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First South East European Regional CIGRÉ Conference, Portoroz 2016 SEERC


Steel and Concrete Composite Polygonal Towers for Transmission Lines

Miteng Inc.


Combining the key features of steel and concrete, composite polygonal towers offer an
economical solution for transmission lines. In composite towers, the steel media contributes
to the speed of construction, light weight, strength, and ductility while concrete media
provides damping, reduced cost, and stiffness. In addition, composite towers provide a small
base area which reduces the cost of land. In this research study, a detailed evaluation of a
composite pole tower designed for a 132kV line is presented. The tower subjected to design
loads is analyzed nonlinearly employing a fiber-based beam formulation. In this finite
element formulation, the composite cross-section is divided into small fiber areas, where the
nonlinear response of steel and concrete is monitored. The tower is analyzed under both static
and cyclic loadings. The strength, stiffness and cost of the composite tower are compared to a
bare steel polygon tower designed under the same design loads. The capacity of tower is
determined by both AISC-360 and Eurocode 4. The discrepancies in design for two design
specifications are also presented.


Transmission towers, steel and concrete composite, polygonal towers


Transmission tower structures fulfil an important function that is to keep the conductors
above ground to deliver electricity from its remote supply to the communities. The towers are
placed sequentially along the line route and their quantities can reach to very large numbers
(e.g., 3-4 towers per 1 km). They are often subjected to heavy loads originating from the
self-weight of the conductors and environmental agents of mainly wind and ice. Considering
their quantity and critical purpose, the design of transmission towers is very challenging and it
requires detailed engineering studies of various disciplines.

The majority of the electrical utilities over the world utilize either steel lattice or pole type
towers for their grid. Steel lattice towers offer a very efficient and economical system.
However, it suffers from large foot print and blockage of landscape. On the other hand, pole
tower is a costly solution but provides a clearer landscape view and a small right-of-way. In
the recent years, the increased public awareness on transmission lines, new conductor types
and development of renewable energy plants provide a great motivation for engineers to
propose economical and innovative solutions to improve the resiliency of transmission grids.

Steel and concrete composite pole, as shown in Figure 1, combines the key features of two
materials to form a structural system with superior features in terms of cost, strength, and
stiffness. In this system the steel pole is filled with concrete upon erection of the tower. The
composite behaviour is achieved through shear connectors installed inside the steel tube.
Concrete core improves compressive resistance and delays local buckling of the steel tube.
The steel tube provides confinement pressure into concrete and this pressure enhances the
ductility of concrete. The concrete also retards the oxidation of the steel tube when it is
exposed to intrusion of salty water. This is especially critical for life-time of line routes close
to the ocean. Due its compact geometry, composite towers may also find their area of
application in urban areas. In addition, composite poles exhibit a stable response against
physical attacks and vandalism. Over the last decade, researchers have conducted intensive
studies on understanding the behaviour of composite columns (Varma et al. 2002, Tort and
Hajjar, 2010, Tiziano et al. 2010). This resulted in development of new design provisions and
therefore the use of composite columns has become more wide spread all over the world. The
first application of composite poles dates back to 1960s in Japan (Morino and Tsuda, 2003).
A recent example of a composite pole exists in Palm Beach Florida for a 230 kV line (Fauad
et al. 2006).

Figure 1. Steel and Concrete Composite Pole

In this paper, a 132kV concrete-filled pole (CFP) tower will be designed according both
AISC-360 and EC4 design provisions. The resulting design will be compared to bare steel
pole design of the same tower with respect to strength, stiffness and economy. In addition,
the discrepancies between the two design provisions will be discussed.


The double-circuit composite tower to be designed has a voltage level of 132 kV with weight
and wind span values of 500m and 350m, respectively. There will be no steel cross-arms
attached. Instead the conductors will be carried through post-insulators. The vertical phase to
phase spacing is taken as 3m. Following the sag tension calculations and clearance
requirements, the total height of the tower is calculated as 27m as shown in Figure 2. The
maximum wind speed at 10m height at 15oC is assumed as 29 m/s. No ice loading is
considered. The design loads were calculated per IEC60826 for 3 basic load combinations of
Normal, Broken Wire and Stringing conditions. Including the variations of basic
combinations, a total number of 14 load combinations were generated.

