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Stability bracing requirements first appeared in the early 1900s related to the design
of lacing in the built-up members of trusses (Waddell, 1916). Numerous railroad
truss failures prompted the development of the 2% rule—the lacing shear force
equals 2% of the force in the column. The lacing rule was most likely simply
extended by structural engineers to all stability bracing situations, primarily as a
result of steel design specifications in the United States not containing general
bracing requirements until 1999. In the 1970s, the New York City building code
contained the 2% rule for stability bracing but no stiffness requirements. Timo-
shenko’s 1936 book, Theory of Elastic Stability, contained solutions for columns
with flexible supports (brace points). He showed that if the flexible supports had a
certain minimum stiffness, a straight column would behave as if the supports were
rigid (no movement). Making the brace stiffness greater than the minimum did not
affect the column strength. He also gave a simple technique for determining the
minimum (later called ideal ) stiffness for column bracing. Winter (1960) extended
Timoshenko’s solution to columns with initial crookedness (real columns) and to
beams. Winter introduced the concept that stability bracing strength and stiffness
requirements are interconnected. He showed that the design stiffness needed to be
twice the ideal stiffness to keep brace forces small. The recommendations found
in this chapter follow and expand on Winter’s concept.
An adequate brace system requires both strength and stiffness (Winter, 1960).
A simple brace design formulation, such as designing the brace for 2% of the
member compressive force, addresses only the strength criterion. The magnitude
of the initial out-of-straightness of the members to be braced has a direct effect on
the bracing force. The brace stiffness also affects the brace force. Many published
solutions provide stiffness recommendations only for perfectly straight structural
systems. Such recommendations should not be used directly in design because very
large brace forces may result, as will be shown subsequently.
Guide to Stability Design Criteria for Metal Structures, Sixth Edition Edited by Ronald D. Ziemian 531
Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

A general design guide for stability bracing of columns, beams, and frames is
presented. The focus is on simplicity, not exact formulations. The design rec-
ommendations cover four general types of bracing systems: relative, discrete,
continuous, and lean-on, as illustrated in Fig. 12.1.

(a) A relative brace controls the relative movement of adjacent stories or of

adjacent points along the length of the column or beam. If a cut everywhere
along the braced member passes through the brace itself, then the brace
system is relative, as illustrated by diagonal bracing, shear walls, or truss
(b) A discrete brace controls the movement only at that particular brace point.
For example, in Fig. 12.1b the column is braced at points 1 by cross beams.
A cut at the column midheight does not pass through any brace, so the brace
system is not relative but discrete. Two adjacent beams with diaphragms or
cross frames are discretely braced at the cross-frame locations.
(c) Continuous bracing is self evident; there is no unbraced length. The special
case of diaphragm-braced columns and beams are discussed in Chapter 13.
(d) A beam or column that relies on adjacent structural members for support
is braced in a lean-on system. Structural members that are tied or linked
together, such that buckling of the member would require adjacent members
to buckle with the same lateral displacement, characterize lean-on systems,
as shown in Fig. 12.1d . In the sway mode member A leans on member B,
that is, member B braces member A.

comp cross
flange frames


(a) (b)

metal B A

siding attached column
to columns
(c ) (d )

FIGURE 12.1 Types of bracing systems: (a) relative; (b) discrete; (c) continuous; (d )


A general discussion of stability bracing for beams, columns, and frames has been
provided by Trahair and Nethercot (1984), Chen and Tong (1994), and Yura (1995).
Before presenting the various bracing recommendations, some background material
on the importance of initial out-of-straightness, connection stiffness, and member
inelasticity on bracing effects is discussed along with the limitations of the design

12.2.1 Member Out-of-Straightness

Winter (1960) derived the interrelationship between bracing strength and stiffness
using simple models. He showed that the brace force is a function of the initial
column out-of-straightness, o , and the brace stiffness, β. The concept is illustrated
for the relative brace system shown in Fig. 12.2, where the brace, represented by the
spring at the top of the column, controls the movement at the column top, , relative
to the column base. The unbraced length is defined as L. Summation of moments
about point A gives PT = βL(T − o ) where T =  + o . If o = 0 (an
initially perfectly plumb member), then Pcr = βL, which indicates that the critical
load increases with an increase in brace stiffness. The brace stiffness required in
the sway mode to reach the load corresponding to Euler buckling between brace
points, Po , is called the ideal stiffness, β i , where βi = Po /L in this case.
For the out-of-plumb column, the relationship between P, β, and T is plotted
in Fig. 12.3a. If β = βi , Po can be reached only if the sway deflection gets very
large. Unfortunately, such large displacements produce large brace forces, F br , as
shown in Fig. 12.3b because Fbr = β. For practical design,  must be kept small
at the maximum factored load level. This can be accomplished by specifying β
> β i . For example, if β = 2β i , then  = o at Po as shown in Fig. 12.3b. The
larger the brace stiffness, the smaller the brace force. For very stiff brace systems
the brace force approaches Fbr = Po o /L. The brace force is a linear function
of the initial out-of-plumbness. The recommendations given later will assume a



initial out-


FIGURE 12.2 Relative brace.


