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Journal of Constructional Steel Research 67 (2011) 151–163

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Journal of Constructional Steel Research

journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/jcsr

Elastic lateral stability of I-shaped cellular steel beams

Amr M.I. Sweedan ∗
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, U.A.E University, P.O. Box 17555, Al-Ain, United Arab Emirates

article info abstract

Article history: In this paper, the lateral stability of cellular steel beams is numerically investigated. The study is carried
Received 8 August 2010 out using three-dimensional finite element modeling of simply supported I-shaped cellular steel beams
Accepted 25 August 2010 with a broad spectrum of cross-sectional dimensions, span lengths and web perforation configurations.
Stability analyses are carried out for beams subjected to equal end moments, mid-span concentrated loads
Keywords: and uniformly distributed loads. Finite element results reveal that, unlike the case of conventional beams
with solid webs, the moment-gradient coefficient Cb is significantly influenced by the beam geometry and
Steel beams
slenderness. In addition, the Cb coefficient of cellular beams depends on the web perforation configuration.
Lateral torsional buckling Moment-gradient coefficient values that fluctuate closely to those values recommended by design codes
Finite element are associated with pure elastic lateral torsional buckling (LTB) deformations. As the beam slenderness
decreases, the web distortion increases, leading to the lateral distortional buckling (LDB) mode, which is
associated with lower Cb values than code-recommended ones. Severe reduction in the Cb coefficient to
values less than 1.1 is noticed for shorter-span beams where the response is dominated by non-lateral
local buckling modes.
A simplified approach is developed to enable accurate prediction of a moment modification factor
κLB for cellular beams. The proposed κLB factor is provided by an empirical formula that is derived based
on the best fit of the finite element results related to lateral buckling (LTB and LDB) modes only. The
proposed approach allows for accurate and conservative evaluation of the critical moment associated
with the lateral torsional/distortional buckling of cellular beams. Several numerical examples are worked
out to illustrate the application of the proposed procedure.
© 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction As indicated by Eq. (1), all codes assign a Cb value of unity for
beams subjected to equal end moments (i.e., uniform moment dis-
Under general loading conditions, the bending moment distri- tribution along the span of the beam). From a practical design
bution may vary along the beam span. As a result, the compres- standpoint, the tabulated values are very close. It is, however,
sive stresses developed in the compression flange of the beam are interesting to note that the European code [2] provides slightly
expected to have variable intensity along the span. Current de- higher estimates of the critical moment for beams subjected to
sign codes account for the influence of the moment gradient on mid-span concentrated loads. Meanwhile, the American code [1]
the beam moment-carrying capacity through a modification coeffi- recommends a slightly higher Cb value for beams subjected to uni-
cient that is refereed to as the moment-gradient coefficient, Cb . This formly distributed loads.
coefficient relates the nominal moment Mn for a beam subjected
to a specific transverse load to the corresponding critical buckling
2. Literature review
moment Mo-cr of the same beam under a uniform moment:
Mn = Cb Mo-cr . (1) I-shaped steel sections are extensively used as main structural
Table 1 provides a comparison between various values of moment- elements (e.g., beams and columns) in various building structures.
gradient coefficients adopted by three major international design It is advantageous to have web perforations, especially in beam el-
codes and standards for beams subjected to mid-span concen- ements, to allow for the passage and installation of piping, duct-
trated loads and uniformly distributed loads. Such codes are the works and electrical conduits without increasing the floor-to-floor
American steel construction manual AISC 2005 [1], the new Eu- height (Fig. 1). Besides, web perforations result in a significant re-
ropean standards EC3 [2] and the Australian design code SA [3]. duction in the amount of structural steel used. Two configurations
of web perforations are commonly used in engineering practice:
hexagonal perforations in castellated beams and circular perfora-
∗ Tel.: +971 50 2338970; fax: +971 3 7623154. tions in cellular beams. Although the former configuration is more
E-mail addresses: amr.sweedan@uaeu.ac.ae, asweedan@hotmail.com. common, the latter has recently become widely used in building
0143-974X/$ – see front matter © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
152 A.M.I. Sweedan / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 67 (2011) 151–163

Table 1
Comparison between moment-gradient coefficient values recommended by
international design codes.
Case of loading American European Australian code
code (AISC standards (AS4100 [3])
2005 [1]) (EC3 [2])

