A Lakehead University Civil Engineering professor and graduate student have published the results of a new study on the fire performance of an innovative mass timber beam-to-column connection that they designed to achieve one hour of resistance from fire without any additional protection.

Dr. Sam Salem, associate professor and chair of the Department of Civil Engineering, and graduate student Cory Hubbard developed and tested the timber beam-column connection, which they described in a research article in fire safety journal, Elsevier, a leading journal in fire safety engineering.

“Currently, an exciting trend in building design is the growing use of mass timber in high-rise buildings,” Dr. Salem said.

“With advanced research on the structural fire performance of innovative building systems, mass timber tall buildings can reach heights comparable to those made of other materials such as concrete and steel.”

The new connection configuration utilizes two fully concealed, mechanically fastened steel rods in glulam beam sections. The fire experiments presented in the published article were conducted in the Fire Testing and Research Laboratory at Lakehead University.

“Fire is a serious hazard for all buildings regardless of the construction material in use,” Dr. Salem said.

“Advantageously, and unlike light-frame wood construction, mass timber like the glulam sections utilized in the innovative beam-to-column connection in this research char on the outside when exposed to fire while retaining strength and slowing combustion.”

The new timber beam-to-column connection configuration has received a patent certificate from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada – Canadian Intellectual Property Office (Patent No. 3045195) and patent-pending status in the USA.

“I followed the model ‘keep it simple’ when designing this connection,” Hubbard said.

“It is strong and simple to create, has repeatable results, and looks good too. It will please both the architect and the engineer for its concealed design and performance in fire with no addition of extra ugly fire protection.”

Dr. Salem mainly funded this research through a Discovery grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

“The world-class Fire Testing and Research Laboratory allows for top-notch research on innovative mass timber building systems with enhanced fire resistance,” said Dr. Andrew P. Dean, Lakehead’s vice president, Research and Innovation.

Featured image: Featured image: Mass timber beam-to-column connection before it was tested in fire. (Lakehead University)

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