You are on page 1of 21

Report No.




1. Introduction
2. Definition of The Rigid Pavement
3. Principles Of Design
3.1Thickness Design
3.2Joints Design
3.3Mix Design

4. Concrete as a Composite Material


Concrete rigid pavements have been used for highways, airports, streets,
local roads, parking lots, industrial facilities, and other types of
infrastructure. When properly designed and built out of durable materials,
concrete rigid pavements can provide many decades of service with little or
no maintenance. In some cases, however, design or construction errors or
poorly selected materials have considerably reduced pavement life. It is
therefore important for pavement engineers to understand materials
selection, mixture proportioning, design and detailing, drainage, construction
techniques, and pavement performance.


Rigid pavement is the technical term for any road surface made of concrete.
The largest advantages to using concrete pavement are in its durability and
ability to hold a shape. There are three basic types of rigid pavement
commonly used worldwide. The basic design of rigid pavement is very
simple. A surface layer, made up of slabs of Portland cement concrete
(PCC), sits on top of a handful of sub-layers (See Fig 1). The layer directly
under the PCC is more flexible than the concrete, but still quite rigid. This
layer provides a stable base for the PCC as well as assists in drainage. Some
roads have a second sub-layer under the first that is even more flexible,
while some simply have the existing soil. The biggest factor in deciding
whether this second layer is necessary is the composition of the existing
material [1].

Figure (1) Rigid Pavement Section

The way concrete pavement deals with cracking is the main difference
between the three styles of pavement. The most common style, joined plain
concrete (JPC), is made up of slabs with no steel reinforcement (See Fig 2).
When cracks develop, they should occur in the cracks between slabs, making
the road surface easy to repair [2].

Figure (2) JPCP Jointed Plain Concrete Pavement

Joined reinforced concrete contains a steel mesh that reinforces the structure
of the concrete slab (See Fig 3). The concrete slabs used in this style are
often much larger than those used in JPC designs. The reinforcement
prevents some cracks, allowing the larger slabs to be effective. The cracks,
when they appear, still typically occur between slab[2].
Figure (3) JRCP Jointed Reinforced Concrete Pavement

The third style, continuously reinforced concrete, contains a high quantity of

steel reinforcement (See Fig 4). These slabs are not designed to crack at
connection pointsthe slab itself cracks. The steel reinforcement holds
cracks together so closely that they do not cause structural problems within
the slab [2].
Figure (4) CRCP Continuously Reinforced Concrete Pavement

There are two main reasons to use rigid pavement, both of which stem from
its hardness. Since the surface is harder, it is also more durable over time.
This keeps the road in good working order far longer than softer surfaces.
The other advantage of concrete roads is in their shaping. Since the surface
can withstand a lot of weight without deformation, it is possible to create
groves and channels in the road to provide extra traction and move water off
the roads surface [2].


A pavement is built up of several layers, each having a special function. In a

flexible system the load is largely distributed by the base, the main function
of the surfacing being to provide a wearing surface and to protect the base.
The sub-base, although it has to carry a smaller intensity of load, is
nevertheless important but is usually composed of material of lower quality.
In a concrete road the slab usually provides the wearing surface as well as
spreading or distributing the load. A sub-base is almost always Running
surface used under a concrete slab as it serves as a useful working platform
from which to construct the slab [3]. Concrete roads are sometimes surfaced
with a bituminous carpet, particularly in urban areas (See Fig 5).

Figure (5) Concrete Pavement Layers

The object of pavement design is to determine the type, thickness and

treatment of materials that will most economically provide an adequate
wearing surface and structure to carry a given frequency and weight of
vehicles on given foundation conditions [3].


In addition to the normal design factors of thickness of slab, type and

thickness of sub-base, strengthening of edges and corners of slabs and use of
reinforcement, it is convenient to include the type and spacing of joints
under the heading of pavement design of concrete [3]. The thickness of slab
required for a given site will depend on:
(a) The properties of the soil,

(b) The intensity and weight of traffic,

(c) The amount of steel reinforcement present, if any,

(d) The thickness of the base.

