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Although prestressed concrete was patented by a San Francisco engineer in 1886, it did not emerge
as an accepted building material until a half-century later. The shortage of steel in Europe after World
War II coupled with technological advancements in high-strength concrete and steel made prestressed
concrete the building material of choice during European post-war reconstruction. North America's
first prestressed concrete structure, the Walnut Lane Memorial Bridge in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
however, was not completed until 1951.

In conventional reinforced concrete, the high tensile strength of steel is combined with concrete's
great compressive strength to form a structural material that is strong in both compression and
tension. The principle behind prestressed concrete is that compressive stresses induced by high-
strength steel tendons in a concrete member before loads are applied will balance the tensile stresses
imposed in the member during service.

Prestressing removes a number of design limitations conventional concrete places on span and load
and permits the building of roofs, floors, bridges, and walls with longer unsupported spans. This allows
architects and engineers to design and build lighter and shallower concrete structures without
sacrificing strength.

Prestresed concrete-1
The principle behind prestressing is applied when a row of books is moved from place to place. Instead
of stacking the books vertically and carrying them, the books may be moved in a horizontal position
by applying pressure to the books at the end of the row. When sufficient pressure is applied,
compressive stresses are induced throughout the entire row, and the whole row can be lifted and
carried horizontally at once.

Prestresed concrete-2
Prestressed concrete has experienced greatest growth in the field of commercial buildings. For
buildings, such as shopping centres, prestressed concrete is an ideal choice because it provides the
span length necessary for flexibility and alteration of the internal structure. Prestressed concrete is
also used in school auditoriums, gymnasiums, and cafeterias because of its acoustical properties and
its ability to provide long, open spaces. One of the most widespread uses of prestressed concrete is
parking garages.
Compressive Strength Added

Compressive stresses are induced in prestressed concrete either by pretensioning or post-tensioning

the steel reinforcement.

In pre-tensioning, the steel is stretched before the concrete is placed. High-strength steel tendons are
placed between two abutments and stretched to 70 to 80 percent of their ultimate strength. Concrete
is poured into molds around the tendons and allowed to cure. Once the concrete reaches the required
strength, the stretching forces are released. As the steel reacts to regain its original length, the tensile
stresses are translated into a compressive stress in the concrete. Typical products for pretensioned
concrete are roof slabs, piles, poles, bridge girders, wall panels, and railroad ties.

In post-tensioning, the steel is stretched after the concrete hardens. Concrete is cast around, but not
in contact with unstretched steel. In many cases, ducts are formed in the concrete unit using thin
walled steel forms. Once the concrete has hardened to the required strength, the steel tendons are
inserted and stretched against the ends of the unit and anchored off externally, placing the concrete
into compression. Post-tensioned concrete is used for cast-in-place concrete and for bridges, large
girders, floor slabs, shells, roofs, and pavements.

Prestressed concrete found its fame during the European reconstruction after World War II. The
construction of prestressed concrete was an engineering feat that allows for lighter and more shallow
concrete structures without losing any of the strength. Many limitations that engineers faced in the
past when designing concrete structures were able to be surpassed with the advancement of
prestressed concrete.

The steel strands are stretched before being placed into the mold. The steel strands are then stretched
to nearly 80 percent of their ultimate strength, which is around 30,000 lbs. of added tension and, once
this is achieved, the concrete is poured on top. Once the concrete is at its needed strength, the steel
tendons are released from the abutments that stretched them and, as the steel regains its original
length, tension is applied to the concrete itself, creating more stress and strength.

Prestressed concrete is commonly used in commercial building wall panels, piles and bridge girders.
This type of concrete is ideal because of its flexibility due to the internal steel tendons.
Post-tensioned concrete looks & acts just like other reinforced concrete. Post-tensioning is simply a
way to reinforce in a more active way.

