Date of Thesis


Thesis Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Type

Master of Science in Civil Engineering


Civil and Environmental Engineering

First Advisor

Ronald Ziemian

Second Advisor

Kelly Salyards

Third Advisor

Jim Orbison


Open web steel joists are designed in the United States following the governing specification published by the Steel Joist Institute. For compression members in joists, this specification employs an effective length factor, or K-factor, in confirming their adequacy. In most cases, these K-factors have been conservatively assumed equal to 1.0 for compression web members, regardless of the fact that intuition and limited experimental work indicate that smaller values could be justified. Given that smaller K-factors could result in more economical designs without a loss in safety, the research presented in this thesis aims to suggest procedures for obtaining more rational values. Three different methods for computing in-plane and out-of-plane K-factors are investigated, including (1) a hand calculation method based on the use of alignment charts, (2) computational critical load (eigenvalue) analyses using uniformly distributed loads, and (3) computational analyses using a compressive strain approach. The latter method is novel and allows for computing the individual buckling load of a specific member within a system, such as a joist. Four different joist configurations are investigated, including an 18K3, 28K10, and two variations of a 32LH06. Based on these methods and the very limited number of joists studied, it appears promising that in-plane and out-of-plane K-factors of 0.75 and 0.85, respectively, could be used in computing the flexural buckling strength of web members in routine steel joist design. Recommendations for future work, which include systematically investigating a wider range of joist configurations and connection restraint, are provided.