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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.

REFERENCES

1. Shiohara, H.; and Kusuhara, F., An Overlooked Failure Mechanism

of Reinforced Concrete Beam-Column Joints, Paper No. 822, Proceedings

of the 9th U.S. National and 10th Canadian Conference on Earthquake

Engineering, July 25-29, 2010.

2. Paulay, T.; Park, R.; and Priestley, M. J. N., Reinforced Concrete

Beam-Column Joints Under Seismic Actions, ACI JOURNAL, Proceedings

V. 75, No. 11, Nov. 1978, pp. 585-593.

3. Ichinose, T., Required Joint Shear Reinforcement for RC Interior

Beam-Column Joint of Good Bond Condition, Structural Journal of AIJ,

No. 383, Jan. 1988, pp. 88-96. (in Japanese)

4. Fujii, S., and Morita, S., Shear Resisting Mechanism of RC Exterior

Beam-Column Joint, Structural Journal of AIJ, No. 398, Apr. 1989,

pp. 61-71. (in Japanese)

5. Cheung, P. C.; Paulay, T.; and Park, R., Some Possible Revisions

to the Seismic Provisions of the New Zealand Concrete Design Code for

Moment Resisting Frames, Proceedings of the Pacifc Conference on

Earthquake Engineering, Nov. 1991, pp. 20-23, 79-90.

6. Hwang, S., and Lee, H., Analytical Model for Predicting Shear

Strengths of Exterior Reinforced Concrete Beam-Column Joints for

Seismic Resistance, ACI Structural Journal, V. 96, No. 5, Sept.-Oct. 1999,

pp. 846-857.

7. To, N. H. T.; Ingham, J. M.; and Sritharan, S., Monotonic Non-linear

Analysis of Reinforced Concrete Knee Joints using Strut-and-Tie Computer

Models, Bulletin of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering,

V. 34, No. 3, Sept. 2001, pp. 169-185.

8. Shiohara, H., New Model for Shear Failure of RC Interior Beam-

Column Connections, Journal of Structural Engineering, ASCE, V. 127,

No. 2, Feb. 2001, pp. 152-160.

9. Kusuhara F., and Shiohara, H., Damage and Restoring Force

Characteristics of RC Beam-Column Joint Subjected to Multi-Axial and

Combined Loading, Proceedings of the Annual Convention of the Japan

Concrete Institute, V. 29, No. 4, July 2007, pp. 235-239. (in Japanese)

10. Tajiri, S.; Shiohara, H.; and Kusuhara, F., A New Macro Element

of Reinforced Concrete Beam-Column Joint for Elasto-Plastic Plane

Frame Analysis, Proceedings of 8th National Conference on Earthquake

Engineering, San Francisco, Apr. 2006, Paper No. 674. (CD-ROM)

11. Shiohara, H., Quadruple Flexural Resistance in R/C Beam-Column

Joints, Proceedings of the 13WCEE, Vancouver, BC, Canada, Aug. 1-6,

2004.

12. Shiohara, H., and Shin, Y.-W., Analysis of Reinforced Concrete

Knee Joint Based on Quadruple Flexural Resistance, Proceedings of 8th

National Conference on Earthquake Engineering, San Francisco, Apr.

2006, Paper No. 1173. (CD-ROM)

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