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Thin-Walled Structures 84 (2014) 289–301

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Elastic distortional buckling of doubly symmetric steel I-section beams

with slender webs
H.R. Naderian a, H.R. Ronagh b,n, M. Azhari c
Department of Civil Engineering, University of Ottawa, ON, Canada
School of Civil Engineering, University of Queensland, Brisbane 4072, QLD, Australia
Department of Civil Engineering, Isfahan University of Technology, Isfahan, Iran

art ic l e i nf o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Doubly symmetric steel I-section members with thin webs and stocky flanges have a tendency to buckle
Received 31 January 2013 in a so-called distortional buckling mode, involving distortion of the web of the I-section in the plane
Received in revised form of its cross-section. As this mode is more complicated than the local or global buckling, analytical
25 April 2014
expressions take empirical forms and vary in between different proposals. This paper has two main
Accepted 23 May 2014
objectives. The first objective is to propose a complex finite strip method for distortional buckling
Available online 2 August 2014
analysis of I-section beams with slender webs and check the suitability for such analysis by comparing
Keywords: its accuracy with other methods and the second objective is to propose a simple method for predicting
I-section the distortional buckling loads of I-beams. The latter objective is superior to current methods with
respect to the weight of the sections.
Complex finite strip method
& 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Distortional buckling
Slender web

1. Introduction Closed-formed solutions for the design of thin-walled mem-

bers, especially for the buckling of columns can only handle the
Amongst the several different types of bucking in thin-walled global modes [2]. Classical solutions for lateral-torsional buckling
structures, distortional buckling mode seems to be the most exist, too, at least for certain bending moment patterns and for
problematic to model due to its complexity. With the increased certain cross-sectional types [3]. Lateral-torsional mode is con-
use of cold-formed steel members possessing longitudinal stiffen- sidered as a global mode because of the in-plane deformations in
ers, the issue of distortional buckling has become more important this type of buckling. As far as local buckling is concerned, most
as these cold-formed members are more susceptible to distor- design codes for thin-walled structures rely on simplified plate
tional buckling. Since 1980s, extensive studies have been carried buckling coefficients, or k values [4]. Analytical solutions are
out in this area. Despite these studies and numerous experimental available mainly for single plate elements and idealized boundary
tests, distortional buckling behavior of thin-walled structures is conditions. In real sections, the plate elements interact with each
not yet quite well understood. other, which makes the application of single-plate solutions more
Thin-walled members may buckle in one of the three modes complicated, although they are often used by certain approxima-
of local, distortional and global buckling. Each buckling mode has tions, keeping a blind eye on some potential discrepancies with
different types which can be called as sub-buckling modes like the real behavior [3]. Until a few years ago, analytical solutions for
local shear buckling, flexural-torsional buckling, lateral-torsional distortional buckling have not been available. Recently though,
buckling, etc. Although there seems to be a consensus on this researchers proposed closed-formed formulae for distortional
classification of buckling modes, there is no consensus on the buckling, although limited to specific sections and based on
exact meaning of the modes [1]. In practice, it frequently happens simplifying assumptions [5–12]. Lately, Schafer developed a com-
that the deformation pattern of the member exhibits certain prehensive method for the design of thin-walled cold-formed steel
features of not only one, but two or three buckling modes. These columns and beams including distortional buckling using Direct
cases are usually referred to as coupled buckling modes [1]. Strength Method (DSM) [13].
Although the notion of distortional buckling is widely used,
probably, the only existing definition can be found in the Australia/
Corresponding author. Tel.: þ 61 7 336 59117; fax: þ 61 7 336 54599. New Zealand Standard [14], originated from the works of the
E-mail address: (H.R. Ronagh). University of Sydney Professor, Gregory Hancock. It says that
0263-8231/& 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
290 H.R. Naderian et al. / Thin-Walled Structures 84 (2014) 289–301

distortional buckling is “a mode of buckling involving change in rather the result of a strong interaction of local and global modes
cross-sectional shape, excluding local buckling” with the definition [1,11,12,31–34]. According to this definition, in general, the first
of local buckling as “a mode of buckling involving plate flexure minimum point of the buckling curve identifies the local buckling,
alone without transverse deformation of the line or lines of while the second minimum point is often associated with the
intersection of adjoining plates”. In other words, distortional distortional buckling mode [32–35]. While true for most cases, the
buckling is a mode with cross-sectional distortion that involves association of the second minimum with distortional buckling is
the translation of some of the fold lines (intersection lines of not always correct and there might exist some exceptions. Fig. 2
adjacent plate elements). shows different types of buckling in an I-section beam. As
It has been shown that the buckling modes of equal flange illustrated in this figure, local buckling involves a distortion of
I-beams (herein is referred to as distortional buckling modes), may the cross-section over a short wavelength, while the line juncture
combine general lateral deflection and twist with general changes between the flanges and the web remains straight. Lateral-
in the cross-sectional shape which arise only from web distortion torsional buckling is characterized by a rigid-body lateral transla-
[15,5]. The elastic flexural-torsional buckling analysis of thin- tion and twist of the cross-section, with zero distortion. In
walled I-section members is usually performed assuming that distortional buckling the web distorts into an S shape [5,15,21–
the cross-section of the member undergoes rigid cross-sectional 23,36,37]. Due to the web deformations, the flanges displace
translation and rotation. When a member is fabricated with a sideways with less twist than in idealized LTB solutions. This in
slender web, however, or if one of the flanges is restrained against turn reduces the effective St. Venant torsional stiffness of the
rigid cross-sectional movement, the member may buckle in a way section, and results in a lower buckling strength [20].
where deflection and twist are accompanied with a change in the In Fig. 3, results of an analysis using finite strip method
cross-sectional shape due to web distortion. The effect of web concerning the buckling behavior of simply-supported steel I-
distortion on the buckling capacity of the member can be quite section beams subjected to pure bending are provided where the
significant [16]. The web distortion which allows the flanges to normalized buckling stresses F=E are given as a function of the
deflect laterally with comparatively little twist reduces the effec- dimensionless buckling half-wavelength L=bw in a logarithmic scale.
tive torsional resistance of the member and consequently reduces The elastic constant values are E ¼ 200 GPa and v ¼ 0:3. Several
the resistance to flexural-torsional buckling. It is worth noting that curves are given for different ratios of web depth ðbw Þ to web
this effect has been shown to be more significant in plate girders thickness ðt w Þ. For all curves bf =t f ¼ 12:5 and t f =t w ¼ 4. The curves
with slender unstiffened webs than in simply supported hot-rolled exhibit the same characteristic, namely two minimum points, the
I-sections with comparatively stocky webs [5,17]. Extensive stu- first of which has a minimum value at L=bw between 0.5 and 1.0 and
dies of elastic distortional buckling have indicated that distortional second of which has a minimum value at L=bw between 2 and 8. As
buckling will occur at a significantly lower load than elastic lateral far as the associated buckling half wavelength for distortional mode
buckling for short beams with slender webs [18]. is concerned, it is typically in between the lengths of local and
In this paper, the complex finite strip method is used to global modes; usually 2 to 8 times the maximum dimension of
demonstrate the capability of this sophisticated behavior to pre- the section. In the first region, the buckling mode is local and in the
dict the distortional buckling of I-beams. The study looks at the second region it may be distortional. Beyond the second peak, the
effects of geometric data on the distortional buckling of slender buckling stress decreases with the increasing half-wavelength, L,
web I-beams under uniform bending. Based on extensive para- until the mode is predominantly lateral-torsional, as predicted by
metric studies then, a new design equation is developed which the Vlasov theory.
may be used to determine the distortional Buckling moment of It should be mentioned that in the next sections of this article,
doubly-symmetric I-beams. The new equation is obtained compar- the expression of distortional buckling is not only limited to the
ing a formula developed by Bradford [5] with the AISC code second minimum point of the buckling curve but also deals
predictions [19]. This will result in a more conservative estimation with the coupled local and lateral-torsional buckling modes in
of the critical distortional moments of slender web I-sections. I-sections.

