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ACI Structural Journal/January-February 2012 65

Title no. 109-S07


ACI STRUCTURAL JOURNAL TECHNICAL PAPER
ACI Structural Journal, V. 109, No. 1, January-February 2012.
MS No. S-2009-378.R3 received October 4, 2010, and reviewed under Institute
publication policies. Copyright 2012, American Concrete Institute. All rights
reserved, including the making of copies unless permission is obtained from the
copyright proprietors. Pertinent discussion including authors closure, if any, will be
published in the November-December 2012 ACI Structural Journal if the discussion
is received by July 1, 2012.
Reinforced Concrete Beam-Column Joints: An Overlooked
Failure Mechanism
by Hitoshi Shiohara
This paper proposes a new set of general and rational concepts
useful in identifying and defning the ultimate behavior of
two-dimensional reinforced concrete beam-column joints subjected
to lateral load. It is based on a model that refects observations
of the crack pattern at failure and its compatible kinematic feld
overlooked in previous research. The kinematic model, called a
nine-parameter model, is combined with nonlinear constitutive
relations for concrete and steel. New concepts of ultimate moment
capacity and moment at balanced failure of beam-column joints
are defned. The upper bound value of reinforcement precluding
joint failure before yielding of longitudinal reinforcement is also
defned. In addition, this paper demonstrates how the concepts
are used to derive a set of simple algebraic expressions that can
be applied to design, taking as an example the simplifed case of
a symmetric interior beam-column joint subjected to symmetric
couples transmitted through the four connected members without
joint shear reinforcement or mid-layer longitudinal reinforcement
in the column. The factors affecting the moment capacity and the
upper bound value of reinforcement are identifed by comparing
the mathematical prediction to the results of the example.
Keywords: balanced failure; beam-column joint; kinematic model;
reinforced concrete; ultimate moment capacity.
INTRODUCTION
Analytical tools for seismic design of a reinforced concrete
(RC) moment-resisting frame usually assume that the beam-
column joint does not fail and that integrity of the adjacent
members is maintained. In reality, some beam-column joints
with particular combinations of design parameters such as
dimensions, reinforcement ratios, and member end forces
may exhibit a concentration of damage at the beam-column
joint. Recently, the author
1
has demonstrated by a set of
tests that the current design concept supposing joint shear
failure could be precluded by limiting joint shear input is
incorrect. The authors beam-column joint specimens with
column-to-beam fexural strength ratios in the range of
1.0 to 2.0 exhibited joint failure, and the lateral strength of
the subassembledges were smaller than that predicted by
fexural theory of RC sections, even if the beam-column
joints have some margin for joint shear capacity.
The test set
1
consisted of 20 RC interior beam-column joint
subassemblages. The effects of the combination of design
parameters of joints on lateral capacity and post-yielding
behavior were investigated. Three major parameters selected
in the test were: 1) ratio of joint shear demand to joint shear
capacity (0.55 to 1.50); 2) column-to-beam fexural strength
ratio (0.72 to 2.24); and 3) column-to-beam depth ratio
(1.0 or 2.0). The lateral capacity was reached after yielding of
longitudinal reinforcement in beams and/or columns for all
specimens. Joint deformation was the dominant component
in the total story drift for all specimens. In eight specimens,
the maximum story shear was 5% to 30% less than the story
shear calculated according to the fexural strength of the
beam or column, although the joints should have a nominal
joint shear strength margin of 0% to 50% against failure
based on current seismic provisions. The defcient story
shear strength was observed for column-to-beam fexural
strength ratios less than 1.3 with column-to-beam depth
ratios of 1.0, or for column-to-beam fexural strength ratios
less than 1.7 with column-to-beam depth ratios of 2.0. To
date, this type of joint failure has not been identifed and
there has been no simple analytical model predicting such
poor behavior of RC beam-column joints.
Paulay et al.
2
have proposed a design concept to preclude
shear failure of RC beam-column joints. They defne joint
shear at the fexural capacity of connecting beams, then a
truss mechanism resisting joint shear is derived. The truss
mechanism is used to design suffcient shear capacity to keep
the beam-column joint elastic and decrease the nonlinear
deformation in the joint. A typical calculation using this
model, however, shows that a rather large percentage of
joint horizontal hoop reinforcement is required, which is not
practical in construction.
Ichinose
3
and Fujii and Morita
4
have independently
proposed a similar truss mechanism with struts for resisting
joint shear. The contribution of each element is determined
considering the equilibrium of the joint shear force as well as
axial forces and moments. The assumptions in these models
are not simple, and the validity and scope are not clear. In
addition, the calculation procedure is too complicated for
practical design.
Cheung et al.
5
have proposed a practical design method
as a revision to the original truss mechanism by Paulay et
al.
2
By adding the contribution of a variable strut to shear
resistance, refecting bond deterioration of the longitudinal
bars passing through the joint, the required joint shear
reinforcement can be reduced. Although the model is clear,
it still requires a large percentage of joint reinforcement and
is adopted only in New Zealand.
Hwang and Lee,
6
To et al.,
7
and other researchers have
tried to apply a strut-and-tie model (STM) to the beam-
column joint for predicting strength in design. However,
each model is applicable to only one particular confguration
and reinforcing details and, as a result, such approaches are
not widespread.
As discussed, prior analytical research dealing with
mechanical modeling of RC beam-column joints commonly
employs models that consider equilibrium and the failure
condition of the elements using a shear-transfer mechanism
66 ACI Structural Journal/January-February 2012
