Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 20




Steen Rostam

Concrete has been the most important building material for more than 100
years, and is likely to remain so for the next century. The engineering challenges
of this building material and its development into world wide domination has intrigued researchers, designers and architects throughout the years. Therefore, no
other building material represents the centennial celebration of a technical university institute as legitimately as concrete.
Durability issues were threatening the general recognition of the merits of
concrete. Recent years valuable research will allow today's grossly over-simplistic
deem-to-satisfy design methods to be replaced by scientifically sound probabilistic service life design methods. The same reliability-based design procedures are
being used as used for structural design.
The problems to be met are multidisciplinary in nature. This requires coordinated efforts of all parties involved, which will reflect on future engineering
curricular now on the verge of being updating in this direction.

Concrete is the most versatile and robust construction material available and has obtained a
dominating position in construction.
The formability of structural concrete represents its unique usefulness with remarkable architectural challenges as exemplified in Figure 1. Thus it becomes an economic disaster when
urban dwellings, large bridges, or major marine structures deteriorate just after a few years in
The reasons for premature deterioration are very complex, Figure 2, but the main causes
have now been identified. It is essential to have these causes highlighted aiming at rectifying
design methods, construction procedures, material compositions as well as maintenance and
repair procedures, to ensure more reliable structures in the future.


- A Centenary Celebration
Department of Structural Engineering and Materials
Technical University of Denmark, 2000.

Steen Rostam

Figure 1: Sydney Opera House.

Architect: Utzon

Figure 2: Collapsed car park deck due to

chloride corrosion of reinforcement caused by
de-icing salts. The deck below was also fully

With respect to deterioration, concrete structures have some important characteristic properties, which differ fundamentally from structures made from other structural materials. These
properties are the following (fib 1999):
The quality and the performance of concrete adopted at the design and contracting
stages are assumed values.
The true quality and performance characteristics of structural concrete are created
through the actual execution process during construction on site. Hence, this very short
period of time (hours and days) constitutes the most important phase during which the
true initial qualities are established.
If durability performance turns out to be sub-standard, this is most often not apparent
nor detectable until some time has passed due to the nature of the deterioration of concrete structures. The time passed before premature deterioration becomes apparent may
often be longer than the contracted liability period, but very much shorter than the service life expected by the owner.
To manage these special properties of concrete structures a durability based design concept, a
conscious execution, and a planned inspection and maintenance is needed.

Structural design versus durability design

The generally accepted aim of a design is "to achieve an acceptable probability that the structure being designed will perform satisfactorily during its intended life".
When designing a structure today the designer first defines the loads to be resisted. As
these loads usually vary, he applies some safety factors to be on the safe side. These factored
loads must then be resisted by the structure through selecting a combination of structural systems, element geometry, material types and material's strengths. As it is difficult to predict the
precise properties of the materials, the geometry and the qualities, which are achieved in the
structure, safety factors are applied to account for this by limiting the maximum allowable


Service Life Design of Concrete Structures

stresses. Mathematical equations are then used to verify that the probabilities of the loads,
which exceed the resistances, are maintained at an acceptable low level.
When it comes to durability design to verify that the intended life can be achieved with an
acceptable level of reliability, the situation is entirely different. It seems to be acceptable without question to use a grossly over-simplistic approach. The codes provide only qualitative
definitions of exposure and they fail to define the design life in relation to durability, (Bamforth
1998). In particular, they fail to quantify the durability limit states that must be exceeded for
the design life to be ended.
The traditional design follows a deem-to-satisfy approach. This means to specify requirements to substitute parameters such as the cement type and quantity, concrete mix, maximum
water/cement ratio, minimum air content, concrete cover, type of curing, control of early age
cracking, limitation of crack widths. The values chosen depend on the assumed aggressivity of
the environment but have been chosen based on engineering judgement without any factual
calculation to verify the consequences.
Previous approaches fail to recognise that, in relation to durability, it is not the properties
of the materials or components alone that define performance, but the condition of the structure in its environment as a whole, and its need for maintenance. This performance can be defined by functional requirements such as fitness-for-purpose, which includes issues such as
deflections, cracks and spalling, vibrations, aesthetics and structural integrity.
When it comes to residual service life assessment of existing structures the same situation
of using over-simplistic procedures prevail as for service life design of new structures. This is
in spite of the fact that once the structure is a reality a large part of the inherent uncertainties
associated with new designs, can be eliminated or limited to required levels through appropriately planned inspections, measurements and testing. The longer the structure has served, and
the longer it has interacted with the environment the more reliable could the residual service
life forecast be. This is the condition, which shall be kept in mind when performing assessment
and residual service life evaluation.

Durability and service life design

The operational way of designing for durability is to define durability as a service life requirement. In this way the non-factual and rather subjective concept of "durability" is transformed
into a factual requirement of the "number of years" during which the structure shall perform
satisfactorily without unforeseen high costs for maintenance.
Designing for a specified service life requires knowledge of the parameters determining the
ageing and deterioration of concrete structures. Hence, the pre-condition is to have scientifically sound mathematical modelling available of the:
Environmental loadings
Materials and structural resistances.
This is the only rational way of performing a quantified service life design for new concrete structures - and a residual service life design for existing structures.
The materials and structural resistances include transport mechanisms for substance into
and within concrete, and deterioration mechanisms of concrete and reinforcement.