2. Distortional buckling phenomena in I-sections

The distortional buckling behavior of steel I-beams has been

the subject of considerable research [5,7,17,18,20–30]. I-section
beams especially those with slender webs and stocky flanges are
always exposed to distortion of the web and displacing of the
flanges. In this situation, the buckling mode would be distortional
[5] in which the web distorts and the flanges displace sideways
with less twist than one would expect in the lateral-torsional
buckling mode. This, in turn, reduces the torsional rigidity of the Fig. 1. Distortional buckling phenomena in I-section beam [1].
member, and hence results in a lower buckling strength.
There are different views regarding the treatment of distor-
tional buckling phenomena in steel I-section beams. Fig. 1 shows
a doubly symmetric I-section, together with a possible buckled
shape which can occur if the member is loaded as a beam. It is
clear that the presented buckled shape can neither be pure local
nor pure global, as the cross-section is clearly distorted and at least
one of the intersection lines is displaced. From this aspect, one can
easily classify it as distortional buckling. On the other hand, based
on older classifications such as Generalized Beam Theory (GBT),
Local buckling Distortional Buckling Lateral-torsional buckling
I-sections do not have distortional buckling modes at all; thus, the
presented buckled shape cannot be pure distortional buckling but Fig. 2. Buckling modes shapes in I-section [20].
H.R. Naderian et al. / Thin-Walled Structures 84 (2014) 289–301 291

Fig. 3. Buckling curves for different slender webs.

In the distortional buckling phenomena, the transverse defor- suggested that the torsional rigidity should be disregarded entirely
mations involve both plate-like deformations and the translation in calculating the elastic critical stress. However, for many I-
of one or multiple intersection lines of adjacent plate elements [1]. sections this simplification results in overly conservative lateral-
It is clear from prior research studies that the web distortional torsional buckling moment, particularly for beams with webs of
flexibility can lead to a substantial reduction relative to the beam intermediate slenderness. Therefore, some economic benefits may
theory lateral-torsional buckling resistance for I-sections with be gained by conducting a more accurate assessment of the lateral
torsionally stiff flanges and relatively thin webs [20]. Potential buckling resistance of slender-web members [20]. All in all, it
future directions for improved calculation of I-section member should be said that the Fcr (J¼ 0) solution is very conservative for
flexural resistances are suggested for cases where the influence of this group of cross-sections.
web distortion is significant. Steel design standards generally
define the flexural resistance of steel I-section members based
on the consideration of local and lateral-torsional buckling limit 3. AISC predictions for distortional buckling of I-sections
states [20].
Zirakian [24] evaluated the effectiveness of this consideration The distortional buckling strength is not addressed explicitly in
within the elastic limit by comparing the AISC code predictions with standards where the flexural design of steel I-section members is
the CUFSM software [38,39] solutions as well as the theoretical dealt with. However, in the 2005 AISC specifications, it has been
predictions of two elastic distortional buckling formulae developed tried to allow for the influence of web distortional flexibility on
by other researchers. He found that the assumption of J ¼ 0 for the lateral-torsional buckling resistance of slender-web I-section
slender-web beams results in over conservative estimations of the members through implicit use of J ¼ 0 in the lateral-torsional
buckling strength in some cases which may associate with eco- buckling equations. If the flexibility of the web is relatively large,
nomic losses. The notations used by Zirakian [24] were nicely the two flanges plus adjacent portions of the web act effectively as
selected and could be easily followed. The same notation is adopted semi-independent beams bent in the lateral direction when the
in this paper. Bradford and Ronagh [40] stated that in slender web member buckles or twists [45]. As such, the AASHTO [46] and AISC
I-section beams, web distortion allows the flanges to deflect [19] specifications use the full cross-section St. Venant torsional
laterally with different angles of twist; this reduces the effective rigidity GJ in calculating the lateral torsional buckling (LTB)
torsional resistance of the member and consequently reduces the resistance of I-section members only when the web satisfies the
resistance to buckling. Bradford and Trahair [17,41] considered non-compact limit:
the effects of cross-sectional distortion in members where one of sffiffiffiffiffi
the flanges was restrained against lateral deflection and twist, while h E
γ rnon%compact ¼ r 5:70 ð1Þ
the other flange was restrained only by the stiffness of the web. tw Fy
Potential future directions for improved calculation of I-section
The nominal elastic LTB moment is defined by
member flexural resistances were suggested for cases where the
influence of web distortion is significant. M nLTB ¼ F cr Sx ð2Þ
The first studies of the influence of web distortion on the
in which
behavior of I-section members were carried out by Goodier and sffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi
Barton [25]. These researchers extended Timoshenko’s [42] thin- " #2
Cbπ2E J Lb
walled open-section beam theory to include web distortion. Major- F cr ¼ 1 þ 0:078 ð3Þ
ðLb =r t Þ 2 Sx ho r t
ity of the research on distortional buckling of I-section members
were performed by researchers at the Universities of New South For doubly symmetric I-section beams with slender webs when
Wales and Sydney, Australia [5,15,17,21,23,36,41]. Systematic stu- Lb 4 Lr (i.e. guaranteeing the elastic behavior of section), the
dies of the distortional buckling problem have been possible only nominal elastic LTB moment is calculated by
with the advent of digital computers and the use of numerical
M nDist ¼ Rpg F crðJ ¼ 0Þ Sx ð4Þ
techniques. This explains in part why standards for steel design
have been silent with respect to the calculation of distortional As mentioned earlier, in slender-web I-section beams due to
buckling strengths [20], with the exception of recent developments the web distortion under bending, torsional rigidity of the section
such as those of the AISI Standard for cold-formed steel design [43]. reduces. For the same reason, due to decrease in the torsional
Winter [44] recognized that the web distortion would modify rigidity and lateral-torsional buckling strength, St. Venant tor-
the effective torsional rigidity of a monosymmetric I-beam, and sional constant is considered as zero and consequently the critical
292 H.R. Naderian et al. / Thin-Walled Structures 84 (2014) 289–301

