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Two-Way Slabs: Direct Design Method
ACI318-2014 Chapter8


Slabs are classified as: one-way or two-way.

Flat plates: are solid concrete slabs of uniform depths that transfer loads directly to the
supporting columns without the aid of beams or capitals or drop panels. Flat plates can be
constructed quickly due to their simple formwork and reinforcing bar arrangements. They
need the smallest overall story heights to provide specified headroom requirements, and
they give the most flexibility in the arrangement of columns and partitions. They also
provide little obstruction to light and have high fire resistance because there are few
sharp corners where spalling of the concrete might occur. Flat plates are probably the
most commonly used slab system today for multi-story reinforced concrete hotels, motels,
apartment houses, hospitals, and dormitories.

Flat plates: danger that the columns may punch through the slabs. As a result, it is frequently
necessary to increase column sizes or slab thicknesses or to use shearheads. Shearheads
consist of steel I or channel shapes placed in the slab over the columns. For heavy industrial
loads or long spans, however, some other type of floor system may be required.

Flat slabs include two-way reinforced concrete slabs with capitals, drop panels, or both.
These slabs are very satisfactory for heavy loads and long spans. Although the formwork
is more expensive than for flat plates, flat slabs will require less concrete and reinforcing than
would be required for flat plates with the same loads and spans. They are particularly
economical for warehouses, parking and industrial buildings, and similar structures
where exposed drop panels or capitals are acceptable.

Two-way slab with beam: It is used where its cost is less than the costs of flat plates or flat
slabs, or when beams are required to generate strong frames for lateral loads resistance.

Waffle slab: the floor is constructed by arranging square fiberglass or metal pans with
tapered sides with spaces between them. When the concrete is placed over and between
the pans, the waffle shape is obtained. The intervals or gaps between the pans form the
beam webs (rib webs). These webs are rather deep and provide large moment arms for
the reinforcing bars. With waffle slabs, the weight of the concrete is greatly reduced
without significantly changing the moment resistance of the floor system. As in flat
plates, shear can be a problem near columns. Consequently, waffle floors are usually
made solid in those areas to increase shear resistance.


Two-way slabs are reinforced in both directions by layers of bars that are perpendicular
to each other.

Actually, the fact that a great deal of stress redistribution can occur in such slabs at high
loads makes it unnecessary to make designs based on theoretical analyses. Therefore the
design of two-way slabs is generally based on empirical moment coefficients.The total
amount of reinforcement in a slab seems more important than its exact placement.


ACI Code (8.2.1):

ACI Code Section 8.2.1 allows slabs to be designed by any procedure that satisfies both
equilibrium and geometric compatibility, provided that every section has a strength at
least equal to the required strength, and that serviceability conditions are satisfied. Two
procedures for the flexural analysis and design of two-way floor systems are presented
in detail in the ACI Code. These are the direct-design method—considered in this
handout — and the equivalent-frame design method.

Direct Design Method ACI 8.10

The method, involves a single-cycle moment distribution analysis of the structure based
on (a) the estimated flexural stiffnesses of the slabs, beams (if any), and columns and
(b) the torsional stiffnesses of the slabs and beams (if any) transverse to the direction in
which flexural moments are being determined.

Equivalent Frame Method ACI 8.11
In this method a portion of a structure is taken out by itself. The same stiffness values
used for the direct design method are used for the equivalent frame method.

Equivalent frame method.


The panels are divided into column and middle strips and positive and negative
moments are estimated in each strip. Column strip is a slab with a width on each side of
the column centerline equal to one-fourth the smaller of the panel dimensions l1 or l2. It
includes beams if they are present.

Middle strip is the part of the slab between the two column strips.

Slabs without Interior Beams
The minimum thickness can be taken from Table in the Code. The values selected
from the table, however, must not be less than the following values:

1. Slabs without drop panels 125 mm.

2. Thickness of those slabs with drop panels outside the panels 100 mm.

(ACI 8.2.4) To be classified as a drop panel, a panel must extend horizontally in each
direction from the centerline of the support no less than one-sixth the distance, center to
center, of supports in that direction andproject vertically below the slab a distance no less
than one-fourth the thickness of the slab away from the drop panel.

