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Chapter 1- Static engineering systems

1.2 Beams and columns

1.2.1 elastic section modulus for beams
1.2.2 standard section tables for rolled steel
1.2.3 selection of standard sections (eg
slenderness ratio for compression
members, standard section and allowable
stress tables for rolled steel columns,
selection of standard sections)

Standard sections
Standard section handbooks give values of section
modulus for different section beams
Such data and guidance on the design of structures are
given in British Standards and relevant ones for design
using beams are BS 4 Part I:2005 (structural steel
sections) and BS 5950 Part I:2000 (structural use of
steelwork in building, code of practice for design, rolled
and welded sections)
Example type of data sheet is illustrated on the next slide

In selecting beams required section modulus can be

obtained by dividing the maximum bending moment by
allowable stress in the material, allowing for a suitable
factor of safety

If the allowable stresses are the same for both tension and
compression, then a cross-sectional shape which has its neutral axis
at the mid height of the beam selected
To minimize the weight of a beam, abeam can be selected that has
not only has the required sectional modulus but also the smallest
cross-sectional area and the smallest mass per unit length
The critical buckling stress depends on the material concerned and
how a slender a column is. The measure of slenderness used in the
slenderness ratio.

where the effective length is essentially the length between points at

which the member bows about. (eg: both ends fixed effective length is
0.70L, One end fixed and other end pinned 0.85L, vertical cantilever

Radius of gyration

From BS 5950 Part I:2000

The maximum slenderness ratio for steel columns carrying dead and
imposed loads is limited to 180; as table and graph indicates, when the
slenderness ratio approaches this value the compressive strength drops to
a quite a low value.

If in the design of structure, a larger slenderness ratio is indicated and it

indicates the need to use a larger section size in order to decrease the
slenderness ratio

The general procedure for designing axially loaded column is

Determine the effective length of the required column
Select a trial section
Using the radius of gyration value for the trial section, calculate the slenderness
If the slenderness ratio is greater than 180, try a large cross section trial section
Using the slenderness ratio, obtain the compression strength from the tables
Compare the compression strength with that which is likely to be required in
practice. If the compression strength is adequate then the trial section is suitable.
If the compression strength is much greater than is required then it would be
more economical to choose a section with a smaller radius of gyration.

Standard Rolled Steel Shapes








W 16 x 26

Nominal Depth

Weight per
Linear Foot

Steps to design beams for bending

1. For a given loading determine draw the Bending Moment Diagram (BMD) and
determine Mmax.
2. Specify the type of material to be used and determine the allowable bending
stress all based on the ultimate stress ult and a selected factor of safety FS
(e.g.: all = ult/ FS).
3. Determine the required cross section modulus S using equation (1) that will
ensure that max is NOT more than all.
S = Mmax / all
4. For standard cross section (including I-shaped, S-cross sections, Wide-flange
cross sections), some design tables often tabulate the values of section modulus
for each shape. The design will then only requires selecting a suitable economical
shape (e.g.: WF-shape or I-shape) such that the selected cross section will
ensure that
Sprovided Srequired
4. Then if inequality (2) above is satisfied, the beam stresses will also satisfy the
following design requirements
max all (3)

As the design process is often iterative (repetitive), the above steps might have
to be repeated till the requirements of inequalities 2 and 3 above are satisfied and
the cross section is economical to construct with minimum cost (very often it10is
the cross section with minimum weight).

Select a standard rolled steel I-section for the simply supported beam
shown in Figure. A factor of safety of 6 is to apply and the ultimate
tensile strength of the material is 500 MPa. The selected section must
have the least possible weight. The weight of the beam itself may be
neglected when calculating the maximum bending moment


Finding support reactions:

The beam is symmetrically loaded and so the support reactions R A and
RC will be equal. That is,
RA = RC = 50/2
RA=RC=25 kN

Finding maximum bending moment, M which will be at the centre of the

M = RA X 2 = 25 X 103 X 2
M =50X 103Nm

Finding maximum allowable stress, :

Finding elastic section modulus, s:



Multiply by 106 to convert section modulus to cm3:

Finding section with next higher value and least mass per
meter from standard section table: