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Title no. 106-S45

Effective Stiffness of Reinforced Concrete Columns

by Kenneth J. Elwood and Marc O. Eberhard
Existing and proposed models of the effective stiffness of reinforced
concrete columns subjected to lateral loads are assessed using the
experimental response of 329 concrete columns. Existing models
appropriate for design applications tend to overestimate the
measured effective stiffness and are unacceptably inaccurate,
because they generally neglect the influence of anchorage slip on
the effective stiffness of the column. A three-component model that
explicitly accounts for deformations due to flexure, shear, and
anchorage-slip is shown to provide a more accurate estimate of the
measured effective stiffness for the database columns. This model
is simplified by neglecting small terms and approximating the
results of moment-curvature analysis to obtain an accurate and
rational effective stiffness model appropriate for design applications.
For this model, the ratio of the measured stiffness to the calculated
stiffness had a mean and coefficient of variation of 1.02 and 22%
for circular columns and 0.95 and 25% for rectangular columns.
Keywords: bond slip; column; flexural stiffness; lateral loads; reinforced
concrete; yield.

The assumptions made in estimating the stiffnesses of
structural members dominate the computed performance of
a building or bridge subjected to earthquake ground motions.
If these assumptions are used in a linear analysis, they control
predictions of the period of the structure, the distribution of
loads within the structure, and the deformation demands. The
member stiffnesses also control the yield displacement,
which in turn affects the displacement ductility demands
calculated as part of a nonlinear analysis.
The consequences of overestimating or underestimating
the actual stiffnesses of structural members depend on the
type of structural system and the response parameter of
interest. For example, a low estimate of the effective stiffnesses
of columns in a moment-resisting frame usually leads to a
conservative (high) estimate of the displacement demands.
In contrast, a low estimate of the effective stiffnesses for
columns in a shear-wall building would lead the designer to
unconservatively underestimate the elastic shear demands on
the columns. The need for an accurate estimate of effective
stiffnesses is even more crucial for time-history analyses, in
which the peaks and valleys of the ground-motion response
spectrum significantly influence the computed performance.
To assist engineers in developing numerical models for the
estimation of lateral deformation demands, most codes and
standards provide recommendations for member effective
stiffness. The Federal Emergency Management Agency
(FEMA) 356 seismic rehabilitation guidelines (ASCE 2000)
specify the most commonly used procedure for estimating
column stiffness in the U.S. This procedure has been adopted
into the Seismic Rehabilitation Standard, ASCE 41 (ASCE
2007a). It recently has been superseded by a new procedure
specified in ASCE 41 Supplement 1 (ASCE 2007b),
described in Elwood et al. (2007). A similar model is
included in the commentary to the New Zealand concrete

code, NZS 3101-06 (NZS 2006), based on the commonly

used recommendations by Paulay and Priestley (1992). ACI
318-08 (ACI Committee 318 2008) will be the first edition
of ACI 318 to provide stiffness recommendations specifically for lateral-load analysis. These code procedures
are convenient for preliminary analysis, because they
can be implemented without performing a moment-curvature
analysis and without knowing the details of the column
reinforcement. Simple effective stiffness models for
application in design have also been proposed by Mehanny et
al. (2001) and Khuntia and Ghosh (2004).
This paper uses data from the Pacific Earthquake Engineering
Research Center (PEER) Structural Performance Database,
developed by the second author and his students (Berry et al.
2004), to assess the accuracy of these practical methodologies and
to propose a new procedure.
The assumed stiffness of a column dominates the results of
linear and nonlinear analyses of buildings and bridges
subjected to ground motions. Currently, most design
professionals assume that the column effective stiffness is a
fixed proportion (say 50 or 100%) of the gross-section stiffness.
Using a database of 329 columns with rectangular and
circular cross sections, this paper shows that existing procedures
for estimating column stiffness are inaccurate. Based on
simplifications of a three-component model, the paper
proposes a new procedure that is more rational, practical,
and accurate. The proposed procedure could be used immediately
by design professionals, and it could be incorporated into
design provisions, such as ASCE 41 (ASCE 2007a) or
ACI 318 (ACI Committee 318 2008).
The PEER Structural Performance Database (Berry et al.
2004) provided the data needed to evaluate the accuracy of
various models of column stiffness. The database contains the
cyclic force-deformation response, geometry, axial load, and
material properties for more than 400 tests of reinforced concrete
columns. A total of 366 of these columns were tested in
cantilever, double-curvature, and double-cantilever
configurations, which makes it possible to isolate the
columns stiffness/flexibility from other sources of flexibility,
such as a flexible supporting beam. To limit the analyses to
columns typical of practice, the axial load was limited to a
maximum of 0.66Ag fc, and the shear-span-to-depth ratio

ACI Structural Journal, V. 106, No. 4, July-August 2009.

