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Fundamental concepts in blast resistance

evaluation of structures1
G. Razaqpur, Waleed Mekky, and S. Foo

Abstract: This study critically discusses the fundamental concepts used for evaluating the flexural and axial resistance of
structures under blast. Simplified methods based on single degree of freedom are emphasized. The paper begins with how
to estimate the blast parameters for a given charge size and standoff distance. These parameters include side-on and reflected pressures, positive phase duration, and side-on and reflected impulses. Subsequently, blast damage criteria are defined in accordance with prevailing guidelines and some of their short comings are discussed. To assess the impact of
blast on the flexural safety and performance of structures, some simple methods are presented. The methods are either empirical or are based on the principles of energy and momentum conservation. The analytical results are in closed-form or
in the form of pressureimpulse (PI) diagrams. The effect of strain rate on both blast-induced flexural deflection and
strength of structures, with particular emphasis on reinforced concrete structures, is discussed.
Key words: blast, beam, column, concrete, pressure, impulse, strain rate.
Resume : Cette etude analyse les concepts fondamentaux utilises pour evaluer la resistance en flexion et axiale des structures soumises a` un souffle dune explosion. Laccent est mis sur des methodes simplifiees basees sur un seul degre de liberte. Cet article debute en expliquant comment estimer les parame`tres du souffle pour une charge et une distance de
lexplosion donnees. Ces parame`tres comprennent les pressions laterales et reflechies, la duree de la phase positive ainsi
que les impulsions laterales et reflechies. Par la suite les crite`res de dommages causes par le souffle sont definis selon des
lignes directrices applicables et quelques inconvenients sont abordes. Certaines methodes simples sont presentees afin
devaluer limpact du souffle sur la securite et le comportement en flexion des structures. Les methodes sont soit empiriques ou basees sur les principes de conservation de lenergie et du moment. Les resultats sont sous forme analytique ou
sous forme de diagrammes pression-impulsion (PI). Leffet du taux de contraintes sur la flexion induite par le souffle et
sur la resistance des structures est aborde, avec une attention speciale aux structures en beton arme.
Mots-cles : souffle, poutre, colonne, beton, pression, impulsion, taux de contraintes.
[Traduit par la Redaction]

Recent events have created concern about the vulnerability of buildings and other structures to blast loads. The effect of blast on a building depends on the amount and
location of the explosive charge from the building and on
the strength and geometry of the building structure. Detonation of high explosive materials may produce severe overpressures, primary and secondary fragments, fire, heat,
ground shock, vibrations, etc. The explosion may occur inside or outside a building and may cause damage to structural and nonstructural elements, to the building contents,
such as equipment, services, and facilities and may cause
human fatalities inside or outside the building. Although
from the security point of view, knowledge and assessment

of each of these effects are important, the scope of the

present study is limited to the structure.
The purpose of this study is to present relatively simple
methods for assessing the effect of external blast on building
structures and their components. These methods are intended
for individuals with an appreciation for their scope and limitations and knowledge of building design and structural engineering. The study focuses principally on the flexural and
axial behaviour of structural elements and is concerned with
bending failure only. Although in some cases other modes
of failure may be dominant, e.g., the ones associated with
shear, torsion, and buckling, or maybe related to local failure mechanisms such as spalling, breaching, debonding,
etc., these are not addressed in this paper. With the preceding caveat in mind, the results could be used for assessing

Received 11 November 2007. Revision accepted 16 February 2009. Published on the NRC Research Press Web site at cjce.nrc.ca on
22 August 2009.
G. Razaqpur2 and W. Mekky. Centre for Effective Design of Structures, McMaster University, Department of Civil Engineering JHE301, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON L8S 4L7, Canada.
S. Foo. Public Works and Government Services, Gatineau, QC K1A 0S5, Canada.
Written discussion of this article is welcomed and will be received by the Editor until 31 December 2009.

article is one of a selection of papers published in the Special Issue on Blast Engineering.
author (e-mail: razaqpu@mcmaster.ca).


Can. J. Civ. Eng. 36: 12921304 (2009)


Published by NRC Research Press

Razaqpur et al.

the effects of member damage on the safety of the overall

structure. Finally, although the emphasis is on reinforced
concrete structures, the presented methods can be adapted
for other types of materials.