The steel pole is assumed to have 12-sided geometry and no tapering was assumed. In the
usual practice, steel poles are often manufactured with a taper of 10 to 30mm per 1 m length
of pole. However, design standards do not yet address the tapered composite members.

Figure 2. 132 kV Composite Pole


The analysis of the composite pole is performed both at the element level and also at the
cross-section level. At the element level, the composite pole is converted into a steel pole
with transformed section properties. Then, these properties are assigned to beam finite
elements along the height of the tower. For the post insulators, rigid beam finite elements
were utilized to transfer the conductor forces into the tower body. The finite element model
of the tower developed in SAP2000 software can be seen in Figure 3. In order to calculate the
moment of inertia and plastic section modulus of the steel and concrete parts of the composite
pole, curve fitting studies were performed and the resulting equations are provided below in
Eqs. 1 and 2. The transformed properties are calculated per AISC-360 design specification as
detailed below.

Figure 3. Beam Finite Element in Sap2000

I s = 0.3582 × (D − t ) × t , I c = 0.0448 × (D − 2 × t )
3 4
Z s = 0.9331 × (D − t ) × t , Z c = 0.155 × ( D − 2 × t ) 3


D - depth of steel tube (from outer edge to outer edge)

t - thickness of steel tube
I s -moment of inertia of steel tube
I c -moment of inertia of concrete core
Z s -plastic modulus of steel tube
Z c -plastic modulus of concrete core

According to AISC-360, the nominal axial strength of the composite column is expressed as
in Equation 3.

Po = As × Fy + C 2 × Ac × f c (3)

Po – nominal cross-section strength of composite column
As – area of steel polygon

Ac – area of steel concrete core
f y – yield stress
f c – compressive strength of concrete
C 2 – 0.95

Converting composite cross-section into a steel shape, the modified cross-sectional area can
be calculated as follows from Eq. 4.

As × f y + C 2 × Ac × f c
Am = (4)
Am – modified cross-sectional (transformed) area of the composite section

In the case of bending, the flexural stiffness of the composite section is calculated as given

EI eff = E s × I s + C 3 × E c × I c (5)

EI eff – effective flexural stiffness

E s – elastic modulus of steel
E c – elastic modulus of concrete

 As 
C 3 = 0.6 + 2.0 ×   (6)
 As + Ac 

Similar to the calculation of modified cross-sectional area, converting the composite cross-
section into a steel shape, the modified moment of inertia of the composite column can be
calculated as follows from Eq. 7.

E s × I s + C3 × Ec × I c
Im = (7)

Upon calculating Am and I m , the analysis of the composite column with the transformed
properties is conducted in SAP2000 software. The depth of the composite column is assumed
as 630mm with a thickness of 20mm. The steel pole is filled with 30 MPa concrete. The
moment and axial load distribution along the height of the tower is presented in Figure 4. The
maximum values of both bending moment and axial load values occur at the bottom of the
tower. The tower is subjected to bending moment in both directions. However, the moment
values generated by the lateral loads transverse to the line direction dominated the response.
No uplift case existed resulting in compression loads only along the tower height. The nodal
deflection of the tower under unfactored loads can be seen in Figure 4. The deflection values
are reported for both composite and bare steel towers of the same size and cross-section. It
can be that the composite pole resulted in about 70% less deflection compared to steel tube.
However, it should be kept in mind that concrete cracking is not taken into account in this
analysis. Therefore, the contribution of concrete cracking to the stiffness of the composite
pole may be reduced depending on the extent of cracking.

Figure 4. Axial Load, Bending Moment and Displacement Distribution of Composite Pole


Upon determining the internal forces of the composite pole, the bending and axial capacity of
the pole should be checked according to the relevant design specifications. Since axial load
and biaxial bending moment are acting simultaneously, the design checks involve generation
of axial load and bending moment interaction curves.

