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Title: The fire performance of engineered timber products and systems
Author: Hopkin, Danny James
Awarding Body: Loughborough University
Current Institution: Loughborough University
Date of Award: 2011
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Timber is an inherently sustainable material which is important for future construction in the UK. In recent years many developments have been made in relation to timber technology and construction products. As the industry continues to look to construct more efficient, cost effective and sustainable buildings a number of new engineered timber products have emerged which are principally manufactured off-site. In terms of light timber frame, products such as structural insulated panels (SIPs) and engineered floor joists have emerged. For heavy timber construction, systems such as glulam and cross laminated timber (CLT) are now increasingly common. Despite many of the obvious benefits of using wood as a construction material a number of concerns still exist relating to behaviour in fire. Current fire design procedures are still reliant upon fire resistance testing and 'deemed to satisfy' rules of thumb. Understanding of 'true' fire performance and thus rational design for fire resistance requires experience of real fires. Such experience, either gathered from real fire events or large fire tests, is increasingly used to provide the knowledge required to undertake 'performance based designs' which consider both fire behaviour and holistic structural response. At present performance based structural fire design is largely limited to steel structures and less frequently concrete buildings. Many of the designs undertaken are in accordance with relevant Eurocodes which give guidance on the structural fire design for different materials. For the same approaches to be adopted for timber buildings a number of barriers need to be overcome. Engineered timber products, such as SIPs and engineered joists, are innovative technologies. However, their uptake in the UK construction market is increasing year on year. Little is known about how such systems behave in real fires. As a result the development of design rules for fire is a difficult task as failure modes are not well understood. To overcome this barrier the author has undertaken a number of laboratory and natural fire tests on SIPs and engineered floor joists to establish how such products behave and fail in real fires. The data gathered can be used to develop design approaches for engineered timber products in fire, thus negating the need to rely upon fire resistance testing. The development of design rules from the data gathered would be a progressive step towards performance based design. Realising performance based fire design for timber structures at present has three obvious barriers. Firstly, thermo-physical properties for timber exposed to natural fires are not well defined. Current guidance in standards such as EN 1995-1-2 provides data for standard fire exposure only. Movement towards design for parametric fires requires a better understanding of timber thermo-physical behaviour under different rates of heating and durations of fire exposure. Secondly, particularly in the UK, the fire performance of timber buildings is heavily influenced by the behaviour of gypsum plasterboard which is commonly used as passive fire protection. The thermal behaviour of gypsum under both standard and natural fire conditions is still not well understood. The majority of research available relating to gypsum in fire is dated, whilst board products continually evolve. Finally, the whole building behaviour aspects utilised in the fire design of steel and other structures have arisen as a result of complex numerical simulations. At present most commercial finite element codes are not appropriate for modelling entire timber buildings exposed to fire due to complexities relating to the constitutive behaviour of timber. Timber degrades differently depending upon stress state (i.e. tension or compression), temperature and importantly temperature history. In recognition of the above barriers, the author has made a number of developments. Firstly, a modified conductivity model for softwood is proposed which is shown to give acceptable depth of char and temperature predictions in timber members exposed to the heating phase of parametric fires. This model is suitable for adoption in any computational heat transfer model. Secondly, the finite element software TNO DIANA has been modified, via user supplied subroutines, to simulate large timber buildings exposed to fire by considering stress state, temperature and state history. The developments made in this engineering doctorate are intended to facilitate the progression of performance based design for timber structures. The numerical approaches adopted herein have been supported using multi-scale experimental approaches. As a result a number of novel tools for implementation in FEA models are proposed which should ultimately lead to a more rational approach to the fire design of timber buildings.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Eng.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Timber ; Fire ; Structural Fire Engineering ; SIPs ; Joists ; Finite Element Analysis ; Heat Transfer