Determining blast load characteristics

There is a wide variety of high explosives available and
each has its own destructive power, depending upon its
mass specific energy. Some common explosives are TNT,
RDX, ANFO, Dynamite, HMX, and PETN. We will use
TNT as the reference explosive and all other chemical explosives can be converted to their TNT equivalent (Zukas
and Walters 1997).
The explosion creates a spherical shock wave or front (a
layer of highly compressed air) associated with high transient pressure that decays rapidly in the case of average size
charges (i.e., 2000 kg or less). The peak value and the positive phase duration of the blast pressuretime curve characterize the potential destructive effects of an explosion and
are of primary interest to structural designers. A typical
pressuretime curve is illustrated in Fig. 1a. In this figure,
Ps is the peak overpressure, which is the amount in excess
of the atmospheric pressure and is also known as side-on
pressure. It decays to zero in time td after which negative
pressure (suction) develops. When the shock front strikes a
surface at an angle, the pressure wave is reflected, causing
an increase in pressure on the reflecting surface. The reflected pressure is denoted by Pr. The shock front is followed by the moving compressed air, which creates blast
wind and dynamic pressure Pd, resulting in drag forces. The
dynamic pressure is related to the air particles velocity and
the resulting wind pressure is relatively small and is often
Although the actual pressure variation with time is relatively complex, it is common practice (Biggs 1964; Baker
et al. 1983; U.S. Army 1990) to assume for the positive
phase of the pressure a linear pressuretime relation, with
zero rise time,as indicated in Fig. 1a. In analytical work,
sometime an exponential pressuretime variation is also assumed, but in practice it is common to assume a linear pressure pulse.
For assessing blast damage potential, one must first determine the magnitude of the peak side-on pressure, Ps, the
peak reflected pressure, Pr, and the positive phase duration
of the pressure, td. These quantities can be calculated by using theoretical expressions as given by Biggs (1964), the
charts given by Baker et al. (1983) and TM 5-1300 (U.S.
Army 1990), specialized computer programs, such as ConWep (1990), or computational fluid dynamics and blast
physics. The latter two approaches are often in the research
realm rather than common practice. Figure 1b from TM 51300 (U.S. Army 1990) shows a typical chart. Observe that
the abscissa of the chart is the scaled distance Z, which is
defined as

W 1=3

where R is the standoff distance (m) and W is the TNT

equivalent charge weight (kg). The quantity Z is referred to
as the scaled distance, which reflects the combined effects


of charge weight and standoff distance. Using Fig. 1b, the

side-on overpressure Ps, the normal reflected pressure Pr,
the scaled incident impulse Is/W1/3, the scaled normal reflected impulse Ir/W1/3, and the scaled positive phase duration td/W1/3 of the blast can be determined. Equation [1]
indicates that the variation of blast pressure on a building
will depend on the distance of the various points on the
building from the explosion source. It is the scaled distance
Z that determines the intensity of the pressure and scaled
impulse at a point rather than the charge size or the standoff
distance alone.
Statistical analyses show that the different approaches
used to estimate blast parameters including software, such
as CONWEP, can predict the reflected pressure and impulse
relatively well. Figure 2a compares experimental reflected
pressure values for typical scaled distances with their corresponding predicted values calculated by a number of available software (Bogosian et al. 2002). While most of the
predicted values are reasonable, CONWEP predicts the results better than the other available software. To gauge the
relative accuracy of CONWEP predictions, Fig. 2b shows
typical measured reflected pressure values as a function of
scale distance and the mean and plusminus two standard
deviation (two sigma) of the predicted values of CONWEP.
It is clear that CONWEP predicts pressure values relatively
well. A higher degree of accuracy may be unwarranted because in reality for the same scaled distance, the reflected
pressure can vary significantly, depending upon the surrounding ground features including the presence of buildings, trees, etc.

Response of structures to blast loads

Depending on the time of maximum response of the structure tm and the positive phase duration td of the blast pressure, (or as an approximate alternative depending on utd,
where u is the natural circular frequency of the structure
modeled as a single degree of freedom (SDOF) oscillator)
the structure is assumed to be subjected to one of the three
loading regimes; namely, impulsive, dynamic, or pressure.
The time of maximum response depends on whether the
structure behaves elastically or plastically when maximum
response is reached. The time to maximum response is a
function of the ratio of the positive phase duration of pressure to the fundamental period of the structure (td/T), as
given by Biggs (1964).
For a response that is governed by impulse, utd 0.4, the
response does not depend on either the maximum pressure
or the shape of the pressuretime curve. Therefore, the magnitude of the pressure, which may be many times higher
than any static pressure that a structure can safely resist, is
basically irrelevant because the structure does not have adequate time to deform under this transient pressure. From
the basic mechanics point of view, for the pressure to be
felt by the structure, the structure must have the time to deform under the applied load, and the work done by the pressure would be converted to strain energy. But if the time of
application of the load is too short, in comparison to the
fundamental period of the structure, the structure would not
have adequate time to deform and the pressure cannot do
any work. Hence, in this case the structure strength is less
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Can. J. Civ. Eng. Vol. 36, 2009

Fig. 1. (a) Typical high explosive blast pressure profile and (b) surface blast parameters as function of scaled distance (modified from U.S.
Army 1990).

important than its ductility to resist the blast energy. Structures that respond in this way have relatively long vibration
period compared with the positive phase duration of the
blast, which may be a few milliseconds. On the other hand,
structures with short period of vibration subjected to long
duration pressure profiles, i.e., utd > 40, respond in the
quasi-static or pressure regime, which means that they must
be able to resist the maximum blast pressure. Structures that
fall between these two limits respond to a dynamic load re-

gime, which means that both the maximum pressure and its
time variation affect the response of the structure.
Although responses due to impulsive and quasi-static
loads can be estimated by relatively simple procedures based
on conservation of energy and momentum, the determination
of response within the dynamic load regime requires full dynamic analysis. For single degree of freedom systems
(SDOF) it is not difficult to perform full dynamic analysis,
but for systems with many degrees of freedom it is more
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Razaqpur et al.


