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of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering

5-8 juin 2002 / June 5-8, 2002

C. R. Franchuk, R. G. Driver, G. Y. Grondin

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Alberta, Canada

ABSTRACT: Relatively few tests have been conducted to determine the block shear capacity and

behaviour of coped steel beams. Furthermore, design standards are not consistent in the way they treat

this mode of connection failure and they may predict capacities significantly higher than the experimentally

determined failure loads. To address these issues, 17 full-scale tests were conducted on coped wide

flange beams with bolted double angle header connections. Parameters considered in the study include

beam end rotation, bolt layout, end and edge distances, and bolt diameter. All specimens failed in block

shear. Load vs. deformation plots are presented and the capacities are compared to those predicted by

governing North American design standards. It was found that not all connection configurations are being

provided with an adequate level of safety. The test results also indicate that beam end rotation, a

parameter that has not been investigated explicitly in previous research, has no adverse effect on block

shear capacity.

1. INTRODUCTION

Block shear is a connection failure mechanism, most commonly associated with bolted connections, in

which a block of material is torn out in a combination of tensile and shear failure, as shown in Figure 1. In

coped beams, the removal of flange material increases the susceptibility of the web to block shear failure,

often making it the governing connection failure mode.

1

Historically, block shear failure of coped beams has not been well understood. Capacity equations are

largely based on tests of block shear in gusset plates, and although the two failure mechanisms are

similar, there are marked differences. The effects of beam end rotation and the asymmetric stress

distribution on the block that are not present in typical gusset plates may be influential in the load carrying

capacity of coped beams.

The block shear failure mode in coped beams was first identified by Birkemoe and Gilmor (1978), who

conducted tests on one coped and one uncoped beam, each with a double angle shear connection. These

tests were prompted largely by a significant increase in allowable bolt bearing stresses in the standards of

the day (e.g., CAN/CSA–S16–74), making certain connections more susceptible to failure by the tearing

out of a block of material. The test results showed a 24% reduction in strength due to the presence of the

cope and it was recognized that new design equations were required to account for this reduction.

Although the authors suggested that a combination of shear and tensile stresses acting over their

respective areas be used to predict the block shear capacity, they gave no definitive equation.

Further research completed by Yura et al. (1982) and Ricles and Yura (1983) increased the number of

coped beam laboratory tests by 12. Of these, ten failed in a block shear mode. In these tests, an increase

in end distance from 25 mm to 50 mm increased the capacity by 10% to 16%, while a similar increase in

edge distance yielded an increase in strength of 18% to 37%. Slotted holes caused a decrease in capacity

of 9% to 16%. In tests of two otherwise identical compact two-line connections, the number of bolt holes in

the shear failure plane had little effect on the connection capacity. This indicates that the shear

component of the connection resistance is developed on the gross section rather than the net section. The

authors suggested in their conclusions that more tests with three and four bolt patterns are required.

Aalberg and Larsen (2000) completed eight block shear tests on normal and high strength steel wide

flange beams—four each with single and double copes. The authors found no significant differences in

behaviour, with the onset of failure occurring at a similar displacement regardless of steel strength.

Ricles and Yura (1983) carried out linear elastic finite element analyses on nine coped beam models

consisting of eight two-line connections similar to their experimental investigation as well as one with a

single line of bolts. The connections were loaded to 445 kN and the elastic stress distributions over the

shear and tension faces were mapped. It was found that the stress distribution is approximately constant

over the shear area and varies either linearly or bi-linearly over the tension face.

Existing North American steel design standards overestimate the connection capacity of many of the tests

described above, and the relatively small number of coped beam test results available makes it difficult to

define a method that more closely reflects the true behaviour. The experiments that have been completed

have investigated a number of variables, but have neglected some important ones. For example, no tests

have taken beam end rotation into account and this factor may influence the strength of real connections.