FIGURE 12.3 Effect of initial out-of-plumbness.

particular out-of-straightness and a brace stiffness at least twice the ideal stiffness.
The effects of the magnitude and shape of the initial imperfection pattern on the
brace forces in beams are discussed by Wang and Helwig (2005).

12.2.2 Member Inelasticity

Most research on bracing requirements for structures are based on elastic concepts
(Trahair and Nethercot, 1984). The design requirements for relative braces, how-
ever, are merely a function of the load on the member and the distance between
braces, as illustrated above, not column elasticity or inelasticity. For discrete brac-
ing systems, Pincus (1964) used a simple theoretical model to demonstrate that
the bracing stiffness requirements for inelastic columns are greater than those for
elastic columns. Gil and Yura (1999), however, showed experimentally and analyt-
ically that an inelastic column with a midspan discrete brace showed no effect of
column inelasticity on the bracing requirements. Also, Ales and Yura (1993) cast
doubt on the Pincus solution, and their experiments on discrete bracing of inelastic
beams verified Winter’s approach. Nakamura (1988) presents a few beam experi-
ments that also appear to follow the trends suggested by Winter’s approach. Wang
and Nethercot (1989) conducted a theoretical study of brace stiffness and strength
requirements for beams with a concentrated load at midspan. Their study further
verified the Winter approach, especially on the need to use at least twice the ideal
full bracing stiffness in order to reduce the brace forces. The brace forces were
less than 1% of the flange force when the recommended stiffness was provided.
The results appear to verify Winter’s approach for use with inelastic beams, but
the loading condition considered involved only a small amount of inelasticity near
For beams in the inelastic range, most research has been concerned with the
spacing of the braces, not the properties of the braces. Commentary on Plastic
Design in Steel (ASCE, 1971) gives requirements for bracing at plastic hinge loca-
tions. In the ASCE recommendations, the lateral brace must have axial strength,
axial stiffness, and flexural stiffness. Experiments on simply supported beams do
not verify the need for flexural stiffness in the lateral braces. Yura and Li (2002)

studied bracing requirements for beams in the plastic range for steels with Fy
≤ 50 ksi. They found that brace stiffness requirements are not sensitive to rotation
capacity, but brace forces do increase as rotation capacity increases and when local
flange and web buckling occur. The bracing recommendations presented herein
can be used in plastic design with Fy ≤ 50 ksi, but not for applications requiring
rotation capacities greater than 3. Thomas and Earls (2003) found that the bracing
requirements herein were inadequate for the plastic design of A709 Gr. HPS483W
high-performance steel girders with current compactness limits.
The few documented studies on discrete bracing requirements for inelastic beams
and columns cited above indicate that inelasticity in the main members does not
affect the bracing requirements unless large rotation capacities are required. Undoc-
umented bracing failures of test setups in experiments when instability occurs in
the inelastic range has contributed to the notion that inelastic structures require
larger braces than elastic structures. When a lateral bracing failure occurs in a
load test into the inelastic range, however, it usually happens after a local flange
or web buckle occurs, which causes the W-shape beam to become unsymmetric.
The loss of symmetry of the section causes shifts and inclinations of the princi-
pal bending axes that can cause very substantial lateral and torsional forces, much
like those in channel sections not loaded through the shear center. Lateral bracing
forces caused after local buckling occurs are very substantial (Yura and Li, 2002).
Because most local buckling occurs in the plastic range, however, bracing failures
are often associated with inelasticity rather than local buckling.
In continuous and lean-on brace systems, the brace requirements are based on
the elastic and/or inelastic stiffness of the members to be braced, as will be given
later. In these stability problems the effect of member inelasticity on the buckling
solution can be reasonably approximated by representing the stiffness with the
tangent modulus ET (with ET = τ E , where τ is the inelastic stiffness reduction
factor) instead of the elastic modulus, E . The elastic range is defined by the axial
stress in the member, not the slenderness ratio. A member with low slenderness
ratio (L/r) will respond elastically if the axial stress is low. In the AISC 2005
Specification, an axial stress less than 0.35Fy places the column in the elastic
range. The AISC Manual (AISC, 2005) tabulates the stiffness reduction factor for
various P/A stress levels. In LRFD, τ = −6.97(P/Py ) log(1.111P/Py ), where P is
the factored column load and Py is the yield load, Fy A. The potential axial buckling
capacity of a column is φτ (0.877)π 2 EI /(KL)2 for P/Py ≥ 0.35. For P/Py < 0.35,
τ = 1.0. This τ factor will be used in some of the following example problems.

