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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/T004185/1
Title: Understanding the cracking behaviour of reinforced concrete elements subjected to the restraint of imposed strains
Principal Investigator: Forth, Professor J
Other Investigators:
Nikitas, Dr N
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Arup Group Ltd Atkins Building Design Partnership (BDP)
Concrete Centre DIANA FEA BV Intl Fed for Structural Concrete (FIB)
Jacobs Engineering Inc National Highways Phil Bamforth Consulting Limited
Ramboll UK WSP Group plc UK
Department: Civil Engineering
Organisation: University of Leeds
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 March 2020 Ends: 29 February 2024 Value (£): 671,487
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Civil Engineering Materials Structural Engineering
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
11 Jun 2019 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 11 and 12 June 2019 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Concrete is the most widely used construction material and is essential to the global programme of infrastructure updating (global estimate ~$100tn including UK National infrastructure plan £400bn) (www.oxfordeconomics.com/publication/open/283970). Excessive cracking due to restraint in poorly designed reinforced concrete (RC) structures is a widespread problem in the concrete construction industry and leads to many instances of costly remedial measures and delays. For example, a recent project in England was delayed due to excessive cracking caused by the restraint of imposed strains (from early thermal and shrinkage actions). Subsequent changes recommended by the applicants during the construction programme to limit the edge restraint of early thermal and shrinkage strain produced a real cost saving to the client of approximately £1.75M. The design guidance developed in this research will increase the performance and efficiency of new RC infrastructure as well as prolong the life of existing infrastructure through improved understanding of cracking. There are many situations when cracking due to the restraint of imposed deformations may be difficult to avoid. In fact, cracking from the restraint of early thermal movements (often referred to as 'non-structural' cracking) is the most common form of restraint induced cracking. In design, cracking is managed by the provision of reinforcement intended to distribute internal strains in such a way as to control the cracking pattern and limit crack widths. Current UK/EU design guidance on restraint induced cracking is encapsulated in EN1992-3:2006 and CIRIA report C660/766. The underlying design methodology in these documents has been used for over 30 years and is flawed. This is reflected in field observations identifying cracking patterns contrary to - and crack widths in excess of - those predicted by EN1992-3:2006. It is apparent that such 'non-compliance' cases result from erroneous basic assumptions; in particular; the boundary (restraint) conditions play a more significant role in determining the crack pattern than assumed in the current design guidance.

The outcome of this research will provide practising engineers with the ability for the first time in three generations of UK/EU codes to correctly design RC elements for the restraint of short and long-term imposed strains. Planned dissemination routes will significantly aid the reduction in frequency and overall number of non-compliance cases, which currently result from the poor understanding of restraint induced cracking and affect all aspects of concrete construction in the UK.

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