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Seismic Design and Behavior of Concentrically

Braced Steel Frames

Structural Performance
discussion of performance issues relative to extreme events
By Charles W. Roeder, Ph.D., P.E. and Dawn E. Lehman, Ph.D.
Concentrically braced steel frames requirements. The SCBF design require- Over the years, there have been changes
(CBFs) are a practical and economical ments were initially developed in the in the SCBF design requirements in
structural system for many applications. early 1990s, and the evolution of these response to the improved understanding
Diagonal braces employ gusset plate design requirements continues with im- of CBF behavior, and there is continuing,

connections and are very efficient provements in the understanding of the ongoing research to better understand
elements for developing stiffness and CBF system resulting from previous and the seismic behavior of this important

resistance to wind and earthquake current research efforts. Current AISC structural system. Recent research
induced lateral loads. For wind loading, seismic design provisions (2005) for suggests that advancements in the design
braced frames are normally designed to SCBF provisions focus on: of SCBF systems are needed, and work

provide adequate elastic strength and Assuring that the system has the is underway to develop and evaluate
stiffness to resist the force demands required lateral resistance
t needed to proposed advancements. Several clear
ir gh performance.

and to assure occupant comfort due to assure good yseismic observations, which may be made from
building movements and vibrations. Adapting Copthe performance to the some of this recent work, are presented
In seismic design, there is a trend wide variety of possible brace types in the sections that follow.

towards engineering systems to meet and bracing configurations.
specific performance objectives. In Controlling the local and global CBFs Do Not
current codes, there is an implied multi- slenderness of the brace to provide Behave as Trusses

level, performance criteria. For small, adequate post-buckling inelastic One important observation is that,
frequent earthquakes, the structure is deformation of the brace during

i n
although the initial design of CBFs is

designed to remain elastic and provide extreme earthquakes. Local slender- normally achieved by analyzing the braced

adequate strength and stiffness to assure ness limits depend on the brace cross frame as a truss, braced frames do not

serviceability during and after the section, because some cross sections

behave as trusses. The brace and gusset
earthquake. For large, infrequent seismic are more susceptible to fracture at plate connection are designed under the

events, significant inelastic deformation smaller post-buckling inelastic and

hypothesis that the brace is a member
of the structure is required. For CBFs, tensile yield deformations than oth- with pure axial load. This is a very simple

the inelastic deformation consists of ers. and appropriate approximation for
tensile yielding and post-buckling Assuring that gusset plate connections initial design. However, recent research

inelastic deformation of the brace. This used to join the brace to other frame suggests that latter design phases should
inelastic behavior is extremely important members permit the end rotation of incorporate the actual properties to
to the overall seismic performance of the the brace needed for brace buckling, evaluate that actual behavior.
system, but is not well understood by while developing tensile and compres- Historically, research into the response
structural engineers. sive resistance greater than the maxi- of braced frame systems has focused
The AISC Seismic Design Provisions mum expected capacities of the brace. on the seismic behavior of individual
(AISC 2005) employ detailing re- Sizing the other structural members elements such as braces and gusset plates,
quirements for Special Concentrically to assure that primary yielding and but recent research has focused to provide
Braced Frames (SCBFs) as a method buckling occurs in the brace. a more integrated picture of the behavior
of achieving the latter seismic design of CBFs. This recent research has shown
that significant inelastic deformation
occurs within the beams and columns
of braced frames, in addition to the
buckling of the brace. Figure 1 shows
significant yielding of the beam and column
occur due to large bending moments
induced into these elements through the
gusset plate connection. Although the
frame may be designed assuming truss
behavior, the large gusset plate connections
effectively create a stiff, moment-resisting
connection rather than a pin. This flexural
stiffness induces large bending moments
in the beams and columns. These
moments effectively increase the resistance
of the frame over that expected from
the frame analyzed as a pure truss, but
the moments also introduce unexpected
yield and failure modes in the CBF and
Figure 1: Extensive Yielding in Beam and Column. complicate the current understanding of
braced frame behavior.
STRUCTURE magazine 37 February 2008
Brace Buckling
to very large gussets as shown in more than 50%. Using the proposed elliptical
Figure 3a (page 38), and the larger clearance with the plate designed to yield
dimensions also lead to thicker plates. after brace yielding assures the maximum
These combine to create a rotationally ductility and deformation capacity of the CBF
stiff joint, which limits the rotation system. This research shows that gusset plates
of the connection and leads to the should be designed with enough stiffness

