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AD 270
Strut Slenderness
and BS 5950-1: 2000
Since the revision to BS 5950-1 in 2000, our Advisory Service has
received many questions concerning the removal of the maximum
slenderness values for struts (180, 250 and 350) that were found in Cl. of BS 5950-1: 1990. Fig. 1. Typical strut (flexural) buckling curve (BS 5950-1, 1990 & 2000)

The last paragraph in Cl. of BS 5950-1: 1990 has also been
removed. This covered struts of a slenderness greater than 180, and into BS 449 many years ago. As can be seen from Fig. 1, these
required that if self weight deflection exceeded length/1000, the maximum slenderness values were arbitrary and had no particular
bending effects needed to be taken into account in design. technical justification and thus the Code Committee decided to
The removal of the slenderness values and the comment about remove them. In addition, the paragraph concerning self-weight
bending effects was not a mistake. They have not been lost from the deflection has also been removed because it too was arbitrary,
revised Code by some unfortunate error during editing or printing at because some bending effects due to self weight are present in all
the time of the revision, as has been suggested several times. The horizontal or inclined struts.
removal of the maximum slenderness values was, in fact, a Although the values or limits in Cl. of BS 5950-1: 1990 were
deliberate decision of the Code Committee. arbitrary, when designing struts in the high slenderness region of a
The compressive strength (pc) of a strut is obtained from Table 24 in strut-buckling curve to BS 5950-1: 2000 it would be prudent for the
BS 5950-1: 2000. These values come from the equations of the designer to bear in mind the following points:
various strut curves found in Annex C, in particular C1 and C2. A If the strut is horizontal or inclined then the designer should
typical strut-buckling curve from BS 5950-1 is as shown in Figure 1, determine whether bending and/or lateral torsional buckling due
together with the Euler buckling curve. to self-weight needs to be taken into account.
In the high slenderness region of the strut-buckling curve, Fig. 1 If struts to BS 5950-1: 1990 were governed by the slenderness
shows that there are no cut-offs, breaks or steps at certain values of limits and not the calculated capacity, some reserve of strength
slenderness as was implied by Cl. of BS 5950-1: 1990. In this existed. This reserve of capacity may not exist in struts designed
region the curve is smooth, continuous and, in theory, continues to a to BS 5950-1: 2000, and hence designers should carefully
slenderness of infinity. However, as the slenderness of a strut consider all loading cases.
increases, the compressive strength reduces and in the high Bearing these points in mind, struts in the high slenderness region of
slenderness region it tends to zero. a strut-buckling curve may be designed safely to BS 5950-1: 2000.
Consequently, the maximum values of slenderness in Cl. of
BS 5950-1: 1990 were simply custom and practice that had been Contact Thomas Cosgrove, SCI
incorporated into the main UK steel design code and first introduced Telephone 01344 623345 Email