Graduate research strives to enhance the fire-resilient design of steel structures

In 2019, CSA Group launched its Graduate Scholarship Program to support students enrolled in a Master’s program whose research is related to standards. In this series, we would like to introduce the five students who have been awarded the 2020 scholarship and tell you how their research has the potential to impact standards, as well as their professional growth in the standards world.

Chloe Jeanneret's profile pictureSteel structures are very common in residential and commercial construction. When exposed to fire, the elements within these structures expand and contract, inducing large forces, called thermal loading, upon steel beam and column connections. However, the behavior of these connections under thermal loading is not well understood, impacting the way engineers design structures. When considering their resiliency, i.e., the ability to absorb applied stress and recover to its original shape, the fire engineering community relies on narrow, prescribed rules. Knowing more about what happens to steel connections under extreme temperatures could help shift fire safety design towards performance-based parameters. Such an approach would allow engineers to optimize their structural design and enhance the safety of structures. It would also mean more design options for architects.

Chloe Jeanneret became interested in this topic during her undergraduate studies at Carleton University. Now pursuing her Master’s degree in York University’s Civil Engineering department, she wants to build upon her previous work in the area.

Chloe’s research focuses on the thermo-mechanical principles that control the behavior of steel connections during fire exposures, such as fire dynamics, heat transfer, and movement restraints. With a better understanding of these mechanisms, she wants to develop a computational tool that would assist in designing safe, resilient, and economical steel connections. Her method could also help enhance the standard addressing the design of steel structures, CSA S16:19, specifically its normative annex that provides guidance on fire protection design. The close connection of Chloe’s research to the potential standard improvement made the project well-suited for the support CSA Group offers to students through its Graduate Scholarship Program.

I’m hoping that my research can influence the standard on the design of steel structures, CSA S16:19, and that my project can make a difference when it comes to designing buildings. It feels great, but it’s also a great responsibility to do everything properly.

– Chloe Jeanneret, Master’s Student, York University

Chloe’s research is quite impressive, taking advantage of new, advanced methods. It involves novel hybrid testing that combines large-scale structural models with computational tools. While this method does not require the beam-and-column element to be heated, she also plans to perform fire experiments for comparison. Luckily, York University’s state-of-the-art High Bay Lab can accommodate such testing. Further, Chloe wants to employ advanced digital imaging to observe the behavior of the structural elements. Using this method, she will be able to analyze her experiments and compare them with theoretical models.

Learning more about standards recently, Chloe now understands the improvement process and the need for consensus throughout all its steps. She is excited about the possible impact of her work on the CSA S16:19 standard, and how buildings are designed in the future. Chloe acknowledges the help and support she has been receiving from CSA Group and her industrial partners, Benson Steel Limited and ARUP UK. All have provided valuable perspectives on practical applications of her research, and Benson Steel Limited supplied a test sample based upon a real-life project, the Scalpel building in London, UK, designed by ARUP UK.

It is a remarkable chance for Chloe, at this stage in her career, to influence not only our Canadian standards but also the U.S. ones. It’s quite exciting.

– Dr. John A. Gales, Assistant Professor, York University

And as Dr. John Gales, Assistant Professor at York University and Chloe’s Master thesis supervisor, points out, the results of Chloe’s work can go well beyond advancing the Canadian standard only. Her research has the potential to influence the U.S. and other national standards around the world.

Learn more about CSA Group’s Graduate Scholarship Program.


April 20, 2021