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The comments and opinions expressed herein are those of the contributing
author and do not necessarily reflect official PCI policy. Some of the provided
answers may have alternate solutions. Reader comments are invited.

Significance of Transformed Section Properties

in Analysis for Required Prestressing
Q1: For bridge girder design, our computer computations the area of steel, and then the net area has to be supple-
using transformed section analysis reduce the number of mented by a transformed steel to concrete area equal to n
prestressing strands required by as many as 10 strands. Can times the steel area.
we save this much strand just by converting from gross sec- In older days of prestressed concrete, the effect of the
tion to transformed section analysis? more precise transformed section was not considered be-
cause prestressing forces were smaller and electronic com-
A1: The use of transformed section analysis is more accu- putation tools, such as spreadsheet programs, were not
rate than gross section analysis. As long as we have steel available. Thus, it was conservative to ignore the differences
that is assumed to be bonded to the concrete, any loading between gross concrete section, net concrete section, and
applied, including prestress transfer to the concrete member, transformed concrete section.
acts on a composite section of steel and concrete. This inter- Since the analysis being considered is a linear elastic
action is taken into account by converting the steel area to analysis, it only affects service limit states. The most impor-
an equivalent precast concrete area, by multiplying the steel tant stress limit is the concrete tension at final condition due
area by (n – 1), where n is the modular ratio Eps /Ec, where to full loads plus effective prestress. For bridges in particu-
Eps and Ec are the modulus of elasticity of prestressing steel lar, the limit cannot exceed 6 fc′ , and a number of states
and concrete, respectively, at the time of application of the limit it even further. Transformed section analysis reduces
load being considered. The (–1) value in the (n – 1) term the bottom fiber tensile stress due to gravity loads and thus
recognizes that steel is replaced with concrete, and the reduces the demand for prestressing in order to meet the
“hole” left from the removal of steel is filled with concrete. code stress limit.
Thus the (n – 1) factor should be used in conjunction with Prestress loss estimates by AASHTO formulas were
gross concrete section properties. If net concrete section based on the assumption that gross section properties are
properties are to be used, the gross area has to be reduced by used in the concrete stress analysis. Unless these formulas

Fig. 1. Bridge cross


are modified, transformed section analysis may be incorrect
and misleading. If the proper loss components are accounted
for, the difference in results between the approximate gross
section analysis and the more accurate transformed section
analysis is not expected to be large.

Q2: Please explain what effects should be taken into ac-

count in transformed section analysis compared to gross
section of analysis.

A2: Elastic shortening loss at prestress transfer and elastic

elongation gain at the time of application of gravity loads
must be isolated and subtracted from the total prestress loss
to obtain the long-term loss due to creep and shrinkage of
concrete and relaxation of steel. When external loads, in-
cluding initial prestress just before transfer to concrete, are
introduced to a transformed section, the elastic losses or
gains are automatically accounted for. The long-term loss
should be applied to the net concrete section that exists dur-
ing the time of its development. Long-term loss between
transfer and deck placement should be applied to the net
precast section. Long-term loss between time of deck place-
ment and final time should be applied to the net composite
girder/deck section. However, the latter long-term loss com-
ponent is a small fraction of the total long-term loss and is
generally not separated out in most loss prediction methods.
It is therefore acceptable and slightly more conservative to
apply the total long-term loss to the net precast section or Fig. 2. AASHTO-PCI BT-72 dimensions.
even the gross precast section.

Q3: Please give an example illustrating your point. provided in Fig. 2. Dimensions of the composite section are
given in Fig. 3. The properties of various cross sections and
A3: Consider Example 9.4 of the PCI Bridge Design midspan moments for the example are given in Tables 1 and
Manual (BDM), a single-span AASHTO-PCI bulb-tee 2, respectively. The following data summarize the material
girder bridge (BT-72), with bridge cross section as shown in properties of the prestressing strand, precast bridge girder,
Fig. 1. Cross-sectional dimensions of the BT-72 girder are and cast-in-place deck:

Fig. 3. Dimensions
of the composite

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Table 1. Properties of various sections.
Section A (sq in.) I (in.4) Yb (in.) α = 1 + A*ep*ep /I α b = 1 + A*ep*yb /I
Gross precast cross section 767 545,894 36.60 2.2377 2.5263
Net precast cross section 760 539,362 36.89 2.2648 2.5569
Gross composite section 1419 1,089,063 54.59 3.9530 4.3801
Net composite section 1395 1,064,857 54.59 4.0147 4.4484
Transformed section at release 805 577,779 35.20 2.1142 2.3869
Transformed section at service 802 575,765 35.29 2.1216 2.3952
Transformed composite section 1454 1,167,708 53.42 3.6874 4.0858
Note: 1 in. = 25.4 mm; 1 sq in. = 645 mm2; 1 in.4 = 416,231 mm4.

Table 2. Applied moments at midspan for Service III cations is made up of four components:
stress analysis, for calculating bottom fiber stress.
Loads M (kip-in.) Elastic loss at transfer = 18.90 ksi
Beam weight, Mg 17,258 Shrinkage = 17 – 0.15H
Deck weight, Ms 19,915 = 17 – 0.15(70)
Superimposed dead load, Msd 6480 = 6.50 ksi
Live load, Ml 25,666 Creep = 12fcgp – 7fcdp
Note: 1 kip-in. = 0.113 kN-m. = 12(3.061) – 7(–0.981 – 0.256)
= 28.07 ksi
Relaxation = 6 – 0.12∆fpES – 0.06(∆fpSR + ∆fpCR)
Table 3. Elastic losses and gains due to external loads, = 6 – 0.12(18.9) – 0.06(6.5 + 28.07)
(initial prestress just before transfer is considered an = 1.66 ksi
external load).
Concrete stress at The total long-term loss according to AASHTO LRFD is
Loading centroid of strands (ksi) Elastic loss/gain 6.50 + 28.07 + 1.66 = 36.23 ksi. Slightly different values for
Initial 3.061 18.90 ksi
creep and relaxation losses are given in the Bridge Design
Deck weight –0.981 –5.72 ksi
SIDL –0.256 –1.50 ksi
Manual because gross section properties are used to approx-
LL –1.016 –5.92 ksi imate net section properties. The long-term loss in the BDM
Note: 1 ksi = 0.006895 kN-mm2.
is 6.50 + 26.60 + 1.80 = 34.90 ksi.
Since the loss formulas in AASHTO LRFD were devel-
oped on the assumption that designers use gross section
properties, the long-term loss includes an allowance for
Prestressing strands:
elastic gain due to deck weight and superimposed dead load
48 – 1/2 in. dia., 270 ksi, low-relaxation strand, Aps =
(SIDL). These two components must be excluded if trans-
7.344 sq in., yps relative to bottom fibers = 6.92 in., Eps =
formed section properties are used to calculate concrete
28,500 ksi, fpi = 202.5 ksi
An exact analysis can be undertaken in one of two ways:
Precast girder:
1. Apply an initial prestress of 202.50 ksi plus dead and
f ci′ = 5.8 ksi, Eci = 4617 ksi, ni = Eps /Eci = 6.17
live loads to the transformed section properties. Apply true
f c′ = 6.5 ksi, Ec = 4888 ksi, n = Eps /Ec = 5.83
long-term losses of 43.45 ksi to net section properties.
2. Apply all the forces mentioned in Item 1 to net section
C.I.P. deck:
properties. In addition, apply the elastic loss at transfer,
f c′ = 4.0 ksi, Ecd = 3834 ksi, nd = Ecd /Ec = 0.78
18.90 ksi, and the elastic gain due to deck weight (–5.72
ksi), SIDL (–1.50 ksi), and live load (–5.92 ksi) separately
Relative humidity = 70 percent
as external loads on net section properties.
The results of these two procedures are compared in
There are two options for calculating elastic loss or gain
Table 4 with the results of the current practice of calculation
due to various effects: Option A, using transformed section
using gross section properties.
analysis, and Option B, using an iterative net section analy-
sis. Using Option B with gross section properties used to ap-
Q4: What do you recommend as the best approach for
proximate net section properties is the common practice at
calculation of bottom fiber stress at service, assuming that I
present. The values for this example are summarized in
would like to use the AASHTO LRFD Refined Method for
Table 3. The initial elastic loss of 18.90 given in Table 3
loss prediction?
was calculated using transformed section properties. The
elastic shortening loss of 18.60 ksi reported in the BDM,
A4: The best solution is the most exact one within the
which was calculated iteratively using gross precast section
limitations of the AASHTO LRFD loss formulas. First, cal-
properties, is slightly different.
culate initial stress due to prestress force just before release
The prestress loss according to AASHTO LRFD Specifi-
and member weight. Use transformed section properties

