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Chapter 1

Design For Torsion

Structural concrete members are often subjected to torsional moments in addition to
bending moments and axial or shear forces.

Torsion develops in structural members as a result of asymmetrical loading, member

geometry, or structural framing. In complex structures such as helical stairways, curved
beams, and eccentrically loaded box girders, torsional effects dominate the structural

Unlike shear, which is a two-dimensional (2D) problem, torsion is a three-dimensional

(3D) problem, involving both the shear problem of membrane elements and the warping
of the cross section.
The diagonal tension stresses produced by
torsion are very similar to those caused by shear.
But they occur on all the faces of the member;
hence, they have to be added to the stresses
caused by the shear on one face whereas
subtracted from the stresses on the other face.

As the torsional cracks spiral around the

beams, it is necessary to provide closed stirrups
as well as additional longitudinal reinforcement,
especially at the corners of the faces of the
Torsional failure of columns of Mianyang
beams. Airport Viaduct during the M7.9
Wenchuan Earthquake, May 12, 2008
(source: FHWA-HRT-11-029)
Equilibrium and Compatibility Torsion
Primary torsion, also called equilibrium torsion or statically determinate torsion, exists
when the external load has no alternative load path but must be supported by torsion (see
Figs 8.1a and b). For such cases, the torsion required to maintain static equilibrium can be
uniquely determined from statics alone.

Secondary torsion, also called compatibility torsion or statically indeterminate torsion,

occurs due to the requirements of continuity, that is, due to compatibility of deformation
between the adjacent elements of a structure (see Fig. 8.1d). Torsional moments cannot
be found based on static equilibrium alone. The beams in a grid structure also have
compatibility torsion.
Equilibrium and Compatibility Torsion

Disregard to compatibility torsion in the design will often lead to extensive cracking, but
generally will not cause collapse. An internal readjustment of forces will take place and an
alternative equilibrium of forces will be found.

The amount of torsion in a member depends on its torsional stiffness in relation to the
torsional stiffness of the interconnecting members.
Fig. 8.1 Structural elements subjected to torsion (a) Beams
supporting cantilevered canopy slabs (b) Cantilever beam
supporting eccentric load (c) Box-girder bridges (d) Edge
beams in framed structures (e) Circular ring beams
Structures Subjected to Torsion

Fig. 8.2 Structures subjected to torsion (a) Curved continuous beams or box girders in
Bandra–Worli sea link bridge (b) Helicoidal girders
Torsion in Curved Beams
Curved beams (e.g., ring beams under circular water tanks supported by columns) are
subjected to bending and torsion. The magnitude and distribution of the bending and
torsional moments along the circumference are influenced by the number of supports
and the radius of the curved beam.
A typical curved beam circular in plan and supported by eight columns is shown in Fig.
8.3(a) (in the following slide). By considering Fig. 8.3(b), the maximum positive and
negative bending moments and the torsional moments can also be determined.
Torsion in Curved Beams
The critical sections for design are the support sections subjected to
maximum negative and positive bending moments and the sections
subjected to maximum torsion associated with some shear force; at this
section, the bending moment will be zero. Hence, it has to be designed
for combined torsion and shear.

The magnitude and position of maximum positive and negative

bending moments and torsional moments in a semicircular beam
supported on three equally spaced supports can be similarly
Torsion in Curved Beams

Fig. 8.3 Beams curved in plan (a) Ring beam supported on eight columns (b) Position of
maximum moments
Torsional Analysis
Elastic Analysis

This theory is applicable to homogeneous material such as steel of

prismatic circular, non-circular, and thin-walled cross sections. From this
theory, it may be observed that torsion causes shear stresses. In non-
circular sections, there is considerable warping of the cross section and
the plane sections do not remain plane, as shown in Fig. 8.4.

Because of the advantageous distribution of shear stresses, thin-walled

tubular sections are more efficient in resisting torsion. The concept of
shear flow around the thin-walled tube is useful when the role of
reinforcement in torsion is considered.
Elastic Analysis

Fig. 8.4 Elastic torsional behaviour of rectangular beams (a) Beam subjected to torsion
(b) Warping of the cross section (c) Torsional stress (d) Crack pattern
Elastic Analysis
In the case of compatibility torsion, if the spandrel beam as shown in
Fig. 8.1(d) is uncracked, the torsional moment carried by it may be very
large. As the beam cracks, the torsional stiffness reduces considerably
and the beam will rotate, reducing the torsional moment carried by it.

