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# Structural Steelwork Eurocodes

Development of
A Trans-national Approach
Course: Eurocode 3
Module 4 : Member design

Classification
Summary:

## Structural sections may be considered as an assembly of individual plate elements.

Plate elements may be internal (e.g. the webs of open beams or the flanges of boxes) and others are
outstand (e.g. the flanges of open sections and the legs of angles).
When loaded in compression these plates may buckle locally.
Local buckling within the cross-section may limit the load carrying capacity of the section by
preventing the attainment of yield strength.
Premature failure (arising from the effects of local buckling) may be avoided by limiting the width to
thickness ratio - or slenderness - of individual elements within the cross section.
This is the basis of the section classification approach.
EC3 defines four classes of cross-section. The class into which a particular cross-section falls depends
upon the slenderness of each element and the compressive stress distribution.

Pre-requisites:

## A working knowledge of Euler buckling theory.

The idea of normalising stresses against yield stress

## Notes for Tutors:

This material comprises one 30 minute lecture.
The lecturer can break up the session with one formative exercise part way through (calculation of
normalised plate slenderness)
The lecturer may apply a summative assessment at the end of the session requiring that students confirm the
EC3 limits for Class 2 hot rolled sections

SSEDTA

## Structural Steelwork Eurocodes Development of a Trans-National Approach

Design of Members
Section classification

Objectives:

explain that sections may fail by compressive buckling of plates within the section.
distinguish between internal and outstand elements.
demonstrate that plate slenderness and edge restraints control the buckling behaviour.
sketch the relationship between normalised ultimate compressive stress and normalised plate slenderness.
explain (in terms of the above sketch) the meaning of different section classifications.
derive a result from EC3 Table xxx for hot rolled sections.
use the section classification method to choose appropriate sections.
describe the effective width approach for Class 4 sections.

References:

Eurocode 3: Design of steel structures Part 1.1 General rules and rules for buildings
ESDEP: Lectures 7.2 and 7.3
The Behaviour and Design of Steel Structures, Chapter 4- Local buckling of thin plate elements,
N S Trahair and M A Bradford, E & FN Spon Revised Second Edition 1994

Contents:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Introduction
Classification
Behaviour of plate elements in compression
Effective width approach to design of Class 4 sections
Concluding summary

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## Structural Steelwork Eurocodes Development of a Trans-National Approach

Design of Members
Section classification

1. Introduction
Structural sections, be they rolled or welded, may be considered as an assembly of individual
plate elements, some of which are internal (e.g. the webs of open beams or the flanges of
boxes) and others are outstand (e.g. the flanges of open sections and the legs of angles) - see
figure 1. As the plate elements in structural sections are relatively thin compared with their
width, when loaded in compression (as a result of axial loads applied to the whole section
and/or from bending) they may buckle locally. The disposition of any plate element within the
cross section to buckle may limit the axial load carrying capacity, or the bending resistance of
the section, by preventing the attainment of yield. Avoidance of premature failure arising from
the effects of local buckling may be achieved by limiting the width-to-thickness ratio for
individual elements within the cross section. This is the basis of the section classification
approach.
Outstand
Internal

Internal

Outstand

Internal
Web

Web

Web

Flange
(a) Rolled I-section

Flange
(b) Hollow section

Internal

Flange
(c) Welded box section

## Figure 1 Internal or outstand elements

2. Classification
EC3 defines four classes of cross section. The class into which a particular cross section falls
depends upon the slenderness of each element (defined by a width-to-thickness ratio) and the
compressive stress distribution i.e. uniform or linear. The classes are defined in terms of
performance requirements for resistance of bending moments:
Class 1 cross-sections are those which can form a plastic hinge with the required rotational
capacity for plastic analysis.
Class 2 cross-sections are those which, although able to develop a plastic moment, have
limited rotational capacity and are therefore unsuitable for structures designed by plastic
analysis.
Class 3 cross-sections are those in which the calculated stress in the extreme compression fibre
can reach yield but local buckling prevents the development of the plastic moment resistance.
Class 4 cross-sections are those in which local buckling limits the moment resistance (or
compression resistance for axially loaded members). Explicit allowance for the effects of local
buckling is necessary.

5.3.2 (1)

Table 1 summarises the classes in terms of behaviour, moment capacity and rotational capacity.

