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Compiled By
Devang Patel

1.0 Prestressed Concrete

Prestressing of concrete is defined as the application

of compressive stresses to concrete members. Those
zones of the member ultimately required to carry
tensile stresses under working load conditions are
given an initial compressive stress before the
application of working loads so that the tensile
stresses developed by these working loads are
balanced by induced compressive strength. Prestress
can be applied in two ways - Pre-tensioning or Post-
The prestressing and precasting of concrete are
inter-related features of the modern building
industry. Through the application of imaginative
design and quality control, they have, since the
1930’s, had an increasing impact on architectural
and construction procedures. Prestressing of
concrete is the application of a compressive force to
concrete members and may be achieved by either
pretensioning high tensile steel strands before the
concrete has set, or by post-tensioning the strands
after the concrete has set. Although these
techniques are commonplace, misunderstanding of
the principles, and the way they are applied, still
exists. This paper is aimed at providing a clear
outline of the basic factors differentiating each
technique and has been prepared to encourage
understanding amongst those seeking to broaden
their knowledge of structural systems.

 Pre-tensioning
Pre-tensioning is the application, before casting, of a
tensile force to high tensile steel tendons around

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which the concrete is to be cast. When the placed concrete has developed sufficient
compressive strength a compressive force is imparted to it by releasing the tendons,
so that the concrete member is in a permanent state of prestress.

 Post-tensioning
Post-tensioning is the application of a compressive force to the concrete at some
point in time after casting. When the concrete has gained strength a state of prestress
is induced by tensioning steel tendons passed through ducts cast into the concrete,
and locking the stressed tendons with mechanical anchors. The tendons are then
normally grouted in place.

2.0 Basic Concept

A prestressed concrete structure is different from a conventional reinforced concrete
structure due to the application of an initial load on the structure prior to its use.
The initial load or ‘prestress’ is applied to enable the structure to counteract the
stresses arising during its service period.

The concept of prestressing existed before the applications in concrete. Two examples of
prestressing before the development of prestressed concrete are provided.

Force-fitting of metal bands on wooden barrels

The metal bands induce a state of initial hoop compression, to counteract the hoop
tension caused by filling of liquid in the barrels.

Metal bands

Figure 1.1 Force-fitting of metal bands on wooden barrels

Pre-tensioning the spokes in a bicycle wheel

The pre-tension of a spoke in a bicycle wheel is applied to such an extent that there will
always be a residual tension in the spoke.

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Figure 1.2 Pre-tensioning the spokes in a bicycle wheel

3.0 Early Attempts of Prestressing

Prestressing of structures was introduced in late nineteenth century. The following
sketch explains the application of prestress.

Place and stretch mild steel rods, prior to concreting

Release the tension and cut the rods after concreting

Figure 1.3 Prestressing of concrete beams by mild steel rods

Mild steel rods are stretched and concrete is poured around them. After hardening of
concrete, the tension in the rods is released. The rods will try to regain their original
length, but this is prevented by the surrounding concrete to which the steel is bonded.
Thus, the concrete is now effectively in a state of pre-compression. It is capable
of counteracting tensile stress, such as arising from the load shown in the following

Figure 1.4 A prestressed beam under an external load

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But, the early attempts of prestressing were not completely successful. It was observed
that the effect of prestress reduced with time. The load resisting capacities of the
members were limited. Under sustained loads, the members were found to fail. This was
due to the following reason.

Concrete shrinks with time. Moreover under sustained load, the strain in concrete
increases with increase in time. This is known as creep strain. The reduction in length
due to creep and shrinkage is also applicable to the embedded steel, resulting in
significant loss in the tensile strain.

In the early applications, the strength of the mild steel and the strain during prestressing
were less. The residual strain and hence, the residual prestress was only about 10% of
the initial value. The following sketches explain the phenomena.