Mid-span concentrated 1.35 1.365 1.32

Uniformly distributed 1.14 1.132 1.13

the associated potential failure modes. Failure of this special type

of beam is controlled by several modes, among which the stability-
related ones can be classified as follows [8,9].
1. Lateral–torsional buckling failure.
2. Web post-buckling due to excessive shear stresses.
Fig. 1. Practicality of cellular beams in constructing various elements of main 3. Vertical buckling of web posts.
structural systems.
Experimental studies have been conducted to investigate the
behavior and stability of castellated beams by Kerdal and Nether-
construction. Precise manufacturing of cellular sections in an eco- cot [8] and Nethercot and Kerdal [10]. Further numerical investi-
nomical way is rather a cumbersome task that involves cutting gations have been carried out by Mohebkhah [11] on the inelastic
the web of a solid rolled section and reassembling it by shifting lateral torsional buckling of castellated beams. Such studies
and welding the section components, as depicted by Fig. 2(a) and provided quantitative data that revealed that the change in the
(b), respectively. However, the current advancement in computer- slenderness of castellated beams due to the castellation has a sig-
controlled cutting and welding technology allows for highly nificant influence on the moment-gradient coefficient used in the
precise and cost-effective production of cellular sections. A ma- design of beams subjected to flexure, which in turn affects the
jor architectural advantage of cellular beams is that their appeal- strength and stability of such beams. Redwood and Demirdjian [12]
ing aesthetical appearance makes them essential elements in the and Zaarour and Redwood [13] studied the web buckling of cas-
construction of exposed structures. Despite the fact that the aug- tellated beams both experimentally and theoretically. Recently,
mentation of the perforated section height enhances the in-plane experimental investigations of the distortional buckling of castel-
structural characteristics, the discontinuity in the beam cross- lated beams have been conducted by Zirakian and Showkati [14]
section due to the presence of web openings may have a severe and Zirakian [15]. The experimental measurements were then in-
penalty on the load-carrying capacity of cellular beams in the case corporated into several extrapolation techniques to provide more
of failure by lateral–torsional buckling prior to the attainment of accurate predictions of the critical buckling loads. The previous
their full capacity. Such impact depends mainly on the geometri- review reveals that a considerable volume of research has been di-
cal configurations of web openings [4–7]. The widespread use of rected towards investigating the response and behavior of castel-
castellated beams as structural elements in multistory buildings, lated beams. In contrast, very limited studies have been directed to
commercial and industrial buildings, stadiums and parking garage investigating the behavior and response of cellular beams. Chung
structures has prompted several investigations into their structural et al. [9] conducted analytical and numerical analyses to assess the
behavior. However, investigations related to the behavior of cellu- load-carrying capacity of cellular beams related to the Vierendeel
lar beams are quite rare. For both perforation configurations, the failure mechanism. The coupled influence resulting from the com-
non-uniformity in cross-section properties due to the existence of bined effect of the moment and shear on steel beams with web
web openings increases the level of complexity of the behavior and openings of various shapes has been also investigated numerically

(a) Computerized cut of the original solid (b) Re-assembly by welding to form a cellular member.

Fig. 2. Manufacturing of cellular beams (http://www.asdwestok.co.uk).

A.M.I. Sweedan / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 67 (2011) 151–163 153

by Chung et al. [16]. The study focused on flexural failure associated

with the Vierendeel mechanism along with shear failure. Results of
this finite element investigation have then been used to develop a
generalized moment–shear interaction curve for determining the
load-carrying capacities of steel beams with web openings of var-
ious shapes and sizes [17]. The influence of circular web openings
on the overall stability of axially loaded cellular sections has been
studied numerically by Sweedan et al. [18]. Their investigation has
led to the development of a simplified design approach and corre-
sponding design charts to allow for easy prediction of the buckling
capacity of cellular columns.
The current study is motivated by the lack of information per-
taining to elastic lateral torsional/distortional buckling of non-
composite cellular steel beams. The elastic stability of such beams
is typically a concern during the construction stage when lateral
bracing elements are not yet installed. As such, the unbraced length
of the cellular beam is long enough for elastic instability to occur.
Furthermore, the increase in the flexure capacity of cellular beams Fig. 3. Typical finite element mesh for a cellular beam.
makes it attractive for designers to use them with longer spans.
With such relative increase in the span length, the issue of elastic
3.2. Boundary conditions and load application
stability becomes more pronounced. The study investigates the in-
fluence of the discontinuities in the cellular beam cross-section on
The general geometry and coordinate system of a typical cellu-
the moment-gradient coefficient and consequently on the bending
lar beam is presented in Fig. 4(a). The beam geometry is defined
capacity of such beams. The investigation is conducted numerically
using a global Cartesian coordinate system with its origin located
by developing a detailed three-dimensional finite element model
at the mid-height of the cross-section at the right end of the beam.
to simulate the nonlinear flexural–torsional behavior of cellular
As indicated in Fig. 4(a), the depth of the beam is directed along
beams. An extensive parametric study is carried out to assess the
the Y -axis while its longitudinal axis coincides with the Z -axis. The
impact of variation of cross-section dimensions, beam slenderness,
and web opening sizes and spacings on the lateral stability and the current study considers beams with simply supported end condi-
corresponding load-carrying capacity of cellular steel beams. tions imposed at both ends of analyzed beams. Vertical displace-
ments (Uy ) and out-of-plane displacements (Ux ) are restrained at
the central node of the cross-section at both ends, while one end
3. Assumptions and finite element modeling
only is restrained against longitudinal displacements (Uz ). Twist-
ing rotations at beam ends are prevented by restraining the flanges’
A three-dimensional (3D) finite element model is developed to
simulate the behavior of cellular steel beams having an I-shaped tip points against out-of-plane displacements (Ux ), as shown in
cross-section. Modeling is conducted using the general-purpose Fig. 4(a). Meanwhile, all nodes, including those at the beam ends,
finite element software package ANSYS [19]. Geometrical details of are left unrestrained against major-axis rotation (Rx ), minor-axis
analyzed beams are simulated using the four-node shell element rotation (Ry ) and warping displacements.
(SHELL181). This element has six degrees of freedom at each Beams with various geometrical parameters are analyzed un-
node, three translations and three rotations, which enable explicit der three different cases of loading to allow for evaluating vari-
simulation of various buckling deformations. Besides, SHELL181 is ous moment-gradient coefficients. These cases of loading include
suitable for modeling thin to moderately thick shell structures. pure end moments, mid-span concentrated loads and uniformly
distributed loads. Developed finite element models include bear-
ing stiffener plates in the vicinity of concentrated loading and at
3.1. Material model and meshing considerations
support reactions to avoid web crippling resulting, associated with
Numerical computations are conducted for cellular steel beams localized web yielding. In order to avoid any undesirable localized
that are assumed to be constructed of linear elastic material with web deformations and stress concentration, the end moment load-
Young’s modulus E = 2.1 × 105 MPa and Poisson’s ratio ν = ing is simulated with couple forces in the form of uniform loading
0.3. Each I-shaped beam is characterized by its span L, flange applied at the top and bottom flanges of the beam end sections.
width bf , flange thickness tf , web height hw and web thickness tw . In this loading scheme, the top flange is subjected to compressive
Web perforations are circular in shape, with diameter dh , and are longitudinal forces, while the bottom flange is subjected to tensile
uniformly spaced at distance s along the span of the beam. Flanges forces opposing the compressive ones, as presented in Fig. 4(b). An
are modeled with 12 elements across the width bf . Meanwhile, idealized application of transverse loading requires application of
the element size is reduced by 20% along the web height hw to such loads at the shear center of the section to avoid destabilizing
provide better simulation of the deformations associated with or stabilizing effects of loading applied above or below the shear
lateral, distortional or local web buckling modes. The size of the center, respectively. However, the presence of web perforations
elements along the span of the beam is restricted not to exceed does not allow for direct application of transverse loads at the shear
twice the size of the element across the flange. Several mesh center. A typical solution to overcome such a problem is adopted by
configurations are attempted until the above-provided limitations applying half the load at the top flange and the other half at the bot-
are set after providing convergence of the predicted buckling load tom flange, with both portions acting along the same direction, as
within reasonable execution time. A typical mesh configuration is shown in Fig. 4(c) and (d) for uniformly distributed and mid-span
shown in Fig. 3 for a cellular beam having a span L = 8820 mm concentrated loads, respectively. As a result, the torques produced
with bf = 170 mm, tf = 17 mm, hw = 300 mm, tw = 10 mm, by both load portions, when acting on the deformed geometry of
dh = 180 mm and s = 315 mm. It should be noted that, although the beam, will be counteracting each other. This eliminates any sta-
the thickness of the elements does not appear in the figure, it is bilizing/destabilizing effects on the beam and consequently leads
used by ANSYS to generate the stiffness matrix of the modeled to an overall response that simulates that of loading applied at the
beam. shear center of the beam.
154 A.M.I. Sweedan / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 67 (2011) 151–163

