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Stages of a project
Engineering students’ guide to multi-storey buildings
The stages of a construction project are presented in ISE publication ‘Structural design – the engineer’s role’[1] which may be
broadly summarised as follows:
From Steelconstruction.info
◾ Project formulation - What it’s for, why is it being proposed, where is it, etc.
For an engineer who is new to designing multi-storey buildings it is important that they follow a logical sequence through the
◾ Assembling the data and developing the brief - Understanding the site and context.
various stages of the design process. Six steps that define this sequence are described below. Rules of thumb are included
◾ Scheme design - Looking at and developing options.
within each step to help the designer quickly and efficiently arrive at a solution that is sensible for a given set of constraints. In
◾ Detailed design - Of the various components and elements.
addition, it is important for the designer to understand some overarching principles of good design – so that the result is not only
◾ Information for construction - Drawings, specifications.
sensible but is also ‘good’.
◾ construction.

Many of these stages include aspects of engineering design. A characteristic of steel framed construction is that the constituent
parts of the structure are manufactured off-site, with all the quality and speed-on-site benefits that are associated with such a
form of construction. An implication of this, however, is that the design must be substantially complete before construction
(steelwork fabrication) can begin. It is therefore important that the designer follows a logical sequence, as going back and
revisiting earlier design decisions, once other parties involved have moved on to designing other parts of the building or
manufacturing components, can be disproportionately expensive.

Coop HQ, Manchester

Cannon Place, London Unilever House, London The Place, London
(Video case study)

20 Fenchurch Street, 60 Holborn Viaduct,

Brent_Civic_Centre Leadenhall, London
London London

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Basic principles of good design for connections etc.), many steelwork contractors prefer grade S275 steel. Again, a key
is to avoid mixing steel grades for components that look otherwise identical as this
facilitates quality assurance.
Some basic choices may have a significant impact on the ease, time and cost of both the fabrication and construction of a steel
framed multi-storey building. Keeping fabrication and construction in mind from the start will lead to the best possible solution. One of the main areas where standardisation is beneficial is the joints (or connections as
The designer should also avoid over-specification, a trivial example being that corrosion protection is not needed when steel they are traditionally termed in the UK). The use of standard joints means the design
components are used in many internal environments. process is greatly simplified, for example because resistances are tabulated or software
can be used more effectively, and the detailing will be acceptable to those who will
Keep it simple and familiar fabricate and erect the steelwork – standardisation, simplicity, familiarity.

Steel is a versatile material. It can be used for single storey buildings, for which its efficiency has helped it reach over 95% Standard beam-to-column and beam-to-beam simple joints adopt one of the three
market share, and it can be used for high rise buildings, for which its high strength to weight ratio makes it the only practical following options, each with its own particular advantages and areas where it is less
choice. Because of the different ways that steel beams can be configured, steel structures can be used to create flooring appropriate:
solutions that are competitive for spans ranging from 6m to over 20m. When choosing between these steel solutions, a basic
Beam to beam connections - Typical
principle for the designer should always be to keep it simple, and use solutions that are familiar not only to him/her as the ◾ Fin plates – particularly good from an erection point of view.
partial depth end plate connection
designer, but will also be familiar to the fabricator and erector. Complexity and lack of familiarity are more likely to result in ◾ Partial depth end plates – better than fin plates for connections to column webs. between beams
misunderstandings or misuse, and may cost more. Exotic solutions should only be used for exotic applications that justify the ◾ Full depth end plates – particularly good for temporary stability and offer
use of non-standard and unfamiliar solutions because of the other attributes they bring. significantly greater tying resistance (for robustness) than partial depth plates.

Simple and complex building solutions

Double angle cleats are no longer commonly used for simple connections in the UK.

Standard simple joints using end plates and fin plates

Modern office building in Spinningfields,
Network Rail HQ, Milton Keynes
Standard joints use standard bolts (typically either M20 or M24 Property Class 8.8), and standard plate thicknesses (10, 12 and
15mm). Welded joints are normally restricted to the fabrication shop, where conditions are much more suitable. Bolted site joints
Lowest weight may not be best have the additional benefit of facilitating deconstruction.

