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Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701

Inelastic seismic response of steel bracing

Robert Tremblay
Epicenter Research Group, Department of Civil, Geological, and Mining Engineering, Ecole
Polytechnique, Montreal, PO Box 6079, Station Centre-ville, H3C 3A7, Montreal, Canada

Received 16 July 2001; received in revised form 17 August 2001; accepted 29 November 2001


A survey of past experimental studies on the inelastic response of diagonal steel bracing
members subjected to cyclic inelastic loading was carried out to collect data for the seismic
design of concentrically braced steel frames for which a ductile response is required under
earthquakes. The parameters that were examined are the buckling strength of the bracing mem-
bers, the brace post-buckling compressive resistance at various ductility levels, the brace
maximum tensile strength including strain hardening effects, and the lateral deformations of
the braces upon buckling. Equations are proposed for each of these parameters. In addition,
the maximum ductility that can be achieved by rectangular hollow bracing members is exam-
ined. 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Bracing member; Buckling; Concentrically braced steel frame; Ductility; Fracture life; Lateral
deformation; Post-buckling strength; Steel; Strain hardening; Yielding

1. Introduction

Several experimental studies [1-19] have been conducted in the last three decades
to understand the inelastic response of steel bracing members under cyclic loading.
Key parameters that influence the brace behaviour such as their effective slenderness
and the compactness of their cross-section could be identified and modern seismic
design provisions [20-23] now include limits for these parameters to ensure ductile
response under severe earthquakes. The information obtained from the test programs

E-mail address: (R. Tremblay).

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666 R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701

has also been used to develop numerical inelastic brace elements that were
implemented in nonlinear dynamic analysis computer programs [24-28]. Several
parametric studies [29-38] could then be performed on typical braced steel frames
to assess their overall seismic behaviour and develop design recommendations to
achieve adequate performance levels.
Building codes now generally require that beams and columns in concentrically
braced steel frames be protected from yielding under the design earthquake in order
to maintain the structural integrity of the gravity carrying system. Beams and col-
umns must then be sized to carry the gravity loads together with the action corre-
sponding to the maximum anticipated brace forces. Similar capacity design pro-
visions also apply to other elements located along the lateral load path of the structure
such as member connections, horizontal diaphragms, collector elements, foundations,
etc. All these elements must remain essentially undamaged while the bracing mem-
bers yield in tension and buckle in compression [39,40].
Realistic estimates of the actual brace axial forces that are likely to develop during
an earthquake must therefore be known and used in design to ensure adequate protec-
tion of beams, columns and other non-ductile elements of the structure. This infor-
mation is also needed when performing nonlinear dynamic analysis with inelastic
brace elements. In current code provisions, it is generally recommended to use the
nominal strength of the braces when assessing the maximum expected compressive
and tensile brace forces. Examination of test results indicate, however, that these
nominal values can be exceeded for typical bracing members, which suggests that
current code requirements may lead to non-conservative design. For several bracing
configurations, a critical loading condition also exists when a compression brace has
buckled and lost part of its capacity. Simplified expressions are suggested in codes
to predict the post-buckling strength of braces to be applied in such cases. More
comprehensive models that account for the brace slenderness and the level of axial
deformation have been developed and validated against test data [41] and empirical
expressions have also been proposed in the literature [42].
In this paper, these essential brace parameters are briefly reviewed in the context
of ductile design of concentrically braced steel frames. The results of test data from
nine experimental studies including 76 specimens are then carefully examined and
design values for the actual buckling strength of steel bracing members, their
maximum expected tensile resistance including strain hardening effects, and their
reduced post-buckling compressive capacity at various ductility levels are rec-
Two other aspects of the inelastic seismic brace response were also examined in
this survey: the lateral deformation of braces and the fracture life of bracing members
made of rectangular hollow sections (RHS). Upon buckling, braces typically deform
significantly at their mid-span and this can become a life safety issue when such
deformations develop out-of-plane and cause failure of wall partitions and cladding,
especially in braced frames located along the facade of multi-storey buildings [43].
This problem can be avoided by forcing the braces to buckle in the plane of the
frame or by providing sufficient room to accommodate the anticipated out-of-plane
deformations. Because the most efficient details for brace connections typically lead
R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701 667

to out-of-plane buckling [11,20], the second option will often need to be examined
and an equation is developed in the paper to predict out-of-plane brace deformations
based on test results.
Due to their high efficiency in carrying axial compressive loads, RHS braces have
become increasingly popular for bracing members over the years, event if past
experiments [4,6,44,45] as well as experience in recent earthquakes [46] have shown
that they exhibit limited inelastic deformation capacity under cyclic loading. Early
fracture is due to the high strains that develop when local buckling occurs and
attempts have been made in codes to delay local buckling by imposing stringent
limits on the width-to-thickness ratio of the cross-section elements. Nevertheless,
tests show that fracture of stockier braces can still develop at ductility levels that
are expected for well designed braced frames and an equation is derived in this paper
to relate the ductility level at fracture to the brace slenderness. This relationships
can be used to establish the minimum slenderness ratio or the maximum ductility
of RHS braces.

2. Inelastic seismic response and design of braced steel frames

Resistance of concentrically braced steel frames to earthquake ground motions

relies on the capacity of the bracing members to undergo several cycles of inelastic
deformations including stretching in tension and buckling in compression. Fig. 1
shows a typical hysteretic response (P vs plot) of an RHS brace as measured in
a quasi-static test in which the amplitude of the applied deformation was increased
stepwise at every other cycle up to fracture of the brace [1]. Py and y in the figure
correspond respectively to the yield capacity and deformation at yield of the brace.
In this test, the brace was loaded first in tension but also buckled in the first cycle

Fig. 1. Typical brace hysteretic response under symmetrical cyclic loading (specimen S1A from Ref.
668 R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701

when the load was reversed. After buckling has occurred, the compressive strength
decreased as a plastic hinge formed near the brace mid-length. Upon load reversal,
elastic recovery took place and the brace was straightened up through inelastic
rotation in the plastic hinge. During the second and subsequent cycles, the compress-
ive resistance degraded significantly due to the Baushinger effect and to residual out-
of-plane deformations from previous cycles. In tension, the brace reached its tensile
yield resistance and developed some strain hardening. At every cycle, the brace also
accumulated permanent elongation and, hence, could only developed its yield resist-
ance after larger axial deformation was imposed in tension. The amount of inelastic
rotation imposed to the hinge at every cycle increased as the brace elongated and
the imposed deformation increased. Eventually, local buckling of the cross section
developed at the hinge location, which induced high localized strains in the steel
material and contributed to reduce further the brace compressive strength. Fracture
took place at the hinge when the brace was stretched in tension after local buckling
has occurred.
The simple braced frame in Fig. 2 is used to illustrate the various brace force
conditions that can develop in frames where lateral loads at every floor and in every
braced bay are resisted by braces acting both in tension and compression. Such load
sharing between tension and compression braces is now required by most building
codes when ductile seismic response is required. In design, braces are usually selec-
ted to meet compressive strength requirements but code limitations on brace slender-
ness and width-to-thickness ratio of cross-section elements or fabrication consider-
ations can also govern the brace size. Under a severe earthquake, nonlinear response
generally initiates when the compression force in one of the braces reaches Cu and
buckling of that brace occurs (Fig. 2a). Brace connections, including gusset plates,
must be able to sustain such maximum brace compression load. Maximum com-
pression force also develops at the base of the column at first buckling of the braces.
Unless the brace compression strength diminishes very rapidly after buckling, the
storey shear and overturning moment attain their peak value when yielding is reached
in the tension brace at a later stage during the earthquake (T=Ty=Py), i.e. when the
brace ductility, =/y, is equal to 1.0 (Fig. 2c). Beyond that point, the force in the
tension brace remains nearly constant while the compression brace loses its strength
and the storey shear typically reduces, even if some strain hardening develops in the
tension brace. The maximum value of the storey shear resistance is critical for
elements like roof diaphragms or for sliding and overturning of the foundations (Fig.
2c). Due to initial defects such as residual stresses and out-of-straightness in bracing
members and connection elements, the peak storey shear in actual frames is likely to
develop slightly after a drift level corresponding to =1.0 is reached. For simplicity,
however, this point is still referred to herein as =1.0 and the compression force in
the brace at that point is defined as Cu1, as shown Fig. 3a. These imperfection effects
have been accounted for when assessing Cu1 in the tests, as will be discussed later.
The peak brace ductility demand in well proportioned symmetrical tensioncom-
pression systems typically varies between 2 and 3 but values up to 46 have been
observed in special cases [29,30,32,33,34,37,38]. Under such large inelastic defor-
mation levels, strain hardening may develop in the tension braces, resulting in larger
R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701 669

