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# FIVE USEFUL STABILITY CONCEPTS

Joseph A. Yura

Joseph A. Yura, PE, is Emeritus Professor in Civil Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. He earned a BSCE degree from Duke, MS from Cornell and a PhD from Lehigh in 1965. He has received numerous teaching awards during his 40 years of teaching at the U. of Texas. His research contributions are in the areas of stability, connections, composite construction, offshore structures and elastomeric bearings. He served 32 years as a member of the AISC Specification Committee. In 2000 he was elected into the National Academy of Engineering for his work in stability and bracing of steel structures.

ABSTRACT Five important stability concepts are reviewed: loss of stiffness as the buckling load is approached, inelastic column buckling, effect of end connection details in built-up columns, lean-on bracing systems and column bracing fundamentals. The importance of viewing instability as a stiffness issue rather than a strength problem is emphasized. Physical models and structural failures are used throughout the lecture to illustrate the concepts. Some unusual applications of the stability concepts are presented.

## FIVE USEFUL STABILITY CONCEPTS

JOSEPH A. YURA

INTRODUCTION A theoretical evaluation of stability requires a second order structural analysis, i.e. equilibrium is established for the deflected position of the structure, not a typical first order analysis. Since most formal engineering education focuses on the use of first order analysis, many practitioners have had little structural training in stability issues. Usually, formulas in design specifications for column, beam and frame buckling and for bracing requirements provide the only means of checking stability. The simplicity and format (stress rather than load, for example) of these formulas can mask important stability principles. Five important stability concepts will be reviewed: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. loss of stiffness as the buckling load is approached inelastic column buckling importance of end connection details in built-up columns stiffness and strength required for braces lean-on bracing systems

BUCKLING AND STIFFNESS Two and a half centuries ago, Euler developed his now famous elastic column buckling formula

Pcr =

2 EI
L2

(1)

At that time the modulus of elasticity, E, and the moment of inertia, I, as defined presently were unknown quantities. Euler determined the elastic rigidity term EI from the measured end deflection at the end of a cantilever beam with an applied load W using the known relationship = WL3/3(EI). The column was assumed initially straight in the derivation. The use of the Euler formula implies that the initially straight member will remain straight until the Euler load is reached, thus providing little warning of an impending failure. At the Euler load the column bends without any increase in load (small deflection theory); the column has lost its stiffness. If the column is assumed to have an initial out-ofstraightness, the following relationship can be derived (McQuire,1968): 0 T = (2) 1 P P cr where o is the initial out-of-straightness, T is the total deflection when a compressive load P is applied and Pcr is the buckling load. A plot of Eq. (2) is shown in Fig. 1. As the applied load P approaches the buckling load, the slope of the P T relationship (stiffness) approaches zero. Since all members in a structure have some initial outof-straightness, flexural displacements will get very large near the theoretical buckling load thus providing ample warning of impending disaster.
1 Euler 0.8 P/ Pcr 0.6 0.4 0.2 0 0 2 4 T/ o 6 8 10 1st yield o/L=0.001 L/r=160 Fy=50 ksi

## Copyright (c) 2011 by The American Institute of Steel Construction

Observations from some actual structural stability failures spanning a period of almost a hundred years will illustrate this point. Quebec Bridge Failure on August 29, 1907 At the time of its construction, the Quebec railroad bridge over the St. Lawrence River was the longest span double cantilever bridge in the world. The bridge just prior to collapse is shown in Fig.2. The bridge collapsed as shown in Fig. 3 due to buckling of the compression chords of the truss. The photos shown were scanned from the official report of the collapse (Canada, 1919). From (Tarkov, 1986): On August 6 McLure reported to Cooper that lower chords 7L and 8-L of the south cantilever arm were bent. Cooper was troubled. He wired back with instructions, and with the almost plaintive question: How did bend occur in both chords? Chief Engineer Deans insisted that chords 7-L and 8-L had already been bent when they left the shop. McLure insisted that they only began to show deflection after being installed on the bridge. The debate over chords 7-L and 8-L occupied the greater part of August. Meanwhile work continued, and the stresses on the lower chords grew. On August 20 chords 8-R, 9-R, and 10-R showed distortion. The bridge was collapsing with glacial slowness, but no one not even Cooper, for all his concern in the face of the Phoenix Bridge Companys almost cavalier attitude - appreciated fully what was happening. On August 27 the crisis should have been obvious to all. A week before, chord 9-L of the south anchor arm had been only three-quarters of an inch out of line. On the morning of August 27, McLure measured it again. The deflection was now two and one-quarter inches. McLure wrote to Cooper immediately. Shortly before 11:30 a.m. on August 29, Cooper read it, and at 12:16 p.m. he sent a terse telegram to Phoenixville that read: Add no more load to bridge till after due consideration of facts. McLure will be over at five oclock.

