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45

Units,
Conversions and
Symbols

Contents
45.1

Introduction
45.1.1 Units
45.1.2 Conversion factors
45.1.3 Properties of materials
45.1.4 Mathematical relations and
trigonometrical functions

45/3
45/3
45/3
45/3

45.2

International unit system

45.2.1 Base units
45.2.2 Supplementary units
45.2.3 Notes
45.2.4 Derived units
45.2.5 Decimal multiples and submultiples
45.2.6 Common variations and auxiliary units

45/3
45/3
45/3
45/3
45/4
45/4
45/4

45.3

Conversion factors
45.3.1 Systeme International and imperial units
45.3.2 Systeme International and US units

45/5
45/5
45/6

45.4

Symbols
45.4.1 Greek alphabet

45/6
45/6

45/3

45.1 Introduction
45.1.1 Units
The Systeme International (SI) system of units used throughout
this book is the standard system used throughout Europe and
many other countries in the world. It was first accepted at an
international conference in 1960 and, in 1971, a directive by the
European Economic Community required the existing imperial
and metric CGS systems to be replaced by SI.
The definitions of, and the symbols for, SI units are given in
sections 2.1.1 to 2.1.5.
Although, in time, it can be expected that there will be strict
adherence to the SI units given in sections 2.1.1 to 2.1.5, there
are at present some cases in which, for convenience or because
of previously established practice, the units are varied or auxiliary units are introduced. The most common variations are given
in section 2.1.6 and it should be noted that they do not represent
a serious departure from the SI system.
45.1.2 Conversion factors
Section 2.2.1 and, in particular, Table 2.4 gives conversion
factors between most common imperial and SI units, together
with the reciprocals. Section 2.2.2 draws attention to some
differences between imperial and US units.
45.1.3 Properties of materials
For information on the properties of materials, the reader is
referred to the appropriate earlier chapter, as follows:
Aluminium
Bituminous materials
Concrete
Masonry
Paint
Plastics
Reinforcement
Rock
Rubber
Soil
Timber

Chapter 14
Chapters 23 and 24
Chapters 4, 12 and 37
Chapter 15
Chapter 4
Chapter 4
Chapter 12
Chapter 10
Chapter 4
Chapter 9
Chapter 16

45.1.4 Mathematical relations and trigonometrical

functions
Mathematical relations commonly employed in civil engineering
work, including those for statistical applications, are given in
Chapter 1.
The reader is referred to any of the standard works which
evaluate mathematical relations and provide tables of trigonometrical functions for more detailed information.

45.2 International unit system (Sl)

The SI is a metric system giving a fully coherent set of units for
science, technology and engineering, involving no conversion
factors. The starting point is the selection and definition of a
minimum set of independent 'base' units. From these, 'derived'
units are obtained by forming products or quotients in various
combinations, again without numerical factors. For convenience, certain combinations are given shortened names. A
single SI unit of energy (joule = kilogram metre-squared per
second-squared) is, for example, applied to energy of any kind,
whether it be kinetic, potential, electrical, thermal, chemical...
thus unifying usage throughout science and technology.

The SI system has seven base units, and two supplementary

units of angle. Combinations of these are derived for all other
units.
45.2.1 Base units
Definitions of the seven base units have been laid down in the
following terms. The quantity symbol is given in italic, the unit
symbol (with its standard abbreviation) in roman type. As
measurements become more precise, changes are occasionally
(1) Length: /, metre (m) The metre was defined in 1983 as the
length of the path travelled by light in a vacuum during a
time interval of 1/299 792 458 of a second.
(2) Mass: m, kilogram (kg). The mass of the international
prototype (a block of platinum preserved at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, Sevres).
(3) Time: t, second (s) The duration of 9 192 631 770 periods
of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the
two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium-133
atom.
(4) Electric current: i, ampere (A) The current which, maintained in two straight parallel conductors of infinite length,
of negligible circular cross-section and 1 m apart in vacuum,
produces a force equal to 2 x 10~ 7 N/m length.
(5) Thermodynamic temperature: T, kelvin (K) The fraction
1/273.16 of the thermodynamic (absolute) temperature of
the triple point of water.
(6) Luminous intensity: /, candela (cd) The luminous intensity
in the perpendicular direction of a surface of 1/600 000 m2 of
a black body at the temperature of freezing platinum under
a pressure of 101 325 N/m2.
(7) Amount of substance: Q, mole (mol) The amount of
substance of a system which contains as many elementary
entities as there are atoms in 0.012kg of carbon-12. The
elementary entity must be specified and may be an atom, a
molecule, an ion, an electron . . . or a specified group of such
entities.

