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How to Design Axially Loaded Circular RC Columns as per ACI 318-19? | Example Included

how to design axially loaded Circular RC column

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The design of axially loaded circular columns is mainly governed by the column’s cross-section and its material properties. This is because the load acts at the center of the column, and the entire cross-sectional area of the column is in compression.

An entire column subjected to purely compression rarely exists in practice as the perfect vertical alignment of a column is difficult to achieve. As a result, the eccentricity of loads relative to the center of the column is inevitable.

According to ACI 318-19, a column is considered to be axially loaded if the eccentricity is not greater than 1% of the column's total depth. The nominal capacity of such a column is equal to the internal concrete compression force and internal steel force.

Several specifications and practical considerations are presented in ACI 318-19 that help designers develop adequate, safe, and practical column designs. 

Nominal Load Capacity of RC Circular Short Column

The nominal load capacity of the reinforced concrete column can be expressed as follows: 

Where Ac is the gross cross-sectional area of the column, and Ast is the tensile steel area.

Therefore, Equation-1 can be modified as follows:

The design strength of axially loaded columns can be computed by multiplying Equation-2 by a specific strength reduction factor provided by ACI 318-19. The strength reduction factor for spirally reinforced concrete columns is 0.75. 

The ACI code has considered an upper limit on column strength to allow for accidental eccentricities of loading not accounted for in the analysis. This upper limit is taken as 0.85 times the design strength. Therefore, Equation-2 can be rewritten for a spirally reinforced concrete column as follows:


Pu: ultimate load on the column, KN

Ø: strength reduction factor, which is 0.75

fc’: concrete compressive strength, MPa

Ag: gross area of column cross-section, mm2

Ast: reinforcement area, mm2

fy: yield strength of steel, MPa

Longitudinal Reinforcement

Spiral Reinforcement


Ag: gross area of the section

Ach: area of the core of the spirally reinforced column measured to the outside diameter of spiral

ρs: yield strength of spiral reinforcement

The spiral may be selected with an expression in which (ρs) is written in terms of the volume of the steel in one loop:


Dch: diameter of the core out to out of the spiral

as: cross-sectional area of the spiral bar

ds: diameter of the spiral bar

See Figure-1 for the detail of the parameters of Equation-5

Figure-1: Explanation of Parameters in Equation-5

Design Procedure for Axially Loaded Circular RC Column

  1. Assume a reinforcement ratio between the minimum value of (0.01) and the maximum value of 0.08, desirably not greater than 0.04.
  2. Express steel area in terms of reinforcement ratio times the gross area of the column cross-section using the expression (ρg=As/As).
  3. Calculate the ultimate or applied load on the column; use a suitable load combination.
  4. Use Equation-3 to calculate the gross area of the column cross-section. After that, estimate the diameter of the column and round them.
  5. Compute column gross cross-sectional area from the rounded dimension value of the column.
  6. Estimate the longitudinal reinforcement ratio by using Equation-3.
  7. Assume the bar's size and determine the number of bars by dividing the estimated steel area by the column's gross area.
  8. Calculate the column reinforcement ratio and check whether it is within the minimum and maximum reinforcement ratio or not.

Design spiral reinforcement

  1. Assume the size of the spiral bar.
  2. Calculate the minimum volumetric spiral reinforcement ratio by using Equation-4.
  3. Plug the volumetric reinforcement ratio from Step-4 to calculate the spacing of spirals by using Equation 5.
  4. Check for ACI Code requirements which include clear spacing between longitudinal bars, the minimum number of bars, minimum spiral diameter, and clear spacing for one loop. 


Design an axially loaded short rounded spiral column to support a dead load of 850 KN and a live load of 1600 KN. Material strength: fc’= 35 MPa, and fy= 420 MPa.


Estimate Column dimension and required steel area

Step-1: Assume reinforcement ratio:


Step-2: Express reinforcement area in terms of assumed reinforcement ratio (Step 1) and gross cross-sectional area:

Ast= 0.02*Ag

Step-3: Calculate ultimate load using most critical load combinations:

Pu =1.2DL+1.6LL= 1.2*850+1.6*1600= 3580 KN

Step-4: Select column dimensions using Equation 3:

3580*103= 0.85*0.75[0.85*35(Ag-0.02Ag )+(0.02Ag*420]=149532.31 mm2

Ag=π/4 D2 → D =√((4*149532.31)/π) =436 mm≈450 mm

Step-5: Compute Ag from new D= 450 mm

Ag=π/4*4502= 159043.12 mm2

Step-6: Estimate area and number of longitudinal steel bars:

3580*103= 0.85*0.75[0.85*28(159043.12-Ast )+Ast*420]= 2265.61 mm2

Step-7: Estimate number of longitudinal bars, Assume ∅22:

No. of bars = 2265.61/(π/4(22)2)= 5.96 ≈ 6

As,provided = π/4(22)2*6 = 2280.79 mm2 

Step-8: Estimate and check column reinforcement ratio:

ρg= Ast/Ag =(2280.79)/159043.12 = 0.0201, since 0.01<ρg= 0.01434<0.08, ok

Design Spiral Reinforcement 

Step-1: Assume ∅10.

Step-2: Calculate minimum volumetric spiral reinforcement:

Dch= D-2*concrete cover = 450-2*40=370 mm

Ach= π/4(370)2 = 107521.008 mm2

ρs= 0.45(159043.12/107521.008-1)*(35/420) = 0.017969

Step-3: Calculate spacing from one loop to another, s:

as= π/4*102 = 78.5398 mm2

0.017969 = (4*78.5398*(370-10))/(s*3702 )→ s = 45.97 ≈ 40 mm

Step-4: Check for ACI Code requirements:

Figure-2: Design Drawing Details


What is an axially loaded column?

A reinforced concrete column is considered to be axially loaded if the point of load action coincides with the center of the column cross-section. A column is said to be axially loaded if the eccentricity of the load from the center of the column cross-section is not greater than 0.1 times the maximum depth of the column. 

What is eccentricity in a column?

Eccentricity is the distance between the center of the column cross-section and the action point of the applied load.

What is spirally reinforced concrete columns?

Spirally reinforced concrete columns are the ones in which longitudinal bars are arranged in a circular manner supported by closely spaced circular spirals.

What are the functions of spiral reinforcement in a spirally reinforced concrete column? 

Spiral reinforcement holds the longitudinal bars in the forms while the concrete is being placed, and prevents the sudden crushing of concrete and the buckling of longitudinal steel bars.

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