stress is equal to which are simply supported and the loading which is uniform
2 bending, C b in Eq. (3) is equal to one. Elastic distortional buckling
Cbπ E
F crðJ ¼ 0Þ ¼ ð5Þ moment using Bradford’s equation is given by
ðLb =r t Þ2
M nAISC formula can be thought of as the nominal elastic distortional M nBradford ¼ F crd Sx ¼ F crd ð11Þ
buckling moment because by substituting J ¼ 0 in the lateral-
Eq. (10) is based on the parametric studies of I-section
torsional buckling stress formula, the influence of web distortion
members with bf b =ho ¼ 0:5 and the following range of proportions
on the critical moment of Eq. (2) is already considered. Also, in
slender web I-sections, local buckling may occur in the web plate, tf bf b bf b
1r r 4; 1r r4 ; 10 r r 20
leading to a reduction of web contribution to the moment tw bf t tf
resistance. This loss of effective strength is introduced in the
For doubly symmetric I-sections ðbf b ¼ bf t ¼ bf Þ Eq. (10) can be
2005 AISC specification. In calculating the elastic LTB moment of
formulated as
slender web I-section members (Eq. (4)), the bending strength
reduction factor is also applied which is directly tied to the local F crd 215:6ðt f =bf Þðt f =t w Þ
¼ 1% ð12Þ
buckling of the web [24]. Nonetheless, Rpg may implicitly account F cr E=F cr
for web distortion effects in cross-sections with large web slender-
ness [24] and is given by
sffiffiffiffiffi! 5. Complex finite strip method
aw hc E
Rpg ¼ 1 % % 5:7 r1 ð6Þ
1200 þ 300aw t w Fy
One of the paramount advantages of the complex finite strip
in which method in comparison with other kinds of numerical methods is
its ability to handle in-plane displacements as well as out-of-
hc t w
aw ¼ r 10 ð7Þ plane. On the other hand, displacements caused by distortional
bf t f buckling include a combination of out-of-plane and in-plane
modes. Therefore, complex finite strip method becomes a suitable
r t ¼ qffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi ð8Þ tool for predicting the distortional buckling of steel I-section
12ððho =dÞ þ ð1=6Þaw ðh =ho dÞÞ members under different loading conditions. In the following, a
computationally efficient finite strip buckling analysis which
and incorporates web distortion is briefly described.
E In the finite strip method (FSM), a thin-walled member is
Lr ¼ πr t ð9Þ divided into longitudinal strips. The advantage of FSM over other
0:7F y
methods, such as the finite element method which applies dis-
Sections that violate Eq. (1) are referred to as slender-web creteness in both the longitudinal and transverse directions, is
I-sections where the AISC specification [19] bases the LTB resis- dependent on the choice made for the shape function of the
tance on Eq. (5). In fact, the implicit use of J ¼ 0 in Section F5 is longitudinal displacement field.
intended to allow for the influence of web distortional flexibility In the original semi-analytical complex finite strip method
on the LTB resistance of slender web I-section members [47]. developed by Plank and Wittrick [48], elastic stiffness and stability
It is worth noting that in a study on elastic buckling behavior of matrices were obtained using standard finite element techniques
Steel I-beams with mono and doubly symmetric sections, White based on the energy method. This procedure has been followed in
and Jung [20] concluded that for many compact-web or non- the present study in order to obtain the stiffness and stability
compact-web I-sections, the use of J ¼ 0 in the LTB equations matrices of a strip [49]. For infinitesimally small buckling dis-
results in excessive conservatism, and for slender-web I-section placements, the in-plane and out-of-plane effects are uncoupled
members, the use of F crðJ ¼ 0Þ is prudent to avoid the need for and can be considered separately.
explicit consideration of web distortion effects.
5.1. Displacement functions

4. Bradford’s formula for elastic distortional buckling The geometry, loading and degrees of freedom (DOF) for a strip
are illustrated in Fig. 4. The loading consists of a longitudinal
In 1985, Bradford [5] used a finite element distortional buckling compressive stress which varies linearly across the width of the
analysis to obtain a more accurate design equation for the reduced plate from σ L % σ B at edge 1 to σ L þ σ B at edge 2. It means that σ L is
buckling stress F crd of mono symmetric I-beams accounting for the average longitudinal compressive stress and σ B is the stress
distortion of the cross-section. Bradford stated that when the half- due to the longitudinal in-plane bending.
wavelength of both lateral-torsional and local buckling are similar, The flexural displacement of a strip w and the in-plane
the mode is of a distortional type [18]. displacements u and v in the semi analytical complex FSM are
The application of regression analysis to parametric studies assumed to be given by
using the finite element analysis resulted in an approximation
for the distortional buckling stress F crd . Bradford developed the w ¼ RefZdo eiξ g ð13Þ
following equation for the ratio between the elastic distortional
u ¼ RefXJdI eiξ g ð14Þ
buckling capacity F crd and the LTB strength F cr for I-section beams
with equally thick flanges
v ¼ RefYJdI eiξ g ð15Þ
F crd 490ðt f =bf b Þðt f =t w Þð1 % 0:56ðbf t =bf b ÞÞ pffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi
¼ 1% ð10Þ where Ref g denotes the real part, i ¼ % 1, do and dI are 4 & 1
F cr E=F cr
vectors of infinitesimal flexural buckling displacements (the ver-
In this equation, F cr can be calculated based on established tical deformations w and rotations Ψ ) and in-plane displacements
elastic LTB equations like Eq. (3). It should be mentioned that comprising the assemble displacements of the strip, respectively.
considering the end conditions of the beams studied in this research ξ ¼ πx=L, in which L is the buckling half-wavelength, and where Z
H.R. Naderian et al. / Thin-Walled Structures 84 (2014) 289–301 293

Fig. 4. (a) Basic state of stress in a strip, (b) strip degrees of freedom.

is a 1 & 4 polynomial interpolation vector and X and Y are where χ is a 3 & 4 matrix defined by
interpolation vectors in the semi-analytical treatment given by 2 3
" # % ΩZ
b 1 b 1 1 6 7
Z ¼ ð1 % ηÞ2 ð1 þ ηÞ; ð1 % ηÞ2 ð2 þηÞ; % ð1 % ηÞð1 þ ηÞ2 ; ð1 þηÞ2 ð2 % ηÞ χ¼ 2 4
4Z″ 5 ð25Þ
8 4 8 4 b
4iΩZ 0
in which Ω ¼ πb=L and where primes denote differentiation with
1 1 respect to η. Using the principle of virtual work, the inertial virtual
X ¼ 0; ð1 %ηÞ; 0; ð1 þηÞ ð17Þ
2 2 work δW i0 in a wavelength of L of the strip due to the virtual
displacement δd0 can be expressed as
1 1
Y ¼ ð1 % ηÞ; 0; ð1 þ ηÞ; 0 ð18Þ Z Z
2 2 Lb 2π þ 1 T
δW io ¼ δε & D & εdξdη
where η ¼ 2y=b and b is the width of the strip and J is a 4 & 4 2π 0 %1
Z 2π Z þ 1
diagonal matrix defined by Lb T
¼ RefδdO χ T eiξ g & D & Refχdo eiξ gdξdη ð26Þ
J ¼ ½1 0 0 0; 0 % i0 0; 0 0 1 0; 0 0 0 % i( ð19Þ 2π 0 %1