45.2.2 Supplementary units

Plane angle: : a, ft, . . . radian (rad) The plane angle between
two radii of a circle which cuts on the circumference of the circle
an arc of length equal to the radius.
Solid angle: Q, steradian (sr) The solid angle which, having its
vertex at the centre of a sphere, cuts off an area of the surface of
the sphere equal to a square having sides equal to the radius.

45.2.3 Notes
Temperature At O K, bodies possess no thermal energy. Specified points (273.16 and 373.16 K) define the Celsius (centigrade)
scale (O and 10O0C). In terms of intervals, I 0 C= 1 K. In terms of
levels, a scale Celsius temperature 9 corresponds to
(9 + 273.16) K.
Force The SI unit is the newton (N). A force of 1 N endows a
mass of 1 kg with an acceleration of 1 m/s2.
Weight The weight of a mass depends on gravitational effect.
The standard weight of a mass of 1 kg at the surface of the Earth
is 9.807 N.

45.2.4 Derived units

All physical quantities have units derived from the base and
supplementary SI units, and some of them have been given
names for convenience in use. Base, supplementary and some of
the derived units are listed in Table 45.1.

Table 45.1 Systeme International base, supplementary and derived

units
Quantity
Base
length
mass
time
electric current
thermodynamic
temperature
luminous intensity
amount of
substance
Supplementary
plane angle
solid angle
Derived
force
pressure, stress
energy
power
electric charge,
flux
magnetic
flux
electric potential
magnetic
flux
density
resistance
inductance
capacitance
conductance
frequency
luminous
flux
illuminance
absorbed dose
mass density
dynamic viscosity
concentration
linear velocity
linear acceleration
angular velocity
angular
acceleration
torque
current density
resistivity
conductivity
thermal capacity
specific heat
capacity
thermal
conductivity
luminance

Unit name

Derivation

Unit
symbol

Metre
Kilogram
Second
Ampere
Kelvin

m
kg
s
A
K

Candela
Mole

cd
mol

sr

Newton
Pascal
Joule
Watt
Coulomb

kgm/s 2
N/m 2
N m, W s
J/s
As

N
Pa
J
W
C

Weber
Volt
Tesla

Vs
J/C
Wb/m2

Wb
V
T

Ohm
V/A
Henry
Wb/A, Vs/A
C/V, A s/V
Siemens
A/V
Hertz
s '
Lumen
cd sr
Lux
lm/m2
Becquerel
s '
Gray
J/kg
Kilogram per
cubic metre
Pascal-second
Mole per cubic
metre
Metre per second
Metre per secondsquared
Newton metre
Ampere per square
metre
Ohm metre
Siemens per metre
Joule per kelvin
Joule per kilogram
kelvin
Watt per metre
kelvin
Candela per square
metre

42.2.5 Decimal multiples and submultiples

Decimal multiples and submultiples of SI units are indicated by
the prefix letters given in Table 45.2. Thus, MN is meganewton
and us is microsecond. Prefixes for the kilogram are expressed in
terms of the gram, i.e. 1000kg= 1 Mg, not 1 kkg. There is a
preference to express stress as 1 N/mm2 instead of 1 MN/mm2.

