Some Mooted Questions in Reinforced Concrete Design
by Edward Godfrey
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Paper No. 1169




Not many years ago physicians had certain rules and practices by which they were guided as to when and where to bleed a patient in order to relieve or cure him. What of those rules and practices to-day? If they were logical, why have they been abandoned?

It is the purpose of this paper to show that reinforced concrete engineers have certain rules and practices which are no more logical than those governing the blood-letting of former days. If the writer fails in this, by reason of the more weighty arguments on the other side of the questions he propounds, he will at least have brought out good reasons which will stand the test of logic for the rules and practices which he proposes to condemn, and which, at the present time, are quite lacking in the voluminous literature on this comparatively new subject.

Destructive criticism has recently been decried in an editorial in an engineering journal. Some kinds of destructive criticism are of the highest benefit; when it succeeds in destroying error, it is reconstructive. No reform was ever accomplished without it, and no reformer ever existed who was not a destructive critic. If showing up errors and faults is destructive criticism, we cannot have too much of it; in fact, we cannot advance without it. If engineering practice is to be purged of its inconsistencies and absurdities, it will never be done by dwelling on its excellencies.

Reinforced concrete engineering has fairly leaped into prominence and apparently into full growth, but it still wears some of its swaddling-bands. Some of the garments which it borrowed from sister forms of construction in its short infancy still cling to it, and, while these were, perhaps, the best makeshifts under the circumstances, they fit badly and should be discarded. It is some of these misfits and absurdities which the writer would like to bring prominently before the Engineering Profession.

The first point to which attention is called, is illustrated in Fig. 1. It concerns sharp bends in reinforcing rods in concrete. Fig. 1 shows a reinforced concrete design, one held out, in nearly all books on the subject, as a model. The reinforcing rod is bent up at a sharp angle, and then may or may not be bent again and run parallel with the top of the beam. At the bend is a condition which resembles that of a hog-chain or truss-rod around a queen-post. The reinforcing rod is the hog-chain or the truss-rod. Where is the queen-post? Suppose this rod has a section of 1 sq. in. and an inclination of 60 deg. with the horizontal, and that its unit stress is 16,000 lb. per sq. in. The forces, a and b, are then 16,000 lb. The force, c, must be also 16000 lb. What is to take this force, c, of 16,000 lb.? There is nothing but concrete. At 500 lb. per sq. in., this force would require an area of 32 sq. in. Will some advocate of this type of design please state where this area can be found? It must, of necessity, be in contact with the rod, and, for structural reasons, because of the lack of stiffness in the rod, it would have to be close to the point of bend. If analogy to the queen-post fails so completely, because of the almost complete absence of the post, why should not this borrowed garment be discarded?

If this same rod be given a gentle curve of a radius twenty or thirty times the diameter of the rod, the side unit pressure will be from one-twentieth to one-thirtieth of the unit stress on the steel. This being the case, and being a simple principle of mechanics which ought to be thoroughly understood, it is astounding that engineers should perpetrate the gross error of making a sharp bend in a reinforcing rod under stress.

The second point to which attention is called may also be illustrated by Fig. 1. The rod marked 3 is also like the truss-rod of a queen-post truss in appearance, because it ends over the support and has the same shape. But the analogy ends with appearance, for the function of a truss-rod in a queen-post truss is not performed by such a reinforcing rod in concrete, for other reasons than the absence of a post. The truss-rod receives its stress by a suitable connection at the end of the rod and over the support of the beam. The reinforcing rod, in this standard beam, ends abruptly at the very point where it is due to receive an important element of strength, an element which would add enormously to the strength and safety of many a beam, if it could be introduced.

Of course a reinforcing rod in a concrete beam receives its stress by increments imparted by the grip of the concrete; but these increments can only be imparted where the tendency of the concrete is to stretch. This tendency is greatest near the bottom of the beam, and when the rod is bent up to the top of the beam, it is taken out of the region where the concrete has the greatest tendency to stretch. The function of this rod, as reinforcement of the bottom flange of the beam, is interfered with by bending it up in this manner, as the beam is left without bottom-flange reinforcement, as far as that rod is concerned, from the point of bend to the support.

It is true that there is a shear or a diagonal tension in the beam, and the diagonal portion of the rod is apparently in a position to take this tension. This is just such a force as the truss-rod in a queen-post truss must take. Is this reinforcing rod equipped to perform this office? The beam is apt to fail in the line, A B. In fact, it is apt to crack from shrinkage on this or almost any other line, and to leave the strength dependent on the reinforcing steel. Suppose such a crack should occur. The entire strength of the beam would be dependent on the grip of the short end of Rod 3 to the right of the line, A B. The grip of this short piece of rod is so small and precarious, considering the important duty it has to perform, that it is astounding that designers, having any care for the permanence of their structures, should consider for an instant such features of design, much less incorporate them in a building in which life and property depend on them.

The third point to which attention is called, is the feature of design just mentioned in connection with the bent-up rod. It concerns the anchorage of rods by the embedment of a few inches of their length in concrete. This most flagrant violation of common sense has its most conspicuous example in large engineering works, where of all places better judgment should prevail. Many retaining walls have been built, and described in engineering journals, in papers before engineering societies of the highest order, and in books enjoying the greatest reputation, which have, as an essential feature, a great number of rods which cannot possibly develop their strength, and might as well be of much smaller dimensions. These rods are the vertical and horizontal rods in the counterfort of the retaining wall shown at a, in Fig. 2. This retaining wall consists of a front curtain wall and a horizontal slab joined at intervals by ribs or counterforts. The manifest and only function of the rib or counterfort is to tie together the curtain wall and the horizontal slab. That it is or should be of concrete is because the steel rods which it contains, need protection. It is clear that failure of the retaining wall could occur by rupture through the Section A B, or through B C. It is also clear that, apart from the cracking of the concrete of the rib, the only thing which would produce this rupture is the pulling out of the short ends of these reinforcing rods. Writers treat the triangle, A B C, as a beam, but there is absolutely no analogy between this triangle and a beam. Designers seem to think that these rods take the place of so-called shear rods in a beam, and that the inclined rods are equivalent to the rods in a tension flange of a beam. It is hard to understand by what process of reasoning such results can be attained. Any clear analysis leading to these conclusions would certainly be a valuable contribution to the literature on the subject. It is scarcely possible, however, that such analysis will be brought forward, for it is the apparent policy of the reinforced concrete analyst to jump into the middle of his proposition without the encumbrance of a premise.

There is positively no evading the fact that this wall could fail, as stated, by rupture along either A B or B C. It can be stated just as positively that a set of rods running from the front wall to the horizontal slab, and anchored into each in such a manner as would be adopted were these slabs suspended on the rods, is the only rational and the only efficient design possible. This design is illustrated at b in Fig. 2.

The fourth point concerns shear in steel rods embedded in concrete. For decades, specifications for steel bridges have gravely given a unit shear to be allowed on bridge pins, and every bridge engineer knows or ought to know that, if a bridge pin is properly proportioned for bending and bearing, there is no possibility of its being weak from shear. The centers of bearings cannot be brought close enough together to reduce the size of the pin to where its shear need be considered, because of the width required for bearing on the parts. Concrete is about one-thirtieth as strong as steel in bearing. There is, therefore, somewhat less than one-thirtieth of a reason for specifying any shear on steel rods embedded in concrete.

The gravity of the situation is not so much the serious manner in which this unit of shear in steel is written in specifications and building codes for reinforced concrete work (it does not mean anything in specifications for steelwork, because it is ignored), but it is apparent when designers soberly use these absurd units, and proportion shear rods accordingly.

Many designers actually proportion shear rods for shear, shear in the steel at units of 10,000 or 12,000 lb. per sq. in.; and the blame for this dangerous practice can be laid directly to the literature on reinforced concrete. Shear rods are given as standard features in the design of reinforced concrete beams. In the Joint Report of the Committee of the various engineering societies, a method for proportioning shear members is given. The stress, or shear per shear member, is the longitudinal shear which would occur in the space from member to member. No hint is given as to whether these bars are in shear or tension; in fact, either would be absurd and impossible without greatly overstressing some other part. This is just a sample of the state of the literature on this important subject. Shear bars will be taken up more fully in subsequent paragraphs.

The fifth point concerns vertical stirrups in a beam. These stirrups are conspicuous features in the designs of reinforcing concrete beams. Explanations of how they act are conspicuous in the literature on reinforced concrete by its total absence. By stirrups are meant the so-called shear rods strung along a reinforcing rod. They are usually U-shaped and looped around the rod.