This research program is intended to increase significantly the pool of available experimental data, as well

as to account for connection variables that have not yet been considered systematically. The program

includes variables that have been investigated previously such as bolt spacing, end and edge distances,

number of bolt rows and lines, and the effect of a double cope, as well as parameters that have not, such

as beam end rotation, bolt diameter, and section depth. (Bolt rows and lines are defined here as being

transverse and parallel, respectively, to the applied load.)

A total of 17 full-scale tests were completed, nearly doubling the total number of coped beam block shear

tests reported in the literature. In addition to laboratory testing, bolted coped beam connections will be

studied using non-linear finite element analysis to examine the stress distributions in the connection

region near the ultimate load. Numerical results for several of the laboratory specimens will serve to

validate the model. In addition, a parametric study will be undertaken to extend the limits of the variables

beyond those studied experimentally. Using the laboratory test results and finite element studies, a review

2

of existing design equations will be completed and, if required, a new capacity equation proposed. This

paper discusses only the experimental results.

3. LABORATORY TESTS

Since beam rotation at the connection was to be a variable in this study, a test apparatus that could

induce rotations at the test end in a controlled manner was required. As such, a hydraulic jack was used

at the opposite reaction, as shown in Figure 2, instead of the support condition used in previous research

that prevented vertical displacement. Lowering the jack as load was applied to the connection simulated

the rotation of the connection due to beam action. Load was applied to the beam specimen near the test

connection through a second hydraulic jack. Unwanted restraint was prevented at both jack locations

through the use of knife edge and roller assemblies. The connection load and connection moment were

calculated from statics using data obtained from load cells situated at the two jack locations. Lateral

supports were provided at the load and reaction points for all tests, as shown in Figure 2, and an

additional support was provided at the extended cope for the two bolt-line tests to ensure that web

buckling at the cope did not occur prior to block shear failure. Stiffeners were provided under the load

application point in order to prevent local web crippling in the beam.

Electronic measurements of vertical displacement were taken with cable transducers at four locations: top

of the beam at the connection, bottom of the beam at the connection, bottom of the beam at the load

point, and bottom of the beam at the reaction point. A clinometer was mounted on the beam web near the

connection to monitor and control connection rotation. A dial gauge was used to monitor lateral movement

3

of the top flange at the cope, and six strain gauges were mounted on the beam at midspan to provide a

means of verifying, through statics, that frictional forces developed at the brace points were negligible.

Each beam was connected, in turn, to the reaction column through a double L127x127x9.5 connection for

single bolt-line connections and a double bent 10 mm plate for two-line connections. New 19 mm or

25 mm diameter ASTM A325 bolts were used for all connections and the threads were not located in the

shear planes. The bolts were tightened to the snug-tight condition as defined in CSA standard S16.1. The

load was then applied slowly to the test beam with static readings being taken at regular intervals. Loading

continued until the connection capacity had dropped from the peak value by a significant margin. In the

cases where beam end rotations were imposed, the rotation was varied linearly with load up to the onset

of non-linear connection behaviour. At this point, the rotation was kept constant and the connection loaded

to failure.

A total of 17 specimens of two different section sizes were tested. A summary of the connection details is

shown in Figure 3. Various configurations were used to investigate variables including end distance, edge

distance, connection depth, net and gross areas, and bolt diameter. All bolt holes were punched and were

of standard size. Two series of tests on end rotation of single bolt-line connections were included, each of

which consisted of three tests of the same connection configuration at three different rotations. One test

was completed with no end rotation, one with an intermediate rotation (approximately 2° at ultimate), and

one with a large rotation (approximately 3° at ultimate). In addition, two different end rotations were

investigated for a two bolt-line connection configuration. Connections G1 and G2 were identical to assess

repeatability of the test results. Table 1 summarizes the groupings of test specimens within which only one

parameter is varied.

A2 – W410x46 J1 – W410x46

B1 – W410x46

B2 – W410x46

H1 – W410x46 G2 – W310x60

H2 – W410x46

Note: All dimensions in millimeters. All hole diameters 21 mm unless noted otherwise.