Table 45.2 Decimal prefixes

Factor by which
unit is multiplied

Name

Prefix
Symbol

1018
1015
1012
109
106
103
102
10'
10 '
10 2
10 3
10 6
10 9
10 l2
10 15
10 18

exa
peta
tera
giga
mega
kilo
hecto
deca
deci
centi
milli
micro
nano
pico
femto
atto

E
P
T
G
M
k
h
da
d
c
m
u,
n
p
f
a

45.2.6 Common variations and auxiliary units

The main variations that are commonly applied to civil engineering are:
Stress expressed as N/mm instead of pascals (Pa) (1 N/mm
= 1 MN/m= IMPa)
Pressure, e.g. underwater, expressed as bar instead of pascals
(1 bar= 10OkPa, 1 mbar = 0.1 kPa)
of K (kelvin) (O0C = 273.16K, 10O0C = 373.16 K)
Mass expressed as tonne instead of kilograms (kg)
( I t =1000 kg)

Q
H
F
S
Hz
Im
Ix
Bq
Gy

Some of the common variations from the strict SI system are

listed in Table 45.3 and are here termed 'auxiliary' units.

kg/m3
Pa s

Symbol

SI

Angle
degree
minute
second

()
(')
(")

TC/180

Area
acre
hectare
barn

a
ha
barn

Energy
erg
calorie
electron-volt
gauss-oersted

erg
cal
eV
GaOe

0.1
4.186
0.160
7.96

uJ
J
aJ
uJ/m3

W/(m K)

Force
dyne

dyn

10

uN

cd/m2

Length
Angstrom

mol/m3
m/s
m/s2
Nm

A/m 2
Qm
S/m
J/K
J/(kg K)

Quantity

100
0.01
10 28

0.1

m2
km2
m2

um

Quantity
Mass
tonne

Symbol

Imperial

SI

1000

becquerel
Bq
gray
Gy
curie
Ci
rd
roentgen
R

kg

1.0
1.0
3.7 x 10'
0.01
2.6x10

Pressure
bar
torr

b
Torr

Time
minute
hour
day

min
h
d

Volume
litre

lor L

100
133.3

s"1
J/kg
Bq
Gy
C/kg

kPa
Pa

60
3600
86400

s
s
s
dm3

1.0

45.3 Conversion factors

45.3.1 Systeme International and imperial units
Although SI is now the standard system in use throughout
Europe and much of the rest of the world, imperial units are
used occasionally in some specialized areas and many publications prior to about 1980 were in imperial units.
Conversion factors between SI and imperial units are given in
Table 45.4. Column 1 gives the imperial units, column 2 the SI
equivalent and column 3 the reciprocal.

Imperial

SI

Reciprocal

Length (m)
in
ft
yd
fathom
mile
nautical mile

25.40 mm
0.3048m
0.9144m
1.829m
1.6093km
1.852km

0.0394
3.2800
1.0940
0.5470
0.6210
0.5400

Area (m2)
lin 2
lft2
lyd 2
!acre
lmile 2

645.2mm
0.0929m2
0.8361m2
4047m2
2.590km2

1.550OxIO10.7600
1.2000
0.247OxIQ- 3
0.3860

Volume (m3)
1 in3
1 ft3
lyd 3
I U K gal

0.0283 m3
0.7646m3
4.546dm3

0.0610 x 10~ 3
35.300
1.310
0.220

lin 4
416 x l O 3 mm4
Ift/s
0.3048 m/s

2.40 x 10~6

3.2800

Imile/h
!knot
Ideg/s
Irev/s
lft/s 2
Mass (kg)
1 oz
1 Ib
Icwt
1 UK ton

SI

Reciprocal

0.4470 m/s
0.5144 m/s
0.3048 m/s2

2.2370
1.9440
0.0573
0.1590
3.2810

28.35 g
0.454 kg
50.80kg
1016 kg

0.0353
2.2000
0.0197
0.9840 x 10~ 3

lftlbf
1.356 J
IBtu
1055 J
1 therm
105.5 kJ
IkWh
3.60 MJ
IBtu/h
0.293 W
Iftlbf/s
1.356 W
lhp
745.9 W