The impact of steel weight on building cost is interesting as there are conflicting drivers. Some things are quantifiable – in many When detailing joints some other rules of thumb should be followed:
countries labour is more expensive than materials so adopting a larger steel section rather than one that needs labour intensive
◾ avoid placing joints in highly stressed regions, so that the joints remain simple (thinner connections and less requirement
fabrication, for example of stiffeners, can be more cost effective. Against this argument, using more material may be associated
for localised stiffening).
with greater embodied energy and carbon. But the considerations are more complex than that because thicker plates also have
◾ put site joints (splices) in an accessible place. Placing splices 1200mm above floors will avoid erectors bending down
greater resistance, for example to localised buckling, so the use of larger sections may:
(good from a CDM point of view), whereas placing them at the location of the intersection between the column and the
beam will minimise the bending moments that will have to be resisted. Placing them 600mm above floor level may hence
◾ improve resilience under accidental loading, making them particularly appropriate for key elements to assure the
be a good compromise.
robustness of a structure against unforeseen circumstances.
◾ facilitate design for temporary load conditions, this avoiding the need for additional temporary elements/sub structures
during erection. Pay attention to interfaces
◾ permit deliberate over-design, to facilitate change of use in the future and so extend the lifecycle of a structure.
The steel frame itself represents only a small part of the overall cost of a building.
◾ require less fire protection (because heavier sections have greater surface area/volume), saving on both materials and
However, how the frame is designed and detailed may affect the cost of more expensive
components it interfaces with. Interfaces is an area where attention to detail can pay real
dividends. There are basically two things to consider at an interface:
The extent to which steel weight is minimised will therefore need to be considered on a project-by-project basis taking into
account each of the above issues. ◾ The different components/materials either side of an interface may need to satisfy
different tolerances. These tolerances may be a function of what can realistically
be achieved and/or what is necessary – for example it is not practical to cast a
Standardise concrete foundation to within 1mm of level, but cladding may need to be placed to
within 1mm (and is able to achieve this) to avoid appearance being compromised.
Closely related to familiarity is standardisation. Although the use of standard member
◾ An interface between components/materials is often also an interface between
sizes is less important than it used to be, given modern ways of modelling and design responsibilities. Clear information transfer is needed so the designer at
fabrication, there may still be benefit in reducing the number of different member sizes each side of the interface understands, and responds to, the requirements of the
used on a project. This desire for standardisation goes right down to the steel grade and other side. Recent moves to using a single model, shared between the different
bolt grades and sizes. design teams involved in a project, should facilitate this information transfer. One
such interface is the column base interface where the steelwork design and the
Rolled sections should only be specified in grade S355 steel (or higher grade) steel to foundation design are performed by different parties.
ensure availability as well as performance benefits. However, for the fittings (plates used

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The design process

Six steps are chosen to split the design process into a logical sequence from early scheme design consideration through to
detailed design. They cover:

Column base interface

Adjustable bracket for a steel beam
to concrete wall connection

When different tolerances need to be accommodated it is much better to achieve this through design and detailing than through
remedial work on site. So, for example, when steelwork is to be connected to a concrete core, the use of brackets that permit
adjustments in two orthogonal directions (through the use of slotted holes) should be envisaged from the outset.

The design process

Step 1: Initial design considerations

Building specific requirements

The basic building shape will normally be chosen, or at least heavily

influenced, by other members of the design team. It will often be dictated
by site restrictions, be they physical or regulatory such as planning
restrictions. Before developing this basic shape into a design the engineer
should make sure he/she is aware of any project specific requirements.

Ground conditions may have a fundamental impact on a number of


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◾ Poor ground favours fewer, probably more expensive per unit, piled ◾ a means to reduce building envelope area/cost.
foundations. The wider spacing of the foundations could dictate in a ◾ a means of reducing operational carbon by reducing heat loss through the envelope.
longer spanning structural frame solution.
◾ If there are any existing foundations on a brownfield site, or
underground services to be avoided, these may affect column The weight and cost of a structural frame per unit of floor area (gross internal area) increases with height, because the wind
positions (possibly resulting in more widely spaced columns, or an loading increases disproportionately and this has a significant impact on the design of the frame. The increasing cost per square
irregular grid pattern). metre is shown for a range of building heights in the cost table below.