Original length of steel rod (L1)

Original length of concrete beam (L2)

a) Beam before applying prestress

Reduced length of concrete beam (L3)

b) Beam at transfer of prestress

Final length of prestressed beam (L4)

c) Beam after long-term losses of prestress

Figure 1.5 Variation of length in a prestressed beam

The residual strain in steel = original tensile strain in steel – compressive strains
corresponding to short-term and long-term losses.
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Original tensile strain in steel = (L2 – L1)/L1

Compressive strain due to elastic shortening of beam = (L2 – L3)/L1
(short-term loss in prestress)
Compressive strain due to creep and shrinkage = (L3 – L4)/L1
(long-term losses in prestress)
Therefore, residual strain in steel = (L4 – L1)/L1
The maximum original tensile strain in mild steel = Allowable stress / elastic modulus
= 140 MPa / 2×10 MPa
= 0.0007

The total loss in strain due to elastic shortening, creep and shrinkage was also close to
0.0007. Thus, the residual strain was negligible.

The solution to increase the residual strain and the effective prestress are as follows.

• Adopt high strength steel with much higher original strain. This leads to the
scope of high prestressing force.
• Adopt high strength concrete to withstand the high prestressing force.

4.0 Advantages of Prestressing

The prestressing of concrete has several advantages as compared to traditional

reinforced concrete (RC) without prestressing.
 Large Deflection
 Inevitable Cracks
 Reduced Stiffness
 Unsuitable for large spans as DL becomes very high

A fully prestressed concrete member is usually subjected to compression during

service life. This rectifies several deficiencies of concrete.

The following text broadly mentions the advantages of a prestressed concrete

member with an equivalent RC member. For each effect, the benefits are listed.

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General Advantages

The use of prestressed concrete offers distinct advantages over ordinary reinforced
concrete. These advantages can be briefly listed as follows:
 Prestressing minimises the effect of cracks in concrete elements by holding the
concrete in compression.
 Prestressing allows reduced beam depths to be achieved for equivalent design
 Prestressed concrete is resilient and will recover from the effects of a greater degree
of overload than any other structural material.
 If the member is subject to overload, cracks, which may develop, will close up on
removal of the overload.
 Prestressing enables both entire structural elements and structures to be formed from
a number of precast units, e.g. Segmented and Modular Construction.
 Lighter elements permit the use of longer spanning members with a high strength to
weight characteristic.
 The ability to control deflections in prestressed beams and slabs permits longer spans
to be achieved.
 Prestressing permits a more efficient usage of steel and enables the economic use of
high tensile steels and high strength concrete.
 Better utilization of section hence effective saving in material
 Lighter &slender member due to high strength of concrete and steel
 Crack free structure
 Economic for long spans
 Very suitable for precast construction hence reduces construction time

1) Section remains uncracked under service loads

 Reduction of steel corrosion
o Increase in durability.
 Full section is utilized
o Higher moment of inertia (higher stiffness)
o Less deformations (improved serviceability).

 Increase in shear capacity.

 Suitable for use in pressure vessels, liquid retaining structures.
 Improved performance (resilience) under dynamic and fatigue loading.
2) High span-to-depth ratios
Larger spans possible with prestressing (bridges, buildings with large column-free
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Typical values of span-to-depth ratios in slabs are given below.
Non-prestressed slab 28:1
Prestressed slab 45:1

For the same span, less depth compared to RC member.

• Reduction in self weight
• More aesthetic appeal due to slender sections
• More economical sections.

3) Suitable for precast construction

The advantages of precast construction are as follows.
• Rapid construction
• Better quality control
• Reduced maintenance
• Suitable for repetitive construction
• Multiple use of formwork
⇒ Reduction of formwork cost
• Availability of standard shapes.

5.0 Limitations of Prestressing

Although prestressing has advantages, some aspects need to be carefully addressed.

• Prestressing needs skilled technology. Hence, it is not as
common as reinforced concrete.
• The use of high strength materials is costly.
• There is additional cost in auxiliary equipments.
• There is need for quality control and inspection.

6.0 Fundamentals of Prestressing

6.1 The Tensile Strength of Concrete
The tensile strength of unreinforced concrete is equal to about 10% of its compressive
strength. Reinforced concrete design has in the past neglected the tensile strength of
unreinforced concrete as being too unreliable. Cracks in the unreinforced concrete occur
for many reasons and destroy the tensile capability. See Fig.1.With prestressed concrete
design however, the tensile strength of concrete is not neglected. In certain applications

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it is used as part of the design for service loadings. In ordinary reinforced concrete, steel
bars are introduced to overcome this low tensile strength. They resist tensile forces and
limit the width of cracks that will develop under design loadings. Reinforced concrete is
thus designed assuming the concrete to be cracked and unable to carry any tensile force.
Prestressing gives crack-free construction by placing the concrete in compression before
the application of service loads.

