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CONSTRUCTION TOLERANCE CONFLICTS IN REINFORCED CONCRETE CRSI ENGINEERING DATA REPORT NUMBER 40 A SERVICE OF THE
CONSTRUCTION TOLERANCE
CONFLICTS IN
REINFORCED CONCRETE
CRSI
ENGINEERING
DATA REPORT
NUMBER 40
A SERVICE OF THE CONCRETE REINFORCING STEEL INSTITUTE
CONSTRUCTION TOLERANCE CONFLICTS IN REINFORCED CONCRETE CRSI ENGINEERING DATA REPORT NUMBER 40 A SERVICE OF THE

933 N. Plum Grove Rd., Schaumburg, Illinois 60173-4758

INTRODUCTION

The construction tolerances for cast-in-place reinforced concrete buildings have evolved with- in the American Concrete Institute over the past 50 years into what is generally considered to be a reasonable set of criteria that can be achieved using normal construction practices. One of the early attempts to publish building tolerances appeared in the ACl literature in 1940. The first presentation of forming toler- ances in an ACI standard appears to be in 1963 in “Recommended Practice for Concrete Formwork”. Subsequently, construction toler- ances have been included in many ACl commit- tee reports and specifications. ACI tolerances for fabricated reinforcing bars have been developed by CRSI. All ACl tolerances are now being con- solidated under the auspices of ACl Committee 117, Tolerances. The committee has developed “Standard Tolerances for Concrete Construction Materials”. The current document is designated as ACl 117-90. Reinforced concrete is the result of the work of several separate trades or subcontractors who utilize various ACl tolerances applicable to their trade. Tolerance conflicts in reinforced concrete construction are multiplied by having potentially inconsistent tolerances within ACl with which to build and the requirement to accommodate the tolerances of other building elements. Conflicts within the set of ACI tolerances still exist, but most construction disputes arise from conflicts with adjoining elements. This report presents some common areas of conflict due to tolerances. Recommendations of actions that may lessen or eliminate the conflicts are presented.

CONFLICTS BETWEEN ELEMENTS OF REINFORCED CONCRETE FRAMES

Reinforcing Steel And Member Profile

The depth of a beam between 12 and 36 in., Figure 1, has a tolerance of +1/2 in. and -3/8 in. The height of the stirrup and the position of the horizontal bar positioned by the stirrup has a tol- erance of +/- ½ in. Since the bars are supported by the 1-1/2 in. bar supports on the soffit, all of the tolerances affect the top cover. If the stirrup is ½ in. taller and the beam is 3/8 in. shallower than theoretical, the top cover could be reduced by ½ plus 3/8 or 7/8 in. An actual cover of 5/8 in. would be the result. According to ACI 117, the tolerance for the 1-1/2 in. cover over the stirrup is ½ in., pro- viding for a minimum cover of 1 in. Therefore, the cover will be reduced below the allowable toler- ance though all components of the assembly, the formwork, the rebar fabrication, the rebar place- ment, and the concrete finishing, usually per- formed by separate subcontractors, were within acceptable tolerances. Careful coordination of the trades and field measurement before placing con- crete is recommended to resolve this conflict. Specifying additional cover where cover is critical may also be appropriate. For a beam perpendicular to a sloping surface such as in a parking garage, Figure 2, the deci- sion on where the beam depth is to be measured also affects the depth of the beam stirrup. Since the top slopes and the beam soffit is usually hor- izontal, if the depth is measured on the downhill side, the stirrups will be the same as for non- ramp beams. If, however, the decision is made to measure the beam depth at the centerline, the stirrup will have to be roughly 3/4 in. less in height than for the non-ramp beams. Making this decision also reduces the effective depth of the beam reinforcement and therefore its capacity. The Architect/Engineer should specify the point at which the depth is to be measured and con- sider the effects on the reinforcing steel.