12.2.3 Limitations
The brace requirements presented below will enable a member to reach the Euler
buckling load between the brace points (i.e., use K = 1.0). Because the ideal brace
stiffness β i = 1.0Pe /L corresponds to K = 1.0, this is not the same as the no-sway
buckling load as illustrated in Fig. 12.4 for the braced cantilever with rigid rotational
base restraint. For a brace with twice the ideal stiffness, the buckling load is only
75% (K = 0.81) of the no-sway case. A brace with six times the ideal stiffness is

FIGURE 12.4 Braced cantileveler.

necessary to reach 95% of the K = 0.7 load limit. Theoretically, an infinitely stiff
brace is required to reach the no-sway limit.

12.2.4 Brace System Stiffness

If they are flexible, brace connections should be considered in the evaluation of
the bracing stiffness as follows:

1 1 1
= + (12.1)
βsys βconn βbrace

The brace system stiffness, β sys , is less than the smaller of the connection
stiffness, β conn , or the stiffness of the brace, β brace . When evaluating the bracing of
rows of columns or beams, consideration must be given to the accumulation of the
brace forces along the length of the brace, which results in a different displacement
at each beam or column location. Medland and Segedin (1979) and Tong and Chen
(1989) have studied interbraced structures. The solutions are fairly complex for use
in design. In general, bracing forces can be minimized by increasing the number
of braced bays and using stiff braces. Chen and Tong (1994) recommend bracing
at least every eight bays.


The recommendations presented are based on ultimate strength. Column and beam
loads are assumed to be factored loads. For brace stiffness formulations, a value of
φ = 0.75 is recommended in LRFD. If the load calculations are based on service
loads as in ASD, a factor of safety of 2.0 can be applied to the factored load
stiffness requirements. The strength requirements use the built-in safety factors or
φ factors within each design specification. In LRFD, the design brace force will
be based on factored loads and compared to the design strength of the brace and
its connections. In ASD, the brace force will be a function of the applied service

FIGURE 12.5 Definitions.

loads, and this force will be compared to the allowable brace loads and connection
The initial displacement o for relative and discrete braces is defined with
respect to the distance between adjacent braces as shown in Fig. 12.5. In frames,
P is the sum of the column loads in a story to be stabilized by the brace. In
the case of a discrete brace for a member, P would be the average load in the
compression member above and below the brace point. The initial displacement
o is a small displacement from the straight position at the brace points caused by
sources other than the gravity loads or compressive forces. For example, o would
be a displacement caused by wind or other lateral forces, erection tolerance (initial
out-of-plumb), and so on. In all cases, the brace force recommendations are based
on an assumed o = 0.002L, with direct proportion permitted for other o values.
For torsional bracing of columns or beams, an initial twist βo of 0.002L/h is used
where h is the distance between the flange centroids. For cases when n columns,
each with a random o , are to be stabilized√by a brace system, Chen and Tong
(1994) recommend an average o = 0.002L/ n value to account for the variation
in initial out-of-straightness.


Design Recommendation Based on an initial out-of-plumbness of o =

0.002L and a brace stiffness twice the ideal value, βi = P/L, the design (LRFD)
recommendation is

2 P 
φ = 0.75 βreq = Fbr = 0.004 P

Example 1 illustrates the bracing design for a typical interior portion of a build-
ing with bracing every third frame. Each interior brace must stabilize 1500 kips.
The floor is assumed to act as a rigid diaphragm and all o are equal. It is also

assumed that only the tension diagonal brace, taken as a threaded rod, controls the
lateral flexibility of the structure. The cosine functions are necessary to convert
the diagonal brace to an equivalent brace perpendicular to the column(s). Stiffness
controls the design in this case. If o is different from 0.002L, F br should be
changed in direct proportion to the actual o . If the brace stiffness provided, β act ,
is different from β req , F br can be modified as follows:
Fbr = 0.004 P (12.2)
2 − (βreq /βact )
Example 12.1: Relative Brace–Tension System A typical brace with F y =
36 ksi must stabilize three bents. The factored load for each bent is
150 + 250 + 100 = 500 kips

Design recommendations assume that F br and  are perpendicular to the


• Brace force
150 k 250 k 100 k


0.004(3 × 500)
Fbr = = 6.99 kips
cos θ
8 -in. threaded rod OK
• Brace stiffness
Ab E 2(3 × 500 kips)
cos2 θ = βreq = gives Abgross = 0.364 in.2
Lb 0.75(12)

Use 34 -in. rod, Ag = 0.44 in.2


Design Recommendation The design (LRFD) recommendation for discrete

bracing is
φ = 0.75 βreq = Ni Fbr = 0.01P
in which P is the factored load, L the required brace spacing, and n the number of
braces, Ni ≈ 4 − (2/n).

