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Engineering Structures 23 (2001) 94101


Experimental investigation into using lead to reduce vertical load

transfer in infilled frames
M.K. Sahota, J.R. Riddington

University of Sussex, School of Engineering and Information Technology, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QT, UK
Received 7 February 1998; accepted 17 July 1999

Reinforced concrete structural frames can be infilled with masonry to produce structures that will effectively resist in-plane
racking loading. Creep and shrinkage of the columns can however result in vertical load transfer onto the infill that is difficult to
predict and which varies with time. Results from an experimental investigation into the use of a coppertellurium lead layer to
reduce this load transfer are presented. These results indicate that a lead layer can cause a significant reduction in load transfer,
whilst not causing any deterioration in the short term racking performance of the infilled frame, and that the load transfer onto the
infill can be predicted using finite element analyses. 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd and Civil-Comp Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Lead; Infilled frames; Creep; Racking; Masonry; Brickwork; Reinforced concrete

1. Introduction
An efficient and effective way of bracing a structure
to resist in-plane horizontal shear loading is to construct
it using infilled frames. In an infilled frame the wall and
frame act together, with the masonry wall acting as a
diagonal brace, to produce a structure that can be both
stiff and strong. However in order to act as an efficient
brace the infill has to be a tight fit in the frame. Unfortunately having a tightly fitting infill can be a problem
when the frame is formed from reinforced concrete. The
columns of such a frame tend to shorten as a result of
creep and shrinkage, whilst clay brick walls can expand.
The column creep is caused by the long term compressive load that always acts on columns. This change in
length of the columns relative to the infill height can
result in very significant vertical load transfer from the
columns onto the infill; the amount of which cannot be
calculated with any degree of confidence since creep
rates and the amount of expansion of the infill cannot
be accurately predicted. The amount of load transferred
onto the columns will also change with time and will
be affected by the age of the frame when the infill is

* Corresponding author.
E-mail address: j.r.riddington@sussex.ac.uk (J.R. Riddington).

constructed. Although the resulting compression of the

infill due to the load transfer may increase its strength
with regard to its possible failure due to shear and diagonal tension, it may also result in the crushing of the
loaded corners of the infill at a reduced lateral load. The
load transfer also has an adverse affect on the beams of
the frame, as a result of shear forces that are induced in
them at their connections with the columns. Since the
possible benefits of the load transfer cannot be taken
advantage of when designing infilled frames, due to the
level of uncertainty associated with the load transfer,
whilst allowance should be made for the possible negative effects, the authors believe that it would be desirable
to reduce if possible the amount of the load transfer.
Previous research [1] has indicated that a reduction in
load transfer might be achieved by incorporating a layer
of a visco-elastic material such as lead between the top
of the wall and the underside of the top beam of the
frame, as shown in Fig. 1. To be effective this layer has
to behave elastically when the structure is subjected to
lateral loading, which is by its nature short term loading
(wind and earthquake), whilst being able to creep sufficiently to accommodate the difference in movement of
the columns and the infill, which occurs over a much
longer period of time.
This paper presents the results from an experimental
investigation in which infilled frames were tested with

0141-0296/01/$ - see front matter 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd and Civil-Comp Ltd. All rights reserved.
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M.K. Sahota, J.R. Riddington / Engineering Structures 23 (2001) 94101

Fig. 1.

Corner section of an infilled frame containing a lead layer.

and without a lead layer, in order to assess the effectiveness of using a lead layer to reduce load transfer onto
the infill as a result of column shortening. Three halfscale infilled frames were tested, of which two contained
a lead layer. The frames were tested in two stages. In
the first the columns were progressively shortened in
order to investigate the effectiveness of the lead in preventing load transfer onto the infill. In the second the
frames were subjected to short term racking loading so
as to check whether a lead layer adversely affects an
infilled frames racking stiffness or strength.
The results from finite element analyses of the frames
when subjected to column shortening are also presented.
The objectives of this work were twofold, the first to
determine whether finite element analyses are capable of
predicting the influence of a lead layer on the behaviour
and the second to determine the influence of the infill
properties on the behaviour.