Table of indicative cost ranges (Q3, 2016) based on Gross Internal Floor Area (GIFA)
It is also worth noting that steel piled foundations (with their number GIFA Rate (£)
minimised by adopting a long spanning structural frame solution), can
Type BCIS Index
easily be removed at the end of building life, avoiding the knock-on effects
often found on redevelopment sites and improving the overall 100
‘sustainability’ of the solution. Low rise, short spans, repetitive grid / sections, easy access 120 – 150 /m2

High rise, long spans, easy access, repetitive grid 170 – 200 /m2
Other aspects of a given site that may favour a certain building frame
Building shape dictated by location and architecture High rise, long spans, complex access, irregular grid,
solution include any access and height restrictions. In a congested city The Walbrook Building, London 205 – 235 /m2
centre using prefabricated elements may be attractive, to minimise the complex elements
(Video case study)
number of vehicles needed to bring all the materials to site. If access Metal decking and lightweight concrete topping 55 – 70 /m2
routes are of limited width, or have certain other particular characteristics, Precast concrete composite floor and topping 65 – 85 /m 2
these may impact on the size of components, or sub structures, that can be delivered. If there is a restriction on the overall
Fire protection (60 minutes resistance) 17 – 26 /m2
height of a building it may favour the use of shallow floor solutions, even though their spanning ability is less than other steel
options, to minimise floor depth and therefore maximise the number of floors (and lettable floor space) that can be Portal Low eaves (6 – 8 m) 62 – 82 /m2
accommodated within the overall height. frames High eaves (10 – 13 m) 78 – 103 /m2
In addition to any peculiarities of a given site, there may be particular
requirements for the building and its use. For some types of use there are Notes:
specific, published requirements, such as the Building Bulletins for
Education buildings and the Health Technical Memoranda for Healthcare ◾ ‘Easy access’ is for generally unconfined and regular sites where logistics and access arrangements for delivery and
buildings. Particular requirements may include: erection are unhindered and straightforward.
◾ ‘Complex access’ is for confined and irregular site plans commonly found in city centre locations with demanding logistics
◾ a naturally ventilated solution may be required by the client or the and access requirements.
◾ the service requirements are dependent on the building use, e.g.
hospitals are highly serviced. Stability system
◾ different uses impose different requirements for the dynamic
behaviour of floors, as what is acceptable in terms of ‘bounciness’ The resistance of a steel frame against horizontal loading can be achieved in a number
depends on what a room is to be used for. of ways. The most appropriate choice depends on the scale of building:
◾ the effective planning of the location of lifts, stairs, toilets and vertical
distribution of services. These are essential to the operational ◾ for low rise buildings steel bracing is normally used.
performance of a building, and but also play a key role in the Congested city centre location ◾ for medium rise buildings (5 to 15 storeys) either concrete or braced steel cores
structural performance (stability) of the building frame. Park_House,_London are used.
◾ for high rise buildings the use of a concrete core facilitates the construction
process as the core assures stability as steelwork erection progresses up the
If the building is speculative the developer may want maximum flexibility for floor use, services etc. BS EN 1991-1-1 [2] presents building, tied back to the core. Macro-bracing on exterior faces, an ‘exoskeleton’,
may also be used but substantial temporary works are likely to be needed as the
minimum imposed floor loads for different building uses. For offices, the imposed loading is typically 3kN/m2. In addition, up to
final stability system is only complete after a significant number of floors are
1kN/m2 may be added to cover loading from movable partitions. For storage areas, a higher value of 5kN/m2 may be used. erected.
Often, an imposed load of 5kN/m2 is specified in speculative offices to allow for a wide range of client uses. As well as the self-
weight of the floors, an additional load of 0.7 kN/m2 should be considered for raised floors, ceilings and building services It is also possible to provide lateral stability by using a continuous frame – one where
equipment. there is moment continuity between the beams and columns to limit the sway of the
frame. However, whilst such a solution would enable, for example, full glazed walls, the
Number of floors
connection detailing will be significantly more onerous, as will be the design. Unless
To achieve maximum lettable floor space the design should balance the number of floors against floor-to-floor height, paying there are specific building requirements that cannot be satisfied using an alternative,
attention to the intended building use. such a solution will be a disproportionately expensive way of assuring frame stability.
Exoskeleton providing stability to the
The target floor to floor height is based on a floor to ceiling height of 2.5 m to 2.7 m for speculative offices, or 3 m for more Whatever assures the stability of a frame needs to be able to resist lateral loads applied
building of the Broadgate Tower,
prestige applications, plus the floor depth including services. The following target floor to floor depths as shown in the table in two directions, plus a torque. In a braced frame building, the resistance to horizontal Bishopsgate London
below should be considered at the concept design stage: forces is provided by two orthogonal bracing systems:

Typical floor-to-floor heights ◾ Vertical bracing.

Prestige office 4 - 4.2 m ◾ Horizontal bracing.
Speculative office 3.6 - 4.0 m
Renovation project 3.5 - 3.9 m Vertical bracing (in vertical planes between lines of columns) provides load paths to transfer horizontal forces to ground level
and provide a stiff resistance against overall sway As a minimum, three vertical planes of bracing are needed, to provide
resistance in both directions in plan and to provide resistance to torsion about a vertical axis. In practice, more than three are
Shallow floor systems can be helpful for a designer trying to achieve the right balance. Although they tend to have a higher cost usually provided, for example in the locations shown diagrammatically in the figure right.
per unit area, the reduced floor depth may provide the designer with:

◾ more flexibility to achieve the best compromise between floor-to-floor height, number of floors, and overall building height.

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Typical arrangement of vertical bracing Roof horizontal bracing using a truss wind

At each floor level, bracing in a horizontal plane, (generally provided by floor plate action), provides a load path to transfer the
horizontal forces (mainly from the perimeter columns, due to wind pressure on the cladding) to the planes of vertical bracing.

At roof level, a truss wind girder may be used to provide a horizontal bracing system, if there is no slab. See figure left.

Step 2: Choice of grids

Having recognised any building specific requirements, decided on the most appropriate number of floors and, in general terms,
how the frame will be stabilised against horizontal loading, the designer should start to consider in more detail how the frame
will be laid out. The structural grid is defined principally by a regular spacing of columns, with the primary beams spanning
between columns, secondary beams spanning between the primary beams, and floor slabs spanning between the secondary
beams. Wherever possible the beams are laid out in an orthogonal arrangement to provide rectangular floor plates as this
arrangement enables simple orthogonal connection details between beams and columns to be adopted.

Floor grids define the spacing of the columns in orthogonal directions, which are influenced by:

◾ The planning grid (normally based on units of 300 mm but more typically multiples of 0.6, 1.2 or 1.5 m). Relative merits of floor systems
◾ The column spacing along the façades, depending on the façades material (typically 5.4 to 7.5 m).
◾ The use of the internal space, i.e. for offices or open plan space.
◾ The requirements for building service distribution (from the building core). For a building where horizontal services are to be accommodated and integrated within the structural floor depth, deep primary
beams with holes in their webs (to allow the services to pass through), combined with shallow and therefore short spanning
secondary beams is a common choice. Alternatively one may use long secondary and short primary beams, chosen so they are
Beam spans typically fall into the range of 6m to 16m, with over 12m spans being very common on commercial office schemes.
all the same depth.
Slabs typically span between 3m and 6m. The table below shows typical spans for various commonly used floor systems.
Two of the more common composite floor systems are shown below. The benefits of composite slab floors using downstand
beams, shallow floors including precast slabs, together with the choice of long span beams should be considered holistically
and in the context of the specific project under development.

Types of composite beams

Typical spans for various building floor systems

Although opting for a long span solution will increase internal flexibility and maximise the lettable floor space, it should be
Conventional "downstand" beam Integrated beam with deep decking
recognised that spanning ability is only one of the attributes of a given flooring solution. They are also differentiated in terms of
fabrication cost, ease of erection, ease of service integration, cost of fire protection, required structural depth for a given span. A
designer should decide on the best overall compromise for a given application, remembering the basic mantra of
standardisation, simplicity, familiarity. The table shows the relative merits for common floor systems in multi-storey buildings.

