During the lifetime of a steel structure changes often happen. These changes usually result an increase of loads acting on some of its elements which therefore may need to be strengthened.

Strengthening is usually done by welding additional steel plates to the existing members. In the case of I sections, usually, the flanges are reinforced to increase the bending moment capacity or the web is stiffened to avoid local buckling or crippling at support regions.

This paper will focus on the increase of bending moment capacity.

Lateral-torsional buckling resistance

The usual practice is to either increase the compression flange thickness by adding additional plates to it, or by widening it with the help of angles, as can be seen in the pictures below.

Although these can be very efficient ways to increase the bending moment capacity of a beam, welding on site is a complex process and might require the temporary removal of structural or non-structural elements connected to the flange of the beam. Welding especially “above the head” is difficult, the quality of weld seam needs to be properly checked.

Bending moment capacity of a beam might be limited by lateral-torsional buckling. If the section is not sufficiently restrained laterally against torsion, its actual load-bearing capacity will be lower than the value which depends purely on its section resistance.

In such cases, if the LTB behaviour could be directly improved, there would be no need to strengthen its cross-section along its full length. Here comes the Superbeam as a possible help.

Additional lateral restraining elements are often difficult to be added, therefore this is often not an option.

If we look at what LTB resistance of an I section depends on, we can see, that if we don’t want to change its cross section along its full length, it depends on the value of the reduction factor responsible to consider lateral-torsional buckling χLT.

This reduction factor is calculated from the slenderness value of the beam, which needs to be improved (reduced) to result a lower, more favourable reduction factor.

Without changing the cross section, the only way to do this is by improving the critical moment value. Increasing this value can be made not only by changing the cross-section but also by changing the boundary conditions.

The value of parameters ‘k’ and ‘kw’ depend on the boundary conditions, where ‘k’ means a factor which depends on how the section is fixed against weak axis bending at its ends and ‘kw’ means a factor which depends on how the section is fixed against warping. Warping is the phenomenon when the upper and lower flange of an I section twist in opposite directions.

To change the end conditions is typically difficult, but a certain limitation of the twist of flanges relative to each other ie. preventing or limiting warping might be possible. Limitation of this twist can be obtained by connecting the flanges by an additional element which has non-zero torsional stiffness. This torsional stiffness will prevent the counter-rotation of the flanges and therefore the warping and allowing to consider a ‘kw’ value different than 1.0 in this formula.

Consteel supports several such strengthening profiles and can determine the torsional stiffness to be considered in preventing or limiting warping.

Analysis with Consteel Superbeam

Let’s take the following case. We have a simple supported 5 m long beam loaded by a uniform load of 20 kN/m acting at the top flange, on top of its self weight, without any intermediate lateral support. Its section is a welded I profile, made of S235, 10 mm thick plates, flange width of 200 mm and total section depth of 320 mm.

As we can expect, in the case of such a large unbraced length, the bending moment resistance would be strongly limited by lateral-torsional buckling, and therefore we can expect that strengthening by the proposed method is viable.

The critical moment of this beam is obtained in Consteel using linear buckling analysis with 7DOF beam elements option of the Superbeam, which has found the critical multiplier of 2.88.

This results Mcr = 2.88*64.18=184,84 kNm and a slenderness λ of 1,036 and reduction factor of 0,519.

The final bending moment resistance is 103 kNm.

Let’s further assume that this resistance needs to be increased by 30% due to new requirements. Let’s see whether a successful strengthening without modifications of the cross-section would be possible.

Let’s insert small vertical hot-rolled UPE 200 profiles at both side the web, connecting the flanges close to the extremities of the beam, without touching the components of end connection (potential stiffeners, bolts, etc) where welding might be difficult.

The addition of these U profiles will be converted automatically into an elastic warping stiffness with the value of 1003,24 kNm2/(rad/m)) which will result an elevated Mcr as follows

This results Mcr = 6.91*64.18=443,48 kNm and a slenderness λ of 0,669 and reduction factor of 0,744.