that assumes the longitudinal reinforcing bars are infnitely
strong in tension. Hence, joint shear failure is defned
due to one of the following conditions: 1) the concrete
reaches its compressive strength, 2) bond failure occurs
between the longitudinal bars and the concrete, or 3) the
joint reinforcement yields. The objective in modeling joint
strength is to use it in a capacity design procedure that
requires the joint shear strength to exceed the induced joint
shear at the fexural capacity of the beam or column. The
rationality of such models depends on the validity of the
hypothesis that joint shear failure is the result of overloading
the joint shear force-resisting mechanism without yielding
of longitudinal bars in beams or columns. Therefore, none
of these models are useful in predicting the defciency in the
strength of a beam-column joint accompanied by yielding of
longitudinal bars passing through the joint.
The starting point of this research is distinctly different
from previous research. It is based on the fact that,
during joint shear failure observed in the authors tests,
the deformation of the beam-column joint increases as
longitudinal reinforcing bars pass through the joint yield, but
the joint maintains its ability to resist joint shear.
8
The objective of this paper is to propose a new set of
general and rational concepts useful in identifying and
defning the ultimate behavior of two-dimensional RC beam-
column joints observed in the tests.
1
It is based on a model
that refects observations of the crack pattern at failure and its
compatible kinematic feld overlooked in previous research.
The kinematic model, called a nine-parameter model, is
combined with nonlinear constitutive relations for concrete
and steel. New concepts of ultimate moment capacity and
moment at balanced failure of beam-column joints are
defned. An upper bound value for reinforcement precluding
joint failure before yielding of longitudinal reinforcement
is also defned. This paper demonstrates how the concepts
are used to derive a set of simple algebraic expressions that
can be applied to design, taking as an example the simplifed
case of a symmetric interior beam-column joint subjected to
symmetric couples transmitted through the four connected
members without joint shear reinforcement or mid-layer
longitudinal reinforcement in the column.
RESEARCH SIGNIFICANCE
The combination of design parameters for beam-column
joints that exhibited lower lateral capacity than predicted
by fexural theory in recent tests
1
is not a rare occurrence,
but is found rather commonly in the extensive number of
existing RC buildings worldwide. This means that a vast
number of existing RC structures using moment frames
may be more vulnerable than expected. Therefore, an inves-
tigation of this overlooked behavioral mechanism carries
potentially great signifcance.
OBSERVED FAILURE OF BEAM-COLUMN JOINT
To establish a rational model for design considering the
ultimate limit state, the failure mechanism must be based on
realistic behavior. Very few experimental research papers on
beam-column joints have shown more than an idealization of
a crack pattern and joint shear deformation. Figure 1 shows
the crack image of a vertically cut surface through an
interior beam-column joint subjected to quasi-static reverse
cyclic displacements. This is Specimen C1 tested by the
author.
9
Figure 2 shows another specimen, C03, tested by
the author.
1
It is a beam-column joint in which the width of
the beam is half of the column width. Although the diagonal
cracks of C03 on the column surface are different from the
crack pattern on the cut surface, the cracks inside the joint
are rather similar to those of Specimen C1. Hence, the crack
pattern shown in Fig. 1 is not special but may be considered
general and appropriate in determining the load-resistant
mechanism in a beam-column joint.
Crack image of beam-column joint observed
in tests
Specimen C1 was designed to develop a weak beam-strong
column mechanism. Clear beam yielding was observed, and
Hitoshi Shiohara, FACI, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Architectural
Engineering at the University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan, where he received his BS, MS,
and PhD. He is a member of ACI Committee 374, Performance-Based Seismic Design
of Concrete Structures. His research interests include beam-column joints, precast
concrete connections, and seismic design of reinforced concrete building structures.
Fig. 1Crack image of interior beam-column joints (photo
courtesy of Fumio Kushuhara). Specimen C1: vertically cut
surface of interior beam-column joint post-test.
Fig. 2Crack image of interior beam-column joints (photo
courtesy of Fumio Kushuhara). Specimen C03
1
: at peak of
2% story drift cycle (top) and after test (bottom).
ACI Structural Journal/January-February 2012 67
the observed moment in the beam reached its theoretical
fexural capacity. The story shear-story drift relation showed
stable behavior with typical slip, yet there was no signifcant
degradation of story shear beyond a story drift of 4%.
However, an analysis of the observed deformation revealed
that the component of joint deformation was unexpectedly
large. This suggests that the joint shear increased until the
end of the test because the story shear was maintained. The
joint deformation increased; however, the joint retained the
capability to resist joint shear.
To establish the kinematics of the beam-column joint,
Specimen C1 was unloaded without reversing the deforma-
tion, and the cracks were injected with epoxy resin tagged
with a fuorescent pigment. After the epoxy hardened, the
specimen was cut out. The cracks became visible due to the
fuorescent pigment in the resin, allowing details of the crack
width and the distribution to be more easily identifed, as
shown in Fig. 1 and 2.
The photos reveal several previously unidentifed mecha-
nisms within a beam-column joint: 1) several obvious fex-
ural cracks formed at the beam ends; 2) a signifcant number
of diagonal cracks developed in the joint; 3) cracks opened
at the beam end at the column face and extended diagonally
from the upper right corner and lower left corner to the inside
of the joint. The crack width was signifcant and the trunk
of the crack branched into many hairline cracks; 4) many fne