It is a common practice to count these stirrups in the shear, taking the horizontal shear in a beam. In a plate girder, the rivets connecting the flange to the web take the horizontal shear or the increment to the flange stress. Compare two 3/4-in. rivets tightly driven into holes in a steel angle, with a loose vertical rod, 3/4 in. in diameter, looped around a reinforcing rod in a concrete beam, and a correct comparison of methods of design in steel and reinforced concrete, as they are commonly practiced, is obtained.

These stirrups can take but little hold on the reinforcing rods—and this must be through the medium of the concrete—and they can take but little shear. Some writers, however, hold the opinion that the stirrups are in tension and not in shear, and some are bold enough to compare them with the vertical tension members of a Howe truss. Imagine a Howe truss with the vertical tension members looped around the bottom chord and run up to the top chord without any connection, or hooked over the top chord; then compare such a truss with one in which the end of the rod is upset and receives a nut and large washer bearing solidly against the chord. This gives a comparison of methods of design in wood and reinforced concrete, as they are commonly practiced.

Anchorage or grip in the concrete is all that can be counted on, in any event, to take up the tension of these stirrups, but it requires an embedment of from 30 to 50 diameters of a rod to develop its full strength. Take 30 to 50 diameters from the floating end of these shear members, and, in some cases, nothing or less than nothing will be left. In any case the point at which the shear member, or stirrup, is good for its full value, is far short of the centroid of compression of the beam, where it should be; in most cases it will be nearer the bottom of the beam. In a Howe truss, the vertical tension members having their end connections near the bottom chord, would be equivalent to these shear members.

The sixth point concerns the division of stress into shear members. Briefly stated, the common method is to assume each shear member as taking the horizontal shear occurring in the space from member to member. As already stated, this is absurd. If stirrups could take shear, this method would give the shear per stirrup, but even advocates of this method acknowledge that they can not. To apply the common analogy of a truss: each shear member would represent a tension web member in the truss, and each would have to take all the shear occurring in a section through it.

If, for example, shear members were spaced half the depth of a beam apart, each would take half the shear by the common method. If shear members take vertical shear, or if they take tension, what is between the two members to take the other half of the shear? There is nothing in the beam but concrete and the tension rod between the two shear members. If the concrete can take the shear, why use steel members? It is not conceivable that an engineer should seriously consider a tension rod in a reinforced concrete beam as carrying the shear from stirrup to stirrup.

The logical deduction from the proposition that shear rods take tension is that the tension rods must take shear, and that they must take the full shear of the beam, and not only a part of it. For these shear rods are looped around or attached to the tension rods, and since tension in the shear rods would logically be imparted through the medium of this attachment, there is no escaping the conclusion that a large vertical force (the shear of the beam) must pass through the tension rod. If the shear member really relieves the concrete of the shear, it must take it all. If, as would be allowable, the shear rods take but a part of the shear, leaving the concrete to take the remainder, that carried by the rods should not be divided again, as is recommended by the common method.

Bulletin No. 29 of the University of Illinois Experiment Station shows by numerous experiments, and reiterates again and again, that shear rods do not act until the beam has cracked and partly failed. This being the case, a shear rod is an illogical element of design. Any element of a structure, which cannot act until failure has started, is not a proper element of design. In a steel structure a bent plate which would straighten out under a small stress and then resist final rupture, would be a menace to the rigidity and stability of the structure. This is exactly analogous to shear rods which cannot act until failure has begun.

When the man who tears down by criticism fails to point out the way to build up, he is a destructive critic. If, under the circumstances, designing with shear rods had the virtue of being the best thing to do with the steel and concrete disposed in a beam, as far as experience and logic in their present state could decide, nothing would be gained by simply criticising this method of design. But logic and tests have shown a far simpler, more effective, and more economical means of disposing of the steel in a reinforced concrete beam.

In shallow beams there is little need of provision for taking shear by any other means than the concrete itself. The writer has seen a reinforced slab support a very heavy load by simple friction, for the slab was cracked close to the supports. In slabs, shear is seldom provided for in the steel reinforcement. It is only when beams begin to have a depth approximating one-tenth of the span that the shear in the concrete becomes excessive and provision is necessary in the steel reinforcement. Years ago, the writer recommended that, in such beams, some of the rods be curved up toward the ends of the span and anchored over the support. Such reinforcement completely relieves the concrete of all shearing stress, for the stress in the rod will have a vertical component equal to the shear. The concrete will rest in the rod as a saddle, and the rod will be like the cable of a suspension span. The concrete could be in separate blocks with vertical joints, and still the load would be carried safely.

By end anchorage is not meant an inch or two of embedment in concrete, for an iron vise would not hold a rod for its full value by such means. Neither does it mean a hook on the end of the rod. A threaded end with a bearing washer, and a nut and a lock-nut to hold the washer in place, is about the only effective means, and it is simple and cheap. Nothing is as good for this purpose as plain round rods, for no other shape affords the same simple and effective means of end connection. In a line of beams, end to end, the rods may be extended into the next beam, and there act to take the top-flange tension, while at the same time finding anchorage for the principal beam stress.

The simplicity of this design is shown still further by the absence of a large number of little pieces in a beam box, as these must be held in their proper places, and as they interfere with the pouring of the concrete.

It is surprising that this simple and unpatented method of design has not met with more favor and has scarcely been used, even in tests. Some time ago the writer was asked, by the head of an engineering department of a college, for some ideas for the students to work up for theses, and suggested that they test beams of this sort. He was met by the astounding and fatuous reply that such would not be reinforced concrete beams. They would certainly be concrete beams, and just as certainly be reinforced.

Bulletin 29 of the University of Illinois Experiment Station contains a record of tests of reinforced concrete beams of this sort. They failed by the crushing of the concrete or by failure in the steel rods, and nearly all the cracks were in the middle third of the beams, whereas beams rich in shear rods cracked principally in the end thirds, that is, in the neighborhood of the shear rods. The former failures are ideal, and are easier to provide against. A crack in a beam near the middle of the span is of little consequence, whereas one near the support is a menace to safety.

The seventh point of common practice to which attention is called, is the manner in which bending moments in so-called continuous beams are juggled to reduce them to what the designer would like to have them. This has come to be almost a matter of taste, and is done with as much precision or reason as geologists guess at the age of a fossil in millions of years.

If a line of continuous beams be loaded uniformly, the maximum moments are negative and are over the supports. Who ever heard of a line of beams in which the reinforcement over the supports was double that at mid-spans? The end support of such a line of beams cannot be said to be fixed, but is simply supported, hence the end beam would have a negative bending moment over next to the last support equal to that of a simple span. Who ever heard of a beam being reinforced for this? The common practice is to make a reduction in the bending moment, at the middle of the span, to about that of a line of continuous beams, regardless of the fact that they may not be continuous or even contiguous, and in spite of the fact that the loading of only one gives quite different results, and may give results approaching those of a simple beam.

If the beams be designed as simple beams—taking the clear distance between supports as the span and not the centers of bearings or the centers of supports—and if a reasonable top reinforcement be used over these supports to prevent cracks, every requirement of good engineering is met. Under extreme conditions such construction might be heavily stressed in the steel over the supports. It might even be overstressed in this steel, but what could happen? Not failure, for the beams are capable of carrying their load individually, and even if the rods over the supports were severed—a thing impossible because they cannot stretch out sufficiently—the beams would stand.

Continuous beam calculations have no place whatever in designing stringers of a steel bridge, though the end connections will often take a very large moment, and, if calculated as continuous, will be found to be strained to a very much larger moment. Who ever heard of a failure because of continuous beam action in the stringers of a bridge? Why cannot reinforced concrete engineering be placed on the same sound footing as structural steel engineering?

The eighth point concerns the spacing of rods in a reinforced concrete beam. It is common to see rods bunched in the bottom of such a beam with no regard whatever for the ability of the concrete to grip the steel, or to carry the horizontal shear incident to their stress, to the upper part of the beam. As an illustration of the logic and analysis applied in discussing the subject of reinforced concrete, one well-known authority, on the premise that the unit of adhesion to rod and of shear are equal, derives a rule for the spacing of rods. His reasoning is so false, and his rule is so far from being correct, that two-thirds would have to be added to the width of beam in order to make it correct. An error of 66% may seem trifling to some minds, where reinforced concrete is considered, but errors of one-tenth this amount in steel design would be cause for serious concern. It is reasoning of the most elementary kind, which shows that if shear and adhesion are equal, the width of a reinforced concrete beam should be equal to the sum of the peripheries of all reinforcing rods gripped by the concrete. The width of the beam is the measure of the shearing area above the rods, taking the horizontal shear to the top of the beam, and the peripheries of the rods are the measure of the gripping or adhesion area.

Analysis which examines a beam to determine whether or not there is sufficient concrete to grip the steel and to carry the shear, is about at the vanishing point in nearly all books on the subject. Such misleading analysis as that just cited is worse than nothing.

