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Numerical modelling of cracks in façades

Extended Abstract

Tiago Manuel Ribeiro Esteves

Thesis to obtain the Master of Science Degree in

Civil Engineering

Profª Doutora Maria Cristina de Oliveira Matos Silva
Profª Doutora Inês dos Santos Flores Barbosa Colen

October 2014
aims to draw attention to the benefits of using
1 Introduction numerical models as tools in the design phase, in
The cracking on façades phenomenon is a well- order to study these phenomena and improve the
known phenomenon due to the several inspections details in future projects
in buildings conducted over the years, enabling the This work is organized in four chapters with a first
identification of the zones most likely to develop chapter related to the theoretical framework of the
cracks, numerical models and laboratory tests that phenomenon of cracking and the major causes,
study the cracking phenomenon in materials used namely: hygrothermal loads, chemical reactions
on façades which enables the understanding of the and structural and other movements. A summary
causes of cracking in each material and numerical review of the existing numerical models was also
models that study real façades, as is the case of carried out. The second chapter describes the
the work here presented, studying the behaviour of buildings and the inspections performed in those
the different materials together. Despite all of this buildings as the experimental basis for the models
knowledge, cracks still keep appearing on most created and presented in the third chapter. In the
façades and most of these cracks are avoidable third chapter, apart from describing the programs
with diligent projects and careful execution on site. used and the inputs needed, the simulations
This work follows a previous master thesis (Gaspar performed and the results that permit comparing
et al., 2011), where the factors that directly what was observed in the field and the program
influence the adherence of mortar with interface output are described. The fourth and last chapter,
elements were analysed. In the beginning of this describes the conclusions of this work and makes
work the introduction of contact elements, a more mention of future works that can be done.
complete and complex version of the interface
elements, in the same conditions were studied 2 State of the Art – Cracking on
given rise to an article in the International Journal
of Adhesion & Adhesives (Silva et al., 2014) and a
presentation in the 4th National Congress of The façades are the envelope of the buildings
Construction (Esteves et al., 2012). As there is no therefore, they have an important aesthetical
information available of detachments due to component but, even more importantly have a
hygrothermal loads in order to compare and mechanical component that is closely related with
calibrate the numerical models, this work has the durability of the building components and the
evolved to the analysis of cracking in façades, appearance of anomalies. The phenomenon of
using the knowledge of the contact elements to cracking, usually, is the physical reaction in the
improve the numerical models created. building to an excessive load (internal or external
The main objective of this dissertation is to model load) or movement (differential or structural
façades and detect zones where it is more probable movements) and works as a trigger to the
for cracks to appear, in order to define zones of development of other severe anomalies.
reinforcement to integrate in details of future
projects. To achieve this objective, the work will be
2.1 The cracking phenomena
divided in three major points: As discussed by (Roylance, 2001) and (Schreurs,
1. A systematization of cracking types divided by 2011), three types of cracks can be defined based
load types; on three loading modes to wit, Mode I, Mode II and
Mode III ( Figure 2.1). In Mode I the load is
2. The inspection of different buildings in order to
perpendicular and normal to the crack, originating
identify the most common cracking types,
a normal opening; in Mode II and in Mode III the
integrate them in the previous category of load
crack is originated by shear stress, with the load
type and select some with the intention of
parallel to a sliding crack in Mode II and
perpendicular in Mode III.
3. Modelling the selected buildings or part of them
The authors (Paiva et al., 2006), (Bonshor and
so that it is possible to identify the zones where
Bonshor, 1995) and (Gaspar et al., 2006) define the
a detailed reinforcement should be prescribed
mechanism of cracking as a physical process
in future projects.
associated with movements originating from
If these detailed zones are prescribed in the design different forces or causes transforming into stress
phase of the projects, the projects will be more and once the stress is greater than what the
precise and this will enable a theoretical material or component can withstand, a crack will
improvement of the durability of the façades which appear. Following the work of the previously
can be related to an improvement of the buildings’ mentioned authors and (Bone et al., 1989), cracks
durability and in the end, results in better quality of in coatings do not represent danger to the users;
life for the users. With this work, surprising and they are a first sign that something is not working
innovative conclusions are not expected as this is as it should be and despite their serious
a well-known phenomenon. However this work appearance, are a natural reaction to occupation