What is Post-Tensioning?
Post tensioning is a technique for reinforcing concrete. Post-tensioning tendons, which are
prestressing steel cables inside plastic ducts or sleeves, are positioned in the forms before the
concrete is placed. Afterwards, once the concrete has gained strength but before the service loads are
applied, the cables are pulled tight, or tensioned, and anchored against the outer edges of the

Post-tensioning is a form of prestressing. Prestressing simply means that the steel is stressed (pulled
or tensioned) before the concrete has to support the service loads. Most precast, prestressed concrete
is actually pre-tensioned-the steel is pulled before the concrete is poured. Post-tensioned concrete
means that the concrete is poured and then the tension is applied-but it is still stressed before the
loads are applied so it is still prestressed.


Post-Tensioning Construction Basics

Even congested tendons can be routed around obstructions.

Construction of post-tensioned slabs on grade is very similar to using reinforcing steel, except for the
tensioning step. Cables are arranged as indicated by the engineer and chaired to run through the
centre of the slab.

For residential construction, tendons at 48 inches on centre are common. Commercial foundations
will have much more steel.

Tendons can be easily routed around obstructions.

Tendon (cable) tails after tensioning.

The cables are pulled to 33,000 pounds, resulting in 8 inches of elongation in a 100-foot cable.

A residential post-tensioned concrete slab will typically be 8 inches thick and use 3000 psi concrete.
Once the concrete has gained strength to 2000 psi, typically within the 3 to 10 days recommended by
PTI, the tendons are stressed.

Tendons today are seven high-strength steel wires wound together and placed inside a plastic duct.
At each end a PT anchor is located and these are located in pockets embedded into the slab edge.
When the strands are stressed, the wires will stretch about 4 inches for a 50-foot strand to apply
33,000 pounds of load.

Stressing should only be done by qualified workers. After stressing, the tendon is cut off and the
pocket in which the anchors are located is filled with grout to protect them from corrosion.
Larger structural concrete members may also be post-tensioned, especially in bridges and floors and
beams in parking structures. The process is very similar to that used for slabs, except on a bigger scale.
One interesting difference is that the tendons will often be "draped" so that they are low at the
midpoint of a beam and high at the supports this places the steel at the point of highest tension where
it can keep the concrete held together tightly. With structural members, the duct is often grouted full
following stressing to bond the strand to the concrete along its entire length these are called bonded
tendons. Unbonded tendons, used in residential slabs, remain free to move within the duct and are
protected from corrosion by grease.

PT tendon placement and stressing is usually done by companies with certified workers who specialize
in this work.

Decorative Post-Tensioned Concrete

Since PT is simply reinforcement, there really aren't any specific decorative applications related to
post tensioning. The advantages of PT as noted in the opening page are the lack of cracking (or at least
very narrow cracks) and the ability to span farther. PT slabs on ground can be placed and stamped just
like with any other concrete slab. Surfaces can be stained or overlaid. The only concern is to always
remember not to cut or drill into post-tensioned concrete slabs, since once a tendon has been cut, it
is very difficult to repair. Many post-tensioned slabs will be stamped to alert the owner and any
renovation contractors that the slab is post tensioned.

Prestressed concrete
Concrete with stresses induced in it before use so as to counteract stresses that will be produced by
loads. Pre-stress is most effective with concrete, which is weak in tension, when the stresses induced
are compressive. One way to produce compressive pre-stress is to place a concrete member between
two abutments, with jacks between its ends and the abutments, and to apply pressure with the jacks.
The most common way is to stretch steel bars or wires, called tendons, and to anchor them to the
concrete; when they try to regain their initial length, the concrete resists and is prestressed. The
tendons may be stretched with jacks or by electrical heating.

Prestressed concrete is particularly advantageous for beams. It permits steel to be used at stresses
several times larger than those permitted for reinforcing bars. It permits high-strength concrete to be
used economically, for in designing a member with reinforced concrete, all concrete below the neutral
axis is considered to be in tension and cracked, and therefore ineffective, whereas the full cross
section of a prestressed concrete beam is effective in bending.