(a) Boundary conditions. (b) End moment (M). (c) Uniform load (W ). (d) Mid-span
load (P ).

Fig. 4. Boundary conditions and different applied loads on the beam.

4. Verification of the finite element model

Table 2
Comparison between finite element and theoretical buckling moments for plain-
To verify the performance of the 3D finite element model de- webbed beams.
scribed in the previous section, the model is employed to conduct (1) (2)
bf tf hw tw L Mcr-FE Mo-cr |1%|a
an eigenvalue analysis of various beams to identify their critical (mm) (mm) (mm) (mm) (m) (kN m) (kN m) (%)
moment values that correspond to the lateral torsional buckling
200 10 450 10 13.5 65.29 65.05 0.37
mode of failure. The verification phase starts with evaluating the 200 10 450 10 9.0 112.70 112.18 0.47
critical buckling moment of plain-webbed (i.e., without holes) sim- 160 10 450 10 13.5 41.94 41.82 0.27
ply supported beams having different geometrical dimensions and 160 10 450 10 9.0 69.10 68.83 0.40
subjected to uniform end moments. Selected beam sections are as- 120 10 450 10 13.5 24.72 24.68 0.17
120 10 450 10 9.0 39.01 38.90 0.29
sumed to have an average web height to thickness ratio (hw /tw ) of
80 10 450 10 13.5 12.48 12.46 0.11
45, while the flange width to thickness ratio (bf /tf ) varies between 80 10 450 10 9.0 19.06 19.03 0.18
extreme values of 8 to 20, as shown in Table 2. Each beam cross-  
|∆|% =  (2)−( 1) 
∗ 100%.
section is analyzed twice, considering a span-to-depth ratio (L/hw )

(1) 

of 20 and 30. The finite element predictions are then compared to

the analytical solution of the critical buckling moment Mo-cr given
by [20]

π C2 π 2
 
Mo-cr = EIy C1 1+ , (2)
L C 1 L2

where L is the unbraced span of the beam and Iy is the minor-axis

moment of inertia of the cross-section. In Eq. (2), C1 and C2 are the
torsional and warping rigidities, respectively, which are obtained
as follows:
Fig. 5. Castellation profile of the CPE140 beam for verification of the finite element
C1 = GJ , (3) model.
C2 = ECW , (4)
with span lengths and web castellation that match those reported
where G is the shear modulus of elasticity, J is the torsional con-
stant of the cross-section, E is Young’s modulus of elasticity and by Mohebkhah [11], as shown in Fig. 5. Particular cross-section di-
Cw is the warping torsional constant of the cross-section. The re- mensions of the castellated section are bf = 73 mm, tf = 6.9 mm,
sults of the quantitative comparison between analytical solutions hw = 196.2 mm and tw = 4.7 mm. Such a beam is analyzed us-
and finite element predictions are summarized in Table 2, indicat- ing the developed model for three different span lengths, 2.94, 3.36
ing an excellent agreement, with an absolute maximum relative and 4.20 m, to ensure elastic buckling failure. Geometrical detail-
error that does not exceed 0.5%. ing of the castellation configuration is shown in Fig. 5. A summary
As is alluded to in Section 2, no previous experimental or of results obtained under various cases of loading, along with a
numerical results related to lateral torsional buckling of cellular comparison to values reported by Mohebkhah [11], is presented in
beams are available in the literature. Mohebkhah [11] reported Table 3. The tabulated values reveal a very close agreement be-
numerical predictions of critical buckling moments of castellated tween both sets of results, with an absolute maximum relative
beams subjected to uniform moments, mid-span concentrated error of 2.32%. Such agreement confirms the adequacy of the devel-
loads and uniformly distributed loads. In order to provide further oped finite element model in predicting the buckling moments of
validation of the performance of the finite element model devel- perforated web beams under various loading conditions. It is worth
oped in the current study for cellular beams, a modified version mentioning that the mesh used in the current study is relatively
of the model is produced for a CPE140 castellated beam section finer than the one used by Mohebkhah [11].
A.M.I. Sweedan / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 67 (2011) 151–163 155