Steen Rostam
The main issue when deciding upon a specific service life is to clarify the event, which will
identify the end of the service life. The requirement for a specific service life performance of a
structure is therefore closely associated with the short and long-term costs of fulfilling this requirement. The owner must therefore acknowledge that he has to take decisions on both the
service life and on the performance requirements, and he must accept both the short and the
long-term costs associated with his decisions.
For the everyday building the national codes and regulations have defined society's service
life requirements - often not explicitly but implicitly through the standards and codified design
requirements. 50 years seems to be a general objective of most codes.
The Technical service life is the time in service until a defined unacceptable state of deterioration has been reached by the structure, see Figure 3. In the following the main focus will
be on how to design for a specific technical service life.

Figure 3:
Service life of
concrete structures. The wellknown two-phase modelling
of deterioration.
Environmental loading
With respect to service life design one of the most important decisions to be taken by the designer is the determination of the exposure conditions for which each member of a structure
shall be designed, as the structure itself has decisive influence on the future micro-climate to be
The exposure shall be related to the type and severity of deterioration that may result from
the exposure. In this respect a differentiation is needed between mechanisms deteriorating concrete and mechanisms leading to reinforcement corrosion.
Different parts of a structure may therefore be in different exposure conditions. Obvious
examples are the submerged, the tidal, the splash and the atmospheric zones of a marine structure, but also different geographic orientations (north/south/east/west, or seaward/landward
orientation) may be in different exposure classes. Even very local differences can be taken into
account such as vertical faces, horizontal surfaces facing upward (risk of ponding) or facing
Materials and structural resistance
Having identified the environmental aggressivity the next step of the durability design is to
identify the relevant degradation mechanisms. Mathematical models describing the time de-


Service Life Design of Concrete Structures

pendant degradation processes and the material resistances represent the big step forward towards performance related durability design.
Among the main deterioration mechanisms relevant for concrete structures chloride induced reinforcement corrosion is by far the most serious. In the following service life design
will therefore focus primarily on chloride ingress and chloride induced reinforcement corrosion.
Deterioration mechanisms
The two-phase diagram illustrated in Figure 3 may model the development in time of nearly all
types of deterioration mechanisms of concrete structures. The two phases of deterioration are
the following:
The initiation phase. During this phase no noticeable weakening of the material or the
function of the structure occurs, but the aggressive media overcomes some inherent protective barrier.
The propagation phase. During this phase an active deterioration develops and loss of
function is observed. A number of deterioration mechanisms develop at an increasing rate
with time. Reinforcement corrosion is one such important example of propagating deterioration. The propagation phase may be divided into several events.
Figure 4 shows in principle the performance of a concrete structure with respect to reinforcement corrosion and related events. Points 1 and 2 represent events related to the serviceability
of the structure, point 3 is related to both serviceability and ultimate limit states and point 4
represents collapse.








Figure 4: Corrosion dependent events related to service


Concrete resistance to chloride ingress

To focus on the main principles of modern service life design the calculations in the following
have been limited to defining the service life of new structures to be equal to the initiation period. This means that the time for the chlorides to reach the reinforcement and induce depassivation and initiate corrosion is equal to the design service life.


Steen Rostam
The initiation phase ends when the chloride concentration at the reinforcement reaches a
critical threshold value. Carbonation of concrete can be treated in a similar manner. Depassivation does not necessarily represent an undesirable state, as illustrated in Figure 4. However,
this event must have occurred before corrosion will begin.
Fick's 2nd law of diffusion is commonly used to model the penetration of chlorides into
concrete. The model provides also the basis for modelling the transition between passivation
and onset of corrosion by giving as a result the time until the critical chloride concentration
reaches the level of the reinforcement.
Solving the diffusion law leads to the following expression:
C(x, t)

= Cs [1 - erf (

2 D(t ) t


= Chloride concentration at depth x at time t

= Chloride concentration on the exposed surface
= Exposure time
= Depth
= Error function
= Diffusion coefficient

The corrosion process starts (onset of corrosion), when the chloride concentration at the level
of the reinforcement is higher than the critical value, Ccr.
In this equation the calculated surface chloride concentration Cs represents the environmental load and is taken as time independent. The chloride diffusion coefficient, D(t)
characterises the concretes ability to withstand the ingress of chlorides.
The chloride diffusion coefficient was earlier considered as time independent. However, it
has been confirmed both in laboratory and in-situ testing that this resistance is improved with
time. The time dependent diffusion coefficient may be expressed as:

D(t ) = D0 0

D0 is a measured reference chloride diffusion coefficient at the age t0. In a design phase the
concrete resistance D0 may be measured in the laboratory by a bulk diffusion test or by a migration test.
The exponent governs how fast the diffusion coefficient is improved with time. The decrease of the diffusion coefficient with age is due to a combined effect of continued hydration
of the concrete and ion exchange with the environment, such as physical and chemical binding
within the concrete.
Based on these formulae, the time to onset of corrosion may be calculated. This is a deterministic way of calculating service life using the mean values or fixed characteristic values of
the relevant parameters (concrete cover, surface chloride concentration, diffusion coefficient,
and critical chloride concentration). This type of calculation does not include the obvious uncertainty of the various parameters in a consistent manner.