The selected longitudinal functions result in members that are In this step the following mathematical theory [48] is used to
pinned and free-to-warp at their ends. More complicated bound- solve the integral in Eq. (26)
ary conditions may be treated [50] but are not discussed here. Z 2π
ReðaT eiξ Þ & G & Refbeiξ gdξ ¼ πRefaT Gbg ð27Þ
5.2. Strain–stress relations
where the bar denotes the conjugate. Using the above formula,
Eq. (26) may be rewritten as
In accordance with established stiffness procedures, the vectors
of generalized buckling strain ε and ε0 for out-of-plane and in- T
δW io ¼ λRefδdo So do g ð28Þ
plane displacements are given by
in which S0 is the out-of-plane standard stiffness matrix and is
ε ¼ f∂2 w=∂x2 ∂2 w=∂y2 2∂2 w=∂x∂yg ð20Þ defined by
( " #) " # Z þ1
∂u ∂v ∂u ∂v b
ε ¼ þ ð21Þ So ¼ χ T Dχdη ð29Þ
∂x ∂y ∂y ∂x 2 %1

During the virtual displacement, the basic membrane forces

The flexural property matrix of an isotropic plate D [48] defines
acting on the four edges of a rectangle strip of width b and length L
the relationship between the infinitesimal generalized moments
also do work δW m0 . This virtual work is given by
and strains for out-of-plane displacements by
Z Z ( " #2 )
M¼D& ε ð22Þ ∂w
δW m0 ¼ ðt=2Þδ σx dxdy ð30Þ
Also, the buckling internal stress σ and strains ε is given by
0 0

where t is the thickness of the strip and σ x is the local value of the
σ ¼ D0 & ε0
longitudinal stress given by
where D0 is the in-plane rigidity matrix of the isotropic plate [48].
σ x ¼ σ L þ ησ B ð31Þ

in which σ L is the average longitudinal compressive stress and σ B is

5.3. Out-of-plane stiffness matrix
the stress due to the longitudinal in-plane bending.
By transforming x and y into the dimensionless variables ξ and
The strain energy stored in the plate strip during the buckling
η and taking the variation of the integrand, Eq. (30) is obtained by
deformation can be calculated. Substituting Eq. (13) into Eq. (20)
the following formula is derived Z 2π Z þ1 & $ %'
Lt ∂δw ∂w

δW m0 ¼ Ω2 ðσ L þ ησ B Þ dξdη ð32Þ
ε ¼ Refχdo e g ð24Þ 2πb 0 %1 ∂ξ ∂ξ
294 H.R. Naderian et al. / Thin-Walled Structures 84 (2014) 289–301

By performing the integration with respect to ξ and with regard in which GI is the in-plane flexural stability matrix and may be
to Eq. (27) obtained from
T " 2 # Z þ1
δW m0 ¼ LRefδdo G0 do g ð33Þ Ω σL t
GI ¼ JðX T X þ Y T YÞJdη ð43Þ
2b %1
where G0 is the out-of-plane flexural stability matrix and may be
obtained from Once the strip stiffness and stability matrices SO , SI and GO , GI
" # Z þ1 are derived and combined for each strip, they can be assembled
Go ¼ fΩ2 ðσ L þ ησ B ÞZ T Zgdη ð34Þ into the respective global matrices ST and GT using standard
2b %1
procedures. The buckling problem can then be represented by the
eigenvalue equations
5.4. In-plane stiffness matrix
ðST % GT ÞΔ ¼ 0 ð44Þ
A method similar to that for the out-of-plane matrices may be where Δ is a scaling factor related to the critical load.
followed in order to obtain the in-plane stiffness and stability
matrices. The internal virtual work done in the steel strip during
the buckling deformation can be similarly calculated. Substituting
Eqs. (14) and (15) into Eq. (21) the following formula is derived 6. Parametric studies

ε0 ¼ RefΓJdI eiξ g ð35Þ In order to evaluate the accuracy of complex finite strip method
in which Γ is a 3 & 4 matrix defined by as well as AISC equations given in the code for the prediction of
2 3 distortional buckling, a number of beams with doubly-symmetric
" # iΩX
1 6 7 I-sections are studied under pure bending. For this purpose,
Γ¼ 4 2Y 0
5 ð36Þ critical moments for different values of flange width, web depth,
2X þ iΩY
and braced beam length are calculated. In each case, one beam
where primes denote differentiation with respect to η. The internal dimension or property is varied while the others are kept constant,
work δW iI in the wavelength 2L of the strip is given by and the accuracy of the complex FSM and code predictions is
Z Z assessed for that specific case. These case studies are performed by
Lbt 2π þ 1 0T the complex FSM as well as Bradford’s Equation, AISC formula, and
δW iI ¼ δε & D0 & ε0 dξdη
2π 0 %1 CUFSM results carried out by Zirakian [24]. The complex finite
Lbt 2π þ 1 n T T 0iξ o 0 n o strip method of analysis summarized in the previous section is
¼ Re δdI JΓ ε D Re ΓJdI ε0iξ dξdη ð37Þ
2π 0 %1
programmed on a desktop workstation using MATLAB program-
ming language in which the eigenvalue bucking problem of steel
Considering Eq. (27), the internal work δW iI may be obtained
I-section beams can be solved. The results of all case studies
obtained by these four methods are compared together. Based on
δW iI ¼ LRefδdI SI dI g ð38Þ these parametric studies, a new equation is proposed for the
prediction of distortional buckling of slender web I-section beams
in which SI is the in-plane standard stiffness matrix SI and is in AISC code. The new formula is simple and economic in compa-
derived by rison with the current code equation. It is assumed that the elastic
Z þ1 ! constant values E ¼ 200; 000 MPa, v ¼ 0:3, and F y ¼ 345 MPa.
1 T
SI ¼ btJ Γ D0 Γdη J ð39Þ It is worth noting that all of the beams considered here are simply
2 %1
supported members. These conditions are in accordance with the
According to reference [48], σ L is the only stress component basic assumption of complex finite strip method which conse-
that needs to be considered for the in-plane buckling and there is quently increases the accuracy of the results [48]. As mentioned
no conceivable in-plane instability that can arise from the action previously, more complicated boundary conditions may be treated
of the stress σ B . In order to calculate the loss of potential energy in the finite strip method developed by Bradford and Azhari [50].
of the longitudinal stress σ L one can make use of the following All members in this study have slender webs and compact flanges.
nonlinear expression for the longitudinal strain εx In addition, distortional buckling stresses are lower than yield
(" # " #2 " #2 ) stress and are limited to elastic buckling. The sectional dimensions
∂u 1 ∂u 2 ∂v ∂w are chosen so that local buckling does not occur simultaneously in
εx ¼ þ þ þ ð40Þ
∂x 2 ∂x ∂x ∂x the flanges and the web.
Table 1 summarizes the geometric data of the sections and
In this expression, the first term has already been accounted for
yield stresses for I-beams considered in this part. In each case, all
in deriving the strain energy whilst the last term, involving w, has
cross-sectional dimensions and yield stresses of the beams are
been used in the calculation of the reduction in the potential
kept constant, except for one which is made variable. According to
energy of basic stresses due to the out-of-plane displacement.
the AISC code [19], the limitation of compact flange for I-section is
An appropriate expression for the reduction of the potential of the
given by
basic stresses due to in-plane displacement is
(" # sffiffiffiffiffi
" #2 ) $ % bf E
1 ∂u 2 ∂v δ∂u ∂u δ∂v ∂v γ pcompact ¼ r 0:38 ð45Þ
δW mI ¼ σ L tδ∬ þ dxdy ¼ σ L t∬ þ dxdy 2t f Fy
2 ∂x ∂x ∂x ∂x ∂x ∂x
ð41Þ The h=t w ratios of the beams are larger than the code limiting
in which the integral extends over the width b and wavelength 2L. slenderness values for non-compact webs (Eq. (1)), and also the
Substituting Eqs. (14) and (15), and using the mathematical bf =2t f ratios of the beams are smaller than the code limiting values
principle in Eq. (27) will yield for compact flanges (Eq. (32)). Considering the given material
T properties for the steel (E ¼ 200; 000 MPa; F y ¼ 345 MPa) the
δW mI ¼ LRefδdI GI dI g ð42Þ values of the noncompact limit of a web and the compact limit
H.R. Naderian et al. / Thin-Walled Structures 84 (2014) 289–301 295