The design of composite columns are covered in Chapter I of AISC-360 and in Section 6.7 of
Eurocode 4. In both specifications, limiting values are provided for D / t ratios of the
composite poles. For cross-sections having D / t ratios below these limits are considered as
compact sections. If the polygonal composite towers are considered to exhibit a response
close to rectangular concrete-filled tubes, for S355 grade steel, the D / t limit of compactness
is 54 and 42, for AISC 360 and Eurocode 4, respectively. For non-compact composite
colums, AISC-360 provides equations to account for the effect of local buckling. On the other
hand, no design methodology is provided to account for local buckling in Eurocode 4.

Therefore, in this study the composite pole is selected as a compact section with a D / t ratio
of 32. Eurocode 4 proposes a simplified and a general method for design composite
columns. Since the relative slenderness value for the composite pole is larger 2.0, in this
study, the general method is utilized for design. However, the creep and shrinkage effects are
ignored. In AISC-360 and Eurocode 4, there exist general design equations for rectangular
and circular composite columns for both buckling strength and interaction curves. However,
they are not applicable to polygonal shapes. Therefore, for both AISC-360 and Eurocode 4,
buckling and strain compatibility analyses are required for design of composite polygon

In this study, a buckling analysis of the composite pole is performed using OpenSees, which
is open source framework for analysis of structural systems. The composite pole is modelled
using a fiber-based beam element with cross-section dicretizetion shown in Figure 5. In the
model, both geometric and material nonlinearity is simulated. The steel tube and concrete
core is divided into small fibers and material nonlinear response of steel and concrete fibers is
traced via cyclic uniaxial stress-strain curves also shown in Figure 5. The stress values at
each fiber is first integrated over cross-section at each integration point. Then, the cross-
section forces are integrated over element length to obtain member forces.

Figure 5. Fiber-Based Beam Elementof Composite Pole

While conducting the buckling analysis, the composite pole is assigned an initial imperfection
and it is subjected to linearly increasing axial load. The buckling load is attained when the
lateral displacement at the top of the pole becomes significant. This analysis is performed
according to both AISC-360 and Eurocode 4. The bucking capacity is then divided into
nominal axial strength ( Pc for AISC-360 and N plRd per Eurocode 4) to obtain the buckling
factor. The buckling factors are calculated as 0.0497 for AISC-360 and 0.0539 for Eurocode
4. The buckling capacity of the composite pole obtained per Eurocode 4 is about 25% larger
compared to AISC-360. This is due to the fact that AISC-360 applies a resistance factor of
0.75 to the buckling capacity of composite column while Eurocode 4 applies a material factor
to concrete strength alone. The material factor of steel tube is assumed to be 1.0 It was found
that the buckling capacity of the composite pole to the same size of bare steel pole per AISC-
360 is about 1.03. This small contribution of concrete to the buckling capacity of composite
pole is because the resistance factor of steel pole is 0.9 while it is 0.75 for the composite pole.

On the other hand, per Eurocode 4, the concrete contribution to the buckling capacity is more
significant. The buckling load of the composite pole is 1.15 times larger than that of bare
steel pole. The results of the buckling analysis are demonstrated in Figure 6.

In order to generate the axial load and bending moment interaction of the composite columns,
a series of moment curvature analysis studies are required to be performed under different
constant axial load levels. In AISC-360, no specific requirement is provided for the axial load
levels in strain compability analysis. However, in Eurocode 4, two values of constant axial
load level are given as a percentages of axial load capacity of the concrete core. The moment
curvature analysis studies are also performed using OpenSees. A unit length fiber based
beam element is defined. First, this element is subjected to constant axial load level and then
a linearly increasing lateral loading is applied. The moment at the bottom of the element and
the chord rotation is traced during the analysis as can be seen in Figure 7. The maximum
bending moment and constant axial load values constitute a single point in the interaction
curve. Then, the axial load level is multiplied by the buckling factor. The axial load and
bending moment interaction curves are derived for both AISC-360 and Eurocode 4 as
presented in Figure 7. It can be seen that the discrepancy between two curves is not
significant. For both AISC-360 and Eurocode 4, the axial load and bending moment values
from the SAP2000 analysis fall inside the interaction curves.

