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Reshoring of multistory

concrete buildings
A rational approach to providing adequate support
during each stage of construction
This article describes a rational
approach which will provide sufficient support for each stage of construction and a description of the
insufficient conditions that resulted in building collapses at Boston in
1971 and at Baileys Crossroads, near
Alexandria, Virginia in 1972. A summary is provided with bibliography
of studies of the problem since
1949.

BY JACOB FELD
CONSULTING ENGINEER
NEW YORK, NEW YORK

he recent collapses of two


multistory concrete apartment buildings, largely because of insufficient temporary support to carry the fresh
concrete floors, points to the necessity to set up some empirical standards to guide the industry.
Design of form w o rk, including
s h o res or struts supporting form
loads, is completely covered in the
re p o rts issued by American Co ncrete Institute Committee 347 and
its form w o rk handbook, Fo rmw o rk for Co n c re t e. Most codes
and handbooks cover the necessity
for re s h o res by a general re q u i rement that adequate support be
provided but usually it is left to the
job superintendent to decide what
is adequate.
Theoretical and experimental
studies of this problem have been
carried out in Sweden, Au s t ra l i a ,
Japan, Canada and the United
States over a period of more than 25
years. Although the information
needed to guide the field superintendent is available, most of it in
English, it has not been generally
accepted.
A great variation can be noted in
the number of stories of re s h o ri n g
used in similar buildings in the
same construction area, and the
range of time periods that it is left
in place indicates that no rational
approach is being used.

Support for
minimizing deflection
and preventing failure

Eighty-foot section of apartment


building collapsed near Alexandria,
Virginia. Note reshoring at top.

When concrete floor is placed in a


form supported by posts, the total
mass of concrete, formwork, workers and concreting equipment must
be provided with support until the
concrete slab is self-supporting and
rigid enough to resist plastic deformation. If the support provided is
insufficient, the best to be expected
is a series of dished slabs, deflected
beams and radial cracks around the
columns. The worst is a local col-

Nearby garage under construction collapsed, probably due to shock wave from
apartment building.

lapse of a previously placed slab


which triggers a chain reaction of
collapse and may carry down for the
full height. Since these are shear
failures, and there is no warning, the
path of failure will search out the areas of deficiency and bypass those
areas which, though weak, still have
the minimum necessary factor of
safety. In modern designs of apartment and office buildings there is
little surplus strength in a floor.
Even with no live load there is no
strength available to act as a
bumper capable of resisting the impact of a similar mass falling one
story. And as the accumulation of
falling mass comes down there is no
stopping the chain reaction.
A rigidly theoretical solution of
how many completed floors need to
be connected by shores so as to carry a load of freshly placed concrete
slab would require so many data
that a usable result is not to be expected.
To avoid local load redistribution
while the concrete is not of sufficient strength it is inadvisable in
normal multistory construction
p ro g rams to permit removal of
reshores at any level within two days
of the concreting of an additional
level. Any such removal results in a
readjustment of loading in the
shores and undesired deformations
in plastic concrete will inevitably be
noted later. It is certainly not advisable to permit the removal of shores
under any slab two floors below the
one just concreted, unless the
schedule is so slow that 28-day
strength data are available for the
floor supporting the formwork.

An evaluation of number
of floors to be shored
These requirements are minimal.
They are often not sufficient to provide enough support to pre ve n t
plastic yield and permanent deflection. A rather simple evaluation can
be made of the total number of floor
levels that must be connected with
shores to provide proper support.
This begins with several reasonable
assumptions based on accepted
empirical relationships of strength

tem is divided into shares for the


respective floors in proportion to
their stiffness.
When slabs are equal in geometry
and reinforcement, stiffness is in
proportion to the modulus of elasticity of the concrete. Since the
modulus increases somewhat
faster than does strength, it is on
the safe side to assume that stiffness is in proportion to concrete
strength.
Concrete strength is developed to
design level at 28 days provided
that proper heating provisions are
supplied when temperatures are
below 50 degrees F. If this is not
done, one must make a more detailed analysis based on the actual
concrete strengths available in
each floor slab.

Core wall from which floors fell away


in apartment building collapse in
Boston.

Concrete strengths (as percentages


of design strength and hence carrying capability) are listed in Table
I with straight-line variation for intermediate ages.