The ninth point concerns the T-beam. Excessively elaborate formulas are worked out for the T-beam, and haphazard guesses are made as to how much of the floor slab may be considered in the compression flange. If a fraction of this mental energy were directed toward a logical analysis of the shear and gripping value of the stem of the T-beam, it would be found that, when the stem is given its proper width, little, if any, of the floor slab will have to be counted in the compression flange, for the width of concrete which will grip the rods properly will take the compression incident to their stress.

The tenth point concerns elaborate theories and formulas for beams and slabs. Formulas are commonly given with 25 or 30 constants and variables to be estimated and guessed at, and are based on assumptions which are inaccurate and untrue. One of these assumptions is that the concrete is initially unstressed. This is quite out of reason, for the shrinkage of the concrete on hardening puts stress in both concrete and steel. One of the coefficients of the formulas is that of the elasticity of the concrete. No more variable property of concrete is known than its coefficient of elasticity, which may vary from 1,000,000 to 5,000,000 or 6,000,000; it varies with the intensity of stress, with the kind of aggregate used, with the amount of water used in mixing, and with the atmospheric condition during setting. The unknown coefficient of elasticity of concrete and the non-existent condition of no initial stress, vitiate entirely formulas supported by these two props.

Here again destructive criticism would be vicious if these mathematical gymnasts were giving the best or only solution which present knowledge could produce, or if the critic did not point out a substitute. The substitute is so simple of application, in such agreement with experiments, and so logical in its derivation, that it is surprising that it has not been generally adopted. The neutral axis of reinforced concrete beams under safe loads is near the middle of the depth of the beams. If, in all cases, it be taken at the middle of the depth of the concrete beam, and if variation of intensity of stress in the concrete be taken as uniform from this neutral axis up, the formula for the resisting moment of a reinforced concrete beam becomes extremely simple and no more complex than that for a rectangular wooden beam.

The eleventh point concerns complex formulas for chimneys. It is a simple matter to find the tensile stress in that part of a plain concrete chimney between two radii on the windward side. If in this space there is inserted a rod which is capable of taking that tension at a proper unit, the safety of the chimney is assured, as far as that tensile stress is concerned. Why should frightfully complex formulas be proposed, which bring in the unknowable modulus of elasticity of concrete and can only be solved by stages or dependence on the calculations of some one else?

The twelfth point concerns deflection calculations. As is well known, deflection does not play much of a part in the design of beams. Sometimes, however, the passing requirement of a certain floor construction is the amount of deflection under a given load. Professor Gaetano Lanza has given some data on recorded deflections of reinforced concrete beams.[B] He has also worked out the theoretical deflections on various assumptions. An attempt to reconcile the observed deflections with one of several methods of calculating stresses led him to the conclusion that:

"The observations made thus far are not sufficient to furnish the means for determining the actual distribution of the stresses, and hence for the deduction of reliable formulae for the computation of the direct stresses, shearing stresses, diagonal stresses, deflections, position of the neutral axis, etc., under a given load."

Professor Lanza might have gone further and said that the observations made thus far are sufficient to show the hopelessness of deriving a formula that will predict accurately the deflection of a reinforced concrete beam. The wide variation shown by two beam tests cited by him, in which the beams were identical, is, in itself, proof of this.

Taking the data of these tests, and working out the modulus of elasticity from the recorded deflections, as though the beams were of plain concrete, values are found for this modulus which are not out of agreement with the value of that variable modulus as determined by other means. Therefore, if the beams be considered as plain concrete beams, and an average value be assumed for the modulus or coefficient of elasticity, a deflection may be found by a simple calculation which is an average of that which may be expected. Here again, simple theory is better than complex, because of the ease with which it may be applied, and because it gives results which are just as reliable.

The thirteenth point concerns the elastic theory as applied to a reinforced concrete arch. This theory treats a reinforced concrete arch as a spring. In order to justify its use, the arch or spring is considered as having fixed ends. The results obtained by the intricate methods of the elastic theory and the simple method of the equilibrium polygon, are too nearly identical to justify the former when the arch is taken as hinged at the ends.

The assumption of fixed ends in an arch is a most extravagant one, because it means that the abutments must be rigid, that is, capable of taking bending moments. Rigidity in an abutment is only effected by a large increase in bulk, whereas strength in an arch ring is greatly augmented by the addition of a few inches to its thickness. By the elastic theory, the arch ring does not appear to need as much strength as by the other method, but additional stability is needed in the abutments in order to take the bending moments. This latter feature is not dwelt on by the elastic theorists.

In the ordinary arch, the criterion by which the size of abutment is gauged, is the location of the line of pressure. It is difficult and expensive to obtain depth enough in the base of the abutment to keep this line within the middle third, when only the thrust of the arch is considered. If, in addition to the thrust, there is a bending moment which, for many conditions of loading, further displaces the line of pressure toward the critical edge, the difficulty and expense are increased. It cannot be gainsaid that a few cubic yards of concrete added to the ring of an arch will go much further toward strengthening the arch than the same amount of concrete added to the two abutments.

In reinforced concrete there are ample grounds for the contention that the carrying out of a nice theory, based on nice assumptions and the exact determination of ideal stresses, is of far less importance than the building of a structure which is, in every way, capable of performing its function. There are more than ample grounds for the contention that the ideal stresses worked out for a reinforced concrete structure are far from realization in this far from ideal material.

Apart from the objection that the elastic theory, instead of showing economy by cutting down the thickness of the arch ring, would show the very opposite if fully carried out, there are objections of greater weight, objections which strike at the very foundation of the theory as applied to reinforced concrete. In the elastic theory, as in the intricate beam theory commonly used, there is the assumption of an initial unstressed condition of the materials. This is not true of a beam and is still further from the truth in the case of an arch. Besides shrinkage of the concrete, which always produces unknown initial stresses, there is a still more potent cause of initial stress, namely, the settlement of the arch when the forms are removed. If the initial stresses are unknown, ideal determinations of stresses can have little meaning.

The elastic theory stands or falls according as one is able or unable to calculate accurately the deflection of a reinforced concrete beam; and it is an impossibility to calculate this deflection even approximately. The tests cited by Professor Lanza show the utter disagreement in the matter of deflections. Of those tested, two beams which were identical, showed results almost 100% apart. A theory grounded on such a shifting foundation does not deserve serious consideration. Professor Lanza's conclusions, quoted under the twelfth point, have special meaning and force when applied to a reinforced concrete arch; the actual distribution of the stresses cannot possibly be determined, and complex cloaks of arithmetic cannot cover this fact. The elastic theory, far from being a reliable formula, is false and misleading in the extreme.

The fourteenth point refers to temperature calculations in a reinforced concrete arch. These calculations have no meaning whatever. To give the grounds for this assertion would be to reiterate much of what has been said under the subject of the elastic arch. If the unstressed shape of an arch cannot be determined because of the unknown effect of shrinkage and settlement, it is a waste of time to work out a slightly different unstressed shape due to temperature variation, and it is a further waste of time to work out the supposed stresses resulting from deflecting that arch back to its actual shape.

If no other method of finding the approximate stresses in an arch existed, the elastic theory might be classed as the best available; but this is not the case. There is a method which is both simple and reliable. Accuracy is not claimed for it, and hence it is in accord with the more or less uncertain materials dealt with. Complete safety, however, is assured, for it treats the arch as a series of blocks, and the cementing of these blocks into one mass cannot weaken the arch. Reinforcement can be proportioned in the same manner as for chimneys, by finding the tension exerted to pull these blocks apart and then providing steel to take that tension.

The fifteenth point concerns steel in compression in reinforced concrete columns or beams. It is common practice—and it is recommended in the most pretentious works on the subject—to include in the strength of a concrete column slender longitudinal rods embedded in the concrete. To quote from one of these works:

"The compressive resistance of a hooped member exceeds the sum of the following three elements: (1) The compressive resistance of the concrete without reinforcement. (2) The compressive resistance of the longitudinal rods stressed to their elastic limit. (3) The compressive resistance which would have been produced by the imaginary longitudinals at the elastic limit of the hooping metal, the volume of the imaginary longitudinals being taken as 2.4 times that of the hooping metal."

This does not stand the test, either of theory or practice; in fact, it is far from being true. Its departure from the truth is great enough and of serious enough moment to explain some of the worst accidents in the history of reinforced concrete.

It is a nice theoretical conception that the steel and the concrete act together to take the compression, and that each is accommodating enough to take just as much of the load as will stress it to just the right unit. Here again, initial stress plays an important part. The shrinkage of the concrete tends to put the rods in compression, the load adds more compression on the slender rods and they buckle, because of the lack of any adequate stiffening, long before the theorists' ultimate load is reached.