Basis Discrete bracing systems can be represented by the model shown in

Fig. 12.6 for three intermediate braces. The exact solution taken from Timoshenko
and Gere (1961) shows the relationship between Pcr and the brace stiffness, β.
With no bracing Pcr = π 2 EI /(4L)2 . At low brace stiffness the buckling load
increases substantially with the buckled shape a single (first-mode) wave. As
the brace stiffness is further increased, the buckled shape changes and additional
brace stiffness becomes less effective. Full bracing occurs at βL/Pe = 3.41 = Ni .
This ideal nondimensionalized stiffness factor Ni varies for equally spaced braces
between 2.0 for one brace to 4.0 for a large number of braces. Thus 4.0 can be
used conservatively for all cases. The above design recommendation is based on
full bracing assuming the load is at Pe . If P varies along the length, the design of
a brace can be based on the average load in the two adjacent unbraced segments.
The discrete brace force requirement (Yura, 1993) was developed initially from
Winter’s rigid member model assuming zero moment at the node points, which
gives F br = 0.8% of P from solutions similar to those shown in Fig. 12.3. Tong
and Chen (1987) and Plaut (1993) showed that Winter’s model was unconser-
vative for the case of a single brace at midspan, and hence, it is recommended
that F br = 1% of P. This force assumes that a brace stiffness twice the ideal
value is used. For other brace stiffnesses, the adjustment factor given in Eq. 12.2
can be used.
Typically, P may be less than Pe so it is conservative to use the actual column
load P to derive the design stiffness represented by the dotted line in Fig. 12.6. Note
that the required brace stiffness is inversely proportional to the brace spacing L. In
many applications there are more potential brace points than necessary to support
the required member forces. Closer spaced braces require more stiffness because the
derivations assume that the unbraced length provided is just sufficient to support the
column load. For example, suppose three girts are available to provide minor axis
bracing to the columns and that the column load is such that only a single full brace
at midspan would suffice. The required stiffness of the three-brace arrangement

FIGURE 12.6 Three discrete braces.


could then be conservatively estimated by using the permissible unbraced length

in the brace stiffness equation rather than the actual unbraced length. It should be
noted that the continuous bracing formula given in the next section more accurately
represents the true response of Fig. 12.6 for less than full bracing.
The design recommendation is based on twice the ideal stiffness to account
for initial out-of-straightness. Example 12.2 illustrates the design procedure for a
single discrete brace at the column midheight. The value of Ni is based on equal
brace spacing and is unconservative for unequal spacing. For unequal spacing, Ni
can be derived simply by using a rigid-bar model between braces (Yura, 1994). For
a single discrete brace at any location along the column length, with the longest
segment defined as L and the shorter segment as aL, Ni can be determined as
Ni = 1 + (12.3)

Example 12.2: Discrete Brace at Midheight A cross member braces the minor
axis of W16×26 at midheight. Factored loads are shown.

120 k 5′ 5′

W16 × 26 Δ


n = 1 Ni = 2 βreq = 2 = 5.33 kips/in.

F 48EI
β= =
 (10 × 12)3

Ireq = = 6.6 in.4

Try a C5×6.7:

Ix = 7.5 in.4 Sx = 3.5 in.3 Fbr = 0.01(120) = 1.2 kips

Fy = 36 ksi fb = = 10.3 ksi OK


For a column braced continuously, Timoshenko and Gere (1961) give

Pcr = Pe n + 2 2
n π Pe

where n is the number of half sine waves in the buckled shape as shown by the solid
line in Fig. 12.7. As the brace stiffness per unit length β increases, the buckling
load and n also increase. The switch in buckling modes for each n occurs when
βL2 /π 2 Pe = n 2 (n + 1)2 . Substituting this expression for n into Eq. 12.4 gives

Pcr = Pe + βPe (12.5)
Equation 12.5 is an approximate solution, shown dashed in Fig. 12.7, which
gives the critical load for any value of β without the need to determine n. In the
inelastic range use τ Pe for Pe in Eq. 12.5.
Equation 12.5 can also be used for discrete braces by defining β ≡ β × (number
of braces)/L and limiting Pcr ≤ π 2 EI /l 2 , where l is the distance between braces.
This approach is accurate for two or more braces. For example, if there are two
discrete-braces, the ideal discrete-brace stiffness is β = 3Pcr /l , where l = L/3 and
Pcr = π 2 EI /l 2 . Using Eq. 12.5 with β = 2(3Pcr /l )/L gives Pcr = 1.01(π 2 EI /l 2 ).
The bracing design recommendation given below is based on Eq. 12.5 with
β adjusted by a factor of 2 to limit the brace forces, adding a φ br = 0.75, and
using Po = φc (0.877)τ Pe , which is the AISC LRFD column design strength. The

