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Materials and Structures (2013) 46:20592075

DOI 10.1617/s11527-013-0036-2


Simplified approach for evaluating residual strength

of fire-exposed reinforced concrete columns
V. K. R. Kodur N. K. Raut X. Y. Mao

W. Khaliq

Received: 20 October 2012 / Accepted: 21 February 2013 / Published online: 28 February 2013
 RILEM 2013

Abstract An approach for evaluating residual strength approach is capable of predicting the residual strength
of reinforced concrete (RC) columns is presented in of fire-exposed RC columns.
this paper. The approach is based on the maximum
temperature attained in the concrete core and rebars, Keywords Fire resistance  Fire exposed columns 
and associated reduction in strength of steel and Reinforced concrete column  HSC column 
concrete. For validating the proposed approach, post- Residual strength  Analytical procedure
fire residual strength tests were carried out on five high
strength concrete columns. The test variables included List of symbols
type of concrete, presence of fibers (polypropylene Acore Area of core region
and/or steel) in concrete and load ratio. The columns As Area of steel rebars
were loaded and exposed to a design fire, allowed to d Width (or depth) of the column
cool, and then residual strength tests were carried out. ds Diameter of steel rebar
Results from these fire tests indicate that high strength e Initial bending displacement of steel bar
concrete columns retain most of their room-tempera- fct Residual strength of concrete
ture load carrying capacity after exposure to a design fst,d Design yield strength
fire. A comparison of residual strength predictions with fst,k Nominal yield strength
measured values from tests indicates that the proposed fyt Residual strength of steel rebar
L Column length
Nr Residual strength of fire exposed RC column
V. K. R. Kodur (&)  N. K. Raut  X. Y. Mao  kst Reduction coefficient due to buckling
W. Khaliq
ksh Factor used to represent increased strength due
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering,
Michigan State University, 3546 Engineering Building, to strain hardening
East Lansing, MI 48824, USA s Spacing of stirrups
e-mail: Tbar Temperature in rebars
Tc Temperature in concrete
N. K. Raut
Offshore Structural Analysis (SACS), Bentley System Inc, Tf Fire temperature
3850 N. Causeway Blvd, Suite 1555, Metairie, LA 70002, th Time (h)
USA x Depth of rebar from the surface (m) in x direction
x0 Depth of core region (m)
X. Y. Mao
Department of Civil Engineering, Suzhou University of y Depth of rebar from the surface (m) in
Science and Technology, Suzhou 215011, China y direction
2060 Materials and Structures (2013) 46:20592075

