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Lessons from the design of the GLA building RC core

Andy Pye BG4

September 2000

This overview of the design and construction of the GLA core is given as a set of
learnt points. Looking at these points now, some seem terribly obvious. However, I
am still close enough to the beginning of the process to know that having had this list
then would have saved a lot of time and money.

I originally made the list as a personal record to prompt better design the next time
that I designed a core. However, despite being specific to the GLA building several
people have found these notes useful for their projects.

It is important to remember that the notes are not a statement of how things should
be done. The are just a record of what I thought was appropriate to my problem.
Accordingly we can expand and correct this note to cover other aspects of core
design and to include other people's views. Over to you.

1.1 Check the core section elastically using a reduced I-value

Calculate the I-value of the core at a typical cross-section allowing for doorways and
major service penetrations. (If the arrangement of penetrations at the base of the core is
significantly different, for example if there are additional service penetrations, then
calculate the I-value here.) The additions of holes in a core mean that plane sections do
not remain plane. A judgement needs to be made about how this will affect the stiffness.
On the GLA building the core, as finally analysed, was 20 percent less stiff than the I-
value of the typical cross-section.
A core should be designed to work elastically at ultimate loads in order to limit
cracking. Therefore the extreme fibre stresses should be calculated assuming a linear
stress distribution and the reinforcement calcula ted accordingly. At this stage it is
probably best to keep the reinforcement below 2% of the cross sectional wall area.

N ult M ult ⋅ y σ
σf = ± f Extreme fibre stress
A 80% I
N ult Axial force
A Typical cross-sectional area

M ult Overturning moment

y Distance from centroid to outside face

of furthest wall

80%I Value of second moment of area at

typical cross section, reduced to take
account of penetrations
1.2 Ignore walls with a very large number of penetrations
…such as lift lobby walls, Figure 1.1. These walls may be built from blockwork. Even
if they are built in concrete you will not realise the stiffness predicted by a simple
I-value calculation.
1.3 Ignore out-stand walls that you will not be able to stabilise
Out-stand walls with service openings either side can prove very difficult to stabilise, so
think twice before relying on them for stability, Figure 1.2.
1.4 Check the lateral deflections with the lift designer
Determine the core deflections early on. Conventional lifts are very sensitive to
verticality and contractors will be concerned if the core moves appreciably after the lifts
have been installed. Note that the elastic modulus of cracked sections is less than the
default values given in GSA.
1.5 Consider how the position of slab edges and cladding are specified
If your core has a permanent imposed deflection consider how this affects the setting
out of the cladding and floorplates. Are your co-ordinates absolute, with reference to a
fixed mark on the ground, or relative, with reference to the core?
Wall is likely to be slender in Wall stabilised by diaphragm
compression action of floor

Left: Figure 1.1, Lift lobby walls should be omitted from

I-value calculations at concept design.
Above: Figure 1.2 Ignore out-stand walls that will be
difficult to stabilise.
1.6 Where possible keep services outside the core
This will drastically reduce the number of penetrations and will improve the structural
efficiency of the core. This is of particular benefit where there is a lag between the
design of the structure and the services. It will also help to avoid late changes on site.
However, if you need to mobilise the diaphragm action of a floorplate make sure that
there are not so many service penetrations around the core that you cannot achieve the
requisite connectivity.
1.7 Do not position openings at the corners of the core walls
…as this reduces the stability of the wall adjacent to the opening.

Poor Good
Figure 1.3, Do not position openings at the corners of core walls.
1.8 Where possible avoid transfer beams
If you cannot avoid a transfer beam ensure that it is deep enough to transfer the forces
and remember to pay special attention to its design during the analysis stage.
Figure 1.4, Where possible avoid transfer beams
1.9 Watch what happens at the top of lift shafts
What happens will depend on the type of lift you have. As a general rule lift contractors
will want to sit lift steels on, or in, the core wall. A single lift could have up to four lift
steels each requiring two oversize holes, perhaps 500 square. If the top of your core
supports any other structure, such as a roof or a terrace floor, then make sure that this is
co-ordinated with the requirements of the lift contractor.