MS No. S-2007-399.R1 received July 8, 2008, and reviewed under Institute publication
policies. Copyright 2009, 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 May-June 2010 ACI
Structural Journal if the discussion is received by January 1, 2010.

ACI Structural Journal/July-August 2009

ACI member Kenneth J. Elwood is an Associate Professor at the University of British

Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada. He received his PhD from the University of
California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA. His research interests include the behavior and
performance-based design of reinforced concrete structures under seismic loading. He
is Chair of ACI Committee 369, Seismic Repair and Rehabilitation, and a member of
ACI Committee 374, Performance-Based Seismic Design of Concrete Buildings, and
Joint ACI-ASCE Committee 441, Reinforced Concrete Columns.
Marc O. Eberhard, FACI, is a Professor at the University of Washington, Seattle,
WA. He received his BS in civil engineering, and materials science and engineering
from the University of California, Berkeley, and his MSCE and PhD from the University of
Illinois, Chicago, IL. He is a member of Joint ACI-ASCE Committee 445, Shear
and Torsion.

was limited to a minimum of 1.4 (all variables are defined in

the Notation section).
The selected specimens include 221 columns with rectangular
cross sections with rectangular transverse reinforcement
and 108 columns with circular, octagonal, and square cross
sections with spiral transverse reinforcement (for brevity,
these database subsets will be referred to as rectangular
columns and circular columns, respectively). The
minimum, maximum, mean, and median properties of the
selected column databases are reported in Table 1. Both sets
of column data have wide ranges of column parameters; and
for both sets of data, the strength of over 90% of the included
columns was limited by their flexural strength. This statistic
is a consequence of the limit on the aspect ratio, which
eliminated many shear-critical columns. The distribution of
some parameters varies greatly between the two sets. For
example, compared with the rectangular column dataset, the
circular column set includes fewer columns with axial loads
above 0.3Ag fc or fc above 60 MPa (8700 psi). The circular
columns also tend to have lower values for db /D when
compared with the rectangular columns. These differences

are consistent with the observation that many of the tests of

circular columns were proportioned to represent typical
bridge practice, whereas most of the rectangular columns
were proportioned to reflect construction practice for buildings.
For each column, the envelope of the measured lateral
load-displacement relationship was corrected for P-delta
effects to give the effective lateral force envelope for each
column. The yield displacement and effective stiffness of
each column were determined as shown in Fig. 1. For
approximately 90% of the columns, the effective stiffness
was defined based on the point on the measured effective
force-displacement envelope that corresponded to the calculated
force at first yield, Ffirst yield (Fig. 1(a)). Adopting the same
definition of yield used by Benzoni et al. (1996) and others,
the yield force was defined as the first point at which the
tension reinforcement yielded or the maximum concrete
strain reached a value of 0.002, whichever came first. The
database does not include strain measurements, so the force
at first yield was determined with a moment-curvature
analysis, using a linear model for the steel and the Mander et
al. (1988) constitutive relationship for the concrete.
This definition could not be used for columns whose
strength did not substantially exceed the yield force (for
example, shear failures). For these columns, defined as those
whose maximum measured effective force Fmax was not at
least 7% larger than the calculated force at first yield, the
effective stiffness was defined based on the point on the
measured force-displacement envelope with an effective
force equal to 0.8Fmax (Fig. 1(b)).
Assuming the column is fixed against rotation at both ends and
has a linear variation in curvature over the height of the column,

Fig. 1Definition of yield displacement and effective

stiffness from test data for: (a) yielding columns; and (b)
columns that did not yield.
Table 1Range of properties for database columns
Circular columns
(108 specimens)

Rectangular columns
(221 specimens)