Fig. 1 Beam Stirrup Cover Formwork And Member Profile Widely used concrete joist construction is formed

Fig. 1 Beam Stirrup Cover

Formwork And Member Profile

Widely used concrete joist construction is formed with thin gage inverted “U” shaped metal forms which lap at joints and have flanges which are nailed to framing material forming the joist soffit. The lap joints and soffit connection typi- cally have offsets of up to ½ in. with occasional 1 in. offsets (Figure 3). While not meeting the ACl cross-section tolerance of -1/4 in., +3/8 in. for members up to 12 in. in width, the offsets do meet ACl 117 Class C (½ in.) and Class D (1 in.) tolerances for offsets between adjacent pieces of formwork. Fortunately, the offsets usually either make the member thicker or do not occur at locations which would affect the structural integrity of the concrete joist. The end 3 to 6 ft of the joist rib is structurally most vulnerable to thickness deficiency. This conflict can best be resolved by recogniz- ing that the tolerance range required with this method of construction is greater than with more costly alternatives. Class “C” or “D” tolerances should be specified and, except in areas affect- ing structural integrity, the cross-sectional toler- ances should not be strictly applied to this type of construction.

Conflicts Between Members

In a long span beam and slab parking struc- ture, the floor-to-floor height is often 10 ft 0 in. with a 3-ft deep beam. The minimum clearance specified is 7 ft 0 in. which leaves zero tolerance. The ACI tolerances on the forming would allow +/-3/4 in. for the soffit and top elevation. This could reduce the clearance by 1-1/2 in. The problem worsens in the ramp areas, Figure 4, where the slope of the ramp at 5 or 6 percent grade makes the clearance on the uphill side of the beam 3/8 in. less than at the center- line. This occurs because the beam soffits are placed level rather than parallel to the slope of the ramp.

Fig. 1 Beam Stirrup Cover Formwork And Member Profile Widely used concrete joist construction is formed

Fig. 2 Measuring Beam Depth

Deciding where the beam depth is to be meas- ured presents a third problem on sloping or ramped surfaces. If the beam depth is measured on the downhill side, the soffit of the beam is low- ered by 3/8 in. which reduces the clearance by 3/8 in. The simultaneous occurrence of these three conditions is quite normal. What was intended to be 7-ft clear becomes 6 ft 9-3/4 in. This is 2-1/4 in. less than planned. The story height should be increased by 2-1/4 in. to allow for the construc- tion tolerances. The use of post-tensioning sometimes com- pounds the problems of trying to keep the edge of the building within acceptable tolerance (Figure 5). The usual procedure would be to cast the first lift columns, then cast the floor slab. Before tensioning the floor beams and slabs, it is likely that the 2nd lift of columns has been cast. The tensioning operation compresses the con- crete and tends to pull the edges of the building toward the center or other stable location. The result may be the movement of the slab by as much as 3/4 in., pulling the first floor columns out of plumb and moving the 2nd lift of columns lat- erally by this amount. The casting of the 2nd slab and the 3rd lift of columns followed by the ten- sioning of the 2nd floor system moves the top of the 2nd lift of columns an additional 3/4 in. inward for a total movement of 1-1/2 in. As the building progresses, the offsets progress. A 10- story building could be off by as much as 7-1/2 in. unless corrective measures were taken. The common remedy is to anticipate the movement and lean the columns outward and build the slab edge beyond its desired location. Unfortunately, the movement does not always occur due to the level of the post-tensioning force or constraints in the building geometry. This is a condition where the Architect/Engineer should advise the Contractor of the anticipated movement so the Contractor can act accordingly.

Conflicts Between The Frame And Other Trades

Other trades, particularly the finish trades, must build their product to meet or surround the concrete elements. Their products also have a set of industry established tolerances. These products are often plant manufactured with sig - nificantly less variation in dimensions and are also often exposed to public view and have erec- tion tolerances that are much more restrictive than the hidden concrete elements. It becomes the responsibility of the Architect/Engineer to consider the differences in tolerances between the various elements of the finished structure and to develop connection details and clear- ances to accommodate these differences.