Fig. 2. Inelastic response of a tensioncompression concentrically braced steel frame.

forces to be resisted by the brace connections or by the anchorage to the foundations

for uplift, as shown in Fig. 2d (in this figure and in Fig. 3a, it is assumed that Tmax
is reached at a ductility of 3.0). At the same time, the post-buckling capacity of the
compression brace has reduced significantly (Cu3 in the figures), resulting in a criti-
cal loading case for the interior column which must carry its tributary gravity load
together with the difference between the vertical components of the tension and
compression brace forces.
Similar scenarios can be easily developed for other tensioncompression bracing
configurations such as X-bracing or chevron bracing as well as for multi-storey
frames. Chevron bracing may behave somewhat differently, however, under large
deformations. After buckling of the compression braces, the beams are pulled down-
670 R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701

Fig. 3. Definition of brace response parameters.

ward due to the combined action of the gravity loading and the tension acting braces,
as shown in Fig. 4. Unless the beams are designed to carry this net vertical load
together with the axial loads that develop from the braces, a plastic hinge eventually
forms at mid-span of the beams before the tension braces reach their yield tensile
capacity. Upon load reversal, the behaviour is mirrored and the beams are pulled
further downward by the previously buckled braces now acting in tension. This
behaviour leads to much higher level of brace ductility demand in compression,
typically in the range of 1020, with no or limited ductility demand in tension
[27,30,33,35,36], as shown in Fig. 3(b).

3. Test programs

3.1. Test specimens

A total of 76 tests from 9 experimental programs were selected in this study. For
each brace specimen, Table 1 gives the test program, the test number, the member
shape, the type of specimen, the orientation of the cross section with respect to the
plane of the frame, the plane of buckling, the cross-section area, Ag, the yield strength
of the steel, Fy, the normalized width-to-thickness ratio of the cross-section, the clear

Fig. 4. Inelastic response of chevron braced frames.

R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701
Table 1
Characteristics of the specimens

Study1 Test no. Shape2 Type3 Axis4 Buckling5 Steel Ag Fy (b0/t)/ LB LH y Displacement
(mm2) (MPa) (b0/t)lim 6(mm) 6
(mm) (mm) (mm) History7

1 S1A RHS 127764.8 1 X Out G40.21-350W 1790 353 0.67 4007 4610 1.312 7.922 1-T
S1B RHS 127764.8 1 X Out G40.21-350W 1790 353 0.67 4007 4610 10312 7.922 1-C
S2A RHS 102764.8 1 X Out G40.21-350W 1550 346 0.67 4089 4611 10502 7.798 1-T
S2B RHS 102764.8 1 X Out G40.21-350W 1550 346 0.67 4089 4611 10506 7.798 1-C
S3A RHS 76764.8 1 Out G40.21-350W 1310 332 0.67 4179 4619 2.014 8.126 1-T
S3B RHS 76764.8 1 Out G40.21-350W 1310 332 0.67 4179 4619 1.99 8.126 1-C
S4A RHS 127644.8 1 X Out G40.21-350W 1670 346 0.53 4049 4611 1.366 7.802 1-T
S4B RHS 127644.8 1 X Out G40.21-350W 1670 346 0.53 4049 4611 1.365 7.802 1-C
S5A RHS 102766.4 1 X Out G40.21-350W 1990 388 0.67 4089 4614 1.644 8.622 1-T
S5B RHS 102766.4 1 X Out G40.21-350W 1990 388 0.67 4089 4614 1.658 8.622 1-C
S1QA RHS 127764.8 1 X Out G40.21-350W 1790 353 0.67 4009 4610 1.314 7.926 2-T
S1QB RHS 127764.8 1 X Out G40.21-350W 1790 353 0.67 4009 4610 1.319 7.926 2-C
S4QA RHS 127644.8 1 X Out G40.21-350W 1670 346 0.53 4049 4611 1.36 7.521 2-T
S4QB RHS 127644.8 1 X Out G40.21-350W 1670 346 0.53 4049 4611 1.338 7.521 2-C
(continued on next page)

R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701
Table 1 (continued)

Study1 Test no. Shape2 Type3 Axis4 Buckling5 Steel Ag Fy (b0/t)/ LB LH y Displacement
(mm2) (MPa) (b0/t)lim 6(mm) 6
(mm) (mm) (mm) History7

2 1 W821 4 X In A36 3974 288.4 0.71 3340 3810 1.439 4.816 3-C
2 W625 4 X In A36 4735 277.9 0.73 1085 1555 0.478 1.508 4-C
3 W620 4 X In A36 3787 276.2 0.9 2599 3069 0.953 3.589 4-C
4 W620 4 X In A36 3787 276.2 0.9 2599 3069 0.953 3.589 4-C
5 W620 4 X In A36 3787 276.2 0.9 2599 3069 0.953 3.589 3-T
6 W616 4 X In A36 3058 305.8 0.54 2477 2947 1.497 3.788 3-C
7 W615.5 4 X In A36 2858 348.6 1.25 1014 1484 0.532 1.767 3-T
8 2-L63.50.375 4 X In A36 4413 281.1 1.01 2356 2825 1.13 3.311 3-C
9 2-L53.50.375 4 X In A36 3929 300.4 1.01 1014 1484 0.803 1.523 3-C
10 2-L43.50.375 4 Y In A36 3445 305.9 1.16 3340 3810 1.482 5.109 3-C
11 2-C811.5 4 X In A36 4361 268.5 0.63 2526 2996 1.398 3.391 3-C
12 WT522.5 4 Y In A36 4290 261.1 1.57 2069 2538 0.927 2.701 3-C
13 WT822.5 4 X In A36 4290 284.7 0.68 2721 3191 1.03 3.873 3-T
14 Pipe 4.50.237 4 In A53, gr. B 2045 354.8 0.51 2599 3069 1.073 4.611 4-C
15 Pipe 4.50.237 4 In A53, gr. B 2045 354.8 0.51 2599 3069 1.073 4.611 3-C
16 Pipe 4.50.337 4 In A53, gr. B 2845 192.9 0.36 2538 3008 0.791 2.448 3-C
17 RHS 440.250 4 In A501 2316 393.4 0.57 2578 3048 1.122 5.071 5-C
18 RHS 440.500 4 In A501 4103 565 0.19 2295 2765 1.322 6.483 6-C
R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701
Table 1 (continued)

Study1 Test no. Shape2 Type3 Axis4 Buckling5 Steel Ag Fy (b0/t)/ LB LH y Displacement
(mm2) (MPa) (b0/t)lim 6(mm) 6
(mm) (mm) (mm) History7

19 W620 5 X In A36 3787 276.2 0.9 1957 1804 0.476 2.702 4-C
20 2-L63.50.375 5 X In A36 4413 281.1 1.01 3801 3614 1.13 5.343 4-C
21 Pipe 4.50.375 5 In A53, gr. B 2845 192.6 0.36 1957 1843 0.43 1.888 4-C
22 RHS 440.500 5 In A501 4103 565 0.19 3712 3610 1.321 10.486 6-C
23 W516 5 X In A36 3019 291 0.75 3423 3296 0.963 4.98 4-C
24 Pipe 4.00.226 5 In A53, gr. B 1729 338.3 0.48 3654 3552 1.047 6.181 4-C
3 WW1 W1015 3 X In A36 2845 310 0.8 3600 3397 1.097 5.58 7-T
WW3 W515.5 3 X In A36 2941 289 0.75 3600 3346 0.631 5.202 7-T
WW4 W815 3 X In A36 2865 289 0.69 3600 3396 0.979 5.202 7-T
WW5 W69 3 X In A36 1729 330.7 1.01 3600 3397 1.013 5.953 7-T
WW6 W620 3 X In A36 3787 310.1 0.9 3600 3294 0.592 5.582 7-T
TW2 RHS 530.250 3 X In A500, gr. B 2316 379 0.86 3600 3448 0.825 6.822 7-T
TW3 RHS 420.250 3 X In A500, gr. B 1671 413.4 0.65 3600 3498 1.332 7.441 7-T
TW4 RHS 750.250 3 X In A500, gr. B 3606 441 1.29 3600 3346 0.527 7.938 7-T
TW6 RHS 630.188 3 X In A500, gr. B 2026 427.2 1.51 3600 3448 0.841 7.69 7-T
4 1 RHS 550.188 2 Out A500, gr. B 2271 425.8 1.22 2946 3429 0.864 6.272 7-C
2 RHS 550.188 2 Out A500, gr. B 2271 429.9 1.22 3200 3429 0.511 6.878 7-C
4 RHS 440.125 2 Out A500, gr. B 1226 399.6 1.51 3200 3429 0.612 6.394 7-C
5 RHS 440.250 2 Out A500, gr. B 2316 509.9 0.65 3099 3454 1.23 7.901 8-C