diagonal cracks passed through the upper left and lower right
portion of the center of the joint. However, these cracks did
not penetrate from corner to corner, but the tip of diagonal
cracks was arrested. This suggests that the widely opened
crack closed due to a large compressive stress perpendicular
to the crack direction under load reversal; 5) concrete damage
is obvious at the center of the beam-column joint, while the
surrounding regions within the joint exhibited little cracking
other than the fexural cracks. This may be attributed to the
confning effect by the end sections of the beam and column.
The distribution of cracks and associated damage pattern may
be explained by considering the beam-column joint divided
into four rigid triangular parts rotating relative to each other.
Figure 3 shows the movement, damage, and cracks concen-
trated along the diagonal lines of the beam-column joint.
This paper proposes a new model to more accurately
represent the behavior and failure mechanism of a beam-
column joint that has been overlooked in previous research.
Most applicable research explains joint shear failure in terms
similar to the shear failure of a one-dimensional fexural
element. As shown in Fig. 1, there is no diagonal crack
completely through the joint (a feature of diagonal tension
failure), there is no diagonal sliding of a compressive strut
due to concrete crushing (a feature of compressive shear
failure), and there is no vertical or horizontal sliding shear
failure. Therefore, it is concluded that the failure mechanism
of a beam-column joint is fundamentally different than the
shear failure of columns or beams.
Inadequacy of uniform shear strain assumption
In contrast to the observed beam-column joint behavior
previously stated, most models for beam-column joints
assume that a uniform shear strain state exists in the joint,
as depicted in Fig. 4. This model has only one parameter
representing the deformation of the joint. Hence, this model
could be called a one-parameter model (OPM). However,
the OPM does not include suffcient parameters to represent
the joint deformation to satisfy continuity of displacements
and stress at each end of the member connected to the joint.
The model can only satisfy equilibrium and compatibility for
arbitrarily selected components. Therefore, the OPM cannot
be a reasonable basis for force-deformation relations using
the stress-strain relationship of the material. In addition, the
model cannot be verifed experimentally.
A MORE ACCURATE MODEL
The OPM for a beam-column joint is clearly too simplistic,
as it does not include enough parameters to represent the
actual joint deformations and cannot satisfy compatibility
and equilibrium at the ends of the members connected to
a joint. Hence, more parameters are required to accurately
represent a joint.
Nine-parameter model (NPM) for beam-column joint
Judging from the distribution of cracks in the beam-column
joint shown in Fig. 1, there are regions inside the joint adjacent
to the beam and column ends that exhibit relatively little
damage. This is due to the confning effect of the member
ends and is generally applicable to a wide variety of beam-
column joints. Therefore, the general state of deformation
of a beam-column joint is assumed to be represented by the
lateral displacement and rotation of four rigid plates as shown
in Fig. 5. The deformation of this model is represented by the
displacement of three plates relative to the other plate. The
independent number of degrees of freedom is 3 4 3 = 9 for
each joint. Therefore, this model is called the nine-parameter
model (NPM) hereafter in this paper.
In structural analysis of plane frames, each node has three
degrees of freedom representing two translations and one
Fig. 3Moment-resisting mechanism of beam-column joint.
Fig. 4OPM for beam-column joint.
68 ACI Structural Journal/January-February 2012
rotation. For compatibility between the joint and member
ends, the same assumption is convenient.
Constitutive equations of NPM
Constitutive equations or stiffness equations for a beam-
column joint can be established as the relationship of
12 components of displacements and 12 components of force.
The constitutive equations of the joint may be derived based
on fnite element modeling techniques, while the assump-
tions of the NPM can be summarized as follows: 1) from the
displacement of the four rigid plates, estimate the magni-
tude and direction of the two principal strains; 2) replace
the reinforcing steel and concrete with a nonlinear uniaxial
spring based on the direction of principal strain; 3) assume
nonlinear constitutive rule for the steel and concrete and a
bond spring, if necessary; 4) use the equilibrium of forces
applied to the panel and the internal forces; and 5) sum all
the internal forces applied to a rigid plate to obtain the three
components of nodal force acting on the rigid plate.
By following this procedure, the stiffness relationship
between the 12 components of force and displacement at
the four nodes is established. Because the NPM has built-in
degrees of freedom to satisfy the compatibility and the
equilibrium of the members, it can refect all the interaction
of member force and behavior of a beam-column joint. The
OPM is clearly defcient due to an insuffcient number of
degrees of freedom. Thus, the extension of the OPM to frame
analysis requires arbitrary assumptions, which introduces
errors in the model. For example, it neglects the interaction
of joint behavior with axial force as well as shear force at
the member ends. Thus, the extension of the OPM for frame
analysis needs arbitrary assumptions, which signifcantly
constrains the scope of the model.
Macro element model based on NPM
The basic constitutive equation of the NPM could be solved
by different analytical techniques. Numerical modeling is
one option. Tajiri et al.
10
and the author have implemented
the NPM using uniaxial springs similar to a fber model for
fexural analysis. They assumed the direction of principal
stress in concrete is in the direction of the diagonal from the
corner to the corner. Concrete, steel, and a bond link were
modeled with a nonlinear cyclic hysteresis spring. They used
this model for statically nonlinear cyclic frame analysis.
9
The author
11
has also used the NPM for analysis of an
interior beam-column joint assuming that the critical section
is the diagonal line.