Minimum size of drop panels – ACI 8.2.4

Table Minimum Thickness of Two-Way Slabs

Without Interior Beams (mm)
Without drop panels With drop panels
Interior Interior
Exterior panels Exterior panels
panels panels
Without Without
fy, MPa With edge With edge
edge edge
beams beams
beams beams
n n n n n n
33 36 36 36 40 40
n n n n n n
30 33 33 33 36 36
n n n n n n
28 31 31 31 34 34
In the table above:
- ln is the length of the clear span in the long direction of two-way construction,
measured face to face of the supports in slabs without beams, and face to face of
edge beams or other supports in other cases.
- Drop panels should satisfy ACI 8.2.4.
- Exterior panels shall be considered without edge beams if αf< 0.8.

With edge beams running around the perimeter of the building: the stiffness of slabs with
edge beams is expressed as a function of αf, which follows.

αf = ratio of the flexural stiffness (E cb 1 b ) of a beam section to the flexural stiffness of

the slab (E cs I s ) whose width equals the distance between the centerlines of the panels on
each side of the beam.
If no beams are used, as for the flat plate, αf will equal 0.

EcbI b
αf = (, b)
Ecb = the modulus of elasticity of the beam concrete
Ecs = the modulus of elasticity of the slab concrete
Ib = the gross moment of inertia about the centroidal axis of a section made up of
the beam and the slab on each side of the beam extending a distance equal to
the projection of the beam above or below the slab (whichever is greater)
but not exceeding four times the slab thickness.
Is= the moment of inertia of the gross section of the slab taken about the
centroidal axis and equal to h3/12 times the slab width, where the width is the
same as for αf.


Using the ACI Code, determine the minimum permissible total thicknesses required for the slabs
in panels 3 and 2 for the floor system shown in the figure below. Edge beams are used around
the building perimeter, and they are 300 mm. wide and extend vertically for 200 mm. below
the slab, as shown in the Figure. They also extend 200 mm. out into the slab as required by ACI
( No drop panels are used, and the concrete in the slab is the same as that used in the edge
beams. fy= 420 MPa.

For Interior Panel: (3)
αf = 0 (since the interior panels have no perimeter beams)
ln = 6 – 0.4= 5.6 m (clear distance between columns)
Min h from Table 16.1 = = 0.169 m= 169 mm.
May not be less than 125 mm. , according to ACI8.3.1.1 Try 170 mm.

A flat-plate floor slab

For Exterior Panel: (2)

Assume h = 170mm. and compute α with reference made to the Figure. Centroid of cross-
hatched beam section located by statics 161.5 mm. from top.

1 1 1

I b =  (500 )(161.5) +  (300 )(208.5) +  (200 )(8.5)
3 3 3

3 3 3

= 1.61*109 mm.4
I s =  (2550 )(170 ) = 1.04 × 10 9 mm 4

 

αf = =
EI b (E ) 1.61 × 109 )
= 1.55 > 0.8
EI s (E ) 1.04 × 109 )

∴ This is an edge beam.

 n 6 − 0.4
Min h = = = 0.169m = 169mm. Therefore use 170 mm.
33 33

Depth Limitations and Stiffness Requirements

Slabs with Interior Beams

To determine the minimum thickness of slabs with beams spanning between their
supports on all sides, Section of the Code must be followed. Involved in the
expressions presented there are span lengths, panel shapes, flexural stiffness of beams if they
are used, steel yield stresses, and so on. In these equations the following terms are used:
ln= the clear span in the long direction, measured face to face, of
(a) columns for slabs without beams and (b) beams for slabs with beams
β= the ratio of the long to the short clear span
αfm= the average value of the ratios of beam- to- slab stiffness on allsides of a panel

The minimum thickness of slabs or other two-way construction may be obtained by

substituting into the equations to follow, which are given in Table In the equations, the
quantity βis used to take into account the effect of the shape of the panel on its deflection, while
the effect of beams (if any) is represented by αfm. If there are no beams present (as is the case
for flat slabs),αfm will equal 0.

For panels with discontinuous edges, the Code requires that edge beams be used,
which have a minimum stiffness ratio a equal to 0.8, or else that the minimum slab thicknesses,
as determined by ACI Equations must be increased by 10%.

