Progressive collapse of reinforced concrete flat slab structures

Russell, Justin (2015) Progressive collapse of reinforced concrete flat slab structures. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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In 1968 a relatively small gas exposition on the 18th floor of the Ronan Point tower building resulted in the partial collapse of the structure. This event highlighted that progress collapse may occur to structures under an accidental loading event. Other events, including the bombing of the Murrah federal building in 1993 in Oklahoma, have resulted in the common design requirement that a structure be capable of surviving the removal of a load bearing element. This approach, often referred to as the sudden column loss scenario, effectively ignores the cause of the damage and focuses on the structure’s response afterwards. The refinement of the analysis varies, with options to include the nonlinear and dynamic behaviours associated with extreme events, or to use simplified linear and static models with factors included to account for the full behaviour.

Previous research into progressive collapse has highlighted that providing ductility in the connections, and avoiding brittle failures, is important in ensuring the structure maintains integrity after a column loss event. However, the majority of this work has been focused on the behaviour of steel and Reinforced Concrete (RC) frame structures. As flat slab construction is a popular method for many structures, due to the flexibility it offers for layouts and its low storey heights, it is an important to consider flat slab behaviour in more detail. Furthermore, slab elements behave differently to frame structures due to the Alternative Load Paths (ALPs) that can develop after a column loss via two-dimensional bending mechanisms. Additionally, punching shear failure is a known issue due to the thin section depths.

This work addresses the issue of the response of RC flat slab structures after a sudden column loss. As previous case studies have demonstrated that brittle failures may lead to progressive collapse of such structures, a complete understanding of the response is required. The nonlinear behaviour of a slab structure, due to both material and geometric factors, is investigated to determine the additional capacity available beyond the usual design limits. Additionally, the dynamic factors involved, primarily due to inertial effects, are also considered. To achieve this, experimental and numerical studies were conducted. A series of 1/3 scale models of slab substructures were constructed to replicate column loss events. Two types of tests were conducted, a static push down test with a support removed and a sudden dynamic column removal case. Displacements, strains and support reactions were recorded throughout, along with cracking patterns. For the dynamic tests a high speed camera was used to obtain the deflection response in the short time period after removal and to observe the formation of cracks. Comparisons between the two cases allowed determination of the dynamic effects on the response of the system. The experimental programme was then replicated using a Finite Element (FE) model. The results taken from the experimental case were used to validate the material and modelling assumptions made during the numerical simulations. This validated model was finally used to investigate a wider range of variables and assess the response of typical structural arrangements, with particular focus on the nonlinear and dynamic factors involved after a sudden column loss.

The experimental and numeral investigations demonstrated that after the loss of a column, flat slab structures can maintain integrity due to a change in the load paths away from the removal location. Although in some cases a large amount of flexural damage to the concrete and reinforcement occurred, such effects did not lead to complete failure. However, during the experimental programme some punching shear failures occurred, usually at the corner column locations. From the numerical analysis, shear forces of over twice the fully supported condition occurred as a result of removing a column, which may exceed the designed capacity. Comparisons between a static and dynamic analysis provides information into a suitable Dynamic Amplification Factor (DAF) for use with simplified modelling approaches. Based on the range of structures considered, the maximum increase in deflections as a result of a sudden removal was 1.62 times the static case, this is less than the commonly used factor of 2.0. Additionally, this factor reduces as the nonlinearity increases due to further damage, with a smallest DAF calculated at 1.39. This factor can be reduced further if the column is not removed instantaneously. Finally, the material strengthening effect, due to high strain rates, was considered with the conclusion that as such effects only make a limited increase in the capacity of the slab and may be conservatively ignored.

In conclusion, RC flat slab structures are capable of resisting progressive collapse after the loss of a column. This is primarily due to their ability to develop ALPs. However, while flexural damage is usually fairly minimal, progressive punching shear failure is a critical design condition as it may result in a complete collapse. Furthermore, the inertial effects involved after a sudden removal can increase the damage sustained, although current design methods may be over conservative.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Owen, J.S.
Keywords: Concrete slabs, building failures, reinforced concrete construction
Subjects: T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)
T Technology > TH Building construction
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Engineering
Item ID: 28991
Depositing User: Russell, Justin
Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2015 14:51
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2016 11:34

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