2. Infilled frames tested

Three half-scale square masonry infilled steel frames
with overall dimensions of 1890 mm1890 mm were
tested. The masonry infill was formed from three hole
perforated clay engineering bricks manufactured by
Redland Bricks, with nominal dimensions 215102.565
mm, together with mortar joints that were nominally
10mm thick. A designation (ii) mortar [2] was used
which was formed from masonry cement and building
sand in a weight ratio of 22:77. The frames were formed
from Grade 43 steel [3] joist sections 152 mm89 mm.
The frames were formed of steel rather than reinforced
concrete because the method used to simulate the shortening of the columns as a result of shrinkage and creep
put the columns into tension. Using a steel rather than
a concrete frame resulted in different interface properties
between the infill and frame in addition to differences
in their elastic properties and cross-sectional areas. In
terms of what was being investigated with these tests,


the effects of these difference was not considered to be

significant. The steel sections were welded together to
form the frames with the corners of each frame being
stiffened by welding plates 100 mm100 mm25 mm
to each side of the frame.
It is known that the behaviour of lead varies greatly
with the type and quantity of the alloying metals. A separate investigation by Riddington and Sahota [4] has
indicated that an alloy containing 0.06% copper and
0.04% tellurium might be the most suitable alloy for this
particular application. Consequently this alloy of lead
was used in this investigation, with it being extruded into
5 mm thick layers for inclusion in the infilled frames.
Longitudinal grooves were incorporated in the layers, as
shown in Fig. 2, in order to reduce the effect of the lateral restraint provided by the beam above and the infill
below it, on the creep rate of the lead. Prior to use, the
layers were preloaded to 20 N/mm2, since it had been
found [4] that this work hardening improved the elastic
properties of the material. The lead layer was attached
to the underside of the top beam of the frame using a
contact adhesive prior to the construction of the infill.
The columns of the frames were designed so that they
could simulate the shortening of concrete columns that
occurs as a result of creep and shrinkage. This was achieved by splitting the columns of the frame in half and
then connecting the two halves with a threaded rod. On
one side of the gap the rod had a thread with a pitch of
2.0 mm, whilst on the other side the rod had a thread
with a pitch of 2.25 mm. This small difference in pitch
provided a means for shortening the columns by small
and controlled amounts. One full revolution of the rod
produced a closure of 0.25 mm in the gap in the column.
To enable the rod to be turned a 40 mm nut was welded
to the rod at the point where the pitch of the thread
changed. A calibrated dial was also attached to the rod
to enable small amounts of rotation to be measured accurately against a pointer attached to the column.

3. Infill material properties

Average values of mortar properties found by testing
mortar specimens at the time when the infilled frames
were tested in racking are given in Table 1. Compression
tests of mortar cylinders were undertaken in order to
obtain the compressive strength, elastic modulus and

Fig. 2.

Cross section of the lead layer.


M.K. Sahota, J.R. Riddington / Engineering Structures 23 (2001) 94101

Table 1
Average values of mortar properties
Compressive strength (N/mm2)
Elastic modulus (kN/mm2)
Poissons ratio
Tensile strength (N/mm2)

mortar joint and sc is the stress normal to the mortar

The coefficient of friction between the infill mortar
and steel frame was obtained from the results of triplet
tests conducted on specimens formed from a small
length of the steel frame section sandwiched between
two bricks using mortar joints. For these specimens bond
shear strength was found to be negligible.


Poissons ratio values for the mortar. The tensile strength

of the mortar was obtained from split cylinder test
results. The cylinder specimens were 40 mm in diameter
and 80mm long and they were formed from mortar that
had been laid between two bricks for ten minutes. Tests
have shown [5] that this method of specimen production
can produce property values that are reasonably representative of the properties of the mortar actually in
the joints.
Tests were undertaken to obtain various properties of
the bricks, the brickwork and the joint between the infill
mortar and the steel frame. The results are shown in
Table 2.
The elastic moduli of the bricks and the brickwork
were found from stressstrain results obtained from
compressive tests on bricks and brickwork stacks
respectively. The joint bond tensile strength value was
obtained from the results given by direct tensile tests on
brick couplets, with the value being taken as 1.9 times
the ultimate load divided by the cross-sectional area of
the bed joint. This multiplication factor [5] accounts for
the uneven stress distribution along the joint when a
couplet is subjected to the form of loading used. The
stress value obtained is the maximum stress acting across
the joint at failure if it is assumed that a brittle form of
failure occurs. The value obtained (0.33 N/mm2) closely
matched the value (0.34 N/mm2) given by four point
flexural tests that were undertaken on nine brick high
stack specimens. The flexural test value is the maximum
tensile stress acting across the joint at failure if a stress
distribution given by simple bending theory is assumed.
The bond shear strength and coefficient of internal friction were found from results obtained from triplet tests
on specimens, using the Coulomb relationship:
where: t is the shear strength, t0 is the bond shear
strength, m is the coefficient of internal friction of the
Table 2
Average values of brick, brickwork and infill-frame joint properties
Brick elastic modulus (kN/mm2)
Brickwork elastic modulus (kN/mm2)
Brickwork joint bond tensile strength (N/mm2)
Brickwork joint bond shear strength t0 (N/mm2)
Brickwork joint coefficient of internal friction m
Mortar to steel coefficient of friction


