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Assistant Professor

Department of Civil Engineering Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur


Steel is regarded as a good structural material for the earthquake resistant construction because of its two important characteristics: First, its ability to deform inelastically for very large amounts (i.e., high ductility) and secondly, its large strength-to-weight ratio which results in lighter structures attracting less seismic forces. The steel for use in earthquake resistant construction should be chosen with due consideration to inelastic properties of the steels and their weldability. In general, the steels selected should have following characteristics (AISC -LRFD 1991): Ratio of tensile to yield strength between 1.2 to 1.8 Pronounced stress-strain plateau at yield strength. Large inelastic strain capability. Tension elongation of 20% or greater in a 50.8 mm gauge length. Good weldability for inelastic behaviour.

Figure 1. Typical stress-strain curve of structural steel

Typically steel sections are loaded in planar direction for which strength and ductility is adequate. However, their strength and ductility may be significantly lower in the through-thickness direction than in the planar direction. The presence of large throughthickness strains especially at highly restrained welded joints can cause lamellar tearing, which is separation or tearing on planes parallel to the rolled surface. In hot-rolled structural shapes in welded sections after being rolled or welded; the portion of the section that cools slowly develops residual tension which is balanced by residual compression in the other portions. Due to presence of these residual stresses,

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the section begins to yield when sum of the stress from an applied load and the residual stress equals the yield stress of the material. The distribution of stress is difficult to assess but it is a function of shape and dimension of the section. It can vary from 84 MPa to 140 MPa for I-sections with an average value of 70 MPa. Residual stresses change the effective moment of inertia affecting the stability and flexural behaviour of the member.

Figure 2. Typical distribution of residual stress in a hot-rolled I-section


Structural designers, in general, have a view that steel structures are less vulnerable to severe earthquakes than masonry and RC structures, because of the inherent large ductility of the material. However, performances of steel structures in earthquakes, especially in recent Northridge (1994) and Kobe (1995) earthquakes, do not fully support this viewpoint. Many steel structures have undergone damage and performed much below the expectation. Primarily, the requirements of earthquake resistant steel structures are the same as for all structures, i.e., ductility and energy dissipation capacity of without large cumulative damage and instability. The factors which undermine these two basic requirements must be carefully examined when designing for earthquakes. For steel structures these are: local instability, low cycle-high stress fatigue and fracture, frame deformations and problems associated with connections. Instability of Plate Elements Structural shapes are combinations of thin plate elements and their stability may be questionable when subjected to compressive strains. The stability criterion can be developed to allow sizing of plate elements such that each plate component of the structural shape can develop its capacity and, therefore, entire section can attain its capacity (or yield strength). The criterion is a function of the magnitude of the compressive strain to which the plate will be subjected. For example, in a short column compressive strains are about 1.5 times the yield strain, ey when it reaches its yield capacity whereas they in excess of 2 ey when a beam reaches its flexural capacity. When designing for earthquakes, the stability criterion should be based on compressive strains in excess of 10 to 15 times the yield strain because post-yield and strain
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hardening conditions are expected during seismic overloads. Elastic solutions of plate instability are not much of consequence as inelastic and post-yield stability requires considerable amount of subjectivity and engineering judgment.


The compression capacity of a member can be reduced by buckling. The compression behaviour is affected by slenderness of the member, i.e., long columns are different from short columns. Long columns are usually characterized by elastic buckling (Euler Buckling) due to initial deformation (defect), whereas for short columns, the capacity is limited by inelastic buckling due to residual stresses or yield of section. Figure 3 shows column curve as given in IS:800. The buckling is avoided by limiting Kl/r ratios of columns. The lower limit of elastic buckling is assumed to correspond to an average residual stress equal to half of yield stress. Columns slender than this limit is not used in seismic design.
1.2 1 0.8

f =250 MPa

Elastic Buckling (Euler)

Pe =

2 EA (L / r )2

IS:800-1984 Merchant-Rankine (n=1.4)

P /P


0.6 0.4 0.2 0 0 50 100 Inelastic Buckling/Yield

Elastic Buckling 150 200 250

Slenderness Ratio (KL/r)

Figure 3. Column curve and regions of elastic/inelastic buckling


Local buckling have pronounced effect on reducing stiffness and ductility and capacity of the member as shown in Figure 4. It tends to develop large secondary inelastic deformations which can lead to low cycle fatigue fractures when load cycles are sufficiently large. The local buckling of plate elements is controlled by limiting the width-thickness (b/t) ratio. A more severe limit is used for earthquake resisting elements because of their high ductility requirements which can induce compressive strains several times larger than typically encountered under service load situations. Local buckling of open section is significantly reduced if the ratio of unsupported width, b, of the plate element to its thickness, t, is such that b t 136 f y .