Cracked section stiffness requires the knowledge of the steel

reinforcement. To solve this problem, Lampert (1973) and Collins and
Lampert (1973) proposed expressions for torsional rigidity of cracked
sections based on their studies.

As per Collins and Lampert (1973) the analysis can also be based on
zero torsional stiffness; such an analysis and the subsequent design
based on flexure and shear, neglecting torsion is satisfactory. However
torsional reinforcement increase ductility & distribute cracks.
Torsion in a Thin-walled Rectangular Tube

Fig. 8.5 Torsion in a thin-walled rectangular tube (a) Thin-walled tube (b) Area enclosed
by shear flow path
Torsional Analysis
Plastic Analysis

The value of stress to be used in the limit states design should be based on plastic
analysis, even though the assumption of fully plasticized section is not justifiable for
materials like concrete.

In plastic analysis, a uniform shear stress over the cross section is assumed, whereas
the elastic analysis shows a non-linear stress distribution, as shown in Fig. 8.4(c).
Plastic Analysis
The ultimate torque can now be easily obtained by using the sand
heap analogy, which is based on the
following principles:
1. Ultimate torque = Twice the volume of sand heap
2. Slope of sand heap = 2 × constant plastic shear stress

The ultimate torque of T-, L-, or I-sections can be obtained in a similar

manner by dividing them into component rectangles (see Fig. 8.6).
Plastic Analysis

Fig. 8.6 Sand heap analogy for different sections

(a) Rectangle (b) T-section (b) L-section (d) I-section
Behaviour of Plain Concrete Members
When a rectangular concrete beam is subjected to pure torsion, a state of pure shear
develops at the top and side faces of the beam, with direct tensile and compressive
stresses along the diagonal directions, similar to the beam subjected to shear.

The principal tensile and compressive stress trajectories form in orthogonal directions
at 45° to the axis of the beam. When the principal tensile stress reaches the value of
tensile strength of concrete, cracks form at the maximum stressed location centre of the
beam (at the middle of wider face).
Behaviour of Plain Concrete Members
These inclined cracks tend to extend around the member in a spiral
fashion, as shown in Figs 8.7(b) and 8.4(d).

Once the crack is formed, the crack will penetrate inwards from the
outer surface of the beam, due to the brittle nature of the concrete and
will lead to a sudden failure of the beam unless torsional reinforcements
are provided.
Stresses Caused by Torsion

Fig. 8.7 Stresses caused by torsion (a) Shear and principal stresses (b) Crack pattern
Behaviour of Beams with Torsional
The torsional reinforcements come into play only after the cracks form
due to diagonal tensile stresses. As the cracks spiral around the beam,
the best way to provide reinforcement is to have them in the form of
spirals to resist the tensile stresses.

However, it is impractical to provide such reinforcement. Hence,

usually torsional reinforcement is provided in the form of a combination
of longitudinal bars at the corners of the beam and stirrups placed
perpendicular to the beam axis. Since the cracks spiral around the
beam, four-sided closed stirrups are required.
Behaviour of Beams with Torsional
Once the crack is formed, the angle of twist increases without any
increase in the external torque, as the forces are redistributed to the
torsional reinforcement. Then, the cracking extends to the central core
of the member, rendering the central core ineffective. After this, the
failure may take several forms, such as the following:
1. The yielding of longitudinal reinforcement or the stirrups or
yielding of both at the same time
2. The crushing of concrete between the inclined cracks due to
principal compression before the yielding of steel

Ductile behaviour is achieved only when both the longitudinal and

transverse reinforcements yield prior to the crushing of concrete.
Plastic Space Truss Model

The design theory called the thin-walled tube or plastic

space truss model combines the thin-walled tube analogy
with the plastic truss analogy for shear and leads to simpler
calculations than the skew bending theory.
Design Strength in Torsion
In the case of solid and hollow beams, once cracking has occurred, the
concrete in the centre of the member has little effect on the torsional
strength of the cross section and can be ignored.

The beams can be considered to be equivalent tubular members.