4. Long term creep tests

As stated earlier the infilled frames were tested in two
stages. During the first stage the columns were progressively shortened over a period of approximately three
months in order to investigate the effectiveness of a lead
layer in reducing load transfer from a frame to an infill
when the columns of a frame shorten as a result of creep
and shrinkage. The frames were then left for a further
three months in order to determine what dissipation of
load occurred when the length of the columns was not
changed. Two of the three infilled frames tested included
a lead layer. The rates of shortening applied to the columns of the three infilled frames were as follows:
Frame 1 without lead: shortened by 0.0125
Frame 2 with lead: shortened by 0.0125 mm/day
Frame 3 with lead: shortened by 0.0050 mm/day.
These shortening rates were determined after consideration of the extensive literature on reinforced concrete
creep and shrinkage rates. The literature indicates that
the 0.0125 mm/day shortening rate is close to the upper
limit of the straining rate that any reinforced concrete
column is likely to experience in practice. The authors
are only aware of one example where a faster straining
rate has been measured in a full sized structure. Samra
[6] reported a case where the measured straining rate
over a 90 day period was slightly greater than that given
by the 0.0125 mm/day shortening rate. In this case the
loading on the columns of a water tower was being
increased at a particularly fast rate, due to the rapid rate
of construction of the structure. Even the 0.005 mm/day
shortening rate used with Frame 3 produces a straining
rate which is relatively high for a concrete column. The
shortening rate was not increased to account for the
extension of the columns that resulted from the tensile
load generated in the columns. Calculations based on the
loads that were generated in the test columns indicate
that this extension was less than 15% of the applied
Electrical strain gauges were mounted along the centre
lines of the columns of the steel frames and these were
used to monitor the build up of load in the columns and
hence the load in the infills. The load data was recorded

M.K. Sahota, J.R. Riddington / Engineering Structures 23 (2001) 94101

twice daily by means of a data logger. The results for

the loads developed in the columns during this first stage
of testing are shown in Fig. 3.
Fig. 3 clearly shows that for the infilled frames tested
with the same rate of column shortening, the frame without the lead layer developed much higher axial forces in
its columns than the infilled frame with the lead layer.
This clearly shows that a lead layer can be used to reduce
load transfer onto the infill of an infilled frame. The difference in the loads transferred to the infills for these
two frames was not however as large as had been
expected. This was because the load generated in the
frame without the lead layer was lower, whilst the load
generated in the frame with lead was somewhat higher,
than had been expected. Detailed finite element analyses
of the frames, which will be described later, indicated
that the lower than expected load in the frame without
lead was a result of the flexibility of the mortar used to
construct the infill. A structural infill would normally be
constructed using a high strength and stiffness mortar.
Such a mortar was not used for the tested infills because
it was thought that if it was used, the resulting infills
would have been too strong to be taken to failure when
the frames were tested in racking, using the apparatus
that was available. The higher than expected load in the
infill with the lead layer was related to the alloy of lead
used and the profile of the lead layer. The coppertellurium alloy was chosen because of its good elastic
properties and resistance to recrystallisation after work
hardening. Its creep rate when subjected to compressive
loading is however relatively low compared with other
lead alloys. If required, the amount of load transfer could

Fig. 3.


be reduced by using a different load alloy or by using

a different profile or thickness of lead layer. It will be
shown later that finite element analyses can be used to
predict reasonably accurately the load transfer.
The results shown in Fig. 3 also indicate an increase
in the rate of load transfer onto the infills for all three
frames during the last month when the columns were
being shortened. This period corresponded with the onset
of winter and it is thought that the increase can be attributed to the expansion of the clay bricks during this period, as result of the increased humidity levels.
Fig. 3 also shows the load in the columns of the three
frames during the three months after the shortening of
the columns had stopped. Comparing the two infilled
frames that had been shortened at the higher rate, it can
be seen that the drop off rate was much higher in the
infilled frame with lead.