For the same internal loads obtained from Sap2000, a bare steel tube is also designed
according to AISC-360 and Eurocode 3. The steel tube is asssumed to have a depth of 750mm
and a thickness of 20mm. The interaction curves obtained for the bare steel tube pole can also
be seen in Figure 8. The utilization levels of both specifications exhihibited a close
correlation. The total weight of the bare steel tube is calculated as 9.5 tonne while it is
designed as 8.1 tonne for composite pole. Therefore, filling the steel tube with concrete
resulted in about 15% saving of steel weight. However, about 7 m3 of concrete is needed to
fill the steel pole.

Figure 6. Buckling Response of Composite and Bare Steel Pole

Figure 7. Axial Load Bending Moment Interaction of Composite Pole

Figure 8. Axial Load Bending Moment Interaction of Steel Pole


The concrete filled steel tube columns are often preferred in seismic regions as part of lateral
load resisting frames (Varma et al. 2002). The concrete contribution to the structural response
improves the strength and ductility of the composite pole. Due to confinement effect provided
by the steel tube, concrete crushing is delayed. In addition, concrete provides additional
damping into the system which reduces the effect of earthquake loading.

The experimental studuies to quantify the seismic performance of composite poles is very rare
and almost non-existant. In order to illustrate the potential of composite poles under seismic
loading, a cyclic loading history is applied to both composite and bare steel poles. A nominal
constant axial load of 300 kN is kept as constant and a linear cyclic loading is defined with for
the lateral displacement. In Figure 9, it can be seen that composite pole retains its initial
strength following cyclic load reversal in the plastic range. The stiffness degradation is also

Figure 9. Cyclic Response of Steel and Composite Pole


A design and analysis study is performed for a 12 sided composite pole tower. The design
studies followed the provisions in AISC-310 and Eurocode 4. The current design
specifications do not provide detailed design equations applicable to polygonal shapes.
Therefore, design of composite poles is a time consuming process requiring several analysis
studies to be performed. Utilizing linear beam finite elements with transformed section
properties alone is not adequate. Nonlinear analysis tools taking into account buckling, steel
yielding, concrete crushing and cracking is needed. It was found that filling steel pole with
concrete resulted in about 15% less steel weight compared to bare steel pole. The cyclic
response of the composite pole is also studied and promising response is obtained with very
little strength and stiffness degradation.


[1] AISC-360. “Specification for Structural Steel Buildings” (ANSI/AISC 360-10 June 2010).
[2] Eurocode 4. “Design of composite steel and concrete structures Part 1-1: General rules and rules
for buildings” (EN 1994-1-1:2004: E, May 2004).
[3] Eurocode 3. “Design of Steel Structures” (EN 1993-1-1:2005:E, April 2004).
[4] IEC 60826. “Design criteria of overhead transmission lines” (IEC 60826:2003(E) 2003).
[5] A. H. Varma, J. M. Ricles, R. Sause, L. Lu “Seismic behavior and modeling of high-strength
composite concrete-filled steel tube (CFT) beam–columns” (Journal of Constructional Steel
Research, Vol. 58, Issue 5, 2001, pages 725-758).
[6] C. Tort, J. F. Hajjar “Mixed finite-element modeling of rectangular concrete-filled steel tube
members and frames under static and dynamic loads” (Journal of Structural Engineering, Vol.
136, Issue 6, 2010, pages 654-664).

[7] T. Perea “Analytical and experimental study on slender concrete-filled steel tube columns and
beam-columns” (Georgia Institute of Technology, Dec 2010).
[8] F. H. Fouad, E. R. Foust, W. J. Oliphant “A composite steel-concrete monopole for electrical
transmission lines” (Electrical Tranmission Line, 2006).
[9] S. Morino, K. Tsuda “Design and construction of concrete-filled Steel Tube
column system in Japan” (Earthqauke Engineering and Engineering Seismology, Vol 4, No 1,
Sep 2003, pages 51-73 )
[10] OpenSees “Open system for earthquake engineering simulation” (Pacific Earthquake
Engineering Research Center, 2015)