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A broad statement taken from the British Council for Offices (BCO) Guide to Specification[3] and SCI P365 states that office Steel works well in tension, but only works well in compression if buckling is
buildings with columns at 7.5 to 9m centres tend to be most economical. More specifically, the cost comparison studies have prevented. So when the bracing is configured so that it only needs to resist
shown that for 3 to 4 storey buildings a composite beam and slab option is likely to be the most economical where the optimum tension (when X-bracing is present within a bay, one of the members will be in
grid size for this type of floor system is typically 7.5m x 9.0m. For a typical 8 storey city centre office building, cellular beams and tension when the wind blows one way, and the other in tension when it blows in
composite slabs are shown to be the most economical. For this size of building a typical optimum grid size of 7.5m x 15.0m the opposite direction) it is possible to use cross-flats (flat steel plates as
could be most appropriate. members). If the bracing must work in compression for example, hollow sections
may be used.
Step 3: Preliminary sizing There are other criteria to consider when choosing the form of bracing, beyond
just structural efficiency. Cross-flats may be useful because they can be hidden
Once the grids are established it is possible to estimate preliminary sizes of the beams using some rules of thumb for span to
within a wall cavity. K-bracing (rather than X bracing) leaves room for doorways,
depth ratios.
although it needs to be detailed so that it doesn’t pick up vertical loads from the
floors (for which it has not been designed). Braced frame multi-storey building using X
An estimation of the preliminary sizes of the beams using some rules of thumb for span to depth ratios for the floor systems bracing
mentioned above is presented in the table. Trinity Square, Gateshead
Weight of the steel structure
(Image courtesy of William Hare Ltd.)
Span to depth ratios for different beam solutions
Preliminary sizing considerations should result in a weight of steel similar to that
Floor = span/20 given in the table below. However, there may be project specific considerations
Non-composite primary beams
Roof = span/25
which could affect the values given in the table which are based on generalised situations.
Non-composite secondary Floor = span/25
beams Roof = span/30 Approximate steel quantities
Span/16 to span/18 Approximate steel quantities
(note depth is steel beam plus slab)
Form of Building (kg/m² floor area)
Composite beams Long span solutions tend to be
Beams Columns Bracing Total
up to span/20
3 or 4 storey building of rectangular form 25–30 8–10 2–3 35–40
6–8 storey building of rectangular form 25–30 12–15 3–5 40–50
8–10 storey building with long spans 35–40 12–15 3–5 50–60
The slabs that span between downstand beams are typically 130 to 150mm deep, using C30/37 or LC30/33 concrete. When 20 storey building with long spans and a
shallow floor solutions are used the structural floor depth, including the integrated beams, is typically 300 to 400mm. Typical 40–50 10–13 1–2 50–65
concrete core
structural depths (floor to ceiling) are shown in the table.

Typical structural depths (floor to ceiling)

Target floor Step 4: Analysis
Flooring system
depth (mm)
Composite beam construction 800 – 1,200 Determining the loads
Cellular beams (with service integration) 800 – 1,100
Before the frame can be analysed and the structural members designed it is necessary to determine the magnitude of loads and
Downstand beams with precast concrete floor other actions such as thermal movements, which may result in stresses in the structure. The main load types are the self-weight
1,200 – 1,450
of the structure (and non-structural components), imposed floor loadings, environmental loading including wind and snow, and
Shallow floor or integrated beams 600 – 800 induced additional loads caused by frame imperfections and sway.