Fig. 2. (a) Measured and predicted reflected positive pressure. (b) Measured and predicted reflected positive pressure (modified from Bogosian et al. 2002).

complex, particularly when one needs to consider inelasticity and strain rate effect. In practice, for preliminary evaluation one could approximate the dynamic response without
recourse to full dynamic analysis, as shown later, but one
must be aware of the limitations of such methods.

Determining the blast resistance of a

The key to accurate determination of the blast resistance
of structural members is the response of their constituent
materials to the high strain rates imposed by a blast load. It
is generally known that materials exhibit significantly higher
strength than their static strength when they are subjected to

higher strain rates. Bischoff and Perry (1991) introduced approximate ranges of strain rates for different loading conditions. It was stated that ordinary static strain rate ranges
from 106 to 105 s1, while blast imposed strain rate ranges
from 102 to 104 s1. These ranges agree with the values
specified in the U.S. Defence Special Weapons Agency
(DSWA) report (Malvar and Ross 1998).
Properties of concrete under high strain rate
According to Fu et al. (1991), the earliest dynamic tests
on concrete in compression were conducted by Abrams
(1917) to investigate the effect of strain rate on the compressive strength of plain concrete. The main conclusion of this
pioneer work was that the higher the rate of straining, the
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Fig. 3. Strain rate effect on the stressstrain curve of concrete in
compression (Yong and Xu 2004).

higher the compressive strength of concrete. Figure 3 illustrates the strain rate effect on the stressstrain curve of concrete in compression (Malvar and Ross 1998), where one
can observe a significant increase in both its strength and
energy absorption capacity with higher strain rate. Note that
the strain rate does not have a noticeable effect on the elastic modulus, but the maximum or failure strain, Fig. 3, is almost an order of magnitude larger than the typical static
failure strain of 0.0035. Based on Fig. 3, for strain rates of
500 s1 or higher, it may be reasonable to use at least a
strain of 0.02 at failure, a value that is almost six times the
conventional static failure strain.
Scott et al. (1982) conducted an extensive series of tests
on concrete samples subjected to concentric and eccentric
loads at strain rates varying from 3.3  106 to 0.0167 s1.
Test results indicated an increase of about 25% in both the
stress and the strain at failure due to the increase in the
strain rate. Also, the shape of the stressstrain curve of confined concrete was found to be strongly affected by the
change in the loading rate. As a result, and as shown by
others (Dilger et al. 1984; Soroushian et al. 1986), both the
secant and the rupture moduli significantly increased with
increasing loading rate.
The U.S. Defence Special Weapons Agency (DSWA)
sponsored a recent numerical study to investigate the response of reinforced concrete structures under the effect of
high strain rates ranging from 10 to 103 s1, resulting from
internal explosion. Complete results of the study were not released for publication, but some of these results are discussed
by Malvar and Ross (1998), in which the apparent strength
remarkably increased, by more than 50% for reinforcing steel
and by more than 100% and 600% for concrete in compression and tension, respectively. Consequently, the latter investigators proposed the following expressions for the effect of
high strain rates on the tensile strength of concrete,
; 3_  1 s1
3_ s

Can. J. Civ. Eng. Vol. 36, 2009

3_ s




log b 6 d  2


3_ > 1


1 8 fc0 =fco0

where ftd and fts are the dynamic and static tensile strengths
of concrete, respectively, DIF is the dynamic increase factor
for tensile strength, 3_ and 3_ s are the high strain rate (up to
is the
104 s1) and static strain rate (106 *105 s1) and fco
fraction of the compressive strength, fc , of concrete ( fc0 can
be assumed 10 MPa).
It was concluded that under strain rate greater than 200 s1,
the dynamic increase factor could reach up to 6. The magnitude of dynamic increase is dependent upon several factors
including static strength of material under consideration and
rate of applied load. In general, the higher the static strength
of a material the lower the increase in its dynamic strength
(lower strain rate sensitivity). Figures 4a and 4b illustrate the
relationship between strain rate and the DIF for concrete in
tension and compression, respectively. In the figures, experimental data collected by Bischoff and Perry (1991) from
many different authors are compared with predictions of the
CEB (1985) expressions and the Malvar and Ross (1998)
modified form of that expression. In addition to the increase
in the tensile and compressive strength of concrete, the strain
corresponding to the peak strength in tension and compression and the concrete ultimate strain are believed to be
shifted to higher values with the increase in strain rate. Tedesco and Ross (1998) discuss and suggest specific relations
that can be used to quantify the extent of the increase in the
values of the above parameters.
Properties of steel
Becuase of the isotropic properties of steel, its elastic and
inelastic response to dynamic loading can be more easily
monitored and assessed (Scott et al. 1982). Norris et al.
(1959) tested two types of steel with static yield strength of
330 and 278 MPa under tension at strain rates ranging from
105 to 0.1 s1. Strength increase of 9% * 21% and
10% * 23% was observed for the two steel types, respectively. Dowling and Harding (1967) conducted tensile experiments using the tensile version of Split-Hopkinton
Pressure Bar (SHPB) on mild steel using strain rates varying
between 103 and 2000 s1. It was concluded from this test
series that materials of body-centred cubic (BCC) structure,
such as mild steel, show the greatest strain rate sensitivity,
their lower tensile yield strength almost doubled, their ultimate tensile stress increased by about 50%, their upper yield
tensile strength considerably increased, and the ultimate tensile strain decreased by different percentages depending on
the strain rate. Figures 5a and 5b illustrate the stressstrain
relationships of mild steel under the effect of strain rates
varying from 103 to 1750 s1.
Malvar (1998) also studied strength enhancement of steel
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Razaqpur et al.


