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Nordic Steel Construction Conference 2012

Hotel Bristol, Oslo, Norway


5-7 September 2012

BRACING OF STEEL-CONCRETE COMPOSITE BRIDGE DURING


CASTING OF THE DECK
Hassan Mehri, Roberto Crocetti
Division of Structural Engineering, Lund University, Sweden

Abstract: Trapezoidal cross sections are often used as main longitudinal load-bearing systems in
steel-concrete composite bridges. A critical design stage for these girders occurs during casting of
the bridge deck, when the non-composite steel section must support the entire construction load,
including the wet concrete. A research work was undertaken to study lateral torsional buckling
(LTB) capacity and stiffness requirements of U-shaped girders with focus on discrete torsional
bracings and top lateral truss bracing, under uniform loading condition due to self-weight of
structural system and wet concrete. Findings are then compared with the results obtained by
previous research works and common code specifications.
Keywords: bracing, lateral torsional buckling, stiffness, composite bridges.

1 Introduction
Generally the top flanges of the girders are connected to the concrete deck as a continuous lateral
bracing and the finished work has high torsional stiffness but during erection and construction
period when the deck has not hardened or been attached, compression flanges of built-up steel
girders are susceptible to instability as the girder is as open cross section and therefore relatively
flexible in torsion. Different types of bracing systems are normally used to stabilize bridge girders
against LTB. Typical bracing systems are i) discrete torsional bracing systems and ii) lateral
bracing, in the form of a horizontal truss system. Minimizing the numbers of bracing used, will
lead to a more efficient design since this bracing makes up a significant amount of the total costs.
Moreover, top flange bracing has generally no function once the concrete deck has cured.

2 Background and literature review


Lateral torsional buckling capacity [1] of a simply supported beam subjected to uniform
bending moment about the strong axis is:
M

EI GJ

E I C
1
L

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Where =the distance between lateral twisting supports; =modulus of elasticity; =shear
modulus; =torsional constant; =lateral moment of inertia;
=warping constant. It should
be noted that the Eq. (1) was derived assuming the mentioned load and boundary conditions
for a single, doubly-symmetric beam which is restricted to twist and free to warp at both ends.
To account for the effect of variable moment gradients and load conditions, a modification
factor, , is typically applied to Eq. (1). When the lateral and the warping end restraints are
unequal or are not free, the following general approximate method [2] may be used:
C EI GJ
EC
1
C M
2
M
K L
GJ K L
Where
and
are buckling length coefficients about weak axis, z, and strong axis, y,
will increase. Thus
respectively. Decreasing and providing appropriate bracing system,
yielding or local buckling-not global buckling- will control the strength of the girder.
Different types of cross frames or diaphragms are generally used to appropriately decrease the
distortion of the girders by preventing relative twist between the two wings (Fig. 1). For both
twin I-shaped and trapezoidal girders, with an adequate lateral cross-bracing system the
warping stiffness and lateral moment of inertia of the cross section will be high enough to
force two wings work together against torsion and lateral bending (Fig. 1a), otherwise the
buckling capacity of the system will be dropped and global lateral buckling of half of the
system about its own warping center is a possibility.

Fig. 1: effectiveness of intermediate cross-bracing stiffness during casting the deck.

/2 and for
The warping constant, , for a doubly symmetric I-shaped cross section is
an open top box girder with sloping or vertical webs can be calculated by equations given in
handbooks or other approaches [3]. For both cross sections, the torsion constant is

/3 where h, and are distance between top and bottom flange centroids, width
and thickness of plates that make up the girder cross section, respectively. Assuming that the
connections between the cross frames and the girder are hinged (so that there is no
Vierendeel effect) and the cross frames are stiff enough in their plane, the total torsional
rigidity of twin doubly symmetric, simply supported twin I girders is:
h
S
K ,
K ,
2GJ
2E
I,
I
3
K
4
4 ,
Where
, =St. Venant rigidity,
, = total warping rigidity, S= distance between web
centroids of I girders and index 1 indicates related parameter to one girder about the centroid
and
respectively, in
of each wing, . Substituting , , , and 2 , for the ,
Eq. (2) gives the global buckling moment of doubly symmetric twin I girders [4],
:
M