Typical load magnitudes used in building

Columns design
Loading type Area loading (kN/m2)
The columns in braced frame multi-storey buildings are usually hot rolled UC sections. Rectangular or circular hollow sections
can also be used but connections become more complex than when an open cross section is adopted. Typical section sizes for Permanent loads
UC columns are given in the table below. The columns are normally continuous over 2 or 3 storeys and the beams Steelwork 0.35 – 0.7
discontinuous where they meet the columns. Composite slabs 1.9 – 3.0
Precast slabs 3.0 – 4.5
Typical column sizes for small and medium span composite
floors Partitions 1.0
Number of floors Services 0.25
Universal Column (UC) Ceiling 0.1
supported by column
serial size Imposed loads
1 152 Roof 0.6
2-4 203 Floors 2.5 – 5.0
3-8 254 Wind loads 0.8 – 1.5
5 - 12 305 Snow loads 0.6
10 - 40 356
The structure will be subject to a number of realistic combinations of these load types (they won’t all be at their maximum values
Note that small and medium span composite floors generally result in the same serial size for the columns, but the column simultaneously), considering a Limit State Design philosophy where the frame and its members are designed to satisfy different
weight will be greater for the medium spans. ultimate and serviceability limit states. The combinations, and different limit states, are defined in the relevant Eurocodes.

Bracing Determining the internal moments and forces

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Once the loads and preliminary member sizes have been identified, the structural analysis can be carried out. This process Steel member design is based on the requirements given in BS EN 1993-1-1[4]. Composite member design is based on those
results in calculation of the internal moments and forces the frame members must be able to resist (against which the
given in BS EN 1994-1-1[5]. The overall process in member design for the ultimate limit state (ULS) involves:
preliminary sizes can be checked and the design refined).

The vast majority of steel frames are designed as ‘simple’. This means that the beams and columns are assumed to behave as ◾ Classification of the cross section.
disconnected members (there is no moment continuity between them). A simple frame does not in itself offer stability against ◾ Cross-sectional resistance.
lateral loads. Bracing, or a core, typically fulfils this purpose. Assuming simple construction offers a number of benefits and ◾ Member buckling resistance.
results in certain characteristics of the frame: ◾ Resistance to combined axial loading and bending, where applicable.

◾ It greatly simplifies analysis, with easy derivation of moments and forces for a structure that is ‘determinate’ (solvable
using simple calculations). The stiffness of one element does not affect the moments and forces that it, and its neighbours, Additionally, members should be designed for any relevant serviceability limit states (SLS), commonly these relate to
are subject to. The designer should ensure that all element ends are ‘released’ in the analysis model to reflect this ‘simple’ deformations (deflections), and response to dynamic loading. For most multi-storey commercial buildings, straightforward steel
philosophy. construction will meet the required vibration performance criteria without modification. For more vibration sensitive applications,
◾ Columns only experience axial force and nominal bending moments due to the eccentricity of beam connections. such as hospital operating theatre floors, steel’s advantages can be captured with additional stiffening applied to the steel frame
◾ The resulting distribution of moments and forces means that beams will tend to be bigger and columns smaller than when if required. Long-span applications, for which steel is the only option, have been found to offer very good vibration damping,
continuous construction is adopted. despite common preconceptions that damping of composite floors is lower than that of concrete structures. The greater mass of
◾ Joints are less complex, and will tend to use less material (thinner plates, no stiffening or need for haunches). But the the long-span sections which participate in any motion reduces the magnitude of the vibration response.
designer should be aware of the need to design joints for tying forces to prevent progressive collapse (make the structure
‘robust’). Simple joints are assumed not to transfer moment, but if plates are thick enough to provide adequate tying (axial Member design is often completed using software, or by reference to the resistance tables in the 'Blue Book' (SCI P363). An
resistance) will they be thin enough to bend? The behaviour of what is actually built must always reflect what was extract from the Blue Book presenting the buckling resistance moment for UBs is shown below.
assumed in the design. If thick plates are used to achieve tying resistance, they may transfer moments into the columns
for which those members have not been designed.
◾ Composite beams are well suited to simple construction because they work well in sagging (relying on the concrete slab in
compression), but not so well in hogging (slab in tension).
◾ If trusses are used, it is important to design the members to work with ‘simple’ joints between them. Trusses that require
moment transfer between members (internals, chords) are difficult to detail and expensive to fabricate (the member size
may be governed by the moment connections it can accommodate). This can cause particular problems in the situation
where the frame designer does not also detail the joints (as if often the case in the UK) – the frame designer specifies the
sizes of the truss members, but they cannot be made to work.

Model of a multi-storey building ’Blue Book’ (SCI P363) extract

(Image courtesy of Graitec UK Ltd.)