There is no theoretical or practical consideration which would bring in the strength of the hoops after the strength of the concrete between them has been counted. All the compression of a column must, of necessity, go through the disk of concrete between the two hoops (and the longitudinal steel). No additional strength in the hoops can affect the strength of this disk, with a given spacing of the hoops. It is true that shorter disks will have more strength, but this is a matter of the spacing of the hoops and not of their sectional area, as the above quotation would make it appear.

Besides being false theoretically, this method of investing phantom columns with real strength is wofully lacking in practical foundation. Even the assumption of reinforcing value to the longitudinal steel rods is not at all borne out in tests. Designers add enormously to the calculated strength of concrete columns when they insert some longitudinal rods. It appears to be the rule that real columns are weakened by the very means which these designers invest with reinforcing properties. Whether or not it is the rule, the mere fact that many tests have shown these so-called reinforced concrete columns to be weaker than similar plain concrete columns is amply sufficient to condemn the practice of assuming strength which may not exist. Of all parts of a building, the columns are the most vital. The failure of one column will, in all probability, carry with it many others stronger than itself, whereas a weak and failing slab or beam does not put an extra load and shock on the neighboring parts of a structure.

In Bulletin No. 10 of the University of Illinois Experiment Station,[C] a plain concrete column, 9 by 9 in. by 12 ft., stood an ultimate crushing load of 2,004 lb. per sq. in. Column 2, identical in size, and having four 5/8-in. rods embedded in the concrete, stood 1,557 lb. per sq. in. So much for longitudinal rods without hoops. This is not an isolated case, but appears to be the rule; and yet, in reading the literature on the subject, one would be led to believe that longitudinal steel rods in a plain concrete column add greatly to the strength of the column.

A paper, by Mr. M.O. Withey, before the American Society for Testing Materials, in 1909, gave the results of some tests on concrete-steel and plain concrete columns. (The term, concrete-steel, is used because this particular combination is not "reinforced" concrete.) One group of columns, namely, W1 to W3, 10-1/2 in. in diameter, 102 in. long, and circular in shape, stood an average ultimate load of 2,600 lb. per sq. in. These columns were of plain concrete. Another group, namely, E1 to E3, were octagonal in shape, with a short diameter (12 in.), their length being 120 in. These columns contained nine longitudinal rods, 5/8 in. in diameter, and 1/4-in. steel rings every foot. They stood an ultimate load averaging 2,438 lb. per sq. in. This is less than the column with no steel and with practically the same ratio of slenderness.

In some tests on columns made by the Department of Buildings, of Minneapolis, Minn.[D], Test A was a 9 by 9-in. column, 9 ft. 6 in. long, with ten longitudinal, round rods, 1/2 in. in diameter, and 1-1/2-in. by 3/16-in. circular bands (having two 1/2-in. rivets in the splice), spaced 4 in. apart, the circles being 7 in. in diameter. It carried an ultimate load of 130,000 lb., which is much less than half "the compressive resistance of a hooped member," worked out according to the authoritative quotation before given. Another similar column stood a little more than half that "compressive resistance." Five of the seventeen tests on the concrete-steel columns, made at Minneapolis, stood less than the plain concrete columns. So much for the longitudinal rods, and for hoops which are not close enough to stiffen the rods; and yet, in reading the literature on the subject, any one would be led to believe that longitudinal rods and hoops add enormously to the strength of a concrete column.

The sixteenth indictment against common practice is in reference to flat slabs supported on four sides. Grashof's formula for flat plates has no application to reinforced concrete slabs, because it is derived for a material strong in all directions and equally stressed. The strength of concrete in tension is almost nil, at least, it should be so considered. Poisson's ratio, so prominent in Grashof's formula, has no meaning whatever in steel reinforcement for a slab, because each rod must take tension only; and instead of a material equally stressed in all directions, there are generally sets of independent rods in only two directions. In a solution of the problem given by a high English authority, the slab is assumed to have a bending moment of equal intensity along its diagonal. It is quite absurd to assume an intensity of bending clear into the corner of a slab, and on the very support equal to that at its center. A method published by the writer some years ago has not been challenged. By this method strips are taken across the slab and the moment in them is found, considering the limitations of the several strips in deflection imposed by those running at right angles therewith. This method shows (as tests demonstrate) that when the slab is oblong, reinforcement in the long direction rapidly diminishes in usefulness. When the ratio is 1:1-1/2, reinforcement in the long direction is needless, since that in the short direction is required to take its full amount. In this way French and other regulations give false results, and fail to work out.

If the writer is wrong in any or all of the foregoing points, it should be easy to disprove his assertions. It would be better to do this than to ridicule or ignore them, and it would even be better than to issue reports, signed by authorities, which commend the practices herein condemned.


[Footnote A: Presented at the meeting of March 16th, 1910.]

[Footnote B: "Stresses in Reinforced Concrete Beams," Journal, Am. Soc. Mech. Engrs., Mid-October, 1909.]

[Footnote C: Page 14, column 8.]

[Footnote D: Engineering News, December 3d, 1908.]


JOSEPH WRIGHT, M. AM. SOC. C. E. (by letter).—If, as is expected, Mr. Godfrey's paper serves to attract attention to the glaring inconsistencies commonly practiced in reinforced concrete designs, and particularly to the careless detailing of such structures, he will have accomplished a valuable purpose, and will deserve the gratitude of the Profession.

No engineer would expect a steel bridge to stand up if the detailing were left to the judgment or convenience of the mechanics of the shop, yet in many reinforced concrete designs but little more thought is given to the connections and continuity of the steel than if it were an unimportant element of the structure. Such examples, as illustrated by the retaining wall in Fig. 2, are common, the reinforcing bars of the counterfort being simply hooked by a 4-in. U-bend around those of the floor and wall slabs, and penetrating the latter only from 8 to 12 in. The writer can cite an example which is still worse—that of a T-wall, 16 ft. high, in which the vertical reinforcement of the wall slab consisted of 3/4-in. bars, spaced 6 in. apart. The wall slab was 8 in. thick at the top and only 10 in. at the bottom, yet the 3/4-in. vertical bars penetrated the floor slab only 8 in., and were simply hooked around its lower horizontal bars by 4-in. U-bends. Amazing as it may appear, this structure was designed by an engineer who is well versed in the theories of reinforced concrete design. These are only two examples from a long list which might be cited to illustrate the carelessness often exhibited by engineers in detailing reinforced concrete structures.

In reinforced concrete work the detailer has often felt the need of some simple and efficient means of attaching one bar to another, but, in its absence, it is inexcusable that he should resort to such makeshifts as are commonly used. A simple U-hook on the end of a bar will develop only a small part of the strength of the bar, and, of course, should not be relied on where the depth of penetration is inadequate; and, because of the necessity of efficient anchorage of the reinforcing bars where one member of a structure unites with another, it is believed that in some instances economy might be subserved by the use of shop shapes and shop connections in steel, instead of the ordinary reinforcing bars. Such cases are comparatively few, however, for the material in common use is readily adapted to the design, in the ordinary engineering structure, and only requires that its limitations be observed, and that the designer be as conscientious and consistent in detailing as though he were designing in steel.

This paper deserves attention, and it is hoped that each point therein will receive full and free discussion, but its main purport is a plea for simplicity, consistency, and conservatism in design, with which the writer is heartily in accord.

S. BENT RUSSELL, M. AM. SOC. C. E. (by letter).—The author has given expression in a forcible way to feelings possessed no doubt by many careful designers in the field in question. The paper will serve a useful purpose in making somewhat clearer the limitations of reinforced concrete, and may tend to bring about a more economical use of reinforcing material.

It is safe to say that in steel bridges, as they were designed in the beginning, weakness was to be found in the connections and details, rather than in the principal members. In the modern advanced practice of bridge design the details will be found to have some excess of strength over the principal members. It is probable that the design of reinforced concrete structures will take the same general course, and that progress will be made toward safety in minor details and economy in principal bars.

Many of the author's points appear to be well taken, especially the first, the third, and the eighth.

In regard to shear bars, if it is assumed that vertical or inclined bars add materially to the strength of short deep beams, it can only be explained by viewing the beam as a framed structure or truss in which the compression members are of concrete and the tension members of steel. It is evident that, as generally built, the truss will be found to be weak in the connections, more particularly, in some cases, in the connections between the tension and compression members, as mentioned in the author's first point.

It appears to the writer that this fault may be aggravated in the case of beams with top reinforcement for compression; this is scarcely touched on by the author. In such a case the top and bottom chords are of steel, with a weakly connected web system which, in practice, is usually composed of stirrup rods looped around the principal bars and held in position by the concrete which they are supposed to strengthen.

