Control of disproportionate collapse in buildings

The sponsor of this project is the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)

Supervisor: Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Carsten Könke
Ph.D. student: Ing. Tareq Hatahet, M.Sc.


In order to improve the level of structural safety, means of structural analysis, design and mitigation will be addressed and developed at close link with the international structural design guidelines and standards.The major foreseen contribution will be toward simplifying modelling requirements making the disproportionate collapse resistant design affordable at the level of structural design office.

More information

The disproportionate collapse can happen when structural load bearing element(s) fails due to abnormal event causing the remaining parts of the building to fail subsequently leading to complete collapse of the building. Good example of this phenomenon is the Ronan Point apartment tower (UK) failed due to natural gas accidental explosion in one of the kitchens at the corner of the building in West Ham, London in May 1968. Another example is the collapse of the 28 levels building of Windsor Tower in Madrid (Spain) in Feb. 2005 as a result of fire in the 21st story damaged the load bearing capacity of the central core of the building ended in the full collapse. Many other examples of progressive collapse happened due to accumulative time dependent actions such as the collapse of the historical bell tower of the medieval church of St Maria Magdalena in Goch, Germany (Wikipedia, 2011). So, there are a need for deployment of the state-of-the-art knowledge and computing power in the know-how development of smart building designs which is versatile enough to accommodate abnormal accidental damage without potential losses of human and properties.
The added-value of the proposed research is to improve the response of buildings to unforeseen incidents increasing the level of safety without significant increase in the construction cost when compared to the future gained value of the improved level of safety. This topic have proved fruitful especially in comparison with the current seismic design practice of buildings where the required outcomes are achieved without significant increase in design factors of safety (Liel el al, 2001) and (Khandelwala, 2011), where safe design require special caution in joints, members details and checks of structural integrity which lead to successful performance outcomes. Similar precautions can also improve the resistance for progressive collapse but with attention to certain design scenarios and indicators which are the interest of this proposed research.
Initiating events that can cause the progressive (disproportionate) collapse are various, for example; accumulated aging effects, car impact, gas explosion, the potential of terrorist attack, conflict and military actions, in addition to the unseen accumulative actions such as ground settlement, creep and shrinkage of old constructions.