Structural behaviour and design of cold-formed steel wall systems under fire conditions

Gunalan, Shanmuganathan (2011) Structural behaviour and design of cold-formed steel wall systems under fire conditions. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

In recent times, light gauge steel framed (LSF) structures, such as cold-formed steel wall systems, are increasingly used, but without a full understanding of their fire performance. Traditionally the fire resistance rating of these load-bearing LSF wall systems is based on approximate prescriptive methods developed based on limited fire tests. Very often they are limited to standard wall configurations used by the industry. Increased fire rating is provided simply by adding more plasterboards to these walls. This is not an acceptable situation as it not only inhibits innovation and structural and cost efficiencies but also casts doubt over the fire safety of these wall systems. Hence a detailed fire research study into the performance of LSF wall systems was undertaken using full scale fire tests and extensive numerical studies. A new composite wall panel developed at QUT was also considered in this study, where the insulation was used externally between the plasterboards on both sides of the steel wall frame instead of locating it in the cavity. Three full scale fire tests of LSF wall systems built using the new composite panel system were undertaken at a higher load ratio using a gas furnace designed to deliver heat in accordance with the standard time temperature curve in AS 1530.4 (SA, 2005). Fire tests included the measurements of load-deformation characteristics of LSF walls until failure as well as associated time-temperature measurements across the thickness and along the length of all the specimens. Tests of LSF walls under axial compression load have shown the improvement to their fire performance and fire resistance rating when the new composite panel was used. Hence this research recommends the use of the new composite panel system for cold-formed LSF walls. The numerical study was undertaken using a finite element program ABAQUS. The finite element analyses were conducted under both steady state and transient state conditions using the measured hot and cold flange temperature distributions from the fire tests. The elevated temperature reduction factors for mechanical properties were based on the equations proposed by Dolamune Kankanamge and Mahendran (2011). These finite element models were first validated by comparing their results with experimental test results from this study and Kolarkar (2010). The developed finite element models were able to predict the failure times within 5 minutes. The validated model was then used in a detailed numerical study into the strength of cold-formed thin-walled steel channels used in both the conventional and the new composite panel systems to increase the understanding of their behaviour under nonuniform elevated temperature conditions and to develop fire design rules. The measured time-temperature distributions obtained from the fire tests were used. Since the fire tests showed that the plasterboards provided sufficient lateral restraint until the failure of LSF wall panels, this assumption was also used in the analyses and was further validated by comparison with experimental results. Hence in this study of LSF wall studs, only the flexural buckling about the major axis and local buckling were considered. A new fire design method was proposed using AS/NZS 4600 (SA, 2005), NAS (AISI, 2007) and Eurocode 3 Part 1.3 (ECS, 2006). The importance of considering thermal bowing, magnified thermal bowing and neutral axis shift in the fire design was also investigated. A spread sheet based design tool was developed based on the above design codes to predict the failure load ratio versus time and temperature for varying LSF wall configurations including insulations. Idealised time-temperature profiles were developed based on the measured temperature values of the studs. This was used in a detailed numerical study to fully understand the structural behaviour of LSF wall panels. Appropriate equations were proposed to find the critical temperatures for different composite panels, varying in steel thickness, steel grade and screw spacing for any load ratio. Hence useful and simple design rules were proposed based on the current cold-formed steel structures and fire design standards, and their accuracy and advantages were discussed. The results were also used to validate the fire design rules developed based on AS/NZS 4600 (SA, 2005) and Eurocode Part 1.3 (ECS, 2006). This demonstrated the significant improvements to the design method when compared to the currently used prescriptive design methods for LSF wall systems under fire conditions. In summary, this research has developed comprehensive experimental and numerical thermal and structural performance data for both the conventional and the proposed new load bearing LSF wall systems under standard fire conditions. Finite element models were developed to predict the failure times of LSF walls accurately. Idealized hot flange temperature profiles were developed for non-insulated, cavity and externally insulated load bearing wall systems. Suitable fire design rules and spread sheet based design tools were developed based on the existing standards to predict the ultimate failure load, failure times and failure temperatures of LSF wall studs. Simplified equations were proposed to find the critical temperatures for varying wall panel configurations and load ratios. The results from this research are useful to both structural and fire engineers and researchers. Most importantly, this research has significantly improved the knowledge and understanding of cold-formed LSF loadbearing walls under standard fire conditions.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 49799
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Mahendran, Mahen, Fawzia, Sabrina, & Seo, Jung Kwan
Keywords: wall, stud, gypsum plasterboard, insulation, light gauge steel frame (LSF), coldformed steel, fire tests, load ratios, load-bearing, structural behaviour, finite element analyses (FEA), compression, beam-column, temperature, furnace, fire design, lipped-channel section, local buckling and flexural buckling
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Built Environment and Engineering
Past > Schools > School of Urban Development
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 19 Apr 2012 06:00
Last Modified: 12 Mar 2014 05:44

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