Concrete Anchor Design for the International Building Code: Part 2

Designing “Alternative Materials”
Concrete anchor types whose designs are not addressed in the IBC or its Referenced Standards, or are specifically excluded from the scope of the Referenced Standard (ACI 318-11), may be recognized as Alternative Materials. Section 1909 of the 2012 IBC requires that “The strength design of anchors that are not within the scope of Appendix D of ACI 318, shall be in accordance with an approved procedure.” Section D.2.2 of ACI 318-11 lists some concrete anchor types that are considered “Alternative Materials” and specifically excludes these anchors from its scope. The list of “Alternative Material” anchors provided in this section is not, however, a comprehensive list.

Section 104.11 of the 2012 IBC describes how the design professional must approach the design of Alternative Materials.


Section 104.11 provides the design professional with two options for the substantiation of the acceptable performance of an Alternative Material:

Research Reports. As described in the previous section (Design of Code Anchors), Research Reports are referenced as the primary source for the design and qualification of Alternative Materials. Research Reports for anchors are published by IAPMO UES or ICC-ES, both ANSI ISO 17065 accredited agencies. Publicly developed, majority-approved acceptance criteria are used to establish the test program and minimum performance requirements for an anchor type. Some Alternative Material anchor types have established acceptance criteria to which a product can be evaluated:

  • Screw Anchors in Concrete (such as Simpson Strong-Tie® Titen HD®): ICC-ES AC193
  • Headed Cast-in Specialty Inserts (such as Simpson Strong-Tie® Blue Banger Hanger®): ICC-ES AC446
  • Powder- or Gas-Actuated Fasteners (such as Simpson Strong-Tie® PDPA and GDP): ICC-ES AC70

If Research Reports are used to substantiate an anchor’s performance, the design professional is bound by the design methodology and product limitations described in the Research Report.

Tests. If a Research Report is not available, and no acceptance criteria exists for a given anchor type, IBC Section 104.11 permits the use of tests performed in accordance with “recognized and accepted test methods” by an “approved agency” to substantiate performance. One example of an anchor type for which no acceptance criteria exists is:

  • Helical Wall Ties (such as Simpson Strong-Tie® Heli-Tie™)

Cracked Concrete Determination
One of the many design considerations that the design professional must determine when designing either “Code Anchors” or anchors qualified as “Alternative Materials” is whether to consider the state of the concrete “cracked” or “uncracked.” The concrete state can significantly influence the anchor’s capacity. Neither the IBC nor ACI 318, Appendix D explicitly defines which applications should be categorized as “cracked” or “uncracked” concrete. The design professional must determine by analysis whether cracking will occur in the region of the concrete member where the anchors are installed. Absent an analysis to determine whether cracking will occur, the design professional may conservatively assume that the concrete state is “cracked.” With that said, there are two circumstances that require the design professional to design for “cracked” concrete:

a) Anchors in structures assigned to Seismic Design Categories C, D, E, or F (per 2012 IBC, Chapter 16) are required to be designed for “cracked” concrete unless the design professional can demonstrate that cracking does not occur at the anchor locations. The prequalification requirements of ACI 355.2 for mechanical anchors and ACI 355.4 for adhesive anchors include a test program that evaluates the performance of anchors in cracked concrete. Only anchors that have been tested and have passed the cracked concrete test program qualify for use in “cracked” concrete. The Research Report for a post-installed anchor (mechanical or adhesive) will clearly indicate whether it qualifies for use in “cracked concrete.”
b) Anchors located in a region of the concrete element where analysis indicates cracking at service level loading must be designed for “cracked” concrete (e.g. fr ≥ 7.5λ√f’c, ACI 318-11 eq. 9-10).

The design professional must consider additional factors that have the potential to result in concrete cracking in the region of anchorage. These factors include restrained shrinkage, temperature changes, soil pressure, and differential settlement. If no cracking is assumed in the region of the anchorage, the design professional should be able to justify that assumption.