2C
K L

EI , GJ

E
2K L

I, h

I, I

S 4

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Yura [4] has presented a simplified equation retaining only the term , , which is the
dominating term of the Eq. (4). Thus the global lateral buckling capacoty is directly
proportional to the girder spacing S. In this study, Yura also mentions that a substitution of
, could be directly applied to a mono-symmetric
, with effective moment of inertia,
,
cross sections and open box girder system with reasonable accuracy:
SE
I , I , 5
M
C
L
t
I ,
I ,
I 6
c ,
where / is the distance ratio of tension and compression flanges from the centroid of cross;
I , and I , are the lateral moment of inertia of the compression and the tension flanges
about weakest axis, respectively. In the current work, the validity of Eq. (5) for LTB of Marcy
Bridge will be also investigated.

3 Case study
The Marcy Bridge in New York was a pedestrian bridge and collapsed during construction,
resulted in nine severely injured workers and one fatality. The bridge, which spanned 51m,
consisted of a trapezoidal girder with concrete deck acting compositely as a top flange. The
concrete deck was 4200mm wide and approximately 200mm thick. The bridge was straight in
plan and arched in elevation and collapsed during casting of the concrete deck. Casting begun at
the abutments and moved to the mid-span. As the pouring reached the mid-span, global lateral
buckling occurred and the girder collapsed twisting off of its supports at the ends, Fig. 2. The
cross sectional dimensions at mid-span and near the supports are shown in Fig. 3. The web
thickness is constant over the entire length, while bottom flange and top flanges thicknesses
varies between 22mm and 28mm. Eight internal k-frames were used in the Marcy Bridge with
no top lateral truss bracing. All cross frame bracing members were L3 3 38 in angles
.
with a cross sectional area of 1361

Fig. 2: The Marcy bridge after collapse [5].

Fig. 3: Steel cross sectional dimensions of Marcy


Bridge (CS-e: at the ends, CS-m: at the mid span)

4 Mono-symmetric cross sections


The effect of having unsymmetrical cross section (i.e. with different flanges) should be taken
into account in stability analysis especially when the compression flange is the smaller flange.
Eq. (1), (2) and (4) are derived assuming doubly symmetric cross section. The lateral torsional
buckling of mono-symmetric beams can have complicated behaviour depending on boundary

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conditions, type of loading and degree of asymmetry. It must be also noted that for monosymmetric beams, where bending is in plane of symmetry, the shear center and the centroid
do not coincide. Most of previous approaches for buckling of mono-symmetric cross sections
can lead to incorrect results for particular cases [6].
An exact formula was presented by Vlasov [7] expressing the elastic buckling moment of
simply supported mono-symmetric beams under uniform moment. Since then, equations for
the elastic critical moment have been developed by various authors [6] with slight
modifications on coefficients and expressions depending on various boundary and loading
conditions. A general formula for the critical bending moment is given by Galambos [2]:
M
Where

C EI
2 K L

4 C K
I K

GJ K L
EI

the coefficient of asymmetry can be approximated [8] as follow:

I
8
I
/ and d is the depth of cross section. To account the effects of monoWhere
symmetry of the cross section, other approach given in AASHTO [9] is substituting 2 , for
, in which Eq. (1) is used.
The result of an exact solution [8] with approximate coefficient of asymmetry and also an
approximate equation given in AISC LRFD [10] are used in current work to verify the model.

0.9d 2

1 1

5 Linear eigenvalue buckling analyses


Generally, two types of analysis can be performed to study buckling problems using the finite
element method: 1) Linear eigen-value buckling analysis, and 2) non-linear incremental
buckling analysis. The eigen-value buckling analysis is used in the current study which is
limited to problems where the pre-buckling displacements are relatively small and any
changes in material properties do not significantly affect the assumption of linearity.