5. Short term racking tests

The purpose of these second stage tests was to determine whether the inclusion of a lead layer into an infilled
frame adversely affects its stiffness and strength when
it is subjected to in-plane lateral loading. The infilled
frames that had been used for the long-term creep tests
were also used for these short-term racking tests. The
load that had been applied to the infilled frames by the
shortening of the frame columns, which was different in
each frame, was taken off prior to the racking testing of
the frames. No information on the influence of the lead
layer on racking strength would have been obtained from

Load developed in the columns as they were shortened.


M.K. Sahota, J.R. Riddington / Engineering Structures 23 (2001) 94101

the tests if the frames had been subjected to these differing levels of precompression, since it had already
been established [1] that prestressing the columns of an
infilled frame can affect its racking strength.
The infilled frames were tested under cyclic lateral
load with the load being applied by two hydraulic jacks,
one at either end of the frame. The load was measured
by two 500 kN load cells that were connected to a data
logger. In addition to monitoring the applied load,
measurements were also made of the forces generated
in the frame members using strain gauges and of the
lateral deflection of the frame. The loading and support
arrangement is shown in Fig. 4. Pins passed through
each corner of the frame. The top pins were attached to
the hydraulic jacks by threaded rods in an arrangement
that did not permit compressive loading to be carried.
To create the cyclic loading the two jacks were operated
in turn, so as to apply an alternating horizontal tension
load to the top corners of the frame. At the bottom corners the pins were attached to vertical threaded rods
which were fixed to the bottom beam of the test frame
in a manner that allowed both compression and tension
to be carried. The bottom pins were also fixed to horizontal threaded rods. These were attached to the vertical
members of the test frame in a manner so that only tension loading could be carried. As a result of this arrangement, when a horizontal tension load was being applied

Fig. 4.

by a jack at one top corner, a vertical compression reaction load was generated at the bottom corner below the
loaded corner, and vertical and horizontal tension reaction loads were generated at the bottom corner diagonally opposite the loaded corner.
The load was first applied in small increments to one
side of the infilled frame. The load was then taken off
in increments before being applied in the opposite direction to the other side of the frame. Further cycles of load
were then applied with the maximum load being applied
each cycle being increased until complete failure of the
infill occurred. At every increment of load, the load
value, axial load in the frame members and frame
deflection were recorded. During the loading any cracking that occurred was recorded.
Only the results from Frames 1 and 2 are presented
because Frame 3 failed prematurely as a result of a welding failure. It was found that Frame 1 (without lead) and
Frame 2 (with lead) failed at a very similar ultimate load,
Table 3
First crack and ultimate load values
Infilled frame
1. Without lead
2. With lead

Racking tests loading arrangements.

Initial cracking load

80 kN
140 kN

Ultimate load
245 kN
250 kN

M.K. Sahota, J.R. Riddington / Engineering Structures 23 (2001) 94101

as shown in Table 3, and in a very similar pattern, as

shown in Fig. 5(a) and (b).
As shown in Table 3, the first tension crack appeared
in the frame without lead at a much lower load than in
the frame with lead. As a result the infilled frame with
the lead layer was stiffer than the frame without lead at


higher load levels, as can be seen in the loaddeflection

graphs shown in Fig. 6(a) and (b).
Overall it can be concluded that the inclusion of the
lead layer had no adverse effect on the racking performance of the infilled frame tested.

6. Finite element analysis of the infilled frames

The ANSYS finite element package was used to analyse the infilled frames with and without a lead layer,
when they were subjected to long term column shortening. The reason for undertaking these analyses was to
determine whether the behaviour of infilled frames containing a lead layer could be predicted with a reasonable
degree of accuracy; since if it could, it would permit
further research work on the topic to be undertaken using
finite element simulations.
The problem is complex because as the columns

Fig. 5. (a) Crack pattern at failure for the frame without lead. (b)
Crack pattern at failure for the frame with lead.

Fig. 6. (a) Loaddeflection graph for the frame without lead. (b)
Loaddeflection graph for the frame with lead.