0.737
0.948 x l O 3
9.478 x 10"3
0.278
3.413
0.737
1.34IxIO3

lBtu/(ft 2 h)
3.155 W/m2
1 Btu/(ft3 h)
10.35 W/m3
0
1 Btu/(ft h F)
1.731 W/(m K)
Iftlbf/lb
2.989 J/kg
1 Btu/lb
2326 J/kg
IBtu/ft 3
37.26 KJ/m3
1 ft lbf/(lb 0F)
5.380 J/(kg K)
1 Btu/(lb 0F)
4.187 kJ/(kg K)
30
1 Btu/(ft F)
67.07 kJ/m3 K

0.3170
0.9660
0.5780
0.3340
0.430OxIO3
0.0268
0.1860
0.2390
0.0149

Density (kg/m3)
lib/in 3
lib/ft 3
1 ton/yd3

27.68 Mg/m3
16.02 kg/m3
1329 kg/m3

0.0361
0.0624
0.7520 x IQ- 3

llb/h
1 ton/h
1 Ib/s
Ift 3 /h
Ift 3 /s
Igal/h
Igal/min
Igal/s

0.1260g/s
0.2822 kg/s
0.4536 kg/s
7.866 cm3/s
0.0283 m3/s
1.263cm3/s
75.77 cm3/s
4.546 dm3/s

7.9360
3.5440
2.2046
0.1270
35.3360
0.7920
0.0312
0.2200

ldyn
10.OuN
1 lbf
4.445 N
ltonf
9.964 kN
1 lbf/ft 2
47.88 Pa
llbf/in 2
6.895 kPa
2
1 tonf/ft
107.2 kPa
1 tonf/in 2
15.44 MPa
linHg
3.386 kPa
1 inH2O
149.1 Pa

0.1000
0.2250
0.1004
0.0209
0.1450
9.3280 x 10~ 3
0.0648
0.2950
6.707Ox 10~ 3

Torque (N m)
1 lbf in
1 lbf ft
ltonf ft

8.8490
0.7370
0.3020

0.113Nm
1.356Nm
3.307 kNm

Inertia (kg m2)

Momentum (kg m/s, kg m2/s)
lib in2
0.293 gm2

3.4130

Imperial

SI

l i b ft2
1 ton ft2
llbft/s
1 Ib ft 2 /s

0.0421 kg m2
94.30 kg m2
0.138kgm/s
0.042 kg m2/s

Reciprocal
23.7530
0.0106
7.2460
23.8100

1 poise
llbfs/ft 2
1 lbf h/ft 2
1 stokes
Iin 2 /s
Ift 2 /s

9.807 Pa s
47.88 Pa s
172.4 kPa s
I.0cm2/s
6.452 cm2/s
929.0 cm2/s

0.1020
0.0209
5.8000 x 10~ 3
1.0000
0.1550
1.076OxIO3

llm/ft 2
led/ft 2
1 cd/in2

10.76 lm/m2
10.76 cd/m2
1550 cd/m2

0.0929
0.0929
0.645 x IQ- 3

45.3.2 Systeme International and US units

United States units differ from imperial units in respect of liquid
measurement and mass.
1 US gal.
1 US long ton
I U S short ton
(1 imperial ton

= 0.8332 imperial gal. (reciprocal 1.200)

= 3.788 dm3 (reciprocal 0.264)
= 3.7881
=1.02Ot (SI)
= 0.9091 (SI)
= 1.0161 (SI)

45.4 Symbols
45.4.1 The Greek alphabet
Although very little use is made of Greek letters for symbols in
SI, the Greek alphabet is, of course, widely used in mathemati-

cal and other applications in civil engineering. Table 45.5 gives

the Greek alphabet in the form used throughout the text of this
book.

Capital

Lower case

Name

English
transliteration

A
B
F
A
E
Z
H
9
/
K
A
M
TV
E
O
n
P
E
T
Y
<P
X
V
Q

a
P
y
6
E
C
r\
6
/
K
A
n
v

o
n
p
a
i
D
<f>
x
if/
oj

alpha
beta
gamma
delta
epsilon
zeta
eta
theta
iota
kappa
lambda
mu
nu
xi
omicron
pi
rho
sigma
tau
upsilon
phi
chi
psi
omega

a
b
g
d
e
z
e
th
i
k
1
m
n
x
o
p
r
s
t
u
ph
kh
ps
6