extensive frame yielding illustrated and resistance to develop the expected
in Figure 1 (page 37). maximum resistance of the attached brace,
Recent research (Lehman et al. 2008)

but additional connection stiffness and
has developed and evaluated a new capacity may reduce the inelastic deformation
elliptical clearance model, as shown capacity of the CBF system. Additionally, the
in Figure 3b. The model permits

weld used to attach the gusset plate to the
smaller, thinner and more compact beam and column must have strength that is
gusset plates. t Both gusset plates in
ighand 3b were tested under sufficient to develop the ultimate strength of

Figuresy r
Cop cyclic deformation and with
the gusset plate. A weld designed to simply
resist the strength of the brace will result in

nominally identical braces. Figures 4a weld fracture (Lehman et al. 2008).
and 4c compare the system response
of frames designed using the 2t-linear
Figure 2a: Out-of-Plane Deformation. Multi-story Systems Require

and 8t-elliptical clearance expressions.
The CBF with the more compact, Special Consideration
thinner gusset plate, achieved by

i n
Inelastic story drift demand results in large

the elliptical clearance requirement buckling deformation in the brace, as shown
and illustrated in Figures 3b and 4c,
z in Figure 2a. Post buckling deformation

T a
provided significantly greater ductility results in the non-symmetric force deflection
and inelastic deformation capacity of behavior for CBFs, as shown in the force-

the system.

drift response graphs of Figure 4. These
Recent research has evaluated a full figures show the variation in the measured

range of plate thicknesses, offsets, and
weld sizes and types for the gusset
response for different gusset plate connection
details for a single braced bay with a diagonal

m plate connections (Lehman et al.

2008). In all cases, an HSS 5x5xd
brace was used. Although previous
research results have indicated that
brace. The braced bay includes the gusset
connections and beam and column members.
In all cases the resistance of the brace is greater
in tension than in compression, and thus the
HSS sections may not achieve the braced bay is clearly stronger in one direction
expected drift demands of a braced than in the other. Furthermore, the response
Figure 2b: Local Deformation of HSS Tubes. frame system (e.g., Fell et al. 2006), shows little evidence of strain hardening and
the research results shown in Figure the resistance may deteriorate at increased
Design and Detailing of the 4 indicate that simple modifications in the inelastic deformation, because of the P-
Gusset Plate Connection gusset plate geometry and weld size have a D moments associated with post-buckling
profound impact on the system drift range deformation and the localization of inelastic
is Important capacity. For example, Figures 4b and 4c deformation of the buckled brace as shown
Current AISC provisions require that gusset indicate that a change in plate thickness from in Figure 2b.
plates and the interface welded connections f to d inches increases that drift range by
be designed to develop the expected
maximum resistances of the brace in tension Gusset Plate End Rotation Design
and compression, which engineers may
interpret as greater connection resistance Clearance
provides improved behavior. Concurrently,
AISC Seismic Design Provisions require that
1 - 9

the connections be designed to permit end d Gusset

2 - 8

rotation to accommodate brace buckling. These 2 Gusset Plate

two requirements are inconsistent. Large Plate
out-of-plane deformations of the brace are
2 tp linear
required to achieve larger inelastic story drift clearance
as illustrated by the photo of Figure 2a (page
38), and so brace end rotations may be quite 2 - 10 2 - 1

large. Current design methods normally use a

2t linear clearance from the intersection line
of the gusset plate to achieve the end rotation
capacity. Unfortunately, this method leads Figure 3a: 2t Clearance. Figure 3b: Proposed Elliptical Clearance.