The final bending moment resistance is 147,5 kNm. This is an increase of 43% which is perfectly enough in our case.

The correctness of the analysis can be directly verified using the alternative, shell element based analysis mode of the Superbeam.

The result is almost identical (6.79 vs 6.91, difference less than 2%) to the value obtained with the 7DOF beam element based analysis, which confirms its correctness.


Consteel Superbeam gives interesting new opportunities for the designer, which includes also a cost-efficient strengthening option of existing structures.

More details about the background of the calculations you can find in our article about Discrete warping restraint.

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Are you wondering how a web opening would influence the lateral-torsional buckling resistance of your beam? Check it precisely with a Consteel Superbeam based analysis

It is often required to let services pass through the web of beams. In such cases the common solution is to provide the required number of opening in the webplate. Such an opening can have a circular or rectangular shape, depending on the amount, size and shape of pipes or ventilation or cable trays.

Beams must be designed to have the required against lateral-torsional buckling. The design procedure defined in Eurocode 3 is based on the evaluation of the critical bending moment value which provides the slenderness value, needed to calculate the reduction factor used for the design verification.

There is no analytical formula provided in the code for beams with web openings. Would the neglection of such cutouts cause a miscalculated and unsafe estimation of the critical moment value?

The following demonstration will be made with a 6 meters long simple supported floor beam with a welded section.

6 meters long simple supported floor beam with a welded section

Exposed to a linear load of 10 kN/m, the critical bending moment value of the solid web beam can be obtained by performing a Linear Buckling Analysis (LBA) with Consteel.

(LBA) with Consteel
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The obtained critical multiplier for the first buckling mode is 3.00 which means that the actually applied load intensity can be multiplied by 3.00 to reach the critical load level. The corresponding critical moment will have the value of Mcr = 3.0 * 47.18 = 141.54 kNm yielding a slenderness of 1.286 (Mpl,Rd = 234.20 kNm) and a lateral-torsional buckling resistance of 0.394 * 234.20 = 92.27 kNm. With this value the actual utilization ratio is at 51%.

How would this value change if a rectangular opening needs to be cut into the web of this beam?

Analytical formula for critical bending moment

By looking to the analytical formula (ENV 1993-1-1 F.4) to calculate the critical moment of double symmetric sections loaded at eccentric load application point it becomes obvious that the section properties having effect on the moment value are Iz, Iw and It.

ENV 1993-1-1 F.4 analytical formula

An opening in the web has no effect on the first two values and has very little effect on the last one. As it has been already shown in previous article, the presence of such an opening can have effect on the vertical deflection, but as long as the lateral stiffness of a beam is much lower than it’s strong axis stiffness, the vertical deflections can be neglected when the lateral-torsional buckling resistance is calculated. The usual linear buckling analysis (LBA) performed also by Consteel neglects the pre-buckling deformations.

Therefore one can expect that in general web openings can be disregarded when the critical moment value is calculated.

Analysis with Consteel Superbeam

Beam finite elements cannot natively consider the presence of web openings. In order to obtain the precise analysis result, it is possible to use shell finite elements. The new Superbeam functionality comes as a solution in such cases. Instead of using beam finite elements, let’s use shell elements!

Opening can be positioned easily along the web, either as an individual opening or as a group of openings placed equidistantly. The opening can be rectangular, circular or even hexagonal. Circular openings can be completed with an additional circular ring stiffener.

The rectangular opening for this example can be easily defined with this tool. As there is no need to provide any additional opening on the remaining part of the beam, only the first part which includes the opening will be modelled with shell elements and the rest can still be modelled with beam finite elements. Using this technique, the total degrees of freedom of the model can be kept as low as possible. When using Superbeam, the designer has the choice whether to use beam or shell finite elements, as appropriate.