FIGURE 12.7 Continuous bracing.


brace strength requirement Fbr = π 2 PT /L2o , where Lo is the maximum theoretical
unbraced length that can support the column load, was developed by Zuk (1956).
Taking T = 2o ando = 0.002Lo gives Fbr = 0.04P/Lo

Design Recommendation The design (LRFD) recommendation for continu-

ous bracing is

φc Pcr = Po + 2φbr βPo Fbr = 0.04P/Lo

in which Po = φc (0.877)τ Pe , φc = 0.90, and φbr = 0.75.


 some members lean on adjacent members for stability support (bracing), the
P concept (Yura, 1971) can be used to design the members. The approach will
be explained using the problem shown in Fig. 12.8, in which column A has a load
P with three connecting beams attached between columns A and B. There are two
principal buckling modes for this structure, the no-sway and the sway modes.
If column B is sufficiently slender, the system will buckle in the sway mode,
shown by the dot-dash
 line in Fig. 12.8a. In the sway mode the buckling strength
involves the sum ( Pcr ) of the buckling capacity of the two columns because
each column has the same deformation pattern. The systemis stable in the sway
mode if the sum of the applied loads ( P) is less than the Pcr . This, of course,
assumes that all the columns have the same height. If column B is sufficiently stiff,

FIGURE 12.8 Lean-on bracing: (a) sway and no-sway buckling modes; (b) impact of
relative column stiffnesses.

the buckling capacity may be controlled by the no-sway mode shown dashed. Both
modes must be checked in design.
An exact elastic solution, developed with nonlinear finite element analysis soft-
ware (ANSYS), shows that as IB (the bending moment of inertia of column B)
increases, Pcr increases linearly in the sway mode. For IB /IA ≥ 15.3, column A
buckles in the no-sway  mode. The IB required to develop full bracing can be
approximated using the P concept. In the sway mode, the elastic capacities of
columns A and B are π 2 EIA /(4L)2 and π 2 EIB /(4L)2 , respectively. The desired Pcr
corresponding to the no-sway mode is π 2 EIA /L2 . Equating the sum of the sway
capacities to the Pcr in the no-sway mode,

π 2 E (IA + IB ) π 2 EIA
= (12.6)
(4L)2 L2
gives IB = 15IA , which is close to the exact solution of IB = 15.3 IA . In the inelastic
range, τ i is used where τ i is based on the axial load in each column, Pi . There can
be axial load on all the columns.
Example 12.3, which is similar to a problem solved by Lutz and Fisher (1985),
shows a W12×40 with its minor axis in-plane supported by an adjacent column
W12×26 with the major axis in-plane. Only in-plane buckling is considered. The
tie beams have shear-only (pinned) end connections, so it is assumed that the tie
beams do not contribute to the sway stiffness of the system. Sway is prevented at
the top of the columns. The W12×40 has been sized based on buckling between
the supports, spaced at L = 8 ft. The calculations show that the elastic W12×26
adjacent column can brace the minor axis column, which is in the inelastic range.

Example 12.3: Lean-On System Confirm that the W12×26 is capable of bracing
the W12×40. Assume F y = 50 ksi, factored loads are given, and the AISC LRFD
specification governs.
From the AISC manual, φP n = 439 kips for L = 8 ft.

W12 × 40

70 k 439 k

W12 × 26




sway mode


P concept: W 12×40, A = 11.7 in.2 , Iy = 44.1 in.4

W 12×26, A = 7.65 in.2 , Ix = 204 in.

Column A :
PA 439
Fy A (50 × 11.7)
= 0.750 > 0.35 ∴ inelastic
τ = −6.97(0.750) log(1.111 × 0.750) = 0.414
0.90(0.414)(0.877)π 2 (29,000)(44.1)
φPA =
= 49.7 kips
Column B :
PB 70
= = 0.183 < 0.35 ∴ τ = 1.0
Fy A 50 × 7.65
0.90(0.877)π 2 (29,000)(204)
φPB = = 566 kips
Pcr = 50 + 556 = 606 > P = 439 + 70 = 509 kips OK


Doubly symmetric columns will buckle in a flexural mode between brace points if
the braces prevent both twist and displacement. If the brace detail does not prevent
twist, such as rod bracing framing into the center of the web, then the column
can buckle in a torsional mode. Another common bracing detail that can result
in twist of the section is shown in Fig. 12.9. Girts frame into the column flange,
which restrains minor axis lateral displacement near the flange. If the girts are
discontinuous, they will not provide any torsional restraint and the column may
buckle by twisting about the lateral brace point as shown in Fig. 12.9b.