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## Structural Steelwork Eurocodes Development of a Trans-National Approach

Design of Members
Section classification

Moment
Resistance

Model of
Behaviour
Mom e nt

Plastic moment
on gross section

M pl
Local
Buckling

fy

M
Mp l

fy

Local
Buckling

M
Mp l

Mpl

fy

Mel
Local
Buckling

Mpl

pl
None

pl

Plastic moment on
effective section

fy

Mel

M
Mp l

Moment

Limited

Elastic moment
on gross section

pl

Moment

rot
pl
Plastic moment
on gross section

Mpl

Sufficient

Mo men t

Class

Rotation Capacity

M
Mp l

None
4

Local
Buckling

pl

## Mel elastic moment resistance of cross-section

Mpl plastic moment resistance of cross-section
M applied moment
rotation (curvature) of section
pl rotation (curvature) of section required to generate fully plastic stress distribution
across section

## Table 1 Cross-section classifications in terms of moment resistance and

rotation capacity
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## Structural Steelwork Eurocodes Development of a Trans-National Approach

Design of Members
Section classification

## 3. Behaviour of plate elements in compression

A thin flat rectangular plate subjected to compressive forces along its short edges has an elastic
critical buckling stress (cr ) given by:

cr

k 2 E t

121 2 b

(1)

Where
k is the plate buckling parameter which accounts for edge support conditions,
stress distribution and aspect ratio of the plate - see figure 2a.
= Poissons coefficient
E = Youngs modulus
2
The elastic critical buckling stress (cr ) is thus inversely proportional to (b/t) and analogous to
the slenderness ratio (L/i) for column buckling.
Open structural sections comprise a number of plates which are free along one longitudinal edge
(see figure 2b) and tend to be very long compared with their width. The buckled shape for such
a plate is illustrated in figure 2c. The relationship between aspect ratio and buckling parameter
for a long thin outstand element of this type is shown in figure 2d, from which it is clear that the
buckling parameter tends towards a limiting value of 0.425 as the plate aspect ratio increases.
For a section to be classified as class 3 or better the elastic critical buckling stress ( cr ) must
exceed the yield stress f y . From equation (1) (substituting = 0.3 and rearranging) this will be
so if

3.2.5 (1)
3.2.5 (1)

3.2.5 (1)

## b/t < 0,92 k E/f y

0,5

(2)
This expression is general as the effect of stress gradient, boundary conditions and aspect ratio
are all encompassed within the buckling parameter k . Table 2 gives values for high aspect
ratios of internal and outstand elements under various elastic stress distributions.

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## Structural Steelwork Eurocodes Development of a Trans-National Approach

Design of Members
Section classification

L
t

(b)

(a)

Simply supported on
all four edges

Buckling coefficient k
5

b
4

Simply supported
edge

Free

Exact

k = 0.425 + (b/L)2
2

(c)
1
0.425

Free
edge

(d)

Trahair and

## Figure 2 Behaviour of plate elements in compression

1

III

II
is maximum stress, compression

2 / 1

+1

1 > > 0

0 >

Case I
Internal
element

4,0

8,02
1,05 +

7,81

7,81+6,29

Case II
Outstand
element

0,43

0,57-0,21

0,57

0,57-0,21

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-1

0,85

## Structural Steelwork Eurocodes Development of a Trans-National Approach

Design of Members
Section classification

Case III
Outstand
element

0,578

0,43

1,7-5

1,70

23,8

## Table 2 Buckling factors and stress distribution

The elastic-plastic behaviour of a perfect plate element subject to uniform compression may
usefully be represented by a normalised load-slenderness diagram where normalised ultimate
load, Np , and normalised plate slenderness, p , are given by:
Np = ult / fy

p f y / cr

(3)
0, 5

(4)
2
Substituting equation (1) for cr into (4), and replacing f y with 235/ (so that the expression
may be used for any grade of material) the normalised plate slenderness, p, may be expressed
as

fy

cr

0.5

b/t

28.4 k

(5)

where b is the appropriate width for the type of element and cross-section type.
Figure 3 shows the relationship between Np and p . For a normalised plate slenderness less
than one, the normalised ultimate load is one which means that the plate can develop its squash
load. For greater values of p , Np decreases as the plate slenderness increases, the ultimate
stress sustained being limited to the elastic critical buckling stress, cr.

Np

u
fy
1

Class 3
Class 2
Class 1

0,5 0,6

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0,9

1,0

## Structural Steelwork Eurocodes Development of a Trans-National Approach

Design of Members
Section classification

## Figure 3 Dimensionless representation of the elastic-plastic

buckling stress
Formative test 1 Derive the normalised equation for plate
slenderness
Given that
Plot the

p f y / cr 0.5

N p vs p

Appreciating

cr

relationship

235 / f y 0.5

## for strength normalisation, use equation (1)

k E t

121 2 b to derive equation (5)
2

Plates in sections are not perfectly flat nor is steel elastic-perfectly plastic (it strain hardens).
These factors, coupled with the ability of plates to carry loads beyond the level causing elastic
buckling (postbuckling behaviour), require p values to be reduced in order to delay the onset

5.2.1.4 (7)

of local buckling until the requisite strain distribution through the section - yield at the extreme
fibre or fully plastic distribution - has been attained. EC3 uses the following normalised plate
slenderness as limits for classifications:
Class 1 p < 0,5
Class 2 p < 0,6
Class 3 p < 0,9 for elements under a stress gradient; this is further reduced to 0,74 for
elements in compression throughout.