and external conditions. Some cracks are base paste. A second type, most common in
inevitable but controllable, such as cracks formed façade walls and flat roofs, is a set of parallel
during the early age of the building, caused by the cracks. These cracks appear, normally, after a one
drying process. year cycle (winter and summer), are perpendicular
to the longest axis and can appear in a wall
subjected to high thermal surface gradient without
an expansion joint or similar.
As referred in the work of (Bonshor and Bonshor,
1995), (Kovler and Frosting, 1998) and (Ignatiev
and Chatterji, 1992) the individual behaviour of
each material, in most cases, is not the main cause
Figure 2.1 - Three standard loading modes of a crack. (Polaha
for façade cracks but when different materials are
and Ingraffea, 1994) interconnected, the forces created by the
connection of the materials generate a restraint to
As stated by (Bonshor and Bonshor, 1995) and
the individual movements of each material
(Bone et al., 1989) the mechanism of cracking
originating in shear tension between them. When
affects the global performance of the building. A
this tension is higher than the internal strength of
crack is a privileged entry point for moisture with or
the material a crack appear.
without hygroscopic salts and carbon dioxide that
accelerates chemical phenomena in cement-based 2.2.2 Structural and other movements
products and a place where seeds can settle and According to the authors (Paiva et al., 2006) and
grow inside. In summary, the cracking phenomenon (Sousa and Silva, 2000), masonry walls with
accelerates the processes of degradation in façades concrete blocks or bricks are the most common
and contributes to a decrease in the quality of life in construction process in Portugal for façades or
buildings, namely the thermal and acoustic quality. partition walls which, typically, lay in a slab or a
In this work the forces and causes associated with beam made of reinforced concrete. The walls have
cracking on façades, are divided into three major an assured capacity to resist compression forces;
groups, namely hygrothermal loads, chemical however they have slight resistance to traction
reactions and structural and other movements. actions which lead to the appearance of cracks in
2.2 Cracking patterns on façades
In the work of (Sousa and Silva, 2000), it is
2.2.1 Hygrothermal loads determined that cracking due to foundation
According to (Bonshor and Bonshor, 1995) the movements is one of the most common
most common materials used in construction have phenomenon. These phenomena depend on the
a considerable and a continuously size changing type of soil and structure and mostly how
when subjected to a variation in temperature. The perceptively the foundations were designed. The
simplified analysis assumes that the material is worst case is the differential movements caused by
homogeneous, which means that all material heterogeneous soils or soils with different
experiences the same changes in temperature and compactness, different foundation types or different
it has no restraints preventing deforming. Although stress distributions in non-homogeneous soils or
this is not the correct approach to apply to current variations in the moisture content of clay soils.
materials in a construction system, it is a solid The authors (Paiva et al., 2006; Sousa and Silva,
approach to non-restricted material and a 2000) cite the excessive deformation of the support
reasonable starting point for an analysis of elements subjected to bending loading as another
deformation. A building, in most cases, is an factor to take in consideration in the structural
aggregation of elements that are built with different, movements. The walls despite their low stiffness
non-homogenous materials and have most of their tend to oppose the progress of deformation but not
movements restrained not only by the connections enough to resist the deflection imposed by slabs
between different materials of the same element and beams so, in cases of excessive deformation,
but also by the physical restraint imposed by other besides the visible deflection, a crack in the coating
elements. and the wall can be noticed. One of the most
As discussed by (Bonshor and Bonshor, 1995), common cases of cracking is the cantilevered slab,
(Gaspar et al., 2006), (Paiva et al., 2006) and especially when the slab has a big span.
(Silva, 2002), two types of cracking in façades can These deformations are controlled in the design
be defined that depend not only on the load but also process by the imposed limits, however these limits
depend on the type of material. A first type, do not ensure a crack free wall. Although, as stated
common in the early ages of cement base materials by (Paiva et al., 2006), the analysis of the crack
is characterized by the shrinkage of the cement configuration provides a hint to determine which
base material as a consequence of quick mechanism has occurred, in summary the
evaporation of the water present in the cement appearance of a crack depends on:

 Relation between span-height of walls; zones of high stress and deformation and therefore
 Quality and dimension of materials used in walls; the cracking zones, which will influence the
 Presence of openings in walls; durability of the structure (Tang et al., 2013;
 Interaction between walls and other structural Dilrukshi et al., 2010).
border elements or non-structural border
elements. 3 Case studies
In the work of (Veiga et al., 2009) there are other In order to have a term of comparison with the
situations to take in consideration concerning numerical models, five inspections were conducted
differential movements related to the rehabilitation in different types of buildings with different cracking
of old renders of historical or non-historical causes. The inspections were performed with
buildings. In these cases the difficulty is achieving experts responsible for the construction project in
coherence between the old support and the collaboration with the supervising professors. The
modern material that will substitute the old mortar buildings were chosen in a project of cooperation
that has become detached or disaggregated. between industry and university which will result in
a master’s thesis with the systematization of
2.3 Numerical modelling of cracks in cracking in buildings running in parallel to this
façades thesis.
In recent years, thanks to the development of 3.1 Office building – Oriente
computer software capable of numerical calculus, 3.1.1 Building characterization
modelling a material or a structure with linear or non- This is an abandoned building located near Parque
linear behaviour became more accessible and a das Nações, Oriente (Figure 3.1 and 3.2). It was an
powerful help to save time in the designing process office building attached to a mechanical workshop,
in various areas of engineering namely in abandoned few years ago and it is foreseen that it
mechanical, aerospace and in civil engineering will be demolished.
(Terdalkar and Renci, 2006). The most common
analysis is related to simple materials or isolated
pieces in order to gain a better understanding of
their behaviour when subjected to high levels of
stress. These simulations can save money and time
to the constructors and are an advantage in
presenting possible methods of rupture that can
normally be validated by experimental inspections
which can lead to numerical models very close to
reality (Demir et al., 2008; Terdalkar and Renci, Figure 3.1 – Location of the building (Google, 2014)
2006). On the other hand the study of real structures
or parts thereof are not as developed, since each This building has two elevated floors with a ground
structure has its story and most of the time it is very floor with high ceiling when it was in use it was an
difficult, without resorting to destructive tests, to auto dealer in one part and a workshop in the other
know precisely which materials were applied in the connected with the main workshop in the back of
structure. Given this difficulty, the modelling of real the main building with a double ceiling. The main
structures is limited to historical buildings or building can be divided in three modules separated
constructions of major importance, where the by expansion joints and with north orientation for
associated costs are worthwhile due to the high the main façade of module one and east orientation
value of the structures, as can be seen in the works for the main façade of module three.
of (Ramos and Lourenço, 2004), (Betti and Vignoli,
2011), (Romera et al., 2008) and (Augusti et al.,
Concerning the modelling in Civil engineering,
concrete and reinforced concrete are the most
modelled materials, not only because these are the
most used materials in constructions but also
because these are the materials of choice for
structures subjected to adverse environments (Shi
et al., 2012). Other materials with positive behaviour
Figure 3.2 – main façade of the building (actual)
in adverse environments and object of multiple
modelling are bricks with or without air gapes (Fathy It is a concrete gantry framing structure with voided
et al., 2009). slabs 40 cm thick (estimated) and pillars up to 50cm
More than modelling the mechanical properties, thick (average value estimated). The measures of
numerical models are used to predict the potential the building are all estimations based on

observation or comparisons based on
photographs; the location of the pillars is also an
estimation based in the analyses of photographs,
thermal imagery and structural knowledge.
3.1.2 Building inspection
The inspection was carried out alone with a camera
and an infrared thermal camera, just on the outside
of the building as building is sealed to prevent
inappropriate occupation. The infrared thermal
camera were used to confirm the location of the Figure 3.4 – Location of the social housing quarter of Adroana
pillars as no project are available. (Google, 2014)
During the inspection it has been observed that Each building has a gantry framing structure with
module 1 is where most of the cracks appear. In the four elevated floors and a plane non-accessible
other modules, the cracks appear in specific places rooftop. Each floor has two fractions, a T3 and a T2
and in the same places as in module 1 namely the and a stairwell in the middle. The walls are double-
platband. This way, in module 1 cracks were twine masonry of ceramic air bricks with eleven cm
detected in the platband, above and below the roof width and an air gap of five centimetres, and render
slab of the first floor, two cracks aligned with the in both sides (1.5x11x5x11x1.5 cm).
window sill of the first and the second floor, some
cracks in the corner between the main façade and 3.2.2 Building inspection
the west façade and some in the corner between The inspection was conducted in the presence of a
the west façade and the back façade. In the co-worker which is developing a master thesis in
following figure (Figure 3.3) the cracks are patterns of cracking, and a representative of the
illustrated. construction company. To help the comprehension
of the in site inspection, a hygrometer, an infrared
thermal camera and a crack ruler were used.
As the buildings are similar, the cracking patterns
tend to be similar too. Most of the cracks are located
in the corners of the windows frames (Figure 3.5a),
wall-corners (Figure 3.5b), the upper part of the
transitions of coating materials (Figure 3.5c) and in
the balconies and walls above (Figure 3.5d).
Other than the cracking due to the changing of
coating materials which may be caused by the
Figure 3.3 – Illustration of the cracks in module 1 difference in thermal stress due to different
The most likely cause for the appearance of cracks materials with a large difference in thermal
in render is the transition of materials in the support conductivity, all others are originated by structural
(concrete to masonry) allied to stress forces; stress concentration occurs in the corners of
concentrations in the corners of windows frames. In windows frames, in the wall-corners and
the corners of the façades, cracking is possibly the gravitational forces and large deformations occur in
result of a stress concentration in the corners or a the balconies.
possible settlement in the rear corner. During the inspection it was also verified that all the
façades with north orientation have problems with
3.2 Social housing quarter of Adroana – humidity, presenting larges areas on the façade with
Cascais green or black stains. This, in combination with
cracks, accelerates the degradation of the structure
3.2.1 Building characterization
and degradation of the quality of life for the
The social housing quarter of Adroana is a complex residents.
of forty buildings, near the Estoril Racing Circuit,
which were concluded in 2005 (Figure 3.4).
All the buildings have the same architecture with a
dominant North-South orientation (twenty-nine of
forty) to the main and posterior façades and the
remaining eleven of forty have a West-East
orientation (Figure 3.4 right).


twenty centimetres, brickwork of fifteen centimetres
thickness and an external layer of mortar of one
point five centimetres thickness.