The frame designer must remember to consider the various stages of construction as well as the building in its final state, and
If, as an alternative to simple construction, a continuous frame is chosen:
the various ULS and SLS checks related to each. Designing the structure to be strong and stiff (and potentially ductile) enough
◾ There will be interaction between elements making the frame ‘indeterminate’ (solution requiring structural analysis using to satisfy the different loading and partial completion scenarios will avoid the need for potentially difficult and costly temporary
computational software). The relative stiffness of the members affects the distribution of moments and forces around the works.
frame (stiffer the element the greater force/moment that is attracted to it). As there is moment continuity between the
members, bracing will not be needed. Step 6: Other checks
◾ This interaction means that iteration will be needed to refine member sizes and as a result will require the other members
at the connection to be re-designed as member bending moments are redistributed accordingly to their relative stiffness. In addition to checking the frame members for gravity, imposed and wind loads, some other verifications must also be made as
◾ Different types of analysis may be envisaged. Typically an elastic analysis is adopted, whereby all the frame members are they could affect the final size of the members and joints. These other checks include, but are not restricted to, checking for
assumed to retain their initial elastic stiffness and moments and forces are distributed around the frame according to these sway sensitivity, fire performance, robustness and acoustics performance.
stiffnesses. A plastic analysis recognises that some members (or joints) may be sized so that they reach their resistance
limit, at which point they maintain that level of load but loose stiffness so that any additional load is carried by adjoining Sway sensitivity
Even simple braced frames must be checked for sway sensitivity, as bracing would only prevent all sway if it were infinitely stiff
(which clearly nothing is). If the frame proves to be sway sensitive, options (the viability of which will depend on the given
Step 5: Element design
building) to design for this sensitivity include:
Having determined the moments and forces in the frame members and joints it is possible to move on to detailed design. As
◾ Increase member sizes so the frame sways less under horizontal loading.
noted above, when a frame is continuous it may be necessary to undertake some iteration because the size of the members
◾ For a simple frame this means the size of the bracing.
affects the moments and forces that are attracted to themselves and their neighbours.
◾ For a continuous frame the size of the beams and columns affects the frame sway.
◾ This will not be a viable option for high rise buildings.

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◾ Amplify the first order moments and forces to allow for the secondary (second order) effects that arise as the frame sways. In unusual cases there may be other checks to consider, for instance those considering the impact of thermal effects on the
◾ Carry out a second order analysis to explicitly allow for the secondary effects. frame.

In the braced frame shown in the figure, the bracing extends due to axial tension, allowing the frame to move laterally, and
producing an inclination in the columns, as shown. As the columns are now inclined, additional horizontal components of force
must be resisted by the structure.

Braced frame before and after deflecting

The horizontal components of the forces in the columns are proportional to the vertical loads, which demonstrates that frame
stability is linked to vertical loads.

BS EN 1993-1-1[4] , 5.3.2 states that, for frames that are sensitive to buckling, two types of imperfection should be considered:

◾ Sway imperfections.
◾ Individual bow imperfections of members.


One of the limit states that a designer must consider is fire. Steel loses strength
as it is heated (it will have lost approximately 50% of its room temperature
strength at 600oC). In the UK the most common way of dealing with fire is to
protect the members – provide insulation so that the steel temperature remains
relatively low. Alternatively a fire engineering approach is possible, whereby the
members are designed to resist the loads associated with the fire limit state with
a reduced steel strength (as a function of the anticipated temperature).

The figure shows steel beams protected from fire by an off-site applied thin film
intumescent coating.


robustness of a building frame is defined as: Thin film intumescent coating of floor beams
(Image courtesy of Sherwin-Williams
“the ability of a structure to withstand events like fire, explosions, impact or the Protective and Marine Coatings)
consequences of human error, without being damaged to an extent
disproportionate to the original cause.”

This requirement to design and construct a building to have robustness is established from BS EN 1990 [6]. Details of how the
requirement should be met are given in BS EN 1991-1-7[7] with practical guidance being provided by the Institution of Structural
Engineers in their publication ‘A practical guide to robustness and disproportionate collapse in buildings’[8].