6.2 The Basic Idea

A simple analogy to prestressing will best explain the
basic idea. Consider a row of books or blocks set up as
a beam. See Fig.2(a). This "beam" is able to resist
compression at the top but is unable to resist any
tension forces at the bottom as the "beam" is now like a
badly cracked concrete member, i.e. the discontinuity
between the books ensures that the "beam" has no
inherent tension resisting properties. If it is temporarily
supported and a tensile force is applied, the "beam’’
will fail by the books dropping out along the
discontinuities. See Fig.2(b). For the beam then to
function properly a compression force must be applied
as in Fig.2(c). The beam is then "prestressed" with
forces acting in an opposite direction to those induced
by loading. The effect of the longitudinal prestressing
force is thus to produce pre-compression in the beam
before external downward loads are applied. The
application of the external downward load merely
reduces the proportion of precompression acting in the
tensile zone of the beam.

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6.3 The Position of the Prestressing Force

Prestressing can be used to best advantage by varying
the position of the prestress force. When the prestress
is applied on the centroid of the cross-section a
uniform compression is obtained. Consider the stress
state of the beam in Fig.3(b). We can see that by
applying a prestress of the right magnitude we can
produce pre-compression equal and opposite to the
tensile force in Fig.3(b).Then by adding the stress
blocks we get: i.e. zero stress towards the bottom
fibres and twice the compressive stress towards the top
fibres. Now apply the pre-compression force at 1/3 the
beam depth above the bottom face. As well as the
overall compression we now have a further compressive
stress acting on the bottom fibre due to the moment of
the eccentric prestress force about the neutral axis of
the section. We then find it is possible to achieve the
same compression at the bottom fibre with only half
the prestressing force. See Fig.3(d). Adding now the
stress blocks of Fig.3(b) and 3(d) we find that the
tensile stress in the bottom fibre is again negated
whilst the final compressive stress in the top fibre is
only half that of Fig.3(c). See Fig.3(e). Thus by varying
the position of the compressive force we can reduce
the prestress force required, reduce the concrete
strength required and sometimes reduce the cross
sectional area. Changes in cross sections such as using T or I or channel sections rather
than rectangular sections can lead to further economies.

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6.4 The Effect of Prestress on Beam Deflection

From 7.3 it is obvious that the designer should,
unless there are special circumstances, choose the
eccentrically applied prestress. Consider again the
non-prestressed beam of Fig.1(a). Under external
loads the beam deflects to a profile similar to that
exaggerated in Fig.4(a). By applying prestress
eccentrically a deflection is induced. When the
prestress is applied in the lower portion of the
beam, the deflection is upwards producing a hogging
profile. See Fig.4(b). By applying the loads of
Fig.4(a) to our prestressed beam, the final
deflection shape produced is a sum of Figs.4(a) and
4(b) as shown in Fig.4(c). Residual hogging, though
shown exaggerated in the Fig.4(c), is controlled
within limits by design code and bylaw
requirements. Such control of deflection is not
possible with simple reinforced concrete.
Reductions in deflections under working loads can then be achieved by suitable eccentric
prestressing. In long span members this is the controlling factor in the choice of the
construction concept and technique employed.

7.0 Materials
 Steel
Early in the development of prestressing it was found that because of its low limit of
elasticity ordinary reinforcing steel could not provide sufficient elongation to counter
concrete shortening due to creep and shrinkage. It is necessary to use the high tensile
steels which were developed to produce a large elongation when tensioned. This
ensures that there is sufficient elongation reserve to maintain the desired pre-
compression. The relationship between the amount of load, or stress, in a material
and the stretch, or strain, which the material undergoes while it is being loaded is
depicted by a stress-strain curve. At any given stress there is a corresponding strain.
Strain is defined as the elongation of a member divided by the length of the member.
The stress-strain properties of some grades of steel commonly encountered in

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construction are shown in Fig.5. It is apparent from these relationships that

considerable variation exists between the properties of these steels. All grades of
steel have one feature in common: the relationship between stress and strain is a
straight line below a certain stress. The stress at which this relationship departs from
the straight line is called the yield stress.

A conversion factor may be used to convert either stress to strain or strain to stress.
This conversion factor is called the “Modulus of Elasticity E”.

