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RCS – I Limit State Design for flexure Chapter II



2.1. Introduction
The WSD method discussed in chapter I have some shortcomings that led to the
development of USD and LSD. The Limit State Design (LSD) method combines the best
features of WSD and USD and has gained acceptance in many countries throughout the
world including Ethiopia. Ethiopian Building Code Standards (EBCS) are based on the LSD

The Limit State Design Method is based on the limit state design philosophy. This design
philosophy considers that any structure that has exceeded a limit state for which it was
designed is unfit for the intended function or use. The limit state may be reached because
the structure is in danger of collapse (ultimate limit state) or because excessive deflection
has resulted in the structure's being unable to carry out its design functions (serviceability
limit state). Other limit states may be reached due to vibration, cracking, durability, fire or
various other factors, which mean that the structure can no longer fulfill the purpose for
which it was designed. These limit states are classified into three as ultimate, serviceability
and special limit states.

1. Ultimate Limit State (ULS) concerns:

• failure by rupture, loss or stability, transformation into a mechanism
• loss of equilibrium
• failure caused by fatigue
To satisfy the design requirements of the ULS,
• Appropriate safety factors are used
• The most critical combinations of loads are considered.
• Brittle failure is avoided (Ductility is ensured).
• Accuracy of concrete works checked.
2. Serviceability Limit State (SLS) concerns not failure of structures but:
• deformation
• vibrations which cause discomfort to people
• damage (cracking) - appearance, durability or function
To satisfy the design requirements of the SLS,
• Minimum depth for defection requirements is provided
• Adequate cover is provided and
• Necessary detailing of reinforcement.
3. Special Limit States concerns:
• extreme earthquakes, fires, explosion or vehicular collisions

A special feature of this philosophy is that it uses statistics to assess the variation in the
contributions of the factors influencing the limit states of a structure. These are material

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RCS – I Limit State Design for flexure Chapter II
strength and loads, which affect resistance (capacity) of structural members and action
effects (internal actions) respectively.

The distributions of material strength and variation in structural loads follow normal or
Gaussian distribution. Section capacity and internal actions follow a similar distribution.

The number of specimens with extremely low strength or extremely high strength, though
small is never zero. It is, therefore, possible to have the situation in which two extremes are
reached simultaneously and if this is the extreme of high load together with low strength,
then a limit state of collapse may be reached. The probability of the collapse limit state
being reached will not be zero, but it will be kept sufficiently low by selecting suitable design
stresses and design loads that the probability may practically be taken as zero.

The use of statistical procedures has resulted in what are called characteristic strength and
characteristic loads as reference values. Characteristic strength of a material is that value
below which some percent of the test results fall (5% according to EBCS 2-1995 for concrete
and steel).


fk = characteristics strength
fm = mean strength,
δ = standard deviation,
K1 = a factor that ensures the probability of the characteristics strength is not
being exceeded is small. (K1 =1.64)

Figure 2.1-1 Characteristic strength definition

Table 2.1-1 gives different grades of concrete and characteristic cylinder compressive
strength in MPa. These values are obtained for standard cubes and cylinders at a slow rate
of loading to reach maximum stresses with in 2 or 3 minutes.

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RCS – I Limit State Design for flexure Chapter II
Grades of Concrete C15 C20 C25 C30 C40 C50 C60
fck 12 16 20 24 32 40 48
Table 2.1-1 Grades of concrete and characteristic compressive strength fck

fcu = characteristic standard cube strength (obtained from 150mm cubes),
fck = characteristic standard cylinder strength (for 150mm diameter and
300mm high cylinder).

The characteristic tensile strength of concrete is calculated using,


The characteristic strength of reinforcement steel, fyk is defined as the fractile of the proof
stress fy or the 0.2% offset strength.

The same basic procedure as for strength may be used for the calculation of characteristic
loads but the practically insufficient statistical information reduce the effectiveness of the
approach for loads. Hence these are defined in and given by codes. Characteristic load is
that value of the load, which has an acceptable probability of not being exceeded during the
service life of the structure. EBCS 1-1995 gives values of characteristic permanent loads Gk
and characteristic imposed loads Qk and EBCS 8-1995 gives characteristic seismic loads AEd.