Table 1
Geometric properties and yield stresses of the beams.

Case number h (mm) hc (mm) ho (mm) d (mm) tw (mm) bf (mm) tf (mm) Lb (mm) Fy (MPa)

1 750 760 780 800 5 240 20 Variable 345

2 990 1000 1021 1042 Variable 250 21 6250 345
3 800 810 835 860 5 Variable 25 10280 345

Table 2 Table 3
Lengths and dimension ratios for case study 1. Comparison of the AISC code predictions and complex FSM results with Bradford’s
formula and CUFSM results.
Cross-section number bf /t f h/bf h/tw tf/tw Lb/ho Lr (mm) Lb (mm)
Cross-section MnLTB/ MnDist/ MnFSA/ MnCUFSM/ MnBradford/
Beam1-1 12 3.1 150 4 7.7 5988.7 6,060 number My MnLTB MnLTB MnLTB MnLTB
Beam1-2 12 3.1 150 4 8.3 5988.7 6,474
Beam1-3 12 3.1 150 4 9 5988.7 7,020 Beam1-1 0.78 0.88 0.88 0.94 0.90
Beam1-4 12 3.1 150 4 9.6 5988.7 7,488 Beam1-2 0.68 0.87 0.88 0.94 0.92
Beam1-5 12 3.1 150 4 10.9 5988.7 8,502 Beam1-3 0.59 0.85 0.90 0.94 0.93
Beam1-6 12 3.1 150 4 12.8 5988.7 9,984 Beam1-4 0.53 0.84 0.89 0.94 0.93
Beam1-7 12 3.1 150 4 15.4 5988.7 12,012 Beam1-5 0.43 0.80 0.88 0.94 0.95
Beam1-8 12 3.1 150 4 17.9 5988.7 13,962 Beam1-6 0.33 0.76 0.91 0.95 0.96
Beam1-9 12 3.1 150 4 20 5988.7 15,600 Beam1-7 0.25 0.69 0.92 0.95 0.97
Beam1-8 0.20 0.64 0.90 0.96 0.98
Beam1-9 0.17 0.60 0.94 0.96 0.98

of flanges are obtained as below

In Table 3, the ratio of nominal lateral-torsional buckling
γ rnon % compact ¼ r137:2 ð46Þ moment to yield moment reduces with the increase in the beams’
length. This is logical, because there is a higher sensitivity to
bf lateral-torsional buckling in longer beams. The moment ratios
γ pcompact ¼ r 18:3 ð47Þ obtained by the Complex FSM in all lengths are lower than those
obtained from Bradford’s formula and CUFSM; nonetheless, these
are close to the AISC predictions especially for short lengths. In
general, the nominal distortional buckling moments obtained by
6.1. Influence of beam length the complex FSM are greater than AISC predictions and lower than
those obtained from CUFSM and Bradford’s formula. The percen-
In Table 1, the case number 1 is selected to investigate the tage of reduction in critical moment for different lengths in
influence of varying the un-braced length Lb on critical moments Complex FSM, Bradford’s formula, and CUFSM is between 12% to
while all cross-sectional dimensions are kept constant. In Table 2, 6%, 10% to 2%, and 6% to 4%, respectively. According to the AISC
the cross-section dimensional ratios as well as Lb and Lr of the prediction, the percentage reduction varies between 12% and 40%.
members are listed. Especially for longer beams, the nominal distortional buckling
The values of Lr for each beam are obtained through Eq. (9) and moments significantly decrease in comparison with the lateral-
the values of Lb are chosen based on a ratio of ho so that the torsional buckling moments.
un-braced lengths Lb are all larger than Lr and the elastic behavior These statistics show that the AISC code is very conservative
is ascertained. In order to ensure that the buckling of beams is and uneconomical in predicting the nominal distortional buckling
elastic, the ratio of lateral-torsional moments to yield moment are strength (Eq. (4)) of I-beams. It can be concluded that the use of
obtained and presented in addition to other outputs. J ¼ 0 in Eq. (3) to allow for the effects of distortional buckling
Table 3 summarizes the nominal critical moments derived from phenomena is not optimal. For the same reason, it is necessary to
AISC, and Bradford’s equations, as well as the complex finite strip modify the mentioned equation. For this purpose, in Fig. 5, the
results besides those of Zirakian [24] which were obtained using normalized distortional buckling moments M nDist =M y are given as a
the CUFSM software. CUFSM is an open source software which function of the dimensionless ratio M nBradford =M y for Lb ¼ 7:7ho % 20ho .
was originally written by Schafer and colleagues [38,39] in order It can be said that the mentioned lengths involve the distortional
to explore elastic buckling behavior and to calculate the buckl- buckling area in the buckling curve of the I-section. Several charts are
ing stresses and buckling modes of arbitrarily shaped, simply given for different values of yield stress F y . Fortunately, for all yield
supported, thin-walled members. The software employs the semi- stresses and beams lengths, the chart is almost a straight line with
analytical finite strip method to provide solutions for the cross- constant slope. Moreover, buckling moments obtained through
sectional stability of isotropic as well as orthotropic thin-walled Bradford’s formula are higher than those predicted by the AISC
members. All of the distortional buckling moments in Table 3 are equation in all occurrences. Nevertheless, the charts tend to separate
normalized with the lateral-torsional buckling moment MnLTB at high moments. Here, the diagrams have a slope of about 0.92.
obtained from Eq. (2). In these ratios, the numerator is the reduced Deriving an equation for the straight line with constant slope from
critical moment or the so-called nominal distortional buckling and the diagrams and after some substituting and mathematical manip-
the denominator is nominal lateral-torsional buckling moment ulation, the AISC nominal distortional buckling moment can be
without considering the influence of distortional buckling. In fact, modified as the following equation
these moment ratios show a reduction in the lateral-torsional
buckling due to the effect of web distortion. Moreover, the ratios of M nDist1 ¼ 1:09 Rpg F crðJ ¼ 0Þ Sx ð48Þ
nominal LTB moments to yield moments are given in the first
column of Table 3, and the occurrence of elastic buckling is quite Although the above mentioned equation can be used for a wide
obvious in all cases. variety of lengths, it is necessary to evaluate other geometric
296 H.R. Naderian et al. / Thin-Walled Structures 84 (2014) 289–301

