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Design of Small Base Plates for Wide Flange Columns*


The 9th

Edition of the AISC Manual of Steel Construction uses the Murray-Stockwell 2 method for analysis of small base plates, i.e., plates that are only slightly larger than the column depth d and width bf. It combines this method with the cantilever method of the 8th3 and earlier editions for large base plates. The Murray-Stockwell method assumes a bearing pressure of Ft,, the maximum permitted, over an H-shaped contact area under the column cross-section between the plate and the concrete. The cantilever method, on the other hand, assumes a uniform bearing pressure, fp < Fp, over the entire base plate surface of area BxN (Fig. 1). Thus, the two methods assume very different bearing pressure distributions and are difficult to combine into a single method. A solution to this dilemma is to return to the 8th Edition assumption of uniform pressure between the base plate and the concrete. This assumption is conservative with respect to the base plate thickness determination because the true pressure distribution will be less near the plate edges and more under the column cross-section, which cross-section also provides support for the plate at its top surface. Since the plate is assumed more heavily loaded distant from its
A. Thornton, PhD, PE, is chief engineer, Cives Steel Company, Roswefi, GA, and is chairman of AISC Committee on Manual, Textbooks, and Codes.

supports than it will be, a plate thickness determined under this load will be thicker than it needs to be. To supplement the cantilever method for large base plates, which is actually a yield line method, it is consistent again to use yield line theory applied to the portion of the base plate contained within the column depth and width. Happily, exact solutions to this problem are available in the literature. 4 Consider Fig. 2, which shows a plate supported on three edges and free on the fourth. The dimensions of the plate are taken as the column depth d and the half column width bfi2, rather than the more correct d - 2tf and (bf t,.)/2. This is done for simplicity and is conservative. If the three supported edges are taken as completely fixed, i.e., no displacement and no rotation about an axis parallel to each edge, the required base plate thickness with a factor of safety of 2 is tp = o.t,j (1)

where ft, = uniform pressure between base plate and concrete = P/BxN, ksi F.,. -- yield stress of base plate, ksi

where r/ = d/bf

,, f 3 G - l--6-G- +I'

Reproduced from AISC Engineering Journal, Volume 27, No. 3, 3rd Quarter 1990


Spoe u p Sd Eg de m


.95O N

U s p oe nu p d Eg de ,

Fig. I. Column base plate geometry and symbols (from AISC').

Fig,. 2. Small base plate geometry and support conditions.

The expression for et given in Eq. 2 can be approximated by et = 4 (3)

with an error of -2.97 % (unconservative) to +6.00% (conservative) in the range of ? from to 3. Then, Eq. I becomes 7 with Eq. 3

If the base plate is small with N d, it may be unconservative to assume complete fixity of the base plate to the column flanges. If the plate of Fig. 2 is completely fixed to the column web along the side of length d but simply supported, i.e., no displacement but rotation unrestrained, along the sides of length bf/2, the required base plate thickness with a factor of safety of 2 is given by Eq. 1, with

,2,: + l,/--7--lJ
This expression for et can be approximated bY 1 where has been replaced by with an error of 2%. et = '/2,J-



Combining Eq. 4 with the cantilever method for large base plates, let


with an error of -0% (unconservative) and +t7.7% (conservative) in the range of ,/from g to 3. In the more common range of g _< ,/ < 2, the error is only +8.00% (conservative). Using Eq. 9 in Eq. 1,

and I = max(m,n,n)

t, = 2(Uqj)


where m and n are defined in Fig. 1. Then the required plate thickness is

Combining Eq. 10 with the cantilever method for large base plates, let n ' = i , I = max(m,n,n') (11) (12)

tr = 2 t J


tp = 2 1 (13)

The equivalent Load and Resistance Factor Design (LRFD) equation for base plate thickness is:

The formulation for the two models just discussed can be seen to be exactly the same except for n'. Let the first formulation, for which n' = be referred to as Model 1 and the second, with n' = 'Ax/db/be referred to as Model 2. It will be instructive to see how these two models compare with a method suggested by Ahmed and Krepss and the method of the AISC 8th Edition Manual. To this end, consider Table 1. The nine examples of this table show that both Models 1 and 2 produce plate thicknesses !ess than or equal to the method of the AISC 8th Edition. The method of Ahmed and Kreps produces plate thicknesses between Models 1 and 2 for small base plates of square columns, but tends to produce plates too thick for nonsquare columns (T/ > 1), as seen from Examples 7, 8 and 9. In the case of Examples 8 and 9, it produces plates thicker than the 8th Edition method. Considering the results shown in Table 1, and recognizing that Model 2 is clearly conservative while still producing plates thinner or at most as thick as the method of the AISC 8th Edition Manual, it is recommended that Model 2, i.e., n'

