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Steel groups say 'cut down on expensive fire protection'

Research out this week suggests that building owners will be able to save time and money by cutting down on unnecessary fire protection.

The Corus Construction Centre, with the Building Research Establishment and Steel Construction Institute (SCI), have called into question the level of fire protection currently recommended by developing a method of calculating the fire-resistance requirements of steel beams in multi-storey composite metal-deck buildings.

Empirical evidence of fire-damaged buildings which did not collapse led researchers to query the hitherto assumed level of fire protection required to maintain safety and structural stability. The observations have shown that fire-design methods are overly cautionary.

The results of full-scale trials will be presented at a seminar, 'A New Approach to the Design of Steel Buildings in Fire', at the Building Design Centre on 21 September.

The research, carried out since 1994, has been quantified in a new guidance publication entitled Fire-Safe Design. These calculations will enable considerable cost and time efficiencies by omitting fire protection altogether in secondary steel support beams holding reinforced concrete floors in steel trays in certain conditions.

Mark Lawson of the SCI said that the guidance aims to 'utilise the inherent level of stability within the composite structure'.

The research shows that as steelwork loses its structural integrity in fire, the concrete floor deforms as the support is lost. However, provided the edge beams remain in-situ, the flexibility of the reinforced slab is sufficient to be self-supporting under dead and live loads. The steelwork columns and perimeter beams must be fire-protected to ensure primary stability of the overall structure.

Conference details: 01724 405383

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