(a) Properties of the subgrade soil It can be shown by theoretical

calculations using the formula due to Westergaard that the bearing
capacity of the soil has little effect on the stresses in the concrete
when slabs are uniformly supported, i.e. when the soil has a uniform
bearing capacity. In practice, however, uniformity of support is rarely
obtained due to the variable nature of soils and to changes in moisture
content during and after construction. In addition non-elastic
deformation of the soil occurs due to traffic. From the practical
evidence available and also from the results of experimental roads, it
appears that the same thickness of slab is suitable for most types of
(b) Intensity of traffic. Experience has shown that the intensity of traffic
has by far the greatest effect on the performance of concrete roads
but that light vehicles such as private cars have practically no effect
structurally. In design tables, therefore, the number of commercial
vehicles using the roads is the only factor taken into account. As it is
not practicable or economic to strengthen a concrete slab later in life
to take account of increasing traffic loads and intensity, it is
particularly important to anticipate the type of traffic which the road
will carry throughout its life.
(c) Steel reinforcement. Experimental work has shown that the use of
reinforcement does not permit the slab thickness to be reduced, its
main effect being on the slab length which can safely be laid without
harmful cracking. The AASHO test [4] is a valuable reference in this
context. The spacing between free joints in reinforced slabs is
calculated from the concept that the amount of steel available at any
cross-section must be sufficient to withstand the tensile stresses
compounded from the weight of the slab and the friction between the
base and underside of the slab when a crack has occurred and when
the concrete is contracting. The spacing of joints in reinforced
pavements is dependent, therefore, upon the thickness of the slab, the
value of the friction coefficient and the cross-sectional area of
reinforcement in the slab. Experience has shown that in unreinforced
slabs, joints must be placed at a distance not exceeding between 15
and 20 ft if cracks are to be avoided. The use of reinforcement
therefore allows joint spacing to be increased. It should be stressed
that it is very desirable to avoid cracks in unreinforced slabs. If these
occur they are likely to increase progressively in width and to spall
with subsequent fairly rapid deterioration under heavy traffic. Cracks
in reinforced slabs are not serious because the reinforcement prevents
the cracks from opening, thus reducing the chance of water
penetration and of sapling. Experience shows that cracks in reinforced
roads suffer very gradual deterioration and often remain unchanged in
width for many years [3].
(d) The provision of a sub-base. Experimental work has indicated that
sub-bases fulfill very little purpose in strengthening a concrete road
structure which obtains its load carrying capacity mainly from the
structural rigidity of the slab. In general, experiments have indicated
that 1 in. of concrete is equivalent to about 6 in. of sub-base and
unless suitable sub-base material can be obtained very cheaply it will
usually be economical to increase the thickness of the slab rather than
that of the sub-base in order to increase the traffic carrying capacity of
the road. In practice, a sub-base is used under a concrete slab mainly
for construction purposes that is to protect the subgrade soil and to
facilitate the movement of construction traffic being to prevent
movement or opening.


Different types of joints are placed in concrete pavements to limit the

stresses induced by temperature changes and to facilitate proper bonding of
two adjacent sections of pavement when there is a time lapse between their
construction (for example, between the end of one days work and the
beginning of the next) [5]. These joints can be divided into four basic

Expansion joints

Contraction joints

Hinge joints

Construction joints

3.2.1 Expansion Joints

When concrete pavement is subjected to an increase in temperature, it will

expand, resulting in an increase in length of the slab. When the temperature
is sufficiently high, the slab may buckle or blow up if it is sufficiently long
and if no provision is made to accommodate the increased length. Therefore,
expansion joints are usually placed transversely, at regular intervals, to
provide adequate space for the slab to expand [5].

3.2.2 Contraction Joints

When concrete pavement is subjected to a decrease in temperature, the slab

will contract if it is free to move. Prevention of this contraction movement
will induce tensile stresses in the concrete pavement. Contraction joints
therefore are placed transversely at regular intervals across the width of the
pavement to release some of the tensile stresses that are so induced. It may
be necessary in some cases to install a load-transfer mechanism in the form
of a dowel bar when there is doubt about the ability of the interlocking gains
to transfer the load [5].

3.2.3 Hinge Joints

Hinge joints are used mainly to reduce cracking along the center line of
highway pavements [5].

3.2.4 Construction Joints

Construction joints are placed transversely across the pavement width to

provide suitable transition between concrete laid at different times. For
example, a construction joint is usually placed at the end of a days pour to
provide suitable bonding with the start of the next days pour [5].

PCC consists of three basic ingredients: aggregate, water and Portland

cement. According to the Portland cement Association [8]:

The objective in designing concrete mixtures is to determine the most

economical and practical combination of readily available materials to
produce a concrete that will satisfy the performance requirements under
particular conditions of use.

PCC mix design has evolved chiefly through experience and well-
documented empirical relationships. Normally, the mix design procedure
involves two basic steps [8]:

1. Mix proportioning. This step uses the desired PCC properties as

inputs then determines the required materials and proportions based
on a combination of empirical relationships and local
experience. There are many different PCC proportioning methods of
varying complexity that work reasonably well.