ey Strains related to yield strength Results from a number of studies have shown that
ed Strains related to design strength there are well-defined differences between the prop-
eu Strains related to ultimate strength erties of HSC and NSC at high temperatures [22, 23,
30]. Further, concern has developed regarding the
occurrence of explosive spalling when HSC is sub-
jected to rapid heating, as in the case of a fire. Spalling
1 Introduction is the phenomenon in which pieces of concrete break
off from the surface of a concrete structure when it is
When exposed to fire, reinforced concrete (RC) exposed to high and rapidly rising temperatures. The
columns lose their strength and stiffness as a result effect of such spalling must be properly accounted for
of increased temperature in the concrete and rein- in estimating the residual strength of RC columns [24].
forcement. The extent of strength loss is dependent on At present, there are no data or simplified method-
a number of factors, including type of fire exposure, ologies for evaluating the residual strength of fire-
column size, temperatures in the concrete and steel, exposed concrete columns. In the literature a few fire
concrete and steel properties (including strength) and tests have been reported on the residual strength of
load level. Due to high thermal capacity and low NSC columns, but there are no test data or method-
thermal conductivity of concrete, RC columns may ologies on residual column strength for columns made
retain much of their initial strength under most of newer types of concrete. To overcome these
realistic fires. Determination of their residual strength research gaps, both experiments and analytical studies
after fire exposure is crucial in post-fire damage were undertaken to develop an approach for estimat-
assessment and repair. However, such evaluation of ing the residual strength of RC columns.
residual strength may not be an easy task due to a
number of factors.
Exposure of a RC column to a severe fire generally 2 Factors governing residual strength of RC
leaves evidence of significant structural damage such columns
as spalling, exposed reinforcement and relatively large
permanent deformations. However, exposure to a The residual strength of a fire-exposed RC column
moderate fire may result in only minor spalling and depends on the internal temperatures experienced by
deformations in the columns. In such cases, loss of the column, the load level during the fire event, the
strength in RC columns may not be significant. cooling rate and type of cooling method, and the
However, rapid evaluation of the residual strength of strength recovery time following the cooling phase of
columns is crucial for assessing the functionality fire. The cooling method (air-cooled or water-
(ensuring load bearing capacity) of the structure. quenched) does not influence the post-fire compressive
Generally, concrete structural members [mostly strength of the concrete as significantly as it does the
fabricated from normal strength concrete (NSC)] failure strain and the elastic modulus [27]. Heated
exhibit good performance under fire situations. Over concrete that is cooled by quenching typically attains a
the last three decades, there has been significant higher compressive strain at failure than it would if it
research and development in improving the properties were cooled gradually under ambient conditions.
of concrete. This has led to new types of concrete There is no significant change to the post-fire failure
which are often referred to as high strength concrete strain of concrete from its original room-temperature
(HSC), high performance concrete (HPC), self-con- value for concrete temperatures up to about 220 C [6].
solidating concrete (SCC) and fly ash concrete (FAC). After cooling to room temperature, the residual
The construction industry has shown significant inter- compressive strength of structural concrete that has
est in the use of these new types of concrete due to the experienced temperatures of 220 C decreases by up to
improvements in structural performance, such as high 20 % of its original room temperature strength [3, 8].
strength and durability, that they provide compared to However, with at least 6 months of recovery time at
conventional normal-strength concrete (NSC). This room temperature, this concrete can regain 100 % of its
property of high compressive strength has led to wider original (room temperature) compressive strength [3].
use of HSC in columns of high rise buildings. Generally, concrete and steel strength, both have a
Materials and Structures (2013) 46:20592075 2061

significant influence on the load carrying capacity of 3.1 Test specimens

RC columns. Thus, the residual strength of concrete
and rebars is crucial in estimating the residual load For the fire resistance tests, five RC columns desig-
carrying capacity of a RC column after fire exposure. nated HSC2 (plain HSC), HSCP1 (HSC with poly-
propylene fibers), FAC-P (FAC with polypropylene
fibers), HSC-S (HSC with steel fibers) and HSC-H
3 Fire resistance experiments (HSC with hybrid fibers, containing both steel and
polypropylene fibers), were designed as per ACI 318
To evaluate the residual strength of fire exposed RC specifications [1]. All columns were 3,350 mm long
columns an experimental program was designed. The and had a 203 9 203 mm cross-section. The columns
two-stage test program comprised exposing the RC were fabricated with HSC and had 4 /19 mm (#6)
columns to typical design (non-standard) fire first and, longitudinal rebars and /10 mm (#3) lateral ties,
after cooling, undertaking residual strength tests. spaced at 200 mm, as transverse reinforcement. The
Detailed information on the first stage of the test ties were anchored in the core to a length of 75 mm (as
program (fire resistance tests) is provided elsewhere per ACI 318 provisions [1]). The steel of main
[29] and the focus of this paper is on the second stage reinforcing bars and lateral ties had specified yield
(residual strength tests) of the test program. All tested strengths of 420 MPa. Based on the tensile strength
columns were made of HSC, since limited residual tests the yield strength, ultimate strength, and ultimate
strength data are available in the literature for NSC strain of steel rebars were found to be about 450, 705
columns. and 0.17 MPa, respectively. Figure 1 shows the

Fig. 1 Sectional
dimensions and locations of Plate 406 x 406 x 25 mm 75 mm
thermocouple and strain
gauges in RC columns TC 1
10 mm Lateral Ties(135 ) @ 200 mm c/c

50mm TC 7
100 x 100 x 12 mm angle

TC 4
TC 6

TC 3 TC 2
TC 5
203 mm
Section B-B
3350 mm

SG 1


203 mm

SG 3 SG 2

4-19 mm rebars
Section A-A
Plate 406 x 406 x 25 mm
2062 Materials and Structures (2013) 46:20592075

elevation and cross-sectional details of the RC

columns, while Table 1 gives additional information

No spalling
No spalling
No spalling
Extent of
on columns.


