Structural and thermal performance of cold-formed steel stud wall systems under fire conditions

Kolarkar, Prakash Nagaraj (2011) Structural and thermal performance of cold-formed steel stud wall systems under fire conditions. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

Cold-formed steel stud walls are a major component of Light Steel Framing (LSF) building systems used in commercial, industrial and residential buildings. In the conventional LSF stud wall systems, thin steel studs are protected from fire by placing one or two layers of plasterboard on both sides with or without cavity insulation. However, there is very limited data about the structural and thermal performance of stud wall systems while past research showed contradicting results, for example, about the benefits of cavity insulation. This research was therefore conducted to improve the knowledge and understanding of the structural and thermal performance of cold-formed steel stud wall systems (both load bearing and non-load bearing) under fire conditions and to develop new improved stud wall systems including reliable and simple methods to predict their fire resistance rating. Full scale fire tests of cold-formed steel stud wall systems formed the basis of this research. This research proposed an innovative LSF stud wall system in which a composite panel made of two plasterboards with insulation between them was used to improve the fire rating. Hence fire tests included both conventional steel stud walls with and without the use of cavity insulation and the new composite panel system. A propane fired gas furnace was specially designed and constructed first. The furnace was designed to deliver heat in accordance with the standard time temperature curve as proposed by AS 1530.4 (SA, 2005). A compression loading frame capable of loading the individual studs of a full scale steel stud wall system was also designed and built for the load-bearing tests. Fire tests included comprehensive time-temperature measurements across the thickness and along the length of all the specimens using K type thermocouples. They also included the measurements of load-deformation characteristics of stud walls until failure. The first phase of fire tests included 15 small scale fire tests of gypsum plasterboards, and composite panels using different types of insulating material of varying thickness and density. Fire performance of single and multiple layers of gypsum plasterboards was assessed including the effect of interfaces between adjacent plasterboards on the thermal performance. Effects of insulations such as glass fibre, rock fibre and cellulose fibre were also determined while the tests provided important data relating to the temperature at which the fall off of external plasterboards occurred. In the second phase, nine small scale non-load bearing wall specimens were tested to investigate the thermal performance of conventional and innovative steel stud wall systems. Effects of single and multiple layers of plasterboards with and without vertical joints were investigated. The new composite panels were seen to offer greater thermal protection to the studs in comparison to the conventional panels. In the third phase of fire tests, nine full scale load bearing wall specimens were tested to study the thermal and structural performance of the load bearing wall assemblies. A full scale test was also conducted at ambient temperature. These tests showed that the use of cavity insulation led to inferior fire performance of walls, and provided good explanations and supporting research data to overcome the incorrect industry assumptions about cavity insulation. They demonstrated that the use of insulation externally in a composite panel enhanced the thermal and structural performance of stud walls and increased their fire resistance rating significantly. Hence this research recommends the use of the new composite panel system for cold-formed LSF walls. This research also included steady state tensile tests at ambient and elevated temperatures to address the lack of reliable mechanical properties for high grade cold-formed steels at elevated temperatures. Suitable predictive equations were developed for calculating the yield strength and elastic modulus at elevated temperatures. In summary, this research has developed comprehensive experimental thermal and structural performance data for both the conventional and the proposed non-load bearing and load bearing stud wall systems under fire conditions. Idealized hot flange temperature profiles have been developed for non-insulated, cavity insulated and externally insulated load bearing wall models along with suitable equations for predicting their failure times. A graphical method has also been proposed to predict the failure times (fire rating) of non-load bearing and load bearing walls under different load ratios. The results from this research are useful to both fire researchers and engineers working in this field. Most importantly, this research has significantly improved the knowledge and understanding of cold-formed LSF walls under fire conditions, and developed an innovative LSF wall system with increased fire rating. It has clearly demonstrated the detrimental effects of using cavity insulation, and has paved the way for Australian building industries to develop new wall panels with increased fire rating for commercial applications worldwide.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 46654
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Mahendran, Mahen
Keywords: cold-formed steel, stud wall systems, structural and thermal performance, CEDM
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Built Environment and Engineering
Past > Schools > School of Urban Development
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 26 Oct 2011 05:23
Last Modified: 17 Mar 2015 06:24

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