Design Calculations

The design methodology in ACI 318 Appendix D is cumbersome. Calculations can be performed by hand using the design equations in Appendix D, inserting the substantiated data from an anchor manufacturer’s data tables or Research Reports to design with post-installed anchors. Designing with cast-in-place “Code Anchors” does not require additional data beyond what is included in ACI 318, Appendix D since these are “standard” anchors with standard design characteristics.

Performing hand calculations can be time-consuming, and for most design professionals is impractical due to the complexity of the design equations associated with multiple failure modes required to be considered. Design software, such as Simpson Strong-Tie® Anchor Designer™ Software for ACI 318, ETAG and CSA provides a fast, reliable method of calculating anchor performance for both cast-in-place and post-installed anchors. This software designs both “Code Anchors” and “Alternative Materials” for which an acceptance criteria exists.

Simpson Strong-Tie® Anchor Designer™ Software for ACI 318, ETAG and CSA is free and can be downloaded here.


Concrete Anchor Design for the International Building Code: Part 1

The intent of this technical bulletin is to clarify code language and outline the correct path for the design of concrete anchors under the International Building Code (IBC). The reader will be able to clearly distinguish between “code anchors” and anchors that are considered “alternative materials,” as well as understand the logical sequence of code language for designing each type. The distinction between “cracked” concrete and “uncracked” concrete anchor design will be made. This technical bulletin will lend clarity to the qualification of post-installed anchors for use in concrete. Excerpts from the IBC and its Referenced Standards will be provided to facilitate the description of the design requirements.

More than a decade after the introduction of the American Concrete Institute’s ACI 318, Appendix D design methodology for anchor design in 2002, many design professionals either do not fully understand or are unaware of the code requirements for the design of concrete anchors. Several factors contribute to the challenges associated with understanding the code mandates:
1. The incorrect notion that ACI 318, Appendix D is exclusively for anchors designed for “cracked concrete,” leading to regionally varying degrees of enforcement and implementation of the design requirements
2. Multiple Reference Standards for the design and qualification of different anchor types
3. The evolving scope of Reference Standards, which have reclassified some anchors as “Code Anchors” that were previously considered “Alternative Materials”
4. Confusing language in IBC sections that address concrete anchorage
5. Complexity of the anchor design methodology itself
6. Varying levels of special inspections enforcement

It is nevertheless incumbent upon the licensed design professional to design anchors in accordance with the minimum provisions of the code in order to protect public safety, reduce liability risk and fulfill professional responsibilities.

The International Building Code, beginning with the 2000 edition, describes the design methodology of concrete anchors by virtue of the language within the IBC itself, or through language in the Referenced Standard (ACI 318). In this technical bulletin, specific reference to the 2012 IBC and ACI 318-11 will be made, since this is currently the most widely adopted edition of the IBC.


“Code Anchors” and “Alternative Materials”
Anchors can be divided into two major categories: 1) “Code Anchors”, which are those that are specifically addressed in the IBC or its Referenced Standards, and 2) “Alternative Materials”, the design and qualification of which are not addressed in the IBC or its Referenced Standards.
The following “Code Anchors” recognized by the 2012 IBC:

  • Headed studs
  • Headed bolts
  • Hooked (J- or L-) bolts
  • Expansion anchors(such as Simpson Strong-Tie® Strong-Bolt® 2)
  • Undercut anchors (such as Simpson Strong-Tie® Torq-Cut™)
  • Adhesive anchors (such as Simpson Strong-Tie® SET-XP®, AT-XP®, and ET-HP®)


Anchor types not listed above are considered “Alternative Materials.”
The following are anchors qualified as such:

  • Screw anchors (such as Simpson Strong-Tie® Titen HD®)

Alternative materials also apply to anchor types specifically excluded from ACI 318-11 calculation and analysis requirements.

