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Design of Reinforced
Concrete Structures
N. Subramanian
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Chapter 17
Design of Staircases
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Introduction

Reinforced concrete (RC) stairs are an important component of a
building and often the only means of providing access between the
various floors of a building.

The staircase essentially consists of landings and flights. Often, the
flight is an inclined slab consisting of risers and treads (collectively called
the going of staircase), whereas the landing is a horizontal slab (see Fig.
17.1).

From a structural point of view, a staircase consists of slab or beam
elements.
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Fig. 17.1 Components of a staircase (a) Plan of staircase (b) Terminology used (c) Part section
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Definition of Terms

Tread or going of step: Tread is the horizontal upper portion of a step
where the foot rests. Going of step is the horizontal distance of the
tread minus the nosing.

Nosing: Sometimes, the tread is projected outwards for aesthetics or
to provide more space; this projection is called the nosing. Many times,
the nosing is provided by the finishing over the concrete tread (see Fig.
17.1c).

Riser and rise: Rise is the vertical distance between two consecutive
treads and riser is the vertical portion of the step.
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Flight or going of stair: Flight is a series of steps provided between
two landings. Going of stair is the horizontal projection of the flight.

Landing: Landing is the horizontal slab provided between two flights.
It is provided every 1014 steps for comfort in climbing. Landing is also
provided when there is a change in the direction of the stairs.

Overlap: The amount by which the nosing of a tread (or landing) over
sails the next lower tread (or landing) is called the overlap.

Waist: It is the least thickness of a stair slab.
Definition of Terms
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Winder: The radiating or angular tapering step is called winder.

Soffit: It is the bottom surface of a stair slab.

Headroom: The vertical distance of a line connecting the nosings of all
treads and the soffit is referred to as the headroom.

Steps may be of three types as follows (see Fig. 17.2):
(a) Brick or concrete steps on inclined slab
(b) Tread-riser steps
(c) Isolated steps
Definition of Terms
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Fig. 17.2 Type of steps (a) Steps on waist slab (b) Slabless tread-riser (c) Isolated steps
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Types of Staircases
Some of the most common geometrical configurations are shown in Fig.
17.3, which include the following:
1. Straight flight stairs with or without intermediate landing (Figs
17.3a and b)
2. Quarter-turn stairs (Fig. 17.3c)
3. Half-turn stairs, also referred to as dog-legged or scissor-type
stairs (Fig. 17.3d)
4. Branching stairs (Fig. 17.3e)
5. Open-well stairs (half-turn) (Fig. 17.3f) and quarter-turn landing
(Fig. 17.3g)
6. Spiral stairs (Figs 17.3h and i)
7. Helicoidal stairs (Fig. 17.3j)
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Types of Staircases
Fig. 17.3 Plan views of various types of stairs (a) and (b) Straight flight stairs (c) Quarter-turn stairs
(d) Half-turn stairs (e) Branching stairs (f) Open-well (half-turn) stairs (g) Open-well stairs with
quarter-turn landing (h) Part-circular stairs (i) Spiral stairs (j) Helicoidal stairs
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Types of Staircases

Spiral, helical, circular, and elliptical stairs are also referred to as
geometrical stairs.

The type of stair and its location are selected based on architectural
considerations, such as accessibility, function, comfort, lighting,
ventilation, and aesthetics, as well as structural and economic
considerations.

Free-standing stairs, which are similar to dog-legged stairs in plan, but
with their landing unsupported, provide an elegant appearance. They
are three-dimensional structures and have to be fixed at both the top
and bottom ends for stability, as shown in Fig. 17.4.
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Free-standing Stair
Fig. 17.4 Typical free-standing stair (a) Plan (b) Section (c) Isometric view
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Free-standing Stair at BWI
Airport, USA
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Structural Classifications


For design purposes, stairs are classified into the following two types,
depending on the predominant direction in which the slab of the stair
deflects in flexure:

1. Transversely supported (transverse to the direction of movement
in the stair)

2. Longitudinally supported (in the direction of movement)
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Transversely Supported Stairs

Transversely supported stairs include the following types:

1. Simply supported steps supported by two walls or beams or a
combination of both (see Fig. 17.5a)

2. Stairs cantilevering from a central spine beam (see Fig. 17.5b)

3. Steps cantilevering from a wall or a beam (see Fig. 17.5c). The
detailing of stair slab when concrete or brick step is adopted is
also shown in Fig. 17.5(d). It has to be noted that the tread-riser
type of arrangement is also employed as cantilevers.
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Fig. 17.5 Transversely supported stairs (a) Supported between two stringer beams or walls (b) Doubly
cantilevered from a central spine beam (c) Cantilevered from spandrel beam or wall (d) Detailing of
cantilever stair for concrete and brick steps
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Transversely Supported Stairs

When the slab is supported at the two sides by stringer beams or
walls as shown in Fig. 17.5(a), it should be designed as simply
supported. The stringer beam in Fig. 17.5(a) may also be provided as an
upstand stringer.