Figure 4.1 – Model of a rooftop corner

For this model a concrete C20/25 in the structural
part, a masonry of ceramic air bricks and a dry-
mortar Fassa Bortolo KC1 (Fassalusa Lda., 2011)
composed by hydrated lime, Portland cement,
(d) selected sands and additives to improve workability
Figure 3.5 – Cracking patterns: (a) windows frames, (b) wall- and adherence, was adopted. The properties of all
corners, (c) transitions of coating material, (d) balcony and
wall above
the materials are described in Table 4.1.
Table 4.1 – Properties of the materials applied in the model
4 Numerical modelling concrete
render masonry
Described in this chapter are the numerical models 𝑘𝑔
density [ ⁄𝑚3] 2500 1600 900
of the buildings mentioned in Chapter 3. This
Chapter establishes the relation between what was [𝐺𝑃𝑎] 30 3 6.2
seen in the inspections and the results presented by poisson’s
[−] 0.2 0.2 0.15
the simulations in the chapters 4.1, 4.2 and 4.3. ratio
Whenever possible a repair solution or suggestions coefficient of
thermal [1⁄°𝐶 ] 1.00e-05 1.35e-05 5.50e-06
for mitigation of the cracking phenomenon are
presented. isotropic
thermal [𝑊⁄𝑚 °𝐶 ] 0.7 0.55 0.34
4.1 General example of a connection conductivity
between the platband and the reference [°𝐶] 15 15 15
structure tensile yield [𝑀𝑃𝑎] 2.2 1 0.04
In this example a part of a structure, common strength
among the constructed buildings in Portugal, is compressive
[𝑀𝑃𝑎] 13.3 2.5 3
yield strength
illustrated, as can be seen in Figure 4.1, where a
crack in the transition of materials usually appears.
As the main objective was to study the effect of a
As a common structure, a part of a rooftop corner
thermal load in the structure, in this model only a
with a parapet of seventy five centimetres height
thermal load introduced by a convection heat
and an equal length of four meters in both directions
transfer was applied and the effect of the self-weight
and a floor-to-ceiling of two point six meters was
was taken into account as it is a permanent load in
adopted. As the main objective of this model is to
every structure. Both loads were analysed
study the appearance of cracks in the transition of
separately and combined in a single load
materials the structure is without openings in the
combination where both loads contribute equally
façade. The model is comprised of a slab of fifteen
and without mitigation.
centimetres thickness, a corner square pillar of

The parameters introduced to calculate the As both deformed shapes are similar, the deformed
convection heat transfer on the façades and slabs, shape of the load combination have the same
air temperature and film coefficient, are described configurations with the rotation of the masonry and
in Table 4.2. the maximum deformation occurring in the bottom of
Table 4.2 – Thermal loads applied in model
the masonry with the value of 20.38 millimetres.
film coefficient air temperature It is interesting and significant to notice that the
[𝑊⁄ 2 ] [℃] deformation due to the self-weight is approximately
𝑚 .℃
outside – walls 57% of the total deformation. In other words, self-
25 42
and roof weight has an important contribution to the
inside – walls 7.6923 25 deformation and the consequent appearance of
inside - roof 5.8824 25
cracks. In the next sub-section an analysis in order
Finally, to perform the structural analyses the to identify the zones more prone to crack was
following support conditions were applied: two carried out.
sliding restraints in both sides of the model and a
simple support in the bottom as shown in Figure 4.2.

Figure 4.3 – Total deformation for the load combination

Figure 4.2 – Supports of the model

In this simulation two different types of contact were 4.1.3 Cracking analysis
introduced: between the masonry and the structure The identification of the zones prone to crack was
a “Frictionless contact” was introduced enabling the made based on the evaluation of the “Elastic Strain
surfaces to slide freely and, depending on the Intensity” (Figure 4.4) and the “Vector Principal
loads, open or close contact between surfaces. The Elastic Strain”. In the first figure it is possible to
remaining contacts between the mortar and the detect the zones where the strain is higher which is
brickwork and the mortar and the concrete were associated with higher deformations whilst in the
defined as “Bonded contact” which means that the second figure it is possible to detect the zones
elements are not allowed to separate or slide. In the tensioned and the compressed zones (red arrows
next sub-sections the results for each separate and blue arrows respectively). Figure 4.5 it is
analysis and the load combination are illustrated. illustrated an overlapping of a photo with the cracks
4.1.1 Results summary highlighted and the vector principal elastic strain,
being visible the cracks align with the tensioned
Summarized in the following table (Table 4.3) are
the results for the thermal stress analysis and for
the self-weight stress analysis compared with the
results for the load combination and the location of
the maximum and the minimum values.
Table 4.3 – Results summary (Connection between platband
and structure)
Total Deformation (m)
Min Where Max Where
1 1.763E-4 Masonry 8.873E-3 Render
2 3.324E-6 Concrete 1.165E-2 Render
LC1 1.994E-4 Concrete 2.038E-2 Render
1 – Thermal stress analysis; 2 – Self-weight stress analysis; LC1 – Load
combination 1;
Figure 4.4 – Elastic Strain Intensity for the Solution Combination
4.1.2 Load combination
In this simulation the load combination is a particular Analysing the figures, it is possible to define traction
example of the characteristic (rare) combination zones and disregarding the values near the sliding
where 𝑄𝑘,1 = 𝑇 and there are no other variable restraint where the results are affected by the
actions. So it can be written as Equation (4.1): support, it is possible to define a zone where the
occurrence of a crack is highly probable. This zone
∑ 𝐺𝑖 + 𝑇 (4.1) extends over the edge of the pillar and the slab with

