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Concrete design suffers from Cardington closure

NEWS

DESIGNERS HAVE shunned concrete for steel on cutting edge buildings because closure of the Cardington fire research centre in 2002 denied them vital research data, engineers said this week.

'We need to understand all types of concrete buildings much better if we are to use performance based design methods for fire resistance, ' said leading fi re engineer and Arup associate director Barbara Lane.

Lane told NCE that Arup believed it could not apply modern fire engineering techniques to concrete structures as the data needed to validate the computer models was unavailable.

Data from fire tests on steel and timber framed buildings at Cardington are routinely used in computer models by fire engineers.

They use them to design more economic structures than can be achieved by the prescriptive approach to fire safety.

But key tests on concrete structures were scrapped when Cardington closed. Engineers and academics are now campaigning for the facility to reopen (News last week).

They say they need to run more tests because of new demands from clients following the World Trade Center collapses of 2001.

British Cement Association technical director Pal Chana confi rmed that plans for a series of concrete test buildings in the 1990s had had to be abandoned.

Research on these would have built on results from tests on an original seven storey concrete structure which underwent a complex research programme These could have yielded commercially valuable data.

'The fire building was designed primarily for research into new technologies, including high strength concretes and thin fl at slab construction, ' said Chana.

'Every floor was different, so it wasn't at all typical of normal concrete buildings of the time.

'We hoped to build more representative structures, including a precast frame, but the closure of Cardington put a stop to our plans.'

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