The designer may use slabs of lesser thicknesses than those required by the ACI Code as
described in the preceding paragraphs if deflections are computed and found to be equal to or
less than the limiting values given in the ACI Table 24.2.2.

Should the various rules for minimum thickness be followed but the resulting slab isinsufficient
to provide the shear capacity required for the particular column size, column capitals will
probably be required. Beams running between the columns may be used for some slabs where
partitions or heavy equipment loads are placed near column lines, A very common case
of this type occurs where exterior beams are used when the exterior walls are supported
directly by the slab. Another situation where beams may be used occurs where there is
concern about the magnitude of slab vibrations. The following example illustrates the
application of the minimum slab thickness rules for a two-way slab with beams.


The two-way slab shown in next Figure has been assumed to have a thickness of 175 mm. Section
A-A in the figure shows the beam cross section. Check the ACI equations to determine if the slab
thickness is satisfactory for an interior panel. f’c = 28 Mpa, fy =420 Mpa..

(Using the same concrete for beams and slabs)

Computing α1 for long span of Interior Beams:

Is = gross moment of inertia of slab 6m wide

=  (6000 )(175) = 2.7 * 10 9 mm. 4

 
Ib = gross I of T beam section shown in next Figure about centroidal axis =7.1*109 mm.4

α1 = =
( )
EIb (E ) 7.1 * 10 9
= 2.63
( )
EIs (E ) 2.7 * 10 9

A two-way slab
Computing α2for short span of Interior Beams:
Is for 7.2 m wide slab =  (7200 )(175)3 = 3.22 *10 9 mm 4
 12 
Ib = 7.1*109 mm4.

α2 =
(E )(7.1*109 ) = 2.2
(E )(3.22 *109 )
2α1 + 2α 2 2 × 2.63 + 2 × 2.2
Computingαfm: α fm = = = 2.42
4 4

Determining Slab Thickness:

αfm = 2.42 > 2
 fy 
 n  0.8 + 
 1400 
36 + 9 β
lnlong = 7200 – 300 = 6900 mm.
lnshort = 6000 – 300 = 5700 mm.

β = 6900/5700 = 1.21

(6900) 0.8 + 420 

 1400 
h= = 161.87 mm. Use 170 mm. Slab
36 + (9 )(1.21)
- For two-way slabs supported by beams or walls, one-way shears are calculated at a
distance d from the faces of the walls or beams.
- The value of ∅Vcis, as for beams, φ 0.17λ f 'c bw d

- Shear is not usually a problem for these types of slabs.

- For flat slabs and flat plates supported directly by columns, shear may be the
critical factor in design.
Two kinds of shear must be considered:
 One-way (beam shear)
 Two-way shears (punching shear)
For beam shear analysis, the slab is considered to act as a wide beam running between the
supports. The critical sections are taken at a distance d from the face of the column or

For punching shear, the critical sectionis taken at a distance d/2 from the face of the
column, capital, or drop panel, and VU≤∅VCshould be satisfied, where Vc is given next.

Without any shear reinforcement:

Maximum allowable nominal shear strength Vcof the section as required by the
ACI22.6.5.2 is the smallest of the values from:

 2
Vc = 0.171 + λ f c' b0 d
 β
of the column

 α d
Vc = 0.083 2 + s λ f c' b0 d
 b0 
αs = 40 for interior columns
αs = 30 for edge columns
αs = 20 for corner columns

Vc = 0.33λ f c' b0 d
b0 = perimeter of the critical section


1. Thickening the slab over the entire panel

2. Adding a drop panel
3. Adding a fillet or capital around the column
4. Adding shear reinforcement or a shearhead
5. Increasing the column size

Generally 2, 3 and 5 are the most economical.

ACI 22.6.6 If special shear reinforcement is provided, VU≤∅Vn, max where Vn,maxis the
maximum nominal shear strength.Vn, max cannot exceed:

- For stirrups shear reinforcement Vn , max ≤ 0.5 f c' b0 d

- For headed shear studs reinforcement Vn , max ≤ 0.66 f c' b0 d

Provided that the value used for Vc in the termVs = Vu/∅– Vcdoes not exceed:

Vc = 0.17λ f c' b0 d

If shear stresses are too large around interior columns, it is possible to increase the
shearing strength of the slabs by as much as 75% by using shearheads.