Service Life Design of Concrete Structures

Sensitivity of the parameter
The effect of the ageing factor on the service life calculation is considerable.
The examples presented in the following sections illustrated by Figure 5 and Figure 11 are
with kind permission reported from a special study of the critical parameters of the service life
models presented in a recent Report (Larssen 2000).

Figure 5: Calculated chloride profiles after 50 years

of exposure. Assuming a
chloride threshold value of
0.1% of chlorides by weight
of concrete the figure gives
the required concrete cover
depending on the value of
. (Larssen 2000)
The calculations are based on the following input parameters representing typical values for
good quality concrete:
service life of 50 years (time to corrosion initiation)
diffusion coefficient D0 of 7.0 10-12 m2/s
surface chloride concentration of 1.0 % of concrete weight
critical chloride concentration of 0.10 % of concrete weight
A constant diffusion coefficient ( = 0) results in a cover thickness of 244 mm. For an value of 0.6 the necessary cover thickness becomes 37 mm for a service life of 50 years.

Corrosion of reinforcement
Normal reinforcement is very efficiently protected against corrosion when cast into a good
quality alkaline and chloride free concrete. This is the well-known unique benefit of using reinforced concrete structures in building and construction. Only when carbonation reaches the
level of the reinforcement, or more seriously, when chlorides in sufficient quantity reach the
surface of the reinforcement will the passivating effect be eliminated and corrosion may start.
Available corrosion models
Corrosion leads to the formation of expansive rust products leading eventually to cracking and
later spalling of the concrete cover. Models are available to calculate the rate of corrosion as
well as to determine the time to cracking and subsequent spalling of the concrete, see
(DuraCrete 1998, DuraCrete 1999).

Steen Rostam
The corrosion rate is very sensitive to the electrolytic resistivity of the concrete, which in
turn is governed by the concrete mix and in particular by the moisture content in the concrete
and the oxygen availability. Hence, the corrosion rate is very low or negligible in dry concrete
due to low conductivity, and the corrosion rate is also very low in water saturated concrete
due to the low availability of oxygen.
Field tests and laboratory investigations have shown that a crack width at the surface of
about 1 mm could be a crude assumption of spalling being imminent.
Although such assumptions are very crude at this stage, it allows a rational calculation to
be made, and on this basis improved models can be developed. Basically it shall be emphasised
that a crude model based on some engineering evaluation is better than no model, and certainly
better than pure guesswork.

Design strategy
In principle two basically different design strategies for durability can be followed, (Rostam
and Schiessl 1994):
A. Avoid the degradation threatening the structure due to the type and aggressivity of the
B. Select an optimal material composition and structural detailing to resist, for a specified
period of use, the degradation threatening the structure.
Strategy A can be subdivided into three different types of measures:
A.1. Change the micro-environment, e.g. by tanking, membranes, coatings etc.
A.2. Select non-reactive, or inert, materials, e.g. stainless steel reinforcement, nonreactive aggregates, sulphate resistant cements, low alkali cements.
A.3. Inhibit the reactions, e.g. cathodic protection. The avoidance of frost attack by air
entrainment is also classified in this category.
Most of the measures indicated above do not provide a total protection. The effect of the
measures depends on a number of factors. For example, the efficiency of a coating depends on
the thickness of the coating, and on its permeability relative to the permeability of the concrete.
Strategy B represents different types of design provisions. For example corrosion protection could be achieved by selecting an appropriate cover and a suitable dense concrete mix. In
addition, the structure can be made more resistant against aggressive environments of different
sorts by appropriate detailing such as minimising the exposed concrete surface, by rounded
corners, and by adequate drainage.
Modelling of deterioration processes is only relevant for Strategy B. An outline of a procedure for Design Strategy B could be the following:
Start with the definition of the performance and service life criteria related to the environmental conditions to be expected.
The next important element is the realistic modelling of the actions (environment) and
the material resistance against these actions.
Based upon the performance criteria, performance tests are indispensable for quality
control purposes. The performance tests must be suitable both to check the potential
quality of the material under laboratory conditions and, even more important, the in
situ quality.