Mini- MaxiMini- MaxiParameter mum mum Mean Median mum mum Mean Median
fc, MPa



fy, MPa

(34.8) (82.0) (61.0) (64.7) (46.2) (85.2) (66.2) (65.7)



v f c ,
MPa (psi)






90.0 37.9
(13.1) (5.5)





0.056 0.024 0.021



0.99 0.27
(11.9) (3.3)





118.0 52.3
(17.1) (7.6)


0.060 0.024 0.021
















ACI Structural Journal/July-August 2009

Fig. 2Effect of key parameters on measured effective


the measured effective modulus of rigidity (for simplicity,

referred to here as stiffness) can be defined as

measured effective stiffness ranges from 10 to 122% of the

gross-section stiffness (Table 2). The measured effective
stiffness can exceed EIg because the effect of the longitudinal
reinforcement on the transformed section is not accounted for
when determining EIg. Correlation coefficients for the rectangular
and circular columns (Rr and Rc , respectively) are also shown in
Fig. 2. The normalized effective stiffness increases most
consistently with increasing axial-load ratio (P/Ag fc) and aspect
ratio (a/D), with correlation coefficients ranging from 0.58 to
0.79. The normalized effective stiffness also increases with
increases in concrete compressive strength (fc). The normalized
stiffness decreases with an increase in the ratio of the steel
yield stress to concrete compressive strength (fy /fc). The
normalized stiffness correlates only weakly with the normalized
bar size and longitudinal reinforcement ratio.

F 0.004 a
EI effmeas = -----------------3 y


where F0.004 is the calculated effective force on the column

when the extreme concrete fiber reaches a maximum
compressive strain of 0.004, and y is the displacement at yield
according to Fig. 1 for an equivalent cantilever of length a.
Figure 2 demonstrates the influence of several key parameters
on the measured effective stiffness, expressed as a fraction of
the gross-section stiffness, EIg. Within the dataset, the


The models implemented in many of the structural codes
are similar in form to each other. Chapter 8 of ACI 318-08
(ACI Committee 318 2008) provides three options for
approximating member stiffnesses for the determination of
lateral deflection of building systems subjected to factored
lateral loads: (a) 0.35EIg for flexural members (P < 0.1Ag fc)
and 0.7EIg for compression members (P 0.1Ag fc ); (b)
0.5EIg for all members; or (c) as determined by a more
detailed analysis considering the reduced stiffness of all
members under the loading conditions. Figure 3 and Table 2
compare options (a) and (b) with the measured effective
stiffnesses from the column databases. Option (a) generally
overestimates the effective stiffness for axial loads below
0.4Ag fc. Option (b) overestimates the stiffness for columns
with low axial loads and underestimates the stiffness for
columns with high axial loads.
The figure and table also include evaluations of the effective
stiffness models from FEMA 356 (ASCE 2000), ASCE 41
Supplement 1 (ASCE 2007b), and Paulay and Priestley
(1992), all of which allow for interpolation between effective
stiffness values at low and high axial loads. The FEMA 356
(ASCE 2000), and the Paulay and Priestley (1992) recommendations also tend to overestimate the measured effective
stiffness for the columns with low axial loads, particularly
for the rectangular column dataset. Of these existing
procedures, ASCE 41 Supplement 1 (ASCE 2007b) provides
the best average estimate of the measured effective stiffness
(refer to Table 2). But none of these models are accurate. The
coefficient of variation for all of these models ranges from
35 to 58%, depending on the particular model and dataset.
As will be demonstrated in the following, this scatter can be

Fig. 3Measured effective stiffness from database compared

with existing code models (ASCE 41-S1 = ASCE Supplement 1
[ASCE 2007b]; PP92 = Paulay and Priestley [1992]).