Five batches of concrete were used for fabricating
columns. Column HSC2 was fabricated from HSC
mix (Batch 2), while for column HSCP1 the batch mix
strength (kN)

consisted of HSC with polypropylene (HSCP) fibers


214 (Batch 3). FAC-P mix (Batch 4) comprised of 25 % fly

ash as replacement to cement and also included
polypropylene fibers. HSC-S and HSC-H mixes
load (kN)

(Batches 5 and 6) consisted of batch mix identical to


HSC (Batch 2), but included steel and hybrid

(steel ? polypropylene) fibers respectively. All
Load ratio (%)

batches of concrete were made with general purpose,

Type I Portland cement and carbonate aggregate. The
mix proportions, per cubic meter of concrete, are
presented in Table 2. The average compressive cylin-

der strength of concrete, measured at 28 days and on

Column strength (kN)

the day of the testing, is provided in Table 1. 28-day

strength ranged from 71 to 98 MPa.

3.2 Instrumentation

The Instrumentation in the columns included thermo-

Test day

couples, strain gauges and displacement transducers.

Concrete strength
Table 1 Summary of test parameters and results of post-fire residual strength tests

Type-K Chromelalumel thermocouples, 0.91 mm




thick, were installed at the mid-height cross section

in each column for measuring concrete and rebar
28 days

temperatures. Each column was instrumented with 7


thermocouples. Also strain gauges (both high temper-

duration (min)

ature and normal temperature types) were mounted on

the rebars at mid-height of columns. The location and
Total test

numbering of thermocouples and strain gauges in the


cross-section are shown in Fig. 1. The axial deforma-

tion of each column was measured at the top of the
DF3 decay @4.16 C/min
DF3 decay @4.16 C/min
DF3 decay @4.16 C/min
DF2 decay @11 C/min

column using displacement transducers (LVDTs).

DF1 decay @8 C/min

3.3 Test apparatus

Fire exposure

The fire resistance tests on RC columns were carried

out using the structural fire testing furnace at Michigan
State University. The test furnace has been specially
Column designation

designed to produce conditions, such as temperature,

load and heat transfer, to which a structural member
might be exposed to during a fire [18]. The furnace,
shown in Fig. 2, has the capacity to supply both heat


and applied loads that are present in a typical building

exposed to fire.
Materials and Structures (2013) 46:20592075 2063

Table 2 Concrete mix proportions for fabricating different test columns

Constituent Batch 2 Batch 3 Batch 4 Batch 5 Batch 6

Columns fabricated HSC2 HSCP1 FAC-P HSC-S HSC-H

Concrete type HSC HSCP FAC HSC HSC
Cement (kg/m3) 513 513 420 513 513
Coarse aggregate (kg/m3) 1,078 1,078 1,040 1,078 1,078
Fine aggregate (kg/m3) 684 684 708 684 684
Fly ash (25 % replacement of cement) (kg/m3) 140
Water (kg/m3) 130 130 105 130 130
Water reducing agent (kg/m3) 15 15 15 15
Silica fume (kg/m ) 43 43 42 43 43
Polypropylene fibers (kg/m3) 2 2 2
Steel fibers (kg/m3) 42 42
Water binder ratio 0.23 0.23 0.19 0.23 0.23
Concrete strength 28 day (MPa) 91 0.3 85 0.5 81 0.3 67 0.5 62 0.4
Slump (mm) 100 90 175 100 100
Density (kg/m ) 2,490 2,464 2,390 2,350 2,320

the columns were tested under three fire exposures.