2.1 Build the analysis model as late as possible

However you build and post-process the core model it is likely to take a considerable
amount of time. Making large numbers of changes could take even longer though! At
the time you build the model you must have a full set of co-ordinated elevations.
Develop a numbering system that will allow you to identify where particular nodes and
elements are and, where absolutely necessary, will allow you to make changes.
2.2 Incorporate small holes by inspection
Basically do anything to make building your model easier. Omit small holes, move
holes and combine holes. Use your engineering judgement and where necessary produce
a small study on a local area. What constitutes small will depend on the geometry of
your core. On the GLA building holes smaller than 750 mm were either omitted or were
combined with a nearby hole.
2.3 Use a stick model (Personal Preference)
There are two basic methods available to analyse a core. A stick model describes the
core as a series of column and spandrel elements and uses stiff beams to connect them
together. A description of this technique can be found in Analytical Modelling of
Structural Systems (Macleod 1990). Care must be taken where there is a deep beam.
Also make sure that wall elements take no torsion or out of plane bending. The benefit
of this method is that post-processing the model is a simple case of designing beams in
combined bending and compression, see note 2.4.
The second method of analysis is to use 2D plate elements. This technique has the
benefit of looking realistic, this makes checking the geometry easy. How easy it is to
construct will depend on the modelling software used. It is important that the mesh is
adequately fine and as a general rule better results will be obtained from using a small
number of parabolic, 8 node, elements than a greater number of linear, 4 node,
elements. The most difficult part of this method comes in converting the pattern of
stresses to a pattern of reinforcement. Some software will do this for you, otherwise you
could use RC2D developed by AR&D. Either way you would be well advised to read
Ian Feltham’s note on Reinforcing concrete for in-plane forces, 1989NST_7.
2.4 Design walls elastically to the IStructE/ICE green book (stick model method)
Reinforce walls for the extreme fibre stress, see note 1.1. The green book suggests that
you place all the reinforcement necessary to carry the tension triangle in the first half of
the tension zone.
1 σ ft ⋅ l ⋅ b
As .req = 2
0. 95σ y

Distribute As.req over a length 0.5l.

Figure 2.1, Design walls elastically to

the IstructE/ICE green book
If compression steel is required this can be designed in a similar manner. Minimum
reinforcement will extend for the full length of the wall. This calculation could be
incorporated into a spreadsheet.
Although it would be unusual to have a problem you should also check beam shear.
Note that this method of analysis will result in heavier reinforcement than the equivalent
2D element analysis.
2.5 Produce at least one fully worked through hand calculation of your post-processed
Your results will inevitably be post-processed in a spreadsheet or using some specialist
software. Include a full printout of the results in your calculations, label all entries, do
not hide any cells and produce at least one fully worked through hand calculation. You
should also make several spot checks, especially if you are using a spreadsheet.
2.6 Beware of walls in permanent tension, E may be <<14N/mm2
ADSEC is very useful for calculating the stiffness of cracked sections. Make sure you
use ICE Tech Note 372, see Sarah Meldrum’s note on ADSEC, 1989NST_13. Using
this as a basis you could reduce E globally or else re-model walls in permanent tension
as a different material with a lower E.
2.7 Use the CIRIA deep beam guide
The guide is very good at giving an overview of deep beam design. However, I have
found it lacking in the common case of a deep beam with indirect supports. I have
developed the following method; based upon the notes in the guides.

c1 + c2
h a is the lesser of 1.2l 0 and l 0 +
Calculate the midspan moment assuming a simple support,
M ult = ( Top + Bottom Load) ×

M ult
Tie force = , ∴ calculate As .tie .steel
0. 6 ⋅ ha

Consider equilibrium at supports,

Assume tie force to indirect supports acts over a width of 0.2h a . Therefore calculate This should be placed horizontally and vertically to a height of 0.5h a .
Calculate the area of steel necessary to suspend the bottom load, As.vert.tie. Now check the
compression in the arch and in the indirect support. The reinforced section will look
something like;
3.1 Specify long lap lengths
In the bar-bending schedule add an extra 100 mm to the required lap lengths. This gives
the fixers some tolerance on site and avoids your being asked to accept a short lap
3.2 Do not vary bar sizes unnecessarily
Try to use the same size bar for the full length of a wall. Changing bar size every few
metres makes fixing more difficult and leads to mistakes on site.