Fig. 4. Relationship between strain rate and the dynamic increase

factor (DIF) for concrete under (a) tension and (b) compression.

Fig. 5. Stress-strain relationships of mild steel under the effect of

different strain rates (Dowling and Harding 1967).

reinforcing bars under the effect of high strain rates. This

was again described in terms of the DIF, which can be evaluated for different steel grades and for yield stresses fy ,
ranging from 290 to 710 MPa as

crete column and examine its response under different strain

rates. Assume a 500  500 mm square column with reinforcement ratio of 3.2%, fc0 = 35 MPa, and fy = 400 MPa.
For the sake of simplicity, the effect of confinement is
ignored and the longitudinal steel is assumed to be uniformly distributed around the column. Also, perfect bond
between reinforcing bars and concrete is assumed.


DIF _3  104 a

where for calculating yield stress a = ay and


ay 0:074  0:04 fy =414

For ultimate strength calculations, a = au, and


au 0:019  0:009 fy =414

For example, for fy = 400 MPa and a relatively lower

strain rate of 100 s1, eq. [6] gives DIF = 1.63.

Section response
To illustrate the influence of the strain rate on a member
response to fast dynamically applied axial load and (or)
bending moment, let us consider a typical reinforced con-

Momentcurvature relation
The response of a column under an axial load and a bending moment can be conveniently represented by its moment
curvature diagram. Using first principles, based on strain
compatibility and equilibrium requirements, the moment
curvature diagrams in Fig. 6 are constructed. Each diagram
is constructed by assuming a certain strain profile (extreme
fibers strain) and determining the stresses in concrete and
steel, using their stressstrain relations, corresponding to
that profile. Next the force resultant of the stresses, which
are generally an axial force and a moment, are determined.
Meanwhile, the curvature is given by the slope of the strain
profile. This process yields one point on the momentcurvature diagram. By assuming another strain profile and repeatPublished by NRC Research Press


Can. J. Civ. Eng. Vol. 36, 2009

Fig. 6. Momentcurvature response of a typical column subjected to an axial load and a dynamic moment applied at four different strain
rates: (a) quasi-static, (b) 1 s1, (c) 10 s1, and (d) 1000 s1).

ing the same process, another point is found and this process
is continued until the complete range of strain in the extreme fibres is covered. In the construction of the diagrams
in Fig. 6, stressstrain relationships similar to those in
Figs. 3 and 5 were used. Figures 6a to 6c show the typical
behaviour of a column under a constant axial load but increasing moment. For the sake of simplicity, the diagrams
in Fig. 6 do not include the tension-stiffening effect, i.e., it
is assumed that cracked concrete carries zero tension. The
strain rate values are assumed to be constant over the cross
section for any momentcurvature diagram, ranging from
107 to 1000 s1, where the slowest rate corresponds to
quasi-static conditions, and the moment is assumed to be induced by loads applied at different strain rates. The applied
axial load is assumed to vary from 5% to 60% of the static
axial load capacity of the column.
As expected, the maximum moment capacity of the column increases with strain rate. For instance, for a column
subjected to an axial load that is 40% of its static axial load
capacity, its ultimate moment capacity increases almost
250% and its energy absorption capacity 350% when the
strain rate increases from 1  107 to 1000 s1. Similarly,
its ductility and deformation capacity also increases notice-

ably. The increase in deformation capacity is important to

mention because the level of blast damage in a member is
often defined in terms of its deformation capacity, as we
will see in the following sections. The response of the column in Fig. 6a is dominated by the axial load due to the
large magnitude of the applied axial load, while that of the
column in Fig. 6d is dominated by the moment because the
axial load is small. In both cases, substantial increase in
both strength and energy absorption can be observed. It is
also important to observe that in each case under the 100 s1
or higher strain rate, the column behaves essentially elastically up to a moment equal to at least twice its static ultimate moment capacity. It is noticed in Fig. 6d that the
cracking moment of the column subjected to strain rate of
100 s1 or higher is much greater than the ultimate strength
of the same column under static conditions.
Based on Fig. 6, the current practice of assuming the concrete and steel dynamic increase factor to be 1.25, as suggested by the U.S. Army Manual TM 5-1300 (U.S. Army
1990), seems highly conservative. This level of increase is
achieved under strain rate of 1.0 s1, which is well below
the strain-rate range specified for blast (Bischoff and Perry
1991). This analysis may indicate substantial increase in rePublished by NRC Research Press

Razaqpur et al.
Fig. 7. (a) Interaction diagram for a typical column under different
strain rates and (b) balanced moment and axial load variation in a
column with strain rate (normalized to balanced moment and axial
load statically applied).