ESDEP
Lecture 7.2
5.3.2 (3)

By substituting the appropriate values of k into equation (5) and noting the p to be used for
each class, limiting b/t ratios can be calculated. Table 3 presents limiting values for a rolled
section subject to major axis bending or compression. Sections built up by welding are treated
in a similar way but the b/t and d/t limits are reduced due to the deleterious effects of higher
residual stresses caused by welding.

c
tf

Element
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tw

Class 1

Class 2

Class 3
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## Structural Steelwork Eurocodes Development of a Trans-National Approach

Design of Members
Section classification
Flange

c / tf = 10

c / tf = 11

c / tf = 15

Web subject to
bending

d / tw = 72

d / tw = 83

d / tw = 124

Web subject to
compression

d / tw = 33

d / tw = 38

d / tw = 42

## Table 3 Maximum slenderness ratios for the elements of a rolled

section in compression and bending
Tables 4-7 are extracts from EC3 giving the limiting proportions for compression elements of
class 1 to 3. When any of the compression elements within a section fail to satisfy the limit for
class 3 the whole section is classified as class 4 (commonly referred to as slender), and local
buckling should be taken into account in the design using an effective cross section.

5.3.2 (8)

## 4. Effective width approach to design of Class 4 sections

5.3.5 (3)
Cross-sections with class 4 elements may be replaced by an effective cross-section, taken as the
gross section minus holes where the buckles may occur, and then designed in a similar manner
to class 3 sections using elastic cross-sectional resistance limited by yielding in the extreme
fibres. Effective widths of compression elements may be calculated by use of a reduction
factor which is dependent on the normalised plate slenderness p (which is in turn dependent
on the stress distribution and element boundaries through application of the buckling parameter
k) as follows:

0,22
p

(6)

The reduction factor may then be applied to the outstand or internal element as shown in
Tables 8 and 9. Figure 4 shows examples of effective cross-sections for members in
compression or bending. Notice that the centroidal axis of the effective cross-section may shift
relative to that for the gross cross-section. For a member in bending this will be taken into
account when calculating the section properties of the effective section. For a member subject
to an axial force, the shift of the centroidal axis will give rise to a moment which should be
accounted for in member design.

## Summative test: Partially derive EC3 Table 5.3.1 Class 2 plate

slenderness ratios for rolled sections in compression and bending
Figure 3 uses p < 0.6 as a normalised plate slenderness for class 2 rolled sections
10/09/99

## Structural Steelwork Eurocodes Development of a Trans-National Approach

Design of Members
Section classification
Substituting the appropriate values of k into equation (5), use p to determine limiting b/t
ratios for a flange
Revise in terms of d/tw for a web in compression
Classify the section in exercise xxxx (this refers to one of the overall design exercises)

6. Concluding summary

## Structural sections may be considered as an assembly of individual plate elements.

Plate elements may be internal (e.g. the webs of open beams or the flanges of boxes) and
others are outstand (e.g. the flanges of open sections and the legs of angles).
When loaded in compression these plates may buckle locally.
Local buckling within the cross-section may limit the load carrying capacity of the section
by preventing the attainment of yield strength.
Premature failure (arising from the effects of local buckling) may be avoided by limiting
the width to thickness ratio - or slenderness - of individual elements within the cross
section.
This is the basis of the section classification approach.
EC3 defines four classes of cross-section. The class into which a particular cross-section
falls depends upon the slenderness of each element and the compressive stress distribution.

10/09/99

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## Structural Steelwork Eurocodes Development of a Trans-National Approach

Design of Members
Section classification

## a. Webs: (internal elements perpendicular to axis of bending)

tf

tw
Axis of
Bending

tw

tw

tw

d = h-3t (t = tf = tw)

Web subject to
bending

Class
Stress
distribution in
element
(compression
positive)

Web subject to
compression

+ fy

+ fy
d

fy

fy
d/t w <_

+ fy

and compression

d h

fy when
d/t w
_
when
d/t w _

d/t w <_ 33

when

Stress
distribution in
element
(compression
positive)

d/t w
_

d/t w <_ 38

d/t w <_ 83

when
d/t w
_
+fy

+ fy

+ fy
d/2
d/2

fy -

fy-

d/t w
_

d/t w <_ 42

when
d/t w _
_
when
d/t w _

235 / f
y
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fy

235

275

355

0,92

0,81

11

Table 4 Maximum

## Structural Steelwork Eurocodes Development of a Trans-National Approach

Design of Members
Section classification

## (internal elements parallel to axis of bending)

b

tf

axis of
bending

Class

tf

tf

Section in bending

Type

Stress distribution
in element and
across section
(compression
positive)