3.3 Make sure your detailing accommodates the need of the jump form/slip form
The contractor’s system for supporting the formwork and the working platforms may
need cast-in bolts or pockets. It is easier to incorporate these at detail design than on
3.4 Specify the detail you require at the intersection between walls
The contractor may chose to fabricate reinforcement cages on the ground and then lift
them into place. If this is the case it will be more difficult to place four vertical bars
inside the horizontal reinforcement, see Figure 3.1a. More likely you will get what is
shown in Figure 3.1b and if you ask for the four bars inside the knuckle it will be
achieved by adding extra bars, Figure 3.1c.
3.5 Watch Kwikastrip on external corners
Kwikastrip, also known as Conner Bar, is a proprietary system of pre-bent pullout bars,
commonly used at the junction between walls and slabs. Note that because of the U-bar,
which should extend into the full depth of the wall, you cannot have Kwikastrip on both
faces of an external corner. In this scenario consider whether 1 you can manage without a
pullout bar on one face, 2 you want to use a loose pullout bar that will fit inside the U-bar
on the adjacent face (this is awkward and the contractor will not like it), 3 you should use
a resin grouted, post-fixed, starter bar
(a) (b) (c)

Figure 3.1, Reinforcement details at intersections of walls.

3.6 Watch out for short lengths of Kwikastrip
It is not possible to supply Kwikastrip
in very short lengths because of the
way it is folded, Figure 3.2. Use loose
pullout bars or use an overlong length
of Kwikastrip and once the wall is cast
cut off the bars not used and make
Figure 3.2, Kwikastrip is supplied in
minimum lengths

3.7 Meet the detailer early on

Whether you are using the Arup detailing group or contractor detailing meet the detailer
early on. A misunderstanding in your instructions will result in a considerable amount
of abortive work if not caught straight away. Ask if you can see the very first drawing
rather than waiting to see the whole core!
3.8 Ensure good information flow
Make sure that your detailer has the very latest information as soon as possible. That
could be your detailing instructions or the core GA’s. If it is not your direct
responsibility to issue the information to the detailer then give them a telephone call and
make sure that they have received it. If you have a construction manager, a concrete
contractor and a subcontractor-detailer the information flow can take a very long time.
3.9 Use larger diameter bars adjacent to openings and at corners and free ends
This is good detailing practice and gives additional robustness, see Figure 3.3.
Figure 3.3, Large diameter bars at corners, door openings and ends

3.10 Bend spandrel steel up above openings and down below openings
The compression forces that occur
behind the bend in the spandrel steel
are better confined in this arrangement.
If this is not possible then consider
using a terminator, see Figure 3.4.

Figure 3.4, Develop an appropriate

anchor detail for spandrel steel. Never
anchor spandrel steel into column strip
adjacent to an opening.

3.11 Be aware that the contractor will prefer to reinforce from the inside out
This gives the steel fixers more room to work and makes lifting materials easier. The
use of particularly large cast-in plates that need to be bolted to the external shutter may
make this impractical.
3.12 Beware of placing Unistrut on the closing face of a wall
It is very difficult to guarantee the position of Unistrut, Halfen Channel, etc. when on
the closing face of a wall. If tied to the reinforcement the Unistrut can be knocked when
offering up the closing shutter and the Unistrut may not sit flush against the face of the
shutter. Nailing the Unistrut to the closing shutter is equally difficult because the cast-in
legs will invariably clash with the placed reinforcement making it impossible to close
the shutter.
3.13 Watch out for areas of water tight concrete
Whilst most of your concrete construction will be conventional watch out for any areas
in the basement that may need to be water tight construction.
3.14 Allow for bending tolerances
Allow something like ± a bar diameter when checking the reinforcement in heavily
reinforced sections.
3.15 Make sure that the architect has the chance to check any dimensions and levels on
detailing drawings
Architects will often ignore, or not even be given reinforcement drawings. This is
unfortunate because architects are often very good at spotting setting out errors and it is
well worth asking them to check the drawings. It also signals that you are very nearly at
construction and that changes are not welcome.
3.16 Allow extra time for checking the first set of drawings
The first set of drawings will most likely take a long time to check. You may be out of
the practice of checking reinforcement drawings and it may take time to become
accustomed to the detailers drawing style. Most importantly errors not caught here will
be reproduced throughout the whole core.