2. Mix testing. Trial mixes are then evaluated and characterized by

subjecting them to several laboratory tests. Although these
characterizations are not comprehensive, they can give the mix
designer a good understanding of how a particular mix will perform in
the field during construction and under subsequent traffic loading.

PCC is a complex material formed from some very basic ingredients. When
used in pavement, this material has several desired performance
characteristics some of which are in direct conflict with one another. PCC
pavements must resist deformation, crack in a controlled manner, be durable
over time, resist water damage, provide a good tractive surface, and yet be
inexpensive, readily made and easily placed. In order to meet these
demands, mix design can manipulate the following variables [6]:

1. Aggregate. Items such as type (source), amount, gradation and

size, toughness and abrasion resistance, durability and
soundness, shape and texture as well as cleanliness can be measured,
judged and altered to some degree.

2. Portland cement. Items such as type, amount, fineness, soundness,

hydration rate and additives can be measured, judged and altered to
some degree.

3. Water. Typically the volume and cleanliness of water are of

concern. Specifically, the volume of water in relation to the volume of
Portland cement, called the water-cement ratio, is of primary
concern. Usually expressed as a decimal (e.g., 0.35), the water-cement
ratio has a major effect on PCC strength and durability.

4. Admixtures. Items added to PCC other than Portland cement, water

and aggregate. Admixtures can be added before, during or after
mixing and are used to alter basic PCC properties such as air content,
water-cement ratio, workability, set time, bonding ability, coloring and

By manipulating the mixture variables of aggregate, Portland cement, water

and admixtures, mix design seeks to achieve the following qualities in the
final PCC product [9]:

1. Strength. PCC should be strong enough to support expected traffic

loading. In pavement applications, flexural strength is typically more
important than compressive strength (although both are important)
since the controlling PCC slab stresses are caused by bending and not
compression. In its most basic sense, strength is related to the degree
to which the Portland cement has hydrated. This degree of hydration
is, in turn, related to one or more of the following:

Water-cement ratio. The strength of PCC is most directly

related to its capillary porosity. The capillary porosity of a
properly compacted PCC is determined by its water-cement
ratio [9]. Thus, the water-cement ratio is an easily measurable
PCC property that gives a good estimate of capillary porosity
and thus, strength. The lower the water-cement ratio, the fewer
capillary pores and thus, the higher the strength. Specifications
typically include a maximum water-cement ratio as a strength
control measure.

Entrained air (air voids). At a constant water-cement ratio, as

the amount of entrained air (by volume of the total mixture)
increases, the voids-cement ratio (voids = air + water)
decreases. This generally results in a strength
reduction. However, air-entrained PCC can have a lower
water-cement ratio than non-air-entrained PCC and still provide
adequate workability. Thus, the strength reduction associated
with a higher air content can be offset by using a lower water-
cement ratio. For moderate-strength concrete (as is used in
rigid pavements) each percentile of entrained air can reduce the
compressive strength by about 2 6 percent [8].

Cement properties. Properties of the Portland cement such

as fineness and chemical composition can affect strength and
the rate of strength gain. Typically, the type of Portland cement
is specified in order to control its properties.

2. Controlled shrinkage cracking. Shrinkage cracking should occur in

a controlled manner. Although construction techniques such as joints
and reinforcing steel help control shrinkage cracking, some mix
design elements influence the amount of PCC shrinkage. Chiefly, the
amount of moisture and the rate of its use/loss will affect shrinkage
and shrinkage cracking. Therefore, factors such as high water-cement
ratios and the use of high early strength Portland cement types and
admixtures can result in excessive and/or uncontrolled shrinkage

3. Durability. PCC should not suffer excessive damage due to chemical

or physical attacks during its service life. As opposed to HMA
durability, which is mainly concerned with aging effects, PCC
durability is mainly concerned with specific chemical and
environmental conditions that can potentially degrade PCC
performance. Durability is related to:
Porosity (water-cement ratio). As the porosity of PCC
decreases it becomes more impermeable. Permeability
determines a PCCs susceptibility to any number of durability
problems because it controls the rate and entry of moisture that
may contain aggressive chemicals and the movement of water
during heating or freezing [9]. The water-cement ratio is the
single most determining factor in a PCCs porosity. The higher
the water-cement ratio, the higher the porosity. In order to limit
PCC porosity, many agencies specify a maximum allowable
water-cement ratio.