While on this phase of the subject, it may be proper to call attention to the fact that the Progress Report of the Special Committee on Concrete and Reinforced Concrete[E] may well be criticised for its scant attention to the case of beams reinforced on the compression side. No limitations are specified for the guidance of the designer, but approval is given to loading the steel with its full share of top-chord stress.[F]

In certain systems of reinforcement now in use, such as the Kahn and Cummings systems, the need for connections between the web system and the chord member is met to some degree, as is generally known. On the other hand, however, these systems do not provide for such intensity of pressure on the concrete at the points of connection as must occur by the author's demonstration in his first point. The author's criticisms on some other points would also apply to such systems, and it is not necessary to state that one weak detail will limit the strength of the truss.

The author has only condemnation for the use of longitudinal rods in concrete columns (Point 15). It would seem that if the longitudinal bars are to carry a part of the load they must be supported laterally by the concrete, and, as before, in the beam, it may be likened to a framed structure in which the web system is formed of concrete alone, or of a framework of poorly connected members, and the concrete and steel must give mutual support in a way not easy to analyze. It is scarcely surprising that the strength of such a structure is sometimes less than that shown by concrete alone.

In the Minneapolis tests, quoted by the author, there are certain points which should be noted, in fairness to columns reinforced longitudinally. Only four columns thus reinforced failed below the strength shown by concrete alone, and these were from 52 to 63 days old only, while the plain concrete was 98 days old. There was nothing to hold the rods in place in these four columns except the concrete and the circular hoops surrounding them. On the other hand, all the columns in which the hooping was hooked around the individual rods showed materially greater strength than the plain concrete, although perhaps one should be excepted, as it was 158 days old and showed a strength of only 2,250 lb. per sq. in., or 12% more than the plain concrete.[G]

In considering a column reinforced with longitudinal rods and hoops, it is proper to remark that the concrete not confined by the steel ought not to be counted as aiding the latter in any way, and that, consequently, the bond of the outside bars is greatly weakened.

In view of these considerations, it may be found economical to give the steel reinforcement of columns some stiffness of its own by sufficiently connected lateral bracing. The writer would suggest, further, that in beams where rods are used in compression a system of web members sufficiently connected should be provided, so that the strength of the combined structure would be determinate.

To sum up briefly, columns and short deep beams, especially when the latter are doubly reinforced, should be designed as framed structures, and web members should be provided with stronger connections than have been customary.

J.R. WORCESTER, M. AM. SOC. C. E. (by letter).—This paper is of value in calling attention to many of the bad practices to be found in reinforced concrete work, and also in that it gives an opportunity for discussing certain features of design, about which engineers do not agree. A free discussion of these features will tend to unify methods. Several of the author's indictments, however, hit at practices which were discarded long ago by most designers, and are not recommended by any good authorities; the implication that they are in general use is unwarranted.

The first criticism, that of bending rods at a sharp angle, may be said to be of this nature. Drawings may be made without indicating the curve, but in practice metal is seldom bent to a sharp angle. It is undoubtedly true that in every instance a gradual curve is preferable.

The author's second point, that a suitable anchorage is not provided for bent-up rods at the ends of a beam, may also be said to be a practice which is not recommended or used in the best designs.

The third point, in reference to the counterforts of retaining walls, is certainly aimed at a very reprehensible practice which should not be countenanced by any engineer.

The fourth, fifth, and sixth items bring out the fact that undoubtedly there has been some confusion in the minds of designers and authors on the subject of shear in the steel. The author is wholly justified in criticising the use of the shearing stress in the steel ever being brought into play in reinforced concrete. Referring to the report of the Special Committee on Concrete and Reinforced Concrete, on this point, it seems as if it might have made the intention of the Committee somewhat clearer had the word, tensile, been inserted in connection with the stress in the shear reinforcing rods. In considering a beam of reinforced concrete in which the shearing stresses are really diagonal, there is compression in one case and tension in another; and, assuming that the metal must be inserted to resist the tensile portion of this stress, it is not essential that it should necessarily be wholly parallel to the tensile stress. Vertical tensile members can prevent the cracking of the beam by diagonal tension, just as in a Howe truss all the tensile stresses due to shear are taken in a vertical direction, while the compressive stresses are carried in the diagonal direction by the wooden struts. The author seems to overlook the fact, however, that the reinforced concrete beam differs from the Howe truss in that the concrete forms a multiple system of diagonal compression members. It is not necessary that a stirrup at one point should carry all the vertical tension, as this vertical tension is distributed by the concrete. There is no doubt about the necessity of providing a suitable anchorage for the vertical stirrups, and such is definitely required in the recommendations of the Special Committee.

The cracks which the author refers to as being necessary before the reinforcing material is brought into action, are just as likely to occur in the case of the bent-up rods with anchors at the end, advocated by him. While his method may be a safe one, there is also no question that a suitable arrangement of vertical reinforcement may be all that is necessary to make substantial construction.

With reference to the seventh point, namely, methods of calculating moments, it might be said that it is not generally considered good practice to reduce the positive moments at the center of a span to the amount allowable in a beam fully fixed at the end, and if provision is made for a negative moment over supports sufficient to develop the stresses involved in complete continuity, there is usually a considerable margin of safety, from the fact of the lack of possible fixedness of the beams at the supports. The criticism is evidently aimed at practice not to be recommended.

As to the eighth point, the necessary width of a beam in order to transfer, by horizontal shear, the stress delivered to the concrete from the rods, it might be well worth while for the author to take into consideration the fact that while the bonding stress is developed to its full extent near the ends of the beam, it very frequently happens that only a portion of the total number of rods are left at the bottom, the others having been bent upward. It may be that the width of a beam would not be sufficient to carry the maximum bonding stress on the total number of rods near its center, and yet it may have ample shearing strength on the horizontal planes. The customary method of determining the width of the beams so that the maximum horizontal shearing stress will not be excessive, seems to be a more rational method than that suggested by Mr. Godfrey.

Referring to the tenth and fourteenth points, it would be interesting to know whether the author proportions his steel to take the remaining tension without regard to the elongation possible at the point where it is located, considering the neutral axis of the section under the combined stress. Take, for instance, a chimney: If the section is first considered to be homogeneous material which will carry tension and compression equally well, and the neutral axis is found under the combined stresses, the extreme tensile fiber stress on the concrete will generally be a matter of 100 or 200 lb. Evidently, if steel is inserted to replace the concrete in tension, the corresponding stress in the steel cannot be more than from 1,500 to 3,000 lb. per sq. in. If sufficient steel is provided to keep the unit stress down to the proper figure, there can be little criticism of the method, but if it is worked to, say, 16,000 lb. per sq. in., it is evident that the result will be a different position for the neutral axis, invalidating the calculation and resulting in a greater stress in compression on the concrete.

L.J. MENSCH, M. AM. SOC. C. E. (by letter).—Much of the poor practice in reinforced concrete design to which Mr. Godfrey calls attention is due, in the writer's opinion, to inexperience on the part of the designer.

It is true, however, that men of high standing, who derided reinforced concrete only a few years ago, now pose as reinforced concrete experts, and probably the author has the mistakes of these men in mind.

The questions which he propounds were settled long ago by a great many tests, made in various countries, by reliable authorities, although the theoretical side is not as easily answered; but it must be borne in mind that the stresses involved are mostly secondary, and, even in steel construction, these are difficult of solution. The stresses in the web of a deep steel girder are not known, and the web is strengthened by a liberal number of stiffening angles, which no expert can figure out to a nicety. The ultimate strength of built-up steel columns is not known, frequently not even within 30%; still less is known of the strength of columns consisting of thin steel casings, or of the types used in the Quebec Bridge. It seems to be impossible to solve the problem theoretically for the simplest case, but had the designer of that bridge known of the tests made by Hodgkinson more than 40 years ago, that accident probably would not have happened.

Practice is always ahead of theory, and the writer claims that, with the great number of thoroughly reliable tests made in the last 20 years, the man who is really informed on this subject will not see any reason for questioning the points brought out by Mr. Godfrey.

The author is right in condemning sharp bends in reinforcing rods. Experienced men would not think of using them, if only for the reason that such sharp bends are very expensive, and that there is great likelihood of breaking the rods, or at least weakening them. Such sharp bends invite cracks.

Neither is there any question in regard to the advantage of continuing the bent-up rods over the supports. The author is manifestly wrong in stating that the reinforcing rods can only receive their increments of stress when the concrete is in tension. Generally, the contrary happens. In the ordinary adhesion test, the block of concrete is held by the jaws of the machine and the rod is pulled out; the concrete is clearly in compression.