4.1 Check that the connection to all slabs, beams, etc. have been detailed
At the time the core is being detailed the connecting slabs, beams, etc. may not have
been designed. You must check for all likely connections and request details from the
designers of those elements. Post-fixing T12’s might be a possibility, post-fixing T25’s
is definitely not!
4.2 Use threaded couplers for connecting large diameter bars
If you cannot drill through the shuttering, fairly normal, then threaded couplers are a
very good way of connecting main bars for beams. It is better to use a few large
diameter bars rather than a lot of smaller diameter bars because couplers are difficult
install. Make due allowance for the diameter of the coupler, which will be considerably
larger than the bar. The threaded coupler needs to be plugged to make sure that it is not
filled with concrete and must be placed hard against the shutter.
4.3 Double -up reinforcement in areas of post-fix bolted connections
If you know that you will be using post-fixed bolted connections in a particula r location
then double-up the reinforcement. This way you can design for drilling through a certain
amount of reinforcement.

4.4 Ensure sufficient anchorage behind cast-in plates

Most modelling techniques will not be sufficiently refined to model the reality of what
happens behind a cast-in plate. In the absence of further guidance ensure that there is
sufficient reinforcement to transfer any horizontal forces to the opposite end of the wall.
On the GLA building we assumed that bars falling within a 45° cone of the anchors bars
would be mobilised provided that the horizontal reinforcement was closed by a
horizontal U-bar, see Figure 4.1. Vertical forces need to be carried by an identified
column strip and the moment resulting from the eccentricity of the cast-in plate and the
centre of the column strip should be allowed for.
Figure 4.1, Anchorage behind cast-in plates
4.5 Draw all details.
Describing details as handed might be quick in the office but can lead to mistakes on

5.1 Request that stock steel be kept on site

When you have to issue a late detailing instruction sourcing steel from site-stock will
save your client a considerable amount of money. If appropriate you could also request
that the contractor have a bar-bending machine available. This is feasible for bars up to
T20 and should allow you to detail yourself out of most problems.

5.2 Watch that concrete wagons properly mix their load before concrete is placed
At the batching plant the concrete wagon will spin at mixing speed for ten minutes but
during travel it only spins at idling speed. As a result it is possible that some segregation
may occur and the wagon should be spun at mixing speed for a further two minutes
before any concrete is dispatched. This is not always done because it lengthens the turn-
around time and causes wear on the wagon.
5.3 Do not discharge grout used to prime the concrete pump into the wall
A concrete pump has to be primed before concrete can be pumped through it. This is
normally done with a mixture of cement and water. This mix should be discharged into
a skip on the working platform.
5.4 Do not allow concrete to fall from the pumping pipe
If falls it may segregate on impact. A flexible hose that extends to the bottom of the
pour should always be used.

5.5 Ensure sufficient vibration

Unless you are using self-compacting concrete it will be necessary to vibrate the
concrete to ensure good compaction. The number of pokers used to vibrate the concrete
will depend on the concrete mix and the type of poker used. However, for most concrete
pours on the GLA, for slabs as well as walls, we had three or four vibrators per 8m3
wagon load of concrete. The pokers should be continually moved around the whole
pour. They should not be left dropped in one location for five minutes. If there is a
break between concrete wagons it is not necessary to continue vibrating the concrete
during the waiting period. However, it is important that the concrete continues to be
vibrated for a few minutes after the last concrete has been pumped to ensure that this
concrete is suitably compacted.
5.6 Agree benchmark panels for reinforcing and concrete finish
This should be done at an early stage on a good, but reproducible, area of work.
Benchmarks can also be agreed for complex reinforced details. Our only concern is the
structural performance and integrity of the wall, the architect may wish to establish
benchmarks for other reasons.

