Civil and Environmental Engineering


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Kim, S.-H.; Shah, S.H.A.; Woo, S.-K.; Chu, I.; Sim, C. Probability-Based CrackWidth Estimation Model for Flexural Members of Underground RC Box Culverts. Appl. Sci. 2022, 12, 2063. app12042063


© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https:// 4.0/).


Crack control for slabs and beams in current design practices in Korea are based on the Frosch’s model, which is adapted in ACI 318. It is more difficult to have consistent quality control in underground construction sites, such as the RC box culverts used for electric power distribution built below the ground level. There are more discrepancies between the as-built dimensions and the design dimensions provided in drawings in these structures. Due to this variability in construction error, the crack widths measured in such structures have higher potential to have more differences than the calculated values. Although crack control is a serviceability concern, if the owner chooses to have a target crack width that needs better control, crack width estimations can be improved by considering such construction variability. The probability-based crack width model suggested in this study will allow minimizing the discrepancies between the measured and calculated crack widths and provide reliable estimations of crack widths. Typical size of slabs and beams ranging between 300 mm (12 in.) to 500 mm (20 in.) used in underground RC box culverts in Korea were tested under the four-point bending test program. The thicker specimens had smaller bar spacings which created more cracks with smaller crack widths. However, with smaller crack widths generated in these specimens, there were more errors between the measurements and calculated values. From site investigations in Korea, the thickness of slabs in underground box culverts varied the most among all parameters. As a result, the bottom concrete covers had the highest variability. Bottom concrete covers and bar spacings are the two most important parameters in concrete crack control. A probability-based crack width estimation model for flexural members was developed in this study to consider this construction variability. Monte Carlo simulations were performed to evaluate the probabilistic characteristics of the design surface crack widths with a target width of either 0.3 mm (12 mils) or 0.5 mm (20 mils). The probabilistic models of design variables included in the crack width estimation model were generated based on field-collected information from construction sites in Korea. Because the surface crack widths in RC flexural members are sensitive to the construction errors of concrete cover depths, and since there are differences between the assumed and actual stress distribution closer to the reinforcing bars, the probability of having surface cracks of 0.3 mm width (12 mils) is found to be quite high, such as 89% at the positive moment region (mid-span, bottom surface) of the top slab in RC box culverts and 45% for the negative moment region (support area, top surface) of the top slab with current design practice. In order to ensure crack widths to be smaller than the design target width, probability-based crack width factors are recommended in this study to improve estimations depending on the selected target reliability levels.