The pre-stress in a structure is influenced by either of the two processes:

1. Pre-tensioning, and

2. Post-tensioning

Pre-tensioning can be further classified into two categories:

1. Linear pre-tensioning

2. Circular pre-tensioning


Pre-tensioning is accomplished by stressing wires or strands, called tendons, to predetermined

amount by stretching them between two anchorages prior to placing concrete as shown in fig.1. the
concrete is then placed and tendons become bounded to concrete throughout their length. After
concrete has hardened, the tendons are released by cutting them at the anchorages. The tendons
tend to regain their original length by shortening and in this process transfer through bond a
compressive stress to the concrete. The tendons are usually stressed by the use of hydraulic jacks. The
stress in tendons is maintained during the placing and curing of concrete by anchoring the ends of the
tendons to abutments that may be as much as 200m apart. The abutments and other formwork used
in this procedure are called prestressing bench or bed.

Fig.1: Section for Pre-tensioning

Most of the pre-tensioning construction techniques are patented although the basic principle used in
all of them is common and is well known.


The alternative to pre-tensioning is post-tensioning. In a post-tensioned beam, the tendons are

stressed and each end is anchored to the concrete section after the concrete has been cast and has
attained sufficient strength to safely withstand the prestressing force as shown in fig.2. in post-
tensioning method, tendons are coated with grease or a bituminous material to prevent them from
becoming bonded to concrete. Another method used in preventing the tendons from bonding to the
concrete during placing and curing of concrete is to encase the tendon in a flexible metal hose before
placing it in the forms. The metal hose is referred to as sheath or duct and remains in the structure.
Fig.2: Section for Post-tensioning

After the tendon has been stressed, the void between the tendon and the sheath is filled with grout.
Thus, the tendons become bonded to concrete and corrosion of steel is prevented.

Post-tension prestressing can be done at site. This procedure may become necessary or desirable in
certain cases. For heavy loads and large spans in buildings or bridges, it may be very difficult to
transport a member from pre-casting plant to a job site. On the other hand, pre-tensioning can be
used in pre-cast as well as in cast-in-place construction.

In post-tensioning it is necessary to use some types of device to attach or anchor the ends of the
tendons to the concrete section. These devices are usually referred to as end anchorages. There are a
large number of patents for different types of anchorages. They may also differ on the details of
construction. Some of the popular methods are:

1. Freyssinet system

2. Magnel system

3. Leonhardt system

4. Lee-McCall system

5. Gifford-Udall system

A post-tensioning tendon is defined as a complete assembly consisting of the anchorages, the

prestressing strand or bar, the sheathing or duct and any grout or corrosion-inhibiting coating (grease)
surrounding the prestressing steel.

There are two main types of posttensioning: unbonded and bonded (grouted).

An unbonded tendon is one in which the prestressing steel is not actually bonded to the concrete that
surrounds it except at the anchorages. The most common unbonded systems are mono strand (single
strand) tendons, which are used in slabs and beams for buildings, parking structures and slabs-on-

A mono strand tendon consists of a seven-wire strand that is coated with a corrosion-inhibiting grease
and encased in an extruded plastic protective sheathing. The anchorage consists of an iron casting and
a conical, two-piece wedge which grips the strand. In bonded systems, two or more strands are
inserted into a metal or plastic duct that is embedded in the concrete. The strands are stressed with
a large, multi-strand jack and anchored in a common anchorage device. The duct is then filled with a
cementitious grout that provides corrosion protection to the strand and bonds the tendon to the
concrete surrounding the duct. Bonded systems are more commonly used in bridges, both in the
superstructure (the roadway) and in cable-stayed bridges, the cable-stays. In buildings, they are
typically only used in heavily loaded beams such as transfer girders and landscaped plaza decks where
the large number of strands required makes them more economical.

Rock and soil anchors are also bonded systems but the construction sequence is somewhat different.
Typically, a cased hole is drilled into the side of the excavation, the hillside or the tunnel wall. A tendon
is inserted into the casing and then the casing is grouted. Once the grout has reached sufficient
strength, the tendon is stressed. In slope and tunnel wall stabilization, the anchors hold loose soil and
rock together; in excavations they hold the wood lagging and steel piles in place.

There are several critical elements in a post-tensioning system. In unbonded construction, the plastic
sheathing acts as a bond breaker between the concrete and the prestressing strands. It also provides
protection against damage by mechanical handling and serves as a barrier that prevents moisture and
chemicals from reaching the strand. The strand coating material reduces friction between the strand
and the sheathing and provides additional corrosion protection.