Check the Shear for an interior flat plate for the structure shown in the figure.

Assume a service live load equal to 3.83 kN/m2, and a service dead load equal to 5.27 kN/m2
(including slab weight),

Use:fy = 420 Mpa, f’c= 21 Mpa,


Estimate Slab Thickness: Try 190 mm. Slab

Check Required Depth for one-way Shear

Using d for shear equal to the estimated average of the d values in the two directions, thus,
using a clear cover of 20mm and rebars N.13, we obtain:

d (average) = 190 – 20 –12.7 = 157.3 mm.

wu= 1.2 x 5.27 + 1.6 x 3.83 = 12.45 kN/m2

Vu1 = (2.64x1)(12.45) = 32.87 kN for a 1m width strip

φVc = φ 0.17 f c' bd

φVc = 0.75 * 0.17 21 *1000 *157.3 = 91.9kN .

91.9 kN> 32.87kN.

Checking Two-Way or Punching Shear around the Column:

b0 = (2)(400+157.3) + (2)(300 + 157.3) = 2029 mm.

  400 + 157.3  300 + 157.3 
Vu 2 = (6 )(4.8) −    (12.45) = 355.4kN .
  1000  1000 

∅𝑉𝑉𝑐𝑐 = 0.75 ∗ 0.17 ∗ �1 + � ∗ �𝑓𝑓𝑐𝑐′ ∗ 𝑏𝑏0 ∗ 𝑑𝑑 = 466.2 𝑘𝑘𝑘𝑘.
𝛽𝛽 = = 1.333

𝛼𝛼𝑠𝑠 ∗ 𝑑𝑑
∅𝑉𝑉𝑐𝑐 = 0.75 ∗ 0.083 ∗ �2 + � ∗ �𝑓𝑓𝑐𝑐′ ∗ 𝑏𝑏0 ∗ 𝑑𝑑 = 464.4 𝑘𝑘𝑘𝑘.
𝛼𝛼𝑠𝑠 = 40 Interior Column

∅𝑉𝑉𝑐𝑐 = 0.75 ∗ 0.33 ∗ �𝑓𝑓𝑐𝑐′ ∗ 𝑏𝑏0 ∗ 𝑑𝑑 = 362 𝑘𝑘𝑘𝑘. (controls)

Thickness is ok since∅𝑉𝑉𝑐𝑐 = 362 𝑘𝑘𝑘𝑘 > (𝑉𝑉𝑢𝑢 = 355.4𝑘𝑘𝑘𝑘)


GENERAL (ACI 8.10.1) Circular or regular polygon-shaped supports shall be treated as square supports with
the same area.

R8.10.1.3 If a supporting member does not have a rectangular cross section or if the sides of
the rectangle are not parallel to the spans, it is to be treated as a square support having the
same area, as illustrated in Fig. R8.10.1.3.

Fig. R8.10.1.3—Examples of equivalent square section for supporting members.


1. There must be at least three continuous spans in each direction.

2. Successive span lengths measured center-to-center of supports in each direction
shall not differ by more than one-third of the longer span.
3. Panels shall be rectangular, with the ratio of longer to shorter panel dimensions,
measured center-to-center of supports not to exceed 2.
4. Columns offset shall not exceed 10% of the span length in the direction of the offset
from either axis between center-lines of successive columns.
5. All loads must be due to gravity only and must be uniformly distributed over an entire
6. Unfactoredlive load shall not exceed two times the unfactoreddead load.
7. For a panel with beams between supports on all sides, the following equation shall be
satisfied for those beams in the two perpendicular directions.

α f 1 22
0.2 ≤ ≤ 5.0
α f 2 12

EcbI b
Where αf1 and αf2 are calculated by: α f =


1- The total moment Mo = sum of the maximum positive and negative moments in the
span. For a uniform load:

M0 =
(qu l2 )(l1 )

l1 is the span length, center to center, of supports in the direction in which moments are
being taken and l2 is the length of the span transverse to l1, measured center to center
of the supports.

l1 is replaced with l n the clear span measured face to face of the supports in the
direction in which moments are taken. The Code states that l n may not be taken to
be less than 65% of the span l1 measured center to center of supports. If l1 is
replaced with l n , the expression for M o , which is called the static moment, becomes

M0 =
(qu l2 )(ln )2
When the static moment is being calculated in the long direction, it is written as Mol
and in the short direction as Mos.