Table 3 to allow for investigating the influence of change in hole spacing

Validation of the finite element model for beams with castellated webs. on the buckling behavior, excluding any impact from variation in
(1) (2)
Case of loading L (m) Mcr-FE (kN m) Mcr-FE (kN m) |1%|a (%) the number of web holes along the beam span.
(current study) (Mohebkhah [11]) The general-purpose finite element program ANSYS [19] is
2.94 18.68 18.32 1.93 utilized to solve the eigenvalue problem describing the buckling of
End moments 3.36 15.50 15.40 0.65 the modeled beams. The nonlinear behavior is taken into account
4.20 11.52 11.60 0.69
in the buckling problem formulation by considering the first-order
Mid-span 2.94 24.23 24.11 0.50 and second-order terms of the deformations encountered. This is
concentrated 3.36 20.87 20.66 1.01 reflected in the two components constituting the overall stiffness
load 4.20 15.51 15.62 0.71
matrix of the beam, as indicated below:
2.94 20.88 20.53 1.68
Uniform load 3.36 17.37 17.50 0.75 ([K ] + ωi [S ]) {φ}i = {0}, (5)
4.20 12.93 13.23 2.32
where [K ] is the conventional small-deformation stiffness matrix,
|∆|% = | (2)−(
| ∗ 100%. [S] is the stress stiffness matrix, ωi is the ith eigenvalue and φi is the
ith eigenvector. The lowest eigenvalue obtained corresponds to the
Table 4 critical elastic load (or moment) while the associated eigenvector
Variation of span-to-web-height ratio for various hole spacings. represents the fundamental mode shape at buckling.
s/hw Number of web
6. Results and discussion
1.05 1.575 2.10

10.50 15.75 21.00 10 In this section, buckling moment results obtained from the
12.60 18.90 25.20 12 comprehensive parametric analysis are discussed. For cases of
14.70 22.05 29.40 14
both uniform and concentrated transverse loading, the buckling
16.80 25.20 33.60 16
L/hw -value 21.00 31.50 42.00 20
moment value is normalized with respect to the corresponding
25.20 37.80 50.40 24 critical moment that results from a uniform end moment case
29.40 44.10 58.80 28 of loading to obtain the Cb coefficient, as indicated by Eq. (1).
33.60 50.40 67.20 32 Variation of the Cb coefficient obtained is investigated by its
37.80 56.70 75.60 36
being plotted against a non-dimensional factor αLB that relates
the warping rigidity of the beam C2 to its torsional rigidity C1 in
5. Finite element analysis of cellular beams accordance with the following relation:

The developed 3D finite element model is utilized to investigate π C2
the influence of the beam geometry and perforation configuration αLB = , (6)
L C1
on its lateral stability. The study covers three main cases of loading:
pure end moments, mid-span concentrated load and uniformly where all parameters involved are as previously defined in Eqs.
distributed load. The cross-section dimensions of the analyzed (2)–(4). In view of Eq. (6), determination of the non-dimensional
beams are selected to cover, and extend beyond, the practical range factor αLB requires evaluating the torsional parameters J and Cw of
of geometric parameters of such beams. For possible application the I-shaped beam section. The values of the torsional constant J
of the results obtained to various rolled and built-up sections, all and the warping torsional constant Cw for plain-webbed I shaped
geometrical parameters are presented in non-dimensional form. sections (i.e., without web holes) can be approximated by [20,21]
The study considers sections with web dimensions defined by − bt 3
hw /tw values that vary between 30 and 80. The flange dimensions J = (7)
are assigned a bf /tf ratio that ranges from 10 to 20. Meanwhile, 3
the web perforations are characterized by hole diameter to web tf b3f h2o
height (dh /hw ) values that vary between 0.5 and 0.8. The spacing Cw = , (8)
between consecutive web holes as a ratio of the web height s/hw 24
varies between 1.05 and 2.1. These limits correspond to a wide where b represents the width of each element of the I-section,
range of hole spacing-to-diameter ratios s/dh that extends from 1.3 t is the thickness of the same element, bf is the width of the
to 4.2. A major factor that is considered in the current study is the flange, tf is the thickness of the flange and ho is the height between
influence of the span on the buckling capacity and the associated centers of both flange plates (i.e., ho = hw + tf ). For the special
mode shape. While the behavior of long-span beams is expected geometry of cellular beams considered in the current study, net
to be governed by the lateral torsional buckling mode, the buckling dimensions are arbitrarily adopted in the calculation of the cross-
capacity of beams with relatively shorter span may be reduced due section properties. These dimensions correspond to a net section
to the simultaneous occurrence of global and local buckling modes. located at the center of the web hole. As such, the Jnet parameter is
This coupled effect may be more pronounced in cellular beams due obtained by applying Eq. (7) to a net section that excludes a portion
to the existence of web perforations, as will be explained in more of the web having height equal to the diameter of the opening:
detail in the next section. In order to explore the influence of the
2 1
beam span on its buckling characteristics, each set of cross-section Jnet = (hw tw3 − dh tw3 ).
bf tf3 + (9)
dimensions with a specific perforation configuration is analyzed 3 3
nine times for various span-to-web-height ratios L/hw , as shown The same approach is followed when the cross-sectional area or
in Table 4. As presented in Table 4, for the basic case of s/hw inertia needs to be considered. Meanwhile, the warping torsional
equal to 1.05 the L/hw ratio varies between 10.50 and 37.8. This constant Cw is obtained following Eq. (8), which is almost
L/hw range corresponds to the practical range of span-to-depth unaffected by the presence of the web opening [22].
ratio of steel beams having medium to long spans. For higher The main advantage of presenting the variation of the Cb coeffi-
s/hw values, the L/hw ratio is increased accordingly to maintain cient with respect to the non-dimensional factor αLB is that results
the same number of web perforations for a specific beam cross- of the finite element analysis indicate that cellular beams with the
section with different s/hw values. This condition is implemented same αLB and having the same perforation configuration ((dh /hw )
156 A.M.I. Sweedan / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 67 (2011) 151–163