factors such as web and flange slenderness on the distortional FSM as well as AISC code for elastic distortional buckling of I-beams
buckling of slender web I-beams. will be assessed as a result of varying the web thickness, while all of
In Fig. 5, the larger distortional buckling moments are related the cross-sectional dimensions of the beams are kept constant. The
to shorter beams and the smaller moments are related to longer cross-section dimensional ratios as well as Lr and Lb of the studied
beams which suggest that the distortional buckling strength of beams are listed in Table 4. Here, the un-braced length Lb is
shorter beams is greater than that of the longer ones. It can clearly considered as 6250 mm so that for all beams this is larger than Lr
be seen from the diagrams of Fig. 5 that with increasing the beam and the elastic buckling condition will thereby be established. As
length, the rate of variation of distortional buckling strength observed in Eqs. (8) and (9), the value of Lr is dependent on the web
decreases while on the other hand with decreasing the beam thickness and for the same reason the un-braced length Lr changes
length, it increases. The variation of yield stresses does not have a with the variation of web thickness. In these members, the web
direct influence on the distortional buckling strength of I-beams. thickness is varied from 7.2 to 4 and consequently the slenderness
In fact, it merely causes the change in the range of moments ratios. of the web is varied from 136.7 to 249.9. The slenderness of the web
In Fig. 6, the variation of normalized nominal distortional is the ratio of the web height to thickness. The rest of the cross-
buckling moments obtained by AISC equation, Bradford’s formula, sectional dimensions are kept constant.
and Complex FSM are given as a function of the un-braced length Lb . Summary of the results are listed in Table 5. Observation of
In addition, the lateral-torsional buckling curve of the I-beam based these buckling results brings about the following conclusions:
on Eq. (2) is plotted in Fig. 6. The geometric data and material
properties are the same as that shown in Table 2. As clearly seen, all ) Based on all four methods, with the increase in the web slende-
three methods show similar distortional buckling behavior for rness, the ratio of distortional buckling moments to lateral-
slender web I-sections in pure bending in which by increasing the torsional buckling moments decreases.
un-braced length, the buckling strength decreases non-uniformly.
Here, distortional buckling moments obtained from Bradford’s and
AISC equations have the highest and the lowest values, respectively. Table 4
Lengths and dimension ratios for case study 2.
Furthermore, the results obtained through complex FSM and
Bradford’s formula are very close to each other. Cross-section number bf/tf h/bf h/tw tf/tw Lb/ho Lr (mm) Lb (mm)

Beam2-1 11.9 4 136.7 2.9 6.1 5977 6250

Beam2-2 11.9 4 146.1 3.1 6.1 6011.6 6250
6.2. Influence of web slenderness
Beam2-3 11.9 4 155.6 3.3 6.1 6042.5 6250
Beam2-4 11.9 4 165 3.5 6.1 6070.2 6250
Distortional buckling strength of steel I-beams is heavily depen- Beam2-5 11.9 4 179.1 3.8 6.1 6106.9 6250
dent on the web slenderness. As the slenderness of web increases, Beam2-6 11.9 4 188.6 4 6.1 6128.7 6250
distortional buckling becomes more critical. In this section, the Beam2-7 11.9 4 207.4 4.4 6.1 6166.8 6250
Beam2-8 11.9 4 226.3 4.8 6.1 6199.1 6250
effects of varying the web slenderness on distortional buckling of Beam2-9 11.9 4 249.9 5.3 6.1 6233.1 6250
I-beams are evaluated. Furthermore, the accuracy of the complex

Fig. 5. Variation of distortional buckling moments for different braced lengths and yield stresses.

Fig. 6. Variation of nominal moments to braced lengths.

H.R. Naderian et al. / Thin-Walled Structures 84 (2014) 289–301 297

) The nominal distortional buckling moments obtained from results are not applicable to the web thicknesses outside of
complex FSM are lower than those obtained from CUFSM 4–7.2 mm. First, this study falls into the category of slender web
software while they are higher than the results of Bradford’s I-sections and according to Eq. (1) the h=t w ratios of the selected
formula and AISC equation. beams should be larger than the code limiting slenderness values
) As the web slenderness increases, the complex FSM and for noncompact webs. In other words, within the range of the
Bradford’s formula as well as CUFSM and AISC equation above mentioned web thicknesses, the web plate in the I-section
indicate reductions in the buckling moments ranging from 6% does not satisfy the compactness limit. This limit is defined in
to 9%, 6% to 12%, 4% to 8%, and 8% to 13%, respectively. Eq. (1) and is a criterion in AISC code to identify the slender web in
I-sections. On the other hand, Eq. (4) for calculating the nominal
Compared with either the complex FSM and Bradford’s predic- elastic LTB moment in AISC code is valid when Lb 4 Lr which
tions or CUFSM, the elastic distortional buckling results of the AISC guarantees the elastic behavior of the section. Here, Lr is the
code are somewhat conservative. Nevertheless, the amount of this limiting laterally unbraced length for the limit state of inelastic
conservatism is not remarkable. Therefore, it seems that Eq. (4) in lateral–torsional buckling and is obtained by Eq. (9). It should be
the AISC code offers acceptable results for the prediction of noted that Lr is dependent to the value of web thickness. There-
distortional buckling in this case. fore, for the web thicknesses outside of the range 4–7.2 mm the
In Fig. 7, the normalized distortional buckling moments elastic buckling behavior is not provided because Lb oLr . As
M nDist =M y are given as a function of the dimensionless of illustrated in Fig. 7, the variation of distortional buckling moment
M nBradford =M y for t w ¼ 3 mm % 10 mm. Other geometric data and ratios seems a bit vague. The diagram in Fig. 7 has a downward
material properties are the same as what is shown in Table 4. In slope in the range of t w ¼ 3–4:8 mm in which with increasing the
this chart, the buckling moments for web thicknesses ranging web thickness (decreasing the web slenderness) the distortional
from 4 mm to 7.2 mm are marked with a circle symbol. It should buckling moment of Bradford’s formula increases, and in contrast,
be mentioned that the results of this chart are not applicable to the the nominal buckling moment of AISC equation decreases. On the
web thicknesses outside of the range 4–7.2 mm especially for the other hand, in the range of t w ¼ 4:8–10 mm, as the web thickness
AISC equation. In fact, they are merely given in order to illustrate increases, the nominal distortional buckling moments obtained by
the outputs of the main results. There are two reasons why the both methods decrease. The reason for the change in the direction
of the diagram at t w ¼ 4:8 can be traced to Bradford’s formula as
Table 5 this is limited to the following range of proportions 1 r t f =t w r4 .
Comparison of the complex FSM results with other methods—different web Ignoring the results of the range of t w ¼ 3 % 4:8 mm, a linear
slenderness. relationship with a slope approximately equal to unity between
Cross-section MnLTB/ MnDist/ MnFSA/ MnCUFSM/ MnBradford/
the Bradford’s and AISC distortional moments is established.
number My MnLTB MnLTB MnLTB MnLTB According to Fig. 7, distortional buckling moments of both meth-
ods are very close to each other. Therefore, it is not necessary to
Beam2-1 0.69 0.92 0.94 0.96 0.94 modify the AISC Eq. (4) in this case.
Beam2-2 0.70 0.91 0.94 0.96 0.93
In Fig. 8, the variation of normalized distortional buckling
Beam2-3 0.71 0.91 0.93 0.95 0.93
Beam2-4 0.71 0.90 0.93 0.95 0.92 moments obtained from all three methods as well as lateral-
Beam2-5 0.72 0.90 0.93 0.95 0.91 torsional moments is given as a function of the web slenderness
Beam2-6 0.73 0.89 0.92 0.94 0.91 h=t w . The material properties and geometric data are the same as
Beam2-7 0.74 0.88 0.91 0.93 0.90 what is shown in Table 4. It should be noted that in the diagram
Beam2-8 0.74 0.88 0.92 0.93 0.89
Beam2-9 0.75 0.87 0.91 0.92 0.88
related to Bradford’s formula the nominal buckling moments for
the range of h=t w Z 200 ðt w ¼ 4 %5 mmÞ are not included because