Entrained Air (Air voids). Related to porosity, entrained air is

important in controlling the effects of freeze-thaw cycles. Upon
freezing, water expands by about 9 percent. Therefore, if the
small capillaries within PCC are more than 91 percent filled
with water, freezing will cause hydraulic pressures that may
rupture the surrounding PCC. Additionally, freezing water will
attract other unfrozen water through osmosis [8]. Entrained air
voids act as expansion chambers for freezing and migrating
water and thus, specifying a minimum entrained air content can
minimize freeze-thaw damage.

Chemical environment. Certain chemicals such as sulfates,

acids, bases and chloride salts are especially damaging to
PCC. Mix design can mitigate their damaging effects through
such things as choosing a more resistant cement type.
4. Skid resistance. PCC placed as a surface course should provide
sufficient friction when in contact with a vehicles tire. In mix design,
low skid resistance is generally related to aggregate characteristics
such as texture, shape, size and resistance to polish. Smooth, rounded
or polish-susceptible aggregates are less skid resistant. Tests
for particle shape and texture can identify problem aggregate
sources. These sources can be avoided, or at a minimum, aggregate
with good surface and abrasion characteristics can be blended in to
provide better overall characteristics.

5. Workability. PCC must be capable of being placed, compacted and

finished with reasonable effort. The slump test, a relative
measurement of concrete consistency, is the most common method
used to quantify workability. Workability is generally related to one
or more of the following:

Water content. Water works as a lubricant between the

particles within PCC. Therefore, low water content reduces this
lubrication and makes for a less workable mix. Note that a
higher water content is generally good for workability but
generally bad for strength and durability, and may cause
segregation and bleeding. Where necessary, workability should
be improved by redesigning the mix to increase the paste
content (water + Portland cement) rather than by simply adding
more water or fine material [9].

Aggregate proportion. Large amounts of aggregate in relation

to the cement paste will decrease workability. Essentially, if
the aggregate portion is large then the corresponding water and
cement portions must be small.

Aggregate texture, shape and size. Flat, elongated or angular

particles tend to interlock rather than slip by one another
making placement and compaction more difficult. Tests
for particle shape and texture can identify possible workability

Aggregate gradation. Gradations deficient in fines make for

less workable mixes. In general, fine aggregates act as
lubricating ball bearings in the mix. Gradation specifications
are used to ensure acceptable aggregate gradation.

Aggregate porosity. Highly porous aggregate will absorb a

high amount of water leaving less available for
lubrication. Thus, mix design usually corrects for the
anticipated amount of absorbed water by the aggregate.

Air content. Air also works as a lubricant between aggregate

particles. Therefore, low air content reduces this lubrication
and makes for a less workable mix. A volume of air-entrained
PCC requires less water than an equal volume of non-air-
entrained PCC of the same slump and maximum aggregate size

Cement properties. Portland cements with higher amounts of

C3S and C3A will hydrate quicker and lose workability faster.

Concrete is a composite material that consists essentially of a binding

medium, such as a mixture of Portland cement and water, within which are
embedded particles or fragments of aggregate, usually a combination of fine
and coarse aggregate. Concrete is by far the most versatile and most widely
used construction material worldwide. It can be engineered to satisfy a wide
range of performance specifications, unlike other building materials, such as
natural stone or steel, which generally have to be used as they are. Because
the tensile strength of concrete is much lower than its compressive strength,
it is typically reinforced with steel bars, in which case it is known as
reinforced concrete. A composite material is made up of various
constituents. The properties and characteristics of the composite are
functions of the constituent materials properties as well as the various mix
proportions [10].

(1) Skokie, IL, Design of Concrete Pavements for Streets and Roads,
American Concrete Pavement Association, publication No.
18184.03P, 2006.


(3) D. Raymond Sharp, J. L. Raikes and D. J. Silverle, Concrete in

highway engineering, 2011.

(4) Sharp, D. R. And Shacklock, B. W. A British assessment of the

AASHO road test with special reference to concrete pavements,
Technical Report TRA 369, London, Cement and Concrete
Association, February 1963, pp. 17.

(5) Garber, Nicholas J., and Lester A. Hoel. Traffic and highway
engineering. Cengage Learning, 2014.

(6) American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials,

AASHTO Guide for Design of Pavement Structures. Washington,

(8) Portland Cement Association (PCA) (1988) Design of Heavy
Industrial Concrete pavements, Information Series IS234.01P, Skokie,
IL: Portland Cement Association.

(9) Mindess, S., Young, J.F., and Darwin, D. (2003) Concrete, 2nd
Edition, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

(10) Ortiz, Miguel, and Egor P. Popov. "Plain concrete as a

composite material."Mechanics of materials 1.2 (1982): 139-150.