a higher probability in the interception of the pillar softened up zones in the middle, were defined. The
and the slab. softened up zones have an equivalent height (ℎ𝑒,𝑐𝑎𝑙 )
given by Equation (4.2) (Araújo, 2006):
12𝐼 3
ℎ𝑒,𝑐𝑎𝑙 =( )
where 𝐼 stands for the inertia of the softened zone
and 𝑆 the distance between the ribbings. In this case
a mould of FERCA 800 (FERCA, 2014) to a total
height of four hundred millimetres was used which
leads to an equivalent height of two hundred and
sixty millimetres.

Figure 4.5 – Overlapping of a photo and the vector principal

elastic strain
Taking into account the symmetry, a façade was
analysed and four zones where the mortar should
be reinforced were defined (Figure 4.6). The most
critical zone, the intersection between the pillar and
the slab (orange box), extends by fifty five
centimetres centred in the slab axis with a length of
one point seven metres. The green box aligns with
Figure 4.7 – Building model;
the slab with a height of thirty centimetres centred in
the axis of the slab. The yellow box is aligned with As only a visual inspection was carried out and as
the axis of the pillar and has a width of thirty five there is no project information available, the
centimetres, fifteen over the pillar and the other properties of the materials for this building were
twenty over the masonry. The blue box relates to the adopted as a concrete C20/25, a Fassa Bortolo
change of direction of the tensions (slab to pillar) mortar KC1 (Fassalusa Lda., 2011) and a masonry
and usually it is a zone without reinforcement; of fifteen centimetres thickness. These properties
however, as can be seen in Figure 4.6 it is a traction are listed in Table 4.1.
zone. This zone is a square shape of seventy As in the first case study, thermal loads as
centimetres. convection effects were applied, with the following
properties described in Table 4.2.
As supports for the structural analyses the pillars
were fixed by a Fixed Support and the walls simply
supported by a Remote displacement equal to zero.
In the zone of connection with the remaining building
a sliding restraining was adopted, applied to the
model by a Frinctionless Support. Regarding the
connection between the different elements the
same strategy as described in sub-section 4.2, was
applied; Frictionless Contact between masonry and
concrete and the other contacts as Bonded.
Figure 4.6 – Reinforcement zones of the mortar In this model a simulation of a full tridimensional
4.2 Office building – Oriente building with a refined mesh was attempted,
however, the simulation was taking too long to
The dimensions of the building were estimated process. This partially invalidates the possibility of
based on photos and comparison to other buildings introducing singularities or the test of different
and other elements. In general the model seeks to solutions in a short time. Thus a mid-term
translate what the building was during its use refinement was adopted, making it possible to
although it is not possible to determine exactly the obtain reliable results and within reasonable
back of the building and due to the doubt a simulation time. The results are presented in the
conservative approach was adopted. Figure 4.7 next sub-sections with a comparison of results
illustrates the geometrical model used in the between the individual and the load combinations in
numerical model. Table 4.4.
In order to model a voided slab without introducing 4.2.1 Results summary
all the single moulds, which would make the
simulation longer and heavier, zones of solid Summarized in the following table (Table 4.4) are
concrete near the pillars and all around the slab with the results for the thermal stress analysis, self-