The LSD method is a design method that involves identification of all possible modes of
failure and determining acceptable factors of safety against exceedence of each limit state.
These factors of safety are those which take care of material variability γm and load
variability γF.

Suitable design stress fd is obtained as,


γm allows for differences that may occur between the strength of the material as
determined from laboratory tests and that achieved in the structure. The difference may
occur due to a number of reasons including method of manufacture, duration of loading,
corrosion and other factors.

Table 2.1-2 gives partial safety factors of materials at ULS according to EBCS 2-1995

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RCS – I Limit State Design for flexure Chapter II
Material and Concrete γc Steel γs
workmanship Class I Class II Class I Class II
Design Situation
Persistent and 1.50 1.65 1.15 1.20
Accidental 1.30 1.45 1.00 1.10
Table 2.1-2 Partial safe factors of materials at ULS according to EBCS 2 -1995

Persistent design situations refer to conditions of normal use. Transient design situations
refer to temporary conditions such as during construction or repair. Accidental design
situations refer to exceptional conditions such as during fire, explosion or impact.

The difference in values for the two materials is indicative of the comparative lack of control
over the production of concrete the strength of which is affected by such factors as
water/cement ratio, degree of compaction, rate of drying, etc., which frequently cannot be
accurately controlled on site to conditions in factory.

Design stress of concrete in compression is,

0.85    !" #$%

   , ℎ 0.85 
 &ℎ!  !" #$%

Design stress of concrete in tension is,


ℎ    0.21  , #''$% ! ()*+ 2  1995

Design stress of steel for both in tension and compression,

-  ,

The characteristics load is given by EBCS 2-1995 as,

/  /   

Fk = characteristics load,
Fm = mean load,
δ = standard deviation,
K2 = a factor that ensures the probability of the characteristics load being
exceeded is small. (K2 =1.64)

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RCS – I Limit State Design for flexure Chapter II

Figure 2.1-2 Characteristics load definition

Suitable design loads are obtained from characteristic loads by applying partial safety factor
for loads or load factors γF.

/  γ1 /2 ,

γF accounts for possible increase of loads above those considered in design, relative
accuracy in determining the loads, inaccuracy in the analysis and design stage, difference
between dimensions shown on structural drawings and as built due to inaccuracy,
construction and the importance of the limit state that is considered.

Load combination for ULS

1. Permanent action (Gk) and only one variable action (Qk)

/  1.34 5 1.67

2. Permanent action (Gk) and two or more variable action (Qk)


/  1.34 5 1.35 8 79


3. Permanent action, variable action and accidental (seismic) action

/  4 5 7 5 <=  0.75?1.34 5 1.67 @ 5 <=

Load combination for SLS

1. Permanent action (Gk) and only one variable action (Qk)

/  4 5 7

2. Permanent action (Gk) and two or more variable action (Qk)


/  4 5 0.9 8 7

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RCS – I Limit State Design for flexure Chapter II
With the design loads for ULS on the structure, the structure is assumed to be on the verge
of collapse and ultimate moments and forces are determined by structural analysis. Analysis
can be carried out assuming linear elastic response (with or without plastic redistribution of
moments), non-linear response, or plastic response.

Finally serviceability requirements will be checked for the structure under service loads.
Elastic methods of analysis may be applied for analysis in the Serviceability Limit States.

Statics of beam action

A beam is a structural member that supports applied loads and its own weight primarily by
internal moments and shears. Figure 2.1-3 a) shows a beam that supports its own dead
weight w, plus some applied load P. If the axial applied load, N, is equal to zero as shown,
the member is referred to as a beam. If N is a compressive force, the member is called a
beam-column. If it were tensile, the member would be a tension tie. These cause bending
moments, distributed as shown in figure 2.1-3 b). The bending moments are obtained
directly from the loads using the laws of statics and for a given span and combination of
loads w and P. The moment diagram is independent of the composition or size of the beam.
The bending moment is referred to as a load effect. Other load effects include shear force,
axial force, torque, deflection and vibration.

At any section within the beam, the internal resisting moment, M, shown in figure 2.1-3 c) is
necessary to equilibrate the bending moment. An internal resisting shear, V, is also required
as shown. The internal resisting moment when the cross section fails is referred to as the
moment capacity or moment resistance. The word "resistance" can also be used to describe
shear resistance or axial load resistance.

