An efficient way to increase the LTB resistance of a beam


During the lifetime of a steel structure changes often happen. These changes usually result an increase of loads acting on some of its elements which therefore may need to be strengthened.

Strengthening is usually done by welding additional steel plates to the existing members. In the case of I sections, usually, the flanges are reinforced to increase the bending moment capacity or the web is stiffened to avoid local buckling or crippling at support regions.

This paper will focus on the increase of bending moment capacity.

Lateral-torsional buckling resistance

The usual practice is to either increase the compression flange thickness by adding additional plates to it, or by widening it with the help of angles, as can be seen in the pictures below.

Although these can be very efficient ways to increase the bending moment capacity of a beam, welding on site is a complex process and might require the temporary removal of structural or non-structural elements connected to the flange of the beam. Welding especially “above the head” is difficult, the quality of weld seam needs to be properly checked.

Bending moment capacity of a beam might be limited by lateral-torsional buckling. If the section is not sufficiently restrained laterally against torsion, its actual load-bearing capacity will be lower than the value which depends purely on its section resistance.

In such cases, if the LTB behaviour could be directly improved, there would be no need to strengthen its cross-section along its full length. Here comes the Superbeam as a possible help.

Additional lateral restraining elements are often difficult to be added, therefore this is often not an option.

If we look at what LTB resistance of an I section depends on, we can see, that if we don’t want to change its cross section along its full length, it depends on the value of the reduction factor responsible to consider lateral-torsional buckling χLT.

This reduction factor is calculated from the slenderness value of the beam, which needs to be improved (reduced) to result a lower, more favourable reduction factor.

Without changing the cross section, the only way to do this is by improving the critical moment value. Increasing this value can be made not only by changing the cross-section but also by changing the boundary conditions.

The value of parameters ‘k’ and ‘kw’ depend on the boundary conditions, where ‘k’ means a factor which depends on how the section is fixed against weak axis bending at its ends and ‘kw’ means a factor which depends on how the section is fixed against warping. Warping is the phenomenon when the upper and lower flange of an I section twist in opposite directions.

To change the end conditions is typically difficult, but a certain limitation of the twist of flanges relative to each other ie. preventing or limiting warping might be possible. Limitation of this twist can be obtained by connecting the flanges by an additional element which has non-zero torsional stiffness. This torsional stiffness will prevent the counter-rotation of the flanges and therefore the warping and allowing to consider a ‘kw’ value different than 1.0 in this formula.

Consteel supports several such strengthening profiles and can determine the torsional stiffness to be considered in preventing or limiting warping.

Analysis with Consteel Superbeam

Let’s take the following case. We have a simple supported 5 m long beam loaded by a uniform load of 20 kN/m acting at the top flange, on top of its self weight, without any intermediate lateral support. Its section is a welded I profile, made of S235, 10 mm thick plates, flange width of 200 mm and total section depth of 320 mm.

As we can expect, in the case of such a large unbraced length, the bending moment resistance would be strongly limited by lateral-torsional buckling, and therefore we can expect that strengthening by the proposed method is viable.

The critical moment of this beam is obtained in Consteel using linear buckling analysis with 7DOF beam elements option of the Superbeam, which has found the critical multiplier of 2.88.

This results Mcr = 2.88*64.18=184,84 kNm and a slenderness λ of 1,036 and reduction factor of 0,519.

The final bending moment resistance is 103 kNm.

Let’s further assume that this resistance needs to be increased by 30% due to new requirements. Let’s see whether a successful strengthening without modifications of the cross-section would be possible.

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