Section in compression

fy

+
-

tf

fy

+
-

- +
1

Other

## Rolled hollow section

Other

Stress distribution
in element and
across section
(compression
positive)

- +

_
_
_

(b - 3t f )/ t f
b / tf
(b - 3tf )/ tf
b / tf
fy

+
-

_ *
_

*
_

(b - 3t f)/ tf
b / tf
(b - 3tf )/ tf
b / tf
fy

+
fy

- +
3

## Rolled hollow section

Other

235/ f y

fy

(b - 3t f )/ tf
b / tf

_
_

(b - 3tf)/ tf
b / tf

- +
*
_

235

275

335

0,92

0,81

* For a cross section in compression with no bending the classification 1,2,3 are irrelevant
and hence the limit is the same in each case.

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## Structural Steelwork Eurocodes Development of a Trans-National Approach

Design of Members
Section classification

c. Outstand flanges:

c
c

tf tf

tf

Welded sections

Rolled sections
Class

Type of section

Flange subject
to compression

Stress distribution
in element
(compression positive)

= 235/ f y

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+
-

Flange subject to
compression and bending
Tip in
Tip in
compression
tension
c
c
+
c
c

Rolled

c/t f _
<

_
c/t f <

Welded

c/t f _<

_ 9e
c/t f <

Rolled

_
c/t f <

_
c/t f <

Welded

_
c/t f <

c/t f <
_

Stress distribution
in element
(compression positive)

tf

+
c

Rolled

_
c/t f <

_ 23 k
c/t f <

Welded

_
c/t f <

c/t f <
_ 23 k

+
-

_
c/t f <

_
c/t f <

11

c/t f <
_ 10

_
c/t f <

+
-

+
-

## For k see figure 2d

and table 8

fy

235

275

355

0,92

0,81

13
Table 6 Maximum width-to-thickness ratios for compression elements

## Structural Steelwork Eurocodes Development of a Trans-National Approach

Design of Members
Section classification

d. Angles:
Refer also to c.
'Outstand flanges'
(Table 6)

## (Does not apply to

angles in continuous
contact with other
components).

t
Section in compression

Class

fy

+
-

fy

Stress distribution
across section
(compression positive)

t
h
bh
15 :
115
,
t
2t

3
e. Tubular sections:

d / t 50 2

Class
1

d / t 70 2
d / t 90 2

2
3
235/ f y

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fy

235

275

355

0,92

0,81

0,85

0,66

14

Table 7 Maximum

## Structural Steelwork Eurocodes Development of a Trans-National Approach

Design of Members
Section classification

Stress distribution
(compression positive)
beff

## Effective width beff

1 0:

beff = c
c

bc

bt

0:

beff bc c / (1 )
2
beff

2 / 1

-1

1 1

Buckling factor k

0,43

0,57

0,85

## 0,57 0,21 0,07 2

beff

1 0:

beff = c

beff
0:

beff bc c / (1 )

2
bc

10/09/99

bt

2 /1

1 0

Buckling factor k

0,43

0,578
0,34

1,70

0 1
2
1,7 5 17,115

-1
23,8

## Structural Steelwork Eurocodes Development of a Trans-National Approach

Design of Members
Section classification

Stress distribution
(compression positive)

## Effective width beff

= 1:

b = b - 3t
beff = b
be1 = 0,5 beff
be2 = 0,5 beff

be2

be1
b

1 > _ 0 :

b e1

b = b - 3t
beff = b
2b
b e1 = eff
5-
b e2 = beff - be1

be2
b

bc

bt

< 0:

b = b - 3t
beff = bc = b / (1 - )

b e1

## be1 = 0,4b eff

be2 = 0,6b eff

be2
b

= 2 /1

1> > 0

Buckling
factor k

4,0

8,2
1,05 +

7,81

Alternatively, for

_ _ - 1:
1

0 > > -1

-1

## 7,81- 6,92 + 9,78 2 23,9

k =

- 1> > - 2

5,98 (1 - )2

16
[(1 + ) + 0,112(1 - )2 ]0,5 + (1 + )
2

Illustrated as rhs.
For other sections b = d for webs
b = b for internal flange elements (except rhs)
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## Structural Steelwork Eurocodes Development of a Trans-National Approach

Design of Members
Section classification

Centroidal axis of
gross cross-section
Centroidal axis of
gross cross-section

Centroidal axis of
effective cross-section

eN

Non-effective zones

Gross cross-section
(a) Class 4 cross-sections - axial force

eM
Centroidal axis

Non-effective zone
Centroidal axis of
effective section

Non-effective zone
eM
Centroidal axis

Centroidal axis of
effective section
Gross cross-section

## (b) Class 4 cross-sections - bending moment

Figure 4 Effective cross-sections for class 4 in compression and bending

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