The beam shown in figure 2.1-3 will safely support the loads if at every section the
resistance of the member exceeds the effects of the loads.

&%&!#' A #$ '!&

Figure 2.1-3 Internal force in a beam

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RCS – I Limit State Design for flexure Chapter II
The internal resisting moment, M, results from an internal compressive force, C, and an
internal tensile force, T, separated by a lever arm, jd, as shown in figure 2.1-3 (d).

The conventional elastic beam theory results in the equation σ = My/I, which for an
uncracked, homogeneous rectangular beam without reinforcement gives the distribution of
stresses shown in figure 2.1-4. The stress diagram shown in figure 2.1-4 (c) and (d) may be
visualized as having a "volume," and hence one frequently refers to the compressive stress
block and the tensile stress block. This is equal to the volume of the compressive stress
block shown in figure 2.1-4 (d). In a similar manner one could compute the force T from the
tensile stress block. The forces, C and T, act through the centroids of the volumes of the
respective stress blocks. In the elastic case these forces act at h/3 above or below the
neutral axis, so that jd = 2h /3. From above equations we can write,

Figure 2.1-4 Elastic beam stresses and stress blocks

Stress-strain distribution for beams

In RC structures such as beams, the tension caused by bending moment is chiefly resisted by
the steel reinforcement while the concrete alone is usually capable of resisting the
corresponding compression. Such joint action of the two type of materials is assured if the
relative slip is prevented which is achieved by using deformed bars with high bong strength
at the steel-concrete interface. Figure 2.1-5 shows a simple test beam installed with gauges
to measure strains at different levels. The measured strains are seen to be linear as shown
in figure 2.1-5 (b). Corresponding stress are computed from strains at each level using
Hook’s Law i.e. E = σ/ε. The results are plotted in figure 2.1-5 (c) and are found to be
parabolic in nature.

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RCS – I Limit State Design for flexure Chapter II

Figure 2.1-5 Side view of test beam with gauges

To illustrate the stress-strain development for increased loading, consider the following,

Figure 2.1-6 Loading on a simply supported beam

Figure 2.1-7 Stress and strain distribution

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RCS – I Limit State Design for flexure Chapter II
Major points to notice are,

• At low loads where tensile stress is less than or equal to the characteristics tensile
strength of concrete (fctk), the stress & strain relation shown in figure 2.1-7 (a)
• At increased loading, tensile stress larger than fctk in figure 2.1-7 (b) cause cracks
below neutral axis (NA) and the steel alone carry all tensile force. If the compressive
stress at extreme fiber is less than fc'/2, stresses and strains continue to be closely
proportional (linear stress distribution) otherwise non-linear.
• For further increment of load, the stress distribution is no longer linear as shown in
figure 2.1-7 (c).

If the structure say the beam has reached its maximum carrying capacity one may conclude
the following on the cause of failure.

1. When the amount of steel is small at some value of the load the steel reaches its
yield point. In such circumstances:
• The steel stretches a large amount.
• Tension cracks in the concrete widens, visibility and significant deflection of
the beam occurs.
• Compression zone of concrete increase resulting in crushing of concrete
(secondary compression failure).

Such failure is gradual and is preceded by visible sign, widening and lengthening of
cracks, marked increase in deflection.

2. When a large amount of steel used, compressive strength of concrete would be

exhausted before the steel starts yielding. Thus concrete fails by crushing.
Compression failure through crushing of concrete is sudden and occurs without
3. When the amount of tensile strength of steel and compressive strength of concrete
are exhausted simultaneously then the type of failure that occurs is called balanced

Therefore it is a good practice to dimension sections in such a way that should there be
overloading, failure would be initiated by yielding of the steel rather than crushing of

2.2. ULS of Singly Reinforced Rectangular Beams

In the ULS the materials are used to their maximum capacity, i.e., the concrete is strained to
its maximum usable strain of 0.0035 and steel to its design stress fyd (εs <0.01 also) as given
by EBSC 2-1995.