5.1 Finite element modelling


The commercial finite element software, SAP 2000 [11], was used for the current research.
Four-node shell elements with sufficient fine meshing were utilized for modelling the cross
section. Shell elements were utilized since a significant portion of the total strain energy of
the deformed state of these structural systems is due to in-plane behaviour of the elements.
Beam elements with 6 degree of freedoms were used to simulate lateral top flange and crossframe bracing throughout the girder. In order to avoid Vierendeel behaviour, beam elements
were considered as hinged at the both ends.
At the ends of the unbraced length of the girder, the beam is free to warp but prevented to
twist laterally. The girder is free to slide in longitudinal direction at only one end.
A linear elastic isotropic material with E=200GPa and n=0.3 is used for all elements. Linear
eigenvalue buckling analysis has been carried out and the material non-linearity is neglected.
Marcy Bridge was designed as a vertically curved beam with a camber at the mid-span. In this
work the model is assumed initially straight and the benefits of presence of deck formwork
close to the top flanges are also neglected conservatively.

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5.2 Model verification


The results obtained by numerical analysis should always be checked by means of traditional
approaches, engineering judgments and laboratory tests. Eq. (1) for LTB capacity is
conservative in predicting the buckling strength for the unbraced case due to the more
favourable moment gradient, load and support height in practice; factors that are all neglected
by the equation. Other factors which are not considered in general equations for LTB capacity
of a beam are the magnitude and distribution residual stresses and effect of initial
imperfections (loading and geometry), discontinuities in the cross section and slope of the
webs in trapezoidal cross sections. The analytical aspects of determining the critical moment
strength of a beam are quite complex and closed-form solutions exist only for most simple
cases. Global LTB values of Marcy Bridge, assuming constant cross section CS-e, (Fig. 3), is
quantitatively presented with exact and approximate solutions in Table 1.
Table 1: Result of FEM analysis and theoretical solutions (Loads at N.A.)

Analysis type
FEM

MNm

Diff. (%)

10.4

10.0

-3.9

Approximate, AISC LRFD [10]

8.7

-16.9

Eq. (5)

10.3

-1.3

Exact solution, with approximate

[8]

The theoretical solutions are derived for loading with uniform distributed moment while FEM
simulations are derived for girders subjected to uniform distributed load. Therefore theoretical
equations should be adjusted [4] by gradient moment factor,
1.12, which is suggested
by other approaches such as [8]. Comparisons between theoretical and FEM results show
good agreement despite that LTB of trapezoidal cross sections is more complicate than
buckling of twin I girders as the shear center is outside of the cross section and the effects of
inclined webs in LTB capacity is ignored in all theoretical solutions. The similar way used for
twin I girders showed more consistent results with general solutions. Supports height in
theoretical formulas is assumed at the Neutral axis level (N.A.) but in reality and in FEM
simulations, supports are placed at bottom layer of the cross section and global buckling
capacity of the girder is slightly increased in this case.

5.3 Non-prismatic cross sections


The flange thickness of the cross-section of the Marcy Bridge varies between 22mm and
28mm at the top flange and between 20mm and 22.5mm at the bottom flange. The effect of
changing the cross section along the girder is normally not considered in traditional lateral
torsional buckling solutions.
Table 2: Effect of Non-prismatic cross sections (Load at N.A.)

Section type
Constant Cs-e (Fig. 3)

MNm

Diff. (%)

10.4

-0.1

Non-prismatic (Marcy Bridge)

10.4

Constant Cs-m (Fig. 3)

10.7

+3.1

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Although, there is no high change in cross sectional dimensions in Marcy Bridge, the results
shown in Table 2 indicate that this effect should be considered in buckling capacity of the
girders when cross-sectional properties are significantly changed. Next investigations are
based on real cross sections of Marcy Bridge.

5.4 Load and support height


The effect of load height must be taken into account for determining the LTB capacity of a
beam. The case where the load acts on the compression flange of simply supported beam is
the most detrimental as it increases the torque arm. Top flange loading reduces buckling
capacity of a single I-shaped beam for mid-height loading by an approximate factor of 1/1.4
whereas tension flange loading improves the buckling capacity by a 1.4 factor. Yura [4] has
achieved that the load height effect can be ignored for doubly symmetric twin I girders, with
single-curvature bending moment gradient and adequate intermediate torsional bracing. The
effect of load height on buckling capacity with respect to different cross frame stiffness for
Marcy Bridge is shown in Fig. 4. It is evident that load height effect cannot be ignored for
trapezoidal girders even though the girder is torsionally braced by means of cross frames with
NL , where N=number of intermediate cross
large equivalent torsional stiffness,
frames and
torsional stiffness of each cross frame. Top flange loading reduces LTB
capacity of the Marcy Bridge by 0.806 compared to loading at neutral axis (N.A.).