Service Life Design of Concrete Structures

From this approach the design procedure can be established.
Strategy A and Strategy B can of course be combined within the same structure but for
different part with different degrees of exposure (foundations, outdoor exposed parts, indoor
protected parts, etc).
Multi-stage protection strategy
The approach of the service life design following strategy B is to select intelligently an appropriate number and types of co-operating measures to ensure the required service life. This is
considered a multi-stage protection design strategy, or a multibarrier approach, (Rostam
1991, Rostam 1993):
1. Identify the type and aggressivity of the environment of the structure
2. Forecast the possible movement and accumulation of the aggressive substance
3. Determine which transport mechanism govern (permeation, diffusion, capillary action) and
which parameters control the mechanisms
4. Select barriers that can co-operate in slowing down or prevent the transport and accumulation process.
This was a so-called 1st - Generation service life design approach introduced first time for the
Great Belt Link in Denmark, Figure 6, (Rostam 1993). Later this design has been evaluated
using the reliability-based service life design (2nd - Generation service life design approach) and
currently it seems as if 150 years service life could be expected.
Figure 6: The Great Belt East
Bridge, Denmark, with the second
longest bridge span,1624m. This 6.8
km bridge is part of the Great Belt
link comprising also a 6.6 km low
level combined road and rail bridge
and a dual bored railway tunnel of
6.3 km. A 100 year service life design was specified for this link, following the multi-stage-protection
strategy for service life design.

Durability enhancing measures

For the majority of ordinary structures in aggressive environments the design approach for
durability described in this paper will ensure a satisfactory service life.
However, it must also be recognised up front that in some cases the usual choice of design
parameters for durability will not provide adequate service life - as painful experience has
shown. Often the damage is only developing on a very small or local part of the structure,
which is particularly exposed.
A large number of durability enhancing measures may be used. The following are of particular interest due to their novelty or special consequences for design and execution:
High performance concrete (HPC)


Steen Rostam

Permeability controlled formwork liners (PFL)

Self-compacting concrete (SCC)
Stainless steel reinforcement (SSR).

High Performance Concrete (HPC)

The demand for increased strength and improved durability of concrete structures has led to
the development of HPC. This development has had three main objectives:
1. Protect the reinforcement against corrosion; in particular provide protection against
ingress of chlorides by creating dense impermeable concrete in the cover zone with
very low penetrability of aggressive ions such as chlorides, sulphates and CO2.
2. Resist deterioration of the concrete itself when exposed to the aggressiveness of the
environment such as sulphates, seawater and other chemical attacks, as well as resist
freeze/thaw attack.
3. Provide adequately high strength to fit the structural requirements.
This development has been very successful in many respects. The advanced HPC products
available have met very complex and demanding structural challenges, where the practical
strength requirements usually remain within the range of say 50 - 80 MPa.
One drawback has been that these more refined concrete mixes become more sensitive
towards the actual handling during execution. They set high demands on the competence, experience and workmanship of the workforce. To varying degrees these concretes differ from
the behaviour of the long term known types of structural concrete.
The nature of deterioration of concrete structures highlights that high performance concrete does not necessarily provide high performance concrete structures, (Rostam 2000).
Permeability controlled formwork liners (PFL)
The most important part of the structure protecting it against ingress of aggressive substance is
the concrete cover, also considered the "skin" of the structure. PFL has proven effective in
enhancing the denseness of the outer mm and cm of the cover by reducing the water-cement
ratio and improving the curing of this outer concrete layer.
The main drawback of PFL is the difficulty in fixing the liner to the formwork so attractive
appearance is maintained. PFL cannot compensate for local bad compaction and honeycombs,
and require therefore a skilled workforce to be successful. Combining PFL with self compacting concrete could be one valuable solution to ensure high quality concrete being less dependent of the skills and experience of the workforce.
Self-compacting concrete (SCC)
The development of a concrete mix where the placing and compaction has minimal dependence
on the available workmanship on site would improve the quality of the concrete in the final
structure. This has been a main driving force in recent years development of SCC. With the aid
of a range of chemical admixtures and optimal grading of the aggregates, concrete with very
low water/cement ratio can be made to flow without segregation through complicated form
geometry and around complex reinforcement layout. The form can be filled and a uniform
compaction without honeycombs can be achieved, also in the cover zone of the concrete, with
no or only minimal additional contribution to the compaction and levelling of the concrete from
the workforce on site. The flowing concrete will usually increased the pressure on the form,
which shall be taken carefully into account when designing the formwork.