R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701
Table 1 (continued)

Study1 Test no. Shape2 Type3 Axis4 Buckling5 Steel Ag Fy (b0/t)/ LB LH y Displacement
(mm2) (MPa) (b0/t)lim 6(mm) 6
(mm) (mm) (mm) History7

6 RHS 440.250 2 Out A500, gr. B 2316 509.9 0.65 3299 3480 0.729 8.411 8-C
7 RHS 440.250 2 Out A500, gr. B 2316 509.9 0.65 3299 3480 0.729 8.411 8-C
5 1 150 UC 30.0 4 X In AS3679.1-300 3945 311.2 0.98 2416 2056 1.005 3.76 9-T
2 150 UC 30.0 4 X In AS3679.1-300 3945 311.2 0.98 1652 2292 0.753 2.571 9-C
3 150 UC 30.0 6 X In AS3679.1-300 3945 311.2 0.98 3056 2756 0.453 4.756 9-T
6 T633H RHS 630.188 2 X In A500, gr. B 2026 372.1 1.51 3023 2871 0.663 5.624 7-T
T424H RHS 420.250 2 X In A500, gr. B 1671 372.1 0.65 3150 3048 1.102 5.861 7-T
T422H RHS 420.125 2 X In A500, gr. B 903 372.1 1.51 3150 3048 1.057 5.861 7-T
7 1B RHS 1271278.0 7 Out G40.21-350W 3620 421 0.68 3350 3401 0.788 7.052 10-C
2A RHS 1521528.0 7 Out G40.21-350W 4430 442 0.86 3950 3995 0.797 8.73 10-C
2B RHS 1521529.5 7 Out G40.21-350W 5210 442 0.68 3950 3989 0.785 8.73 10-C
3A RHS 1271276.4 7 Out G40.21-350W 2960 461 0.91 4350 4403 0.991 10.027 10-C
3B RHS 1271278.0 7 Out G40.21-350W 3620 421 0.68 4350 4398 0.96 9.157 10-C
3C RHS 271279.5 7 Out G40.21-350W 4240 461 0.53 4350 4382 0.941 10.027 10-C
R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701
Table 1 (continued)

Study1 Test no. Shape2 Type3 Axis4 Buckling5 Steel Ag Fy (b0/t)/ LB LH y Displacement
(mm2) (MPa) (b0/t)lim 6(mm) 6
(mm) (mm) (mm) History7

4A RHS 1521528.0 7 Out G40.21-350W 4430 442 0.86 4850 4897 0.95 10.719 10-C
4B RHS 1521529.5 7 Out G40.21-350W 5210 442 0.68 4850 4882 0.894 10.719 10-C
8 SIC1 H-505066 3 X In SS-41 851 289 0.44 984.7 885 0.479 1.423 11-C
SIC2 H-505066 3 X In SS-41 837 289 0.45 1970 1870 0.957 2.847 11-C
SIC3 H-505066 3 X In SS-41 819 257 0.45 2972 2872 1.38 3.819 11-C
SOC1 H-505066 3 Y In SS-41 839 289 0.44 989.3 889 0.31 1.43 11-C
SOC1 H-505066 3 Y Out SS-41 839 289 0.44 989.3 889 0.486 1.43 11-C
SOC2 H-505066 3 Y Out SS-41 843 289 0.44 1970 1870 0.953 2.847 11-C
SOC3 H-505066 3 Y Out SS-41 824 257 0.44 2968 2868 1.375 3.814 11-C
9 RHS1 RHS 1501006 4 X In AS1163-C350 2730 449 1.35 2064 2704 1.207 4.634 12-T
RHS2 RHS 1501006 4 X In AS1163-C350 2730 449 1.35 1388 2028 0.905 3.116 12-T
RHS3 RHS 1501006 6 X In AS1163-C350 2730 449 1.35 2704 2504 0.603 6.07 12-T

The number points to the reference in which the test program is described.
SI designation except for studies 2, 3, 4, and 6 for which imperial designation is used.
The number refers to the geometry no. shown in Fig. 5(a).
The axis refers to which of the X and Y-axis in Fig. 5(b) lies in the plane of the drawings in Fig. 5(a).
Plane of buckling: In (Out)=in (out) the plane of the drawings in Fig. 4(a).
Defined in Fig. 5(a).
The number refers to the loading history no. in Fig. 6: C (T)=starts in compression (tension).

676 R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701

Fig. 5. Geometry of the brace specimens.

length of the braces (between the gusset plates), LB, the length between the hinge
points, LH, the slenderness parameter, , the yield axial deformation, y, and the
applied loading history. The number associated to the test program corresponds to
the Ref. No. in which the program is described. The selected studies included tests
on realistic, nearly full-scale, bracing members made of various cross-sections: rec-
tangular hollow sections (RHS), pipes, I-sections (W, UC, and H), T-sections (WT),
back-to-back angles (2-L), and back-to-back channels (2-C). The dimensions of the
cross sections varied from 50 to 250 mm and the tensile yield strength, AgFy ranged
from 210 to 2318 kN.
In Fig. 5, the geometry of the brace specimens is schematically illustrated and the
X and Y reference axes of the cross-sections are defined. The plane of buckling in
Table 1 indicates if brace buckling developed in or out of the plane of the brace
assemblies shown in Fig. 5(a). For instance, Specimen S1A in Test program 1
buckled out-of-plane about its Y-axis while all W shapes in Test program 2 buckled
in-plane about their Y-axis. End conditions varied from perfectly fixed to perfectly
pinned. Several specimens were also designed to buckle out-of-plane with a single
gusset plate detailed to allow restraint-free plastic rotations, as recommended in Refs.
[11] and [20] (Types 1, 2, and 7 in Fig. 5). The brace effective slenderness ratio,
KL/r, was evaluated in the plane of buckling, taking into account the applicable end
conditions. As shown in Table 1, the brace length of the specimens, LB, ranged
between 985 and 4850 mm and the slenderness parameter, , as defined in [1], varied
from 0.31 to 2.01.
R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701 677

Fig. 6. Typical loading histories.