4

Table 1. Test Parameters Summary

Test Parameter Connection Values of Parameter

Designations

End Rotation B2 / B1 / A2 0° / 2.0° / 3.3°

F1 / H1 / H2 0° / 1.6° / 3.3°

C2 / J1 0° / 3.8°

Edge Distance B2 / E1 25 mm / 50 mm

End Distance B2 / E2 25 mm / 50 mm

Bolt Diameter C1 / D1 19 mm / 25 mm

Section Depth F1 / G1 / G2 W410 / W310 / W310

Connection Depth C1 / F1 229 mm / 175 mm

Gross Shear Area B2 / C1 2 2

1750 mm / 1603 mm

Number of Bolt Rows B2 / F1 4/3

Number of Bolt Lines C1 / C2 1/2

Double Cope E1 / D2 Single / Double

Tension coupon tests were completed on representative samples from each beam web. The coupons

were oriented perpendicular to the axis of the beam except for beam G. The reduced depth of the

W310x60 section necessitated cutting the coupons oriented parallel to the axis of the beam. Connection

designations having the same letter were located on opposite ends of the same test beam. All steel

conforms to CAN/CSA–G40.21 grade 350W.

Examples of typical block shear failure are shown in Figure 4. Test B1 shows the entire block fractured

from the web (block removed). This failure mode occurred in all but three of the tests. In tests C2, H1, and

H2, the block remained attached to the web through a small portion of the shear face. The tension crack

opened past the connection and continued loading caused further opening of the crack rather than

complete block fracture. In all cases, deformations of the bolts themselves as well as the connection

angles were negligible, indicating that the connection failure was confined to the beam web.

Test B1 Test C2

Load vs. deformation plots for all tests are shown in Figures 5 through 9. Plotted on the horizontal axis is

the difference between the deflections below and above the connection. This value includes only the

deformation of the web block and excludes bolt bearing and slippage deformations. In test D2, little block

shear deformation occurred due to the removal of the bottom flange. The horizontal axis for Figure 9,

therefore, is the deflection of the bottom of the connection.

5

700

600 A2

B1

500

Reaction, P (kN)

400

B2

300 A1

200

100

0

0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40

Block Shear Deformation, ∆1-∆2 (mm)

Figure 5. Load vs. Block Shear Deformation Response, Tests A1, A2, B1, and B2

700

600 J1

500

Reaction, P (kN)

400 C2

300

200

J2 (4 bolts)

100

0

0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40

Block Shear Deformation, ∆1-∆2 (mm)

Figure 6. Load vs. Block Shear Deformation Response, Tests C2, J1, and J2

700

600

500

Reaction, P (kN)

400 G1 H2

300 H1

200

F1

100 G2

0

0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40

Block Shear Deformation, ∆1-∆2 (mm)

Figure 7. Load vs. Block Shear Deformation Response, Tests F1, G1, G2, H1, and H2

6

700

600 E1

500

Reaction, P (kN)

D1 (3-25mm bolts)

400

300

E2 C1 (3 bolts)

200

100

0

0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40

Block Shear Deformation, ∆1-∆2 (mm)

Figure 8. Load vs. Block Shear Deformation Response, Tests C1, D1, E1, and E2

700

600

500 D2

Reaction, P (kN)

400

300

200

100 slip

0

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Connection Deflection, ∆1 (mm)

In some of the tests, conditions required that the load be removed and then reapplied. In test A1, a slight

movement of the test frame required that the connection be unloaded and the problem resolved. Re-

loading of the specimen caused web buckling to occur, preventing a full tear-out of the block. This is

reflected in the low connection deformation for this specimen, as shown in Figure 5. Test J1 was also

unloaded when the web began to buckle at the cope. An additional stiffener, cut to fit the slightly buckled

shape, was added at the cope and the specimen loaded to failure.