By solving the nonlinear simultaneous
equations for the nine equilibrium conditions, they obtained
the ultimate moment capacity. Shiohara and Shin
12
have
applied the same idea to determine the ultimate moment
capacity of corner joints. These models are used to evaluate
the moment capacity of a joint subjected to an arbitrary
combination of member forces, including axial forces,
shear, and moments (combined forces on beam-column
joint); however, the behavior of such parts are not well
known experimentally. By these NPM implementations,
it is straightforward to account for: a) movement of the
contrafexure point; and b) confguration of the joint (interior,
exterior, and corner). Solving the nonlinear equations with
nine variables, however, requires nonlinear numerical
solution tools and is not appropriate for routine design.
Simplifcation of NPM by condensation of degrees
of freedom
An alternative implementation of an NPM solution is
proposed herein. Simplifed algebraic expressions are
derived by assuming symmetry and reducing the number of
parameters. Algebraic expressions are helpful to reveal the
general behavior of an RC beam-column joint.
In an interior beam-column joint, the moment, shear, and
axial force are usually almost symmetric. Thus it is assumed
that the magnitude of axial forces, shear forces, and moment
transferred from the member to the joint are in symmetry
with respect to two lines of 45 degrees from the member
axis. With this assumption, the number of independent
components of force decreases from nine to three: axial force,
shear, and moment. As shown in Fig. 6, the corresponding
deformation mode includes volumetric strain r, shear strain
y, and rotational deformation .
The volumetric strain r is defned as the translational
movement of the rigid plate in the direction of the member
axis. It has no contribution to story drift. The shear strain y
is defned as the translational movement of the rigid plate in
the transverse direction of the member axis. The rotational
deformation is defned as the rotation of the rigid plate.
The contribution of the shear strain y and the rotational
deformation to the story drift is -y.
The set of beam-column joint deformations defned herein
is more complete than in the OPM, which considers only shear
strain in the joint. In the nine-parameter modeling, however,
each component of force and deformation can be monitored
accurately during testing by displacement transducers and
load cells. This makes it possible to evaluate the validity of
the NPM by comparing test and model prediction, whereas
accurate instrumentation of the joint shear and joint shear
strain addressed in OPM is challenging and often prohibitive.
Therefore, evaluating the validity of the OPM is limited.
ULTIMATE MOMENT CAPACITY OF PLANE
SYMMETRIC INTERIOR BEAM-COLUMN JOINTS
In the previous section, a general solution using the NPM is
described. This section introduces the constitutive equations
of the NPM for a symmetric beam-column joint with three
independent parameters and shows algebraic solutions.
Several useful expressions for a RC beam-column joint in
ultimate strength design of a RC frame are introduced.
In defning a generic beam-column joint, the following is
assumed: 1) the widths of beam and column are equal, and the
Fig. 5NPM for beam-column joint.
ACI Structural Journal/January-February 2012 69
shape is symmetric in the vertical and horizontal directions;
and 2) the beam-column joint is subjected to four identical
couples of forces and no shear or axial force is transmitted.
As no shear acts at the member ends to the beam-column
joint, only the axial displacement and rotational displacement
are considered among the deformation components shown
in Fig. 6.
Strain and stress felds before concrete cracking
in beam-column joint
Figure 7 portrays the distribution of biaxial elastic strain
and elastic stress within the joint caused by symmetric
movement of the surrounding rigid plates with a rotational
angle , before cracking in concrete. As no axial forces are
assumed, the center of the rotation coincides with the axis
of the member. Due to symmetry, the direction of principal
strain is identical to the direction of the diagonal line.
Figure 7 shows the principal strain profle, which changes
nonlinearly along the diagonal. The value of each strain is
estimated from the change in distance of the rigid plates
in the diagonal direction. As a result, the principal strain
is in tension in the direction CB and in compression in the
direction AD, within the rectangular zone GEFH. A state of
biaxial compression exists within the triangular zones AGE
and HDF, and biaxial tension exists within the triangular
zone CHG and BEF. The values of principal strain and stress
are at maximum at points on the diagonals. As the strain
at points C and B results from an infnitely large strain and
stress concentration, concrete cracking is expected to initiate
shortly after loading. The frst cracks are expected to form in
the upper right and lower left corners and extend inward to
the center. The next zone at which the tensile strain causes
cracking is along the diagonal. In the rectangular zone of
GEFH, cracking is expected to initiate at the center and
proceed outward along AD. Hence, the crack formed as
shown in Fig. 8. By comparing the predicted cracks with
the actual ones shown in Fig. 1, it is revealed that they are in
good correlation.
Strain and stress felds after cracking in
beam-column joint
Consider the strain and stress felds in a beam-column
joint after the cracking. Due to cracking of the concrete, the
tensile force in the concrete is relieved while the crack width
increases. In addition, the tensile force in the reinforcing bars
crossing the crack increases as stresses redistribute. As shown
in Fig. 8, the longitudinal reinforcement adjacent to points C
and B carries tensile forces. Near the center of the beam-
column joint, tensile forces arise in the joint reinforcement.
As the cracked concrete does not transfer tension, the biaxial
stress state shifted to a uniaxial compressive stress state
along the direction of AD after cracking. The triangular
zones of CGH and EFB changes to no-stress zones.
As the deformation increases, the tensile strain in
reinforcing bars crossing the cracks increases, and the stress
in the reinforcing bars passing through the joint increases.
Due to equilibrium of the axial force, the longitudinal strain
is usually larger than the concrete compressive strain, the
volumetric strain of the beam-column joint increases, and
the center of rotation of the rigid plate shifts to one corner.
Thus, the volumetric strain increases, the tensile strain in
the joint reinforcement increases, and a uniaxial concrete
compression zone of GHFE and a biaxial compression
zone AGE and HDF develop.
Ultimate state of beam-column joint
If the rotation of the rigid plates increases further, the
tensile strain in the longitudinal reinforcement increases at
Fig. 6Three independent deformation modes of beam-column joint by reducing number
of degrees of freedom considering symmetry.
Fig. 7Stress and strain before cracking.
70 ACI Structural Journal/January-February 2012
the location where it crosses the opening cracks. The increase
of resisting moment slows when the reinforcing bar yields in
tension, while the width of the diagonal crack continues to
increase. As a result, the deformation of the beam-column
joint increases. The increase of the strain in the reinforcing
bar beyond tensile yielding concentrates the compressive
force in the diagonal compression strut and causes the strut
become to narrower. Ultimately, the resisting moment of
a beam-column joint reaches its maximum value when the
compressive strain in the concrete along the centerline of
the diagonal strut reaches a critical value at which the strut
crushes and the decrease of volumetric strain of the beam-
column joint begins. The location of the crushing is usually at
the center of the beam-column joint because of confnement
around the boundary by the ends of member framing into
the joint. The crack pattern observed in the test shown in
Fig. 1 correlates well with the description of ultimate. Thus,
the algebraic equations for ultimate moment capacity and
the condition of balanced failure are investigated next based
on the ultimate state, equilibrium, and failure criteria for
concrete and steel.
Ultimate moment capacity of beam-column joint
The nodal moment in a beam-column joint, which is
reached at the ultimate state, is defned herein as the ultimate
moment capacity of a beam-column joint. The algebraic
expression is derived as follows.
The geometry of the beam-column joint is square, and the
depth of the columns and the beams are D. The width of
the column and the beam is b. The longitudinal reinforcing
bars passing through the beam-column joint in the vertical
and horizontal directions are placed in symmetric positions
at the top and bottom of the section. The distance between
the extreme layers of reinforcement is defned as gD, where
g is the distance ratio of longitudinal reinforcement. For
example, the value of g is zero if the longitudinal bars are
at the center of gravity of the section. The value of g is less
than 1.0 and its typical value is around 0.7. For simplicity,
it is assumed there is no transverse reinforcement in the
beam-column joint and the beam-column joint is subjected
to four symmetric moments M
j
. In addition, there is no thrust
force or shear force transmitted through the beam-column
joint. The longitudinal reinforcement is assumed to have
elastoplastic stress-strain behavior, with a yield point of f
y

