Concrete Design for the Civil PE and Structural SE Exams

Concrete Design for the Civil PE and Structural SE Exams

This book is designed to complement and be used with PPI’s Civil Engineering Reference Manual (CERM), Structural Depth Reference Manual (CEST), or Structural Engineering Reference Manual (STRM). CERM, CEST, and STRM are the basic texts for anyone studying for the civil PE or structural engineering (SE) exams, and each book contains an introduction to the basic concepts and most common applications pertaining to concrete design. It is essential that this book be used with the American Concrete Institute’s Building Code Requirements for Structural Concrete (ACI 318) and Commentary (ACI 318R). The following chapters are meant to explain and clarify those aspects of the building code that are most likely to come up during the civil PE and SE exams, but it will be frequently assumed along the way that you can refer directly to the code itself when necessary. Throughout the book, citations to code criteria refer to the 2011 edition of the ACI code. For example, the citation “ACI Sec. 7.12” refers to Sec. 7.12 of ACI 318-11. For the problems covered in this book, however, the differences between ACI 318-08 and ACI 318-11 are minor and amount to no more than the notation used for a few variables. That means you can study this book with either ACI 318-08 or ACI 318-11 at hand. When it comes to the exam itself, of course, it’s important to bring the editions of the design standards that the current exam is based on. Check the NCEES website at for the current design standards for your exam. You can also check PPI’s website at or for current information and answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the civil PE or SE exams.

Concrete is a material composed of aggregates (which may be gravel, sand, and so forth) cemented together. Cement is mixed with water to form a paste. This mixture coats and surrounds the aggregates. A chemical reaction between the cement and water, called hydration, produces heat and causes the mixture to solidify and harden, binding the aggregates into a rigid mass. The cement used for most structural concrete is portland cement. A portion of the portland cement is sometimes replaced by fly ash, silica fume, or other supplemental cementitious material. The properties of the hardened concrete can be affected by a number of factors, but the most important is the ratio of water to cementitious materials. More water is always added to the mix than is necessary for the chemical reaction with the concrete, so that the fresh concrete has a workable consistency. The excess water eventually evaporates, causing shrinkage and making the concrete more porous. As the water content of the cement paste is increased, then, the workability of the fresh concrete is also increased, but the strength and durability of the hardened concrete is reduced. Several chemical admixtures, called plasticizers, are available that can improve fresh concrete’s workability without increasing its water-cement ratio. An alternative use is to reduce the water needed in a mix while maintaining workability, and plasticizers are thus often called water reducers or water-reducing admixtures

Each chapter in this book treats a different topic. If you only want to brush up on a few specific subjects, you may want to study only those particular chapters. However, later chapters frequently build on concepts and information that have been set out in earlier chapters, and the book is most easily studied by reading the chapters in order. The civil PE and SE exams are open book, so it is a very good idea as you study to mark pages in both ACI 318 and this book that contain important information, such as tables, graphs, and commonly used equations, for quick reference during the exam. (Some states don’t allow removable tabs in books brought into the exam. Check with your state board, or use permanent tabs.) Become as familiar as possible with this book and with ACI 318. Remember that preparation and organization are as important to passing the PE and SE exams as knowledge is. Throughout the book, example problems illustrate how to use the standard design principles, methods, and formulas to tackle common situations you may encounter on the exam. Take your time with these and make sure you understand each example before moving ahead. Keep in mind, though, that in actual design situations there are often several correct solutions to the same problem.In the last chapter of the book you’ll find 37 practice problems. Whether you’re studying for the structural depth section of the civil PE exam, or the SE exam, you’ll find practice problems that are similar in scope, subject matter, and difficulty to problems you’ll encounter on the actual exam. The NCEES PE exam in civil engineering consists of two 4-hour sections, separated by a one-hour lunch period. Both sections contain 40 multiple-choice problems, and you must answer all problems in each section to receive full credit. There are no optional questions.

The structural engineering (SE) exam is a 16-hour exam offered in two parts. The first part, vertical forces (gravity/other) and incidental lateral, takes place on a Friday. The second part, lateral forces (wind/earthquake), takes place on a Saturday. Each part comprises a breadth section and a depth section. The breadth sections in the morning are each four hours and contain 40 multiple-choice problems that cover a range of structural engineering topics specific to vertical and lateral forces. The depth sections in the afternoon are also each four hours, but instead of multiple-choice problems, they contain essay (design) problems. You may choose either the bridges or the buildings depth section, but you must work the same depth section across both parts of the exam. That is, if you choose to work buildings for the lateral forces part, you must also work buildings for the vertical forces part


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