Structural grade steels which are commonly used for rolled structural sections and
reinforcing bars, show a deviation from this linear relationship at a much lower stress
than high strength prestressing steel. High strength steels cannot be used for
reinforced concrete as the width of cracks under loading would be unacceptably
large. These high strength steels achieve their strength largely through the use of
special compositions in conjunction with cold working. Smaller diameter wires gain
strength by being cold drawn through a number of dies. The high strength of alloy
bars is derived by the use of special alloys and some working.

Forms of Prestressing Steel

Wires Prestressing wire is a single unit made of steel.

Strands Two, three or seven wires are wound to form a prestressing strand.

Tendon A group of strands or wires are wound to form a prestressing tendon.

Cable A group of tendons form a prestressing cable.

Bars A tendon can be made up of a single steel bar. The diameter of a bar
is much larger than that of a wire.

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Properties of Prestressing Steel :

IS : 6006

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IS : 6006

 Concrete
To accommodate the degree of compression imposed by the tensioning tendons and to
minimize prestress losses, a high strength concrete with low shrinkage properties is
required. Units employing high strength concrete are most successfully cast under
controlled factory conditions.

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8.0 Applications of Prestressing

The construction possibilities of prestressed concrete are as vast as those of ordinary
reinforced concrete. Typical applications of prestressing in building and construction
1. Structural components for integration with
ordinary reinforced concrete construction, e.g.
floor slabs, columns, beams.
2. Structural components for bridges.
3. Water tanks and reservoirs where water tightness
(i.e. the absence of cracks) is of paramount
4. Construction components e.g. piles, wall panels,
frames, window mullions, power poles, fence
posts, etc.
5. The construction of relatively slender structural frames.
6. Railway slippers, Electric Poles,
7. Thin Shell Structres
8. Nuclear Power Plants
9. Repair & Rehabilitations

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9.0 Difference between RCC & PSC

– Tensile Strength

• RCC: Tensile strength of concrete is assumed to be negligible.

• PSC: Permanent stresses are created prior to full DL and LL application to reduce net
tensile stresses.

– Cracking and Deflection

• RCC:

RCC cracks -- only 1/2-1/3 of concrete crosssection contributes to effectiveness.

– Cracking and deflection are typically irrecoverable after reaching these limit states.

– Limited by deflections because cracking reduces effective moment of inertia.

– Service deflections are typically large.

• PSC:

– Little, if any, cracking. Entire cross-section contributes to effectiveness.

– A higher level of recovery of cracking and deflection due to prestressing force.

– Service deflections are small (camber reduces δ and full section is stiffer).

• Both RCC and PSC deflect appreciably at ultimate loads.

– Stiffness

• RCC: Stiffness is difficult to control economically.

• PSC: Stiffness can be flexible or rigid by controlling amount of prestress for a given

• ** PSC acts like RCC when applied moment exceeds flexural tensile strength.

– Shear

• RCC: No direct assistance from longitudinal steel.

• PSC: Some assistance from longitudinal steel.

– Serviceability

• RCC: Heavy

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• PSC:

– Lighter weight

– Can accommodate longer spans

– More adaptable to precasting.

– Economy

• RCC: More material.

• PSC: Less material, but higher cost materials used. Tend to save on other parts of
structure because PSC is lighter.

 RCC has certain disadvantages

 Large Deflection
 Inevitable Cracks
 Reduced Stiffness
 Unsuitable for large spans as DL becomes very high
 Advantages of PSC
 Better utilization of section hence effective saving in material
 Lighter &slender member due to high strength of concrete and steel
 Crack free structure
 Economic for long spans
 Very suitable for precast construction hence reduces construction time

10.0 Various Types of Prestress

 Pre-Tensioning – Post Tensioning
 External – Internal
 Linear – Circular
 End-Anchored – Non End-Anchored
 Bonded / Unbonded
 Precast / Cast in Situ
 Partial / Full Prestressing

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11.0 Conclusions
Prestressed concrete design and construction is precise. The high stresses imposed
by prestressing really do occur. The following points should be carefully considered:
1. To adequately protect against losses of prestress and to use the materials
economically requires that the initial stresses at prestressing be at the
allowable upper limits of the material. This imposes high stresses, which the
member is unlikely to experience again during its working life.
2. Because the construction system is designed to utilise the optimum stress
capability of both the concrete and steel, it is necessary to ensure that these
materials meet the design requirements. This requires control and
responsibility from everyone involved in prestressed concrete work - from the
designer right through to the workmen on the site.