and resists only axial force. The compressive strength of the
concrete is f
c
, and cracked concrete transmits no tension.
Figure 9 shows the notation representing the internal
forces and the location of the forces. T
1
and T
2
represent the
resultant forces in longitudinal bars on the diagonal lines.
C
1
and C
2
represent the resultant forces in the concrete in
the vertical and horizontal directions. Due to symmetry,
the magnitude of forces in the vertical and horizontal
directions is identical on the diagonal lines. The direction
of the compressive principal stress is always parallel to
the diagonal line. Based on the compressive strain in
the concrete estimated in Fig. 9, the compressive stress
contributing to the resultant force C
1
in the direction of
AD is distributed perpendicular to the diagonal line AD. In
contrast, the compressive strain related to the resultant force
C
2
is distributed from the corner to the inside perpendicular
to the diagonal line AD. Thus, the location of the resultant
forces j
1
and j
2
is determined refecting the magnitude of the
forces and the width of the concrete strut. The distribution
of the compressive stress is assumed to be well modeled
by the stress block used in fexural theory of reinforced
concrete, because the distribution of the compressive strain
is approximately linear in the compressive zone, as shown
in Fig. 7. The ratio of the concrete compressive stress in the
stress block to the compressive strength f
c
is denoted as
3
.
By using
3
, the location of the resultant C
1
is a distance
C
1
/(2b
3
f
c
) from the center of the joint for both the vertical
and horizontal direction. Similarly, the location of the
resultant C
2
is a distance C
2
/(2b
3
f
c
) from the corner of the
joint for both the vertical and horizontal directions. Also,
the horizontal and vertical distances between the resultant
forces T
1
and C
1
is denoted by j
1
, while the horizontal and
vertical distances between the resultant forces T
2
and C
2
is
denoted by j
2
.
To apply the principle of virtual displacement, a beam-
column joint is separated into four free bodies by diagonal
lines AD and BC, as shown in Fig. 10. The virtual
Fig. 8Formation of diagonal compressive strut and
increase in tensile force in transverse reinforcement in joint
after cracking.
Fig. 9Notation for internal resultant forces acting across
diagonal lines.
ACI Structural Journal/January-February 2012 71
displacement is applied such that each segment rotates o
around the location of the resultant C
1
and C
2
. The virtual
work by the external force M
j
is 2M
j
o, whereas the virtual
work by the reinforcing bars passing across the diagonal
cracks is 4(j
1
T
1
+ j
2
T
2
)o. C
1
and C
2
do not contribute to the
virtual work because virtual displacement is rotation around
the location of concrete resultant forces.
Using the principle of virtual displacements, the equation
of equilibrium is obtained as follows
M
j
= 2(j
1
T
1
+ j
2
T
2
) (1)
The distances of the resultant forces j
1
and j
1
can be
estimated, considering the T
1
= C
1
and T
2
= C
2
as follows