Design of reinforced concrete sections may be carried out using equations or charts and
tables. You may have to design irregular compressed areas like a triangle, trapezium, or

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RCS – I Limit State Design for flexure Chapter II
composite areas. The bases for all these are strain compatibility and equilibrium equations.
Therefore, we have to begin with stress-strain diagrams to derive expressions for flexural
strength of reinforced concrete members.

2.2.1. Basic assumptions at ULS

Three basic assumptions are made when deriving the expression for flexural strength of
reinforced sections.

• Sections perpendicular to the axis of bending that are plane before bending remains
plane after bending.
• The strain in the reinforcement is equal to the strain in the concrete at the same
• The stress in the concrete and reinforcement can be computed from the strains by
using stress-strain curves for concrete and steel.

The three assumptions already made are sufficient to allow calculation of the strength and
behavior of reinforced concrete elements. For design however, several additional
assumption are introduced to simplify the problem with little loss of accuracy.

• The tensile strength of concrete is neglected in flexural strength calculations.

• Concrete is assumed to fail when maximum compressive strain reaches a limiting
value of 0.0035 in bending and 0.002 in axial compression according to EBCS 2-1995.
• The compressive stress-strain relationship for concrete may be based on stress-
strain curves or may be assumed to be rectangular, trapezoidal, parabolic or any
other shape as long as it is in agreement with comprehensive tests.
• The maximum tensile strain in the reinforcements is taken to be 0.01 according to
EBCS 2-1995.
• Stress-strain curve for steel is known.
• The strain diagram shall be assumed to pass through one of the three points A, B or
C as shown in figure 2.2.1-1 as given by EBSC 2-1995.

Figure 2.2.1-1 Strain diagram in the ULS

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RCS – I Limit State Design for flexure Chapter II

Figure 2.2.1-2 Idealized stress-strain diagrams

2.2.2. Analysis of Singly Reinforced Concrete Beams

Stress and Strain Compatibility and Equilibrium
Two requirements are satisfied through the analysis and design of reinforced concrete
beams and columns.

1. Stress and strain compatibility. The stress at any point in a member must correspond
to the strain at that point.
2. Equilibrium. The internal forces must balance the external load effects.

Consider the stress and strain distribution at ULS for a rectangular cross section of singly
reinforced concrete beam subjected to bending as shown in figure.

Figure 2.2.2-1 Singly reinforced rectangular beam

1. The triangular stress distribution applies when the stresses are very nearly
proportional to the strains, which generally occur at the loading level encountered
under working condition and is, therefore, used at the serviceability limit state.
2. The rectangular-parabolic stress block represents the distribution at failure when the
compressive strains are within the plastic range and it is associated with the design
for the ultimate limit state.
3. The equivalent rectangular stress block us a simplified alternative to the rectangular-
parabolic distribution.

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RCS – I Limit State Design for flexure Chapter II
1. If one wants to use the idealized parabolic-rectangular stress block given in EBCS 2-
1995, as shown in figure 2.2.1-2

Figure 2.2.2-2 Derivation

B.  <. . and *  C   D$

Moment about the T,

 * F  C   D$ ?$  G $@  C   D$ ?1  G @

Moment about the C,

 B. F  <. . ?$  G $@  <. . $ ?1  G @

αc and βc are values calculated by integrating the stress-strain diagram for the different
location of the N.A. depth. i.e.
H 1000I ?1  250I @  D $J
C  L
H 1000I ?1  250I @  D J $J
G  1  L
* M

i. εcm ≤ 2‰ and N.A. within the section

I  ?6  I  @
8  I 
G  N
4?6  I  @ K

ii. εcm ≥ 2‰ and N.A. within the section

3I   2

I  ?3I   4@ 5 2
G  N
2I  ?3I   2 @ K

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RCS – I Limit State Design for flexure Chapter II
iii. εcm ≥ 2‰ and N.A. outside the section

C  (125 + 64I  − 16I 

40 (I  − 2)
G = 0.5 −
7 125 + 64I  − 16I 

To understand the mechanics behind the derivation of the above equations, referring to
figure 2.2.2-2, the capacity of section when the εcm ≥ 0.002 and N.A. within the section,

