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SHEAR STRENGTH OF SLAB

Shear is generally not critical when slabs carry distributed loads or line loads and are
supported by beams or walls, because in such cases the maximum shear force per unit length
of slab is relatively small. However, shear can be critical in slabs in the vicinity of
concentrated load, because the maximum shear force per unit length of slab is relatively high
around such loads. Concentrated loads can be applied to slabs by the transfer of forces: (1)
from slab to columns in flat plate and flat slab floors, (2) from columns to footings, and (3)
from applied loads such as wheel loads.
In many cases the shear stresses in slabs around concentrated loads can be more
critical than the flexural stresses, and shear then governs the design. This is particularly true
of slab-column connections in flat plate and flat slab floors where the size of the column, or
column capital, and the slab thickness, maybe governed by the magnitude of the shear force
to be transferred. The shear strength of slabs (or footings) in the vicinity of concentrated
loads is governed by the more severe of two conditions, either beam action or two-way
action.

Beam Action:

In beam action the slab fails as a wide beam with the critical section for shear extending
along a section in a plane across the entire width of the slab (or footing). In this case the slab
should be treated as a wide beam and the shear strength equations for beams of the ACI 318-
1977 apply. It is to be noted that the Code assumes that the critical section for shear in beam
action is located at d from the face of the column or applied load (or from the face of a line
load or supporting beam or wall), where d is the distance from the extreme compression fiber
to the centroid of the longitudinal tension reinforcement. In fact, the critical section passes
through the critical diagonal tension crack across which failure is considered to occur.
Therefore, for this type of shear failure conventional theory for beam shear applies
Two-Way Action:

In two-way action the slab fails in a local area around concentrated load. The critical section
extends around the concentrated load or column. A "punching shear" failure occurs along a
truncated cone or pyramid caused by the critical diagonal tension crack around the
concentrated load or column. In this case conventional theory for beam shear does not apply.
The ACI 318-19771 assumes that the critical section is located at d/2 from the perimeter of
the column, or column capital, or applied load. It is to be noted that the once-held concept of
the column (or applied load) being pushed through the slab as in Fig. 10.1a is incorrect. The
critical section assumed in recent ACI codes, and the cracks that occur in the concrete in
actual failure mode, are shown in Fig. 10.

Figure 10.1 Punching shear failure of reinforced concrete slab-column connection with axial
column load, (a) Shear failure at column face (misconception—does not occur). (b) Assumed
critical section and actual failure mode.

Shear failure at slab-column connections can have disastrous consequences, as has


been clearly demonstrated by some flat plate structures that have failed during construction.
Shear failure at a slab-column connection can result in progressive failures of adjacent
connections of the same floor, as the load is transferred elsewhere, causing the adjacent
connections to become more heavily loaded. Also, the lower floors may fail progressively as
they become unable to support the impact of material dropping from above. Hence, caution is
clearly needed in shear strength calculations and attention should be given to the low ductility
associated with shear strength in order to avoid brittle failure conditions if possible.
Existing design procedures for shear strength, as recommended in the 1977 ACI 318 are based
primarily on the results of slab-column tests. The actual behavior of the failure region of the cracked
slab is extremely complex, primarily because of the combined flexural and diagonal tension cracking
and the three-dimensional nature of the problem. The design provisions used are of necessity derived
from empirical simplifications of the real behavior.