2- It is next necessary to know what proportions of these total moments are positive and
what proportions are negative. If a slab was completely fixed at the end of each panel,
the division would be as it is in a fixed-end beam, two-thirds negative and one-third
positive, as shown:

ACI Code provides a set of percentages for dividing the total factored static moment
into its positive and negative parts in an end span.

Table – Distribution coefficientsfor end span

(1) (2) (3) (4) (5)

Slab with Slab without beams
beams between interior supports Exterior
Exterior edge
between all Without With edge edge fully
supports edge beam beam restrained
Interior negative
0.75 0.70 0.70 0.70 0.65
factor moment
Positive factored
0.63 0.57 0.52 0.50 0.35
Exterior negative
0 0.16 0.26 0.30 0.65
factored moment

3. The next step is to estimate what proportion of these moments is taken by the column
strips and what proportion is taken by the middle strips.

Sample moments for a flat plate with no edge beams.

ACI Code states that the column strip shall be proportioned to resist the percentages of the total
interior negative design moment given in Table

In the table, αf1is again the ratio of the stiffness of a beam section to the stiffness of a width of
slab bounded laterally by the length of the adjacent panel, if any, on each side of the beam and
equals EcbIb/EcsIs.

ACI Code states that the column strip is to be assumed to resist percentages of the exterior
negative design moment, as given in Table In this table βtis the ratio of the torsional
stiffness of an edge beam section to the flexural stiffness of a width of slab equal to the span
length of the beam center to center of supports.

ACI Code states that the column strip is to be proportioned to resist the portion of the
positive moments given in Table

Table–Portion of interior negative Mu in column strip.
0.5 1.0 2.0
α f 1 2
=0 0.75 0.75 0.75
α f 1 2
≥1 0.90 0.75 0.45
Linear interpolations shall be made between values shown.

Table – Portion of exterior negative Mu in column strip.

0.5 1.0 2.0

α f 1 2 βt = 0 1.00 1.00 1.00

1 β t ≥ 2.5 0.75 0.75 0.75

α f 1 2 βt = 0 1.00 1.00 1.00

1 β t ≥ 2.5 0.90 0.75 0.45
Linear interpolations shall be made between values shown.

whereβtand C are calculated from the following Equations:

E cb C  x  x3 y
βt = C = ∑ 1 − 0.63 
2 E cs I s  y 3

The constant C for T- or L-sections shall be to be evaluated by dividing the section into
separate rectangular parts, as defined in, and summing the values of C for each part.

Where: x is the shorter overall dimension of a rectangular part of a cross section

y is the longer overall dimension of a rectangular part of a cross section

A beam cross section can be divided into

different configurations. The configuration
that gives the greatest value of C shall be used.

Where supports consist of columns or walls extending for a distance equal to or greater than
3  used to compute M0, negative moments shall be considered to be uniformly distributed
4 2
across l2.
Table Portion of positive Mu in column strip
0.5 1.0 2.0
α f 1 2
=0 0.60 0.60 0.60
α f 1 2
≥1 0.90 0.75 0.45
Linear interpolations shall be made between values shown.

Factored moments in beams (ACI

The Code requires that the beam be allotted 85% of the column strip moment if
αf1(l2/l1)>1.0. Should αf1(l2/l1) be between 1.0 and zero, the moment allotted to the beam
is determined by linear interpolation from 85% to 0%. Beams between supports shall resist the portion of column strip Muin accordance
with Table

Table—Portion of column strip Mu in beams

αf1ℓ2/ℓ1 Distribution coefficient
0 0
≥1.0 0.85
Note: Linear interpolation shall be made between values shown. In addition to moments calculated according to, beams shall resist

moments caused by factored loads applied directly to the beams, including the weight of the
beam stem above and below the slab.

The part of the moment not given to the beam is allotted to the slab in the column strip.