## Figure 2. Quebec Bridge Prior to Collapse

Coopers telegram reached Phoenixville at about 3:00 p.m. John Deans read it - and disregarded it. The workers stayed on the bridge. When McLure arrived at five oclock, Deans and Figure 3. Nineteen Thousand Tons of Steel Peter Szlapka met with him. They agreed to meet again in the at Failure morning, when a letter from Phoenixs field engineer at Quebec was due to arrive. The letter would support the Phoenix Companys position that the chords had left Phoenixville slightly bent but serviceable. Almost precisely as the meeting adjourned, chords 9-L and 9-R of the anchor arm buckled, and the Quebec Bridge collapsed. Hartford Coliseum Collapse on January 18, 1978. The Hartford Coliseum roof structure was a long span space truss constructed mainly with double angle members. The 30 million dollar structure totally collapsed on January 18, 1978, at 4 a.m., just six hours after the completion of a U. Conn basketball game with five thousand attendees. No one was injured. There was an ice-snow storm underway at the time of the collapse, but the snow loads were well within the design load limits. The collapse occurred about three years after construction. From the Report of the Committee to Investigate the Coliseum Roof Failure, July 13, 1978: LZA concluded that the initiating cause of the collapse of the Coliseum's space truss roof was a design deficiency related directly to inadequate bracing of certain top chord compression members of the space truss.

## Copyright (c) 2011 by The American Institute of Steel Construction

INELASTIC COLUMN STABILITY Equation (1) overestimates steel column strength, especially for short columns. There are two main reasons for the discrepancy, initial out-of-straightness and material yielding. The highlighted data point in Fig. 1 shows that a slightly out-ofstraight long column (L/r = 160) will only reach 0.85Pcr before extreme fiber yielding. In the AISC Specification the maximum column strength in the elastic range of column slenderness is taken as 0.877Pcr. Once overall flange yielding occurs, the column is close to its maximum strength. The solid line in Fig. 4 shows the first yield limit for an out-of-straight column, calculated from the formula P/A + Mc/I = Fy, where M is taken as PT from Eq.(2). For the o/L = 0.001 and L/d =20 used in the calculations, the column curve generated is similar to the AISC column curve for Pcr/Py < 0.5 but is unconservative in the short column range due to residual stresses as discussed below. The column capacity can be
1 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0 0 25 50 75 100 125 150 175 200 L/r AISC Euler o/L=0.001 L/d=20 Fy=50 ksi

Pcr/ Py

## Figure 4. Yield Limit for an Out-of-Straight Column

viewed as a combined stress problem provided that the deflection is calculated using Eq. (2) and some modification is made when factored axial loads are expected to exceed 0.5Py. o can also result from end eccentricities or lateral loads (see Chapter 4 of McQuire, 1968, written by Winter) For steel the stress-strain curve of an entire cross section shows a proportional limit well below the yield plateau obtained from a test on a standard tension coupon. The variation between the stress-strain curves for the full cross section and the standard coupon specimen is due to residual stresses in the member formed during the fabrication or manufacturing process. The residual stress distribution and maximum values, which can not be well controlled, vary significantly from member to member. The variation in residual stress is mainly responsible for the large scatter in column test results (Hall, 1981) in the short to intermediate slenderness ranges (c <1.5 or L/r < 120) shown in Fig. 5 where c = ( L r ) Fy / E . How residual stresses reduce column strength is typically explained as illustrated in Fig. 6. When P/A stresses are added to the compressive residual stresses at the tips of the flanges, the tips of the flanges reach the yield stress first. Material within the yield plateau has no stiffness (E=0) so only the remaining elastic core (E= 29000 ksi) can resist buckling (bending). From a stiffness viewpoint, the cross section has effectively been reduced even though it appears intact. This explanation usually receives only tacit approval because it is difficult to physically understand that portions of the cross section can become useless for resisting buckling under certain levels of applied load.
1.4 AISC Column Formulas 1.2 Fcr Fy 1.0 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0 0.4 0.8 1.2 1.6 c (Slenderness Parameter) 2.0 2.4

