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Title: Development and application of a thermal analysis framework in OpenSees for structures in fire
Author: Jiang, Ya-Qiang
ISNI:       0000 0004 2747 5794
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2013
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The last two decades have witnessed the shift of structural fire design from prescriptive approaches to performance-based approaches in order to build more advanced structures while reducing costs. However, it is recognised that the implementation of performance-based approaches requires several key elements that are currently not fully developed or understood. This research set out to address some of these issues by focusing on the development, validation and application of methodologies for accurate predictions of thermal responses of structures in fire using numerical methods. This research firstly proposed a numerical approach with the finite element and the discrete ordinates method to quantify the fire imposed radiative heat fluxes to structural members with cavity geometry. With satisfactory results from the verification and validation tests, it is used to simulate heat transfer to unprotected steel I-sections with symmetrical cavities exposed to post-flashover fires. Results show that the cavity geometry could strongly attenuate the radiative energy, while the presence of hot smoke enhances radiative transfer by emission. Average radiative fluxes for the inner surfaces of the I-sections are seen to increase with smoke opacity. In addition, the net radiative fluxes are observed to decrease faster for I-sections with higher section factors. This work also shows that the self-radiating mechanism of I-sections is important in the optically thin region, and existing methodologies neglecting these physics could significantly underpredict steel temperatures. The next focus of this work is to develop a thermal analysis framework dedicated to structures-in-fire modelling in the OpenSees (Open System for Earthquake Engineering Simulation) platform which has been developed towards a highly robust, extensible and flexible numerical analysis framework for the structural fire engineering community. The thermal analysis framework, which is developed with object-oriented programming paradigm, consists of a fire module which has incorporated a range of conventional empirical models as well as the travelling fire model recently developed elsewhere to quantify the fire imposed boundary conditions, and a heat transfer module which addresses non-linear heat conduction in structural members with the finite element method. The developed work has demonstrated good performance from benchmark problems where analytical solutions are available and from full scale tests with measured data. With the thermal analysis capability developed in this work together with the work by other colleagues to quantify the mechanical response at elevated temperatures, the extended OpenSees framework can be used to predict structural performances subjected to a wide range of re scenarios. This work uses OpenSees for a case study of a generic composite structure subjected to travelling fires. The latest work on travelling fire methodology for structural fire design has been implemented in the OpenSees framework. The work presented in this thesis is the first effort to examine both the thermal and structural responses of a composite tall building in travelling fires using OpenSees. Results from the thermal analysis show that travelling fires of larger sizes (e.g. burning area equal to 50% of the floor area) are more detrimental to steel beams in terms of more rapid heating rate, while those of smaller sizes (e.g. burning area equal to 4% of the floor area) burn for longer duration and thus are more detrimental to concrete slabs in light of higher peak temperatures. The results also show that fires of large sizes tends to produce higher through-depth thermal gradients in the steel beam sections particularly in neighbouring regions with the concrete slab. Due to less rapid heating rates but prolonged burning durations, smaller fires produce lower thermal gradients but with higher temperatures in the concrete slab particularly at locations far from the fire origin. The subsequent structural analysis suggests that travelling fires produce higher deflections and higher plastic deformations in comparison with the uniform parametric fires, particularly with smaller fire sizes producing more onerous results. The results seem to be more physically convincing and they challenge the conventional assumption that the post-flashover fires are always more conservative for structural performance.
Supervisor: Usmani, Asif; Welch, Stephen Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: structural fire ; heat transfer ; radiation ; OpenSees