FIGURE 12.9 Buckling about a restrained axis: (a) lateral brace at flange; (b) buckled

FIGURE 12.10 Typical torsional brace details: (a) using struts; (b) using moment con-
nection with stiffener.

The torsional buckling load, PT , for a column with a lateral restraint (Timo-
shenko and Gere, 1961) is

τ Pey h 2 /4 + a 2 + GJ
PT = (12.7)
a 2 + rx2 + ry2
where a is the distance between the restrained axis and the centroid, rx and ry
the principal radii of gyration, h the distance between the flange centroids, Pey the
Euler load based on the column length between points with zero twist, and G and
J the material shear modulus and cross-sectional torsion constant, respectively. An
infinitely stiff lateral brace at the brace point (zero displacement) was assumed in
the derivation of Eq. 12.7. To compensate for finite stiffness, the maximum factored
column load should not exceed 90% of PT . Horne and Ajmani (1971, 1972) studied
the more complex problem of beam-columns braced on one flange.
When the applied factored load is greater than PT , torsional bracing must be
provided. Two typical bracing schemes are shown in Fig. 12.10. When a moment
connection is used, a partial-depth web stiffener is recommended to prevent web
distortion. The design requirements for the torsional braces for columns are given
by Helwig and Yura (1999).


Before presenting the beam-bracing recommendations, the suitability of assuming

the inflection point as a brace point to define Lb in restrained beams will be dis-
cussed. In many cases when this issue is raised, the top flange is laterally braced by
the slab or joists along the full span length while the bottom flange is unbraced. An
inflection point cannot be considered a brace point as illustrated by the example
shown in Fig. 12.11. One beam has a moment at one end (Cb = 1.67) with Lb =
L, and the other beam has an inflection point at midspan (Cb = 2.3) with Lb =
2L. The 2L span with the inflection point will buckle at a load that is 68% of the
beam with span L. If the inflection point were a brace point, the critical moment
of both beams would be the same. The buckled shape of the 2L beam shows that
the top flange and bottom flange move laterally in opposite directions at midspan.
It should be noted that an actual brace on one flange at the inflection point still
does not provide effective bracing at midspan (Yura, 1993).
Lateral buckling solutions from finite element analysis for beams with top-flange
lateral bracing were obtained and the approximate Cb formulas developed are given

FIGURE 12.11 Comparison of buckling behavior: (a) beam braced at both ends, Lb = L;
(b) beam with inflection point at midspan, Lb = 2L.

in Fig. 12.12. Two general cases are derived, top flange laterally braced with
top-flange gravity loading and top flange braced with uplift loading. These Cb
values can be used in design with Lb equaling the span length if twist is posi-
tively controlled only at the supports. Torsional restraint along the top flange was
neglected. Essa and Kennedy (1995) have presented design charts for suspended
construction which also consider the torsional restraint provided by joists attached
to the top flange.


There are two general types of beam bracing, lateral and torsional. Bracing sys-
tems for beams must prevent the relative displacement of the top and bottom
flanges (i.e., twist of the section). Lateral bracing (joists attached to the compres-
sion flange of a simply supported beam) and torsional bracing (cross frames or
diaphragms between adjacent girders) can effectively control twist. Some bracing
systems restrain lateral movement and twist simultaneously (slab attached to the
top flange with shear studs). Mutton and Trahair (1973) and Tong and Chen (1988)
have shown that combined lateral and torsional bracing is more effective than
either lateral or torsional bracing acting alone for beams under uniform moment.
Deck systems that are attached directly to the top flange of a beam and act as
shear diaphragms can also improve beam stability. Such systems provide mainly
warping restraint to the top flange rather than lateral or torsional restraint. Design
recommendations for diaphragm-braced beams given in Helwig and Yura (2008)
indicate that the diaphragm strength requirement, which is limited by the fastener
capacity, generally controls the design.

FIGURE 12.12 Cb for braced beams.

A general discussion of beam lateral and torsional bracing and the development
of the design recommendations herein are presented elsewhere (Yura, 1993). The
provisions are limited to doubly and singly symmetric members loaded in the plane
of the web. Lateral bracing can be relative, discrete, continuous, or lean-on. Only
relative and discrete lateral bracing requirements are presented here. Continuous
lateral bracing is addressed by Trahair and Nethercot (1984) and Yura and Phillips
(1992). Beams that are linked together lean on each other and the lateral buckling
cannot occur at the links unless all the members buckle. In this case the beams in
the structural system cannot buckle until the sum of the maximum moment in each
beam exceeds the sum of the individual buckling capacities of each beam (Yura
et al., 1992). Buckling of an individual beam can occur only between the cross
members in a lean-on system. No additional bracing requirements are necessary in
lean-on systems.
Torsional bracing can be either discrete or continuous. If two adjacent beams
are interconnected by a properly designed cross frame or diaphragm at midspan,

that point can be considered a braced point when evaluating the beam-buckling
strength. Because the beams can move laterally at midspan, the effectiveness of
such a bracing system is sometimes questioned. As long as the two flanges move
laterally by the same amount, there will be no twist. If twist is prevented, the beam
can be treated as braced. Tests and theory confirm this approach (Flint, 1951; Yura
et al., 1992).