Under high strain rates, the yield stress and concrete compressive strength increase, as discussed earlier, causing a tremendous increase in the compressive axial capacity of the
column. In the case of the column tensile capacity, it is
mainly a function of the reinforcement yield stress, which
has a limiting increase factor of only two. The balanced failure point is characterized by initial yielding in reinforcement. As the yield stress increases with strain rate, the
corresponding yielding strain also increases, allowing the
maximum moment capacity of the column to increase and
causing the failure envelop to almost triple in size. It is clear
that substantial increase in strain rate increases the column
capacity several folds. Consequently, the prevailing practice
of increasing concrete and steel strengths by 25% may be
grossly conservative depending on the strain rate. New and
appropriate methods of design need to be developed that
guarantee structural safety within the same limits as those
under other types of extreme loads, such as high wind and
seismic loads.
Let us study the variation of the balanced moment and
balanced axial load with strain rate for the preceding column. Figure 7b shows the variation of the balanced moment
and balanced axial load with strain rate normalized by their
quasi static values. A consistent increase in these quantities
is noticed with the normalized axial load and moment reaching values of 2.4 and 2.67 at strain rate of 1000 s1. Charts
of this kind can be developed for a range of column sizes,
reinforcement ratios, and geometries similar to axial load
moment interaction diagrams given in existing design handbooks (CAC 2006). Once charts are available, designers can
estimate the strain rate and then find the dynamic increase
factor for the moment and axial load to more realistically assess the strength of beams and columns.

Blast damage classification and assessment

sistance of a member under blast loads over its static

strength, and this may diminish the need for retrofit in
some cases.
Interaction diagram
Interaction diagrams are commonly used to assess the
strength of a column under combinations of an applied axial
load and a moment. For the square column described earlier,
considering the effect of strain rate on concrete and steel
properties and using first principles, interaction diagrams, as
illustrated in Fig. 7a, are constructed. In compliance with
current practice for static loads, when constructing such diagrams, once the section is cracked, the tensile strength of
concrete is neglected. However, recalling the high strain
rate sensitivity of concrete in tension, it may be appropriate
to consider the contribution of tensile stresses in the uncracked tensile zone in the case of very high strain rates.
Ignoring confinement effect, the pure axial compression capacity of a column depends on its reinforcement ratio and
yield stress and on the compressive strength of concrete.

A key step in the damage vulnerability assessment of a

building is establishment of damage limit states. To reduce
the risk of an event to an acceptable level, it is useful to define performance-based damage criteria, or limit states,
which correspond to certain levels of protection. In the case
of a building, the following may be some of the damage
limit states:
 protection of building occupants from severe injury or
 avoidance of damage to important equipment and facilities within the building;
 avoidance of damage to other building contents, for example, documents, furniture, etc.;
 avoidance of damage to nonstructural elements, for example doors, walls, and partitions;
 avoidance of damage to structural elements;
 avoidance of building collapse; and
 avoidance of harm to people and damage to other structures in the vicinity of the target structure.
It is clear that the above limit states can be avoided by a
number of measures, without necessarily strengthening or altering the building structure. The most effective way of reducing blast damage to structure is to increase the standoff
distance. Theoretically, a 1 kg bomb at 1 m from a target
yields the same peak side-on overpressure as a 1000 kg
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Can. J. Civ. Eng. Vol. 36, 2009

Table 1. Effect of charge size and standoff distance on level of protection attainable in
conventionally constructed buildings.
Charge size

Standoff distance (m)

028 (N)
045 (N)
058 (N)
0 73 (N)


3547 (M)
4573 (M)
7397 (M)
91122 (M)

4779 (H)
7397 (H)
97128 (H)
122152 (H)

Note: N, no protection; L, low level of protection; M, medium level of protection; H, high level of