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Figure 4. Effect of local buckling on compression behavior of square tubes (Wakabayshi 1986)


Flexural capacity, Mp of a member can be attained only if following instabilities are avoided: (a) Local flange buckling (FLB), (b) Local web buckling (WLB) and Lateral torsional buckling (LTB). Only compact section can reach Mp and their inelastic behaviour is affected by presence of residual stress. As shown in Figure 5, the local flange buckling can seriously reduce yield capacity and ductility of the member. Increasing slenderness of flange has similar deteriorating effect on energy dissipating capacity of the member under reversed cyclic load conditions. Local buckling of web follows the flange buckling causing further degradation of hysteretic performance.

Figure 5. Effect of local instability on flexural behaviour (Mitani et al. 1977)

Flexural capacity in inelastic range is a function of induced (compressive) strain and is affected by residual stresses. Euler buckling occurs for stresses below proportional limit. In design equations the strain states are presented as slenderness parameters. Figure 6 shows the effect of slenderness of flanges on the flexural capacity of the member. IS:8001984, Plastic Design (PD) provisions require that for flanges b f 2t f 136 f y and most of IS I-sections meet this criterion. To avoid web local buckling the code has following limits on the web slenderness ratio:
d 688 P for t fy Py 0.27
d 1120 1600 P P 0.27 ( ) for t fy f y Py Py

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f =250 MPa

Elastic Buckling (Euler) Compact

IS:800 (PD

Inelastic Buckling (Non-Compact) 10 170/ f (11)


Elastic Buckling

b /2t

136/ f (8.5)


30 373/ f -70



Figure 6. Effect of flange local buckling on flexural capacity


In a beam stresses across the compression flange are not uniform due to imperfection and residual stresses. As a result, buckling of compression flange about 2-2 occurs at higher compressive loads (Figure 7) and is referred as Lateral Torsional Buckling (LTB).

Figure 7. Lateral torsional buckling of a beam (Salmon & Johnson)

To prevent LTB, it is necessary that both flanges of beams should be supported directly or indirectly so that the beam can resist both lateral and torsional displacements. The lateral strength of the beam is due to its moment of inertia in the minor axis of bending. The unbraced length between the lateral supports should be kept below 25000ry/fy. These lateral supports are in addition to those which are to placed at concentrated loads and any place where an analysis indicates a plastic hinge during inelastic deformations of the frame. Lateral torsional buckling arising from plastic deformations in compression flanges produces reduction in moment capacity at large rotation. Expected rotation capacity can be as large as 0.07 radians. However, no instability should occur below 0.02 radians. It is necessary that the sufficient lateral support are provided such that plastic-hinges in beams can undergo necessary inelastic rotations without suffering from LTB which reduces the plastic resisting moment capacity of the section. When a member buckles
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laterally it undergoes lateral bending and twist. In elastic regions the resistance of the beam against this buckling comes from the lateral bending stiffness (bending about minor axis) and the torsional resistance. The amount of plasticity which is expected from the rotation of a section can be expressed by rotation capacity Rp, which is ratio of the plastic hinge rotation to the rotation at or near first yield point. That is
Rp = h
p 1, where p = M pl EI

The expected rotation ductility for plastic design is 3, whereas a value of 7-9 are required for seismic applications. IS:800-1984 (PD) specifies rotation capacity R as a ratio of plastic hinge rotation to elastic rotation between the far ends of the beam segment up to the formation of the hinge, that is,
R = h

Typically R=10 for non-seismic low ductility plastic design which increases up to 24 for fully ductile seismic design. The required spacing of lateral support for a given rotation capacity is as follows according to IS:800 (Figure 8).

Lb 640 1.5 ( ) = ry fy 1 + ( R / 8)
28 Seismic Design 24 20 16 12 8 4 0 0 10 20 30 40 50


Rotation, R

. L 640 15 b ) = ( ry fy 1+(R / 8)
Plastic Design




L /r

Figure 8. Lateral bracing requirement in IS:800 as a function of plastic hinge rotation


If local buckling is avoided, the moment of I-section rises to its yield moment capacity with increasing curvature if axial load is small. Increase in axial load reduces the moment capacity as well as ductility as shown in Figure 9. The reduction in moment capacity is given by the following relation in IS:800:
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. M pc = 118(1 P / Py ) M p
Axial load in columns of seismic frames should be less than 0.3 Py. If LTB is avoided, slender beam-columns may fail in in-plane stability. Symmetrical end moments reduce ductility whereas anti-symmetrical end moments leads to most stable behaviour and section reaches moment capacity. Instability effects are more pronounced with increasing global slenderness ratio and therefore for seismic columns, the slenderness should be kept below 60.