Solving the problem


and deformation resistance of concrete. The assumptions are:
The temporary load-carrying capacity of a slab is one-third above
its design value for equal concrete
strength. A slab is designed to carry both dead load (DL) and live
load (LL) at 28-day strength. For
shoring load conditions a slab can
carry
4 (1 +___
LL) DL.
__
3
DL
The fresh wet concrete in the
forms weighs 1.2 DL (allowing 20
percent slab weight for the formwork weight).
All floors connected by shores
must deflect equally if it is assumed that the shores do not
shorten under the imposed load
and that all shores deflect equally.
Therefore the total load of the sys-

With the above basic assumptions, the solution of the problem is


to add up the carrying strengths of
the number of floors needed to exceed the total weight of the slabs
and formwork. The higher the design live load, the more load carrying capacity is available. Table II
gives the number of floor slabs that
must be combined into a system,
not counting the floor slab just concreted, each shored to a floor slab
below. The number includes any
levels of formwork still in place at
the time of placing the top level. The
table covers the range of ratios of LL
to DL.
Reshores should be of sufficient
strength to transmit all necessary
loads; the lowest floors carry the
greatest parts of the load. Reshores
must be spaced in such a way as to
avoid local tension cracking in the
slabs where induced moments are
not resisted by slab re i n f o rc i n g .
Reshores should be located over
each other and under posts of the

formwork. The number of stories of


reshores (or form supports) below
the level carrying the forms to be
filled is one less than the number of
levels to be interconnected.

sioned flat plate design. The lowest


supported level was complete. Concrete had been placed on the next
level but it had not yet been posttensioned. The lower garage slab
started to vibrate and collapsed,
probably from the shock wave generated by the fall of debris; this
brought down the upper level with
its formwork that had been resting
on the completed slab.
A great deal of investigation was
undertaken by the several interests
i n vo l ved. The talent re p re s e n t i n g
them generally agree that the cause
of failure was premature removal of
the shores in the vertical array of
section three where failure occurred. The fairly regular pro g ra m
up to the twenty-first floor consisted
of four quarter-lengths of a floor per
week; forms were supported on a
floor seven or more days old, which
in turn was propped to a floor 14
days old. This in spite of contract requirements that two tiers should be

A recent failure
At Baileys Cro s s ro a d s, near
Alexandria, Virginia on March 2,
1972, after the concrete in the third
of four sections of the twenty-fourth
floor of a 26-story apartment building had been completed, a sequential failure occurred which stripped
a length of about 80 feet all the way
to foundation level. The building
split right down the middle leaving
two towers 24 and 23 stories high.
An internally supported crane fell
on the rubble; it was not operating
at the time.
The building was about 60 feet
wide and 386 feet long, of flat plate
design utilizing lightweight conc re t e. A stair and elevator core was
surrounded by concrete walls which
remained intact; it bounded one
edge of the failure area. Slabs were
eight inches thick, columns generally of constant size, and the design
was the same as that of two similar
26-story apartments in the same
complex that were already occupied. Construction of a fourth similar building had been started and
had reached the second floor.
Between the third and fourth
buildings and completely separated
from them is a 295- by 350-foot
four-level garage having a post-ten-

TABLE I Assumed relative


concrete strengths at various ages
CONCRETE STRENGTH,
PERCENT OF 28-DAY STRENGTH

Age,

Type I

Type III

weeks

cement

cement

100

100

85

100

70

90

50

75

TABLE II Carrying capacity of floor slabs in terms of slab weight


Ratio of live load
to dead load, LL/DL

0.50

0.75

1.00

1.25

1.50

1.75

2.00

Carrying capacity
in terms of dead load

2.00

2.33

2.67

3.00

3.33

3.67

4.00

Casting rate,
floors per week

Type of
cement

Number of levels below floor being cast


that must be interconnected

I
III

3
2

3
2

3
2

2
1

2
1

2
1

2
1

I
III

5
4

4
3

4
3

4
2

3
2

3
2

3
2

I
III

7
5

6
4

5
4

5
3

4
3

4
3

3
3

back-propped. Yet no unusual condition was noted and the work progressed. In the week prior to the collapse, work was speeded up and the
combined age of the two supporting
floors dropped to 19 days. On March
2, the day of the failure, it was only
14 days. At that time the twentythird floor in the section was four
days old and the twenty-second was
ten days old. Concrete test cylinder
strengths at seven days age for these
two floors were 2290 and 2280 psi,
respectively. There is also some report of shoring removal under the
twenty-third floor between the time
that placement ended, (11:50 a.m.)
and time of collapse (2:20 p.m.) but
with low March temperatures and
the age of the supporting floors,
there was not sufficient carrying capacity for the newly placed slab. Design strength of the concrete was
stated as 3000 psi.