bomb at 10 m from the same target. This clearly demonstrates the advantage of increased standoff distance. As a
quick and highly conservative guide adapted from the U.S.
Army Manual TM 5-1300 (U.S. Army 1990), Table 1 provides some guidelines for the level of protection that can be
afforded by conventionally designed buildings against certain charge sizes at specified standoff distances. The various
protection categories in Table 1 are defined as
 N represents no protection: possible collapse of building,
major damage to equipment and facilities, and death and
severe injuries;
 L represents low level of protection: moderate to heavy
damage to building, 50% to 75% of the walls being severely damaged, occupants of exposed structure may suffer temporary hearing loss and injury from blast wave
and flying debris, and equipment will get damaged;
 M represents medium level of protection: building will
sustain light to moderate damage, including destruction
of the roof and loss of an external wall, occupants of exposed structure may suffer minor injuries from flying
debris, and equipment may suffer light damage due to
flying debris;
 H represents high level of protection: building may suffer
cosmetic damage, including broken glass, cracking, and
damage to building face and damaged partition walls,
broken joists and studs, occupants may suffer superficial
injuries, and equipment may be scratched and dented by
debris. Baker et al. (1983) assume that these protection
categories correspond to complete collapse, partial collapse, major structural damage, and minor structural damage scenarios, respectively.
While as a quick guide Table 1 may be useful, it is highly
empirical in nature because it assumes that all buildings, regardless of their form and materials of construction, provide
the same level of protection. In fact, that assumption has
been made to establish damage criteria and provide simple
design guidelines. More recently, this deficiency has been
addressed in some publications (Task Committee on Blast
Resistant Design 1997), where different response criteria
are given for several reinforced concrete, reinforced masonry, and steel structures. Nevertheless, as most of the
stated criteria are based on static or low speed dynamic
tests, they need to be verified by field or laboratory tests
under blast conditions. For more improved assessment, one
must perform proper structural analysis and evaluation with
due consideration of the dynamic nature of the blast load
and the response of structures to high strain rate.
Because of the ductile response of steel and reinforced
concrete members, damage to them can be assessed in terms

of their deformations. The deformation criterion may be expressed either in terms of maximum deflection, maximum
support rotation, maximum strain, or maximum ductility ratio. These quantities are interrelated and in many cases one
can derive closed-form expressions to relate them to each
The damage in steel members can be classified, as given
in Table 2 (U.S. Army 1990), and is expressed in terms of
support rotation, q, or displacement ratio, m, where m is the
ratio of the maximum displacement experienced to the maximum elastic displacement. The table lists common structural members and their governing damage criteria. The
protection categories 1 to 4 correspond to higher to no protection limits as defined earlier.
These categories were originally defined for military facilities, but they were interpreted by the writers to suit the
purpose of this study. Whitney et al. (1989) give other set
of criteria for steel beams. To determine m for a member,
its momentcurvature relation can be established in the
same manner as for static loads, but one must include the
effect of strain rate on the yield and ultimate strength of
steel, as discussed earlier. For reinforced concrete structures,
damage criteria are defined in the document TM 5-1300
(U.S. Army 1990) in terms of the member end rotation, q,
similarly to the steel members. For minor damage q < 18,
for major damage q < 48 and for collapse q > 48.
Notice that reinforced concrete members that are designed
according to conventional design methods, e.g., based on
CSA standard A23.3 (CSA 2004), are assumed to reach generally the limit of their utility and will collapse if q > 48.
However, greater rotations can be achieved in structures
with special reinforcement (laced diagonal reinforcement)
designed specifically to resist blast loads or structures designed against progressive collapse. Continuous members
with adequate and properly detailed reinforcement in the
positive and negative moment regions may undergo substantial deformations and resist large loads through membrane
action (Nielsen 1984).
A number of issues related to the blast resistance of reinforced concrete members are not clear at this juncture. This
includes the method of calculation of the member end rotations, which depend on the length of the plastic hinge,
bond-slip relation of the reinforcing bars under high strain
rates, tension stiffening, and the momentcurvature response
of the member. Unfortunately, none of the above recommendations explicitly state how the structure deformations
must be calculated. As we noticed in Fig. 6, strain rate
greatly affects both the strength and energy absorption capacity of a member. Furthermore, as in Fig. 6a and 6b
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Razaqpur et al.


Table 2. Deformation criteria for steel structures.

Maximum deformation
(whichever governs)
Member type
Beams, spandrels,
girts or purlins
Frame structures
Cold-formed steel floor
and wall panels

Highest level of

Open-web joists



Additional consideration
Without tensile membrane action

q (8)

Ductility ratio
m = Xm/Xy

With tensile membrane action

Not controlled by maximum end reaction
Controlled by maximum end reaction



*Protection categories as defined in this section.

Applies to members only.
Applies to structure with height H.

q is the maximum member end rotation measured from chord joining the member ends

Fig. 8. Empirical pressureimpulse (PI) diagram (modified from

Baker et al. 1983).

strain rate can also significantly affect the ultimate curvature of a member. Since both member joint rotations and
maximum deflection are functions of its momentcurvature
response, it is important to establish proper procedures for
calculating the actual deformation experienced by a member.
There is little experimental data currently available in the
open literature to verify the validity of the current recommendations such as those in TM 5-1300 (U.S. Army 1990).
Theoretical and empirical analyses, similar to those illustrated in Figs. 7 and 8, respectively, indicate that structures
under blast can resist, depending on the strain rate, very
high forces and can undergo large deformations without
complete loss of strength and sudden collapse.