Service Life Design of Concrete Structures

The use of SCC is also an environmentally friendly technology as the noise level from vibrators is nearly eliminated and the concrete workers need only minimal work with the vibrators, with all the adverse effects vibrating concrete has on the body.
The main current drawback with this technology is the sensitivity of such concrete to the
precise dosing, mixing and transporting of the concrete and the dependence on the weather
conditions while casting the concrete. Under adverse conditions the ability to flow may suddenly be lost. In addition, the increased cost of such concrete is noticeable, and the demand for
expertise and experience is moved nearly fully to the mixing plant.
Stainless steel reinforcement (SSR)
In recent years SSR has become an interesting option in then design against reinforcement
corrosion. The strengths and the dimensions available are now fully compatible and interchangeable
with ordinary black steel reinforcement.
Of particular importance is the often-overlooked fact, that SSR can be coupled with normal mild steel reinforcement (carbon steel) without causing galvanic corrosion, (FORCE 1999,
Pedeferri 1998). This leads to the possibility to use SSR only in those parts of the structure
where this is considered necessary, and then reinforce the remaining parts with ordinary mild
steel reinforcement. Such highly exposed zones could be splash zones of marine structures,
foundations in contaminated soils, lower parts of columns above ground, balconies, etc.
In general terms all steel alloys with a content of chromium more than 12 %, are called
stainless. Stainless steel is normally divided into 4 major families or groups, namely Martensitic,
Ferritic, Austenitic and Duplex. The latter has a combined Austenitic and Ferritic Molecular lattice.
Only Austenitic steels with 18-26% Chromium (Type AISI 304 and 316) and Duplex steels
with 21-28% Chromium (Type AISI 318) have major importance as chloride corrosion resistant
reinforcement. These steels contain also varying amounts of nickel and molybdenum.
The use of SSR in zones being exposed to high chloride concentrations is a highly reliable
solution following design Strategy A. This can ensure a long problem-free service life in that
part of the structure, provided the concrete itself is made sufficiently resistant to avoid other
types of deterioration (Markeset et. al. 2000, Concrete Society 1998, Abbott 1999).
Steel type and quality

Relative cost per unit weight

Carbon steel


Austenitic (1.4301) / 304


Austenitic (1.4401) / 316


Duplex (1.4462) / 318

5.5 6

Table 1: Price comparison. Relative costs per unit weight.

SSR is often considered a very expensive solution, and thus not given sufficient attention
when evaluating optimal solutions in such aggressive environments. The relative costs per unit
weight of SSR compared to normal carbon steel are presented in Table 1. When cut, bent and
placed in the form the difference in cost diminishes.


Steen Rostam

Reinforcement = 6.1 %

Reinforcement = 8.3 %

Reinforcement = 13.1 %




Rein forcemen t

Con crete works

Remaining works


Concrete works

Remaining works

Rein forcemen t

Con crete works

Remaining works

Additional initial costs replacing black steel (BS) with stainless steel (SS)
50% BS to SS:
10% BS to SS:




Figure 7: Comparative costs for the design of three new concrete jetties in Norway
1995-1996, two large and one small jetty. The total costs for reinforcement placed in the form relative to the total construction costs. The increased construction costs if 50% or 10% of the reinforcement is replaced
with SSR at a unit weight price being 5 times the cost of ordinary mild
steel reinforcement, (Markeset 2000).
In Figure 7 the total initial cost of replacing some of the mild steel reinforcement with SSR is
presented for three real constructions made during the years 1995-1996. Although the cost of
SSR in this case is 5 times the cost of ordinary reinforcement the effect of introducing this
highly reliable and durable element in the most critical zones of an exposed structures turns
out to be marginal. Such experience will have a very positive economic effect if a whole life
cycle cost optimisation is performed.
A very valuable and convincing documentation of the performance of SSR in highly chloride contaminated concrete is presented by the 60 year old 2 km long concrete pier out into the
Mexican Gulf at Progreso in Mexico reinforced with stainless steel, see Figure 8. No corrosion
has taken place within the structure, despite the harsh environment and poor quality materials
used in the construction. The chloride levels, at the surface of the reinforcement were between
10 and 20 times the traditionally assumed corrosion threshold level, (Knudsen et al 1999).
The Danish contractor Christiani & Nielsen made this very foresighted design for durability in a very aggressive environment for concrete structures.
From a practical point of view the SSR technology is particularly interesting because it
"only" solves the corrosion problem. All other techniques and technologies within design, production and execution of reinforced concrete structures remain unchanged, a fact that is very
attractive to the traditionally very conservative construction industry.
As it is recognised that the most serious durability problem for concrete structures in the
Gulf Countries is reinforcement corrosion. It becomes evident that (fib 1999): The reliable
and readily availability of stainless steel reinforcement at reasonable and foreseeable prices
may change - or revolutionise - major parts of the building sector in aggressive environments,
simply by solving the corrosion problem.


Service Life Design of Concrete Structures

Figure 8: 60 year old

stainless steel reinforced
pier at Progreso in Mexico
still fully intact without any
maintenance whereas the
remains in the foreground
is what is left of an only
about 30 year old pier
reinforced with ordinary
black steel (Knudsen et al
The main reason is also the added value which follows from the possibility of accepting the use
of locally available materials, even with chloride contamination, and also accepting the qualifications of the local workforce as it is, and still produce highly durable long lasting reinforced
concrete structures intelligently designed.