Table 5
Variation of the moment-gradient coefficient Cb with non-dimensional factor αLB .
Beam propertiesa αLB Cb (Mid-span load) Cb (Uniform load)
bf (mm) tf (mm) hw (mm) tw (mm) bf /tf hw /tw hw /bf L (m)

140 14 350 7 10 50 2.5 7.35 0.613 1.340 1.114

170 17 425 8.5 10 50 2.5 8.93 0.613 1.341 1.115
200 20 500 10 10 50 2.5 10.50 0.613 1.341 1.115
150 15 250 5 10 50 1.667 10.50 0.318 1.359 1.127
120 8 250 5 15 50 2.083 5.25 0.900 1.332 1.108
220 10 450 5 22 90 2.045 9.45 1.332 1.308 1.085
dh /hw = 0.7 and s/hw = 1.05 are kept constant for all beams.

and (s/hw )) possess the same Cb coefficient under the same case shown in Fig. 8(a). As the beam slenderness decreases (i.e., the αLB
of loading. In other words, for two beams having different cross- value increases), the level of web distortion during lateral buckling
section dimensions, the Cb coefficient will be equal as long as both increases, leading to formation of the lateral distortional buckling
beams have the same αLB value irrespective of the specific dimen- (LDB) mode, where local web distortion and lateral buckling
sions of the web (hw , tw ) and the flange (bf , tf ). Table 5 sum- occur simultaneously, as shown in Fig. 8(b). Such an LDB mode
marizes sample results of several analyses that are conducted to corresponds to a reduction in the moment-carrying capacity of
confirm the variation of the moment-gradient coefficient Cb with the beam, as indicated by the associated lower Cb values. As the
the suggested non-dimensional factor αLB . It should be noted that, αLB value increases, a progressive reduction in the Cb coefficient
for all the cases reported in Table 5, the perforation configuration is noticed, where Cb values less than unity are obtained. Finite
is kept constant with dh /hw = 0.7 and s/hw = 1.05. The first three element results indicate that this significant reduction in the Cb
rows of the table imply that beams with various cross-sections values is associated with non-lateral buckling modes such as the
have the same αLB factor if all of these sections have equal bf /tf , local web buckling mode depicted by Fig. 8(d). This response occurs
hw /tw , hw /bf , dh /hw and s/hw ratios. The tabulated data in these in short-span beams where shear deformations become dominant
three rows confirm that beams with different cross-section dimen- and lateral deformations are difficult to be triggered. The plots
sions can still have equal Cb coefficient as long as all beams have presented in Fig. 6 show that, for beams subjected to mid-span
the same αLB value. Furthermore, a comparison between the re- concentrated loads, Cb values that are equal to or less than 1.1 are
sults provided in the first three rows and those presented in the last associated with non-lateral buckling modes. Meanwhile, for beams
three rows provides additional confirmation of the correlation be- subjected to uniformly distributed loads, the formation of local
tween the Cb coefficient and the non-dimensional parameter αLB . non-lateral buckling modes is observed at Cb values less than 1.0,
as presented in Fig. 7. The transition stage between lateral buckling
6.1. Variation of the moment-gradient coefficient Cb with cellular modes (Fig. 8(a) and (b)) and non-lateral local buckling modes
beam dimensions (Fig. 8(d)) is controlled by the interaction between these two types
of modes, as shown in Fig. 8(c). Along this transition stage, lateral
Figs. 6 and 7 present sample results to demonstrate the vari- deformations gradually decrease with progressive introduction of
ation of the Cb coefficient against the non-dimensional factor αLB localized deformations until the overall buckling mode is governed
for simply supported beams subjected to mid-span concentrated by local non-lateral deformations.
loads and uniformly distributed loads, respectively. The results
presented pertain to the particular case of cellular beams with 6.2. Influence of beam geometry on the moment-gradient coefficient
bf /tf = 10 and s/hw = 1.05. Meanwhile, various hw /tw values Cb
that vary between 30 and 80 are considered along with several
web perforation sizes defined by a dh /hw ratio that ranges from 0.5 Figs. 6 and 7 demonstrate that, for a particular hole size, beams
to 0.8. In the figures provided, each curve includes several points with slender web plates (i.e., with higher hw /tw values) are more
that correspond to a wide span range that extends from a relatively prone to shear deformations and, therefore, are controlled by non-
short-span case defined by L/hw value of 10.50 (highest αLB value) lateral local buckling modes at lower αLB values than beams with
to a long-span case with L/hw equal to 37.8 (lowest αLB value). A stockier web plates. It can be also observed from Figs. 6 and 7
comparison between the results provided in Figs. 6 and 7 reveals that web plates with bigger hole size (higher dh /hw ) experience
that, similar to the regular case of beams with solid webs, beams higher shear deformations. Such behavior is mostly dominated by
subjected to mid-span concentrated loads can sustain higher mo- local web buckling over a wider span range. Lateral buckling modes
ments than those supporting uniformly distributed loads. This is affect only slender beams with significantly low αLB values.
attributed to the fact that in the former case of loading the high- Fig. 9(a) and (b) and Fig. 9(c) and (d) correspond to cellular
moment region is localized around the mid-span, whereas in the beams with bf /tf = 10 and dh /hw = 0.8 subjected to mid-span
latter case relatively high-moment values are affecting longer re- concentrated loads and uniformly distributed loads, respectively.
gions of the beam’s span. These figures show that beams with widely spaced web holes
A general trend of variation in the Cb coefficient with respect (i.e., with higher s/hw values) possess higher shear stiffness. As
to αLB can be noticed under both cases of loading shown in Figs. 6 such, smaller shear deformations are introduced in the web, and
and 7. This trend shows that the Cb coefficient has its maximum the buckling response is controlled by lateral buckling (LTB or
value for slender beams with longer spans that are characterized LDB) modes. For mid-span concentrated load application, Fig. 9(a)
by lower αLB values. A reduction in the Cb value is demonstrated for shows that with the increase in s/hw to a value of 1.575, almost all
beams having shorter spans (i.e., with higher αLB values). This trend the beams experience a lateral torsional buckling (LTB) mode with
can be explained in view of the various buckling modes associated the exception of one case with high αLB values and hw /tw = 80
with various Cb values along each curve. Careful investigation of that experiences web local buckling failure. With further increase
the buckling modes reveals that Cb values that fluctuate closely in s/hw to a value of 2.1, the response becomes fully controlled
to those values recommended by design codes are solely related by lateral torsional buckling (LTB) modes, as depicted by Fig. 9(b).
to pure elastic lateral torsional buckling (LTB) deformations, as Beams that are subjected to uniformly distributed loads with
A.M.I. Sweedan / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 67 (2011) 151–163 157