For double angle and tee sections which buckled about their Y-axis, the equivalent
slenderness ratio associated to flexural-torsional buckling was considered instead of
the pure flexural slenderness. In Test program 8, specimen SOC1 buckled in-plane
(about strong axis) although out-of-plane buckling was expected based on relative
slenderness ratios. In the 7th cycle of loading, in the second cycle at a ductility of
approximately 7, buckling eventually developed about the weak axis. As shown in
678 R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701

Table 1, two values of the slenderness parameter were therefore used for this speci-
men: about the strong axis up to the 6th cycle and about the weak axis for the
subsequent cycles.
The width-to-thickness ratios given in Table 1 were calculated for the element of
the cross-sections located on the concave side of the bracing member upon buckling.
For RHS, b0 is equal to the cross-section dimension minus four times the wall thick-
ness. It corresponds to half the full-flange width for flanges of I-sections and tees,
to the full nominal dimension for the legs of angles and the flanges of channels, and
to the full nominal depth for the stems of T-sections buckling about their X-axis.
For pipes, b0 is equal to the outside diameter of the cross-section. The computed
values of b0/t were then normalized to the limits specified in the CSA-S16.1 Canadian
Standard for steel structures [21] for braces in frames of the Ductile Braced Frame
category located in active seismic zones. Flanges of I- or Tee-shapes, angles, and
channels as well as the stems of Tee-shapes must meet the limit for flanges of Class
1 I-sections: 145/Fy. Pipes must also be Class 1 sections with D/t13000/Fy. For
walls of RHS, the limit is 330/Fy, which corresponds to 80% of the limit for Class
1 sections. In Table 1, these limits were based on the nominal yield strength.
As indicated in Table 1, most braces have a normalized width-to-thickness ratio
less than 1.0 and hence comply with the CSA-S16.1 requirements for Ductile Braced
Frames. In the paper, such braces are referred to as Class 1 (even if RHS braces are
stockier than Class 1). The other braces are designated as Non Class 1. For the latter,
the normalized b0/t varies from 1.16 to 1.51. It is worth noting that AISC [20]
imposes slightly different limits: 170/Fy vs 145/Fy for flanges of I-sections, tees
and channels, 136/Fy vs 145/Fy for legs of angles, 8960/Fy vs 13000/Fy for round
pipes, and 289/Fy vs 330/Fy for RHS.
In Table 1, the hinge length of the braces, LH, is equal to the distance between
the points where hinges were observed in the tests. At fixed ends, the plastic hinge
was assumed to be located at a distance from the brace end equal to one times the
cross section dimension measured in the plane of buckling. This length LH is used
later when evaluating the brace lateral deformations. The axial deformation y was
taken as equal to the clear length of the brace, LB, multiplied by the yield strain of
the brace, y=Fy/E, with E=200,000 MPa. Since yielding of the braces only developed
over the length LB, this deformation was deemed to represent the best reference for
evaluating the ductility demand in the braces.

3.2. Yield strength of the steel material

This survey represented an opportunity to compare the nominal and actual yield
properties of various brace materials. Such comparison can then be used in combi-
nation with other statistical data [47] to establish values of the expected yield strength
of braces for design purposes. It must be kept in mind, however, that this survey
covers a wide range of fabrication processes in different countries and spans over a
period of 25 years. Therefore, the values may not be applicable to all situations.
The nominal yield strength for the various grades of steel/shapes examined in the
study is given in Table 2. Rolled shapes were made of steel complying to ASTM
R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701 679

Table 2
Material yield strength


Shapes Standard Fy,nom n Minimum Maximum Mean COV


W, WT, C, L ASTM A36 248 17 1.05 1.41 1.19 0.07

AS3679.1, gr. 300 300 1 1.04 1.04 1.04
Welded H SS-41 235 2 1.09 1.23 1.16 0.08
RHS ASTM A501 248 2 1.59 2.28 1.93 0.25
ASTM A500, gr. B 317 11 1.17 1.61 1.3 0.1
CSA-G40.21-350W 350 13 1.06 1.32 1.19 0.08
AS1163, gr. C350 350 1 1.28 1.28 1.28
Pipes ASTM A53, gr. B 241 3 0.8 1.47 1.23 0.3
All 50 0.8 2.28 1.24 0.16

A36 and AS3679.1, Grade 300. Tests in Japan were conducted on welded H shapes
made of SS-41 steel plates. These shapes were annealed before testing. Steel tubes
were made of ASTM A501 steel (hot formed), ASTM A500, grade B steel (cold
formed), CSA-G40.21-350W (cold formed), and AS1163, grade C350 (cold formed).
The pipes conformed to ASTM A53 Type E, grade B.
Table 2 also gives the statistics of the ratio of the measured to the nominal yield
strength values for each material. The yield strength of the RHS braces in Test
program 1 was obtained using the 0.2% offset method from stub-column testing of
bracing member samples. For I-shaped members, tees, angles, and C-shapes of Test
programs 2 and 5, a weighted average of test results on coupons from the web and
the flanges was used. As opposed to what was observed for the tubular sections, the
steel in all these members exhibited a very well defined yield plateau. The yield
strength of RHS and pipes in Test programs 2, 4, 6, 7, and 9 corresponds to the
0.2% offset yield as measured from tests on coupons. In Test program 3, an average
yield strength was determined from initial tensioning of the bracing members while
material properties in Test program 8 were measured from coupon testing from the
virgin plates. As shown, the average measured yield strength exceeded the nominal
value in all cases. Only 4.50.237 pipes in Test program 2 had a yield strength lower
than the specified value.

3.3. Loading histories and brace performance

The displacement histories used in the test programs are illustrated in Fig. 6. The
loading patterns shown must be seen as representative examples only as the actual
history could vary slightly from one specimen to another within a given group. All
tests were of the cyclic quasi-static type. In most cases, the displacement pattern
was symmetrical, or nearly symmetrical, with the amplitude of the excursions in
tension and compression increasing stepwise at every cycle or every second cycle.
680 R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701

Pattern H2 was based on time histories of brace axial deformations obtained from
nonlinear dynamic analyses of building structures with X-bracing. Loading protocols
H7 to H9 were developed to reproduce the demand on bracing members in chevron
bracing with weak beams, i.e. with large ductility in compression and limited duc-
tility demand in tension (see Fig. 3). Pattern H8 was adopted from analysis results.
In Table 1, the letter T is used only when the brace was loaded in tension up to
or near yielding in the first cycle. The effects of earthquakes on building structures
can vary significantly depending on structural properties and ground motion charac-
teristics and such a large collection of loading protocols combined to the broad range
of brace specimens (shapes, length, end conditions, material, etc.) permitted to cap-
ture up to a certain extent the broad range of anticipated seismic response.
For all RHS members in Test programs 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 9, local buckling
developed in the plastic hinges, followed by the fracture of the members. In Test
program 2, local buckling developed in all members except for the thick wall pipes
(4.50.337), but no fracture was observed. I-sections in Test program 3 experienced
local buckling and eventually fractured. Local buckling was observed in all three I-
sections in Test programs 5 and in two specimens in Test program 8, but fracture
of the members is not reported.

4. Test results

4.1. Maximum brace compressive strength

In all tests, the maximum brace compressive strength was reached at first occur-
rence of buckling of the bracing members. Lateral deformation and plastic hinging
formed when further negative deformation was applied, resulting in a loss in com-
pression strength. Fig. 7(a) gives the applied load at first buckling for all brace speci-
mens, as normalized with respect to their plastic strength, AgFy. In the figure, a
distinction is made between the braces which were loaded first in compression and
those which were stretched in tension up to, or beyond, yielding before being loaded
in compression. Test specimens for which the CSA width-to-thickness ratio limits
for Ductile Braced Frames (Class 1) were not met are also identified in the figure.
The plasticelastic curve as well as design column curves are also given in the
figure for comparison purposes. The SSRC [48] column strength curve 1 was used
for the stress-relieved bisymmetrical sections examined in Test program 8 whereas
SSRC curve 2 was selected for all other bracing members. In this study, the simpli-
fied expression [49] given by Eq. (2) for both SSRC column curves, as used in the
1994 Canadian Standard [21], has been retained:
Cu (2)
(1 2n)1/n
where n=2.24 and 1.34 for curves 1 and 2, respectively. In Fig. 7(a), the axial com-
pressive strength Pn as specified in the LRFD 1999 specifications [50] is also shown
for reference:
R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701 681

Fig. 7. Compressive strength at first buckling, Cu: (a) measured values; (b) ratio of the measured to
predicted values.

