Lakehead University researchers patent fire-tested formula for wood-framed buildings

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

Two Lakehead University researchers in Thunder Bay have been awarded a Canadian patent for an innovative timber beam-column connection that offers greater fire protection between building components

Dr. Sam Salem, associate professor and chair of the dept. 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 wrote. “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 described in the published article were conducted in the fire testing and research laboratory at Lakehead.

“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.”

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