1
1
3
1
2
c
T
j D g
bD f
_


,
(2)

2
1
2
j D g
22
11
22
_
(( ))
22
11
TT
2222
j D g j D g ((((1111 j D g j D g j D g j D g

))

22
j D g j D g ((((1111
_ _
))))
2222
j D g j D g j D g j D g (((((((1111111 )))) j D g j D g j D g j D g (((((((1111111
,
33 cc
bD f bD f
3333 cccc

(((( )))) j D g j D g j D g j D g (((((((1111111
bD f bD f bD f bD f bD f bD f bD f bD f

bD f bD f bD f bD f bD f bD f bD f

(3)
By denoting stress gradient coeffcient o as the ratio of
the tensile force T
1
in the reinforcing bars passing through
the joint on the diagonal line on the tensile side to the tensile
force T
2
on the compressive side, T
1
can be replaced by T and
T
2
by oT. Substituting Eq. (2) and (3) to Eq. (1) yields the
following equation for the moment M
j
( )
( )
2
3
1
1
j
c
T
M DT g g
bD f

+ o

+ o
, ,



(4)
The stress gradient coeffcient o is a variable that refects
the location of the longitudinal reinforcement in the section.
If the longitudinal reinforcement distance ratio g is close
to unity, the tensile stress at the closing crack, T
2
, is rela-
tively small, whereas T
1
is relatively large. The value of o
is small in this case, and sometimes can reach zero. However,
T
1
- T
2
represents the stress gradient due to bond resistance.
Thus, suffcient bond stiffness and strength are developed
along the longitudinal bar. If distance ratio of longitudinal
reinforcements, g, is 1/2, the value of T
1
becomes a tensile
force due to the diagonal crack opening from the corner,
while the value of T
2
also becomes tension due to the diag-
onal crack at the center. This corresponds to o closing to
unity. As the bond stress becomes smaller, the bond stiff-
ness and strength along the longitudinal reinforcement are
not required. If g is zero, the value for T
1
and T
2
is the same
because the reinforcement is at the same location, and the
value of o is unity. If the longitudinal bars passing through
the joint are debonded, there is no bond resistance and, thus,
the value of o is unity, despite of a non-zero value of g.
Clearly, the value of the stress gradient coeffcient o is valu-
able depending on the value of g. In general, the ultimate
moment of joint, M
j
, is dependent on the value of o and g.
For the case of a joint subjected to four identical couples
of forces M
j
, the tensile yield of the horizontal and vertical
longitudinal bars in the beam-column joint commence
simultaneously. This assumes the sectional area and the
yield point of longitudinal bars for beams and columns are
identical. In this case, the moment resistance reaches a plateau
and does not increase with joint deformation if the value
of o stays constant. The further elongation of longitudinal
reinforcement passing through the joint increases the
rotation of the rigid plate. Therefore, with the crushing of
the concrete due to excessive concentration of compressive
strain along the diagonal of AD or the corner points A and D,
the ultimate moment capacity will be reached. The ultimate
moment capacity of beam-column joint, M
ju
, is derived by
substituting T
y
for T in Eq. (4)
( )
( )
2
3
1
1
y
ju y
c
T
M DT g g
bD f

