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CONCRETE BUILDING PROJECT Prefabricated punching
shear reinforcement for
reinforced concrete flat slabs

The European Concrete Building
Project is a joint initiative aimed at
improving the performance of the
concrete frame industry.

The principal partners in this

ambitious concrete research
programme are:

British Cement Association

Building Research Establishment
Construct – the Concrete Structures
Reinforced Concrete Council Figure 1: Fixing prefabricated shear reinforcement at Cardington
Department of the Environment,
Transport and the Regions This Guide provides recommendations for the use
The programme involved investigating of prefabricated punching shear reinforcement systems,
the process of constructing a full-sized and the associated design approaches.
concrete frame in the Large Building
Test Facility at Cardington and testing
the performance of the completed frame. Key messages
With support from the DETR
1. Proprietary prefabricated punching shear reinforcement systems are between
and the Engineering and Physical three and ten times quicker to fix than traditional loose links.
Sciences Research Council, the 2. In most cases, the design approaches are relatively straightforward and supported
seven-storey in-situ flat slab concrete by design aids.
frame was completed in 1998.
The results of investigations into 3. The additional material costs of prefabricated systems are generally far outweighed
all aspects of the frame construction by savings resulting from reduced fixing time.
process are summarised in this series 4. Prefabricated systems have a successful history of use in mainland Europe
of Best Practice Guides. and in North America, and are now being used increasingly in the UK.

These Guides are aimed at all those

involved in the process of procurement,
Best practice
design and construction of in-situ 1. Wherever possible, prefabricated systems should be used in preference
concrete frames. They should to conventional loose links.
stimulate fundamental change in
2. Design of the systems should follow the approaches suggested in this Guide.
this process to yield significant
More detailed information will be available from The Concrete Society (Reference 1).
improvements in the cost, delivery
time and quality of these structures. 3. The use of ACI stirrups is potentially the most straightforward and cost-effective
method of punching shear reinforcement but further research is needed to confirm
the design approach.
4. Most methods of providing punching shear reinforcement will allow small holes
to be formed near columns. However where large holes must be provided immediately
adjacent to columns, structural steel shearheads may need to be considered.

concrete structures group
www.bca.org.uk www.bre.co.uk www.construct.org.uk www.rcc-info.org.uk www.detr.gov.uk 1
The use of flat slab construction is
popular because of the advantages
it offers in speeding up the construction
process. In a flat slab structure, column
supports lead to punching shear stresses
in the slab. The concrete will provide
a certain level of shear resistance
around the columns but this may need
to be supplemented by punching shear
reinforcement arranged on concentric
Using traditional links for this is time-
consuming and expensive. However Figure 2: Stud rails arranged Figure 3: ACI shear stirrups
a range of alternative prefabricated radially around an edge column arrangement for an internal column.
punching shear reinforcing systems is The top reinforcement is yet
now available and many of these were to be fixed
used on the in-situ concrete building
at Cardington.
In most cases, fixing reinforcement is
on the critical path for the completion
of the structural frame, which means
that there are considerable benefits to
be gained by speeding up the process.
The conclusion from the research at
Cardington was that the time saved by
using these alternative punching shear
systems was so great as to make the
savings almost always worthwhile.
The generic types of prefabricated
punching shear reinforcement system
are considered in this Guide. Although
individual proprietary systems are
mentioned by name, no particular
product is endorsed. Further
information on the design of these
alternative shear reinforcement systems
can be found in Reference 1.

Stud rails (1, 2, 3)

Stud rails are prefabricated metal studs
with a circular disc at either end placed
in a line along a spacing bar. These
bars are arranged radially from the
centre of the column, usually at angles Figure 4: Shear ladders used for an internal column. The top reinforcement is yet to be fixed
not exceeding 45 . The size of the studs
and their spacing can be adjusted.
Two makes of stud rail were used at
Cardington. The first, DEHA stud rails
(Figure 2), had the spacing bar at the
bottom and were fixed in position
before placing the main reinforcement,
although they can also be fixed from
above. The second, known as
AncoPLUS shear studs, were fixed from
the top after all the main reinforcement
had been positioned (see Figure 1).
Other manufactured stud rail systems
include the Halfen HDB-A system.