## Figure 5. Column Tests

Total Stress Fy Applied Stress Residual Stress Elastic core E = 29000 ksi Flange tips at yield Stress, E = 0 Fy

## Figure 6. Effect of Residual Stresses

Two pinned-end column models with the material and cross sections shown in Fig. 7, were developed to study bracing requirements in the inelastic range (Gill, 1999). The models worked very well for that purpose but they also provided a clear evaluation of the zero stiffness principle. A composite cross section B was fabricated by epoxing two low strength steel sections (40 ksi) to a high strength steel core A (proportional limit = 70 ksi). The high strength steel core was also tested separately. Column tests were conducted on columns with 19 in. and 9.5 in. lengths. The 19 in. long columns buckled at stresses less than 40 ksi and composite column B carried 40% greater load than column A as expected since its cross section was 38% larger (I is also 38% larger). When the 9.5 in. long columns were tested, both sections A and B buckled at the same load. The stress on the composite column at buckling was greater than 40 ksi so the low strength steel sections yielded and were ineffective in resisting buckling. The test showed that our concept of inelastic buckling for steel columns is correct. The lesson from the inelastic model test has practical importance. If a column in a structure must be reinforced to carry additional load, the column strength may be affected by the stresses already applied to the column before the reinforcing is added. If buckling is expected in the elastic range of behavior, the column strength can be established from the cross section properties of the reinforced column. However, if the added stress (added load/ total reinforced cross section) when

## Copyright (c) 2011 by The American Institute of Steel Construction

combined with stress already on the core column exceeds the yield stress, then only the moment of inertia of the added section can be used to determine the buckling load.
100 80 60 40 20 0 0 0.002 0.004 0.006 0.008 Strain Low Str. Steel Prop. Limit High Str. Steel 1 in

Stress(ksi)

A
epoxy

1/2

B
3/16 3/16 column cross section

## Figure 7. Inelastic Buckling Model Properties

Because of the wide variation in expected out-of-straightness and residual stresses, column design equations in the inelastic range are determined from curve fits through the test results. However, most design is based on elastic structural analysis. In order to account for the reduction in stiffness due to inelastic column behavior, the concept of a Stiffness Reduction Factor (SRF), , was developed (Yura, 1971) to more accurately evaluate frame or system stability. In other words, the column rigidity in the inelastic range of applied stress is EI. is derived as the ratio of the inelastic column capacity for a given L/r to the elastic buckling strength for that same L/r. Two common values of to be used with factored loads are given by Eqs. (3) and (4).
( Pu / Py ) For ( Pu / Py ) > 0.35, = 6.97( Pu / Py ) log 0.90

(3) (4)

or

## for ( Pu / Py ) > 0.50, = ( 4 Pu / Py )(1 ( Pu / Py ))

where Py is the column squash load, (FyAg), and Pu is the required column strength. SRF = 1.0 when the Pu/Py ratio is smaller than the limits shown. Eq.(3) is developed from the AISC inelastic column formula, including LRFD factors, whereas Eq.(4) is based on the column formula used in the 9th Ed. AISC-ASD Specification with the factor of safety removed. Both give reasonable estimates of the SRF. The use of will be illustrated in the next section.
P CONCEPT FOR SYSTEM BUCKLING

The design of columns in unbraced frames is based on effective length. For an individual column, the alignment chart in the Commentary of the AISC specification is usually used to determine its effective length factor K. The design strength determined from this effective length may be a rather poor indication of the actual load that can be supported by the column. More correctly the design strength obtained for each column in a story of a frame should be viewed only as a contribution to the total sway buckling strength of the story. The structure will sway buckle when the total load on the story exceeds the sum of the individual column contributions (Yura, 1971). The actual load distribution on each column does not

1.0 0.8
P P P P 5P

Pcr

P P

## EFFECT OF SLIP ON BUILT-UP COLUMN STRENGTH

When two members are interconnected with fasteners to create a built-up column such as a double angle member, the cross section is treated as a single member for design purposes. In the case of composite beams, the components of the built up section, the slab and the steel section, are interconnected with shear studs that are spaced uniformly along the length of a simply CASE C CASE A CASE B supported span. Plastic concepts Connectors at Ends No Connectors Fully Connected are used to determine the number P P P/2 P/2 of stud connectors so relative movement (slip) will occur dd d d between the slab and the steel d d section. The maximum slip will occur at the ends of the span. The slip does not affect the ultimate L beam strength but does affect the deflection. However, for columns K = 1.0 K = 1.0 K = 0.5 slip between components will have a major effect on strength since column stability and P/2 P/2 P P strength depend on the deflection 2E bd3 4 2E bd3 4 2E bd3 response, i.e. stiffness of the Pcr = Pcr = Pcr = 6 L2 6 L2 6L2 member. Figure 9. Effect of Connection Details on Built-Up Column Behavior