We have seen that considerable design and strength economies are achieved by the
eccentric application of the prestressing force. However, if the design eccentricities are
varied only slightly, variation from design stresses could be such as to affect the
performance of a shallow unit under full working load. The responsibility associated with
prestressing work then is that the design and construction should only be undertaken by
engineers or manufacturers who are experienced in this field.

 Prestressing involves inducing compressive stresses in the zone which will tend
to become tensile under external loads.
 This compressive stress neutralizes the tensile stress so that no resultant tension
exists, (or only very small values, within the tensile strength of the concrete).
 Cracking is therefore eliminated under working load and all of the concrete may
be assumed effective in carrying load.
 Therefore lighter sections may be used to carry a given bending moment, and
prestressed concrete may be used over much longer spans than reinforced
 The prestressing force has to be produced by high tensile steel, and it is
necessary to use high quality concrete to resist the higher compressive stresses
that are developed.

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12.0 Load-Deformation Curve of Typical Prestressed Beam

1. Theoretical camber of beam (weightless) with initial prestress, Fi.

2. Theoretical camber of beam (weightless) with effective prestress, Fe.

3. Camber due to Fe + MG (self-weight moment).

4. Balanced state. Zero deflection (uniform stress over section depth).

5. Decompression (zero stress at bottom fiber).

6. Cracking under first loading.

7. Steel or concrete reaches non-elastic behavior.

8. Steel yields.

9. Maximum beam capacity is reached.

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13.0 Basic Principles of Prestressing

External Loading

Force = F

F/A + My/I

+ =

F/A My/I F/A - My/I

Cross Section Due to Prestress F Due to External Due to F and M

Moment M

Stress in concrete section when the prestressing force is applied eccentrically with respect to c.g. of
the section

External Loading


Force = F

F/A - Fey/I + My/I

N A + + =

Fey/I My/I F/A +Fey/I - My/I
Cross Section Due to Prestress F Due to Prestress F & Due to External Resultant Stress
(Axial Effect) Eccentricity e Moment M
(Moment Effect)

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14.0 Basic Typical stages of loading in Prestress Design

 Unlike RCC, where we preliminary consider
the capacity of the structure at one stage (
during service), we must consider multiple
stages of construction in Prestressed
 The Stresses in concrete section must
remain below the maximum limit at all the
stages !!!!

Initial Stage ( Immediately after Prestress Construction Stage - I

Transfer)  Initial Loss of Prestress
 Full Prestress  Self Weight
 May or may not include DL of  Different Support Condition
Prestressed member only (depending on
Construction Type)

Construction Stage - III Construction Stage - II

 Super Imposed Dead Load  DL due to Casting of
 Part Loss of Prestress due to Floor
Time Dependent Losses  Composite effect

Service Stage
 Full Prestress Loss has Occurred
 DL + SIDL + LL + Secondary Effects

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15.0 Prestress Losses.

The prestress force applied through jack in not transferred to the element
completely. The applied force reduces at every section and at every time.
 Short Term Losses : Elastic deformation of Concrete
Friction between Tendon & Duct
Slip during Anchorage
 Long Term Losses : Relaxation of Steel
Shrinkage of Concrete

15.1 Loss due to Friction

 Friction between tendon and surrounding material ; sheathing or concrete
 Loss in two Part : a) Length effect & b) Curvature effect

 Friction even though the cable is straight
 In practice, the sheathing can not be perfectly
straight, this un intentional deviation is called “
 It depends upon the length and stress of the cable.

 Friction between cable and surrounding material
due to curved profile of the cable
 It depends upon the co-eff. of friction between
materials and cable.

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Prestressing force at distance x from jacking end,

Px = P0 e − ( µα + Kx )
P = prestressing force at the jacking end

µ = coefficient of friction between cable and duct

α = the cumulative angle in radians
K = friction coefficient for wobble effect

The equation for a parabolic profile is :

x (L − x )
4 ym

ym = displacement of the CGS at the centre of the beam from the ends

L = length of the beam

x = distance from the stretching end
y = displacement of the CGS at distance x from the ends.

dy 4 y m
= (L − 2 x )
dx L2

An expression of α(x) can be derived from the change in slope of the profile. The slope of the
profile is given as follows.