12.10.1 Lateral Bracing

The effectiveness and size of a lateral brace depend on its location on the cross
section, the moment diagram, the number of discrete braces in the span, and the
location of the load on the cross section (Yura, 1993). These factors have been
included in the following recommendations. Lateral bracing is most effective when
it is attached near the compression flange. The exception to this is for cantilevers
where top (tension) flange bracing is most effective. Lateral bracing near the cen-
troid of the cross section is rather ineffective.
The relative and discrete brace design provisions presented below, which are
based on Winter’s approach, are applicable only for bracing attached near the top
flange. The provisions assume top-flange loading, which is a worse case scenario
and can be used for any number of discrete braces. The compressive force is
conservatively approximated as Mf /h. When the beam has an inflection point,
lateral bracing must be attached to both flanges and the stiffness requirements are
greater as given by the Cd factor in the brace requirements. For example, for a
beam in reverse curvature as shown in Fig.12.11b, a brace on both the top and
the bottom flanges at midspan will require twice as much stiffness for each brace
as a similar length beam with compression on only one flange. The brace force
provisions are twice those for columns (Sections 12.4 and 12.5) because top-flange
loading is assumed. A brace stiffness of twice the ideal value has been used in
the development of these recommendations. When Lb is smaller than the unbraced
length, Lq , needed to support the factored loads, then Lq can be substituted for Lb
in the stiffness requirement for discrete bracing, as discussed in Section 12.5 for
discrete bracing of columns.

Design Recommendation The lateral brace design (LRFD) recommendations

Relative Discrete

4Mf Cd 10Mf Cd
Stiffness: βL = βL =
φLb h φLb h
0.008Mf Cd 0.02Mf Cd
Strength: Fbr = Fbr =
h h
where Mf is the maximum moment, h the distance between flange centroids, Lb
the unbraced length, φ = 0.75, and Cd = 1.0 for single curvature and Cd = 2.0
for reverse curvature.

The lateral bracing provisions are illustrated in Example 12.4 where a top-flange
relative brace truss system is used to stabilize the compression flange during con-
struction of the composite plate girders. Each truss system is designed to stabilize
two and one-half girders. The diagonal braces are assumed to support tension only.

Example 12.4: Relative Lateral Brace System Design the diagonals of the top-
flange horizontal truss to stabilize the five 80-ft girders with the factored moments
shown. Assume F y = 36 ksi.

1000 k-ft
3/4 × 8
M - diag
1/2 × 48
Five Girders 80 ft
1-1/4 × 15

8 ft h = 49 in.
16 ft

Top flg
of girder


• Stiffness
4.0(1000 × 12)
βL =
0.75(16 × 12)49
= 6.80 kips/in. for each girder
× 2.5 girders = 17.0 kips/in

AE Ab (29,000) 1 2
cos2 θ = √ √ = 17.0
L b 8 × 12 × 5 5
Ab = 0.629 in2 ← controls

• Strength

0.008(2.5)(1000 × 12)
Fbr = = 4.90 kips

4.90 5
Ab = = 0.34 in.2
0.9 × 36
Use L2×2× 16 ; A = 0.715 in.2

12.10.2 Torsional Bracing

Cross frames or diaphragms at discrete locations or continuous bracing provided
by the floor system in through-girders or pony trusses or by metal decks and slabs
represent torsional bracing systems. In the development of the design recommen-
dations (Yura, 1993), which are based on the work of Taylor and Ojalvo (1966),
it was determined that factors that had a significant effect on lateral bracing had
a substantially reduced effect on torsional bracing. The effects of the number of
braces, top-flange loading, and brace location on the cross section are relatively
unimportant when sizing a torsional brace. A torsional brace is equally effective if
it is attached to the tension flange or the compression flange. A moment diagram
with compression in both flanges (reverse curvature) does not alter the torsional
brace requirements.
On the other hand, the effectiveness of a torsional brace is greatly impacted by
cross-sectional distortion at the brace point, as illustrated in Fig. 12.13. The top
flange is prevented from twisting by the torsional brace, but the web distortion
permits a relative displacement between the two flanges. A stiffener at the brace
location can be used to prevent the distortion. The design method presented below
considers web distortion and any stiffeners required.
Discrete braces and continuous bracing use the same basic design formula with
the continuous brace stiffness taken as β T = βT n/L, where β T is the discrete brace
stiffness, n the number of braces, and L the span length. In this case, β T and β T are
defined as the torsional stiffnesses of the discrete and continuous bracing systems,
respectively. The system stiffness β T is primarily related to the stiffness of the
brace β b and the stiffness of the web plus any stiffeners β sec by
1 1 1
= + (12.8)
βT βb βsec
The β b for diaphragm systems is given in Fig. 12.14. The discrete web
detail can vary over the web as shown in Fig. 12.15. The term 1/βsec = (1/βi )
with the stiffness of each portion i of the web given by