Reliability-based service life design

The theories of probability and reliability in structural design have been developed and matured
remarkably during the past five years. These theories have been transformed from the level of
research and development to be directly applicable and operational in practical engineering
design. The methodology has been internationally recognised and used for many decades as
basis for the structural safety design through the well-known load-and-resistance-factor design
However, the factors and mechanisms governing the durability and performance of structures throughout their service life have only recently been developed in similar ways. This has
among others been achieved through a European research project 1996-1999 "DuraCrete",
(DuraCrete 1999).
This has allowed the treatment of transport and deterioration mechanisms to be modelled
on a probabilistic level and introduced in the general service life design. Thus, design for safety
and for durability can be performed using similar procedures.
This new durability design methodology is based on the reliability theory as traditionally
used in structural design. The purpose of a reliability analysis is to determine the probability of
a given event, e.g. the end of the service life.
The DuraCrete Design Guide, (DuraCrete 1999), aims at obtaining a sufficient level of
safety of the design service life with respect to the considered events. The guide is developed
taking into account:
The geometry of the structure
The materials used for construction
The environment in which the structure is located
The quality of the execution of concrete works
The main deterioration mechanisms, but especially highlighting reinforcement corrosion


Steen Rostam
The planned inspection of the structure

Deterministic versus probabilistic service life design

The merits of the probabilistic approach to durability design is illustrated by the following example of a marine structure (Rostam 1999). Two different environments are considered, representing yearly average temperatures of 10 oC (exemplified by Northern Europe) and 30 oC (exemplified by e.g. the Gulf Countries) respectively. The design requirement is 50 years service
life. For simplicity the service life is also in this example defined as the length of the initiation
period, i.e. the time until corrosion initiation due to chloride ingress.
Figure 9 depicts the required concrete covers in each of the two environments, based on a
traditional deterministic approach.

Northern Europe


Middle East


Critical concentration

Probability of corrosion [%]

Chloride concentration [%]




Northern Europe


Middle East
Acceptance criteria




34.1 40





Distance from surface [mm]


34.1 40







Cover thickness [mm]

Figure 9: Deterministic approach.

Required concrete cover to ensure 50
years service life and assuming a chloride
threshold value of 0.1% by weight of

Figure10: Probabilistic approach.

The deterministic approach provides only
50% probability of avoiding corrosion at
the age of 50 years. Accepting 10%
probability of having corrosion initiated
after 50 years results in considerably larger covers.

Figure 10 highlights the fact that the deterministic approach only provides a 50% probability of
achieving the required 50 years corrosion free service life. This fact is often overlooked in
usual design for durability. If, say only a 10% risk of having corrosion initiated before 50 years
is considered acceptable, then much larger covers are required, as seen from Figure 10.
The deterministic approach used here is based on mean values of the governing parameters. In the probabilistic approach the mean values and their known or assumed uncertainties
are used together with the relevant distribution functions. This latter approach makes it not
only possible to relate cover thickness to probability of corrosion but also to quantify the consequences of differently chosen risks of corrosion. These consequences relate not only to concrete quality and cover thickness, but more importantly also to the economic consequences.
The Load-and-Resistance-Factor-Design (LRFD) for Service Life
Having decided the level of reliability required for the service life, then the design basis is
equivalent to the well-known situation for structural design. This means that the input parame-


Service Life Design of Concrete Structures

ters (the environmental loads) shall be multiplied by a load factor and the resistance against
ingress and transport of aggressive substance to initiate and nourish an ongoing deterioration
shall be divided by a resistance factor. The values of these factors are determined directly from
the available uncertainties and the distribution functions describing the individual parameters.
The example above is in fact the calculation of the cover needed to achieve 50 years service life until corrosion initiation in a marine structure exposed in the two environments mentioned. The calculation is based on a modified Ficks 2nd Law of diffusion taking the ageing
effect into account.
It can be shown that the same calculation can made using the well-known LRFD approach. The calibrated partial safety factors in the two environments thus become:
10o C: fx = 1.27;
fCcr = 1.21; fCs = 1.0;
f = 1.12;
fDo = 1.0
30 C: fx = 1.11;
fCcr = 1.26; fCs = 1.0;
f = 1.14;
fDo = 1.0
With respect to the concrete cover in the two situations, the cover is considered a resistance. Hence, the design value, xd , being the characteristic value divided by the partial safety
factor, becomes 48.6/1.27 = 38.3 mm for 10o C, and similarly 91.0/1.11 = 82.0 mm for 30o C.
Effect of corrosion threshold value
A rather large reinforced concrete jetty is designed for a service life of 50 years, (Larssen
2000). The target service life is defined as the time to onset of corrosion. Acceptance limit for
onset of corrosion is given as 10 %. The structural system of the jetty was a beam-slab type
solution with concrete piles resting on rock surface. Concrete piles with permanent steel casing
are found to be a very durable solution.
The statistical parameters approved by the owner and used in the calculations of required
cover thickness for the remaining part of the concrete structure were:
Cs = N(0.4, 60 %) [% of concrete weight]
Do = N(7.0 10-12, 15 %) [m2/s]
= N(0.4, 15 %)
X = LN (x, 10) [mm]
Two deterministic values were applied for the critical chloride concentration:
Ccr = 0.05 and 0.10 [% of concrete weight]
Based on these data a probabilistic calculation of required concrete cover was performed. The
results of these calculations are shown in Figure 11. With a probability of 50% for initiation of
corrosion the needed concrete cover varies between 50 and 66 mm for a service life of 50
years. This corresponds of course to the deterministic results based on average of the input


Steen Rostam

Figure11: Required concrete cover for service life of 50 and 100 years for the concrete jetty in the example, (Larssen 2000).
For the given acceptance limit (probability of corrosion initiation of 10 %) the cover thickness
needed for 50 years service life becomes 75 and 93 mm for a critical chloride concentration of
0.10 and 0.05 %, respectively. If the critical chloride concentration is 0.05 % the required
cover thickness becomes 93 mm for achieving the target service life of 50 years. However, if
the critical chloride concentration is 0.10 % a cover thickness of 93 mm gives 100 years service life. This illustrates the importance of the concrete cover, and the importance of the assumed threshold value for corrosion initiation.