weight stress analysis and variable action in slabs
analysis compared with the values of both
combinations and the location of the maximum and
the minimum values. As seen in the following sub-
section, the LC1 has the highest deformation and a
global behaviour compatible with the cracks in the
building (Figure 3.3). In the next sub-section this
analysis was complemented with other results and
illustrations to confirm this conclusion.
Table 4.4 – Results summary for the office building at Oriente
Total Deformation (m) Figure 4.9 – Vector Principal Elastic Strain for LC1 (Oriente)
Min Where Max Where
In Figure 4.9 it is possible to detect some tensioned
1 0 Concrete 2.069E-3 Render
zones and confirm them comparing with the Elastic
2 0 Concrete 8.323E-4 Render
3 0 Concrete 2.656 E-4 Concrete
Strain Intensity (Figure 4.10) but without the
LC1 0 Concrete 2.240E-3 Masonry exactness previously obtained.
LC2 0 Concrete 1.739E-3 Masonry Comparing the Figure 4.10 and the Figure 3.3 it is
1 – Thermal stress analysis; 2 – Self-weight stress analysis; 3 – Variable
action in slabs analysis; LC1 – Load combination 1; LC2 - Load possible to detect some zones of high strain (the
combination 2 light blue) that are located in the same zone of the
cracks identified in the building inspection but
4.2.2 Load combinations nothing certain.
Taking into account the characteristic (rare)
combination, two different load combinations were
selected, one with the temperature as the leading
action (LC1) and the other with the variable action in
slabs as the leading action (LC2). In Figure 4.8 the
deformed shape for the LC1 with the location of the
maximum value is illustrated.
At first sight, the location of the maximum value in
both of the load combinations is approximately the
same as the one for the deformation due to self-
weight and variable actions in slabs although these
Figure 4.10 – Elastic Strain Intensity for LC1 (Oriente)
maximum values are lower than the thermal
deformation. Still, the load combination with the 4.3 Social housing quarter of Adroana –
temperature as leading action is the most severe Cascais
combination with a maximum value to the total
deformation of two point twenty four millimetres The study of these buildings was made in
whilst in the load combination LC2 the maximum cooperation between the university and the
value is one point seventy four millimetres. constructers which guaranteed the access to the
structural project (Figure 4.11). The models created
and the properties introduced in the numerical
modelling are those defined in the project and in the
case of omissions, common materials were

Figure 4.8 – Total Deformation for LC1 (Oriente)

4.2.3 Cracking analysis

Contrary to the first analysis (4.1.3) in this analysis
Figure 4.11 – Project of Social quarter of Adroana (ElevoGroup,
the zones prone to cracking are not so easily 2005)
detected with the analysis of the Vector Principal
In the first place a three-dimensional model of the
Elastic Strain (Figure 4.9) as was done in the
building was created (Figure 4.12) however the
chapter previously mentioned.
simulation takes too much time to achieve one result
which led to the decision to model just two parts of
the building, representing a large part of the building Figure 4.13 – Details of the building façade: a) corner
with the largest window; b) two windows near each other
and where a higher concentration of cracks is with the scheme of the supports applied in both façades
In the project document supplied by the construction
company, the concrete was defined as C20/25
whilst the properties of the mortar and masonry
were based on technical catalogues of Portuguese
suppliers with properties listed in Table 4.1.


Figure 4.14 – Identification of the zones selected to model

In order to perform a structural analysis and

maintain the correct thermal and structural
functioning it was necessary to add a fourth material
with the same thermal properties as an air gap of
five centimetres defined in the Portuguese
Regulation of Energy Performance for Residential
(b) Buildings (REH) (DL118/2013, 2013) and structural
functioning similar to the masonry in order not to
Figure 4.12 – Social Quarter of Adroana: a) three-
dimensional model; b) photo of the building influence the global performance of the models as
shown in Table 4.5.
The selected parts cover the most critical parts of
Concerning the structural supports several tests
the building and the majority of the cracks identified
were made in order to choose the correct type of
during the inspection. Figure 4.14 illustrates the
support. Various pillar supports were tested,
location of these two parts of the façade on the third
specifically: sliding restrains, elastic linear
floor, selected to be modelled; the part of the front
supports, combinations of elastic linear supports
façade with a big window near a corner and a
and rotations in the top/bottom of pillars and with
balcony – Façade type 1 (FT1) (Figure 4.13a); and
fixed supports in the bottom and a simple support
the part of the back façade with two windows near
in the top. After all simulations and comparing all
each other – Façade type 2 (FT2) (Figure 4.13b).
the results it was concluded that the maximum
variation in the maximum deformation varies only
one millimetre and the global behaviour of the
façade remained constant despite the changing in
the support conditions. Thus, selected as support
conditions were: the fixed supports in the bottom
pillars that fix all the movements in the three planes
XYZ and the simple supports in the top pillars that
fix the displacement in the normal plane to the pillar
axis (section plane of the pillar). Finally a sliding
(a) restraint in the connection of the slab with the rest
of the structure was applied. These supports are
the same for the two façade types and are
schematically displayed in Figure 4.13b.
The connections between the elements in both
models remained the same as in the previously
described two other models: Frinctionless Contact
between masonry and concrete and the other
contacts as Bonded.