(a) dh /hw = 0.5. (b) dh /hw = 0.6.

(c) dh /hw = 0.7. (d) dh /hw = 0.8.

Fig. 6. Variation of the Cb coefficient with the αLB parameter for I-beams with bf /tf = 10 and s/hw = 1.05 subjected to mid-span concentrated load.

s/hw = 1.575 and hw /tw = 80 are also shown to undergo a restraints for the perforated webs, which consequently minimizes
web local buckling mode. In addition, a few other beams with the encountered reduction in the Cb coefficient.
various hw /tw values and high αLB are shown to undergo lateral A comparison between the plots provided in Fig. 10(a) and (b)
distortional buckling (LDB) modes, as presented in Fig. 9(c). Once indicates that as s/hw increases from 1.05 (Fig. 10(a)) to 1.575
the holes become widely spaced (s/hw = 2.1), all beams fail by (Fig. 10(b)), less reduction in the Cb coefficient takes place for
lateral torsional buckling (LTB) modes as shown in Fig. 9(d). cellular beams with similar αLB values. The same observation can
The influence of the flange aspect ratio on the moment-gradient be reached by comparing the results reported in Fig. 10(b) (s/hw =
coefficient Cb of cellular beams is shown in Fig. 10(a)–(c) for a 1.575) and those presented in Fig. 10(c) (s/hw = 2.10). The slight
representative case of cellular beams having dh /hw = 0.6 with reduction in the Cb coefficient observed in cellular beams with
various perforations spacing of s/hw = 1.05, 1.575 and 2.10, widely spaced web perforations is attributed to the fact that such
respectively. In these figures, the variation of the moment-gradient beams experience smaller web distortions and therefore provide
coefficient Cb is presented with respect to the non-dimensional higher torsional resistance.
factor αLB for the uniform and concentrated loading cases. Fig. 10(a)
indicates a clear reduction in the Cb coefficient for cellular beams
with closely spaced web perforations (s/hw = 1.05) especially 7. Prediction of the critical moment for lateral buckling of
with higher αLB values (shorter spans). This reduction results from cellular beams
web distortions that become more pronounced in beams with
shorter spans. Fig. 10(a) reveals also that beams with flanges of The previous discussion indicates that the Cb coefficient of cel-
smaller aspect ratio (bf /tf = 10) experience more reduction lular beams may have a lower value than those recommended
in the Cb coefficient. Meanwhile, for beams with flange plates of by current design codes for lateral torsional buckling (LTB) of
higher aspect ratios (bf /tf = 15 and 20) the reduction in the solid beams. In particular, this reduction in Cb value occurs in
Cb coefficient takes place at relatively higher αLB values (i.e., for cases when the stability is controlled by lateral distortional buck-
beams with shorter spans). This observation may be attributed to ling (LDB). In such cases, using conventional Cb values may re-
the fact that bigger flange plates provide more effective torsional sult in an unconservative design of cellular beams. Furthermore,
158 A.M.I. Sweedan / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 67 (2011) 151–163

(a) dh /hw = 0.5. (b) dh /hw = 0.6.

(c) dh /hw = 0.7. (d) dh /hw = 0.8.

Fig. 7. Variation of the Cb coefficient with the αLB parameter for I-beams with bf /tf = 10 and s/hw = 1.05 subjected to uniformly distributed load.

the Cb values that are currently available in design codes de- the considered hole size range (dh /hw = 0.5–0.8) and is, therefore,
pend mainly on the boundary conditions and applied load con- not considered as a variable in the suggested formula. Meanwhile,
figuration only. Finite element results reveal that the critical the κLB value depends on the loading configuration. For the range
buckling moment of cellular beams is also influenced by the beam of geometrical parameters and types of loading considered in the
geometry, slenderness and web perforation configuration. This current study, the following formula is suggested for evaluating the
section reports on a simplified procedure that allows for more ac- moment modification factor κLB :
curate prediction of the critical buckling moment of cellular beams
  
under various cases of loading. It should be noted that the pro- hw
κLB = + [β − 0.002(λ − 10)] ψ,

posed procedure applies only to lateral buckling (LTB and LDB) λψ tw
modes of cellular steel beams. Thus, failures resulting from lo- where
cal web buckling are not considered in the development of this
procedure. The suggested procedure depends on introducing a bf
λ= (11)
moment modification factor κLB that allows for evaluating the tf
critical lateral buckling moment of cellular beams subjected to
1.10 for end moments

uniform moments, mid-span concentrated loads and uniformly
distributed loads. The suggested moment modification factor is β = 1.45 for mid-span concentrated loads (12)
provided by an empirical formula that is determined based on best 1.21 for uniform loads
fit of the finite element results related to lateral buckling (LTB and and
LDB) modes only. Careful examination of the correlation between 2
the suggested κLB factor and various parameters considered in the
  
s s
ψ = 0.89 + 0.15 − 0.028 . (13)
current study indicates that it varies with the two main parame- hw hw
ters defining the beam cross-section geometry (hw /tw and bf /tf ).
Once the moment modification factor κLB is identified, the critical
In addition, a trend of variation is shown between the moment
buckling moment of cellular beams can be evaluated as
modification factor κLB and the web hole spacing (s/hw ). The pro-
posed κLB factor is also shown to have insignificant dependence on Mcr = κLB Mo−cr , (14)
A.M.I. Sweedan / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 67 (2011) 151–163 159

(a) Pure LTB mode. (b) LDB mode.