Table 2Statistics for ratio of measured to calculated effective stiffness

for existing effective stiffness models
Circular columns (108 specimens)

Minimum Maximum

Rectangular columns (221 specimens)



Coefficient of
variation, %





Coefficient of
variation, %

Gross section
FEMA 356











ASCE 41 Supplement 1
ACI 318-08 (a)











ACI 318-08 (b)

Paulay and Priestley (1992)











Mehanny et al. (2001)

Khuntai and Ghosh (2004)












ACI Structural Journal/July-August 2009

attributed mainly to the fact that these procedures are based

on consideration of expected flexural deformations.
Using a computed moment-curvature relationship, as
shown in Fig. 4, the effective flexural stiffness of the column
EIflex can be determined based on the moment at first yield
of the column, Mfirst yield. The moment-curvature response
was determined for each column in the database based on
plane-section analysis and using the concrete constitutive
model by Mander et al. (1988) and a linear constitutive
model for steel. Figure 5 compares the code-based models
with the calculated flexural stiffnesses of the columns in the
database expressed as a fraction of the gross-section stiffness
(EIflex /EIg). For many of the columns considered, the models
provide an adequate estimate of the flexural stiffness.
Comparing the results in Fig. 3 and 5, however, it is apparent that
other sources of flexibility must be taken into account to
accurately estimate the total effective stiffness.
Other effective stiffness models incorporating the influence
of variables beyond axial load have been proposed in the
literature. For example, Mehanny et al. (2001) accounts for
the influence of the longitudinal reinforcement by introducing a model based on the transformed moment of inertia
and the balanced axial load
EI effcalc EI g, tr = ( 0.4 + P 2.4P b ) 0.9


Several researchers (Sozen 1974; Priestley et al. 1996;
Lehman and Moehle 1998; Berry and Eberhard 2007) have
proposed estimating the yield displacement of an equivalent
cantilever column of length a as the sum of the displacement
components due to flexure, shear, and bar slip
y = flex + shear + slip


Fig. 4Definition of yield curvature and flexural stiffness

(modulus of rigidity).

The statistics reported in Table 2 indicate that the

Mehanny model consistently overestimates the measured
effective stiffnesses and has large coefficients of variation (38%
for circular columns and 41% for rectangular columns).
Khuntai and Ghosh (2004) recommend an effective stiffness
model for lateral-load analysis of reinforced concrete
frames, with and without slender columns, accounting for
the influence of longitudinal reinforcement and effective
eccentricity of the axial load. They propose the following
equation for compression members (P > 0.1Ag fc )
EI effcalc EI g = ( 0.80 + 25 ) ( 1 e D 0.5P P o ) 1.0


The effective stiffness from Eq. (3) is limited to greater

than the effective stiffness for flexural members determined
based on a similar model included in Khuntai and Ghosh
(2004). Compared with the Mehanny model, the Khuntai and
Ghosh model better predicts the average stiffness, but the
coefficient of variation for the ratio of the measured to calculated
effective stiffnesses exceeds 40% for the circular columns
and exceeds 50% for the rectangular column dataset (Table 2).
With the exception of ASCE 41 Supplement 1 (ASCE
2007b), all of the models considered were developed
primarily to provide an estimate to the flexural effective
stiffness (determined based on moment-curvature analyses)
and, hence, ignore additional flexibility due to bar slip and
shear deformations. Consequently, these models ignore the
important dependence of the effective stiffness on the aspect
ratio of the column, evident in Fig. 2(b). Rather than relying
on purely statistical models, it would be preferable to develop
a simple model, whose form is based on the theoretical
calculation of the yield displacement accounting for the
flexibility due to flexure, shear, and bar slip. As shown in the
following sections, this approach can provide a more
accurate estimate of the measured effective stiffnesses of the
database columns.
ACI Structural Journal/July-August 2009

Fig. 5Comparison of flexural stiffness with code models

(ASCE 41-S1 = ASCE Supplement 1 [ASCE 2007b]; PP92 =
Paulay and Priestley [1992]).

In this section, a similar model is developed based on the

column datasets. Then, the three components of deformation
are combined into a single, nondimensional equation, which
can serve as the basis for the development of practical
effective-stiffness models based on gross-section properties.
Flexural deformations
The calculated flexural curvatures in a reinforced concrete
column can be integrated directly to estimate the column
deformations attributable to flexure. Alternately, assuming a
linear variation in curvature over the height of the column,
the contribution of flexural deformations to the displacement
at yield can be estimated as follows