Table 4.5 – Properties of air applied in the model (Adroana) combination 1 was selected for the cracking
density 𝑘𝑔 0
[ ⁄ 3]
young’s modulus [𝐺𝑃𝑎] 6
poisson’s ratio [−] 0
coefficient of thermal expansion [1⁄℃] 0
isotropic thermal conductivity 𝑊
[ ⁄𝑚℃] 0.27781
reference temperature [℃] 15
tensile yield strength [𝑀𝑃𝑎] 0
compressive yield strength [𝑀𝑃𝑎] 0

4.3.1 Results summary

In Table 4.9 and 4.10 the summarized results for

the two façade types and for the different analysis
type are illustrated. To notice that the final results Figure 4.15 – Total deformation for the load combination 1 (FT1)
(LC1 and LC2) are very similar when comparing the Façade type 2
results for LC1 and LC2 but also when comparing
the results between the FT1 and FT2. Other aspect In this case the deformed shapes are almost the
to observe is that the maximum deformation due to same too (Figure 4.16) with the difference between
self-weight is the higher deformation when maximum values is 0.025 millimetres. The only
comparing the individual results. major difference between these two deformed
Table 4.6 – Results summary for the Façade Type 1
shapes is the location of the maximum value that for
the load combination 1 is in render whilst in the load
Total Deformation (m)
Min Where Max Where
combination 2 it is in the slab near the support.
1 0 Concrete 1.428E-3 Plaster (ins) Despite this tiny difference the load combination 1
2 0 Concrete 1.547E-3 Concrete was selected for further analyses.
3 0 Concrete 1.144E-3 Plaster (ins)
LC1 0 Concrete 3.242E-3 Render (out)
LC2 0 Concrete 3.058E-3 Render (out)
1 – Thermal stress analysis; 2 – Self-weight stress analysis; 3 – Variable
action in slabs analysis; LC1 – Load combination 1; LC2 - Load
combination 2

Table 4.7 – Results summary for the Façade Type 2

Total Deformation (m)
Min Where Max Where
1 4.952E-8 Concrete 1.573E-3 Render (out)
2 3.342E-8 Concrete 2.045E-3 Concrete
3 2.919E-8 Concrete 1.445E-3 Concrete
LC1 1.209E-7 Concrete 3.894E-3 Render (out)
LC2 1.018E-7 Concrete 3.869E-3 Concrete Figure 4.16 – Total deformation for load combination 1 (FT2)
1 – Thermal stress analysis; 2 – Self-weight stress analysis; 3 – Variable 4.3.3 Cracking analysis
action in slabs analysis; LC1 – Load combination 1; LC2 - Load
As in the analysis described in sub-section 4.3.2, a
4.3.2 Load combinations separate analysis to each model was made
Applying the previous methodology and analysing following the scheme previously used to determine
both models separately, the most severe load the zones prone to cracking.
combination in each model ( and Façade type 1
was defined in order to apply to further analyses,
Analysing the Figure 4.17 it is possible to detect
specifically the cracking analysis.
zones prone to cracking which are associated with Façade type 1 the zones where the tractions are higher than the
Analysing the deformation of both load compressions. These zones, in detail on Figure
combinations (Figure 4.15) it is possible to see that 4.18, are zones where it is necessary to introduce
both deformed shapes are similar and the some reinforcements in the render, specifically the
maximum values occur in the same place too corners of the window frames, a strip on the left
although the value of maximum deformation is jamb connecting the corner reinforcements and the
slightly greater (0.18 millimetres) for the load zone near the corner between the slab and the pillar
combination 1. Despite this marginal difference plus the corner of the window frame. Additionally to
these zones, traction zones were observed in the

5𝑐𝑚 = 0.18 𝑚2 ℃⁄𝑊 (value defined in REH to thermal


façade, near the balcony slab (the lower part of the To confirm these zones, the result illustrated in
upper balcony and the upper part of the lower Figure 4.19 and a photo taken in the social housing
balcony). Beyond the zones detected in the façade, quarter, with the cracks highlighted, were
it is possible to see in Figure 4.17 some vertical red overlapped with the result shown in Figure 4.20.
arrows which correspond to cracks in the slabs, Most of the cracks existing in the building are
specifically in the intersection zone of the slab and located in the tensioned zones, which is a good
the wall and in the connection between the balcony contribution to validate the model and the selected
slab and the façade which will be sustained by the load combination.
reinforcement bars of the slabs.

Figure 4.19 – Vector principal elastic strain (FT2)

Figure 4.17 – Vector principal elastic strain (FT1)

Figure 4.20 – Overlapping of a photo and the vector principal

elastic strain

5 Conclusions and future

Figure 4.18 – Vector principal elastic strain – details (FT1) The main objective of this work was to create a Façade type 2 model making it possible to detect the zones where
cracking is probable and, whenever possible,
In Figure 4.19 the vector principal elastic strain,
compare the results to real examples. To achieve
which helps to identify the zones prone to cracking,
this objective firstly the types of cracking were
is illustrated. In contrast with some cracking
divided by load type, namely: hygrothermal loads,
analyses previously made, in this analysis the zones
chemical reactions and structural and other
where it is probable for cracks to occur are easily
movements. Numerical models that simulate the
phenomenon, directly and indirectly, were
Defined are five zones on the façade, where the searched and it was observed that the majority of
appearance of cracks is probable, relating to mortar simulations are performed based on the most
areas that need reinforcement namely: the corner of common materials used in construction and some
window frames, the zone between the two windows use parts of the building whilst the largest and more
next to each other, the left jamb of the first window, complex models concerning historical buildings or
both jambs in the third window and the corners buildings with great value. The majority of the
between pillars and slabs extended through the slab simulations found are time dependent signifying
axis. As in the analysis of the first façade type, in this good contribution to the results of these simulations
analysis a zone in the slabs, prone to cracking was as the variations over time can accelerate the
detected, right after the wall in the top slab and in cracking phenomenon or introduce more
the bottom slab, however these deformations are differential movements that induce cracking. In this
sustained by the reinforcement bars of the slabs. dissertation, time variations were not applied, this