Durability monitoring as part of planned maintenance

Figure 12: Installation of corrosion sensors in Norwegian quays, (Markeset 2000).

For existing structures it is recognised that in order to minimise maintenance and repair costs a
regular and systematic inspection and recording of the performance is needed.
It has been recognised that the rate of chloride penetration (diffusion coefficient with ageing factor alpha) and the local threshold value for chloride initiation (Ccr) constitute the two
most important parameters for corrosion related service life of concrete structures. Sensors are


Service Life Design of Concrete Structures

available which can record the depth of penetration of the critical chloride content (threshold
value) in the actual structure.
Chloride monitoring has, among others, being investigated in (Markeset 2000), by remote
sensoring of exposed marine structures. Three existing quays aged 38, 19 and 13 years respectively, have been provided with special corrosion sensors in order to determine the values of
these two critical parameters, see Figure 12. It is the intention to utilise such information as
feed-back data for further improving the service life designs of new structures as well as to
optimise the operation, maintenance and repair costs during the lifetime of the structure,
through a rational life cycle cost optimisation.
The corrosion sensors constitute six separate thin steel rings spaced at 10 mm and
mounted in a stainless steel cylinder, see Figure 13. The sensor is placed in a hole drilled into
the concrete at the place selected for monitoring.
When chlorides in sufficient quantity penetrate to the level of a ring depassivation will occur and corrosion may take place on this ring and the depth of ingress of the chloride threshold
concentration can be determined within the 10 mm ring spacing.

Figure 13: Mounting of proprietary corrosion sensors in existing quays. The picture
to the right shows the sensor, a temporary micro-amp meter and the
small titanium pin as cathode placed just above the instrument, (Schiessl
and Raupach 1992).
By taking sensor readings as part of a regular inspection routine, say each half-year or so, the
rate of chloride penetration can be determined with time, and updating of the assumed chloride
diffusion coefficient - or of the value of the ageing factor alpha - can be made. This will then
provide data for an updating of the residual service life of the structure.

Reliability updating of service life

A very valuable consequence of adopting the probabilistic method in practice is that the uncertainties to be expected are taken into account at the initial design stage, where the concrete and
the construction and maintenance conditions are not known. When the initially only assumed
values have been determined through testing, the tools are available to update the service life
expectations, and take necessary precautions.
Therefore, one important means to increase the knowledge of the expected performance
and service life of the structure is to establish a base-line-study of the finally achieved values of


Steen Rostam
the critical parameters in the finished structure. This could conveniently be done and reported
as part of the handing-over of the structure from the contractor to the owner. This would provide a Birth Certificate, (Rostam 1999), which includes a first forecast of the service life,
based on factual data.
The Birth Certificate would then provide the basis for - and be part of - the future Maintenance Plan in support of the operation and maintenance of the structure in use.
At later inspections the service life data can be updated through renewed testing, and used to
update the expected residual service life as well as provide the necessary data for updating also
the Maintenance Plan, allowing preventive maintenance introduced at optimal timing. This
procedure will result in an ever-increasing accuracy of the residual service life forecast and help
minimise the maintenance costs.

Figure 14: The "Cube" at La Defence, Paris, France. Architect:

Hence, the residual service life and the economic consequences of any decisions taken (savings
or additional costs) can be readily updated when inspections are made and additional information becomes available.
Such measures for maintaining structures in satisfactory form and preserving pleasant visual appearance is a precondition for continued acceptance an reputation of concrete as the
primary building material for the future, see Figure 14 and Figure 1.

Reliability based service life design is a multi-disciplinary engineering challenge
Transition from deem-to-satisfy durability design to reliability based service life design is a
multi-disciplinary challenge for the materials and structural engineering profession. Society
demands sustainable and environmentally friendly engineering solutions and owners demand
reliable service lives of structures. This will set new standards for future Research, Development and Education (R,D&E). Universities engineering curricular must adapt to the multidisciplinary demands, which will face future engineers. A Centennial celebration of an internationally renown R,D&E Institute is an appropriate occasion to synthesis its valuable past and project this into a new multidisciplinary format spearheading the new developments now so much
in demand.
Modelling of deterioration mechanisms is a key issue