Figure 9. Behaviour of beam-columns (Wakabayshi 1986)

The maximum horizontal load which a structure as a whole can resist may be less than what is computed on the basis of its individual members. In such a case it is possible that the frame as a whole becomes unstable before the plastic mechanism develops. Under the influence of horizontal and vertical loads, the frame deforms after the application of the first load and the changed geometry of the frame then may alter the load resistance of the frame for subsequent loading. The column may not be vertical above the column base and can introduce additional (secondary) moments by vertical loads (P-delta effect). Frame instability causes negative slope in the load-deformation curve after the peak load is achieved and can severely limit the overall strength and ductility of the frame (Figure 10). Frame instability will not occur if the slenderness ratio and axial load ratio of the columns are kept within limits. For gravity loads, the axial load ratio of 0.85 is found sufficient to check the following negative effects: 1. Loss of stiffness due to residual stresses 2. Effect of P-delta moment on the vertical bracing system 3. LTB of individual columns The axial load ratio is further reduced to 0.3 for seismic design as axial loads imposed on columns due to overturning moments in the event of earthquake overload can be very large. Furthermore, stockier columns avoid instabilities and can provide significant energy dissipation potential should a plastic hinge form in the column. A limit of 60 on global slenderness ratio is usually followed.

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Figure 10. Effect of frame instability on hysteretic behaviour (Wakabayashi 1986)


Moment frames are one of the most reliable ductile systems for the lateral force resistance when special provisions for detailing its various components are reasonably applied. The non-ductile behaviour is inhibited so that nonlinear response can occur in specially designed components which have capability of ductile behaviour. However, some of these provisions are currently undergoing intensive scrutiny after the Northridge (1994) earthquake. Inelastic actions for energy absorption in a ductile Special Moment Frame (SMF) can take place at three places near a beam-column connections. Flexural hinges can form in beams and columns and shear yielding can occur in the panel zone area of the column web. The primary concern for designing these areas are to avoid premature buckling, instability and prevent brittle fracture.

Figure 11. Moment frame connection and cyclic behaviour of a beam hinge (Vann et al 1974)

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Plastic hinges in the beam have been the most acceptable mode of energy dissipation (Strong column - Weak beam design) (Figure 11). This requires critical design procedure for the beam-to-column connections and the beam stability. However, shear yielding of panel zones is fairly stable and can be relied upon. If one considers shear yielding of panel zones as a preferential mode of inelasticity, then its contribution to flexibility of the frame must be included in the analyses. Yielding in columns is regarded as least desirable. Most engineers feel that behaviour of SMF is more predictable if plastic hinges form in beams. However, many frames have been designed with a provision for column hinging at the base and no documentary evidence exist failures which are directly attributed to column hinging. The exception to "Strong column-Weak beam" connection should meet following: 1. 2. 3. Column section is compact and have low axial load Column is in a storey which has sufficiently strong design strength than the storey above, and Column is not the part of seismic frame but can resist the axial load from overturning. Panel-zones in Beam-Column Connections Shear stresses in panel zones are large and they can yield with sufficient ductility. Von Mises shear limit along with contribution from strain-hardening and thick column flanges determine shear strength of a panel zone. The required shear strength of panel zone of a beam-column connection is defined as the summation of the factored gravity loads and the shear resulting from the required moment on the two ends of the beam. One can assume that moment to be equal to Mp at both ends of the beam. Experiments have shown that shear yielding of panel zones provide a safe mode of energy absorption and can last through many cycles of inelastic distortions. The usual Von Mises shear limit for shear strength of the panel zone does not predict observed test strengths. Strain hardening and thick column flanges enable panel zones to resist more strength than predicted by Von Mises. Whenever the column web is not sufficiently strong to resist the required panel zone shear and panel zone deformation are large, the column web has to reinforced. Doubler plates are commonly used for this purpose. These plates are directly welded to column web through fillet welds wherever possible. Fillet welds are encouraged for their low built-in weld stresses and low cost. The possibility of shear buckling during inelastic deformations of the panel zone can be reduced by using thicker web. It should be at least equal to 1/90 of the sum of the depth and width of the panel zone.