Pn AgFy(0.658 ), for l1.5 (3)

Pn AgFy
,for l 1.5 (4)

Fig. 7(b) gives the ratio of the measured compressive strength to the value pre-
dicted by Eq. (2) and the statistics of that ratio are presented in Table 3. As shown,
the SSRC column curves are generally conservative, with a mean test-to-predicted
ratio of 1.16. If the AISC design curve was used, the ratio would have been slightly
lower (mean=1.09, COV=0.16). In both cases, the difference is more pronounced
for intermediate brace slenderness, say greater than 0.8. Such higher compressive
resistance can be attributed to imperfection and residual stress conditions that are
less critical for the specimens than those considered in establishing the column curves
but this could not be verified as the data was not available for all bracing members.
From Table 3, it can be seen that no definite trend exists as to the influence of the
loading sequence or the compactness of the cross-section. For the former, pre-ten-
682 R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701

Table 3
Compressive strength, Cu

Cu / Cu, S16.1

First loading Section compactness n Min. Max. Mean COV

Compression Class 1 41 0.81 1.58 1.16 0.16

Non Class 1 8 1.01 1.53 1.21 0.15
Tension Class 1 18 0.89 1.74 1.19 0.19
Non Class 1 9 0.88 1.42 1.07 0.16
All 76 0.81 1.74 1.16 0.17

sioning the braces most likely reduced both the residual stresses and the member
crookedness but the resulting potentially beneficial impact on the buckling strength
was apparently offset by the Baushinger effect on the steel material, i.e. a lowering
of the elastic modulus upon reloading after previous yielding.
These results suggest that non-ductile elements in frames will be adequately pro-
tected only if a capacity higher than the predicted nominal compressive strength is
assigned to the braces in capacity design check. When determining the required
amplification factor to be applied to Cu, one must also consider that the brace slender-
ness and Cu were determined in this study with the actual brace length and end
conditions. In day-to-day practice, Cu is most often determined by taking KL equal
to the o/c dimension of the bracing members. While this approach introduces some
conservatism for the braces themselves, ignorance of actual brace end conditions lies
on the unsafe side in capacity design check.

4.2. Force in the compression braces upon yielding of the tension braces

As discussed, a critical loading condition exists in tensioncompression bracing

when the sum of the horizontal components of the compression and tension braces
reaches its maximum value. Because the brace compression strength degrades with
axial deformation and the number of cycles, the most severe condition typically
develops when the tension brace yields just after the compression brace has buckled.
As both braces will eventually yield in tension and buckle during an earthquake, the
condition where a previously buckled brace yields in tension while the opposite brace
buckles for the first time must also be examined. In either case, the force in the
tension brace can be taken as AgFy as these conditions occur at small deformation,
prior to any significant strain hardening, and the compression brace can be assumed
as carrying a load Cu1 still equal to Cu, i.e. neglecting the loss in brace compressive
strength. The latter assumption is validated in this section using the available test
In tests where brace specimens were loaded first in tension, it was observed that
yielding developed at a brace elongation typically larger than y. This is attributed
to elastic deformations taking place outside of the brace length LB, as in the gusset
R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701 683

plates or other brace attachment parts, and to other effects such as a the steel material
not exhibiting a sharp yield plateau, residual stresses, and initial member out-of-
straightness. Therefore, a deformation at first yield, 1, had to be defined first in
order to evaluate the compressive strength at that deformation. As shown in Fig. 8,
the deformation where the projection of the linear portion of the axial loaddefor-
mation response of the braces reaches the force AgFy was selected for that purpose.
Using such a deformation gives a conservative value of Cu1 as 1 does not include
residual stress nor progressive yielding effects. Among all specimens, the ratio 1/y
varied from 1.0 to 1.35 with a mean value of 1.08. Fig. 8(a) and (b) illustrate the
determination of Cu1 for brace specimens which were first loaded in compression
and tension, respectively. The second case corresponds to the condition where a
previously yielded brace buckles for the first time. In this case, the deformation 1
is measured from the point where the load deformation curve crosses the deformation
axis before buckling. For both cases, the value of Cu1 was set equal to Cu when
buckling had not occurred yet at 1. This situation is illustrated in Fig. 8(b). Using
Cu in such a case is realistic as the force in the compression brace will eventually
reach that level while the opposite tension brace will be yielding.
Fig. 9 gives the measured values of Cu1 as well as the ratio Cu1/Cu for the 76
brace specimens. The results are divided into two groups depending upon the direc-
tion of loading in the first half-cycle. The results show that the full strength of the
compression brace should be combined to the yield capacity of the tension brace for
less than 1.0. As the brace slenderness is increased, buckling occurs at a smaller
deformation and yielding develops in the tension brace after the compression brace
has experienced some degradation in strength (Cu1Cu). This reduction seems to
be less pronounced for braces that have been stretched in tension prior to buckling.
This is mainly due to the Baushinger effect: after being loaded in tension, braces
generally buckle at a larger deformation as the loaddeformation response exhibits

Fig. 8. Determination of the compressive strength Cu1 for braces loaded first in: (a) compression; (b)
684 R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701

Fig. 9. Measured compressive strength Cu1: (a) measured values; (b) ratio of the measured values to
the compressive strength Cu.

a more gradual transition between the elastic response and buckling stages. For these
braces, a value of Cu1=0.8 Cu could be used in design when 1.0. Lower values
were measured for the braces that were first loaded in compression. However, such
values are not recommended in design as the most critical case (braces that buckle
after having been yielded in tension) must be considered.

4.3. Maximum brace tensile strength

The braces developed their yield tensile resistance, AgFy, in most of the tests and
strain hardening was observed in several cases. Examination of the various hysteresis
curves also revealed that the maximum load reached in tension depends on the
applied loading history. For instance, Figs. 1 and 10 show hysteresis curves obtained
with identical brace specimens subjected to three different loading patterns. In Fig.
1, the brace was subjected to symmetrical cyclic loading with the amplitude of defor-
mation increasing stepwise in successive increments at every second cycle (H1 in
Fig. 6). An unsymmetrical loading history (H2 in Fig. 6) was applied in the speci-
mens of Fig. 10, with the first excursion being in tension in Fig. 10(a) and in com-
pression in Fig. 10(b). The figures show that the peak tension force generally
R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701 685

Fig. 10. Typical brace hysteretic response under unsymmetrical cyclic loading (specimens S1QA and
S1QB from Ref. 1).

decreases in the second and subsequent cycles of a series of cycles having the same
displacement amplitude. This is due to the permanent elongation of the brace that
results from the stretching of the brace and from the net inelastic tension straining
that develops in the plastic hinge(s) upon straightening of the brace after buckling.
The latter contribution becomes generally more important as the amplitude of the
imposed displacements is increased and it influences the tension force reached in
the first cycle after the displacement amplitude has been increased, as shown in
Fig. 1.
Hence, higher tension forces are expected if large inelastic excursions are imposed
early in the loading history, as this is the case in Fig. 10. Under such a loading
history, the tension force continually increases with the deformation as strain harden-
ing gradually develops in the steel material. The eventuality of such large defor-
mations should be considered in design and it would have been desirable to propose
a set of maximum tension forces for various ductility levels. The designer could
have then selected the peak tension force associated to the anticipated ductility level
for his structure. In the test data base, however, the displacement history applied
prior to reaching the peak tension force at a given ductility level varied significantly
from one specimen to another. In many cases, that point was preceded by several
load cycles and a higher force would have likely been reached had fewer cycles
been imposed. In view of this, a simplified approach was used to obtain a design
value for the maximum expected brace tension load: only one tension load was
selected, regardless of the ductility level, and that load was taken as the maximum
value measured upon yielding up to a cumulative plastic deformation in tension of
3.0 times y. This approximately corresponds to a ductility of 4.0 under monotonic
loading, which can be seen as a maximum in typical tensioncompression bracing
systems. Therefore, the approach may be on the conservative side if lower tension
ductility is expected in design, as in chevron bracing with weak beams. However,
it must be reminded that higher tension loads might have developed in some speci-
mens had a more critical loading history been applied.
Out of the 76 brace specimens, strain hardening was observed in 26 HSS and pipe
686 R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701

sections and 24 hot rolled shapes (W, tees, and angles). These two categories of
sections were examined independently because of the differences in material proper-
ties. For the tubular sections, Tmax/AgFy varied from 1.01 to 1.27 AgFy, with a mean
value of 1.10 and a COV of 0.06. For the hot rolled shapes, strain hardening ranged
between 1.01 and 1.13 with a mean value of 1.05 and a COV of 0.04. The higher
values exhibited by tubular shapes can be attributed to the effects of cold-forming
on steel: yield plateau not well defined with a higher tensile strength that develops
at a lower strain level.