Fig. 7. Variation of distortional buckling moments for different web thicknesses.

298 H.R. Naderian et al. / Thin-Walled Structures 84 (2014) 289–301

Fig. 8. Variation of nominal moments to web slenderness.

the formula is not applicable for this range. This is a limitation of Table 6
Bradford’s formula which was also demonstrated in Fig. 7. Lengths and dimension ratios for case study 3.
Concerning these results, it is worth pointing out that:
Cross-section number bf/tf h/bf h/tw tf/tw Lb/ho Lr (mm) Lb (mm)
) As the slenderness of the web increases, the distortional Beam3-1 16.0 2.0 160.0 5.0 12.3 10276.7 10,280
buckling strength of all three methods increases. By increasing Beam3-2 13.3 2.4 160.0 5.0 12.3 8512.8 10,280
the web slenderness, the ratio of lateral –torsional buckling Beam3-3 10.7 3.0 160.0 5.0 12.3 6750.8 10,280
moment to yield moment increases while the rate of the Beam3-4 8.0 4.0 160.0 5.0 12.3 4990.5 10,280
Beam3-5 5.3 6.0 160.0 5.0 12.3 3233.9 10,280
increase is much higher than that for distortional buckling.
This proves that the distortional buckling phenomenon is more
critical at the high values of web slenderness.
) Once again, an excellent agreement exists between the com- Table 7
plex finite strip results and the Bradford’s formula especially for Comparison of the complex FSM results with other methods—different flange
the small values of web slenderness. slenderness.

Cross-section MnLTB/ MnDist/ MnFSA/ MnCUFSM/ MnBradford/

6.3. Influence of flange slenderness
Beam3-1 0.82 0.85 0.90 0.92 0.90
In this parametric study, the influence of the variation of flange Beam3-2 0.59 0.80 0.90 0.92 0.92
Beam3-3 0.40 0.73 0.90 0.91 0.93
slenderness on the distortional buckling behavior of I-beams is
Beam3-4 0.25 0.62 0.92 0.92 0.94
investigated under pure bending. Furthermore, in order to validate Beam3-5 0.14 0.47 0.93 0.94 0.95
and illustrate the application and capabilities of the complex FSM,
the numerical finite strip results are compared with those
obtained by other methods. For these purposes, five I-section to distortional buckling and even sometimes prior to local buck-
beams with different flange widths ranging from 133 mm to ling. The reductions in the elastic buckling resistance according
400 mm (consequently different flange slenderness) are consid- to the complex FSM as well as Bradford’s formula and CUFSM
ered, as tabulated in Table 6. The cross-sectional dimensions and software are between 10% to 7%, 10% to 5%, and 8% to 6%,
beam lengths considered are also given in Table 6. The value of Lr respectively. These values verify that all three methods are very
depends on flange width and consequently is variable. The un- similar in predicting the distortional buckling moments of I-
braced length Lb is chosen such that it is always larger than Lr in beams. On the other hand, and according to the AISC equation,
order to ascertain the elastic buckling behavior. the reduction in the elastic buckling strength dramatically
The results of this parametric study are summarized in Table 7. increases from 15% to 51% as the flange width (flange slenderness)
Here, the lateral-torsional buckling moments dramatically decreases. By comparing the results, it can be concluded that in
decrease by decreasing the flange width (flange slenderness). this case, the AISC equation is highly conservative in predicting the
The reason for this is the decrease in some cross-sectional proper- distortional buckling of I-section beams. This conservatism will
ties effective in the lateral-torsional resistance such as warping consequently lead to uneconomical and over-estimated designs.
stiffness C w , torsional constant J, and moment of inertia of the The variation of M nDist =M y is given as a function of the different
cross-section about the plane of the web I y . ratios of M nBradford =M y in Fig. 9 for the range bf ¼ 133 to 400 mm:
Considering the results obtained from the complex FSM, The material properties and geometric data are the same as what
Bradford’s formula, and CUFSM software [24], it can be concluded is shown in Table 6. The diagram in Fig. 9 is almost a straight line
that by decreasing the flange width, the influence of web distor- with a constant slope in which the maximum of nominal distor-
tion on the cross-section decreases gradually as the nominal tional buckling moment is related to the highest flange width and
distortional and lateral-torsional buckling moments tend to be in contrast, the minimum of the buckling moment is related to the
close to each other. In other words, by decreasing the flange width, lowest flange width. For all values of flange width, distortional
the warping stiffness of the section also decreases and it makes the buckling moments of AISC equation are lower than those obtained
lateral-torsional buckling the dominant mode which occurs prior by Bradford’s formula which again proves that AISC equation is
H.R. Naderian et al. / Thin-Walled Structures 84 (2014) 289–301 299