M.K. Sahota, J.R. Riddington / Engineering Structures 23 (2001) 94101

become shorter, the top and bottom beams of the frame

tend to bend away from the infill, remaining in contact
with the infill only close to the columns. The length of
contact and stress distribution along this contact length
depend on many factors, which include the axial load in
the columns, the bending stiffness of the frame, the elastic properties of the lead and infill materials, and the
amount of creep that has occurred in the lead.
The infill and the lead layer were represented by four
node plane stress rectangular elements, whilst two node
offset beam elements were used to represent the frame
members. Two node contact elements were introduced
along the infillbeam and infillcolumn interfaces in
order that the separation of the frame members from the
infill that occurs at certain points along their interface
could be simulated. The top and bottom layers of mortar
in the infill were also represented separately in the analyses using four node plane strain rectangular elements.
This was because it was found that the stiffness of the
mortar in the corners of the infill significantly affected
the analysis results when there was no lead layer. Plane
strain elements were used because it was felt that they
better represented the constraint conditions that affect
these mortar layers. The mortar is restrained from
spreading out of the plane by the bricks and the steel
beam above and below it.
The elements used to represent the lead layer were
capable of simulating creep. The creep characteristics

Fig. 7. Comparison between measures and computed axial forces in

the columns for Frame 3.

Fig. 8.

that were used in the infilled frame analyses were

obtained from separate finite element creep analyses of
the profiled layer, using creep data obtained from creep
tests on lead cylinders [7]. The shortening of the columns was simulated in the analyses by applying progressively thermal strain to the columns.
It was found that the build up of load in the columns
was predicted reasonably accurately for all three infilled
frames. The results for the frame with lead, shortened
at the slowest rate, is shown in Fig. 7. As previously
mentioned, the increase in the load transfer rate recorded
during the last month whilst the columns were being
shortened, was attributed to an expansion of the infill
material, caused by moisture take-up at the onset of winter. No attempt was made to model this expansion in
the analyses.
As mentioned previously, the tested infills were constructed using a mortar with a lower stiffness and
strength than might be expected to be used in practice.
To investigate the effect of having a higher stiffness and
strength mortar, analyses were undertaken on infilled
frames where the mortar and infill elastic moduli were
increased to the relatively high values of 19.4 and 24.6
kN/mm2, respectively. These were values that had been
obtained in another test programme [8], when a designation (i) mortar [2] (1 part cement to 1/4 part lime to
3 parts sand by volume) had been used with a solid clay
engineering brick. The specimen forming and testing
methods described in Section 3 had been used to obtain
these values. The results from these analyses for the load
that would have been generated in the columns, if this
mortar type had been used, and the columns had been
shortened at a rate of 0.0125 mm/day, are shown in Fig.
8. Comparing Fig. 8 with Fig. 3, it can be seen that the
difference in the load generated between the frame without, and the frame with a lead layer, is much greater
when a higher strength mortar is used. Increased mortar
and infill stiffness results in reduced contact lengths
between the infill and the lead layer and as a consequence higher stresses and creep rates in the lead.

Finite element prediction of load generated in the columns if there were to be a stiffer infill.

M.K. Sahota, J.R. Riddington / Engineering Structures 23 (2001) 94101

7. Conclusions
It is concluded that:
1. The inclusion of a lead layer in an infilled frame structure will reduce significantly the compressive load
that is transferred onto the infill as a result of column shortening.
2. In the tests undertaken, the inclusion of the copper
tellurium lead layer did not have any adverse effect
on the racking performance of the infilled frame.
3. Finite element analyses were capable of predicting
with a good degree of accuracy the vertical load transfer that occurred in the infilled frames tested, when
they were subjected to column shortening.

The authors wish to acknowledge the support for this
research given by the International Lead Zinc Research


Organisation, the Lead Development Association, British Lead Mills, Redland Bricks and the Engineering and
Physical Sciences Research Council.
[1] Riddington JR, Bolourchi M. Use of lead to reduce vertical load
transfer in infilled frame structures. Proc Instn Civ Engrs
[2] British Standards Institution, BS5628:Part 1:1992, Code of practice for structural use of masonry: Part 1. Unreinforced masonry.
London: BSI, 1992.
[3] British Standards Institution, BSEN10025:1990, Specification for
hot rolled products of non-alloy structural steels and their technical
delivery conditions. London: BSI, 1990.
[4] Riddington JR, Sahota MK. Stability of lead alloy compressive
work hardening. Materials and Design 1999;20(1):137.
[5] Riddington JR, Jukes P. Determination of material properties for
use in masonry FE analyses. Proc British Masonry Society
[6] Samra RP. New analysis for creep behaviour in concrete columns.
Journal of Structural Engineering 1995;121(3):399407.
[7] Sahota MK, Riddington JR. Compressive creep properties of lead
alloys. Materials and Design 2000;21(3):15967.
[8] Jukes P. An investigation into the shear strength of masonry joints.
DPhil. thesis, University of Sussex, 1997.