The spandrel beam (see Fig. 17.5c) is subjected to equilibrium torsion
in addition to bending moment and shear. Although the slab may be
spanning transversely, the spandrel and spine beams of Figs 17.5(a) and
(c), respectively, span longitudinally between the supporting columns.


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Transversely Supported Stairs

When the slab is doubly cantilevered from the central spine beam as
in Fig. 17.5(b), it is better to check for the case of loading on one side of
the stair slab, which may induce torsion in the spine beam. This
condition may also dislodge the slab from the beam if proper detailing is
not provided.



The detail as shown in Fig. 17.5(b) may prevent such a separation, as
the stirrups of the beam will anchor the slab into the beam, provided
the stirrups are designed to take into account torsion as well.



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Longitudinally Supported Stairs

These stairs span between the supports at the top and bottom of a
flight and are unsupported at the sides.


Longitudinally supported stairs may be supported in any of the
following ways:
1. Internal beams at the ends of the flight in addition to beams or
walls at the outside edges of the landings (see Fig. 17.6a)

2. Beams or walls at the outside edges of the landings (see Fig.
17.6b)
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Fig. 17.6 Types of stairs spanning longitudinally (a) Support at top and bottom
risers (b) Landing slab spanning in the same direction as stairs (c) Supported on the
edge of landing slab
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Longitudinally Supported Stairs
3. Landings that are supported by beams or walls running in the
longitudinal direction (see Fig. 17.6c)

4. A combination of these three methods

5. Stairs with quarter landings associated with the open-well stairs

In all these cases, we may adopt either the waist slab (Fig. 17.2a) or
the tread-riser type (Fig. 17.2b).

The slab thickness depends on the effective span, which should be
calculated according to the boundary condition.

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Longitudinally Supported Stairs


All these staircases require four columns in plan. Of these, two
columns should be used to support the landing beam.

Stringers, treads, or complete flights and landings can be precast,
depending upon the nature of the project, site, and size of the crane, as
shown in Fig. 17.7.

Care should be exercised when detailing the junctions of in situ
concrete with precast units to avoid unsightly finishes.
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Fig. 17.7 Precast concrete flight, landing, or stringers (a) Precast flight
(b) Precast concrete flight with landing (c) Precast stringers
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Effective Span

Following are the rules for calculating the effective spans, depending on
the way the stair slab is supported:
1. When the stairs span longitudinally and are supported at the top
and bottom by beams, as shown in Fig. 17.6(a), the effective
span is the distance between the respective centres of beams.

2. When the stairs span longitudinally with the landing slab also
spanning in the same direction as the stairs, as shown in Fig.
17.6(b), the effective span is the centre-to-centre distance (c/c)
between the supporting beams or walls.

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Effective Span

3. When the stairs span longitudinally and are supported by landings
on top and bottom, which span in the transverse direction
(perpendicular to the stairs), as shown in Fig. 17.6(c), the effective
span is to be taken as the total going of the stair plus half the width
of the landing on each end or one metre, whichever is smaller.


4. In the case of stairs spanning transversely (horizontally in the
transverse direction), as shown in Fig. 17.5, the effective width of
the stair is taken as the effective span.
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Stair with Landing Supported on
Three Sides
The landing slab running at right angles to the direction of the flight
and supported by walls or beams on three sides, as shown in Fig. 17.8,
are common in residential buildings. The Indian code does not have
provisions for this case.

There are two critical locations for the flexural design of such stairs:
(a) The mid-span location for positive moment
(b) The kink location, where the landing slab meets the inclined
waist slab, for negative moment.