Hence, solid members can be considered as equivalent tubes. The solid
rectangular or square beams may be idealized as a thin-walled tube as
shown in Fig. 8.8(a).
Design Strength in Torsion
This hollow trussed tube consists of closed stirrups forming transverse
tension tie members, longitudinal bars in the corners of the stirrups that
act as tension chords, and concrete compression diagonals, which spiral
around the member between the torsional cracks at an angle (which can
take load parallel to but not perpendicular to the torsional cracks), as
shown in Fig. 8.8(b).
Design Strength in Torsion
After torsional cracking develops, the torsional resistance is provided
mainly by a space truss consisting of closed stirrups, longitudinal bars,
and compression diagonals, as shown in Fig. 8.8(c).

The thickness of the walls of the imaginary tube representing a solid

member is large and is in the range of one-sixth to one-fourth of the
minimum width of the rectangular beam.
Fig. 8.8 Thin-walled tube or plastic space truss analogy (a) Thin-walled
tube analogy (b) Space truss analogy (c) Idealized section of the truss
Cracking Torque
In a tube wall, the concrete will crack when the tensile stress exceeds
the tensile strength of concrete. in this situation, concrete is under
biaxial tension and compression.
In the case of compatibility torsion (See Fig. 8.9), the design torsional
moment can be reduced, because there will be redistribution of internal
forces to other adjoining members after cracking. Here the designer can
reduce the design by an amount equal to the cracking torsion, given
by(ACI 318):
Threshold Torsion
• The Threshold Torsion, below which torsion can be
ignored in solid cross-section is (ACI 318):

•For thin walled hollow sections, it is given by:

Cracking Torque

Fig. 8.9 Example of an indeterminate structure where design torque can be

Consideration of Flanged Beams
For beams cast monolithically with a floor slab, the values Acp and pcp
should be calculated by including the parts of adjacent slabs of the
resulting T- or L-shaped beams (where Acp is the area of the full concrete
cross section and pcp is the perimeter of the full concrete cross section).

The width of the slab that should be included is shown shaded in Fig.
8.10 and should not exceed the projection of beam above or below the
slab or four times the thickness of slab whichever is smaller.
Consideration of Flanged Beams

Fig. 8.10 Consideration in the case of flanged beams

Area of Stirrups for Torsion
To find out the area of stirrups that is necessary to resist torsion, let us
consider Figs 8.8(b) and 8.11(a). The angle of the cracks is initially taken
at about 45° but may become flatter at higher torques. The ACI code
Clause suggests taking the angle as 45°, as this corresponds to
the assumed angle in the derivation of the equation for designing
stirrups for shear.

With reference to Fig. 8.8(b), the torsional resistance provided by the

member with a rectangular cross section can be found to be the sum of
the contributions of the shears in each of the four walls of the
equivalent hollow tube.
Area of Stirrups for Torsion
To find the torsional resistance, the shear flow or shear force per unit
length of the perimeter of the tube are obtained. Then the shear forces
acting in the right- and left-hand vertical walls of the tube and in the top
and bottom walls of the tube are determined. Assuming that the
stirrups crossing the crack are yielding, the shear in vertical walls are
Area of Stirrups for Torsion
Tests have shown that the concrete outside the stirrups is relatively
ineffective. Hence, the gross area enclosed by the shear flow path
around the perimeter of the tube after cracking may be defined in terms
of the area enclosed by the centre line of the outermost closed
transverse torsional reinforcement. Required area of stirrup steel:

When significant torsion is present, it is economical to select a larger

beam than a smaller one with closely spaced stirrups and longitudinal
steel required for the torsion design.
Stirrups for Torsion

Fig. 8.11 Stirrups for torsion (a) Closed stirrup in rectangular beam (b) Closed stirrup in T-beam section
Transverse Torsional Reinforcement

Fig. 8.12 Area enclosed by centre line of the outermost closed transverse torsional
reinforcement for rectangular, I, L, and box section beams
Area of Longitudinal Reinforcement for
The longitudinal reinforcement must be proportioned to resist the
longitudinal tensile forces that occur due to torsion. It is required to
distribute the longitudinal torsional steel around the perimeter of the
cross section.

Fig. 8.13 Free body of horizontal equilibrium

Longitudinal Steel & Capacity
• The required longitudinal steel is:

The capacity of rectangular cross-section is:

Limiting Crack Width for Combined Shear
and Torsion
The space truss analogy assumes that all the torsion is carried by the
reinforcements, without any torsion being carried by the concrete. The
codes often limit the maximum shear stresses (approximately τc,max
= 0.631 fck ) carried by stirrups in order to control the crack width
(where fck is characteristic cube compressive strength of concrete).