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As the result of the new analysis using Consteel Superbeam with a mixed model from shell and beam elements, the obtained value of the first critical multiplier is 2.99 which is virtually identical to the value obtained with the beam with solid web.

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This confirms the feeling that in general such a web opening may not significantly impact the lateral-torsional buckling resistance of a simple supported beam.

But this can change when for example the same beam would have fixed end conditions. In this case the region with the opening is close to the position of change of sign of bending moment, plus the weakened bottom T shape is subject to elevated compression combined with an unstiffened edge of the opening which may result in a distortion of the cross-section which causes a stiffness reduction and therefore lower critical load level.

Solid web – beam finite element, αcr=17.27
Web with opening – Superbeam, αcr=16.11
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In cases where such section distortion happens, another violation of the basic assumptions of Bernoulli-Navier Hypothesis used also by the 7DOF beam finite element happens.

In order to get the most precise analysis results, the use of shell elements is recommended at locations where the assumptions of a beam finite element are significantly violated. Consteel Superbeam provides to the designer a very efficient tool to analyse such critical parts locally with shell elements and continue to use the well established 7DOF beam elements elsewhere. This provides an optimum compromise between analysis result precision and size of finite elements model and solution time.

Theoretical background

According to the beam-column theory, two types of torsional effects exist.

Saint-Venant torsional component

Some closed thin-walled cross-sections produce only uniform St. Venant torsion if subjected to torsion. For these, only shear stress τoccurs.

Fig. 1: rotated section [1.]

The non-uniform torsional component

Open cross-sections might produce also normal stresses as a result of torsion.[1.]

Fig. 2: effect of the warping in a thin-walled open section [1.]

Warping causes in-plane bending moments in the flanges. From the bending moment arise both shear and normal stresses as it can be seen in Fig. 2 above.

Discrete warping restraint

The load-bearing capacity of a thin-walled open section against lateral-torsional buckling can be increased by improving the section’s warping stiffness. This can be done by adding additional stiffeners to the section at the right locations, which will reduce the relative rotation between the flanges due to the torsional stiffness of this stiffener. In Consteel, such stiffener can be added to a Superbeam using the special Stiffener tool. Consteel will automatically create a warping support in the position of the stiffener, the stiffness of which is calculated using the formulas below. Of course, warping support can also be defined manually by specifying the correct stiffness value, calculated with the same formulas (see literature [3]).

The following types of stiffeners can be used:

The general formula which can be used to determine the stiffness of the discrete warping restraint is the following:


Rω = the stiffness of the discrete warping restraint

G = shear modulus

GIt = the Saint-Venan torsional constant

h = height of the stiffener

Effect of the different stiffener types

Web stiffener


b = width of the web stiffener [mm]

t = thickness of the web stiffener [mm]

h = height of the web stiffener [mm]

Fig. 3: web stiffener

T – stiffener


b1 = width of the battens [mm]

t1 = thickness of the battens [mm]

b2 = width of the web stiffener [mm]

t2 = thickness of the web stiffener [mm]

h = height of the web stiffener [mm]

Fig. 4: T–stiffener



b = width of the L-section [mm]

t = thickness of the L-section [mm]

h = height of the L-section [mm]

Fig. 5: L–stiffener

Channel stiffener


b1 = width of channel web [mm]

t1 = thickness of channel web [mm]

b2 = width of channel flange [mm]

t2 = thickness of channel flange [mm]

h = height of the web stiffener [mm]

Fig. 6: Channel stiffener

Numerical example

The following example will show the increase of the lateral-torsional buckling resistance of a simple supported structural beam strengthened with a box stiffeners. The effect of such additional plates can be clearly visible when shell finite elements are used.

Shell model

Fig. 7 shows a simple fork supported structural member with welded cross-section modeled with shell finite elements and subjected to a uniform load along the member length acting at the level of the top flange.