Figure 5: Shear hoops arranged Figure 6: Structural steel shearhead

around an internal column allows the formation of openings
immediately adjacent to an
internal column
Design approaches Design approaches Effective anchorage of the shear links is
Stud rail manufacturers generally These stirrups have been used mainly assured by lacer bars at the same level
provide an in-house design service, in the USA, and the principal design as the main longitudinal reinforcement.
or at least a design manual, tables source is the American Building Design Overview
and/or software to assist designers Code ACI 318 (Reference 3).
not familiar with their use. • Shear ladders are simple to specify,
One benefit of ACI shear stirrups is design and use.
As with conventional shear that the reinforcement assembly passes
reinforcement, the number, diameter through the column. Testing has shown • They are much quicker to fix than
and spacing of the studs are adjusted that this increases the ductility of the loose links.
to give the required area of shear connection and improves post-failure • They have the advantage of being
reinforcement within a given shear resistance. almost a straight replacement for
perimeter. The studs work through Design of the assemblies effectively traditional shear links.
direct mechanical anchorage provided relies on the concrete to transfer shear
by their heads. • The only real disadvantage is the
forces within it to each of the arms. congestion of reinforcement that
Using the same stud diameter This may not be as effective as may result from the requirement
throughout is generally the best option providing reinforcement on perimeters for the additional lacer bars.
as the scope for placement errors around the column and is a departure
is minimised. To ensure correct from the approach suggested in codes • They may be bought in or
prefabricated on site.
positioning of the studs, the ends of such as BS 8110 and EC2 (Reference 4).
the spacing bars are fixed flush with The design method is well documented
the face of the column. but is underpinned by only limited test Shear hoops (5)
Many of the systems have been used data. Shear hoops (Figure 5) are fully
in other parts of Europe where different Layering should not be critical in prefabricated three-dimensional
design codes are generally used. Efforts achieving effective anchorage of the assemblies, with links arranged on
have been made by the manufacturers shear reinforcement since the small perimeters from the face of the column.
to make available design approaches diameter links are fully anchored The spacing of the shear perimeters
compatible with BS 8110 (Reference 2). around small diameter longitudinal and the size of the links can be
This has not been particularly difficult, bars, which can usually be arranged adjusted to meet design requirements.
as the fundamental approach to the to be in the same layer as the main Shear hoops are available from
provision of punching shear reinforcement. BRC Special Products.
reinforcement is the same in most
design codes. Overview Design approaches
• ACI stirrups are cheap and easy As with shear ladders, shear hoops
Overview to fix. can be designed conventionally to
• Stud rails have been used extensively produce bespoke prefabricated units
• There remain doubts about the to meet particular requirements. The
and have been verified by testing in validity of the design method with
Canada and mainland Europe. manufacturers of the hoops provide
respect to UK and European codes,
an in-house design service; the design
• They are easy to fix and provide particularly where there are holes
approach being based on the principles
minimum interference with main near to columns.
of BS 8110.
longitudinal reinforcement.
• Further research is needed to confirm Some difficulty may be expected when
• They are now available in the UK the design approach.
using the system with prefabricated
from a range of suppliers who can
• They may be easily prefabricated mats. The spacing of the links should
assist with their detailed design. on site. be arranged to be compatible with that
• They have to be bought in of the main bars in the mats. It is
prefabricated, so some extra lead-in possible to move the shear hoops so
time may be required. Shear ladders (4) that the links can be anchored around
Shear ladders are rows of traditional the lower top reinforcement, although
links fixed to lacer bars. They may there are some reports of shear hoops
ACI shear stirrups be supplied as a proprietary system tangling while being moved.
ACI (American Concrete Institute) shear (as used at Cardington, Figure 4)
stirrups (Figure 3) are arrangements or possibly prefabricated on site. Overview
of conventional reinforcement (straight Prefabrication enables rapid placement • Three-dimensional shear hoop
bars and links) that form a , T or L and good control of link spacing. assemblies with the links already
shape for an internal, edge or corner ROM supplied the shear ladders used at set out on the required perimeters
column respectively. The cages can Cardington. are superficially attractive, but
be prefabricated on or off site. The their bulk and shape can make
fixing time of the completed stirrup Design approaches
them cumbersome.
assemblies, which can be positioned The area and spacing of the
by hand, is negligible. • Some difficulty may be experienced
reinforcement in the vertical legs
when they are used with
of ladders are determined by using
prefabricated mats.
conventional design approaches
to punching shear, i.e. the links • They are available only as bought
in ladders emulate traditional links. in prefabricated units, so some
extra lead-in time may have to
be allowed.