Blast damage evaluation methods

Several methods exist for quantitatively evaluating blast
damage. In addition to refined methods of dynamic analysis,
such as those in LS-DYNA (Livermore Software Technology Corp. 2007), which are not discussed here, blast damage

can be evaluated using empirical methods, simple analytical

methods based on energy and momentum conservation, or
response spectrum analysis of single degree of freedom
(SDOF) systems. Alternatively, the so-called pressureimpulse (PI) diagrams can be used, which are based on conservation of energy and momentum. We will discuss some
of the simple approaches in the following sections. For the
response spectrum method, reference can be made to Biggs
Evaluating damage using pressureimpulse diagrams
The level of damage to low-rise wood, unreinforced masonry, and light industrial structures can be estimated by
means of empirical pressure impulse (PI) diagrams, as
given in Fig. 8, plotted by Baker et al. (1983) based on Jarrett (1968) damage criterion. Each PI curve is the locus of
pressure and impulse combinations that produce a defined
level of damage in a member. Thus, PI curves are also
called isodamage curves. To use a PI diagram, one must
first determine the pressure and impulse for a given charge
size and standoff distance, e.g., using charts similar to
Fig. 1b. Next, one must plot the calculated pressure and impulse in Fig. 8 and determine the level of damage caused by
the particular combination of pressure and impulse based on
the position of the plotted point with respect to the isodamage curves. The PI diagrams can be theoretically constructed for various types of members and for various limits
states as described later.
Since Jarretts method is empirical and is derived from
bomb damage to low-rise wood and masonry construction,
it may not be suitable for application to modern ductile steel
and reinforced concrete structures. In the case of these structures, the basic principles of structural dynamics can be
used, in conjunction with their forcedeformation behaviour
to estimate their maximum response. Two relatively simple
analytical methods are available for this purpose. Baker et
al. (1983) state that the estimated responses based on these
methods are reasonably accurate and are in fair agreement
with experimental data from actual blast tests.
Before we describe these methods, let us first generically
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Can. J. Civ. Eng. Vol. 36, 2009

describe the forcedeformation relationship of an elastic

plastic member. Let Rm, K and Xy denote the ultimate resistance, elastic stiffness, and the elastic deformation limit of
the member. The deformation Xy may correspond to the deformation at yield. The resistance may be in terms of axial
resistance, Nr, flexural resistance, Mr, etc. with the corresponding deformations being axial elongation / shortening,
curvature, etc. In preliminary evaluation, we normally deal
with axial and flexural deformations. To check possible
shear failure, one needs to calculate the maximum shear corresponding to the maximum moment and then compare the
calculated value with the shear capacity of the member. For
steel structures, lateral-torsional interaction and buckling
may also be important.
Based on fundamental mechanics, the maximum deflection of the structure Xmax depends on the structure mass M,
stiffness K, ultimate resistance Rm, duration td, and maximum value of the applied pressure load, Fm. Let Xc be the
characteristic deflection associated with a specified damage
level or limit state. The deflection Xc can be related (Baker
et al. 1983) to two dimensionless quantities given by the following;


Fig. 9. Effect of (a) ductility and (b) strain rate on a pressure-impulse (PI) diagram.

Xc K



where i is a normalized impulse and I is the actual impulse.

Thus, the PI diagram can be plotted in a Cartesian plane
with eq. [9] as the abscissa and eq. [10] as the ordinate.
The impulse I for any pulse shape can be determined by integrating the area under the pressuretime curve.
The PI diagrams can be constructed for a single degree
of freedom spring-mass system for specified displacements
corresponding to each limit state. As seen in Fig. 8, the
complete range of pressure and impulse that a structure can
be subjected to is covered by the PI plane.
To construct a PI diagram, given a pulse shape, we start
by assuming a very high value for impulse to approximate
the asymptotic or lowest pressure corresponding to this impulse that would cause failure. Using the assumed impulse
and the maximum pressure, the SDOF system is analyzed
dynamically to calculate its maximum deflection. The calculated deflection is compared with the specified deflection,
and if it is found to be different, the pressure is revised and
the analysis is repeated until the calculated deflection is approximately equal to the specified deflection. The combination of pressure and impulse that produce a deflection equal
to the specified deflection constitute one point on the PI
diagram. This process is continued by assuming another
value of I and repeating the preceding procedure. In this
manner, the complete PI diagram is established.
Since the response of the SDOF spring-mass system is dependent on the stiffness and strength of the spring, it is important to clarify how these quantities are calculated. In the
case of columns or beams, one could establish the axial
loaddeformation or momentcurvature response of the
member, as illustrated in Fig. 6. According to Fig. 6, both
the stiffness and the strength of the member are functions

of strain rate, therefore the P-I diagrams are also function

of the strain rate. Consequently, unless the strain rate is established for a specified deflection, one cannot produce a
unique PI diagram for a structural member.
Using the aforementioned procedure, the PI diagram corresponding to different levels of damage are plotted in
Fig. 9a by assuming a constant strain rate. It can be seen
that the blast resistance of a member is greatly dependent
on its ductility. Each PI diagram in Fig. 9a corresponds to
a certain ductility ratio. The effect of ductility on the ability
of a member to resist both higher pressure and impulse is
To investigate the effect of strain rate on the PI diagram
of a member, Fig. 9b illustrates the PI diagram of a SDOF
system corresponding to different amounts of specified maximum displacement and two strain rates. It can be observed
in this figure, that if the member is to remain elastic, even a
10-fold increase in the strain rate does not have a significant
effect on its blast resistance. On the other hand, if the member is allowed to undergo plastic deformation, e.g., Xmax =
4Xy or when m = 4, the increase of strain rate nearly doubles
the resistance of the member in the pressure regime. Of
course, higher strain rate than those in Fig. 9a are encountered under blast loads, and the effect of strain rate on the
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Razaqpur et al.