I,,[ 2Pu
t, = 0.9F, BN l
(14) where P,, = total factored column load NOTATION The symbols used in this paper follow the usage of the AISC Manual, 8th or 9th Edition. REFERENCES 1. American Institute of Steel Construction, Manual of Steel Construction, 9th Edition, 1989, pages 3-106 through 3-110. 2. Murray, T. M., "Design of Lightly Loaded Column Base Plates;' AISC Engineering J., Volume 20, No. 4, 4th Quarter, 1983, pp. 143-152. 3. American Institute of Steel Construction, Manual of Steel Construction. 8th Edition, 1980, pp. 3-99 through 3-102. 4. Park, R. and Gamble, W. L., Reinforced Concrete Slabs, Wiley, 1980, pp. 329-331. 5. Ahmed, S. and Kreps, R. R., "Inconsistencies in Column Base Plate Design in the New AISC ASD (July 1989) Manual, AISC Engineering J., 3rd Quarter, 1990, pp. 106-107. 6. DeWolf, J. T., and Ricker, D. T., Column Base Plates, AISC Steel Design Guide Series, No, 1, 1990, pp. 13-15. 7. Fling, R. S., "Design of Steel Bearing Plates/' AISC Engineering J., Volume 7, No. 2, 2nd Quarter, April 1970, pp. 37-40.


I = max (m,n,n')

t, = 2l,.
be used to replace the current AISC 9th Edition Manual base plate design method for axial load.

T a b l e 1. E x a m p l e s To C o m p a r e M e t h o d s (Fy = 36 ksi for all c a s e s ) Data Example 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. Source Col. Sect.

n'/tp(in.lin.) N
11.5 14 14 16 19 18 --




11 13 13 16 17 16 -9 14

1.58 1.82 1.65 1.17


(in.) 1.36

(in.) (in.) (ksi) (in.)

Mod. I 2.14 .90 2.51 1.13 2.51 1.07 2.51 1.12 2.14 1.86 2.51 1.50 2.12 .61 2.92 1.41 4.16 1.90

Mod. 2 2.68 1.12 3.14 1.41 3.14 1.34 3.14 1.13 2.68 1.86 3.14 1.51 2.65 .77 3.65 1.76 5.20 2.38

Ahmed & AISC Kreps 8th Ed. 2.33 .98 2.71 1.22 2.71 1.16 2.71 1.12 2.33 1.86 2.71 1.50 2.94 .85 4.98 2.40 7.56 3.46 3.92 1.64 4.77 2.15 4.77 2.04 4.77 1.72 3.92 1.86 4.77 2.29 3.68 1.06 4.23 2.04 5.63 2.57

AISC Des. Guidea W 1 0 x l 0 0 Ahmed , Krepsb --AISC 8th Ed. AISC8thEd. Flingc --W12x106 W12x106 W12x106 W10xl00 W12x106 14x8WF W24x68 W36x160

200 11.10 10.34 331 12.89 12.22

.88 1.61 .88 1.61 1.88 3.11

300 12.89 12.22 300 12.89 525 600 -11.10 12.89 14 12.22 10.34 12.22 8

1.63 4.23 4.36 2.08 2.88 3.11 .75 2.08 1.88 -----

450 23.73 1000 36.01

8.965 24 12.00 38

1.90 2.20

a. See Ref. 6 b. See Ref. 5 c. See Ref. 7, Fling gets



= 0.711 in. for this example

Inconsistencies in Column Base Plate Design in the New AISC ASD Manual*

The new AISC steel design manual (ninth edition)' suggests a new procedure for computing the thicknesses of column base plates to rectify problems associated with the somewhat conservative design approach adapted in its earlier version. However, a close scrutiny of the suggested method reveals that the new approach is sometimes overly conservative and even inconsistent. Referring to Fig. 1 (pg. 3-106 of the AISC Manual), P Aj A, Fh v fp f,' tp = = = = = = = = Total column load, kips B x N = Area of plate, in.2 Full cross-sectional area of concrete support, in.' Allowable bending stress in base plate, ksi Allowable bearing stress in support, ksi actual bearing pressure, ksi Compressive strength of concrete, ksi Thickness of plate, in.