conservative in predicting distortional buckling moments. Here, increases as the slenderness of the flange increases. It is worth
the diagram has a slope of about 0.98. Deriving an equation for the mentioning that the accuracy of the complex FSM in comparison
straight line with constant slope from the diagram and after some with Bradford’s formula decreases as the flange slenderness
mathematical manipulation, the AISC nominal distortional buck- increases.
ling moment can be modified as:
6.4. Efficiency of the proposed equations
M nDist2 ¼ 1:02 Rpg F crðJ ¼ 0Þ Sx ð49Þ
In order to investigate the accuracy of the proposed formulae,
In Fig. 10, the variation of the nominal distortional buckling
the modified distortional buckling moments of Eqs. (35) and (36)
moments normalized with the yield moment as well as normal-
for all of the beams of the former case studies are calculated and
ized lateral-torsional buckling moments are given as a function of
summarized in Table 8. The accuracy of the mentioned formulas is
the flange slenderness bf =t f . The geometric data are the same as
demonstrated by comparing with other numerical results in Table 8.
those shown in Table 6. Here, with the increase in the flange
It can clearly be seen that the distortional buckling moments of
slenderness, the nominal distortional buckling strength increases
Eqs. (35) and (36) in all cases are above the current AISC equation.
in all three methods including AISC equation, Bradford’s formula,
It means that with the new formulas, the distortional buckling
and the complex FSM. For all ratios of flange slenderness, the
strength is predicted to be higher and consequently it provides
maximum distortional buckling moment is related to the complex
economical advantage to use these formulas instead of Eq. (4).
FSM and the minimum values of distortional buckling are related
In order to streamline it even further, one can use the mini-
to the AISC equation. Distortional buckling moments obtained by
mum of Eqs. (35) and (36) for the distortional buckling moment of
Bradford’s formula are between those obtained through the AISC
slender web I-beams
equation and the complex FSM, and at the same time are very
close to the lateral-torsional buckling moments. Taking into M nDist3 ¼ minðM nDist1 ; M nDist2 Þ ð50Þ
account all of the features observed in Fig. 10, it can be concluded
Eq. (37) may thus be used by designers for estimating the
that the AISC code is very conservative in predicting the distor-
effects of web distortion in their designs.
tional buckling of I-beams. Moreover, the mentioned conservatism

7. Concluding remarks

This paper presents the results of a study on distortional

buckling behavior of steel I-section beams with slender webs. In
the first part of the study, a complex finite strip analysis of the
distortional buckling of beams was used to study the elastic
buckling behavior of slender web steel I-sections. The accuracy
of the finite strip procedure was demonstrated by testing it for
the elastic buckling of I-section beams under pure bending. Its
accuracy was also shown to be good when compared to other
established distortional buckling solutions for uniform bending,
while the convergence of the solution was rapid.
In the second part, a parametric study was made on the elastic
distortional buckling of I-section members under uniform bending.
A set of three dimensional parameters defining the cross-sectional
geometry and member lengths were introduced. A simple empirical
buckling formula was proposed for predicting the distortional
Fig. 9. Variation of distortional buckling moments for different flange widths. buckling moment of slender web I-beams based on the comparison

Fig. 10. Variation of nominal moments to flange slenderness.

300 H.R. Naderian et al. / Thin-Walled Structures 84 (2014) 289–301

Table 8
Comparison of the accuracy of the proposed formulas Eqs. (35) and (36) with other methods.

Cross-section number MnLTB/My MnDist/MnLTB MnFSA/MnLTB MnCUFSM/MnLTB MnBradford/MnLTB MnDist1/MnLTB (Eq. (35)) MnDist2/MnLTB (Eq. (36))

Beam1-1 0.78 0.88 0.88 0.94 0.90 0.96 0.90

Beam1-2 0.68 0.87 0.88 0.94 0.92 0.95 0.89
Beam1-3 0.59 0.85 0.90 0.94 0.93 0.93 0.87
Beam1-4 0.53 0.84 0.89 0.94 0.93 0.91 0.85
Beam1-5 0.43 0.80 0.88 0.94 0.95 0.88 0.82
Beam1-6 0.33 0.76 0.91 0.95 0.96 0.82 0.77
Beam1-7 0.25 0.69 0.92 0.95 0.97 0.76 0.71
Beam1-8 0.20 0.64 0.90 0.96 0.98 0.70 0.65
Beam1-9 0.17 0.60 0.94 0.96 0.98 0.65 0.61
Beam2-1 0.69 0.92 0.94 0.96 0.94 1.0 0.94
Beam2-2 0.70 0.91 0.94 0.96 0.93 1.0 0.93
Beam2-3 0.71 0.91 0.93 0.95 0.93 0.99 0.93
Beam2-4 0.71 0.90 0.93 0.95 0.92 0.98 0.92
Beam2-5 0.72 0.90 0.93 0.95 0.91 0.98 0.91
Beam2-6 0.73 0.89 0.92 0.94 0.91 0.97 0.91
Beam2-7 0.74 0.88 0.91 0.93 0.90 0.96 0.90
Beam2-8 0.74 0.88 0.92 0.93 0.89 0.96 0.89
Beam2-9 0.75 0.87 0.91 0.92 0.88 0.95 0.89
Beam3-1 0.82 0.85 0.90 0.92 0.90 0.92 0.86
Beam3-2 0.59 0.80 0.90 0.92 0.92 0.87 0.81
Beam3-3 0.40 0.73 0.90 0.91 0.93 0.80 0.74
Beam3-4 0.25 0.62 0.92 0.92 0.94 0.68 0.64
Beam3-5 0.14 0.47 0.93 0.94 0.95 0.51 0.47

of the current equation of the AISC code and the Bradford’s formula. Ix moment of inertia of the cross-section about the
The results were investigated and listed for a wide range of beam major axis
dimensions. The results were then used to develop a design rule to J torsional rigidity (St. Venant torsional constant)
approximate the elastic distortional buckling moment of slender L half-wavelength
web steel I-section beams. The derivation was based on the Lb laterally unbraced length
investigation of a broad range of web and flange slenderness values Lr limiting laterally unbraced length for the limit state of
and beam lengths within the distortional buckling zone. Authors inelastic lateral-torsional buckling
believe that the proposed formula is a suitable substitute for the M nDist nominal elastic distortional buckling strength predicted
present equation in the AISC code for the prediction of the nominal by the AISC
distortional buckling strength of doubly symmetric steel I-section M nDist1 modified distortional buckling moment of slender web
beams with slender webs. As the new formula provides less I-beams for AISC code (first formula)
conservative values, it would lead into more economical designs. M nDist2 modified distortional buckling moment of slender web
I-beams for AISC code (second formula)
M nDist3 modified distortional buckling moment of slender web
I-beams for AISC code
Appendix A. Nomenclature M nBradford nominal elastic distortional buckling strength predicted
by Bradford’s equation
aw the ratio of two times the web area in compression due M nLTB nominal elastic lateral–torsional buckling
to application of major axis bending moment alone to My yield moment about the axis of bending
the area of the compression flange components Rpg bending strength reduction factor
bf b width of bottom flange rt radius of gyration of the flange components in flexural
bf t width of top flange compression plus one-third of the web area in compres-
bw web depth sion due to application of major axis bending moment
C distance from the neutral axis to the most extreme alone
compression edge Sx elastic section modulus about the axis of bending
Cb moment-gradient factor for lateral-torsional buckling tf flange thickness
d full nominal depth of the section tw web thickness
E modulus of elasticity γ pcompact limiting slenderness parameter for compact flange
F buckling stress γ rnoncompact non-compact limit
F cr elastic critical stress
F crd elastic distortional buckling stress
F crðJ ¼ 0Þ elastic lateral-torsional buckling stress determined by
Eq. (5), which is the same as Eq. (3) with J taken equal References
to zero
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