Load bearing behaviour of fastenings
under shear load in uncracked concrete). Dissertation, Uni- First publication (in German language):
versitt Stuttgart, 1990. Beton und Stahlbetonbau 100 (2005), issue 6, pp. 467474.

Beton- und Stahlbetonbau 102 (2007), Special Edition 37