Conflicts Between The Frame And Other Trades Other trades, particularly the finish trades, must build their

Fig. 3 Joist Construction With Lapped Forms

Exterior Conditions

The ACI tolerance for the edge of a concrete slab is +/- 1 in. The typical 5-in, brick ledge angle leaves about ½ in. clear between the bolt and the brick, Figure 6. Any movement of the build - ing edge outward encroaches on the insulation and air gap and may require chipping of the brick or removal of concrete. Chipping the brick weak- ens the brick and removal of concrete may destroy the anchorage for the brick angle and reduce the cover on the reinforcing bars at the beam edge. The Architect/Engineer must devel- op connection details that would accommodate the potential 2 in. movement of the slab edge. The installation of window units to the under- side of concrete beams or slabs, Figure 7, is fre- quently a cause of tolerance conflict. The toler- ance for the location of the soffit is +/- 3/4 in. The same tolerance applies to the top surface of the beam which allows for an opening size variance of +/- 1-1/2 in. The window unit manufacturer anticipating a 1/4 in. sealant joint top and bottom builds the unit to a tolerance of +/- 1/16 in. The result is 1 in. wide sealant joints or perhaps a unit that is 1 in. taller than the opening. The solu - tion to this problem may be easier than some. An expansion channel allowing for +/- 3/4 in. move- ment was a solution employed 20 years ago that is still valid today.

Interior Conditions

The installation of floor-to-ceiling partitions presents conflicts similar to the exterior opening. Attachment of partitions or other elements against the underside of concrete joist construc- tion must be designed to accommodate the like- ly ½ in. to 1 in. vertical offsets that may occur along the joist soffits.

Conflicts Between The Frame And Other Trades Other trades, particularly the finish trades, must build their

Fig. 4 Clearance to Slab Below Sloping Surface

Conflicts Between The Frame And Other Trades Other trades, particularly the finish trades, must build their

Fig 5. Post-Tensioning Movement

Fig. 6 Attachment of Brick, Precast or Curtainwall Fig. 7 Window Frame in Concrete Opening CONCLUSIONS
Fig. 6 Attachment of Brick, Precast or Curtainwall Fig. 7 Window Frame in Concrete Opening CONCLUSIONS

Fig. 6 Attachment of Brick, Precast or Curtainwall Fig. 7 Window Frame in Concrete Opening

CONCLUSIONS

These examples are only a few of the many areas of conflict relating to the construction of a structure to acceptable tolerances that could be made easier by the closer cooperation of the parties involved. The ACI tolerances for the reinforced frame are generally reasonable but increased pressure to build faster with less cost makes them harder to maintain. Building the frame to more exacting tolerances is possible but should only be called for when absolutely necessary as the additional cost can be significant. The other trades are faced with similar problems. The Architect/Engineer must be continuous- ly aware of tolerances and design accordingly. Where it is necessary to be more restrictive at specific locations, these locations and their requirements should be shown on the design drawings or in the project specifications.

Pre-design conferences with Contractors, Subcontractors and Suppliers will frequently point out areas of possible conflict. Most of the discussed conflicts can be avoided by recogniz- ing that variations, as allowed in ACI 117, will occur and by acting accordingly. The Architect/Engineer and Contractor should be aware of the potential discrepancies between the exact dimensions and locations shown on design drawings, and the variance of practical dimensions which make tolerances necessary in order for the various trades and suppliers to construct a reinforced concrete structure. A concerted effort should be made to coordinate the work of the various trades, antici- pate problems of fit, and resolve a potential con- flict prior to its occurrence. Last minute disputes at the jobsite are an expensive alternative.

REFERENCES

Nichols, JR., “Tolerances in Building Construction”, ACI Journal, April 1940. Standard Tolerances for Concrete Construction and Materials, ACl 117-90, 1990. “Reasonable Tolerances for Cast-in-Place Concrete”, Concrete Construction Magazine, May 1974.

Beall, C., “Specifying Construction Tolerances”, The Construction Specifier, August 1990.

Birkeland, P.W., and Westhoff, L.J., “Dimensional Tolerances in a Tall Building”, ACI Journal, August 1971.

Fig. 6 Attachment of Brick, Precast or Curtainwall Fig. 7 Window Frame in Concrete Opening CONCLUSIONS

CONCRETE REINFORCING STEEL INSTITUTE

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This publication is intended for the use of professionals competent to evaluate the significance and limitations of its contents and who will accept responsibility for the application of the material it contains. The Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute reports the foregoing material as a matter of information and, therefore, disclaims any and all responsibility for application of the stated principles or for the accuracy of the sources other than material developed by the Institute.