The Charles Pankow Foundation has begun a nearly $27 million fundraising campaign to support unprecedented research in high-strength reinforcing steel. The goal of the five-year research program is to simplify and speed reinforced concrete  construction by easing rebar congestion. The program would provide the scientific basis for the first major overhaul of the concrete building standard in 50 years.

The Applied Technology Council is managing the research project, called ATC 115: Road Map for the Use of High- Strength Reinforcement in Reinforced Concrete Design, under a $191,530 grant from the Pankow Foundation.

The roadmap includes a detailed list of the steps necessary to update the American Concrete Institute’s ACI 318- 14: Building Code Requirements for Structural Concrete and Commentary to allow the general use of rebar—in walls, columns, beams and slabs—with a yield strength of up to 100 ksi, even for special seismic zones.

The last targeted research to support a code change happened in the 1960s, when the standard minimum yield strength for rebar jumped to 60 ksi from 40 ksi, or Grade 40. Most of the U.S. code is based on research on lower-strength concrete. Currently,  engineers more routinely specify higher strengths, from 8,000 psi to 14,000 psi and greater. Grade80 rebar has been in the code for gravity systems since 1971. However, engineers in highly seismic zones, such as the West Coast, are limited by the code to the use of 60 ksi.

The ultimate goal is to change the ACI 318 code to allow use of 100 ksi in all systems, which could take several years. The target is the 2022 version of the code. The full report is available at www.pankowfoundation.org/ATC115.