4.4. Minimum post-buckling strength of braces

In all tests, the compressive resistance of the braces decreased upon applying
larger compression deformations or during the second and subsequent cycles at a
given displacement amplitude. After buckling has occurred, shortening of the braces
essentially develops through plastic rotation in the hinge(s) and lateral deformations.
As the lateral deformation increases upon shortening of the braces, a lower axial
load is required to induce further rotation in the hinge(s) and further deformation in
the negative direction. The cumulated elongation of a brace under cyclic loading
also contributes in reducing its compressive strength because a longer brace exhibits
larger lateral deformations at a given compression displacement.
In design, the minimum compression load that a brace will carry at the anticipated
peak ductility level can represent a critical loading condition. In bracing systems for
which a similar level of peak ductility is expected both in tension and compression,
this condition is met when the anticipated compression ductility is reached after a
similar ductility has been attained in tension. Such a brace has been elongated in
tension and, therefore, has larger lateral deformation and lower strength when loaded
subsequently in compression. This situation was reproduced in most of the tests with
symmetrical loading patterns. For these tests, it was thus decided to select the brace
load when the target compression ductility level was reached for the first time after
the brace had experienced the same ductility level in tension, as shown in Fig. 3(a).
Three ductility levels were selected: =/y=2, 3, and 5, to which correspond respect-
ively the loads Cu2, Cu3, and Cu5. This covered the range of deformations antici-
pated for typical symmetrical tensioncompression bracing configurations.
This approach appeared too rigorous, however, when considering the high varia-
bility in the seismic response of buildings and the difficulty to predict such a response
with accuracy. In addition, the tension ductility levels imposed in several tests did
not match exactly the target ductility levels for which Cu was to be determined
(=2, 3, and 5). In view of this and recognizing that a lower bound estimate of the
compression resistance was required, Cu was taken as the brace load that was meas-
ured at the target ductility in compression, after a ductility in tension equal to or
exceeding by up to 0.5 unit the target ductility had been attained. The force Cu was
limited, however, to the load at the target ductility in compression, as recorded after
a compression ductility equal to or exceeding by up to 0.5 unit has been reached in
a previous cycle. That limit governed when the displacement history included larger
deformations in compression. It was also used in the tests with unsymmetrical load-
R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701 687

Fig. 11. Post-buckling compressive resistance at a compression ductility of 2.0.

ing as the ductility demand in a given cycle in these tests was typically higher in
compression than in tension. In general, the compression resistance for a given duc-
tility level was larger when the displacement history deviated significantly from sym-
metry. These results were therefore kept apart when the ductility in tension imposed
before attaining Cu was lower than the target ductility by 1.0 unit or more.
Figs. 1113 present respectively the measured values of Cu2, Cu3, and Cu5. A
distinction is made between the symmetrical and unsymmetrical loading patterns, as
just defined, and between the shapes that met the width-to-thickness ratio limits for
the CSA Ductile Braced Frame category and those which did not meet those limits
(Class 1 vs Non Class 1). The CSA column strength curve with n=1.34 is also
illustrated in the figures for reference. As shown, braces with intermediate slender-
ness ( varying from 0.5 to 1.5) exhibit the largest compressive strength degradation
and, as expected, braces subjected to an unsymmetrical loading history generally
maintained a higher residual resistance. Non Class 1 shapes typically developed a
lower compression strength under large deformations (Figs. 12 and 13 vs Fig. 11).

Fig. 12. Post-buckling compressive resistance at a compression ductility of 3.0.

688 R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701

Fig. 13. Post-buckling compressive resistance at a compression ductility of 5.0.

The effects of b/t also appears to be more pronounced for less slender braces. Short
braces with higher width-to-thickness ratio likely experienced more severe local
buckling at large deformation, which resulted in a larger reduction in the flexural
capacity at the plastic hinge and, thereby, in a more significant larger loss in com-
pression strength.
The value of Cu for the three ductility levels can be expressed with the nonlinear
regression equation:
Cu AgFy(a bc)Cu (5)
where a, b, and c are obtained with the program Sigma Plot 4.0 using the data points
from tests on Class 1 brace specimens subjected to symmetrical loading. Only Class
1 shapes were considered as these sections are more likely to be used in seismic
applications. Table 4 gives for each ductility level the number of data points con-
sidered, the values of the parameters a, b, and c for the mean-value function, and
the conditional standard deviation assuming the variance is constant within the range
of the test data. Eq. (5) is plotted in Figs. 11 to 13 (Cu mean) for the three levels
of ductility. The mean functions minus the standard deviations are also shown on
the figures. The standard deviation reduces as the deformation level is increased,
which reflects the lower scatter observed for higher ductility.

Table 4
Nonlinear regression of the post-buckling compression resistance of the braces

Ductility n a b c Conditional

2 39 0.058 0.23 1.40 0.070

3 37 0.084 0.12 1.61 0.060
5 42 0.095 0.046 2.22 0.036
R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701 689

In design, Cu at any ductility level between 2.0 and 5.0 can be obtained by linear
interpolation between the values obtained with Eq. (5) and the appropriate para-
meters. For compression ductility slightly exceeding 5.0 under symmetrical defor-
mation histories, the value of Cu5 is still applicable as test results showed that the
compression strength becomes nearly constant beyond that deformation level. In
chevron braced frames with weak beams, braces can experience much higher duc-
tility demand in compression (1015) with no or limited yielding in tension. The
resistance Cu5 from tests with symmetrical displacement history is considered appro-
priate for such frames because the brace lateral deformation at a ductility of 5 under
a symmetrical loading approximately corresponds to that of brace loaded only in
compression up to a ductility of 10. Beyond that level, the reduction in force is
insignificant and Cu5 therefore remains a good estimate of the actual brace load.
It is worth mentioning at this point that the ductility levels used in this paper are
based on the measured yield strength and the actual length LB of the braces
(y=Fy/ELB). In design, calculations are generally based on the nominal yield
strength and on the o/c length of the bracing members. It is therefore recommended
that the anticipated ductility level in the structure be corrected using estimates of
actual brace properties before making use of the equations presented in this study.
In Fig. 14, Eq. (5) is compared to other numerical models that have been proposed
in the past for the post-buckling resistance of steel bracing members. In this figure
and in the discussion that follows, Cu corresponds to the CSA 1994 column strength
curve with n=1.34, i.e. the SSRC column curve 2. In Ref. [41], an analytical model
is developed based on a plastic hinge formulation of the inelastic response of bracing
members under compression. In this model, the brace compressive resistance at a
given compression deformation, c, is given by:

Cu AgFy
Cu (6)

Fig. 14. Comparison of prediction models for Cu.

690 R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701

8 r3/4
5 c
1/3 2/3
3 y

In Eq. (7), r is the strain hardening ratio of the steel material which is taken herein
as 0.015. The normalized compression deformation, c/y, in Eq. (8), depends upon
the loading history applied prior to reaching the ductility level of interest in com-
pression. For braces subjected to a symmetrical loading history, it can be taken equal
to 21 to account for the brace permanent elongation in tension, the permanent
elongation being assumed equal to 1. In Fig. 14, Eq. (6) is plotted for c/y so
computed with =2, 3, and 5 and, hence, can be compared directly to Eq. (5) which
was derived for the same loading conditions. As shown, both sets of equations agree
very well over the entire range of brace slenderness. Eq. (6) is generally slightly
more conservative, however, except for =3 and 5 in which cases it gives higher
values than Eq. (5) for =0.4 to 1.3. When compared to test data, the conditional
standard deviations obtained with Eq. (6) are 0.092, 0.069, and 0.054 for =2, 3,
and 5, respectively, which is larger than the values given in Table 4 for Eq. (5).
Eqs. (9) and (10) are simple models that have been proposed for design purposes.
Eq. (9) has been adapted from the empirical expression that has been suggested in
Ref. [42] based on compression strength values measured in tests in the first and
second cycles at a compression deformation of 5y. A similar equation is rec-
ommended for ductile concentrically braced frames in the Commentary to the Steel
Structures Standard in New Zealand [51]. As shown in Fig. 14, this equation appears
to overestimate the post-buckling load when compared to Eqs. (5) and (6) for =5.0.
Some of the data used in the derivation of Eq. (9) were obtained from tests with an
unsymmetrical loading pattern, which can explain the observed discrepancy. Eq. (10)
was adopted in the 1994 CSA S16.1 Standard [21] to account for the brace compress-
ive strength degradation. This expression was originally recommended by SEAOC
[52]. Fig. 14 shows that it gives much higher values than observed in this survey
and, hence, would likely result in non conservative capacity design in situations like
the one shown in Fig. 2(d).
Cu C C , for l1.27 (9)
1.1 u u
Cu (10)
1 0.35
The Japanese Specifications for Building Structures include empirical expressions
to estimate the compressive strength of steel bracing members at a compression strain
of 0.01 [53]:
Cu AgFy Cu, for l0.30 (11)
R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701 691