+ o

+ o
, ,



(5)
where T
y
is the resultant force of the longitudinal bars at
tensile yielding (= a
t
f
y
); a
t
f is the total sectional area of
tensile longitudinal reinforcement; and f
y
is the yield strength
of tensile longitudinal reinforcement. As seen in Eq. (5),
M
ju
is a quadratic equation of the stress gradient coeffcient
o, the value of M
ju
is maximized when the value of o is
(1/2)(1 g)(bD
3
f
c
/T
y
). The value of T
y
/bD
3
f
c
and g of a
typical RC joint are approximately 0.1 and 0.7, respectively;
therefore, the value of M
ju
is estimated to be maximized
at the value o of approximately 1.5. So, in this case, M
ju

gradually increases as the value of o increases from 0.0 to
1.0. Hence, it is concluded that the moment capacity for
such typical beam-column joints gradually increases as the
stress gradient coeffcient o increases. As can been seen, the
moment capacity of the beam-column joint is refecting the
stress condition of compressive reinforcement.
For simplicity, RC beam-column joints in moment-
resisting frames may be categorized into one of two typical
types. A Type A joint shown in Fig. 11 is a beam-column
joint designed with two layers of longitudinal reinforcement
in the beam and column sections for tension and the other
for compression. The joint has suffcient bond capability
along the longitudinal reinforcement and a stress gradient
coeffcient o of approximately zero. A Type B joint has
longitudinal reinforcements located near the mid-depth of
Fig. 10Virtual displacement.
72 ACI Structural Journal/January-February 2012
joints and o = 1 for Type B joints, respectively. The internal
stress at the ultimate moment capacity is shown in Fig. 12.
3
y
ju y
c
T
M DT g
bD f



, ,



Type A joint (6)
3
2
1
y
ju y
c
T
M DT
bD f



, ,



Type B joint (7)
This model is based on a static equilibrium, but in reality,
the value of stress gradient coeffcient o may be changing
after cyclic loading. Cyclic loading behavior should there-
fore be taken into consideration based on future experi-
mental research.
Comparison of ultimate moment capacity of
beam-column joints with tests
Test results of beam-column joints by the author
1
shown in
Fig. 13(a) are compared with: a) calculation by Eq. (6) and
(7); and b) calculation based on the fexural theory of beam
sections. From the tests it has been confrmed that they reached
maximum strength after yielding of longitudinal bars in both
beams and columns. To apply Eq. (6) and (7), the factor
3
for
concrete stress block is assumed to be 0.85. Flexural capacity
of section is calculated by using the assumption that the plain
section remains plain. The stress-strain relation of concrete
is modeled by the stress block method adopted by ACI 318.
Longitudinal reinforcement is assumed to have elasto-plastic
stress-stain relationship. Material properties obtained by the
tests are used for the calculations.
The calculated fexural strength overestimates the test
results, in particular for the specimen with a larger reinforce-
ment ratio. Calculations by Eq. (6) and (7) are not propor-
tional to the mechanical reinforcement ratio either similar
to the tendency of the test, and they underestimate the test
results by approximately 30%. Its discrepancy is attributed
to the inconsistency to the assumption in deriving Eq. (6)
and (7), which assume only moment is resisted through the
the beam and column section and a stress gradient coeffcient
o of approximately 1.0. Beam column joints with debonded
bars in the joint are included in Type B joint.
For these two types of beam-column joints, the ultimate
moment capacity M
ju
from Eq. (5) is simplifed to Eq. (6) and
(7) by substituting the approximations of o = 0 for Type A
Fig. 11Classifcation of typical RC beam-column joints.
Fig. 12Internal stress at ultimate moment capacity of
beam-column joint.
Fig. 13Comparison of moment capacity of beam and beam-column joint.
ACI Structural Journal/January-February 2012 73
joints and and there is no joint hoops. To get better agree-
ment with tests, the term representing contribution of the
shear force transmitted through the joint and tensile force in
joint hoops to virtual work due to the virtual displacement
shown in Fig. 10 need to be incorporated into Eq. (6) and
(7). The extended equations, however, require more space
to describe and will be addressed in future studies. The
theoretical prediction coincides the tendency observed in
the series of experimental results
1
that insuffciency in story
shear capacity occurs if the fexural strength of the column is
equal to the fexural strength of the beam.
Balanced failure of beam-column joint
When an amount of longitudinal reinforcing bars used
in a beam-column joint are such that concrete crushing
should coincide with tensile yielding of the reinforcement,
the moment capacity of the joint reaches its upper bound.
This type of failure of a beam-column joint is defned as
the balanced failure of a beam-column joint, similar to
the balanced failure from fexural theory. The moment at
balanced failure of a beam-column joint is denoted by M
jb
.
In general, the condition of a balanced failure results in the
tensile strain in tensile reinforcement that no longer increases
even if the rotational deformation increases. By applying
this condition, the balanced failure of a beam-column joint
is obtained as shown in Fig. 14.
In a Type A joint, the diagonal compressive strut is
dominant and the width of the strut increases as more
longitudinal reinforcing bars are provided. If the line of
neutral axis GH and EF go beyond the crossing point of
the vertical and horizontal longitudinal reinforcement, the
rotational deformation of the rigid plates causes a decrease
in tensile strain. This is the balanced failure condition for
Type A joints. The height of the concrete stress block at
the balanced failure is shown to be (1/2)gD
1
, where
1
is a
factor representing the ratio of the height of the stress block
to the distance of neutral axis as in fexural theory for RC
sections. As the resultant of tensile reinforcement T is equal
to the compressive resultant of the concrete, the following
equation is obtained for a Type A joint