The effective length may be taken as the going of this type of stair,
as IS 456 provisions are very conservative[Ahmed, et al.(1995,1996)]

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Effective Span
Fig. 17.8 Stair with landing slab supported on three sides
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Loads on Stair Slabs

The dead load to be considered on the stairs includes the following:
1. Self-weight of stair slab (waist slab, tread-riser slab, or individual
steps)
2. Self-weight of step
3. Self-weight of finish


The imposed loads are assumed to act as uniformly distributed loads
on the horizontal projection of the flight, that is, on the going of
staircase, as well as on the landing.
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Loads on Stair Slabs
Type of Staircase Imposed Load (kN/m
2
)
Service stairs for maintenance in water
tanks, catwalks, etc.
1.5
Staircase in residential buildings 3.0
Staircase in offices and public buildings 5.0
Staircase with isolated steps 1.3 kN/step*
* This concentrated load should be applied at the free end of each cantilever step.
Table 17.2 Imposed load on staircases as per IS 875(Part 2):1987
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Distribution of Loads on Stairs
According to Clause 33.2 of IS 456, the following distribution of loads
may be taken:
1. In the case of stairs with open wells, when a staircase takes a
right-angled turn, the load on areas common to any such span
(usually in landings) may be taken as 50 per cent in each
direction, as shown in Fig. 17.9(a).

2. When a longitudinally spanning flight or landing is embedded by
at least 110 mm into walls, the loading may be assumed to act
on a reduced width of flight, due to partial two-way action. The
code permits this reduction in width as 150 mm, as shown in Fig.
17.9(b). It also suggests increasing the effective breadth of the
section by 75 mm.

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Fig. 17.9 Distribution of loading on stairs (a) Open well stairs (b) Stairs built into the walls
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Design of Stair Slabs Spanning Transversely
Isolated Tread Slabs
These slabs are designed as cantilever
slabs.

It is important to anchor the top bars into
the support.

In earthquake zones, equal amount of
bottom bars with adequate anchoring has
to be provided to resist stress reversals.



It is necessary to provide proper chairs for the main bars so that
they remain at the top face during concreting operations.
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Cantilevered Stairs
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Design of Stair Slabs Spanning Transversely

Slabless Stairs
In these stairs, each tread-riser unit, consisting of the riser slab and
one half of tread slab on either side, is assumed to act independently as
a beam having a Z-section, as shown in Fig. 17.10 (Next Slide).

The main bars are placed at the top or bottom of the riser portion,
depending upon whether the system is cantilevered or simply
supported.

Nominal distributors in the form of stirrups are provided.
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Transversely Spanning Tread-riser Stair
Fig. 17.10 Transversely spanning tread-riser stair (a) Typical tread-riser arrangement (b) Tread-riser
unit taken for design as Z-section (c) Detailing of tread-riser stair
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Design of Stair Slabs Spanning Transversely
Stairs with Waist Slab
In this type of stair, the longitudinal axis of
the flight is inclined to the horizontal, and the
steps form a series of triangles on top of the
waist slab.

If the steps are also made of concrete,
nominal reinforcement, in the form of stirrups,
are provided in the steps to prevent the
cracking of nosing.

The main bars are provided transversely, at
the top or bottom, depending upon whether
the slab is cantilevered or simply supported.
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Design Of Stair Slabs Spanning
Longitudinally
Slabless stairs
The aesthetic appeal of tread-riser stair is lost if the slab thickness
exceeds the riser, R. Hence, the effective span for these stairs is usually
kept below 3.5 m.

The bending moments are considered to occur in the longitudinal
direction in the riser as well as treads. Each tread slab is subjected to a
bending moment combined with shear force, whereas the riser slab is
subjected to a constant bending moment and an axial force (see Fig.
17.11(a).

The reinforcement detailing is shown in Fig. 17.11(b) can resist the
negative bending moment near the supports, arising out of any partial
fixity ..

`
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Longitudinally Supported Tread-riser Stairs
Fig. 17.11 Longitudinally supported tread-riser stairs (a) Bending moment and shear force diagram
(b) Detailing of reinforcement
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Design Of Stair Slabs Spanning
Longitudinally
Stairs with Waist Slab
The slab is designed as a simply supported slab.

The reinforcements are placed longitudinally as shown in Figs 17.12
and 17.13 (Figure 17.12 shows the detailing for stairs supported at the
ends of landing and Fig. 17.13 shows the detailing for stairs supported at
the ends of flights).

Detailing of bars should be properly done at the junction of the flight
and landing slab.

The distributor bars are provided in the transverse direction, along the
width of the waist slab.
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Fig. 17.12 Detailing of dog-legged stair supported at the ends of landing
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Fig. 17.13 Detailing of dog-legged stair supported at the ends of flights
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Design Of Stair Slabs Spanning
Longitudinally
Free-standing Stairs
The lower flight is subjected to axial compression, bending, and
torsion, whereas the upper flight has to resist axial tension, bending,
and torsion.