Table 4. Bottom fiber stress by various methods.
Net section (exact) Approximate gross section (current practice)
Transformed Elastic Elastic
Cause section (exact) (ksi) Loading (ksi) loss/gain (ksi) Net (ksi) Loading (ksi) loss/gain (ksi) Net (ksi)
Initial prestress 4.410 5.006 –0.596 4.410 4.898 –0.450 4.448
Self-weight –1.051 –1.180 +0.129 –1.051 –1.157
Deck weight –1.221 –1.362 0.141 –1.221 –1.335 – –1.335
SIDL –0.294 –0.329 0.035 –0.294 –0.323 – –0.323
Long-term loss –1.074 –1.074 – –1.074 –0.844 – –0.844
LL –1.166 –1.303 0.137 –1.166 –1.278 – –1.278
Net –0.397 –0.397 –0.488
Note: 1 ksi = 0.006895 kN-mm2.

Table 5. Proposed options for analysis.

Loading Transformed section (exact) (ksi) Gross section (approximate) (ksi)
Initial prestress plus self-weight 4.410 – 1.051 = 3.359 4.898 – 0.583 – 1.157 + 0.126 = 3.284
Long-term loss –1.074 0.138 + 0.036 – 1.051 + 0.143 = –0.734*
Deck weight –1.221 –1.335
Superimposed dead loads –0.294 –0.323
Live load –1.166 –1.278
Net –0.397 –0.386
* Includes long-term losses and elastic gains due to deck weight, superimposed DL, and LL.
Note: 1 ksi = 0.006895 kN-mm2.

based on the concrete modulus of elasticity at time of pre- tice is to use the gross precast and gross composite sections.
stress transfer. Disregard the LRFD formula for elastic loss For that solution to be equivalent to the exact solution, one
at transfer. Then calculate the stress due to deck weight ap- should account for the elastic loss at transfer, which is gen-
plied to the precast transformed section at time of deck erally done now. In addition, the designer should include an
placement (i.e., using Ec of the girder) and the stress due to allowance in the long-term loss formula for the elastic gain
superimposed dead load (SIDL) applied to the transformed due to deck weight and superimposed dead and live loads.
composite section. The stresses due to these three loading These elastic gain values may be estimated using gross sec-
cases should be calculated at the bottom fiber and again at tion properties, in place of the more accurate transformed
the centroid of the strand. The stresses at the centroid of the section properties, by multiplying the concrete stress at steel
strand should then be used to calculate the LRFD long-term centroid by the modular ratio. Each steel stress gain is then
loss. Before the long-term loss is used in concrete stress cal- multiplied by the steel area, and the resulting force is as-
culation, elastic gain due to deck and SIDL must be ex- sumed as an additional prestress force applied to the gross
cluded (increasing the quantity you assign to long-term concrete section. The results of both the preferred exact so-
loss). The long-term loss should be applied to the net precast lution and the acceptable approximate solution are summa-
concrete section (which is very close to the gross section). rized in Table 5.
Since the LRFD long-term loss does not explicitly give a
breakdown of the loss before and after composite action oc- [Contributed by Shane A. Hennessey, Project Engineer,
curs, it is reasonable to apply the entire long-term loss to the Tadros Associates, LLC, Omaha, Nebraska, and
precast-only section. Finally, calculate the concrete bottom Maher K. Tadros, Cheryl Prewett Professor of Civil
fiber stress due to live load using the transformed composite Engineering, University of Nebraska-Lincoln,
section. Omaha, Nebraska.]
The approximate solution currently used in common prac-

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