This concept is extended in the case of torsion too and an upper limit
of 0.6 fck plus the stress causing shear cracking is specified; this limit is
intended to control the crack width due to shear and torsion.

However, a better correlation is achieved when the square root of the

sum of the squares of nominal shear stresses is used.
Limiting Shear Stress
• The following equation is suggested for solid sections
with specified limit for crack control:
Limiting Crack Width for Combined Shear
and Torsion

Fig. 8.14 Addition of torsional and shear stresses (a) Hollow sections (b) Solid sections
Skew Bending Theory
The skew bending theory assumes that some shear and torsion is
resisted by the concrete and the rest by the shear or torsion
reinforcement. In this theory, the behaviour is studied on the basis of
the mechanism of failure, rather than on the basis of stresses.

Under the action of bending, the failure is vertical, with the primary
yielding of tension steel in under-reinforced beams and secondary
compression crushing of concrete.
Skew Bending Theory
The effect of adding even a little torque skews the failure surface. The
skewing is in the direction of the resultant moment–torque vector. The
compression face is at an angle θ to the vertical face of the beam cross

This compression failure can occur at the top, sides, or bottom of the
beam as shown in Fig. 8.15. Such a failure surface intersects some of the
stirrups, which essentially provide torsional resistance.

The tension steel may yield first followed by the stirrups. If both yield
before the crushing of concrete, the beam is under-reinforced. If the
concrete crushes before both types of steel yield, it is over-reinforced.
Skew Bending Theory
Beams with large bending moment and small torsion fail with the
compression fibres crushing at the top; this type of failure is termed as
Mode 1 or modified bending failure (Fig. 8.15a). Mode 1 is the most
common type of failure and likely to occur in wide beams, even if the
torsion is relatively high.

If the beam is narrow (D >> b) and deep with equal amounts of top
and bottom steel, the failure may be by crushing at the sides. This
failure is termed as Mode 2 or lateral bending failure (Fig. 8.15b).

If the top longitudinal steel is much less than the bottom steel, the
failure may occur by crushing at the bottom fibre. This type of failure is
termed as Mode 3 or negative bending failure (Fig. 8.15c).
Skew Bending Theory
Large torsion and low flexure may result in Mode 2 and Mode 3
failures. Large moment may force the Mode 1 failure. High shear and
low torsion sometimes result in Mode 4 failure. It is necessary to
investigate these several modes systematically and choose the lowest
capacity for a given beam.

In a square beam with symmetrical longitudinal reinforcement

subjected to pure torsion, the three modes will become identical.

The presence of shear in addition to the bending and torsion will

cause the beam to fail at a lower strength. The Indian code attempts to
prevent such a possibility and suggests to design the beam using the
concept of equivalent shear.
Skew Bending Theory

Fig. 8.15 Failure modes as per skew bending theory (a) Mode 1 (bending
and torsion) (b) Mode 2 (low shear–high torsion) (c) Mode 3 (low bending–
high torsion; weaker top steel) (d) Mode 4 (high shear–low torsion)
Interaction Curves for Combined Flexure
and Torsion
Torsion is normally accompanied by bending and shear. In general,
flexural and torsional shears are of significance in those regions where
the bending moment is low.

Tests on rectangular, L-shaped, and T-shaped beams have indicated

that a quarter circle interaction relationship is acceptable for members
without web reinforcement.

For members with web reinforcement, the interaction curve is found

to be flatter than the quarter circle. The behaviour of asymmetrically
reinforced beams may differ significantly from that of symmetrically
reinforced beams.
IS 456:2000 Provisions
Interaction Curves for Combined Flexure
and Torsion
In pure torsion, the additional bottom longitudinal steel available in
asymmetrically reinforced sections does not increase the ultimate
capacity because the weaker top steel is critical. The presence of
bending moment introduces compression in the weaker steel and
increases its resistance to the torsional shear stresses.

However, the presence of bending moment reduces the torsional

ductility of beams with symmetrical or asymmetric longitudinal steel. It
has to be noted that the presence of torsion invariably reduces the
flexural strength of RC members.
Torsion–Flexure Interaction Curves

Fig. 8.16 Torsion–Flexure interaction curves for asymmetrically

reinforced members with transverse reinforcement
Interaction Curves for Combined Shear
and Torsion

Fig. 8.17 Torsion–Shear interaction (a) Experimental results (b) Curves in the literature
Indian Code Provisions for Design of
Longitudinal and Transverse Reinforcements
The Indian code provisions are based on the simplified skew bending

In this approach, the longitudinal and torsional reinforcements are not
calculated separately. Instead, the total longitudinal reinforcement is
calculated based on a fictitious, equivalent bending moment, which is a
function of the actual bending moment and torsion.

