Design of Reinforced Concrete Deep Beams for Strength and Serviceability

Birrcher, David


Several reinforced concrete bent caps (deep beams) in Texas have developed significant diagonal cracks in service. The cracking in two bent caps was so extensive that costly retrofits were implemented to strengthen the structures. Strut-and-tie modeling is currently recommended in most U.S. design specifications for the design of reinforced concrete bent caps and deep beams. Designers have expressed concerns with the lack of clarity and serviceability-related considerations in strut-and-tie model design provisions.

Due to concerns with strut-and-tie modeling design provisions and field problems of in-service bent caps, TxDOT Project 5253 was funded. Several tasks conducted within Project 5253 are addressed in this dissertation. The effects of minimum web reinforcement and member depth on the strength and serviceability behavior of deep beams are presented. The transition between deep beam shear capacity and sectional shear capacity near a shear-span-to-depth (a/d) ratio of 2 is addressed. A service-load shear check to limit diagonal cracking in service is outlined. Lastly, a simple chart that correlates the maximum width of diagonal cracks in a deep beam to its residual capacity is developed.

To accomplish the objectives of Project 5253, thirty-seven tests were conducted on reinforced concrete beams with the following cross-sectional dimensions: 21”x23”, 21”x42”, 21”x44”, 21”x75”, and 36”x48.” The specimens were loaded with a/d ratios of 1.2, 1.85, and 2.5. The test specimens are among the largest reinforced concrete deep beams in the literature.

To supplement the findings of the experimental program, a database of deep beam test results was compiled. Entries in the database that lacked sufficient information and that did not meet established cross-sectional size or web reinforcement criteria were filtered from the database. The use of the database in conjunction with the experimental program enabled each objective to be addressed from both broad and specific viewpoints.

Several recommendations for improving the strength and serviceability design of deep beams are presented including a minimum web reinforcement requirement, provisions to ease the transition between calculated deep beam and sectional shear capacity, and a design check to limit diagonal cracking in service.

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