The test results indicate that end rotation has no adverse effect on block shear capacity. In fact,

increasing the end rotation tended to increase the connection capacity. It is also observed that in general,

end rotation has little effect on ductility and connection behaviour (the large connection deformations

observed in specimens C2, H1, and H2 can be attributed to the incomplete block tear-out depicted in

Figure 4). As expected, increased end distance increases capacity as does increased edge distance. The

reduced capacity of C1 over B2 is related to the reduced gross shear area since the two connections had

the same net shear and net tension areas, but C1 had an 8% smaller gross shear area than B2. This

observation supports the theory that the shear portion of block shear capacity should be determined using

the gross section. Bolt diameter does not appear to have any effect on strength as indicated by the failure

loads for tests C1 and D1, the difference of which can be accounted for by the slight differences in gross

shear area and material strength. Tests F1, G1, and G2 consisted of the same connection configuration

7

on different sized beams. The difference in load between the two sections is, for the most part, due to the

difference in web thickness. It is therefore concluded that connection strength is not significantly affected

by section depth. The double cope (D2) results in a reduction of strength when compared to the same

connection with a single cope (E1). However, the change to a shear failure mode (eliminating the tension

face which carries a significant portion of the load in E1) indicates that the amount of reduction is a

function of the depth of the bottom cope. Bolt spacing has little effect on connection behaviour, as seen in

tests C1 and F1. No significant change in behaviour is noted when the depth of the connection changes,

but the capacity increases due to the increased shear area in C1.

5. CAPACITY EQUATIONS

Although many block shear capacity equations have been proposed, Kulak and Grondin (2001) showed

that none of these provide an adequate level of safety for all connection configurations. Canadian and

American design standards use different criteria for the prediction of block shear capacity. These

equations are generally conservative for gusset plates and tension members but can give unconservative

results for coped beams.

The 1994 Canadian steel standard, CAN/CSA–S16.1–94, combines ultimate resistance of the tension

area with ultimate resistance of the shear area, both being calculated using the respective net areas:

Kulak and Grondin (2001) showed that in several cases this equation gives predictions for coped beams

that are unconservative, sometimes by a significant margin. Ricles and Yura (1983) proposed a linearly

varying stress distribution over the net tension area, which results in a lower predicted capacity. This

approach has been adopted for CAN/CSA–S16–01 where the block shear capacity is taken as the lesser

of the following two equations:

These equations provide more conservative results than Equation 1, although there is still significant

dispersion of the results. Equation 2 is applicable to 17 of the 36 existing tests, while Equation 3 applies

to the remaining cases.

The American Institute of Steel Construction Load and Resistance Factor Design specification uses two

equations:

These equations combine tensile and shear resistances based on their respective ultimate strengths.

Although the combination of ultimate tensile strength and gross shear yielding shown in the first part of

Equation 3 is logical, the qualifying statement effectively precludes it from being used. In the 36 existing

block shear tests, this equation is applicable only once. The first part of Equation 4 is applicable to

one-third of the cases and the upper bound of ultimate tensile and ultimate shear resistance applies for

the remaining tests.

8

Table 2 shows the test and predicted loads for the 17 tests from this research program. Predicted loads

are based on as-built connection configurations and measured material properties, and resistance factors

are taken as 1.0 (the constant 0.85 in Equation 1 is considered to be part of the resistance factor). Values

of test/predicted greater than 1.0 are conservative. Although the equations are, in general, conservative in

their capacity predictions, there are cases where they are unconservative. For example, test J2 has a

test/predicted ratio of 0.86 for the S16.1–94 equation, representing an over-estimation of capacity by 16%.

