Safety examination of existing concrete structures using the global resistance safety factor concept
Current design procedures for structural concrete elements are based on member level (or local) safety checks, in the sense that the safety condition is evaluated at each cross-section individually. In the examination of existing structures, the exploitation of the redundancy of the structural system and its redistribution capacity may prove necessary to fulfil the safety requirements, demanding for a system level (or global) safety evaluation. This can be achieved using nonlinear finite element analysis (NLFEA) procedures and requires a safety format different than that based on partial safety factors. In this work, a simple safety format tailored for NLFEA of existing structures is described. It is shown how to define a global resistance safety factor based on a simple semi-probabilistic approach in line with the recommendations of the new Swiss standards for existing structures [1,2] that can capture the sensitiveness of the structural system resistance, R, to the random variation of the input variables. Besides enabling the use of updated information regarding the material properties, the proposed procedure allows performing reliability differentiation based on risk analysis, being therefore suitable for the safety examination of existing bridges. The definition of the semi-probabilistic global resistance safety factor is based on the assumption of a log-normal probability density function for the resistance R and on an estimate of its coefficient of variation, v(R). The existing proposals for estimating v(R) are reviewed and compared. For statically determined structures with a single dominant failure mode (axial compression, bending or shear) the examination values of R computed with global resistance safety factors are shown to compare well with those obtained with partial safety factors. The reliability of the examination values of R is also evaluated through a comparison with the Monte Carlo simulation procedure and it is shown that the global resistance safety factor method is sufficiently accurate. Finally, a case-study is presented illustrating the application of the proposed procedure in the structural safety examination of an existing prestressed concrete bridge. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.