Table 1. and Table 2. contain the geometric parameters and material properties of the double symmetric I section. The total length of the beam member is 5000 mm, the eccentricity of the line load is 150 mm in direction z.

Fig. 7: simple supported, double symmetric structural member modeled by shell elements
Width of the top Flange[mm]200
Thickness of the top Flange [mm] 10
Web height [mm] 300
Web thickness [mm] 10
Width of the bottom Flange [mm] 200
Thickness of the bottom Flange [mm] 10

Table 1: geometric parameters
Elastic modulus[N/mm2]200
Poisson ratio[-] 10
Yield strength [N/mm2] 300

Table 2: material properties

Box stiffener

The box stiffeners are located near the supports as can be seen in Fig. 8. Table 3. contains the geometric parameters of the box stiffeners.

Fig. 8: the structural shell member with added box stiffeners
Width of the web stiffener[mm]100
Thickness of the battens [mm] 100
Total width of the box stiffener [mm] 200
Height of the plates [mm] 300
Thickness of the plates [mm] 10

Table 3: geometric parameters of the box stiffeners

7DOF beam model

The same effect in a model using 7DOF beam finite elements can be obtained when discrete warping spring supports are defined at the location of the box stiffeners.

Fig. 9: beam member supported with fork supports and loaded with eccentric uniform load

Discrete warping stiffness calculated by hand

The warping spring stiffness corresponding to the box stiffeners can be calculated as shown in the previous chapter [2.1.4]. The formula is the following:


Lateral torsional buckling shapes can be seen in the following pictures (Fig. 10 and Fig 11.). The obtained elastic critical buckling factor with the 7DOF beam model and with the shell model with and without the box stiffeners are compared in Table 4. The results show good agreement. The lateral-torsional buckling resistances of the original and strengthened structural members are calculated using EN 1993-1-1 and shown in Table 5.

First eigenshape – beam model

Fig. 10: first eigenshape of the 7DOF beam model

First eigenshape – shell model

Fig. 11: first eigenshape of the shell model
Eigenvalue7DOF beam model[-]6.85
Eigenvalue Shell model [-] 6.76
Table 4: elastic critical load factors
Lateral torsional buckling resistance Mb,RdOriginal beam[kNm]101.07
Lateral torsional buckling resistance Mb,Rd Strengthened beam [kNm] 146.15
Table 5: lateral-torsional buckling resistances


[1.] Web page: https://structural-analyser.com/domains/SteelDesign/Torsion/

[2.] Web page: http://www.isa.fh-trier.de/home/Projekte/Nagolnij/index_63.html

[3.] Univ.-Prof. em. Dr.-Ing. Rolf Kindmann, Stahlbau, Teil 2: Stabilität und Theorie II. Ordnung, April 2008

[4.] Pascal Händler, The Bearing Behaviour of Warping Springs in Torsionally Loaded I – Beams, April 2016

After introducing the Eurocode standards several theses have been published on the now much-discussed phenomenon of lateral-torsional buckling of steel structural elements under pure bending. According to that, researchers are working on the development of such new design methods which can solve the problems of the design formulae given by the EN 1993-1-1. This paper gives a detailed review of the proposals for novel hand calculation procedures for the prediction of LT buckling resistance of beams. Nowadays, the application of structural design softwares in practical engineering becomes more common and widespread. Recognizing this growing interest, the main objective of our research work is the development of a novel, computer-aided design method. In this paper, the details of a general type stability design procedure for the determination of the LT buckling resistance of members under pure bending are introduced. Here, the theoretical basis of the proposed method is clarified, the calculation procedure is detailed and some results for the evaluation of the appropriateness of the method are also presented. Based on the evaluations it can be stated that the new, general type design method is properly accurate and has several advantages on the stability check of beams under bending

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Badari, B., Papp, F.: On Design Method of Lateral-torsional Buckling of Beams: State of he Art and a New Proposal for a General Type Design Method. Periodica Polytechnica Civil Engineering 2015