a M 0.004
flex = ----- y = ----- ------------3
3 EI flex


where M0.004 is the flexural moment at a maximum concrete

compressive strain of 0.004, and y is the yield curvature, as
defined in Fig. 4.
Shear deformations
The column deformation due to shear within the elastic
range of response is small for most columns, but it can be
large (relative to others sources of deformation) for stocky
columns with high levels of shear demand. Before shear
cracking, this contribution can be estimated by assuming that
the effective shear modulus is equal to the gross-section,
isotropic elastic value (G = Ec /2.4). As the shear cracking
increases, the effective shear modulus reduces significantly.
For many applications, it is convenient to estimate the
shear displacement of an equivalent cantilever column by
idealizing the column as a homogeneous, isotropic material
with a constant, reduced shear modulus
M 0.004
shear = -------------A v G eff


where Av is the effective shear area of the column cross

section (5/6 of the gross-section area of a rectangular column
and 85% of the gross area of a circular column). The expected
effects of concrete cracking suggest that the effective shear
modulus should decrease as a function of the nominal
principle tensile stress. Nonetheless, for application in
engineering practice, the effective shear modulus Geff can be
approximated as one half the elastic value for all levels of
deformation. This value of the effective shear modulus was
selected to optimize the statistics for the effective stiffness
model developed below (Eq. (12)).

Fig. 6Deformations due to bar slip.


Bar slip deformations

Slip of the reinforcing bars within the beam-column joints
or foundations further increases the lateral displacements.
This section derives an expression to estimate the lateral
displacement of a column due to bar slip prior to yielding of
the longitudinal reinforcement.
Moments at the ends of a reinforced concrete column tend
to cause tension in the longitudinal reinforcing bars, as
shown in Fig. 6. This tension force Ts must be resisted by the
bond stress u between the reinforcement and the footing or
joint concrete. If the bond stress is assumed to be constant,
equilibrium considerations lead to the following expression
for the length of bar required to resist Ts
db f s
l = -------4u


Using Eq. (7) and integrating the triangular strain diagram

shown in Fig. 6, the slip of the reinforcing bar slip can be
expressed as
s db fs
slip = ------------8u


The rotation at the end of the column due to slip of the

reinforcing bars slip is given by the ratio of slip to the
distance from the reinforcement to the neutral axis, c. Using
Eq. (8), and recognizing that (s/c) is equal to the curvature
at the section, the lateral displacement of an equivalent
cantilever column of length a due to slip of the reinforcement at
first yield can be expressed as follows
ad b f s first yield
slip first yield = a slip first yield = ---------------------------------8u


As shown in Fig. 1, the yield displacement (and each of its

components) is defined as the displacement at an effective
force of F0.004; hence, slip from Eq. (4) can be determined by
multiplying Eq. (9) by the ratio F0.004 / Ffirst yield. Noting from
Fig. 4 that y = first yield (M0.004/Mfirst yield) = first yield(F0.004/
Ffirst yield), the following expression for slip is derived
ad b f s y
slip = ----------------8u


The average bond stress values recommended in the literature

for elastic response range from u = 0.5 f c to 1.0 f c MPa
(u = 6 f c to 12 f c psi) (Otani and Sozen 1972; ACI
Committee 408 1979; Alsiwat and Saatcioglu 1992; Sozen
et al. 1992; Lehman and Moehle 1998). For the purpose of
this study, the average bond stress was taken as u = 0.8 f c MPa
(u = 9.6 f c psi). At first yield of the column, the stress in
the tension reinforcement, fs , used in Eq. (9) and (10) will
vary depending on the axial load on the column. For
columns with low axial loads, the tension reinforcement will
yield; hence, fs can be taken as equal to the yield stress, fy.
The stress in the tension reinforcement will decrease as the
axial load on the column increases, reaching zero when the
depth of the neutral axis is equal to the effective depth of the
column. Consequently, it is expected that the displacement
due to bar slip will increase with decreasing axial load.
ACI Structural Journal/July-August 2009

To capture the effect of bar slip within the linear range of

response, it is possible to include rotational springs at the
ends of the column elements to directly model the additional
flexibility from the slip of the longitudinal bars. The spring
stiffness can be determined as
8u M 0.004
k slip = --------- ------------- = --------- EI flex
d b fs y
db fs