The underside of continuous beams is in compression near the supports, yet no one will say that steel rods cannot take any stress there. It is quite surprising to learn that there are engineers who still doubt the advisability of using bent-up bars in reinforced concrete beams. Disregarding the very thorough tests made during the last 18 years in Europe, attention is called to the valuable tests on thirty beams made by J.J. Harding, M. Am. Soc. C. E., for the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad.[H] All the beams were reinforced with about 3/4% of steel. Those with only straight rods, whether they were plain or patented bars, gave an average shearing strength of 150 lb. per sq. in. Those which had one-third of the bars bent up gave an average shearing strength of 200 lb. per sq. in., and those which had nearly one-half of the rods bent up gave an average shearing strength of 225 lb. per sq. in. Where the bent bars were continued over the supports, higher ultimate values were obtained than where some of the rods were stopped off near the supports; but in every case bent-up bars showed a greater carrying capacity than straight rods. The writer knows also of a number of tests with rods fastened to anchor-plates at the end, but the tests showed that they had only a slight increase of strength over straight rods, and certainly made a poorer showing than bent-up bars. The use of such threaded bars would increase materially the cost of construction, as well as the time of erection.

The writer confesses that he never saw or heard of such poor practices as mentioned in the author's third point. On the other hand, the proposed design of counterforts in retaining walls would not only be very expensive and difficult to install, but would also be a decided step backward in mechanics. This proposition recalls the trusses used before the introduction of the Fink truss, in which the load from the upper chord was transmitted by separate members directly to the abutments, the inventor probably going on the principle that the shortest way is the best. There are in the United States many hundreds of rectangular water tanks. Are these held by any such devices? And as they are not thus held, and inasmuch as there is no doubt that they must carry the stress when filled with water, it is clear that, as long as the rods from the sides are strong enough to carry the tension and are bent with a liberal radius into the front wall and extended far enough to form a good anchorage, the connection will not be broken. The same applies to retaining walls. It would take up too much time to prove that the counterfort acts really as a beam, although the forces acting on it are not as easily found as those in a common beam.

The writer does not quite understand the author's reference to shear rods. Possibly he means the longitudinal reinforcement, which it seems is sometimes calculated to carry 10,000 lb. per sq. in. in shear. The writer never heard of such a practice.

In regard to stirrups, Mr. Godfrey seems to be in doubt. They certainly do not act as the rivets of a plate girder, nor as the vertical rods of a Howe truss. They are best compared with the dowel pins and bolts of a compound wooden beam. The writer has seen tests made on compound concrete beams separated by copper plates and connected only by stirrups, and the strength of the combination was nearly the same as that of beams made in one piece.

Stirrups do not add much to the strength of the beams where bent bars are used, but the majority of tests show a great increase of strength where only straight reinforcing bars are used. Stirrups are safeguards against poor concrete and poor workmanship, and form a good connection where concreting is interrupted through inclemency of weather or other causes. They absolutely prevent shrinkage cracks between the stem and the flange of T-beams, and the separation of the stem and slab in case of serious fires. For the latter reason, the writer condemns the use of simple U-bars, and arranges all his stirrups so that they extend from 6 to 12 in. into the slabs. Engineers are warned not to follow the author's advice with regard to the omission of stirrups, but to use plenty of them in their designs, or sooner or later they will thoroughly repent it.

In regard to bending moments in continuous beams, the writer wishes to call attention to the fact that at least 99% of all reinforced structures are calculated with a reduction of 25% of the bending moment in the center, which requires only 20% of the ordinary bending moment of a freely supported beam at the supports. There may be some engineers who calculate a reduction of 33%; there are still some ultra-confident men, of little experience, who compute a reduction of 50%; but, inasmuch as most designers calculate with a reduction of only 25%, too great a factor of safety does not result, nor have any failures been observed on that account.

In the case of slabs which are uniformly loaded by earth or water pressure, the bending moments are regularly taken as (w l^{2})/24 in the center and (w l^{2})/12 at the supports. The writer never observed any failure of continuous beams over the supports, although he has often noticed failures in the supporting columns directly under the beams, where these columns are light in comparison with the beams. Failure of slabs over the supports is common, and therefore the writer always places extra rods over the supports near the top surface.

The width of the beams which Mr. Godfrey derives from his simple rule, that is, the width equals the sum of the peripheries of the reinforcing rods, is not upheld by theory or practice. In the first place, this width would depend on the kind of rods used. If a beam is reinforced by three 7/8-in. round bars, the width, according to his formula, would be 8.2 in. If the beam is reinforced by six 5/8-in. bars which have the same sectional area as the three 7/8-in. bars, then the width should be 12 in., which is ridiculous and does not correspond with tests, which would show rather a better behavior for the six bars than for the three larger bars in a beam of the same width.

It is surprising to learn that there are engineers who still advocate such a width of the stem of T-beams that the favorable influence of the slab may be dispensed with, although there were many who did this 10 or 12 years ago.

It certainly can be laid down as an axiom that the man who uses complicated formulas has never had much opportunity to design or build in reinforced concrete, as the design alone might be more expensive than the difference in cost between concrete and structural steel work.

The author attacks the application of the elastic theory to reinforced concrete arches. He evidently has not made very many designs in which he used the elastic theory, or he would have found that the abutments need be only from three to four times thicker than the crown of the arch (and, therefore, their moments of inertia from 27 to 64 times greater), when the deformation of the abutments becomes negligible in the elastic equations. Certainly, the elastic theory gives a better guess in regard to the location of the line of pressure than any guess made without its use. The elastic theory was fully proved for arches by the remarkable tests, made in 1897 by the Austrian Society of Engineers and Architects, on full-sized arches of 70-ft. span, and the observed deflections and lateral deformations agreed exactly with the figured deformation.

Tests on full-sized arches also showed that the deformations caused by temperature changes agree with the elastic theory, but are not as great for the whole mass of the arch as is commonly assumed. The elastic theory enables one to calculate arches much more quickly than any graphical or guess method yet proposed.

Hooped columns are a patented construction which no one has the right to use without license or instructions from M. Considere, who clearly states that his formulas are correct only for rich concrete and for proper percentages of helical and longitudinal reinforcement, which latter must have a small spacing, in order to prevent the deformation of the core between the hoops. With these limitations his formulas are correct.

Mr. Godfrey brings up some erratic column tests, and seems to have no confidence in reinforced concrete columns. The majority of column tests, however, show an increase of strength by longitudinal reinforcement. In good concrete the longitudinal reinforcement may not be very effective or very economical, but it safeguards the strength in poorly made concrete, and is absolutely necessary on account of the bending stresses set up in such columns, due to the monolithic character of reinforced concrete work.

Mr. Godfrey does not seem to be familiar with the tests made by good authorities on square slabs of reinforced concrete and of cast iron, which latter material is also deficient in tensile strength. These tests prove quite conclusively that the maximum bending moment per linear foot may be calculated by the formulas, (w l^{2})/32 or (w l^{2})/20, according to the degree of fixture of the slabs at the four sides. Inasmuch as fixed ends are rarely obtained in practice, the formula, (w l^{2})/24, is generally adopted, and the writer cannot see any reason to confuse the subject by the introduction of a new method of calculation.

WALTER W. CLIFFORD, JUN. AM. SOC. C. E. (by letter).—Some of Mr. Godfrey's criticisms of reinforced concrete practice do not seem to be well taken, and the writer begs to call attention to a few points which seem to be weak. In Fig. 1, the author objects to the use of diagonal bars for the reason that, if the diagonal reinforcement is stressed to the allowable limit, these bars bring the bearing on the concrete, at the point where the diagonal joins the longitudinal reinforcement, above a safe value. The concrete at the point of juncture must give, to some extent, and this would distribute the bearing over a considerable length of rod. In some forms of patented reinforcement an additional safeguard is furnished by making the diagonals of flat straps. The stress in the rods at this point, moreover, is not generally the maximum allowable stress, for considerable is taken out of the rod by adhesion between the point of maximum stress and that of juncture.

Mr. Godfrey wishes to remedy this by replacing the diagonals by rods curved to a radius of from twenty to thirty times their diameter. In common cases this radius will be about equal to the depth of the beam. Let this be assumed to be true. It cannot be assumed that these rods take any appreciable vertical shear until their slope is 30 deg. from the horizontal, for before this the tension in the rod would be more than twice the shear which causes it. Therefore, these curved rods, assuming them to be of sufficient size to take, as a vertical component, the shear on any vertical plane between the point where it slopes 30 deg. and its point of maximum slope, would need to be spaced at, approximately, one-half the depth of the beam. Straight rods of equivalent strength, at 45 deg. with the axis of the beam, at this same spacing (which would be ample), would be 10% less in length.

Mr. Godfrey states:

"Of course a reinforcing rod in a concrete beam receives its stress by increments imparted by the grip of the concrete; but these increments can only be imparted where the tendency of the concrete is to stretch."