Similarly, the transverse reinforcement is determined from a fictitious,

equivalent shear, which is a function of the actual shear and torsion.
Indian Code Provisions for Design of
Longitudinal and Transverse Reinforcements

In T-beams, the flanges are neglected and the beam is designed by
considering the rectangular web alone.

Clause 41.2 of the code also states that the sections located at a
distance less than the effective depth, d, from the face of the support
may be designed for the same torsion as computed at a distance d from
the support.
Equivalent Shear and Moment
For the case of pure torsion equal longitudinal reinforcement is
required at the top and bottom of the rectangular beam.
The equivalent B.M. and equivalent Shear are given by IS
456:2000 as (Clause 41.4.2):
Minimum Reinforcement for Torsion

In order to avoid a brittle torsional failure, a minimum amount

of torsional reinforcement (including both transverse and
longitudinal steel) is required in a member subjected to torsion.
Design of Transverse Reinforcements
The code assumes that both the longitudinal and transverse
steel reach design strength before failure occurs.
The area of two-legged closed stirrups are calculated as (Clause

The code also specifies the following minimum limit:

Distribution of Torsional Reinforcement
The longitudinal reinforcement for torsion should be placed as close as possible to
the corners of the cross section.
At least one longitudinal bar should be placed at the corners of the stirrups.
The hooks of the closed stirrup should be developed into the core with 135° bends
otherwise the corners of the beam may spall off.
Recommended Closed Stirrups for Torsion

Fig. 8.18 Recommended closed stirrups for torsion

Ineffective Closed Stirrups for Members
under High Torsion

Fig. 8.19 Ineffective closed stirrups for members under high torsion
Design and Detailing for Torsion as
per IS 456 Code
The following design steps are required for the design of flexural and
shear reinforcement as per IS 456:

1. Determine the equivalent bending moment, Me1 and equivalent


2. Calculate the required longitudinal steel for Me1.

Design and Detailing for Torsion as
per IS 456 Code
3. Check for shear. Calculate the equivalent shear stress, τ ve. The value
of τ ve should not exceed the value of τ c,max as given in Table 20 of
the code; if it exceeds, revise the section or increase the grade of

4. Calculate the transverse reinforcement.

5. Check the spacing: It should not exceed x1,
(x1 + y1)/4, and 300 mm

6. Check if side face reinforcement is required. If the size is greater than

450 mm, provide 0.05 per cent side face reinforcement at each face.
Graphical Methods
Two graphical methods have also been developed as follows:

1. Rahal developed a simplified method for combined stress

resultants based on the MCFT (Rahal 2007).

2. Leu and Lee (2000) proposed a graphical solution to the softened

truss model developed by Hsu (1988).
Rahal’s Method

Rahal’s graphical method is applied to beams

subjected to torsion by idealizing the section as a
hollow tube and by adopting simplified assumptions
regarding the thickness of the hollow tube and the
size of the shear flow zone.
Figure 8.20 gives the relationship between the
reinforcing indices and the normalized shear strength
obtained using the results of the MCFT.
Rahal’s Method
Figure 8.20 shows a curve passing through those points beyond which
concrete crushes before the transverse steel yields (over-reinforced
case). The figure also shows a similar curve for the over-reinforced case
in the longitudinal direction.

The two balanced yield curves divide the graph into four regions. The
relative position of a point of coordinates (reinforcing indices) with
respect to these curves or regions indicates the expected mode of
failure of an element with these reinforcement ratios.
Graphical Methods

Fig. 8.20 Normalized shear strength curve for RC members

Rahal’s Method
As shown in the figure, 4 modes of failure are possible:

1. Partially over-reinforced (only longitudinal steel yields, Mode 3)

2. Partially over-reinforced (only transverse reinforcement yields,

Mode 2)

3. Completely over-reinforced (concrete crushing before steel

yielding, Mode 4)

4. Completely under-reinforced (longitudinal and transverse steel

yield, Mode 1)
Other Considerations
The following are the other considerations that should be taken into
1. Maximum yield strength of torsional reinforcement

2. High-strength concrete

3. Lightweight concrete

4. Size effect

5. Precast L-shaped spandrel beams

Thank You!