According to this approach and neglecting shear deformations,

the effective stiffness of the column element, acting in series
with the bond element, can be taken as EIflex from a momentcurvature analysis (Fig. 4).
Contribution of components to total
yield displacement
As shown in Fig. 7, the contributions of flexure (Eq. (5)),
shear (Eq. (6)), and bar slip (Eq. (10)) varied consistently
with the axial-load ratio and aspect ratio. For both the rectangular
and circular columns, the flexural mode of deformation
contributed approximately 50 to 100% of the total deformation,
depending on the level of axial load and the aspect ratio. The
slip contribution ranged from 0% for columns with high

axial loads to approximately 40% for stocky columns with

low axial loads. The results shown in Fig. 7 also indicate
that, except for stocky columns with high axial loads,
shear deformations contribute less than 15% of the yield
displacement for the columns in the database.
Effective stiffness
For engineering practice, it is convenient to use a single
effective stiffness for a column element. Expressing EIeff calc
as fraction of EIg and substituting Eq. (4) through (6) and
(10) for y, Eq. (1) can be expressed as a function of nondimensional parameters
EI eff calc

-------------------- = -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------EI g
3 D
18 r 2 D 2 E c
1 + --- ----b- ---- ---s ---y + ------ ----v ---- -------8 D a f y u 5 D a G eff


where =EIflex /EIg and rv is the radius of gyration of the

column section in the direction of loading (r 2v = Ig/Av). For an
average bond stress value of u = 0.8 f c MPa (u = 9.6 f c psi),
an effective shear modulus, Geff , equal to one half the elastic
value, and using moment-curvature analysis to compute and
fs /fy, Fig. 8 and Table 3 show the ratio of the measured effective
stiffness to the effective stiffness determined using Eq. (12)
for the column databases.
For many practical situations, particularly those in which
the column reinforcement has not yet been selected, it is
preferable to use a version of Eq. (12) that does not require
moment-curvature analysis. This section evaluates new
models for effective stiffness that include the influence of bar
slip. The models correspond to simplifications of Eq. (12), in
which the results of moment-curvature analysis (that is,
and fs /fy) are approximated and small terms are neglected.
According to Eq. (12), the ratio of the effective stiffness to
the gross-section stiffness is proportional to the normalized
flexural rigidity, . This normalized flexural rigidity varies

Fig. 7Contribution of calculated deformation components

as function of axial load and aspect ratio.

Fig. 8Comparison of calculated (Eq. (12)) and measured

effective stiffnesses.

Table 3Statistics for ratio of measured to calculated effective stiffness for proposed models
Circular columns (108 specimens)

Minimum Maximum


Rectangular columns (221 specimens)

Coefficient of
Median variation, % Minimum Maximum



Coefficient of
variation, %

Equation (12)
Equation (16)











Equation (17)
Equation (18) with average bar size











ACI Structural Journal/July-August 2009


primarily with the level of axial load, but also with the
amount of longitudinal reinforcement. Assuming a linear
stress-strain relationship for the concrete and steel, can be
expressed in terms of the normalized initial strain due to the
axial load, (P/AgEc)/o, and the relative stiffness of longitudinal
reinforcement, n. The normalized flexural rigidity can be
approximated as
P A g E c
approx = 0.2 + 1.3 ------------------+ n 1.0


The form of Eq. (13) was derived by simplifying (using

the binomial theorem) an analytical solution for the moment

of inertia of a generic cracked cross section with axial load.

The coefficients in Eq. (13) were selected to provide the best
possible estimate of the flexural rigidity determined from
moment-curvature analysis (Fig. 4). Equation (13) provides a
reliable substitute for moment-curvature analysis for a wide
range of rectangular and circular columns. The ratio approx /
(where is determined from a moment-curvature analysis) has
a mean and coefficient of variation of 0.96 10.6% for
rectangular columns and 1.04 9.5% for circular columns.
For all of the 329 rectangular and circular columns, this ratio
ranged from a minimum of 0.69 to a maximum of 1.23.
If the reinforcement ratio has not yet been established,
can be approximated by substituting an average value of n
of 0.15 into Eq. (13), which results in the following relationship
P A g E c
approx = 0.35 + 1.3 ------------------ 1.0

Fig. 9Approximation for steel stress as function of axial load.


