Reinforced-Concrete Arches

Arches are used in roofs for such buildings as hangars, auditoriums, gymnasiums, and rinks, where long spans are desired. An arch is essentially a curved beam with the loads, applied downward in its plane, tending to decrease the curvature. Arches are frequently used as the supports for thin shells that follow the curvature of the arches. Such arches are treated in analysis as two-dimensional, whereas the thin shells behave as three-dimensional elements.
The great advantage of an arch in reinforced concrete construction is that, if the arch is appropriately shaped, the whole cross section can be utilized in compression under the maximum (full) load. In an ordinary reinforced concrete beam, the portion below the neutral axis is assumed to be cracked and does not contribute to the bending strength. A beam can be curved, however, to make its axis follow the lines of thrust very closely for all loading conditions, thus virtually eliminating bending moments.
The component parts of a fixed arch are shown in Fig. 9.57. For a discussion of the different types of arches and the stress analyses required for each, see Art. 5.14.
Because the depth of an arch and loading for maximum moments generally vary along the length, several cross sections must be chosen for design, such as the crown, springing, haunches, and the quarter points. Concrete compressive stresses and shear should be checked at each section, and reinforcement requirements determined.
The sections should be designed as rectangular beams or T-beams subjected to bending and axial compression, as indicated in Arts. 9.82 to 9.84.
When an arch is loaded, large horizontal reactions, as well as vertical reactions, are developed at the supports. For roof arches, tie rods may be placed overhead, or in or under the ground floor, to take the horizontal reaction. The horizontal reaction may also be resisted externally by footings on sound rock or piles, by reinforced concrete buttresses, or by adjoining portions of the structure, for example a braced floor or roof at springing level.

Hinged arches are commonly made of structural steel or precast concrete. The hinges simplify the arch analysis and the connection to the abutment, and they reduce the indeterminate stresses due to shrinkage, temperature, and settlements of supports. For cast-in-place reinforced concrete, hingeless (fixed) arches are often used. They eliminate the cost of special steel hinges needed for hinged concrete arches and permit reduced crown thicknesses, to provide a more attractive shape.
Arches with spans less than 90 ft are usually constructed with ribs 2 to 4 ft wide. Each arch rib is concreted in a continuous operation, usually in 1 day. The concrete may be placed continuously from each abutment toward the crown, to obtain symmetrical loading on the falsework.
For spans of 90 ft or more, however, arch ribs are usually constructed by the alternate block, or voussoir, method. Each rib is constructed of blocks of such size that each can be completed in one casting operation. This method reduces the shrinkage stresses. The blocks are cast in such order that the formwork will settle uniformly. If blocks close to the crown section are not placed before blocks at the haunch and the springing sections, the formwork will rise at the crown, and placing of the crown blocks will then be likely to cause cracks in the haunch. The usual procedure is to cast two blocks at the crown, then two at the springing, and alternate until the complete arch is concreted.
In construction by the alternate block method, the block sections are kept separate by timber bulkheads. The bulkheads are kept in place by temporary struts  between the voussoirs. Keyways left between the voussoirs are concreted later. Near piers and abutments where the top slopes exceed about 30 with the horizontal, top forms may be necessary, installed as the casting progresses.
If the arch reinforcement is laid in long lengths, settlement and deformation of the arch formwork can displace the reinforcing steel. Therefore, depending on the curvature and total length, lengths of bars are usually limited to about 30 ft. Splices should be located in the keyways. Lap splices of adjacent bars should be staggered (50% stagger), and located where tension is small.
Upper reinforcement in arch rings may be held in place with spacing boards nailed to props, or with wires attached to transverse timbers supported above the surface of the finished concrete.
Forms for arches may be supported on a timber falsework bent. This bent may consist of joists and beams supported by posts that are braced together and to solid ground. Wedges or other adjustment should be provided at the base of the posts so that the formwork may be adjusted if settlement occurs, and so that the entire formwork may be conveniently lowered after the concrete has hardened sufficiently to take its own load.
(Guide to Formwork for Concrete, ACI 347R, American Concrete Institute.)

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