Numerical and experimental studies of cold-formed steel floor systems under standard fire conditions

Baleshan, Balachandren (2012) Numerical and experimental studies of cold-formed steel floor systems under standard fire conditions. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Light gauge cold-formed steel frame (LSF) structures are increasingly used in industrial, commercial and residential buildings because of their non-combustibility, dimensional stability, and ease of installation. A floor-ceiling system is an example of its applications. LSF floor-ceiling systems must be designed to serve as fire compartment boundaries and provide adequate fire resistance. Fire rated floor-ceiling assemblies formed with new materials and construction methodologies have been increasingly used in buildings. However, limited research has been undertaken in the past and hence a thorough understanding of their fire resistance behaviour is not available. Recently a new composite panel in which an external insulation layer is used between two plasterboards has been developed at QUT to provide a higher fire rating to LSF floors under standard fire conditions. But its increased fire rating could not be determined using the currently available design methods. Research on LSF floor systems under fire conditions is relatively recent and the behaviour of floor joists and other components in the systems is not fully understood. The present design methods thus require the use of expensive fire protection materials to protect them from excessive heat increase during a fire. This leads to uneconomical and conservative designs. Fire rating of these floor systems is provided simply by adding more plasterboard sheets to the steel joists and such an approach is totally inefficient. Hence a detailed fire research study was undertaken into the structural and thermal performance of LSF floor systems including those protected by the new composite panel system using full scale fire tests and extensive numerical studies.

Experimental study included both the conventional and the new steel floor-ceiling systems under structural and fire loads 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 behavioural and deflection characteristics of LSF floor joists until failure as well as related time-temperature measurements across the section and along the length of all the specimens. Full scale fire tests have shown that the structural and thermal performance of externally insulated LSF floor system was superior than traditional LSF floors with or without cavity insulation. Therefore this research recommends the use of the new composite panel system for cold-formed LSF floor-ceiling systems.

The numerical analyses of LSF floor joists were undertaken using the finite element program ABAQUS based on the measured time-temperature profiles obtained from fire tests under both steady state and transient state conditions. Mechanical properties at elevated temperatures were considered based on the equations proposed by Dolamune Kankanamge and Mahendran (2011). Finite element models were calibrated using the full scale test results and used to further provide a detailed understanding of the structural fire behaviour of the LSF floor-ceiling systems. The models also confirmed the superior performance of the new composite panel system. The validated model was then used in a detailed parametric study.

Fire tests and the numerical studies showed that plasterboards provided sufficient lateral restraint to LSF floor joists until their failure. Hence only the section moment capacity of LSF floor joists subjected to local buckling effects was considered in this research. To predict the section moment capacity at elevated temperatures, the effective section modulus of joists at ambient temperature is generally considered adequate. However, this research has shown that it leads to considerable over- estimation of the local buckling capacity of joist subject to non-uniform temperature distributions under fire conditions. Therefore new simplified fire design rules were proposed for LSF floor joist to determine the section moment capacity at elevated temperature based on AS/NZS 4600 (SA, 2005), NAS (AISI, 2007) and Eurocode 3 Part 1.3 (ECS, 2006). The accuracy of the proposed fire design rules was verified with finite element analysis results. A spread sheet based design tool was also developed based on these design rules to predict the failure load ratio versus time, moment capacity versus time and temperature for various LSF floor configurations.

Idealised time-temperature profiles of LSF floor joists were developed based on fire test measurements. They were used in the detailed parametric study to fully understand the structural and fire behaviour of LSF floor panels. Simple design rules were also proposed to predict both critical average joist temperatures and failure times (fire rating) of LSF floor systems with various floor configurations and structural parameters under any given load ratio.

Findings from this research have led to a comprehensive understanding of the structural and fire behaviour of LSF floor systems including those protected by the new composite panel, and simple design methods. These design rules were proposed within the guidelines of the Australian/New Zealand, American and European cold- formed steel structures standard codes of practice. These may also lead to further improvements to fire resistance through suitable modifications to the current composite panel system.

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ID Code: 53096
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Mahendran, Mahen, Fawzia, Sabrina, & Seo, Jung Kwan
Additional Information: Thesis embargoed by author for 12 months.
Keywords: floor, joist, gypsum plasterboard, insulation, light gauge steel frame (LSF), cold-formed steel, fire tests, load ratios, structural behaviour, finite element analyses (FEA), bending, temperature, furnace, fire design, fire rating, lipped-channel section, local buckling and section moment capacity
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Built Environment and Engineering
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 13 Aug 2012 05:13
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2015 02:10

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