Anchorages are another critical element, particularly in unbonded systems. After the concrete has
cured and obtained the necessary strength, the wedges are inserted inside the anchor casting and the
strand is stressed. When the jack releases the strand, the strand retracts slightly and pulls the wedges
into the anchor. This creates a tight lock on the strand. The wedges thus maintain the applied force in
the tendon and transfer it to the surrounding concrete. In corrosive environments, the anchorages
and exposed strand tails are usually covered with a housing and cap for added protection.

In building and slab-on-ground construction, unbonded tendons are typically prefabricated at a plant
and delivered to the construction site, ready to install. The tendons are laid out in the forms in
accordance with installation drawings that indicate how they are to be spaced, what their profile
(height above the form) should be, and where they are to be stressed. After the concrete is placed
and has reached its required strength, usually between 3000 and 3500 psi (pounds per square inch),
the tendons are stressed and anchored.

The tendons, like rubber bands, want to return to their original length but are prevented from doing
so by the anchorages. The fact the tendons are kept in a permanently stressed (elongated) state causes
a compressive force to act on the concrete. The compression that results from the posttensioning
counteracts the tensile forces created by subsequent applied loading (cars, people, the weight of the
beam itself when the shoring is removed). This significantly increases the load-carrying capacity of the
concrete. Since post-tensioned concrete is cast in place at the job site, there is almost no limit to the
shapes that can be formed. Curved facades, arches and complicated slab edge layouts are often a
trademark of post-tensioned concrete structures. Post-tensioning has been used to advantage in a
number of very aesthetically designed bridges.

The main objectives of grouting these ducts or sheath pipes in post-tensioned concrete members are
as: -

(i) To prevent corrosion of the tendons,

(ii) To ensure efficient transfer of stress between the tendons and the concrete member,

(iii) To improve the serviceability and strength characteristics of the concrete member.

The grouting is a very sensitive and receptive process that needs careful supervision and inspection.
Following are some of the points that must be complied while practicing the grouting of the post-
tensioned concrete members :-

1. In the mix, the quantity of sand or material should not be more than 30 percent of the mass of

2. The chloride content in the grout from all sources should not exceed 0.1 percent by mass of the

3. Material of grout should be batched by mass.

4. Optimum water / cement ratio is 0.40 without and with admixture can go up to 0.35

5. The grout should be kept in slow continuous agitation until it is ready to be into the tendon ducts.

6. Grout should be mixed for minimum of 1 to 2 minutes but not more than 4 minutes.

7. All the piping, pumping and mixing equipment should be thoroughly washed with after each series
of operations.

8. Ducts should be completely filled with grout after injection.

9. Ducts should be grouted at a continuous and steady rate of 6 m / min to 12 m / min for horizontal
ducts and 2 to 3 m / min for vertical ducts.

10. Grouting pressure should not exceed 2 N / mm2

11. Grouting should continue until the fluidity or density of grout flowing from free ends and vent
openings is same as that of original grout.

12. After closing all the vents the pressure of 0.5 N / mm2 should be kept for 5 minutes.

13. Vertical and inclined ducts should be grouted from the lowest points.

14. Maximum grouted in one operation being 50 m.

15. Effectiveness of grouting should be by non-destructive testing such as radiography.

What is post-tensioning?

An architects dream, a delight for developers, a great tool for builders and kind on the environment
post-tensioning allows almost any shape of structure to be constructed, while reducing
environmental impacts, construction time, materials and costs. Since the first applications, PT
technology has advanced significantly particularly in the field of performance, quality assurance
and durability as well as corrosion protection. But what exactly is it? And why should you be

Industrial Ring Road (Thailand) by BBR Network Member BBR Construction Systems

Q: What is post-tensioning?

A: At its most basic level, post-tensioning (PT) is a fiendishly clever way of reinforcing concrete while
you are building occasionally even allowing the construction of something which might otherwise
have been impossible!