Referring to page 3-108 of the Manual, the following procedure is followed to compute base plate size: For a given P, f! and A2, minimum area of base plate is computed and reasonable values of B and N are selected. Based on the column dimensions and selected B and N, quantities m and n are computed and the larger of the two controls. In the next step, the value of L (Fig. 2) is computed v from the following expression, F = P/(2 + d + b 2L)/L, which is quadratic in L. Solving for L, L = [(d + b) _+ x/((d + /i)2 _ 4P/Fp)]/4

$alahuddin Ahmed, Ph.D., is structural engineer, Leonhardt Kreps LeFevre, Toledo, Ohio. Robert R. Kreps, P.E., is principal, Leonhardt Kreps LeFevre, Toledo, Ohio.

The Manual is silent as to which of the two solutions should be used in further computation. However, a careful study of the equation reveals that the smaller of the two L values should be used. The required base plate thickness is then computed based on the larger of m and n calculated and the value of L, as described in the Manual. The quantity L is computed based on an area with a pressure of Ft, and not fy. Thus it is not clear why fi, is used in the expression t = Lx/(3fv/Fh) (pg. 3-107 of the Manual).


dl i i i l


, I / l , - . , z [

.8Ob. e


r I

--,TFigure 2

Figure I

- Reproduced from AISC Engineering Journal, Volume 27, No. 3, 3rd Quarter 1990

Example Let P = 331 kips Column W12x106 (d = 12.89, b = 12.22) f,'. = 3 ksi F,. = '36 ksi Pier: 34 in. x 34 in. 1. A A 2. A N B A 3. fv 4. m n = = = = = = = = = (1/(34 x 34))(331/(.35 x 3))" = 86 331/(.7 x 3) -- 158 Controls .5[.95 x 12.89 - .8 x 12.22] = 1.235 + 1.235 = 13.8, use 14 in. 158/14 = 11.3, use 13 in. 14 x 13 = 182 in.-' 331/182 = 1.82 ksi [14 - 0.95 x 12.89]/2 = 0.88 in. [13 - 0.80 x 12.22]/2 = 1.61 in. Controls

SUGGESTED METHOD OF ANALYSIS Let us assume that the pressure under the base plate is uniform and is equal to P/Al. Let us also assume that the plate is essentially fixed at the web and flanges of the column. Thus what we have here is a plate with one long and two short edges fixed and the fourth edge free with a uniform load. One can go back to various moment coefficients available in the literature to compute maximum moment in the plate. Considering the width to length ratios of usual column sections, the authors suggest a moment coefficient of 0.022 so that the maximum moment in the plate is 0.022 fp d2 kip-in./in., where d is the depth of the column.

Srqa. = 0.022 x fp
t = V(6S,e4a.) =


V(O. 132fpd2/Fb)

F = .35 x 3 x (34 x 34/182) = 2.65 ksi > 2.1 ksi, v use 2.1 ksi L = = (25.11 - x/-.036)/4 = 6.23 in. tv = 1.61 x x/(1.82/(.25x36)) = 0.72 in. tt, = 6.23 x x/(3xl.82/27) = 2.80 in. Controls It may be noted that the thickness of 2.80 in. is greater than what would be obtained according to the eighth edition AISC Manual. Now if one repeated the same calculations with a load of 332 kips, L would become imaginary and as per the manual would be ignored. As a result the required thickness would be 0.72 in., less than that required for a lighter load. Therefore the authors feel that the new way of computing L is basically inconsistent and likely to result in too thick a base plate when L controls and too thin a base plate when L is imaginary and thus ignored.

Therefore, to compute the base plate thickness, a) Compute m and n as discussed in the Manual and select a thickness based on the larger of the two. b) Use the larger of the two thicknesses obtained in step (a) and by Eq. 1. Applying this method to the example above, a) Compute thickness to be 0.72 in. for the larger of m and n. b) Use Eq. I for t = 4(0.132 1.82 12.892127) = 1.22 in. Controls

REFERENCES 1. American Institute of Steel Construction, Inc., Manual of Steel Construction, Allowable Stress Design, ninth edition, Chicago, IL, July 1989. 2. Winter, Urquhart, O'Rourke, Niison, Design of Concrete Structures, seventh edition, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York.

This publication expresses the opinion of the author, and care has been taken to insure that all data and information furnished are as accurate as possible. The author and publisher cannot assume or accept any responsibility or liability for errors in the data or information and 'in the use of such information.

The information contained herein is not intended to represent official attitudes, recommendations or policies of the Structural Steel Educational Council. The Council is not responsible for any statements made or opinions expressed by contributors to this publication.


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