Cu AgFy C , for l 0.30 (12)
6 0.85 u
For Fy=350 MPa, as strain of 1% corresponds to =5.7 y and Eqs. (11) and (12)
would then apply for an anticipated ductility level of approximately 3.0 under a
symmetrical displacement history (21=5.7). When compared to Eqs. (5) and (6)
for that ductility level, it is found that the Japanese specifications are generally con-
servative, as already pointed out in Ref. [41].
In the recent AISC seismic provisons [20], the post-buckling brace capacity is set
equal to 0.26 times the load Pn given by Eqs. (3) and (4). Fig. 14 indicates that this
equation matches very well Eqs. (5) and (6) for =5.0 and =0.61.5. That range
of slenderness covers most of the braces likely to be used in typical braced frames.
For other brace slenderness ratios, the AISC provisions provide conservative (too
low) values of Cu. A similar simplified approach has been adopted in the new CSA-
S16.1-01 Standard [54] wherein the brace post-buckling strength is assigned a value
of 0.2 AgFy, regardless of the brace slenderness. According to Eq. (5), Cu5 varies
from 0.24 AgFy to 0.11 AgFy for the range of comprised between 0.6 and 1.5 and,
hence, the unique value of 0.2 AgFy would be applicable only for stocky braces if
a ductility of 5.0 is anticipated. It would be more appropriate, however, for a ductility
of 3.0 as Cu3 from Eq. (5) ranges from 0.36 AgFy to 0.15 AgFy for =0.6 to 1.5.

4.5. Lateral brace deformations

Significant in-plane or out-of-plane lateral deformation of braces were observed

in tests and in past earthquakes and such movements must be accounted for in design
if it can produce damage to and collapse of non-structural elements such as walls
and cladding elements. Such lateral deformations develop upon application of a com-
pression load to a previously buckled brace. Observations of brace behaviour during
tests suggest that simple models as those shown in Fig. 15 can be used to relate the
lateral deformation, , to the applied compression displacement, c. For a pin-ended

Fig. 15. Out-of-plane deformation of braces: (a) elastic with pinned ends; (b) inelastic with pinned ends;
(c) elastic with fixed ends; (d) inelastic with fixed ends.
692 R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701

brace subjected to small axial deformations (Fig. 15a), a sinusoidal function closely
represents the deformed shape and it can be shown that the amplitude of the lateral
displacement is equal to:

L 0.64cLH
c H

In this equation, LH is the length of the member between the hinges. Of course,
the displacement c is small compared to LH and it is assumed herein that LH remains
unchanged as c is applied. Under higher ductility levels, a plastic hinge forms at
mid-span and a rigid-plastic stick model represents more closely the brace response,
as shown in Fig. 15(b). With that model, the lateral deformation is given by:

L 0.71cLH
2 c H (14)

The true brace response lies between these two extreme cases and a conservative
estimate of can be obtained by using a factor of 0.7 in front of the square root
term in the above equations. For braces with rotational end restraints, the deformation
will typically be smaller. For instance, the maximum lateral deformation for a fixed
fixed end connected brace at low ductility (Fig. 15c) is given by:

L 0.16cLB
2 c B

At higher ductility plastic hinges develop in the braces (Fig. 15d), can be
obtained using Eq. (14) with the distance LH being equal to the distance between
the hinges that form near the ends. Based on observations during tests, these hinges
can be assumed to be located at a distance from the brace ends equal to the depth
of the member measured in the plane of buckling. Considering that lateral defor-
mations are generally critical at high ductility levels, Eq. (14) with a factor 0.7 can
then be used for all end conditions.
In design, the lateral deformation will be needed at the maximum anticipated
compression deformation. The corresponding value of c would then include the
compression deformation at that point, which is equal to cy where c is the com-
pression ductility, plus the permanent elongation experienced by the brace prior to
attaining the point under consideration. As described earlier, the permanent elong-
ation of the brace can be taken as (t1)y, with t being the maximum ductility
in tension reached before the point where is to be determined. Using this definition
of c, the brace lateral deformation under any loading history can be calculated

0.7(c t1)yLH (16)

This approach is somewhat conservative because the elastic axial shortening of

the brace at the peak compression deformation should be deducted from the defor-
mation c as it does not produce any lateral deformation. This elastic deformation
R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701 693

could be taken equal to Cu LB/EAg, with Cu being obtained as described in the

previous section. However, it would generally be small relative to the anticipated
inelastic deformations and it can be neglected without introducing too much con-
servatism. In addition, this simplification can be partially offset due to the fact that
the permanent elongation of a brace can exceed the assumed value of (T1)y if
the brace is stretched several times to the same ductility. As discussed earlier, each
time the brace is straightened up after buckling, the plastic deformations that take
place in the hinges produce net brace elongation. Therefore, it is recommended that
Eq. (16) be used without including elastic deformation effects. If no yielding has
occurred in tension before the point of maximum compression deformation, the value
of t should be taken equal to 1.0.
The validity of Eq. (16) was checked against the values measured in the test
programs. The lateral deformation was not documented in all tests, however, and
tests in which the braces had a length LB less than 2 m were excluded as such short
braces would not represent realistic field conditions. Thus, a total of 49 specimens
from 4 test series were examined for lateral deformations and 419 measurement
points could be obtained at various ductility levels. This data set is plotted in Fig.
16 as a function of c/y and the predicted deformations (PRE) are compared to the
measured values in Fig. 17. As shown, Eq. (16) gives a very good estimate of the
lateral deformation for the whole range of test data. On average, the prediction is
on the safe side with a mean value of the test-to-predicted ratio equal to 0.92
(COV=0.11). Hence, this equation can be used in design to assess the anticipated
lateral deformation of braces. If symmetrical response is expected, the term in
brackets in Eq. (16) can be set to (21), where is the anticipated ductility level.

4.6. Fracture life of HSS members

Fracture was observed in all cold-formed RHS brace specimens of test series 1,
3, 4, 6, 7, and 9 (total of 38 braces) after local buckling had occurred in the plastic

Fig. 16. Measured brace lateral deformations.

694 R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701

Fig. 17. Predicted vs measured lateral brace deformations.

hinges. In many cases, the ductility level at fracture was well within the range antici-
pated under the design earthquake and this ultimate limit state must therefore be
addressed at the design stage. The limited fracture life of RHS members under inelas-
tic cyclic loading can be mainly attributed to the high strains that develop upon local
buckling in the corner regions of the cross-section, at the location where the steel
exhibits lower fracture strain due to cold working [3-6]. Cracks eventually form in
the local buckled area and gradually propagated through the cross-section when the
braces are loaded in tension after being deformed in compression. A test series [55]
in which RHS members were subjected to constant amplitude cyclic displacement
histories clearly showed that fracture develops only after local buckling has formed.
Hence, local buckling in compression followed by tension loading are required for
fracture of RHS bracing members to occur.
Local buckling is influenced by the width-to-thickness ratio of the elements of the
cross-section but also strongly depends upon the brace slenderness and the applied
displacement history. In the test programs, local buckling was more severe in braces
with low slenderness, even if b/t was kept small [1-3]. This is because higher com-
pressive strains are generally induced in the plastic hinges that form in less slender
braces. Larger compression deformations, including brace permanent elongation
effects as discussed earlier, lead to higher plastic rotation in the hinges and, thereby,
also promote the development of local buckling. Thus, both the ductility level
reached in compression and the sequence of imposed displacements (compression
R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701 695

