Fiery research

The Ulster University’s FireSert facility has been awarded over £500,000 to conduct research that could benefit the construction industry.


Ulster University’s FireSert facility has been awarded over £500,000 to conduct research that could benefit the construction industry.


Prof Ali Nadjai, from the university’s Faculty of Engineering and Prof Ian Burgess, Sheffield University , have secured £683,000 from the EPSRC to investigate the behaviour of cellular steel beams during fire.


Additional support of £56,000 from Westock Ltd and Safe Ltd was also provided to support the project.


The researchers will use computer modelling techniques as well as conduct tests in which buildings will be set alight under controlled conditions at the university’s Firesert facility.


‘This research will allow us to greatly enhance our level of understanding of how composite flooring with cellular steel beams reacts in fire scenarios,’ explained Prof Nadjai.


‘It will be of huge benefit to the construction industry. Designers, fabricators and contractors are in need of an approved design method for the fire-resistant design of cellular steel floor beams, especially for high-rise commercial market,’ he said.


‘Despite the current popularity of long-span flooring systems, the current structural fire engineering design codes do not contain rules or guidance on the fire resistance of composite floors employing cellular steel beams,’ he added.


The purpose of the project is to investigate the performance and failure mechanisms of full-scale composite cellular floor beams at elevated temperatures. Emphasis will also be placed on examining the influence of the additional compression forces caused by axial restraint to thermal expansion when a beam is heated in a fire. 


‘The availability of sound design guidance on composite floors using cellular steel beams exposed to fire would make it possible to calculate fire protection requirements on a rational and trustworthy basis which does not exist at present, and could lead to worldwide export opportunities for UK fabricators,’ concluded Prof Nadjai.