The use of post-tensioning allows thinner concrete sections, longer spans between supports, stiffer
walls to resist lateral loads and stiffer foundations to resist the effects of shrinking and swelling soils.
Concrete has what engineers call compressive strength meaning that it happily bears its own weight
within a structure. As soon as you introduce the live loads of everyday usage, such as vehicles in a
car park or on a bridge, the concrete tends to deflect or sag which leads to cracking, thus weakening
the structure.

Concrete lacks tensile strength. Alone, it does not always offer the flexibility needed. Thats why steel
reinforcing bars rebar are often embedded in the concrete to limit the width of cracks. However,
rebar provides only passive reinforcement that is, it does not bear any load or force until the
concrete has already cracked.

This is where post-tensioning comes in. PT systems provide active reinforcement. The function of post-
tensioning is to place the concrete structure under compression in those regions where load causes
tensile stress. Post-tensioning applies a compressive stress on the material, which offsets the tensile
stress the concrete might face under loading. PT is applied by the use of post-tensioning tendons a
complete assembly including the very high strength prestressing steel strands or bar, the sheathing or
protective ducting, plus any grout or corrosion-inhibiting coating surrounding the steel strands or bar
and the anchorages needed at both ends.

A typical steel strand used for post-tensioning has a diameter of 15.7mm and a tensile strength around
four times higher than an average non-prestressed piece of rebar. Sheathing or ducting houses the
prestressing steel This allows it to move as necessary when the tensioning force is applied after the
concrete cures. The steel stretches as it is tensioned and it is locked into place using an anchoring
component, thus maintaining the force in the strand for the life of the structure.

Q: Why should I be interested in post-tensioning?

A: There are many benefits to be gained by adopting a post-tensioned approach to construction

including flexibility of design, faster construction program and lower material costs. Over the longer
term, it can reduce maintenance costs and also offers the potential for increasing future loading or
being adapted for a change of use.

Perhaps the most dramatic example of design flexibility is demonstrated by the use of post-tensioning
for bridges where it allows very demanding geometry requirements, including complex curves,
variable super elevation and significant grade changes. In stadiums, post-tensioning allows long clear
spans and a highly creative architectural approach.

While for commercial buildings space and light can be maximized by construction of large column-free
spaces. A faster construction program and lower construction material costs result from reduced
quantities of concrete and steel being needed for the superstructure, but post-tensioning can also
significantly reduce the amount of groundworks required. In addition, thinner PT slabs and early
strength stressing promotes a faster floor cycle time, allowing the structure to progress more rapidly.

Over the longer term, post-tensioned structures attract lower maintenance costs. Take a warehouse
floor slab, for example. A PT solution will deliver fewer joints and thus reduced joint maintenance as
well as long-term durability. Looking at tanks and silos, post-tensioning can provide virtually crack-
free concrete. Going beyond this, PT structures can also be altered rather than demolished to
accommodate changed use over time.

The use of post-tensioning promotes a more environmentally friendly approach to construction. In

the first place, post-tensioned structures feature less construction materials steel reinforcement,
concrete and thus create fewer carbon emissions in terms of production and transportation. The
actual construction process can also be environmentally sensitive for example, when constructing
extremely long span PT bridges temporary intermediate supports are not needed, thus the impact on
the environment beneath is minimized.
Q: What is a European approved post-tensioning kit?

A: A European approved post-tensioning kit comprises all elements that make up the complete PT
tendon. CE-marked PT kits are only sold by certified Post-tensioning Specialist Companies who take
the full responsibility for post-tensioning works.

In the past, there were a lot of national standards for example, British or German DIN standards
and guidelines for testing provisions to which post-tensioning systems had to be subjected. Some
countries adapted and adopted specifications for the acceptance of PT systems running in other
countries, others did not have any acceptance criteria at all. Today, post-tensioning technology has a
clear international passport if it bears the CE-mark and has secured the European Technical Approval
(ETA) for post-tensioning kits.