can be pointed as a limitation of this work but needs smaller models are better choices for the study of
to be seen as a point to improve in future works. this phenomenon.
With the cracks organized by load type, five Secondly, whenever it was possible to compare
inspections were held in order to have experimental results to photos, the results obtained are
data to use in the numerical models and to compare compatible with what was observed in the field and
the results with what was seen in the field. Four of compatible to what is known about cracking on
these inspections were held in collaboration with façades. In some cases the results indicate places
the University and PTPC, a Portuguese technology where it is not common to suggest the
platform for construction that enabled the reinforcement, however, from the comparison
opportunity of inspecting the buildings and, in some between results and photos, it is possible to say
cases, facilitated the access to the design projects. that the jambs are zones to take into consideration
From the inspected buildings the most common when reinforcing the render. This, leads to the
cracks found are caused by structural and other conclusion that numerical models are a good tool
movements with some of these movements to predict the possible location of cracks when
induced by hygrothermal loads. At “Pinhal da subjected to service loads.
Charneca” cracks were seen that appear due to the Thirdly, taking into account what was studied in the
appearance of other cracks, most of them due to beginning of this dissertation, variations on the
chemical reactions as the buildings are located connection between the different materials were
near the ocean. introduced such as: the introduction of Frictionless
From the five buildings inspected to model, two contact between the masonry and concrete
were selected based firstly on the types of cracks enabling the surfaces to slide freely and, depending
and secondly on the availability of the design on the loads, open or close contact between
project. The buildings of “Pinhal da Charneca” were surfaces while the other contacts (render to
not modelled due to the presence of chemical masonry and render to concrete) were defined as
reactions and soil-structure interaction whilst the bonded i.e. the elements are not allowed to
buildings of “Quinta de Santo António” already separate or slide. The bonded connection type was
have numerical analyses of the buildings and the defined by default whilst the frictionless contact
high school Dr Solano Abreu no project information was defined in order to allow a relative movement
was available. For the two building selected for in the render substrate although it is incorrect to
modelling, two different situations were selected on admit that the surface between concrete and
each building in order to model. In the office masonry has no friction forces. To improve the
building at Oriente, as no project information was quality of the numerical models there are works that
available, a part of the structure was adopted to should be done in order to give experimental
study the connection between platband and the support to the models. When this dissertation
structure and a full part of the building was started, with the study of the contact elements, it
modelled in order to study the global behaviour. In felt as if, where connection between materials is
the second building, the social housing quarter of concerned, nothing is concretely known just a few
Adroana, two parts of the façade were selected and values without any experimental validation. Thus, it
modelled covering approximately 50% of the main is important to improve the knowledge about the
façades. connection between materials in order to improve
Regarding all the models created and the results the numerical models.
obtained there are three principal conclusions to On the whole, the objectives were achieved with
note: the numerical models showing themselves to be
Firstly, to obtain better results it is necessary to useful tools in order to predict the cracking zones
introduce a more refined mesh, achieving better and a tool for making future projects more precise
results in smaller models than in larger models (like and more demanding in order to improve the quality
the model created for the office building in Oriente). of the construction. As referred to in the beginning
The larger model, with too much detail, is difficult to of this work the cracking phenomenon is a relevant
simulate with high definition, requiring computers issue that affects the durability of the building and
specifically designed for this purpose and these, the quality of life of the users. This phenomenon,
usually, are used for simulating historical buildings despite being well-known, continues to affect a
or buildings of great value. To counter this difficulty, great number of buildings, irrespective of their age.
equivalent models were created, leading to This reality was observed during the inspections
acceptable results but with some assumed conducted in the buildings previously cited in this
mistakes, this in order to enable the simulation to work. These inspections made it possible to see
be performed. In addition, the analysis of the that the use of reinforcement in mortars is not a
results is more detailed in smaller than in larger common practice, if it was common practice then
models and it is easier to compare with photos. some of the cracks could have been avoided.
Thus, it is possible to conclude that, when dealing Another common error that leads to cracking and
with the phenomenon of cracking in façades, was also detected during the inspections was

miscalculation in the design phase which leads to FERCA (2014) Moldes FG800, Lisboa, Available:
cracks of difficult and expensive correction. With all [2014].
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