  • Specialty inserts (such as Simpson Strong-Tie® Blue Banger Hanger®)
  • Through-bolts
  • Multiple anchors connected to a single steel plate at the embedded end
  • Grouted anchors
  • Powder- or gas-actuated fasteners (such as Simpson Strong-Tie® PDPA)


Designing “Code Anchors”
The starting point for the design of all anchors is Section 1908 of the 2012 IBC.


Section 1908.1 states that only cast-in-place headed bolts and headed studs are permitted to be designed using “Allowable Stress Design,” provided that they are not used to resist earthquake loads or effects. For these anchors, Section 1908.2 references Table 1908.2 for the determination of the allowable service load. Section 1908.1 makes explicit reference to post-installed anchors (anchors installed into hardened concrete), stating that the provisions of “Allowable Stress Design” is not permitted. For the design professional, this means that determining anchor by means of “Allowable Load Tables” based on previous test criteria that used a safety factor of 4.0 to determine allowable loads, as in the example below, is not permitted under the IBC.


Section 1909 of the 2012 IBC, “Anchorage to Concrete – Strength Design” makes explicit reference to Appendix D of ACI 318 as the required design standard for the anchors listed in this section.


Cast-in-place headed bolts and headed studs used to resist earthquake loads or effects must be designed using “Strength Design” in accordance with ACI 318 Appendix D. Additionally, Section 1909 does not make reference to adhesive anchors, despite their status as “code anchors.” ACI 318-11 was the first edition to include adhesive anchors in its scope; however, the 2012 IBC was approved prior to the approval of ACI 318-11. This resulted in the omission of adhesive anchors from the language in Section 1909 of the 2012 IBC. Section 1901.3 of the 2015 IBC, entitled “Anchoring to Concrete” includes language for adhesive anchors and their applicability to the ACI 318-14 design and qualification requirements. The omission of adhesive anchors from Section 1909 of the 2012 IBC, however, does not exclude them from the design and qualification requirements of ACI 318-11 by virtue of their inclusion in ACI 318-11 Section D.2.2. The design professional must then reference Section D.2 of ACI 318-11, Appendix D to confirm that the anchors being designed fall within its scope.


Note that anchors used for temporary construction means, such as tilt wall panel bracing, are not addressed in the IBC. As a result, they are not required to be designed in accordance with the provisions of ACI 318, Appendix D. Section D.2.2 lists anchor types that fall within its scope, and those that are excluded (considered “Alternative Materials”).


Code Anchors are required to meet the ACI 318-11 Section D.2.3 qualification requirements described below.


ACI 355.2 (Qualification standard for expansion and undercut anchors) and ACI 355.4 (Qualification standard for adhesive anchors) are referenced here as the qualification criteria for specific types of postinstalled anchors. For the design professional it can be difficult to determine, without fully investigating these Referenced Standards, whether a specific proprietary anchor has been tested and is qualified for use in concrete. A simpler means by which to identify whether a proprietary anchor has been qualified to the Referenced Standard is a current Research Report (e.g., Evaluation or Code Report) which provides third-party review and verification that the product has been tested to and meets the qualification standard. There are two primary Research Report providers: IAPMO UES (International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials Uniform Evaluation Service) and ICC-ES (International Code Council Evaluation Service).
These agencies are ANSI ISO 17065 accredited. They review independent laboratory test data, witnessed or conducted by an accredited third party, for a product and verify its conformance to publicly developed and majority-approved qualification criteria (or acceptance criteria) established for a given anchor type. Research Reports are an invaluable tool to the design professional and building official as evidence of conformance with the IBC.

There are two acceptance criteria that apply to post-installed “Code Anchors”:

  • ICC-ES AC193 – Acceptance Criteria for Post-Installed Mechanical Anchors in Concrete Elements
  • ICC-ES AC308 – Acceptance Criteria for Post-Installed Adhesive Anchors in Concrete Elements

These acceptance criteria reference ACI 355.2 and ACI 355.4, respectively, as the foundation for the test program by which the anchor is evaluated, and establish minimum performance standards for qualification. A Research Report is issued for an anchor that meets these minimum standards.