He then overlooks the fact that at the end of a beam, such as he has shown, the maximum tension is diagonal, and at the neutral axis, not at the bottom; and the rod is in the best position to resist failure on the plane, AB, if its end is sufficiently well anchored. That this rod should be anchored is, as he states, undoubtedly so, but his implied objection to a bent end, as opposed to a nut, seems to the writer to be unfounded. In some recent tests, on rods bent at right angles, at a point 5 diameters distant from the end, and with a concrete backing, stress was developed equal to the bond stress on a straight rod embedded for a length of about 30 diameters, and approximately equal to the elastic limit of the rod, which, for reinforcing purposes, is its ultimate stress.

Concerning the vertical stirrups to which Mr. Godfrey refers, there is no doubt that they strengthen beams against failure by diagonal tension or, as more commonly known, shear failures. That they are not effective in the beam as built is plain, for, if one considers a vertical plane between the stirrups, the concrete must resist the shear on this plane, unless dependence is placed on that in the longitudinal reinforcement. This, the author states, is often done, but the practice is unknown to the writer, who does not consider it of any value; certainly the stirrups cannot aid.

Suppose, however, that the diagonal tension is above the ultimate stress for the concrete, failure of the concrete will then occur on planes perpendicular to the line of maximum tension, approximately 45 deg. at the end of the beam. If the stirrups are spaced close enough, however, and are of sufficient strength so that these planes of failure all cut enough steel to take as tension the vertical shear on the plane, then these cracks will be very minute and will be distributed, as is the case in the center of the lower part of the beam. These stirrups will then take as tension the vertical shear on any plane, and hold the beam together, so that the friction on these planes will keep up the strength of the concrete in horizontal shear. The concrete at the end of a simple beam is better able to take horizontal shear than vertical, because the compression on a horizontal plane is greater than that on a vertical plane. This idea concerning the action of stirrups falls under the ban of Mr. Godfrey's statement, that any member which "cannot act until failure has started, is not a proper element of design," but this is not necessarily true. For example, Mr. Godfrey says "the steel in the tension side of the beam should be considered as taking all the tension." This is undoubtedly true, but it cannot take place until the concrete has failed in tension at this point. If used, vertical tension members should be considered as taking all the vertical shear, and, as Mr. Godfrey states, they should certainly have their ends anchored so as to develop the strength for which they have been calculated.

The writer considers diagonal reinforcement to be the best for shear, and it should be used, especially in all cases of "unit" reinforcement; but, in some cases, stirrups can and do answer in the manner suggested; and, for reasons of practical construction, are sometimes best with "loose rod" reinforcement.

J.C. MEEM, M. AM. SOC. C. E. (by letter).—The writer believes that there are some very interesting points in the author's somewhat iconoclastic paper which are worthy of careful study, and, if it be shown that he is right in most of, or even in any of, his assumptions, a further expression of approval is due to him. Few engineers have the time to show fully, by a process of reductio ad absurdum, that all the author's points are, or are not, well considered or well founded, but the writer desires to say that he has read this paper carefully, and believes that its fundamental principles are well grounded. Further, he believes that intricate mathematical formulas have no place in practice. This is particularly true where these elaborate mathematical calculations are founded on assumptions which are never found in practice or experiment, and which, even in theory, are extremely doubtful, and certainly are not possible within those limits of safety wherein the engineer is compelled to work.

The writer disagrees with the author in one essential point, however, and that is in the wholesale indictment of special reinforcement, such as stirrups, shear rods, etc. In the ordinary way in which these rods are used, they have no practical value, and their theoretical value is found only when the structure is stressed beyond its safe limits; nevertheless, occasions may arise when they have a definite practical value, if properly designed and placed, and, therefore, they should not be discriminated against absolutely.

Quoting the author, that "destructive criticism is of no value unless it offers something in its place," and in connection with the author's tenth point, the writer offers the following formula which he has always used in conjunction with the design of reinforced concrete slabs and beams. It is based on the formula for rectangular wooden beams, and assumes that the beam is designed on the principle that concrete in tension is as strong as that in compression, with the understanding that sufficient steel shall be placed on the tension side to make this true, thus fixing the neutral axis, as the author suggests, in the middle of the depth, that is, M = (1/6)b d^{2} S, M, of course, being the bending moment, and b and d, the breadth and depth, in inches. S is usually taken at from 400 to 600 lb., according to the conditions. In order to obtain the steel necessary to give the proper tensile strength to correspond with the compression side, the compression and tension areas of the beam are equated, that is

1 2 d —— b d S = a x ( ——- - x ) x S , 12 2 II II


a = the area of steel per linear foot, x{II} = the distance from the center of the steel to the outer fiber, and S{II} = the strength of the steel in tension.

Then for a beam, 12 in. wide,

2 d d S = a S ( ——- - x ) , II 2 II


2 d S a = ——————————- . d S ( ——- - x ) II 2 II

Carrying this to its conclusion, we have, for example, in a beam 12 in. deep and 12 in. wide,

S = 500, S{II} = 15,000, x{II} = 2-1/2 in. a = 1.37 sq. in. per ft.

The writer has used this formula very extensively, in calculating new work and also in checking other designs built or to be built, and he believes its results are absolutely safe. There is the further fact to its credit, that its simplicity bars very largely the possibility of error from its use. He sees no reason to introduce further complications into such a formula, when actual tests will show results varying more widely than is shown by a comparison between this simple formula and many more complicated ones.

GEORGE H. MYERS, JUN. AM. SOC. C. E. (by letter).—This paper brings out a number of interesting points, but that which strikes the writer most forcibly is the tenth, in regard to elaborate theories and complicated formulas for beams and slabs. The author's stand for simplicity in this regard is well taken. A formula for the design of beams and slabs need not be long or complicated in any respect. It can easily be obtained from the well-known fact that the moment at any point divided by the distance between the center of compression and the center of tension at that point gives the tension (or compression) in the beam.

The writer would place the neutral axis from 0.42 to 0.45 of the effective depth of the beam from the compression side rather than at the center, as Mr. Godfrey suggests. This higher position of the neutral axis is the one more generally shown by tests of beams. It gives the formula M = 0.86 d As f, or M = 0.85 d As f, which the writer believes is more accurate than M = 5/6 d As f, or 0.83-1/3 d As f, which would result if the neutral axis were taken at the center of the beam.

d = depth of the beam from the compression side to the center of the steel; As = the area of the steel; and f = the allowable stress per square inch in the steel.

The difference, however, is very slight, the results from the two formulas being proportional to the two factors, 83-1/3 and 85 or 86. This formula gives the area of steel required for the moment. The percentage of steel to be used can easily be obtained from the allowable stresses in the concrete and the steel, and the dimensions of the beam can be obtained in the simplest manner. This formula is used with great success by one of the largest firms manufacturing reinforcing materials and designing concrete structures. It is well-known to the Profession, and the reason for using any other method, involving the Greek alphabet and many assumptions, is unknown to the writer. The only thing to assume—if it can be called assuming when there are so many tests to locate it—is the position of the neutral axis. A slight difference in this assumption affects the resulting design very little, and is inappreciable, from a practical point of view. It can be safely said that the neutral axis is at, or a little above, the center of the beam.

Further, it would seem that the criticism to the effect that the initial stress in the concrete is neglected is devoid of weight. As far as the designer is concerned, the initial stress is allowed for. The values for the stresses used in design are obtained from tests on blocks of concrete which have gone through the process of setting. Whatever initial stress exists in concrete due to this process of setting exists also in these blocks when they are tested. The value of the breaking load on concrete given by any outside measuring device used in these tests, is the value of that stress over and above this initial stress. It is this value with which we work. It would seem that, if the initial stress is neglected in arriving at a safe working load, it would be safe to neglect it in the formula for design.

EDWIN THACHER, M. AM. SOC. C. E. (by letter).—The writer will discuss this paper under the several "points" mentioned by the author.

First Point.—At the point where the first rod is bent up, the stress in this rod runs out. The other rods are sufficient to take the horizontal stress, and the bent-up portion provides only for the vertical and diagonal shearing stresses in the concrete.

Second Point.—The remarks on the first point are also applicable to the second one. Rod 3 provides for the shear.

Third Point.—In a beam, the shear rods run through the compression parts of the concrete and have sufficient anchorage. In a counterfort, the inclined rods are sufficient to take the overturning stress. The horizontal rods support the front wall and provide for shrinkage. The vertical rods also provide for shrinkage, and assist the diagonal rods against overturning. The anchorage is sufficient in all cases, and the proposed method is no more effective.

Fourth Point.—In bridge pins, bending and bearing usually govern, but, in case a wide bar pulled on a pin between the supports close to the bar, as happens in bolsters and post-caps of combination bridges and in other locations, shear would govern. Shear rods in concrete-steel beams are proportioned to take the vertical and diagonal shearing stresses. If proportioned for less stress per square inch than is used in the bottom bars, this cannot be considered dangerous practice.