PI diagram at higher strain rates would be even more dramatic. Tolba (2001) measured average strain rates in the
steel reinforcement in concrete slabs, which varied from as
low as 2 s1 to as high as 120 s1.
Evaluating damage using analytical expressions
For elasticplastic systems, we can use the laws of conservation of energy and momentum to determine a relationship between the energy absorbed by the structure and the
energy or impulse imparted to it by the blast load. In this
case, full dynamic analysis is avoided and the response is
approximated as being either in the impulse or quasi static
regime. Using these concepts, we can show that for a one
degree of freedom system the following relationships hold
(Biggs 1964).
For a member with a much smaller fundamental period
than the positive phase duration of the pressure utd  4
and with a specified displacement ratio m, its required ultimate capacity Rr is

Rr Fm
2m  1
Alternatively, for a member with available capacity Ra, its
required maximum displacement ratio mr is given by

21  Fm =Ra

where in eq. [11] Fm is the maximum or peak applied blast

load, m is the specified displacement ratio, and mr is the required displacement ratio. Note that m cannot exceed the
ductility ratio of a member.
It is evident from the above equations that Ra must be
greater than Fm, regardless of the ductility ratio, otherwise
the member will fail immediately upon application of Fm. If
the member is to remain elastic under the blast load, its resistance must be equal or greater than twice the maximum blast
force. Clearly, a member remaining elastic will not experience appreciable damage. Alternatively, eq. [11] indicates
that a member with theoretically infinite ductility must still
have a resistance exceeding the maximum applied blast load,
if collapse is to be prevented. For preliminary evaluation,
under blast loads, a 25% increase in steel and concrete
strengths may be conservatively assumed, but, as pointed earlier, the member strength may be significantly higher because
of the actual strain rate. According to eq. [11], for maximum
displacement ratio of 5, the required resistance is 1.11 times
the maximum applied load. Equations [11] and [12] apply to
members with elasticplastic behaviour that are responding in
pressure regime. Equation [11] is useful for design purposes,
while eq. [12] is suitable for analysis or evaluation purposes.
For elasticplastic members with relatively long period of
vibration than the positive phase duration of the blast pressure, (utd > 40), which respond in the impulse regime, the
required strength and ductility are given by eqs. [13] and
[14], respectively.

Rr p
2m  1



1 I 2 u2

2 R2a

In these equations u is the natural circular frequency of

the structure and I is the total impulse imparted to the structure. Once again, eq. [14] is appropriate for evaluation,
while eq. [13] is suitable for design. Observe that in this
case not only the impulse, but also the structure natural frequency and ultimate strength affect the maximum deformation of the structure. For a purely elastic response, i.e., m =
1, the required ultimate strength of the member must equal I
u, while for a more ductile response, that is, m > 1 the
strength can be less than I u. For instance, for available ductility ratio of 5, the required resistance would be 0.33 I u.
The latter two equations show that it is not the magnitude
of the maximum pressure but rather the impulse that determines the potential severity of the damage in a structure.
Hence, in such cases, blast pressures several orders of magnitude larger than the static pressure capacity can be resisted
by a structure without experiencing failure.

Summary and conclusions

Based on the results of this study, the following conclusions can be reached:
(1) The blast load parameters for a given charge size and
standoff distance can be calculated with a reasonable degree of accuracy using existing methods and design aids.
(2) The structure response to a blast event cannot be determined accurately using single degree of freedom models.
The structure response is a function of a number of interacting parameters, including the stiffness and ductility of
the structure and blast wave parameters. Since structural
nonlinearities and strain rate can alter the structure stiffness, strength, and ductility dramatically, the results of
single degree of freedom models that do not consider
these parameters have to be used cautiously.
(3) Member strength and energy absorption capacity increases several fold under very high strain rates compared with its corresponding static strength and energy
absorption capacity.
(4) Currently, no simple method is available to establish the
strain rates experienced by a structure during a blast
event. The development of such a method will improve
greatly existing blast evaluation methods.
(5) The PI diagram is a convenient tool for assessing the
blast resistance of a tool corresponding to specified limit
states of damage. Such diagrams can be developed for
different structural members made of concrete, steel,
etc., but realistic diagrams must include the strain rate
(6) There is need for detailed experimental data to validate
both current simplified and advanced methods of blast
analysis. The data should include both load and structural response parameters, including strain rates, pressure, impulse, and extent of damage.

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