Using Eq. (14), the mean and coefficient of variation for

the rectangular and circular column databases are 0.95 14.4%
and 1.04 20.7%, respectively. For the complete database,
the ratios ranged from 0.59 to 1.63. Equation (14), whereas
less accurate than Eq. (13), provides a good estimate of the
normalized flexural rigidity for cases where the longitudinal
reinforcement ratio is not yet known.
As with , the ratio of the steel stress at column yield to
the yield stress of the steel (fs /fy) can also be calculated with
moment-curvature analysis. Alternately, it is possible to
approximate this ratio by taking advantage of its dependence
on the level of axial load. Figure 9, which compares the steel
stress ratio determined based on moment-curvature analysis
with the normalized initial strain (P/AgEc)/o for the database
columns, indicates that the steel stress ratio can be approximated
for both circular and rectangular columns as follows
4 10 P A g E c
0.0 f s f y approx = --- ------ ------------------ 1.0
3 3 o


Equation (12) can be simplified by eliminating the

third term in the denominator, which is related to shear
deformations and tends to be small (refer to Fig. 7), by
approximating the flexural rigidity with Eq. (13), and by
approximating the steel stress ratio with Eq. (15). Taking
advantage of these relationships, the need for momentcurvature analysis can be eliminated, and the effective
stiffness can be approximated as
1.5 approx_Eq. 13
EI eff calc
--------------------- = --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.0 and 0.2
EI g

1 + 110 ----- ---- -----------------------------------
D a f
y approx_Eq. 15

Fig. 10Comparison of calculated (Eq. (18)) and measured

effective stiffnesses.


The two coefficients in Eq. (16) (1.5 and 110) were calibrated
to compensate for the elimination of the shear term and to
achieve a good match with the measured effective stiffness
for the rectangular and circular column databases. As shown
in Table 3, Eq. (16) provides similar levels of accuracy as
Eq. (12), without requiring moment-curvature analysis.
Using Eq. (14) (instead of Eq. (13)) to estimate , provides
a model that does not require knowledge of the longitudinal
reinforcement ratio without a significant decline in the
model accuracy (refer to Table 3).
ACI Structural Journal/July-August 2009

EI eff calc
1.5 approx_Eq. 14
--------------------- = --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.0 and 0.2
EI g

d b D

1 + 110 ----- ---- -----------------------------------

D a f
y approx_Eq. 15


The procedure can be simplified further by expressing the

axial load as a fraction of Ag fc and recalibrating the
constants, which results in the following relationship
EI eff calc 0.45 + 2.5P A g fc
---------------------- = -------------------------------------------- 1.0 and 0.2
EI g
1 + 110 ----b- D
D a


To avoid the prior selection of the size of the longitudinal

bars, the db /D term in Eq. (18) can be estimated prior to
design for a given application. For bridge columns, the
longitudinal bars tend to be well distributed around the
column cross section, resulting in a smaller db/D term compared
with building columns, where higher axial loads and
architectural constraints tend to result in larger bar sizes relative
to the column dimension. Based on the db/D values for the
circular and rectangular column databases (Table 1), db /D can be
taken as 1/25 for bridge columns and 1/18 for building columns.
The form of Eq. (18) is consistent with the theoretical
formulation of effective stiffness based on Eq. (12) and the
summation of deformation components (Eq. (4) through (6) and
10). It provides a simple estimate of the effective stiffness
without requiring a moment-curvature analysis or selection of
the longitudinal reinforcement ratio. Figure 10 shows the ratio of
the measured effective stiffness for the columns in the
databases to the effective stiffness determined using Eq. (18)
and the recommended average values for db/D. The lack of
trends in Fig. 10 suggests that Eq. (18) properly accounts for the
dependence of the effective stiffness on column axial load and
aspect ratio. Furthermore, the data shows no bias with respect to
the longitudinal reinforcement ratio. As shown in Table 3,
Eq. (18) provides accuracy statistics that are consistent with
those found for the much more complex Eq. (12).
The effective stiffnesses of 108 spiral-reinforced columns
(with circular and octagonal cross sections) and 221 rectangular
columns were estimated from data in the PEER Structural
Performance Database (Berry et al. 2004). These data show that
the normalized effective stiffness of the columns increases with
increasing axial load, a trend that is reflected in many design
guidelines and codes. The data also show that EIeff /EIg
decreases with decreasing span-to-depth ratio, particularly for
low axial loads.
Seven existing models for column effective stiffness were
evaluated using the column databases. The existing models
were generally based on establishing an estimate for the
flexural rigidity and ignored the influence of bar slip and
shear deformations. All of the models tend to overestimate
the measured effective stiffness and resulted in coefficients
of variation ranging from 35 to 58%.
This paper presented a three-component model, which
explicitly combines the effects of flexure, bar slip, and shear
components of deformation. This model reproduces the
trends observed in the data and it provides an accurate estimate
of column stiffness. For this model, the ratio of the measured
effective stiffness to the calculated stiffness has a mean and
ACI Structural Journal/July-August 2009