The landing slab has to be stiff in its own plane in order to connect the
two out-of-plane flights effectively.

The flight reinforcement should be well anchored into the supporting
beams at the top and bottom floor levels, and these beams should be
designed and detailed carefully to resist the forces and moments
introduced by the flights.
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Free-Standing Stair at Marlins
BallPark, Miami, Florida
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Helicoidal Staircases

A Helicoidal stair is a stair describing a helix around a central void and
the shape is generated by moving a straight line touching a helix such
that the moving line is always perpendicular to the axis of the helix (see
Fig. 17.14).

The critical stress resultants acting on the girder are the bending
moment about the two principal planes and torsional moment,
transverse shear, and axial thrust.

The connecting slabs or beams at the floor levels must be designed to
provide the required fixity at the ends of the Helicoidal girder.
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Helicoidal Staircases
Fig. 17.14 Helicoidal staircase (a) Elevation (b) Plan (c) In a hospital-cum- residence
in Panrutti, Tamil Nadu
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Fig. 17.15 Helicoidal stair notations
Where is the angle
measured from the middle
point of the curve of the
slab
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Earthquake Considerations

In general, RC staircases are built integrally with the structural system
of the building, even though they are analysed as isolated systems.

The elements of these staircases, such as the flight slabs and landing
slab, act as diagonal braces and attract large lateral forces during an
earthquake, thereby incurring damage (Fig. 17.16a).

The provision of a sliding support will prevent the stair slab from
acting as diagonal bracing (Fig. 17.16b and c).

Stairs with landings are not normally reinforced to act as compression
braces and can be expected to fail in a very brittle manner.
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Failure of Staircases during
Earthquakes
Gujarat earthquake, 26
th

Jan. 2001
Christchurch Earthquake, 22
nd
Feb. 2010
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Earthquake Considerations
Fig. 17.16 Earthquake effects (a) Damage locations due to diagonal bracing effect
(b) Location for sliding support (c) Detail at the sliding support
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Earthquake Considerations

The beams supporting the landing slab of dog-legged stairs will also
cause the secondary effect of short columns, in addition to causing the
twist of the building due to stiffness irregularity in plan, if they are not
located centrally.

Short-column effect results in enhanced shear demand with additional
stiffness introduced at intermediate levels.

Axial load also increases in these columns due to increased rigidity of
the particular bay. This increase in both axial and shear forces may result
in brittle failure of these short columns. Hence, it is important to include
the stairs in the modelling of the structure.
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Separated Staircases

The staircases are completely separated and built on a separate RC
structure by providing adequate gap between the staircase tower and
the building to ensure that they do not pound each other during shaking
caused by a strong earthquake (see Fig. 17.17).


The opening at the vertical joints between the floor and the staircase
may be either covered with a tread plate attached to one side of the
joint and sliding on the other side or covered with some appropriate
material that could crumble or fracture during an earthquake without
causing structural damage.
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Separated Staircases
Fig. 17.17 Separated staircases (a) Plan (b) Section at XX (c) Detail at A
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Built-in Staircase


This is done by providing rigid walls at the stair opening, as shown in
Fig. 17.18. Under such circumstances, the joints as provided in
separated staircases will not be necessary.



The two walls enclosing the staircase should extend through the entire
height of the stairs and to the building foundations.
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Built-in Staircase
Fig. 17.18 Rigidly built-in staircase (a) Plan (b) Section YY (c) Section at XX
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Staircases with Sliding Joints

This strategy is used where it is not possible to provide rigid walls
around stair openings; to adopt the separated staircase, sliding joints
should be provided as shown in Fig. 17.16(b) so that they will not act as
diagonal bracing.


As the stairs provide vital link of communication and services, they
should be designed for higher safety factor when com pared with the
other structural elements.

An important factor of 1.5 must be applied to the staircases located in
earthquake zones.
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Fire Protection

The fire protection rating for the staircase should be at least 30
minutes more than that assigned to the building.

It is better to provide a cover not less than 25 mm. The minimum
thickness of slabs in the staircase should be 110 mm.

More importantly, the fixtures and railings must be fireproof.

Fire-resistant fibreglass covers should be used for the railings and
steps instead of plastic covers.
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Poor Quality of Concrete in Stairs
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Case Study
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Case Study (continued)
Source: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/christchurch-earthquake/5733033/Stair-work-
not-done-when-quake-hit
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Thank You!