Fifth Point.—Vertical stirrups are designed to act like the vertical rods in a Howe truss. Special literature is not required on the subject; it is known that the method used gives good results, and that is sufficient.

Sixth Point.—The common method is not "to assume each shear member as taking the horizontal shear occurring in the space from member to member," but to take all the shear from the center of the beam up to the bar in question.

Cracks do not necessarily endanger the safety of a beam. Any device that will prevent the cracks from opening wide enough to destroy the beam, is logical. By numerous experiments, Mr. Thaddeus Hyatt found that nuts and washers at the ends of reinforcing bars were worse than useless, and added nothing to the strength of the beams.

Seventh Point.—Beams can be designed, supported at the ends, fully continuous, or continuous to a greater or less extent, as desired. The common practice is to design slabs to take a negative moment over the supports equal to one-half the positive moment at the center, or to bend up the alternate rods. This is simple and good practice, for no beam can fail as long as a method is provided by which to take care of all the stresses without overstraining any part.

Eighth Point.—Bars in the bottom of a reinforced concrete beam are often placed too close to one another. The rule of spacing the bars not less than three diameters apart, is believed to be good practice.

Ninth Point.—To disregard the theory of T-beams, and work by rule-of-thumb, can hardly be considered good engineering.

Tenth Point.—The author appears to consider theories for reinforced concrete beams and slabs as useless refinements, but as long as theory and experiment agree so wonderfully well, theories will undoubtedly continue to be used.

Eleventh Point.—Calculations for chimneys are somewhat complex, but are better and safer than rule-of-thumb methods.

Twelfth Point.—Deflection is not very important.

Thirteenth Point.—The conclusion of the Austrian Society of Engineers and Architects, after numerous experiments, was that the elastic theory of the arch is the only true theory. No arch designed by the elastic theory was ever known to fail, unless on account of insecure foundations, therefore engineers can continue to use it with confidence and safety.

Fourteenth Point.—Calculations for temperature stresses, as per theory, are undoubtedly correct for the variations in temperature assumed. Similar calculations can also be made for shrinkage stresses, if desired. This will give a much better idea of the stresses to be provided for, than no calculations at all.

Fifteenth Point.—Experiments show that slender longitudinal rods, poorly supported, and embedded in a concrete column, add little or nothing to its strength; but stiff steel angles, securely latticed together, and embedded in the concrete column, will greatly increase its strength, and this construction is considered the most desirable when the size of the column has to be reduced to a minimum.

Sixteenth Point.—The commonly accepted theory of slabs supported on four sides can be correctly applied to reinforced concrete slabs, as it is only a question of providing for certain moments in the slab. This theory shows that unless the slab is square, or nearly so, nothing is to be gained by such construction.

C.A.P. TURNER, M. AM. SOC. C. E. (by letter).—Mr. Godfrey has expressed his opinion on many questions in regard to concrete construction, but he has adduced no clean-cut statement of fact or tests, in support of his views, which will give them any weight whatever with the practical matter-of-fact builder.

The usual rules of criticism place the burden of proof on the critic. Mr. Godfrey states that if his personal opinions are in error, it should be easy to prove them to be so, and seems to expect that the busy practical constructor will take sufficient interest in them to spend the time to write a treatise on the subject in order to place him right in the matter.

The writer will confine his discussion to only a few points of the many on which he disagrees with Mr. Godfrey.

First, regarding stirrups: These may be placed in the beam so as to be of little practical value. They were so placed in the majority of the tests made at the University of Illinois. Such stirrups differ widely in value from those used by Hennebique and other first-class constructors.

Mr. Godfrey's idea is that the entire pull of the main reinforcing rod should be taken up apparently at the end. When one frequently sees slabs tested, in which the steel breaks at the center, with no end anchorage whatever for the rods, the soundness of Mr. Godfrey's position may be questioned.

Again, concrete is a material which shows to the best advantage as a monolith, and, as such, the simple beam seems to be decidedly out of date to the experienced constructor.

Mr. Godfrey appears to consider that the hooping and vertical reinforcement of columns is of little value. He, however, presents for consideration nothing but his opinion of the matter, which appears to be based on an almost total lack of familiarity with such construction.

The writer will state a few facts regarding work which he has executed. Among such work have been columns in a number of buildings, with an 18-in. core, and carrying more than 500 tons; also columns in one building, which carry something like 1100 tons on a 27-in. core. In each case there is about 1-1/2 in. of concrete outside the core for a protective coating. The working stress on the core, if it takes the load, is approximately equal to the ultimate strength of the concrete in cubes, to say nothing of the strength of cylinders fifteen times their diameter in height. These values have been used with entire confidence after testing full-sized columns designed with the proper proportions of vertical steel and hooping, and are regarded by the writer as having at least double the factor of safety used in ordinary designs of structural steel.

An advantage which the designer in concrete has over his fellow-engineer in the structural steel line, lies in the fact that, with a given type of reinforcement, his members are similar in form, and when the work is executed with ordinary care, there is less doubt as to the distribution of stress through a concrete column, than there is with the ordinary structural steel column, since the core is solid and the conditions are similar in all cases.

Tests of five columns are submitted herewith. The columns varied little in size, but somewhat in the amount of hooping, with slight differences in the vertical steel. The difference between Columns 1 and 3 is nearly 50%, due principally to the increase in hooping, and to a small addition in the amount of vertical steel. As to the efficiency of hooping and vertical reinforcement, the question may be asked Mr. Godfrey, and those who share his views, whether a column without reinforcement can be cast, which will equal the strength of those, the tests of which are submitted.

TEST NO. 1.[I]

Marks on column—none.

Reinforcement—eight 1-1/8-in. round bars vertically.

Band spacing—- 9 in. vertically.

Hooped with seven 32-in. wire spirals about 2-in. raise.

Outside diameter of hoops—14-1/2 in.

Total load at failure—1,360,000 lb.

Remarks.—Point of failure was about 22 in. from the top. Little indication of failure until ultimate load was reached.

Some slight breaking off of concrete near the top cap, due possibly to the cap not being well seated in the column itself.


Marks on column—Box 4.

Reinforcement—eight 1-1/8-in. round bars vertically.

Band spacing about 13 in. vertically.

Wire spiral about 3-in. pitch.

Point of failure about 18 in. from top.

Top of cast-iron cap cracked at four corners.

Ultimate load—1,260,000 lb.

Remarks.—Both caps apparently well seated, as was the case with all the subsequent tests.


Marks on column—4-B.

Reinforcement—eight 7/8-in. round bars vertically.

Hoops—1-3/4 in. x 3/16 in. x 14 in. outside diameter.

Band spacing—13 in. vertically.

Ultimate load—900,000 lb.

Point of failure about 2 ft. from top.

Remarks.—Concrete, at failure, considerably disintegrated, probably due to continuance of movement of machine after failure.


Marks on column—Box 4.

Reinforcement—eight 1-in. round bars vertically.

Hoops spaced 8 in. vertically.

Wire spirals as on other columns.

Total load at failure—1,260,000 lb.

Remarks.—First indications of failure were nearest the bottom end of the column, but the total failure was, as in all other columns, within 2 ft. of the top. Large cracks in the shell of the column extended from both ends to very near the middle. This was the most satisfactory showing of all the columns, as the failure was extended over nearly the full length of the column.


Marks on column—none.

Reinforcement—eight 7/8-in. bars vertically.

Hoops spaced 10 in. vertically.

Outside diameter of hoops—14-1/2 in.

Wire spiral as before.

Load at failure—1,100,000 lb.

Ultimate load—1,130,000 lb.

Remarks.—The main point of failure in this, as in all other columns, was within 2 ft. of the top, although this column showed some scaling off at the lower end.

In these tests it will be noted that the concrete outside of the hooped area seems to have had very little value in determining the ultimate strength; that, figuring the compression on the core area and deducting the probable value of the vertical steel, these columns exhibited from 5,000 to 7,000 lb. per sq. in. as the ultimate strength of the hooped area, not considering the vertical steel. Some of them run over 8,000 lb.

The concrete mixture was 1 part Alpena Portland cement, 1 part sand, 1-1/2 parts buckwheat gravel and 3-1/2 parts gravel ranging from 1/4 to 3/4 in. in size.

The columns were cast in the early part of December, and tested in April. The conditions under which they hardened were not particularly favorable, owing to the season of the year.

The bands used were 1-3/4 by 1/4 in., except in the light column, where they were 1-3/4 by 3/16 in.

In his remarks regarding the tests at Minneapolis, Minn., Mr. Godfrey has failed to note that these tests, faulty as they undoubtedly were, both in the execution of the work, and in the placing of the reinforcement, as well as in the character of the hooping used, were sufficient to satisfy the Department of Buildings that rational design took into consideration the amount of hooping and the amount of vertical steel, and on a basis not far from that which the writer considers reasonable practice.

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