Structural steel shearheads Suppliers

This Best Practice Guide is based on
Structural steel shearheads are steel 1 Available under licence from BRC Shear reinforcement systems for flat plates
Special Products, Warrington. (Reference 1).
sections welded together into a grid.
The holes formed within the grid can Tel: 01925 625 750
be left open, providing the potential www.brc-uk.co.uk References
to locate large openings immediately 1. THE CONCRETE SOCIETY. Shear
2 Ancotech ag, Switzerland. reinforcement systems for flat plates.
adjacent to columns (Figure 6). They
Tel: 0041 1854 7222 Crowthorne (to be published).
are relatively expensive and it may
be necessary to adjust the flexural 2. BSI. Structural use of concrete. Part 1:
reinforcement. They permit the 3 Halfen, Dunstable. Code of Practice for design and
provision of large service holes within Tel: 08705 316 300 construction. London, BSI, 1997.
the slab depth without the need for BS 8110-1: 1997.
a supporting beam system. 3. AMERICAN CONCRETE INSTITUTE.
4 ROM Ltd., Lichfield. Building Code requirements for
Design approaches Tel: 01543 414111 reinforced concrete (ACI 318M-99)
www.rom.co.uk and Commentary (ACI 318RM-99).
Structural steel shear heads may 1999. Detroit, ACI.
be designed according to procedures 5 BRC Special Products, Warrington. 4. BSI. Eurocode 2: Design of concrete
given in ACI Code 318 (Reference 4). Tel: 01925 625 750 structures. Part 1: General rules and
Each arm of the shearhead is assumed www.brc-uk.co.uk rules for buildings. London, BSI, 2001.
to be carrying the proportion of the pr ENV 1992-1: 2001.
shear force conventionally carried by
the shear reinforcement, and a plastic Best Practice Guides in this series
moment is calculated assuming that Further reading • Improving concrete frame construction
this proportion of the shear force GOODCHILD, C. H., and MOSS, R. • Concreting for improved speed
is sited at the end of each arm. It is Reinforcing Cardington, Concrete, and efficiency
recommended that the primary arms Vol. 33 No.1 January 1999. • Early age strength assessment
pass between the main column bars pp 11 – 14. of concrete on site
in both directions. • Improving rebar information and supply
• Early striking and improved
Overview Towards rationalising reinforcement backpropping for efficient flat
for concrete structures. Crowthorne, slab construction
• Structural steel shearheads are 1999. Ref. CSTR 53. 40 pp. • Rationalisation of flat slab reinforcement
heavy and will require a crane
to position them. THEOPHILUS, J. Rationalised • Prefabricated punching shear
reinforcement design, Concrete, reinforcement for reinforced
• Their use may be considered in a Vol. 29, No. 2, March /April 1995. concrete flat slabs
highly serviced building where large pp 17 – 18. • Approaches to flat slab design
holes are required close to columns. These guides are available for downloading
GOODCHILD, C.H. Rationalisation free at www.rcc-info.org.uk/research
• Slab thickness and column of flat slab reinforcement. 2000. British
reinforcement may dictate the Cement Association, Crowthorne. Research partners for this Guide
type and size of structural steel Ref. 97.376. 210 pp. Reinforced Concrete Council
member used. Building Research Establishment
• They are prefabricated off site, 97.505
and some extra lead-in time may
First published 2001
have to be allowed. ISBN 0 7210 1578 6
Price group A
© BCA, BRE Ltd, Construct, RCC, DETR
Other systems
Published by the British Cement Association
Other types of punching shear on behalf of the project partners.
reinforcement systems are available
British Cement Association
but these were not considered as part Century House
of the work at Cardington and are Telford Avenue
therefore beyond the scope of this Guide. Crowthorne, Berkshire RG45 6YS
For further copies of the Best Practice Guides
ring the Concrete Bookshop on 01344 725704.
All advice or information from the British Cement
Association is intended for those who will evaluate the
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responsibility for its use and application. No liability
(including that for negligence) for any loss resulting from
such advice or information is accepted. Readers should
note that all BCA publications are subject to revision from
time to time and should therefore ensure that they are in
possession of the latest version.