MP 2 2
= ⇒ MP = M
M I  I 

I  J 2
= ⇒ I  = J
2 " MP

2J 2J
 = 1000 R S T1 − 250 R SU  

C is the compression stress resultant,

* = V  $< +   D(M − MP )

2J 2J
* = V 1000 R S T1 − 250 R SU   D$J +   D(M − MP )

* 3I  − 2 M
C = = NK , ℎ NK =
  D$ 3I  $

Taking moment about the top fiber,

M − MP
* G $ = V  $<(M − J) +   D(M − MP ) X Y
L 2

2J 2J M − MP 
* G $ = V 1000 R S T1 − 250 R SU   D$J (M − J) +   D X Y

I  (3I  − 4) + 2 M
G = N , ℎ NK =
2I  (3I  − 2) K $

2. If one wants to use the rectangular stress block given in EBCS 2-1995,

Tensile force in the reinforcement bars become,

B  <. .

Compressive force in the concrete,

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RCS – I Limit State Design for flexure Chapter II
*  0.8MD 

The moment resistance of the cross-section is,

 BZ  *Z

 <. . ?$  0.4M@  0.8MD  ?$  0.4M@

One should note that, the rectangular stress block approximation is only valid if the
concrete stain is 0.0035 and that if the steel is below fracture stain (0.01). The justification
for reducing the depth of N.A by 80% is shown below.

Figure 2.2.2-3 Derivation

From similarity of triangle,

MP 0.002 4
 ⇒ MP  M  0.5714M
M 0.0035 7
To find the compressive force for the parabolic rectangular stress block,

*    <#    ?##  [#D'$\  ##  ['$\@

1 4
*    D M    D M  0.8095  D M
3 7
C  0.8095

To find the moment arm βc, taking moment about the top fiber,
G *  ∑  <# M9    ?##  [#D'$\  ##  ['$\ ?M  ^@)

M 1 4 M
G *    D    D R MS ?M  @
2 3 7 7

G *  0.3367  DM 

G  0.416M

Thus to accommodate both αc and βc, the depth of the equivalent rectangular stress block is
reduced by 80%.
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RCS – I Limit State Design for flexure Chapter II
Calculate the moment capacity of a beam with b = 250mm, h = 500mm and cover to
reinforcement of 25mm. The beam is reinforced with 3ф20 bars with fyk = 400Mpa and fck =
30MPa. Use both parabolic-rectangular stress block and rectangular stress block. Comment
on the accuracy of rectangular stress block approximation.

2.2.3. Types of flexural failures

There are three types of flexural failures of reinforced concrete sections: tension,
compression and balanced failures. These three types of failures may be discussed to
choose the desirable type of failure from the three, in case failure is imminent.

a) Tension Failure
If the steel content As of the section is small, the steel will reach fyd before the concert
reaches its maximum strain εcu of 0.0035. With further increase in loading, the steel force
remains constant at fydAs, but results a large plastic deformation in the steel, wide cracking
in the concrete and large increase in compressive strain in the extreme fiber of concrete.
With this increase in strain the stress distribution in the concrete becomes distinctly non-
linear resulting in increase of the mean stress. Because equilibrium of internal forces should
be maintained, the depth of the N.A decreases, which results in the increment of the lever
arm z. The flexural strength is reached when concrete strain reaches 0.0035. With further
increase in strain, crushing failure occurs. εs may also be so large as to exceed 0.01. This
phenomenon is shown in figure 2.2.3-1. This type of failure is preferable and is used for

Figure 2.2.3-1 Tension failure

b) Compression Failure
If the steel content As is large, the concrete may reach its capacity before steel yields. In
such a case the N.A depth increases considerably causing an increase in compressive force.
Again the flexural strength of the section is reached when εc = 0.0035. The section fails
suddenly in a brittle fashion. This phenomenon is shown in figure 2.2.3-2.
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RCS – I Limit State Design for flexure Chapter II

Figure 2.2.3-2 Compression failure

c) Balanced Failure
At balanced failure the steel reaches fyd and the concrete reaches a strain of 0.0035
simultaneously. This phenomenon is shown in figure 3.2.3-3.

Figure 2.2.3-3 Balanced failure

Figure 2.2.3-4 Strain Diagrams for tension (1), Balanced (2) and compression (3) failures
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