(c) Interaction of LDB and web buckling modes. (d) Local web buckling mode.

Fig. 8. Various lateral and non-lateral buckling modes of cellular beams: (1) indicates a section at mid-span and (2) indicates a section at support.

in which Mo−cr (net ) is obtained in accordance with Eq. (2) for a net Table 6
section located at the center of the web hole as previously ex- Geometrical properties of cellular beams of illustrative examples.

plained in Section 6. It is worth mentioning that for the particular Beam bf tf hw tw L/hw dh /hw s/hw
case of uniform moments, and unlike the conventional Cb coeffi- designation (mm) (mm) (mm) (mm)
cient for solid beams, the value of the moment modification fac- CB1 170 17 300 10 12.6 0.7 1.05
tor κLB is not equal to 1. This is due, in part, to the fact that the CB2 450 22.5 640 16 29.4 0.6 2.10
value of Mo−cr (net ) used is calculated for a net section which does
not provide the actual critical moment value of the cellular beam.
of the critical moment of simply supported cellular beams sub-
In addition, the κLB factor reflects the influence of the reduced web
jected to end moments, mid-span concentrated loads or uniformly
stiffness on the distortional buckling resistance of cellular beams
through its dependence on the web slenderness hw /tw , flange plate distributed loads. The cellular steel beams are assumed to have
dimensions bf /tf , spacing between web holes s/hw and web hole Young’s modulus E = 2.1 × 105 MPa and Poisson’s ratio ν = 0.3.
size, which is reflected in the Iy-net , Jnet and Mo-cr values. Two different beams are considered, namely CB1 and CB2, to rep-
Fig. 11(a) and (b) show the variation of the moment modifica- resent various cases of cross-section dimensions, span-to-depth
tion factor κLB with hw /tw for the two extreme cases of cellular ratio and web perforation size and spacing. The cross-section di-
beams having bf /tf = 10 and s/hw = 1.05 and 2.10, respectively. mensions and perforation configurations of the beams considered
The graphs confirm the validity of the suggested formula as the are summarized in Table 6. A detailed description of the procedures
maximum relative percentage error does not exceed 2%. The mo- involved in evaluating the critical moment of cellular beams CB1
ment obtained based on Eq. (14) represents the nominal value of and CB2 is presented in the following subsections.
the elastic critical buckling moment related only to lateral buck-
ling (LTB and LDB) modes of cellular steel beams. The correspond- 8.1. Beam CB1 subjected to a uniform bending moment distribution
ing elastic design moment resistance can be readily obtained by
multiplying the outcome of Eq. (14) by the appropriate resistance bf
1. Based on Eq. (11): λ = = 170
= 10.
reduction factor specified by design codes according to the load tf 17
combination under consideration by the designer engineer. 2. Substituting for s/hw = 1.05 in Eq. (13): ψ = 0.89 +
0.15(1.05) − 0.028(1.05)2 = 1.017.
8. Illustrative numerical examples 3. A value of β = 1.10 is extracted from Eq. (12) for a cellular
beam subjected to a uniform bending moment distribution.
Numerical examples are presented herein to explain the appli- 4. Given that hw = 300 and tw = 10, the κLB factor is evaluated
cation of the procedure proposed in Section 7 for the prediction using Eq. (10) as
160 A.M.I. Sweedan / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 67 (2011) 151–163

(a) s/hw = 1.575 mid-span concentrated load. (b) s/hw = 2.10 mid-span concentrated load.

(c) s/hw = 1.575 uniformly distributed load. (d) s/hw = 2.10 uniformly distributed load.

Fig. 9. Variation of the Cb coefficient with αLB parameter for I-beams with bf /tf = 10 and dh /hw = 0.8 under various loading conditions.

  
300 6. Then, the torsional and warping rigidities (C1 and C2 ) are calcu-
κLB =
10 ∗ 1.017 10 lated using Eqs. (3) and (4), respectively, as

+ [1.10 − 0.002(10 − 10)] 1.017 = 1.021. E 2.1 ∗ 105
C1 = GJnet = Jnet = ∗ 586,806.67
2(1 + ν) 2(1 + 0.3)
5. The net section properties are evaluated in accordance with
= 47,395,923,076.92 N mm2
Section 6 as follows:
C2 = ECW = 2.1 ∗ 105 ∗ 349,705,907,042
Iy(net ) = [(hw − dh )tw + 3
2tf b3f ] = 73,438,240,478,750,000 N mm4 .
1 7. The critical moment of the net section Mo-cr (net ) is readily eval-
= [(300 − 210)103 + 2 ∗ 17 ∗ 1703 ] uated using Eq. (2) as
= 13,927,666.67 mm4 .

