Assessment of material strain limits for defining plastic regions in concrete structures
The New Zealand Structural Loadings Standard, until its latest revision, used the structural ductility factor as a measure of the deformation demand of all potential plastic hinges in a structure. In the new version of New Zealand Standard for Earthquake Actions (NZS 1170.5:2004) the detailing of potential plastic regions is determined according to the local deformation demand in these regions. The change has been prompted by evidence that the structural ductility factor gives a poor indication of the demand on individual plastic regions. This new approach has also been adopted by the revised New Zealand Concrete Structures Standard (NZS 3101:2006) which classifies potential plastic regions into three categories (namely ductile, limited ductile and nominally ductile) based upon their inelastic deformation demand specified in terms of material strain limits. The material strain limits currently set in NZS 3101:2006 for the three categories of plastic regions are based on limited experimental evidence and need a closer revision. This paper tries to obtain more justifiable values of material strain limits based on experimental data. In this research, reversed cyclic loading tests of beams are conducted to compensate for a lack of data in the nominally ductile range of detailing. Based on the results of the tests conducted, curvature limits for nominally ductile plastic hinges are derived. Combining the experimental results collected from literature and the tests conducted in this project, updated material strain limits for the three categories of plastic regions are proposed. To unify the design process for all types of plastic regions, curvature limits for nominally ductile plastic hinges are also proposed as the multiple of first yield curvature (similar to the existing approach for the other two categories of plastic regions) rather than the existing approach of specifying allowable compressive (concrete) and tensile (rebar) strain limits for nominally ductile plastic regions. To further simplify the process, the representative value of first yield curvature is approximated as two times the yielding strain to the beam height ratio, thereby relieving the designers from having to conduct section analysis to estimate neutral axis depth.