## Copyright (c) 2011 by The American Institute of Steel Construction

This section will focus on the effect of slip on built up column stability. The slip between the components is resisted by the end connectors and the intermediate fasteners. The relative importance of these two groups of connectors is illustrated in Fig. 9, which shows the buckled shape and strength for three connection scenarios between two rectangular sections of width b and depth d. Case A has no connectors; slip occurs all along the length and the two cross sections buckle as independent Euler columns. A single connector at mid height will merely force both members to buckle in the same direction. In Case B the two members are fully connected; no slip occurs and the buckling strength is four times greater than Case A. Plane sections remain plane along the entire length. Case C has only connectors at the ends where slip is prevented. Slip occurs at all other locations along the length. Surprisingly the column buckles into an S-shape at a load that is the same as Case B which is fully connected. Case C is hard to comprehend so a model was constructed based on the solution of this problem given by Johnston, 1971.

Figure 10. Built-Up Column Buckling Model The model in Fig. 10 shows two columns with the same cross section. Both are constructed from two similar rectangular sections separated by spacer bars that are pin-connected. The spacers merely force the two components to buckle in the same direction. The only difference between the two columns is their end connections. The column on the left has two shear plates that prevent slip at the ends, the other column has no end connections. As illustrated in Fig. 10, the model follows the theory exactly. The column with the end plates carries four times the load of the pinned column and buckles in an S-shape. In both cases the column ends are free to rotate. Further evidence (Sherman and Yura, 1998) of the importance of preventing slip at the ends is given in Fig. 11, which show the results of tests on 2L5x3 x double angles with long legs back-to-back separated by a gusset plate connection with two A325 bolts at each end. There are varying numbers of intermediate bolts evenly spaced with a small spacer plate or hardened washers maintaining the inch separation. The columns were 12.5 ft. long

## Copyright (c) 2011 by The American Institute of Steel Construction

and loaded through knife edges at the ends to provide a pinned condition. The end bolts were either fully-tightened to the minimum specified tension, snug tightened or fully tightened but with a grease placed on the contact surfaces to reduce the slip coefficient. The intermediate bolts were either fully tightened or snug. The test showed that the number of intermediate fasteners have little effect on the buckling strength of double angle columns. The intermediate fasteners function mainly to prevent buckling of the components between fasteners. The three cases where slip could occur at the ends showed a capacity of about 30 kips, equivalent to the strength of two single angle sections. When slip was prevented, the 50 kip load corresponded to the strength of a fully connected built-up section. The AISC-LRFD Specification requires that the column slenderness ratio be modified for the spacing of intermediate fasteners. The AISC capacity is shown by the horizontal bars in Fig. 11. For a small number of intermediate snug fasteners, the AISC Specification is very conservative. For two or more intermediate fasteners, the AISC reduction is unimportant. The tests indicate that for double angles, it is unnecessary to use the modified slenderness ratio. A minimum of two intermediate fasteners should be recommended to avoid the need of modifying the stiffness. It is only important to prevent slip at the ends and to use the full cross section properties in determining the column strength.

TEST RESULTS
60

Ends - Interm.Conn
Tight - Snug Tight - Tight

50

40

30

AISC
20

10

0 0 1 2 5

## STIFFNESS AND STRENGTH REQUIRED FOR STABILITY BRACES

Winter (1960) established that braces for columns and beams were required to have a minimum stiffness and a minimum strength. A violation of either of these two requirements will result in a reduction in the buckling strength of the main member. Brace stiffness and strength provisions have been adopted in the 3rd Edition of the AISCLRFD Specification. Strength requirements are directly related to the magnitude of the initial out-of-straightness or plumbness. Stiffness requirements are generally a function of load, not E, and are valid in the elastic and inelastic regions of member behavior (Gil 1999, Ales 1993). Prior to the adoption of bracing requirements in the AISC Specification, engineers were on their own, usually adhering to past practice associated with only a strength requirement such as a brace force equal to two percent of the column load. The bracing model shown in Fig. 12 demonstrates the importance of both brace stiffness and brace strength on column strength. The objective of the demonstration is to provide sufficient strength and stiffness to a brace located at mid-height so that the column can support a load corresponding to an unbraced length of one-half the total length; i.e. the column buckles into an S-shape. When the horizontal member is attached at mid-height, a sliding support can vary the stiffness of the brace. Figures 12(a) and (b) show a brace with inadequate stiffness and Fig. 12(c) one with adequate stiffness. In both these instances, the brace strength was sufficient and did not control. Otherwise,

## Copyright (c) 2011 by The American Institute of Steel Construction

the horizontal brace would have a permanent deformation when the column is unloaded. Note the difference in applied load for these two cases.

(b)

(a)

(c)

## Figure 12. Bracing Stiffness Model

Brace strength requirements are evaluated using dead weights. A 1% brace force is required to force the column into an S-shape. The suspended weight (a few fishing sinkers) forces the column against a bolt stop that impose an initial outof-straightness. The 1% provision is derived for an initial out-ofstraightness of L/500. When the brace force exceeds the dead weight, the column will move off the support as shown in Fig. 13(a). When the suspended weights were equal to 1% of the maximum column load, the column buckled into an S-shape shape shown in Fig. 13(b).

(a)

(b)

## Copyright (c) 2011 by The American Institute of Steel Construction

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The model shows that both brace stiffness and strength can affect column strength. In the 3rd Edition AISC-LRFD Manual of Steel Construction, the following statement appears on page 2-13. Stability Bracing Approximate Method As an alternative to the more rigorous provisions for stability bracing in the LRFD Specification Section C3, the historically approximate and generally conservative procedure of designing the bracing element for a required strength equal to two percent of the factored compressive force in the braced member will normally suffice. This statement is contrary to published theory and physical experiments.

SUMMARY

It is important to take the time to establish clearly why a structure is deflecting more than expected. Lack of stability means lack of stiffness. In many instances, disasters could have been avoided if excessive deflections were taken more seriously. Bracing details are important. A very small brace permits a main member to support a load much larger than for an unbraced member. Larger factors-of-safety should be used for bracing members because they are more important than the main member itself. The P concept suggests that a few stiff members (lightly loaded elastic members) can effectively stabilize a system with highly stressed columns. The importance of preventing slip at the ends of built-up members has been demonstrated.

REFERENCES

AISC-SSRC (2003), Lecture 4-Frame Stability, from seminar entitled Basic Design for Stability Ales, J.M. and Yura, J.A.(1993), "Bracing Design for Inelastic Structures," Proceedings, SSRC Conference "Is Your Structure Suitably Braced?," Milwaukee, WI, April 6-7. Canada Department of Railways and Canals ( 1919), The Quebec Bridge Over the St. Lawrence River Near the City of Quebec on the Line of the Canadian National Railways, Report No.1, Ottawa Committee to Investigate the Hartford Coliseum Roof Collapse (1978), Report to Court of Common Council, City of Hartford, Connecticut, July 13,1978, 73p. Gil, H. and Yura, J. A.(1999), Bracing Requirements of Inelastic Columns, Journal of Constructional Steel Research, Vol. 51,No. 1, July, pp.1-19. Hall, D.H. (1981), Proposed Steel Column Strength Criteria, ASCE J of the Structural Division, Vol. 107, No. ST4, April, pp 649-670 Johnston, B. G. (1971), Spaced Steel Columns, ASCE J. of the Structural Division, Vol. 97, No. ST5, May, p 1465 McQuire, W.(1968), Steel Structures, Prentice-Hall International, Inc., London Sherman, D. R. and Yura, J. A.(1998), Bolted Double-Angle Compression Members, Journal of Constructional Steel Research, Vol. 46, n1-3, pp. 470-471, Proc, 2nd World Conference on Steel in Construction (CD-ROM), Paper197, San Sebastian, Spain, May11-13 Tarkov, J. (1986), Quebec Bridge: A Disaster in the Making, Invention & Technology, American Heritage, Vol. 1, No. 4, pp 10-17 Weidlinger Associates (2003), Miscellaneous Forensic Evaluation of the Marcy Pedestrian Bridge, Final Report & Appendices, Aug, 61 p Winter, G.(1960), Lateral Bracing of Columns and Beams, ASCE Transactions, Vol. 125, pp 809-825 Yura, J.A.(1971), The Effective Length of Columns in Unbraced Frames, Engineering Journal, AISC, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 37-42, April 1971. Discussions: Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 40-48, Jan. 1972 and. Vol. 9, No. 4, pp. 167-168, October 1972.

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