The CE marking and the European Technical Approval for post-tensioning kits allow an accurate and
are an up-to-date method of comparing like-with-like. From this, it is clear what specification the
products fulfill, ensuring that all ETA systems provide the same minimum level of durability and safety.
CE-marked post-tensioning systems installed by certified and responsible Post-tensioning Specialist
Companies such as Members of the Global BBR Network provide the highest level of quality and
ensure, for the owners of the structures to which the post-tensioning kits are applied, that only high
quality and state-of-the-art products are being used.

Q: What types of PT are there?

A: The one-size-fits-all concept is no longer a viable one optimization is needed to achieve the
most environmentally-friendly structure. Opting to use post-tensioning means that a wider product
range is available.

At BBR, we have now grouped our tendons so that you only use what you actually need. We offer
more than 25 different sizes of multi-strand anchorages ranging from 1 to 73 strands. All the size
groups can be handled and stressed with just one piece of gear the kit has been rationalized. In this
way, we are helping to ensure that only the amount of anchoring material which is really needed goes
into the structure, whilst minimizing additional transportation impacts for construction gear.

Post-tensioning tendons come in a number of varieties and cover a wide range of applications. There
are four main types:

Internal bonded tendons where one or more strands are inserted into a metal or plastic duct
that is embedded in the concrete. By filling the duct with special grout, the tendon is bonded
with the surrounding concrete. Internal bonded tendons are installed before concrete is
poured and become locked in concrete. This approach is often used for bridges and heavily
loaded beams in buildings flat internal systems are also an excellent choice for thin slabs.

Internal unbonded tendons where the prestressing steel is not actually bonded to the
concrete that surrounds it, except at the anchorages. They are used in slabs and slabs-on-
ground for buildings and parking structures but also more and more in infrastructure projects.
External unbonded tendons these are installed on the outer surface of concrete structures.
This type of post-tensioning allows access for maintenance and replacement, this is therefore
the solution of choice for bridge enhancements and refurbishments.

Ground anchors these are used to stabilize sides of excavations, hillsides and tunnel walls.
They are also used for resisting uplift for towers or seismic strengthening. CE-marked PT
products are constantly under surveillance to ensure they continue to fulfill all requirements
of their European Technical Approval.

Q: How is PT installed?

A: The short answer is easily that is, by a Specialist Post-Tensioning Specialist whose staff have
completed the relevant training and have the backing of a major international organization.

Post-tensioned systems should only be designed and installed by PT Specialist Companies, such as
those within the BBR Network. Designing the shape of the PT layout and specifying the right system is
a vital stage in the process and requires sound engineering consideration in order to maximize the
benefits for all the stakeholders in a project.

Work on applying the post-tensioning system can begin after any formwork or bottom reinforcement
has been installed. Typically, for a bonded system, ducting will be laid out first, then strands will be
installed with the help of a strand-pushing machine and end anchorages will be placed. But also, off-
site prefabrication of post-tensioning tendons can offer great benefits for certain construction

Concrete placement follows next. When the concrete has attained its minimum strength, the strands
are anchored in a common anchorage device and stressed with a large, multi-strand jack or mono-
strand stressing tool. When the jack reaches the correct load, it releases the tendon. The tendon then
retracts slightly, activating the anchoring system and creating a tight lock on the tendon. The anchor
maintains the applied force in the tendon and transfers it to the surrounding concrete.

The duct is then filled with a cementitious grout that provides corrosion protection to the strand and
bonds the tendon to the concrete surrounding the duct.

Q: Is PT a recent invention?

A: No, its been around for a long time! In fact, prestressed concrete has become the most widely
used construction material for today's bridges and a growing number of residential, commercial and
public buildings. BBR has led in this development and today thousands of projects worldwide
contain BBR post-tensioning technology.

Almost as soon as reinforced concrete had been developed, at the end of the 19th Century, engineers
recognized that its performance could be improved if the bars could be placed in tension and keep
the concrete in compression. However, it was not until much later that the use of post-tensioning for
structures really became widespread.
BBR's long history of innovative development began in 1948, when the partnership patented the BBRV
button head wire post-tensioning system. Subsequently, BBR developed a complete range of
prestressing and post-tensioning systems, ground anchors and stay cable anchorages, covering all
structural engineering applications, and today, the BBR Network operates in over 50 countries around
the globe.