Connection Fy Fu Test Load CAN/CSA–S16.1–94 CAN/CSA–S16–01 AISC LRFD 1999

Designation (MPa) (MPa) (kN) Predicted Test Predicted Test Predicted Test

Load (kN) Predicted Load (kN) Predicted Load (kN) Predicted

A1 361 519 439 428 1.03 403 1.09 428 1.03

A2 361 519 496 424 1.17 399 1.24 424 1.17

B1 367 513 514 417 1.23 395 1.30 417 1.23

B2 367 513 475 420 1.13 394 1.21 420 1.13

C1 366 516 402 425 0.95 376 1.07 425 0.95

C2 366 516 537 613 0.88 471 1.14 613 0.88

D1 377 523 448 419 1.07 389 1.15 419 1.07

D2 * 377 523 529 402 1.32 402 1.32 402 1.32

E1 370 522 568 516 1.10 445 1.28 504 1.13

E2 370 522 517 477 1.08 452 1.15 477 1.08

F1 367 517 324 308 1.05 282 1.15 308 1.05

G1 368 479 379 323 1.17 297 1.27 323 1.17

G2 368 479 387 321 1.21 298 1.30 321 1.21

H1 355 429 324 254 1.28 234 1.39 254 1.28

H2 355 429 341 255 1.34 234 1.46 255 1.34

J1 378 515 667 630 1.06 497 1.34 630 1.06

J2 378 515 338 395 0.86 274 1.23 395 0.86

Mean - - - - 1.11 - 1.24 - 1.11

* Double cope specimen failed in pure shear.

When considering all 36 coped beam block shear tests, the mean test/predicted ratios reduce to 1.03,

1.23, and 1.04 for S16.1–94, S16–01, and AISC 1999, respectively. As well, the equations can over-

estimate capacity by as much as 69% when considering all tests. Thus, the existing design equations are

providing neither a sufficient nor a consistent level of safety for coped beam connections, although the

S16–01 equations provide the most conservative predictions.

This experimental program has expanded the total number of tests on coped beams significantly and has

considered many connection variables. Factors such as end distance and bolt spacing affect capacity in

coped beams in a similar manner as they do gusset plates. One parameter that has not been studied

previously and is unique to beam connections is the effect of end rotation. It was found that end rotation

has no adverse effect on the block shear capacity of coped beam connections and can therefore be

neglected in connection design.

As a complement to the experimental program, a non-linear finite element model is currently under

development for simulating block shear failure in coped beams. The model will be validated using results

from the laboratory test connections. A parametric study will examine values of connection parameters

beyond those tested, making the study applicable to a wide range of connections. Stress distributions

along the shear face and tension face near ultimate will be mapped and, from this, a relationship between

important connection variables and capacity will be formulated.

9

Prior to this test program, insufficient data existed to predict accurately the load carrying capacity of coped

beams. With the addition of these 17 full-scale tests and the forthcoming non-linear finite element results,

a better understanding of the connection behaviour and failure mechanism will be obtained. Then, an

improved capacity equation can be developed to determine a safe level of loading for these connections.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The authors thank Supreme Steel Ltd. for their donation of all test specimens. Additional financial support

from the Steel Structures Education Foundation, the C.W. Carry Chair in Steel Structures at the University

of Alberta, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council is gratefully acknowledged. The

authors also acknowledge the considerable groundwork conducted by Prof. G.L. Kulak that formed the

foundation for this project.

REFERENCES

Aalberg, A. and Larsen, P.K. (2000) Strength and Ductility of Bolted Connections in Normal and High

Strength Steels, The Seventh International Symposium on Structural Failure and Plasticity, Melbourne,

Australia.

American Institute for Steel Construction (1999) Load and Resistance Factor Design Specification for

Structural Steel Buildings, AISC, Chicago, Il, USA.

Birkemoe, P.C. and Gilmor, M.I. (1978) Behavior of Bearing Critical Double-Angle Beam Connections,

Engineering Journal, AISC, 15(4): 109-115.

Canadian Standards Association (1974,1994,2001) CAN/CSA–S16.1 Limit States Design of Steel

Structures, CSA, Rexdale, ON, Canada.

Kulak, G.L. and Grondin, G.Y. (2001) Block Shear Failure in Steel Members – A Review of Design

Practice, Engineering Journal, American Institute of Steel Construction, 38(4): 199-203.

Ricles, J.M. and Yura, J.A. (1983) Strength of Double-Row Bolted-Web Connections, Journal of Structural

Engineering, ASCE, 109(1): 126-142.

Yura, J.A., Birkemoe, P.C., and Ricles, J.M. (1982) Beam Web Shear Connections: An Experimental

Study, Journal of the Structural Division, ASCE, 108(ST2): 311-325.

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