Fig. 4: Effect of load height for Marcy Bridge where M , and M . ., are global LTB capacity
for braced and unbraced case (Load at N.A.); bracing by means of intermediate cross frames

The effect of load height for different web slopes is also investigated where the vertical depth
was held constant while top width was varied and the results are shown in Table 3.
Table 3: Effect of Load height for different web slopes (cross frames as Marcy Bridge, M.B.)

Slope of webs
0

6.5
13

MNm

MNm

/M

, . .

Top
6.1

N.A.
7.6

Top
12.3

N.A.
15.2

Unbraced M.B. braced


0.806
0.806

5.7

7.1

10.0

12.5

0.795

0.806

5.1

6.5

8.4

10.4

0.779

0.806

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The results indicate that for trapezoidal girders interconnected with cross frames the load
height effect is not affected with increasing slope of webs if the depth of girder is kept
constant while top flange loading effect increases with sloping of the web for trapezoidal
girders which are not interconnected by means of cross frames. It is also shown that critical
bending moment of these girders decreases with increasing slope of the webs for both cases:
unbraced, M ,
, and braced , M , even though is increasing. Bracing is achieved by
means of intermediate cross frames.

5.5 Equivalent stiffness of internal cross frames as torsional bracing system


For low stiffness of internal cross frames, the wings of the girder system (Fig. 1b) behave
independently, governed by general LTB equations considering half part of the girder.
Increasing the cross-frames stiffness, the girder will still buckle in a single half wave until
buckling occurs between the cross frames. Yielding can also control the capacity of the girder
[12]. It can be derived from Fig. 4 or Fig. 5 that for torsional bracing stiffness higher than the
ideal stiffness, the effectiveness of the cross-frames stiffness is dramatically reduced. The
global buckling of a girder system can also be predicted by considering the cross frames as
continuous torsional bracing along the length of the girder [12]:
M

C EI
C

Min M , M 9

Where
/ , N=number of intermediate cross frames;
bucking capacity of
,
are limiting factors corresponding to an unbraced and an effectively
unbraced beam;
and
are the
braced beam, respectively; is top flange loading modification factor;
critical moment corresponding to buckling between the brace points and the plastic strength of
the effective torsional brace stiffness including the stiffness
the section, respectively; and
, and girder system stiffness, , as follow [12]:
of the cross frames, , the web stiffness,
1
1
1
1
10

For k-brace systems [12] such as cross-frames which are used in Marcy Bridge,
is:
2Eb h
A 11

8L
b
Where b
width of bottom flange; h height of cross frame; L length of diagonal
members; and A
cross area section of cross-frame members. Although it is shown that the
sum of intermediate cross frames stiffness is the dominating variable and not the actual
number or spacing of the cross frames [4], the moment capacity of girder system drops when
the cross-frame spacing exceeds 0.25L [13]. It should be considered that in some cases,
fewer cross-frames are normally used under erection rather than service conditions. The GLB
capacity of Marcy bridge with different number of intermediate cross frames, M ,
,
compared to unbraced buckling capacity, M , , with respect to equivalent torsional
stiffness, , is shown in Fig. 5. The result indicates the cross frame bracing system used in
Marcy Bridge has a stiffness which is several times larger than the required torsional stiffness
corresponding to full bracing. It is also shown that providing only one intermediate cross
frame at mid span is more efficient than two cross frames, each at one third of the span, due to
maximum lateral deformation at the mid span. For Marcy Bridge, I I
1.0 where I and I
are respectively in-plane and out-of-plane moments of inertia, if only the steel cross section is
present. Marcy Bridge is one example proving that, the concept lateral-torsional buckling of

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the girder cannot occur if the beam is bending about the weaker bending axis is not valid for
trapezoidal girders without top flange bracing system.

Fig. 5: Equivalent cross frame stiffness of M.B. (Load at N.A.). N=Number of cross frames.

