Scientists develop innovative building design to prevent catastrophic collapses

Credit: Nature (2024).

Researchers at the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV) have developed a groundbreaking method to design buildings that avoid catastrophic collapses.

Traditional building designs focus on enhancing the connectivity between structural components. While this approach allows loads to be redistributed if a part fails, it can also lead to progressive collapses in the event of major failures.

This issue was tragically illustrated by the collapses of the Champlain Towers, a building in Peñíscola in 2021, and a building in the Iranian city of Abadan in 2022.

The new method, developed by the ICITECH-UPV team and published in the journal Nature, offers a solution to this problem.

“Our novel design method provides a solution to overcome this alarming limitation and achieve more resilient buildings, able to isolate a collapse only to the part of the structure that has suffered the initial failure and safeguarding the rest of the building,” says Jose M. Adam, co-author of the study alongside Nirvan Makoond, Andri Setiawan, and Manuel Buitrago.

The innovative design method has been validated with a full-scale test on a real building. It is the first solution against collapse propagation in buildings after large initial failures that has been tested and verified at this scale.

Implementing this new design method will prevent catastrophic collapses, thus protecting human lives and minimizing economic losses.

The key principle of this method is the use of structural fuses, which isolate damaged parts of a building to prevent the spread of failures throughout the entire structure.

“This new philosophy is similar to protecting an electrical system against overloads by connecting different grid components through electrical fuses.

With our designs, the building has structural continuity under normal operating conditions but is segmented when the failure propagation is inevitable, thus reducing the extent of damages and preventing total collapse,” explains Makoond.

The implementation of this method will have a minor or negligible impact on the cost of construction, as it uses conventional building materials and techniques.

“The application of the method will only have a minor or even negligible impact on the cost of the structure, as it uses conventional construction details and materials,” says Setiawan.

Currently, the new design approach can be applied to any new building. “Its effectiveness has been verified and demonstrated for a full-scale building specimen made of prefabricated concrete.

We are currently working on extending the methodology to buildings constructed with in-situ concrete and steel,” adds Buitrago.

The development of this new design method is one of the most significant results of the Endure project, a research initiative aimed at creating highly resilient buildings capable of withstanding extreme situations like natural disasters, explosions, aging, and poor maintenance.

A world-first test was conducted in June 2023 as part of this project, where a large initial failure in a full-scale building was isolated to one part of the structure, preventing the failure from spreading.

This research highlights the importance of innovative design in enhancing the resilience of buildings. By incorporating structural fuses, buildings can be designed to isolate damage and prevent catastrophic collapses, thereby ensuring greater safety for occupants and reducing economic losses.

The work carried out by the ICITECH-UPV team represents a significant advancement in building design and offers a promising approach to creating safer and more resilient structures for the future.

Source: KSR.