At x = 0, the slope dy/dx = 4ym/L
α(L) = 8ym/L ym


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15.2 Loss due to Anchorage Set

 After tensioning of the cable, jack is released to transfer the prestress to concrete.

 The wedges, employed to grip the strands, slip over a small distance before the strands
are firmly housed between the wedges.

 The amount of slippage depends on the type wedge and stress in the strands.

 Assuming Slip of 6 mm at each end

-(µθ + kx )
(s - s )dx Shaded Area
x1 x2
 P =P e
2 1 1 Total slip = ------------ = -------------
-(µθ + kx) E E
 P =P e s s
x 1

or shaded area = A x Es = 6 x 1.95 x 10 = 117000
The stress drop after slip is obtained such that
Shaded area = 117000 = 117 per m length



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15.3 Loss due to Elastic Shortening of Concrete

 Pre – tensioned Concrete :

The Prestress is transferred to the concrete, the members shortens and prestressed
steel shortens with it ; hence there is loss of prestress in steel.

 Post – Tensioned Concrete :

If single Tendon, concrete shortens as tendon is jacked against concrete. As prestress

force in cable is measured after concrete is shortened, no loss of prestress.

If more than one tendon, and tendons are stressed in succession, the prestress is
applied to concrete gradually. The shortening of concrete increases as each tendon is
tightened against it. The loss in tendon occurs.

The tendon that is first tensioned would suffer the max. amount of loss due to elastic

The tendon that is last tensioned will not suffer any loss due to elastic shortening.

Elastic Shortening for member with axial stresses

Unit shortening δ = where, fc = Stress in concrete
Ec = Modulus of Elasticity of Concrete

If ‘F0 ‘ is the prestress force after elastic shortening,

Es F0 F
Loss of prestress in steel = ∆ f c = Es δ = =m 0 Ac = C/s area of member
Ac Ec Ac

Elastic Shortening for member with bending stresses

When bending of member due to own weight and due to eccentricity of prestress force:
P P.eC . y M girder . y
fc =
+ −
P = Prestress Force e = eccentricity of prestress w.r.t. NA of member

y = NA of member from bottom I = MI of the member

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We want to find stress at level of steel, y = e P P.eC . eC M girder . eC

fc = + −

Loss of prestress in steel = ∆fs = m fc,

Calculation of E.S. loss by direct formula for all the cables:

E.S. loss = 0.5 fc m (noc -1)

15.4 Loss due to Creep of Concrete

 Creep : Progressive increase in the inelastic deformation of concrete under
sustained stress component.

The stress in concrete due to prestress and external loading is computed. ( F1)

IRC:18 gives the value of the Creep Strain per 10 MPa as per the maturity of concrete
at the time of stressing ( C )

Loss due to creep = F1 x C/10 x Area of cable x Es

IS:1343 gives the value of the Creep Coefficient ( ultimate creep strain/elastic strain
at the age of loading). The loss is obtained as follows:

Loss due to creep = F1 x φ x Es/ Ec x Area of cable

15.5 Loss due to Shrinkage of Concrete

 Shrinkage : Contraction of concrete on drying.

The loss of prestress due to shrinkage is the product of the effective shrinkage,
and the modulus of elasticity of the prestressing steel.

IRC:18 gives the value of the strain due to residual Shrinkage as per the age concrete
at the time of stressing

IS:1343 gives the value of the Shrinkage strain for pre-tensioning and post-tensioning

The loss is obtained as follows:

Loss due to Shrinkage = εsh x Es x Area of cable

Shrinkage strain (IS 1343-1980,Cl. 5.2.4)

For pre-tension :
ε sh = 0.0003
ε sh =
log10 (t + 2 )
For post-tension:

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15.6 Loss due to Relaxation of Steel

With constant elongation/stress maintained over a period of time, the prestress
reduces gradually, called “Relaxation of Steel”

IRC:18 recommends the relaxation loss on the basis of 1000 hour value.

The long term loss at @ 0.5 x 106 hours shall be taken as the 3 times the 1000 hours
values of relaxation loss. These values are given in IRC for various initial stresses.

IS 1343: gives the loss value at 1000 hours

--- x ---

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