5.6 Top flange bracing of partial or entire length of the girder


Top flange bracing of the U-shaped girder is significantly effective in increasing GLB
strength as it creates a pseudo box cross section which has much higher torsional stiffness to
resist system buckling. LTB can be avoided by properly positioned and designed lateral truss
bracing, before dropping off due to combination of lateral deflection and twisting. Partial or entire
top flange lateral bracing is commonly used to ensure that the design moment does not exceed the
LTB capacity. It should be noted that setting a top lateral bracing system for the entire length
of the girder may be too expensive. It has been shown that installing partial top flange bracing
near the supports is more efficient than bracing at the middle of the girder [14] as it converts
lateral supports from hinged to semi-clamped. In this study it is also indicated that using
single diagonal bracing system (Fig. 6) improves GLB strength of the girder in the same
extent as using X-type system if the cross section area of the diagonal member of the single
brace system is equal to the sum of the cross section areas of the X-type bracing. Having high
top flange
amount of L /L at the ends will increase the GLB of the girder, where L
braced length of the girder. For three different trapezoidal cross sections with different length
between 45m to 62.5m it is shown [14] that top bracing of those bridges with more than 20%
of the entire length at each end does not have a large impact on the GLB strength. Local
buckling of compression flange or webs can occur rather than global lateral torsional buckling
[15], as the unbraced length decreases.

Fig. 6: Common top flange bracings

Fig. 7: Decreasing the unbraced global length of the


girder by providing partial bracing at the ends

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The effect of entire X-type top flange bracing for Marcy Bridge is shown in Fig. 8.

Fig. 8: Effect of entire top flange bracing on GLB capacity of Marcy Bridge,
, .
GLB
capacity
of
Marcy
Bridge
without
top
flange
bracing;
Maximum
bending
,
moment of M.B. due to self-weight of the steel girder and wet concrete deck; and
design
,
moment resistance of M.B. with top flange bracing, with respect to , According to Eurocode 3.

With such a bracing, the moment capacity of top flange braced girder, M , , increases
linearly with respect to increasing cross area of top flange bracing bars, . It can also be
derived that for Marcy Bridge providing top flange truss bracing was a necessity to carry
applied moment, M , caused by self-weight of steel, formworks and wet concrete. It must be
noted that the effect of imperfections should also be taken into account and more bracing are
needed to reach the resistance moment, M , , according to Eurocode 3 or other codes. It is
shown in Fig. 9 that with a partial top flange bracing, applied over a relatively small part of
span length at each end, LTB capacity of Marcy bridge significantly increases due to
providing warping end restraint similar to the laterally fixed ends. Maximum global LTB
capacity of the adequately partial top flange braced bridge at the ends can be predicted
0.5 in theoretical equations such as Eq. (7). It is also shown that partial top
considering K
flange bracing at the ends is more efficient than at the mid-span.

Fig. 9: comparison between entire, partial ends and partial mid-span top flange bracing.
GLB capacity of Marcy Bridge with top flange bracing;
GLB capacity of
,
Marcy Bridge without top flange bracing

10

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6 Conclusions
The main conclusions are:
1- Load height effect must be considered in design for both braced and unbraced cases.
This effect is constant for efficiently braced trapezoidal cross sections by intermediate
cross frames and decreases with increasing the slopes for unbraced girders. For
trapezoidal girders subjected to uniform vertical load at the top flanges, the
modification factor, , is suggested as 0.9 0.806 1.12 to take the effect of load
height and moment gradient into consideration.
2- Buckling capacity of non-prismatic cross sections cannot be predicted by current
general solutions and the effect of changing properties of the cross section should be
properly taken into account.
3- Intermediate cross frames stiffness for Marcy Bridge was several times higher than
required for full bracing against distortion. It should be noted that these values for
stiffness and partial bracing length are achieved conducting linear buckling analysis of
Marcy Bridge and must be adequately enhanced to account the effects of
imperfections.
4- If the results of an analysis indicate inadequate bending moment capacity, the strength
of the girder can be improved by adding top flange bracing at the 10-20% of the span
near the supports. Providing X-type bracing with relatively small area cross section
8mm moment capacity of Marcy Bridge increases about 28% which was needed
to prevent the girder against lateral torsional buckling during casting the deck.

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