Earlier failures
The same phenomenon of delayed action occurred some years
ago in a Newark, New Jersey garage
failure, where the shores gave way
after the floor finishing was completed and after they had been carrying the full load for several hours
without incident. It is difficult to
reach a logical explanation for this
delay in action, unless one assumes
a plastic strain phenomenon in
shear failure. The writer has found
nothing in the literature to substantiate such an assumption and his
experience with concrete beam and
slab testing has given no clue.
On January 25, 1971 in Boston a
similar domino sequence of failure
ended in total collapse of part of the
building and a venetian-blindshaped cover on the remainder. The
concrete apartment house that
failed was 16 stories of flat plate design, 58 by 168 feet in area with slabs
712 inches thick, and all stories plus
the roof level had been successfully
completed in spite of severe winter
conditions. The roof level was completed in December, almost six
weeks before the collapse. The roof
slab was nine inches thick and designed to carry a penthouse area

surrounding the center core of the


building which was to serve as a machinery and boiler room. Actually,
two boilers each weighing some
8,000 pounds had been temporarily
set on the roof slab away from the
penthouse area. The penthouse was
completely formed and about twothirds concreted with the form supports of the surrounding 48-inchdeep beams supported on the roof
slab.
It is doubtful how many shores, if
any, existed below roof level although there were shores under the
balcony projections. Failure of the
roof slab was along the faces of the
core; about two-thirds of the total
area, including the boilers, fell on
the sixteenth floor. In approximately 20 minutes each floor successively dropped and left the core largely
naked. Concrete strength of the
roof, made of a 3000-psi design mix,
was probably somewhere near 1600
psi at the time of failure. The lower
floors were certainly at or above design strength. Shear failure along the
core walls was made certain by an
error in detail; the slab re i n f o rc ement was short by two feet and did

not enter the wall. Full strength concrete would not have sheared. Certainly some shoring for one or more
floors might have held the fresh
concrete until the deep beams became self-supporting and until the
boilers could be moved to their
proper location, thereby relieving
the roof slab of the high
loadings.
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
Nielsen, Knud E.C., Investigation of Load Distribution Between Reinforced Concrete Floor Slabs
and their Formwork. (Preliminary Report) Meddelanden NR19, Swedish Cement and Concrete
Research Institute, 1949.
Nielsen. Knud E.C., Loads on Reinforced Concrete Floor Slabs and Their Deflections During
Construction, Swedish Cement and Concrete Institute, Royal Institute of Technology, 1950.
Eriksson, Folke; Hansen, Torben; and Holst,
Hans, Determination of Form Removal Times,
Swedish State Commission for Building Research, 1962. (Translated into English by Building
Research Institute, Report 83, 1966).

Propped Floors in Multistory Flat Plate Construction, Construction Review, Volume 37, November 1964, pages 16-20.
Blakey, F.A. and Beresford, F.D., Stripping of
Formwork for Concrete in Buildings in Relation to
Structural Design, Civil Engineering Transactions, Institution of Civil Engineers, Australia, T-4,
1965, pages 92-95.
Kondo, Motoki, Theoretical Study on Faster
Stripping of Form Shores, Takenaka Technical
Research Report, Number 1, April 1966, pages
35-55 (in Japanese).
Feld, Jacob, Reshoring of Concrete Buildings,
Engineering News Record, October 6, 1966,
pages 33-34.
Taylor, P.J., Effects of Formwork Stripping Time
on Deflections of Flat Slabs and Plates, Australia
Civil Engineering and Construction, February 6,
1967, pages 31-35.
Ho, Ka-cheung, Preliminary Investigation into
Shoring System, University of Ottawa, Department of Civil Engineering, September 1970.
Agarwal, R.K. and Gardner, Noel J., Form and
Shore Requirements for Multistory Flat Slab Type
Buildings, paper presented at Formwork Symposium of American Concrete Institute, Atlantic City,
New Jersey, March 1973.

Grundy, P. and Kabaila, A., Construction Loads


on Slabs with Shored Formwork in Multistory
Buildings, ACI Journal, December 1963, pages
1729-1738.
Royer, King, Discussion of Grundy and Kabaila,
ACI Journal, Part Two of June 1964, pages 20812084.
Beresford, F.D., An Analytical Examination of

PUBLICATION #C740243
Copyright 1974, The Aberdeen Group
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