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Prestress Losses in Post-Tensioned

Concrete Masonry Sound Walls

By: H. R. Hamilton III and D. B. Woodham Assoc. Prof. of Civ. Eng., University of Wyoming, P.O. Box 3295, Laramie, WY; Ph 307-766-2483; trevham@uwvo.edu Vice-President, Atkinson-Noland & Associates, Inc., 2619 Spruce Street; Boulder, CO 80302; Ph (303) 444-3620; dwoodham@ana-usa.com

Prestressed masonry has become more popular in the U.S. in recent years. In particular, axu-ete masonry is likely to be the form of prestressed masonry that is the most cost-effective alternative to conventionally reinforced masonry and other forms of wall construction. Post-tensioned masonry involves the construction of hollow-unit concrete masonry walls with little or no reinforcing and grout. Prestressing tendons are placed vertically in the unit cells during construction as would reinforcing bars in conventional systems. The tendons can be prestressing wire, strand or bar, but bar is likely the most convenient and competitive form currently available in the U.S. The tendons are anchored at the bottom and top of the wall section with steel-hardware anchored against a grouted bond beam or special concrete unit designed to evenly distribute the force from the tendon to the wall. The tendons can then be tensioned with a hydraulic jack or impact wrench. Prestress is checked by hydraulic pressure or DTI (direct-tension indicating) washers and verified by measuring elongation.

PRESTRESS LOSSES As with prestressed concrete, shortening of the masonry both immediately and over time causes a loss in prestress force. To size the tendons for both a safe and efficient design, it is necessary that the losses be known. If the prestress losses are underestimated, then the prestress force will be less than expected by the designer, potentially leading to an unsafe situation. If the prestress losses are over-estimated, then more tendons than are necessary are installed to offset the expected losses, leading to an uneconomical design. RESERACH The Colorado Department of Transportation has established a pilot program examining the use of post-tensioned concrete masonry walls for sound walls. The research project involves replacing a short section of conventionally reinforced masonry with post-tensioned masonry. The masonry was monitored during tendon stressing and is currently being monitored for the subsequent year to determine actual prestress losses on a field installation. Most of the past research has been conducted on laboratory sections in relatively constant exposure conditions. The selected section of sound wall resides at the southeast quadrant of the intersection of highways 36 and 287. The sound wall cantilevers approximately 12 ft. from a m,st-hphx concrete beam and pier system. Tendon anchors were placed in the grade beam prior to casting. The tendons were installed vertically in the cells at a spacing of two feet as the wall construction proceeded. In addition, joint reinforcing was installed in every other bed joint. However, no reinforcing in addition to the prestressing was installed vertically. The tendons (5/&in diameter threaded bar) and associated hardware were the Sure Stress system as manufactured by Dur-owal. A single-course, grout-filled bond beam with two #5 bars was placed at the top of the wall to act as a bearing line for the tendon anchors.
Copyright ASCE 2004

Structures 2001

INSTRUMENTATION Vibrating wire strain gages were placed on approximately half of the tendons (alternate tendons) to monitor both short and long-term losses. The strain gages were wired to a data logger located on site in a weatherproof enclosure. The data logger was calibrated to acquire strain readings along with ambient temperature at regular intervals. The dam logger was ds0 used during the stressing operation to record strains. INSTtiTANEOUS LOSSES Due to the delicate nature of the strain gages, the tendons were not tensioned with an impact wrench, but rather with a hydraulic jack. DTI washers along with the hydraulic pressure were monitored to ensure that the tendons were stressed to the proper level. Tendon elongation was also checked after stressing each tendon. Instrumented tendons (alternate tendons spaced at 4-ft) were stressed sequentially along the length of the wall. Strain readings were taken on all tendons after each stressing operation, providing an initial stress and reduction in stress due to elastic shortening. The remaining tendons (those without strain gages that were between the instrumented tendons) were then stressed sequentially along the wall in the same direction. None of the tendons were restressed. Table 1 shows the results of the initial stressing operation. The table reports the instantaneous loss in each of the eight instrumented tendons. This loss of stress is due to the elastic shortening of the wall that occurs when an adjacent tendon is stressed. The frst row of data is the losses that occurred when the instrumented tendons were stressed. The values range from 2.2 to 4.7% with the exception of a very large reading of 13.9% at tendon five. This large loss is not consistent with the remainder of the data and is probably an error. The second line in the table shows the total loss after the non-instrumented tendons were stressed and represent the losses that might occur on a wall with tendons spaced at 2 ft. The third line is the ratio of the losses for the 4ft spacing to that of the 2-ft spacing. Theoretically, this number should be close to 2 since the wall will shorten twice as much when twice the prestress is applied.
Table I. Instantaneous Prestress loss as a percentage of the initial measured stress.

Tendon Spacing

Tendon No.


4.7% 7.3% 1.55

2.7% 4.8% 1.78

4ft 2 ft Ratio of 2 to 4-ft losses

2.2% 4.3% 1.96


2.7% 5.1% 1.88


16*1 5 13.9% 15.6% 0.89

7 3.6 % 6.8( % 1.89


8 3.7%

*Gage 6 was found inoperative during stressing. FUTURE The tendons were stressed in October of 2000 and will be monitored for a period of approximately one year for long-term losses. The field data on both the long and short-term losses will be published in detail following completion of the project in October of 2001.

Copyright ASCE 2004

Structures 2001