Steel Moment Frame Beam Bracing

In a previous blog post on soft-story retrofits, I briefly discussed beam bracing requirements for moment frames. This week, I wanted to go into more detail on the subject because it’s important to understand that a typical steel moment frame requires lateral beam bracing to develop its full moment capacity. Figure 1 below shows two common methods of beam bracing. While on the surface determining beam bracing requirements may not appear complicated, there are several items that could prove it to be more challenging than you might think, especially when steel moment frames are used in light frame construction.

Figure 1: Steel Beam Bracing

(A) Braced with kicker and metal deck(1)

(A) Braced with kicker and metal deck(1)

(B) Braced with kicker and wood joist/beams(2)

(B) Braced with kicker and wood joist/beams(2)

Before going into beam bracing in steel moment frames, it is important to discuss the behavior of a simply supported beam under gravity load. Short beams (Lb < Lp)[3], might not require bracing to achieve the full plastic moment of the beam section. However, when a beam is long (Lb > Lr) and without bracing, the beam can twist or buckle out-of-plane.  Figure 2 illustrates these two behaviors along with the case where the beam length is somewhere in between the two (e.g., Inelastic lateral torsional buckling). In addition, if beam sections are non-compact, flange local buckling (FLB) or web local buckling can occur prior to reaching the beams full plastic moment.

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