Novel computational methods can help improve structural design

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.

Zaineb Khalid profile imageZaineb Khalid Al Maadhidi, a Master’s Student at Concordia University, is interested in structural behaviour and design. She believes that one way to improve the field is through the application of novel computational methods. And her thesis supervisor, Dr. Emre Erkmen, Assistant Professor at the Department of Building, Civil, and Environmental Engineering, agrees. Unlike in other industries, he noted, computational approaches are not adopted in construction in their full power, mostly because of the technical complexities involved and the industry’s immediate economic priorities. Zaineb hopes that her work can contribute to a paradigm shift, showing that advanced computational methods can be safely adopted in real-life projects and introduced into relevant standards.

More specifically, Zaineb is developing a computational tool that will help with retrofitting of concrete columns. During their lifetime, concrete columns may deteriorate and get damaged due to usage, exposure to elements, and extreme loading events. That can affect the integrity of the whole structure. To prevent these failures, engineers often retrofit the columns using steel and concrete jacketing or, more recently, Fibre Reinforced Polymer (FRP) composites.

Standards such as CSA S806-121 guide the design of concrete columns reinforced with FRP composites. However, CSA S806-12 considers only fully wrapped columns. That’s where Zaineb found the CSA Group Graduate Scholarship a perfect fit for her research. Recent studies show that the partial wrapping technique is “an economical alternative to FRP full wrapping”. The computational 3D modelling tool Zaineb is developing will capture the behaviour of partially wrapped columns, illustrate 3D stress distribution in the columns, and help predict the columns’ behavior before and after retrofitting.

I believe that including the Canadian standards in my work will strengthen my research and give me more opportunities to reach my academic goals.

– Zaineb Khalid Al Maadhidi, Master’s Student, Concordia University

The outcomes of Zaineb’s research also show that the maximum concrete strain increases with the number of FRP layers applied to the column. Instead of using the peak concrete strain as CSA S806-12 does, her numerical model will consider the effect of confinement on the peak strain value. That would make her model more flexible and result in a more accurate design.

Both Zaineb and Dr. Erkmen look forward to discussing their computational model with other experts from the CSA Group community. The researchers want to understand industry perspectives on the possible adoption of computational tools. Zaineb and Dr. Erkmen realize that when modelling a very sophisticated behavior such as failure of concrete columns, caution is required. But they trust that with proper validation and guidance, their model will prove useful.

Dr. Erkmen values Zaineb’s opportunity to present her work to industry stakeholders for another reason. It will allow her to network and exchange ideas, something that is important for every engineer at any stage of their professional career.

I would advise any of my students to apply for the CSA Graduate Scholarship because there are networking opportunities; there are insights that students can gain about the process of standards development. So it’s not only coming up with results and publishing them. There is a lot of committee work involved in order to progress these standards further. Even I have learned a lot about these processes thanks to CSA Graduate Scholarship.

– Dr. Emre Erkmen, Concordia University

Zaineb’s research focus on advancing standards gives her yet another professional advantage; understanding and having a practical experience with standards are skills often sought by industry. And she can claim to have these skills at the very beginning of her engineering path.

Learn more about CSA Group’s Graduate Scholarship Program.


1Refers to CSA S806-12 (R2017), Design and construction of building structures with fibre-reinforced polymers


April 5, 2021