Concentric Braced Frames (CBFs) are most efficient system for resisting lateral loads as they provide complete truss action. They provide many configurations to choose from as shown in Figure 12. Popular chevron bracing impose large flexural demand on floor
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beams after buckling of the compression brace. However, K bracing is not suitable for resisting seismic loads because buckled braces cause column to deform horizontally leading to buckling and collapse.

Figure 12. Various bracing configurations and hysteretic behaviour of a bracing member (AISC 1991)

Reasonable ductility of CBFs along with reduced frame displacements make them attractive as lateral load resisting systems. In CBFs the primary forces are axial tension and compression in bracing members. Test show that axial member after buckling in compression rapidly loses its strength and stiffness and its energy dissipation potential is poor. However, their performance is acceptable as long as they remain stable configuration. Design efforts are primarily aimed on raising the level of stable beahviour. Braces with high slenderness ratio dissipate less energy in the post-buckling range than stockier braces. Stockier braces can undergo cyclic inelastic buckling for many cycles of large deformation while slender braces can not. Local buckling of bracing members severely affects the energy dissipation potential of braces. It is controlled by using compact sections. In CBFs the bracing members carry most of the seismic storey shear and their strength should be adequate so that failure by out-of-plane buckling of gussets or brittle fracture of connection are not the critical failure modes. Design of gusset plate is a critical item in the brace connection. If the critical buckling mode of the brace member is in the plane of the frame then the gusset plate should be designed for brace strength. However, when the critical buckling mode is not in the plane of the frame, then a provision should be made for the formation of a hinge in the gusset. The brace is terminated on the gusset a minimum of two time the gusset thickness from a line about which the gusset plate would bend unrestrained by the column or beam joints.

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Figure 13. Detailing of ductile brace to girder connection (AISC 1991)


While modern design criteria for RC structures are based on the concept of ultimate strength and overloads, current design practice for steel structures is primarily based on allowable stresses and working (service) loads. IS:800-1984 states that under wind and seismic conditions allowable stresses may be increased one-third above the value for normal service conditions. This fixed increase in allowable stresses does not give a uniform reserve capacity for earthquake loads for all elements in structures because it depends on the level of dead and live load stresses which varies over the structure. Furthermore, at elastic level, the seismic design forces are fictitiously low and that can lead to incorrect moment diagrams when combined with gravity loads. Magnitudes of elastic moments at critical sections can also be incorrect. Steel designer Robert Disque very aptly noted that "Plastic design, in contrast to elastic design, utilizes ductility in an analytical and mathematical manner." Inelastic structural actions, yield mechanism and ductility are crucial to survival of structures during severe earthquakes and are not considered in the elastic design process. Structural engineers have always instinctively relied on ductility even with the elastic theory. In plastic design, the regions of inelastic activities (i.e., plastic hinges) are clearly defined and can be designed close to the required strength and can be suitably detailed to sustain large inelastic deformation (i.e., ductile section). One of the most significant advantage of using plastic analysis & design is that it predicts more accurately the structural behaviour at ultimate loads and also the ultimate capacity of the structure. A knowledge of ultimate behaviour and capacity of the structure is very important as seismic loads under extreme events can not be known with certainty. Structure may not develop undesirable yield mechanism, e.g., a soft storey, resulting in brittle behaviour. Potential brittle regions can be safely protected by designing them for strength exceeding those of strain-hardened plastic regions. The yield mechanism is pre-selected for adequate ductility & strength, optimum safety, economy and reparability.

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AISC (1991). Manual of Steel Construction --Load & Resistance Factor Design. American Institute of Steel Construction. BIS (1984). IS:800 Code of Practice for General construction in Steel. Bureau of Indian Standards, New Delhi. BSSC. (1994). NEHRP Recommended Provisions for the Development of Seismic Regulations for New Buildings, Part 1: Provisions, FEMA-222, Washington, USA. BSSC. (1994). NEHRP Recommended Provisions for the Development of Seismic Regulations for New Buildings, Part 2: Commentary, FEMA-223, Washington, USA. Engelkirk, R. (1995). Steel Structures, Prentice Hall. ICBO. (1988-1997). Uniform Building Code, International Conference of Building Officials, Whittier, CA. Mitani, I., Makino, M. and Matsui, C. (1977). Influence of local buckling on cyclic behaviour of steel beam-column. Proc. 6th World Conf. Earthquake Engrg., New Delhi, 3, 31375-3180. Wakabayashi, M. (1986). Design of Earthquake Resistant Buildings. McGraw Hill. Vann, W. P. Thompson, L. E. et al. (1974). Cyclic behaviour of rolled steel members. Proc. 5th World Conf. Earthquake Engrg., Rome, 1, 1187-1193.

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