1 3
1
2
c
T gbD f Type A joint (8)
Therefore, M
jb
, the moment at balanced failure for a Type
A joint, is derived by substituting Eq. (8) into Eq. (5)
2 2 1
1 3
1
1
2 2
jb c
M g bD f
_



,
Type A joint (9)
In contrast, for Type B joints, the compressive resultant of
the diagonal strut at the center and at the two corners near A
and D need to be identical. The volumetric strain of the joint
changes from expansion to contraction when the height of
the neutral axis is (1/2)D and the height of the concrete stress
block of concrete is (1/4) D
1
. The tensile force T for a Type B
joint is thus obtained

1 3
1
4
c
T bD f Type B joint (10)
Therefore, M
jb
, the moment at balanced failure of a Type B
joint, is derived by substituting Eq. (10) into Eq. (6)

2 1
1 3
1
1
4 2
jb c
M bD f
_



,
Type B joint (11)
Based on this development, it follows that if the amount
of longitudinal reinforcement passing through the joint is
larger than the value associated with Eq. (8) or Eq. (10), then
concrete crushing is expected to precede tensile yielding;
thus, maximum achievable moment is given by Eq. (9)
and Eq. (11) for Type A and Type B joints, respectively.
Equation (8) and Eq. (10) can be used to establish the
balanced reinforcement, that is, the upper bound amount
of reinforcement that precludes balanced failure of a beam-
column joint.
Equations (9) and (11) show that the factors affecting
moment at balanced failure of a beam-column joint, M
jb
, for
a Type A joint include the dimension factor bD
2
, concrete
Fig. 14Moment at balanced failure of beam-column joint
for Type A and Type B joints.
74 ACI Structural Journal/January-February 2012
compressive strength f
c
, the factors defning the shape of
the concrete stress block,
1

3
(1 (
1
/2)), and, for a Type A
joint, the distance ratio for longitudinal reinforcement, g.
The moment at balanced failure, M
jb
, for a Type B joint is
clearly not infuenced by the distance ratio for longitudinal
reinforcement, g.
CONCLUSIONS
The conclusions of this paper are summarized as follows:
1. The two-dimensional kinematics of the failure of an RC
beam-column joint is appropriately modeled as the domain
surrounded by four rigid plates, because the beam-column
joint is confned by the ends of the beams and columns
framing into the joint.
2. If the four rigid plates for an interior beam-column joint
rotate symmetrically due to lateral loading, the direction and
the distribution of principal stress and strain is reasonably
estimated. This explains the observed location and the
direction of concrete cracks in a rational way.
3. If the rotation of the four rigid plates increases, the
concrete cracks cause redistribution of stress, resulting in
losing the tensile resistance to the transverse direction of crack.
This explains how the diagonal compression strut develops
and grows in a RC beam-column joint in a rational way.
4. Based on the foregoing mechanism, the ultimate moment
capacity of a beam-column joint is defned as the moment at
which the concrete crushes in the extreme compressive fber.
5. Considering equilibrium and the yield condition of steel
and concrete, algebraic expressions for ultimate moment
capacity of beam-column joint are developed.
6. Balanced failure of a beam-column joint is defned
as a simultaneous crushing of concrete and yielding of the
longitudinal reinforcement. The amount of reinforcement at
balanced failure is defned as an upper bound value.
7. The algebraic expressions for the moment at balanced
failure of a beam-column joint developed and the factors
affecting the upper bound reinforcement are identifed. It is
shown that the longitudinal reinforcement ratio should be less
than the upper bound to preclude joint failure due to concrete
crushing before yielding of longitudinal reinforcement.
This paper demonstrates a new set of general and rational
concepts of moment capacity of beam-column joints and
balanced failure of beam-column joint by an example
of a special case of a symmetric interior beam-column
joint subjected to couples of forces without joint shear
reinforcement or mid-layer longitudinal reinforcement
in the column. In addition, the amount of longitudinal
reinforcement in the beam and column is identical. This
simplifcation allows a focus on the introduction of a
novel concept of moment capacity of beam-column joints,
balanced failure of beam-column joint, and upper bound
amount of longitudinal reinforcement with an emphasis on
the derivative of appropriate mathematical expressions. To
facilitate this concept for developing new design provisions
for beam-column joints, however, the extensions of these
mathematical expressions are necessary for more realistic
general cases. Such extensions may include beam-column
joints: 1) subjected to a combination of axial force, shear,
and moment; 2) designed according to the weak beam-strong
column concept; and 3) with joint shear reinforcement.
These extensions will be addressed in future publications.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The author acknowledges E. E. Matsumoto, Professor of Structural
Engineering, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering,
California State University, Sacramento, CA, for his valuable advice and
suggestions in the development of ideas as well as a linguistic check of the
manuscript for publication.
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