coefficient of variation of 0.97 27% for rectangular

columns and 1.04 21% for the circular columns.
For the purpose of design, this paper simplifies the threecomponent model, with little loss of accuracy, by introducing an
approximation to moment-curvature analysis, and by
accounting for the effects of bar slip in terms of span-todepth ratio and axial-load ratio. According to this procedure, the
effective column stiffness at yield can be estimated as
EI eff calc 0.45 + 2.5P A g fc
---------------------- = -------------------------------------------- 1.0 and 0.2
EI g
d D
1 + 110 ----b- ----
D a


where the db /D can be approximated as 1/25 for bridge

columns and 1/18 for building columns. This model, appropriate
for implementation in design codes for concrete structures, is
more accurate than existing models. Implementation of the
proposed model resulted in a mean and coefficient of variation
for the ratio of the measured effective stiffness to the calculated
stiffness of 0.95 25.5% for rectangular columns and 1.02
22.0% for the circular columns.
This work was supported in part by the Earthquake Engineering Research
Centers Program of the National Science Foundation, under Award Number
EEC-9701568 through the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center
(PEER) and Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC)
of Canada. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily
those of organizations cited here.

aFfirst yield


EIeff meas


Ffirst yield




Mfirst yield


gross cross-sectional area of column

total area of longitudinal reinforcement
effective shear area of column cross section
shear span
moment at maximum concrete compressive strain of 0.004
moment at first yield (Fig. 4)
width of rectangular column section
distance from tension reinforcement to neutral axis
diameter (circular column) or column depth in direction
of loading (rectangular column)
nominal diameter of longitudinal bars
concrete modulus of elasticity
reinforcing steel modulus of elasticity
measured effective stiffness (Eq. (1))
effective flexural stiffness (Fig. 4)
gross bending stiffness
gross transformed bending stiffness
eccentricity ratio = M0.004 /PD
effective force at maximum compressive strain of 0.004
(Fig. 1)
effective lateral force at first yield (Fig. 1)
maximum measured effective force
concrete compressive strength (150 x 300 mm [6 x 12 in.]
longitudinal reinforcement steel stress at column fixed end
longitudinal reinforcement yield stress
effective shear modulus
length over which bond stress acts (Fig. 6)
aF0.004 = moment at maximum compressive strain at
aFfirst yield = moment at first yield (Fig. 4)
modular ratio (Es/Ec)
axial load (positive is compression)
axial compression at balanced failure condition
nominal axial load strength at zero eccentricity
correlation coefficient for circular columns
correlation coefficient for rectangular columns
radius of gyration using shear area (rv2 = Ig /Av)
tension force in one longitudinal bar (Fig. 6)
constant bond stress




slip first yield =



first yield


maximum nominal shear stress (Fmax /Ag)

normalized effective flexural stiffness = EIflex/EIg
slip of longitudinal reinforcing bar (Fig. 6)
displacement at yield due to flexural deformations (Eq. (5))
displacement at yield due to shear deformations (Fig. (6))
displacement at yield due to bar-slip deformations
(Eq. (10))
displacement at first yield due to bar-slip deformations
(Eq. (9))
displacement at yield (refer to Fig. 1)
nominal strain at which concrete is assumed to yield
(0.002 in this study)
longitudinal reinforcement steel strain at column fixed
curvature at yield (Fig. 4)
curvature at first yield (Fig. 4)
rotation at end of column due to slip of reinforcing bars
(Fig. 6)
longitudinal reinforcement ratio (Asl /Ag)

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ACI Structural Journal/July-August 2009