Acoustic performance

It may be necessary to consider the acoustic performance of the floor and walls, against both impact and airborne sound. This is
particularly important for residential, school and hospital buildings. Sound insulation for both direct and flanking (at junctions)
sound is controlled by the following three characteristics:

◾ Mass.
◾ Isolation.
◾ Sealing.

This means that the construction details of the floors, walls and their junctions in a building are the key to its acoustic
performance. Floating floors and suspended ceilings should be considered – it is not simply a question of adding mass.

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References Further reading

1. ^ Structural design – the engineer’s role, September 2011, The Institution of Structural Engineers ◾ Steel Buildings, BCSA No. 35/03, Chapter 4, Multi-Storey Buildings
2. ^ BS EN 1991-1-1: 2002 Eurocode 1. Actions on structures. General actions. Densities, self-weight, imposed loads for ◾ Steel Designers' Manual 7th Edition. (http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1405189401.html) Editors B
buildings, BSI Davison & G W Owens. The Steel Construction Institute 2012, Chapter 5, Multi-Storey Buildings
3. ^ British Council for Offices Guide to Specification, 2014, BCO (http://www.bco.org.uk/) ◾ Architectural Design in Steel – Trebilcock P and Lawson R M published by Spon, 2004
4. ^ 4.0 4.1 BS EN 1993-1-1:2005+A1:2014, Eurocode 3: Design of steel structures. General rules and rules for buildings, BSI
5. ^ BS EN 1994-1-1: 2004 Eurocode 4. Design of composite steel and concrete structures. General rules and rules for
buildings. BSI
6. ^ BS EN 1990:2002+A1:2005. Eurocode: Basis of structural design. BSI
7. ^ BS EN 1991-1-7:2006. Eurocode 1: Actions on structures. General actions. Accidental actions. BSI
8. ^ Practical guide to structural robustness and disproportionate collapse in buildings, October 2010. The Institution of
Structural Engineers

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Resources See Also

◾ SCI P178 Design for Construction ◾ Steel construction products
◾ Target Zero - Guidance on the design and construction of sustainable, low carbon office buildings ◾ Steel material properties
◾ SCI P101 Interfaces - Steel Supported Glazing Systems ◾ Concept design
◾ SCI P137 Comparative Structure Cost of Modern Commercial Buildings (Second Edition) ◾ Service integration
◾ SCI P166 Design of Steel Framed Buildings for Service Integration ◾ Braced frames
◾ SCI P300 Composite Slabs and Beams using Steel Decking – Best practice for design and construction ◾ Continuous frames
◾ SCI P354 Design of Floors for Vibrations- A New Approach ◾ Composite construction
◾ SCI P355 Design of Composite Beams with Large Web Openings ◾ Floor systems
◾ SCI P362 Concise Eurocode for Design of Steel Buildings ◾ Long-span beams
◾ SCI P363 Steel Building Design: Design Data, 2013 ◾ Trusses
A web-based interactive version of the 'Blue Book', is also available. ◾ Portal frames
◾ SCI P365 Steel Building Design: Medium Rise Braced Frames ◾ Design codes and standards
◾ Best Practice in Steel Construction: Commercial Buildings ◾ Modelling and analysis
◾ SCI IEP 2 Service Coordination with Structural Beams ◾ Allowing for the effects of deformed frame geometry
◾ SCI IEP 4 Supporting Services from Steelwork ◾ Member design
◾ Steel Buildings in Europe - Multi-storey buildings: ◾ Simple connections
◾ Part 2: Concept design ◾ Moment resisting connections
◾ Part 3: Actions ◾ Structural robustness
◾ Part 4: Detailed design ◾ Steelwork specification
◾ Part 5: Joint design
◾ Part 6: Fire Engineering
◾ Part 7: Model construction specification
◾ Part 8: Description of member resistance calculator
◾ Part 9: Description of simple connection resistance calculator
◾ Part 10: Guidance to developers of software for the design of composite beams

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◾ An introduction to Eurocode 3
◾ Steel grades and specifications
◾ Worked examples to Eurocode 3
◾ Steel floor construction
◾ Floor vibrations
◾ Design for fire
◾ Sustainability and steel construction

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Category: Resources for Students

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