Finally, the Code requires that the portion of the design moments not resisted by the column
strips as previously described is to be allotted to the corresponding half middle strip. The
middle strip will be designed to resist the total of the moments assigned to its two half middle

Factored Moments in Columns and Walls (ACI 8.10.7)

If there is an unbalanced loading of two adjoining spans, the result will be an additional
moment at the connection of walls and columns to slabs. The Code provides the approximate
equation listed at the end of this paragraph to consider the effects of such situations. This
particular equation was derived for two adjoining spans, one longer than the other. It was
assumed that the longer span was loaded with dead load plus one-half live load and that only
dead load was applied to the shorter span.

M SC = 0.07 (q Du + 0.5q Lu ) 2  2n − q ' Du '2 ('n )
] (

In this expression q’Du, l’2 and l’n are for the shorter spans. It will be noted that qDuand
qLuare factored Dead Load and factored Live Load, respectively. The resulting approximate
value should be used for unbalanced moment transfer by gravity loading at interior columns
or walls unless a more theoretical analysis is used.

For Edge columns, the moment to be transferred between the slab and column shall not be
less than 0.3MO.

These unbalanced moments should also be used in the design of the columns after they are
divided for columns above and below the slabs in proportion to the columns flexural
stiffnesses, 4EI/l.

Openings in Slab Systems (ACI 8.5.4) Openings of any size shall be permitted in slab systems if shown by analysis that all
strength and serviceability requirements, including the limits on deflections, are satisfied. As an alternative to, openings shall be permitted in slab systems without beams
in accordance with (a) through (d).
(a) Openings of any size shall be permitted in the area common to intersecting middle
strips, but the total quantity of reinforcement in the panel shall be at least that required
for the panel without the opening.

(b) At two intersecting column strips, not more than one eighth the width of column strip
in either span shall be interrupted by openings. A quantity of reinforcement at least
equal to that interrupted by an opening shall be added on the sides of the opening.
(c) At the intersection of one column strip and one middle strip, not more than one-fourth
of the reinforcement in either strip shall be interrupted by openings. A quantity of
reinforcement at least equal to that interrupted by an opening shall be added on the sides
of the opening.
(d) If an opening is located within a column strip or closer than 10h from a concentrated
load or reaction area, for slabs without shearheads or for slabs with
shearheads shall be satisfied.

8.8—Nonprestressed two-way joist systems

8.8.1 General Nonprestressed two-way joist construction consists of a monolithic combination of
regularly spaced ribs and a top slab designed to span in two orthogonal directions. Width of ribs shall be at least 100 mm. at any location along the depth. Overall depth of ribs shall not exceed 3.5 times the minimum width. Clear spacing between ribs shall not exceed 750 mm. Vcshall be permitted to be taken as 1.1 times the values calculated in 22.5. For structural integrity, at least one bottom bar in each joist shall be continuous and
shall be anchored to develop fyat the face of supports. Reinforcement area perpendicular to the ribs shall satisfy slab moment strength
requirements, considering load concentrations, and shall be at least the shrinkage and
temperature reinforcement area in accordance with 24.4. Two-way joist construction not satisfying the limitations of through
shall be designed as slabs and beams. If slab filler is made of a material with a strength less than fc’ of the slab concrete or
if no filler us used, cover slab thickness shall be at least the greater of one-twelfth the
clear distance between ribs and 50 mm.

8.6.1 Minimum Flexural Reinforcement
Table—As,minfor non-prestressed two-way slabs
fy, Mpa As,min,mm2
Deformed bars < 420 0.0020Ag

Deformed bars 0.0018 × 420

Greater Ag
or welded wire ≥ 420 fy

The minimum area of flexural reinforcement As,minshall be provided near the

tension face in the direction of the span under consideration

8.7 Reinforcement Detailing

The maximum spacing of the deformed

longitudinal reinforcement shall not
exceed the lesser of 2h and 450mm. as
stated in ACI

Reinforcement for corner restraint in

slabs shall be in accordance to ACI 8.7.3

Termination of reinforcement in slabs

shall be in accordance to ACI 8.7.4

Minimum size of drop panels (ACI318-14 - 8.2.4)

Effective diameter of capital (ACI318-14 -

Location of critical shear perimeters

Critical shear perimeters for columns near openings
or edges

Critical sections in slab with drop panels.

Definition of βc for irregular shaped column.

Critical sections and tributary areas for shear in flat plate.