5.7 Arrange inspections the day before the pour

This requires some discipline but it makes the inspection far more relaxed and increases
the chances of your getting necessary remedial work done to your satisfaction.
5.8 Write a checking list for inspections
There can be quite a few things to check on inspections. Most mistakes are likely to be
made at the beginning of the job, unfortunately this is the time when you are least up to
speed on what needs checking. Also try to look at the drawings before you go onto site.
Make time to note what is different in this pour and then check that it has been properly
5.9 Record inspections with a digital camera
You should keep a notebook with the date, location and observations made in each
inspection. It is also useful to have a digital camera with you too. If you need to write a
note about something it is very useful to include a picture of what you are talking about.
5.10 Decide your requirements for testing post-fixed re -bar before you are asked
Whether it is your fault or not, somebody will want to resin fix re-bar into the core at
some point. If installed properly these anchors are very effective but you need to test a
sample to establish the workmanship. It is also worth noting that the contractor can buy
the testing equipment needed to perform these tests for about the same price as having a
Hilti engineer on site for a day. If the contractor can perform the test they are more
likely to agree to your testing regime. However, you should make sure that the load cell
has been recently calibrated and you should witness some of the tests.

5.11 Do not allow welding of re -bar

As a general rule re-bar should not be welded because of the way that the heat modifies
the metallurgic structure of the bar. Re-bar should not be flame cut for the same reasons.
If re-bar is to be welded there should be a full method statement and a certified welder
must carry out the welding.
5.12 Consider the use of water jetting for remedial works
Water jetting is a good method of removing bad concrete without damaging
reinforcement. The weaker the concrete the easier it will be to water jet. However, water
jetting is dangerous and nobody other than the operator can work in area of demolition.
Also water jetting is very noisy.
5.13 Consider the use of self-compacting concrete for awkward repairs
Self-compacting mixes have a very watery consistency and will flow and carry
aggregate to all parts of the pour. The admixture used for self-compacting concrete
increases the cost of a typical metre cube of concrete by £10.
5.14 Allow the use of plastic spacers in none water retaining concrete
Circular plastic spacers, sometimes called wagon wheels, are very easy to fix and give a
definite cover. They give you greater confidence and because they are so easy to fix
your are likely to get enough to give you the cover you want.
5.15 Insulate freshly poured concrete in cold weather
Normally the shutters and the hydration of cement will be enough to maintain the
concrete temperature above 5°C whilst curing. However, if the programme necessitates
the jumping of the shutters before the concrete has had three or four days cure it should
be insulated to keep the temperature above 5°C.

5.16 How do you check a bar in a threaded coupler?

Threaded couplers are very good apart from the fact that you cannot tell how much
thread is in the coupler! Where possible get the couplers factory threaded. If not, inspect
the threaded bars on site and insist that the length of thread on all bars is the same.
Perform some spot checks by getting the contractor to remove some threaded bars and
checking the threaded length. Make sure that the couplers and the threaded bars are
kept as clean as possible. That way the threads will not be damaged.
5.17 Be aware that the contractor will aim to prefabricate walls on the ground
This is good and should increase the speed and quality of erection. Just watchout for the
points 3.1 and 3.4.
5.18 Ensure that the contractor has inspected the reinforcement before you make an
The contractor will be required to make a check of any work before it is offered up. You
are not there to do their work for them. If a contractor repeatedly makes the same
mistakes or if they offer you unfinished or untidy reinforcement you should refuse to
inspect it.

5.19 Minimise the number of site inspections

Make sure that the contractor understands that your time is valuable and that you have
several aspects of the construction to monitor. Try to limit inspections to one a day and
co-ordinate inspections so that you can see as much as possible on one visit.

5.20 Beware of bars in the next pour which are anchored in the pour below
Occasionally there may be bars in the next pour that need to be anchored in the current
pour. These are unusual but that makes them all the easier to forget. The most common
case of this are diagonal bars around doorways.