excursions preceded or not by large tension plastic extensions) impact on the fracture
life of RHS braces.
The specimens in the test programs had various b/t and slenderness ratios and
were subjected to different loading histories (Nos. 1, 2, 7, 8, 10 and 12 in Fig. 6).
Using that database, attempts were made to define the damage level at fracture, as
obtained from damage accumulation laws, and to relate that level of damage to the
ductility level at fracture and to the brace slenderness and width-to-thickness ratios.
Only poor correlation was obtained, however, most likely because the amount of
inelastic straining actually experienced by the bracing members could not be determ-
ined with sufficient accuracy. In addition, the application of such an approach to
predict the fracture life of members would be complicated in a design context as
the complete displacement history which will be applied in future earthquakes is not
known ahead of time.
Consequently, a simpler approach was examined in which the total ductility
reached at fracture, f, is related only to the brace slenderness parameter, . The
ductility f is illustrated in Fig. 3. It is equal to the sum of the peak ductility reached
in tension and the peak ductility attained in compression in any cycle before the
half-cycle in tension in which failure of the brace is observed. As explained in the
previous sections, this ductility is a good indicator of the total amount of the com-
pression deformation undergone by a brace and, thereby, on the demand imposed on
the plastic hinges. This approach is more appropriate for design as only the maximum
expected ductility needs to be known, not the complete time history.
Fig. 18 presents the plot of f as a function of for the 38 RHS brace specimens
examined. As illustrated, the ductility at fracture generally increases with the slender-
ness ratio and a reasonable correlation can be obtained between these two parameters,
even if the dataset contains a large variety of loading histories and cross-section
properties. In the figure, a distinction was made among the data points to investigate

Fig. 18. Prediction of the peak ductility at fracture, f, for cold formed RHS bracing members.
696 R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701

the possible influence of these two additional parameters. Although the number of
samples in each case is limited, the results seem to indicate that a symmetrical load-
ing (LH Nos. 1 and 12) is less critical for fracture than a displacement history with
higher amplitudes in compression (LH Nos. 7, 8, and 10). The results also suggest
that the b/t ratio does not have a significant effect on the brace fracture life although
braces with similar slenderness under the same loading protocol (No. 7) performed
better if Class 1 sections were used. In the dataset, however, the braces with a large
b/t ratio generally had a lower slenderness (large sections with thin walls resulting
in a lower slenderness for a given length). Additional tests would then be required
on slender braces with thin walls as well as on less slender braces with thick walls
to better capture the influence of the width-to-thickness ratio.
Nevertheless, Fig. 18 clearly shows that slender braces exhibit better fracture life
performance than braces with low slenderness ratio. This suggests that b/t ratio limits
are more critical for less slender braces and that a minimum brace slenderness should
be established in design if a given ductility level needs to be achieved. In absence
of sufficient data, no specific guidelines can be recommended regarding the required
width-to-thickness ratio. The minimum brace slenderness could be estimated, how-
ever, assuming a linear relationship between f and , as given by Eq. (17).
f a b (17)
The linear regression performed using all 38 data points is shown in Fig. 18. For
this regression line, a=2.4 and b=8.3 in Eq. (17), and the resulting test-to-predicted
ratio varies from 0.50 to 1.62, with a mean value of 1.01 and a COV of 0.25. These
values change slightly if only the 28 brace specimens which meet the CSA 1994 b/t
limits for Ductile Braced Frames are considered: the parameters a and b in become
respectively 2.3 and 8.3 and the test to predicted ratio ranges between 0.71 and 1.64
with a mean value of 1.01 and a COV of 0.23. In design, f in Eq. (17) would be
set equal to two times the expected ductility level for symmetrical systems and to
the anticipated brace compression ductility for chevron braced frames with weak
beams. Alternatively, the design seismic loads can be modified to ensure that the
imposed ductility demand will not exceed the capacity of bracing members likely
to be used in the structure.
Other factors contribute to the scatter observed in Fig. 18, including the shape of
the cross-section (square vs rectangular), the material properties (especially in the
corners), and the ratio of the sectional area affected by cold-forming to the gross
cross-sectional area. These aspects could also be investigated in further experimental
studies. It would also be of interest to obtain data for other tubular shapes such as
hot formed RHS or circular tubes which would likely exhibit enhanced fracture life
performance while offering a comparable high efficiency in carrying axial com-
pression loads in the elastic range.

5. Conclusions
A review of 76 cyclic loading tests on bracing members from nine different test
programs was carried out to recommend values for the seismic design of concentri-
R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701 697

cally braced steel frames. The test programs covered a wide range of brace properties,
including the section type, cross section area, end conditions, brace effective slender-
ness, and material properties. Various displacement histories were also considered
in the tests. The compressive and tensile brace resistance could be determined at
various deformation levels for capacity design purposes. Out-of-plane deformation
of bracing members and fracture of RHS braces were also examined. The main
conclusions and recommendations of this study are:

The actual yield strength of the steel material exceeded the nominal properties in
all test specimens but one. The mean value of the actual-to-nominal ratio was
equal to 1.24, with a COV of 0.16. These values cannot be used directly in design
in view of the long period of time covered by the test programs, the wide variety
in material types and fabrication processes, and the limited number of specimens
of each type. They clearly indicate, however, that this effect can be significant
and must be accounted for in design. In particular, bracing members are often
made with small shapes which may exhibit relatively higher yield strength.
The compressive strength of the braces at first buckling, Cu, generally exceeded
the value predicted using specified column design curves. When compared to the
SSRC curves, the measured strength was in average 16% higher with a COV of
0.17. Higher values were generally observed for the more slender braces.
Braces with a slenderness parameters of 1.0 and less could maintain a compressive
resistance equal to Cu at a deformation level sufficient to develop yielding in
tension. This indicates that both the compression and tension braces at a given
floor of a symmetrical bracing bent can develop simultaneously a compression
force equal to Cu and a tension force equal to AgFy, respectively. For more slender
braces, a reduced compressive strength equal to 0.8 Cu can be used when yielding
develops in the companion tension braces.
The tests showed that the maximum tension force that will develop in a brace
depends upon the applied loading history, the highest loads being observed under
large tension excursions applied early in the tests. Strain hardening was observed
in 66% of the test specimens. For braces made of tubular shapes, the peak tension
force exceeded the tensile yield load AgFy by 10% in average, with a COV of
0.06. For hot rolled shapes, the mean strain hardening level was equal to 5% with
a COV of 0.04.
Equations have been proposed from nonlinear regression of test data to predict
the minimum brace compressive strength, Cu, at ductility levels of 2, 3, and 5
under a symmetrical displacement history. Very good correlation was obtained,
especially at high ductility levels. These values would represent a conservative
estimate of the post-buckling resistance of braces subjected to unsymmetrical
loading patterns. The Cu values proposed for a ductility of 5.0 can be applicable
in cases where higher ductility demand in compression is reached, such as for
braces in chevron braced frames with weak beam design. The recommended Cu
values are in good agreement with the predictions obtained from plastic hinge
analysis of steel bracing members developed in a previous study. Values specified
in several codes would need to be modified in order to better match the test data.
698 R. Tremblay / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 58 (2002) 665701

A simple equation has been proposed to predict the lateral deformation of single
diagonal bracing members that result from brace buckling. This equation is rec-
ommended for design as it reproduces well the test measurements with a mean
test-to-predicted ratio of 0.92 and a coefficient of variation of 0.11.
Fracture of RHS bracing members was found to depend strongly upon the slender-
ness ratio of the bracing members and, to a lesser extent, on the width-to-thickness
ratio of the cross-section and the imposed displacement history. Slender braces
can sustain higher ductility levels prior to fracture, most likely because the strain
demand in the plastic hinge reduces with the brace slenderness. Therefore, more
stringent width-to-thickness ratios should be specified for less slender members
and minimum brace slenderness should be prescribed to achieve a given ductility
level. For the latter, a simple linear equation has been proposed to predict the
peak ductility corresponding to fracture. Additional test data is required, however,
to improve the accuracy of this prediction model. In particular, the influence of
the width-to-thickness ratio should be examined further. Test data should also be
obtained for hot formed RHS members and circular tubes as such members are
expected to exhibit relatively longer fracture life.
All tests were of the quasi-cyclic type and possible strain rate effects on the brace
compressive and tensile resistance could not be assessed. It is recommended that
dynamic testing with realistic deformation time histories be performed to evaluate
these effects and check the overall performance of bracing members under such
loading demand.


Financial support for this study was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engin-
eering Research Council of Canada. The author sincerely thanks J.B. Shaback for
providing his test data.


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