Service Life Design of Concrete Structures

Deterioration mechanisms, in particular corrosion of reinforcement, sulphate attack, alkaliaggregate reactions and frost action have caused serious premature damage to concrete structures. Recent years development of these deterioration mechanisms and the identification of
their governing parameters have transformed service life modelling into a realistic tool for providing quantified service life designs.
Probabilistic treatment of uncertainties is needed
The introduction of probabilistic methods to treat the inherent uncertainties in concrete
quality and environmental aggressivity does now allow the level of reliability of such service
life designs to be quantified. During subsequent durability testing as part of the maintenance
procedures an updating of the service life forecast can then be made with ever increasing reliability.
The success of service life design depends on recognition by all involved parties
The new probabilistic service life design procedures may lead to much more wellperforming structures as well as to very considerable savings in future maintenance and repair
costs of concrete structures. However, this requires the owners accept of the true potentials
and that the construction industry adopts the necessary measures where relevant within each
their fields of work. These will require recognition of concrete as a living material in the sense
that it changes its properties with time, which highlights the need for monitoring performance.
The fact that the true and decisive qualities of concrete and of the structures are only determined during the execution phase, is a strong motivating factor to shift from traditional means
of managing durability to modern service life management of structures.
Revised means of co-operation and contracting are needed
Fundamental changes in the very traditional ways of approaching service life requirements
from the owners' side are needed, and revised types of contracting and liabilities are needed, if
true improvement shall be obtained. Close co-operation and co-ordination among all involved
parties is needed if improvements shall be obtained, maybe through new types of partnering.
The Owner is the key responsible
To ensure the required service life performance the Owner is obliged to define the quality
and service life he require, he must check that the quality of the materials and execution is satisfactory, and he must pay for that quality.

Abbott, C. J.: (1999). Steel Corrosion Solution. Concrete Engineering International, Vol. 3,
No. 4.
Bamforth, P. (1998). Double Standards in Design. CONCRETE.
Concrete Society (1998). Guidance on the use of stainless steel reinforcement. Technical Report no. 51, Report of a Concrete Society Steering Committee, October.
DuraCrete (1998). Modelling of Degradation. The European Union - Brite EuRam III, Project
No. BE95-1347, Probabilistic Performance based Durability Design of Concrete Structures, Report No. 4-5.


Steen Rostam
DuraCrete (1999). General Guidelines for Durability Design and Redesign. The European Union - Brite-EuRam III, Project No.BE95-1347, "Probabilistic Performance based Durability Design of Concrete Structures", Report No.T7-01-1.
fib: (1999). Structural Concrete. Textbook on Behaviour, Design and Performance. Updated
knowledge of the CEB/FIP Model Code 1990. Bulletins 1-3.
FORCE Institute (1999). Corrosion Aspects of Galvanic Coupling between Carbon Steel and
Stainless Steel in Concrete. Concrete Inspection and Analysis Department. Brndby, May
21, Denmark.
Knudsen, A., Klinghoffer, O. and Skovsgaard, T. (1999): Pier in Progreso, Mexico. Inspection
Report, pp. 40. Arminox Denmark.
Larssen, R. M. (2000). Service life design of concrete jetties - a probabilistic approach. Dr.Ing.
A.Aas-Jacobsen AS, Oslo, Norway.
Markeset, G. (2000). Cost Optimal Design, Construction and Maintenance of Concrete Quays
and Jetties. Paper presented at the Seminars on "Concrete Remediation, Design & Long
Life Solutions", organised by ASSDA, NZSSDA and C&CAA, Australia and New Zealand.
Markeset, G., Rostam, S. and Skovsgaard, T. (2000). Stainless Steel Reinforcement - An
Owners, a Designers and a Producers Viewpoint. Proceedings, 6th International Conference on Deterioration and Repair of Reinforced Concrete In the Arabian Gulf, Bahrain,
20-22 November.
Pedeferri, P. et al. (1998). Behaviour of stainless steels in concrete. Repair and rehabilitation of
reinforced structures: the state of the art, Ed: Silva Araya, WF et al, American Society of
Civil Engineers, pp. 192-206.
Rostam, S. (1991). Philosophy of Assessment and Repair of Concrete Structures, and the
Feedback into New Designs. Regional Conference on Damage Assessment, Repair Techniques and Strategies for Reinforced Concrete held in Bahrain 7th-9th December.
Rostam, S. (1993). Service Life Design - The European Approach. ACI Concrete International, Vol. 15, (7), pp 24-32.
Rostam, S. and Schiessl, P. (1994). Service Life Design in Practice - Today and Tomorrow.
Proceedings of the International Conference "Concrete Across Boarders", Odense, Denmark.
Rostam, S. (1999). Performance-Based Design of Structures for the Future. Keynote presentation. Proceedings of IABSE Symposium Structures for the Future - The Search for Quality, Rio de Janeiro.
Rostam, S: (2000). Does High Performance Concrete Provide High Performance Concrete
Structures?. Paper to be presented at the PCI/FHWA/fib International Symposium on
High Performance Concrete, 24-27 September 2000, Orlando, USA.
Schiessl, P. and Raupach, M. (1992). Monitoring system for the corrosion risk of steel in concrete structures. Concrete International Vol. 14, No. 7, July, pp 52-55.