Research Articles | Challenge Journal of Structural Mechanics

Re-examination of steel frame office buildings in preventing collapse when subject to intense fires

Robert Mathews Korol, Ken S. Sivakumaran, Paul Heerema



The purpose of the paper is to investigate the extent to which present-day design of steel framed buildings is susceptible to total collapse when subjected to extreme fire events. We select a 50 storey structure in which 2 and 4 adjacent storeys located at different above-ground heights are, in separate scenarios engulfed in raging fires. A total of 8 scenarios are analyzed, employing Newtonian mechanics and realistic energy dissipating properties of H-shaped columns and normal concrete floor slabs possessing secondary (shrinkage and temperature) reinforcement alone. While the present Canadian building code is the basis for our column designs, other standards provide very similar specifications. Although fire proofing is required in virtually all high rise building construction, we are excluding such materials in order to simplify the analyses, but clearly do not advocate its omission – quite the opposite in fact. As well, attributes such as floor beams, partitions and furnishings of every description, all of which would in practice participate in absorbing the kinetic energy of a crush-down upper block are excluded. Despite such a vast array of conservative assumptions, it is shown that partial collapse may occur during crush-down, however, in no case will total collapse be the consequence. These results should provide some comfort to code writers that their requirements should indeed prevent the most catastrophic of failures due to fires.


hi-rise steel frame buildings; fire events; energy dissipation elements; H-shaped columns; secondary reinforced concrete floors; Newtonian mechanic principles; collapse states

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