STRUCTURE magazine 38 February 2008

Range in Inelastic for Deformation Behavior of a CBF System

Figure 4a: AISC Reference Specimen. Figure 4b: Elliptical Clearance with
Thick (f inch) Plate.

Figure 4c: Elliptical Clearance with
Thin (d inch) Plate.

As a result of these observations, design Closing t Comments
provisions require that braces be used in g h

yr discussion of the seismic design
This is a brief
balanced pairs to assure that the structure is Cop
and performance of CBFs. CBFs are a very Dr. Charles Roeder is a Professor of Civil
not significantly weaker in one direction than
economical and practical structural system. and Environmental Engineering at the

the other at all deformation levels.
However, their seismic performance is more University of Washington. He is actively
However, there is an additional consequence
complex than, and not as well understood involved in research and committee
of this behavior. Once buckling has occurred

as, other commonly used structural systems. work related to the seismic design of steel
in a single story of a multi-story CBF, the
A large, integrated, international research structures, bridge bearings, and fatigue of

inelastic deformation typically concentrates

program, with researchers from the U.S., steel bridges. Dr. Roeder may be reached via

into that story. CBFs are a stiff structural
Canada, Taiwan and Japan, is in progress to email at

system, and initial yielding and buckling
improve the understanding of CBFs and to
are expected to occur at a story drift of

Dr. Dawn Lehman is an Assistant

develop seismic design procedures that will
approximately 0.35%. If inelastic deformation Professor of Civil and Environmental
result in economical design and optimal seismic
is approximately evenly distributed over

performance. CBFs are expected to continue Engineering at the University of

the height of the structure, a relatively Washington. Her research interests include
to be a viable system for resisting seismic loads,

modest maximum inelastic deformation can seismic design and evaluation of reinforced
but future changes in the design methods are
be expected in any given story. However, concrete, steel, and composite structural
expected and will improve the performance

concentration of inelastic deformation systems. Dr. Lehman may be reached via
and predictability of these systems.
requires a large deformation for that story to email at
achieve the expected roof drift demands. This
response raises uncertainty about the seismic
design demands that are currently used as the
ability to distribute yielding over the height
of the structure is an ongoing concern.
Not all Braces are
Created Equal
The local deformation caused by cyclic References
brace buckling and illustrated in Figure 2b
has additional consequences. Brace fracture is AISC (2005). Seismic Provisions for Structural Steel Buildings, American Institute of
the preferred failure mode expected of CBFs Steel Construction, Chicago, IL.
during extreme seismic loading. As illustrated
in Figure 2b, brace fracture initiates in the Fell, B.V., Myers, A.M., Fu, X., Deierlein, G.G., and Kanvinde, A.M. (2006).
region where large local strains accumulate Seismic Fracture and Fatigue Performance of Bracing Members and Connections.
due to local deformation associated with Steel Technical Information and Product Services Report (Steel TIPS), Structural
brace buckling and tensile yield. Some brace Steel Educational Council (, Moraga, CA.
cross sections suffer more severe local strains
during brace buckling, and may experience Lehman, D.E., Roeder, C.W., Herman, D., Johnson, S., and Kotulka, B., (2008)
braced fracture at smaller story drift. Seismic Improved Seismic Performance of Gusset Plate Connections, to appear in Journal of
design provisions attempt to address these Structural Engineering, ASCE, Reston, VA.
issues by providing local slenderness limits for
various brace cross sections. However, future
changes in these limits and the brace cross
sections permitted for seismic design should
be expected. As shown in Figure 4, additional
system capacity is afforded by properly detailing
the gusset plates and the associated welds to
maximize the system drift range capacity.

STRUCTURE magazine 39 February 2008