π C2 π 2
 
Mo-cr = EIy(net ) C1 1+ = 445.3 kN m.
Using Eq. (9), L C 1 L2
2 1 2 8. Finally, Eq. (14) is employed to estimate the critical moment of
Jnet = bf tf3 + (hw tw3 − dh tw3 ) = (170 ∗ 173 ) the cellular section as
3 3 3
1 Mcr = κLB Mo−cr (net ) = 1.021 × 445.3 = 454.46 kN m.
+ (300 − 210)10 = 586,806.67 mm4 .
Using Eq. (8), 8.2. Beam CB1 subjected to a mid-span concentrated load
tf b3f h2o 1
Cw = = (17 ∗ 1703 ) ∗ (300 + 17)2 The previous steps are repeated after updating the β factor in
24 24 step (3) to be = 1.45, which is used in step (4) to produce a κLB
= 349,705,907,042 mm6 . value of 1.373.
A.M.I. Sweedan / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 67 (2011) 151–163 161

(a) s/hw = 1.05. (b) s/hw = 1.575.

(c) s/hw = 2.10.

Fig. 10. Variation of the Cb coefficient with αLB parameter for I-beams with different flange width-to-thickness ratio bf /tf and dh /hw = 0.6 under various loading conditions.

(a) s/hw = 1.05. (b) s/hw = 2.10.

Fig. 11. Numerical and predicted κLB factor for I-beams with bf /tf = 10 under various loading conditions.

Then, step (8) is applied to obtain the critical moment of the Then, step (8) is applied to obtain the critical moment of the
cellular section under a mid-span concentrated load as Mcr = κLB cellular section under a uniformly distributed load as Mcr = κLB
Mo−cr (net ) = 1.373 × 445.3 = 611.60 kN m. Mo−cr (net ) = 1.131 × 445.3 = 503.84 kN m.

8.3. Beam CB1 subjected to a uniformly distributed load 8.4. Beam CB2 subjected to various cases of loading

The procedures followed in Section 8.1 are followed after up- The general procedure outlined in Section 8.1 is followed for
dating the β factor in step (3) to be = 1.21, which is used in step cellular beam CB2 for which λ = 20 and s/hw = 2.1 and for
(4) to produce a κLB value of 1.131. ψ = 1.082. For these beam cross-section dimensions, the net
162 A.M.I. Sweedan / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 67 (2011) 151–163

Table 7 the high shear stresses induced in the web plates. In this case
Comparison between the proposed model predictions and finite element results. no lateral buckling occurs and significant reduction in the Cb
(1) (2)
Beam Case of Mcr (kN m) Mcr |1%|a (%) values takes place. This behavior is characterized by Cb values
designation loading (proposed (kN m) less than 1.1 for beams subjected to mid-span concentrated
method) (FEM)
loads. Meanwhile, for beams subjected to uniformly distributed
End moments 454.46 457.01 0.56 loads, this behavior occurs at Cb values less than 1.0.
CB1 Concentrated 611.60 612.07 0.08 • Cellular beams with slender web plates (i.e., having higher
Uniform load 503.84 504.22 0.07
hw /tw values) and cellular beams with big hole size (dh /hw ) are
more prone to shear deformations and, therefore, are mostly
End moments 1093.21 1086.44 0.62
governed by local web buckling. Such beams are less likely to
CB2 Concentrated 1465.90 1476.21 0.70
load experience lateral buckling (LTB or LDB) modes unless they
Uniform load 1210.34 1226.76 1.34 have significantly long spans.
|∆|% = | (2)−( 1)
| ∗ 100%. • Widely spaced web hole (high s/hw values) configurations lead
to higher shear stiffness and consequently no or small web
distortions. In this case, the beam response is controlled by
section properties are evaluated as Iy(net ) = 341,806,131.33 mm4 ,
lateral buckling (LTB or LDB) modes.
J(net ) = 3766,712.83 mm4 and CW = 37,495,623,779,297 mm6 . • Cellular beams with relatively small flange plates experience
Table 7 summarizes the critical moment values assessed using more reduction in the moment-gradient coefficient (Cb ) than
the proposed procedure for the considered cellular beams CB1 and those with bigger flange plates. Bigger flange plates provide
CB2. Also presented in the table are the critical moment values more effective torsional restraints of the perforated webs
evaluated using finite element modeling of both cellular beams which, consequently, minimizes the encountered reduction in
under the three different cases of loading. The tabulated values the Cb coefficient.
confirm the adequacy and accuracy of the proposed procedure;
the maximum absolute relative error is within the 2% range, as The study is extended to provide a moment modification factor κLB
previously indicated in Section 7. that allows for easy evaluation of the critical lateral buckling mo-
ment of cellular beams subjected to uniform moments, mid-span
concentrated loads and uniformly distributed loads. An empirical
9. Summary and conclusions
formula is provided for the evaluation of the modification factor
The current study investigates the elastic lateral buckling
κLB for various geometrical and loading conditions. The suggested
formula is determined based on best fit of the finite element results
of doubly symmetric I-shaped simply supported cellular beams
related to lateral buckling (LTB and LDB) modes only. The formula
under various loading conditions. The investigation is conducted
is proven to provide a powerful tool for obtaining accurate predic-
numerically using three-dimensional finite element modeling to
tions of the κLB factor with a maximum relative percentage error
identify the critical buckling moment and the corresponding
in the order of 2%. Finally, a detailed application of the proposed
buckling mode for a huge number of cellular beams that covers the
approach has been described in detail through a set of illustrative
potential range of practical geometric dimensions and perforation
numerical examples.
configurations of I-shaped cellular beams. The model developed
consists of the type and number of elements, and it allows for
capturing different possible deformation patterns including in- Acknowledgement
plane flexural, out-of-plane flexural, web distortional and localized
shear deformations. A comprehensive finite element analysis is The work presented in this paper was partially supported by
carried out to identify the critical buckling moment of this special the Research Affairs at the United Arab Emirates University under
type of beam along with the corresponding fundamental buckling contract no. 02-01-7-11/09.
mode. The results of such analyses are utilized to assess the
variation of the moment-gradient coefficient Cb with the cellular References
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