3.3E h 2 (1.5hi ) tw3 ts bs3
βc , βs , βt = + (12.9)
hi hi 12 12

FIGURE 12.13 Web distortion.


FIGURE 12.14 Diaphragm βb .

FIGURE 12.15 Partially stiffened webs.

where ts is the thickness of the stiffener. For continuous bracing, it is recommended

that 1.5h be replaced with 1 in. and the ts term be neglected if there is no stiffener.
The portion of the web within hb can be considered infinitely stiff. Equations
12.8 and 12.9 were developed from Milner and Rao (1978) and finite element
buckling analysis that considers cross-sectional distortion (Akay et al., 1977). For
rolled sections (h/t w < 60) cross-sectional distortion will not be significant if the
diaphragm connection extends at least three-fourths of the web depth.

Design Recommendation The torsional brace design (LRFD) recommenda-

tions are

β TL 2.4LMf2
Stiffness: βT = = 2
n φnEIeff Cbb
0.005Lb LMf2
Strength: Mbr = Fbr hb = 2
nEIeff Cbb h

where Mf is the maximum moment, Ieff = Iyc + (t/c)Iyt , L the span length, Lb
the unbraced length, n the number of span braces, h the distance between flange
centroids, and Cbb the moment modification factor for the full-bracing condition.
For a singly symmetric section, Iyc and Iyt are the out-of-plane moments of inertia of
the compression and tension flanges (Fig. 12.16), respectively. If the cross section is
doubly symmetric, I eff becomes Iy . The 2.4 factor in the stiffness requirement comes
from using twice the ideal stiffness and an additional 20% increase to account for
top-flange loading. The brace strength provision, M br , assumes an initial twist of
0.002Lb /h and is consistent with the imperfection used for lateral bracing (Helwig et


x x

tension flange

FIGURE 12.16 Singly symmetric section.

al., 1993). When the values of the variables in the two unbraced segments adjacent
to a brace are different, the brace can be designed for the average of the strengths
and stiffnesses determined for both segments.
In Example 12.5 a diaphragm torsional bracing system is used for the problem
given in Example 12.4. The C9×13.4 diaphragm will not brace the girders if a
stiffener is not used. Even a much larger diaphragm cannot work without web
stiffeners because of the web distortion. Similar example problems using cross
frames are given by Yura (1993).

Example 12.5: Torsional Beam Bracing

96 in.

Same as Example 12.4 but use the diaphragm system shown. Assume Mmax =
1000 kip-ft, Cb = 1.0; four braces, Fy = 36 ksi, L = 80 ft. The girder properties are
as follows:

h = 49.0 in. c = 30.85 in. t = 18.15 in.

Ix = 17,500 in.4 Iyc = 32.0 in.4
Iyt = 352 in.4 Ieff = 32 + 352 = 239 in.4
The strength is given by

0.005(80 × 12)(1000 × 12)2 (16 × 12)

Mbr = = 97.7 in.-kips
4(29,000)239(1.0)2 49
Sx req = = 3.02 in.3
(0.9) × (36)

The stiffness of the diaphragms on the exterior girders is 6EIbr /S . Because there
are diaphragms on both sides of each interior girder, the stiffness is 2 × 6EIbr /S .
The average stiffness available to each girder is (2 × 6 + 3 × 12)/5 = 9.6EIbr /S .

2.4(80 × 12)(1000 × 12)2

βT req = = 15,960 in.-kips/rad
Ibrmin = = 5.50 in.4

Try C9×13.4: Sx = 12.5 in.3 > 3.02, Ix = 47.9 in.4

βb = = 138,900 in.-kips/rad

1 1 1
= + βsec = 17,900 in.-kips/rad
15,960 138,900 βsec
1 2 3.3(29,000) 49 2
= βc = 2(17,900) =
17,900 βc  20 20 
1.5(20)(0.5)3 0.375bs3
× +
12 12
bs = 3.10 in.

Use a 3
8 × 3 12 -in.stiffener.


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