These design fires represent typical parametric fires
specified in Eurocode 1 [10] wherein the resulting fire
consists of a growth phase followed by decay phase.
Both phases of the fire are influenced by the compart-
ment characteristics including fuel load (amount of
combustible materials), ventilation openings, and wall
lining materials [13].
The design fire 1 (DF1), selected for fire test on
column HSC2, corresponds to Eurocode 1 parametric
fire for a room with dimensions of 6 m 9 4 m 9 3 m
having a fuel load of 250 MJ/m2 and a ventilation
factor of 0.04. Similarly, design fire 2 (DF2) selected
for column HSCP1, HSC-S, and HSC-H, corresponds
to a Eurocode 1 parametric fire for the same size room
Fig. 2 Structural fire test furnace at MSUs civil and infra- but with a fuel load of 600 MJ/m2. Further in the long
structure laboratory
fire it is assumed that the ventilation factor increases to
3.4 Test conditions and procedure 0.2 after attaining peak temperature due to breakage of
windows (glass). The values of fuel load and opening
Prior to residual strength tests, the five columns were dimensions are given in Table 3. FAC-P column was
exposed to fire in the structural fire test furnace shown tested under design fire 3 (DF3), which has the same
in Fig. 2. The fire resistance tests were carried out by heating phase as DF2, but a slower cooling phase since
placing RC columns in the furnace, loading them to no breakage of glass is assumed so that the ventilation
the desired load ratio, and subjecting them to a factor remains same both for heating and cooling
specified fire exposure. The columns were 3.35 m phase.
high, with the middle 1.7 m of the column height The time temperature curves for the three fire
exposed to fire. scenarios (DF1, DF2, and DF3) are shown in Fig. 3. It
To investigate the residual strength of RC columns can be seen that design fires DF1, DF2, and DF3
under typical fire scenarios encountered in buildings, follow similar timetemperature profile as that of
2064 Materials and Structures (2013) 46:20592075

Table 3 Compartment and

Design Lining Thermal capacity Opening Fire load
material characteristics
fire material of lining material dimension (MJ/m2
assumed for developing
(W s0.5/m2 K) (m) floor area)
design fire scenarios
DF1 Concrete 1,900 2.25 9 1.5 250
DF2 Concrete 1,900 2.25 9 1.5 600
DF3 Concrete 1,900 2.25 9 1.5 600

ASTM E119 [4] in the growth phase of the fire, but The columns were considered to have failed when the
have a well-defined decay (cooling) phase. This hydraulic jack could no longer maintain the load.
cooling was simulated by controlling the temperatures Cross-sectional temperatures and axial deformations
in the furnace (by blowing air through the furnace) to were measured during the fire resistance tests; and also
decay at a predetermined rate of cooling, as encoun- the visual observations were recorded. Full details of
tered in real fires in buildings. the recorded data on columns HSC2 and HSCP1 have
All columns, slender as per ACI 318 specifications been presented by [29]. The temperature and defor-
[1], were tested under a concentric axial load with mation response of other columns followed trends
fixed supports. Since special care was taken to align similar to column HSCP1.
the center of the loading actuator and the top steel
plate, the eccentricity of the applied load was within
5 mm. The type of fire exposure and the load ratio 4 Response of fire-exposed columns
for the various columns are tabulated in Table 1. The
load ratio is defined as the ratio of the applied (test) The five columns exposed to design fires, with a well-
load to the column capacity computed according to defined decay phase, survived the burnout conditions
ACI 318 provisions [1]. which lasted from 3 to 7 h (including cool down). The
The load was applied approximately 30 min before typical thermal response of RC columns is illustrated
the start of the fire test and was maintained until a in Fig. 4 by plotting rebar temperature as a function of
condition was reached at which no further increase of fire exposure time for columns HSC2 and HSCP1. The
the axial deformation of the column could be cross-sectional temperature, in all five columns,
measured. During the test, the column was subjected plateau at about 100 C and this can be mainly
to heating in such a way that the average temperature attributed to the utilization of heat energy (from fire)
in the furnace followed, as closely as possible, the for the evaporation of water in concrete. After this
targeted fire scenario (measured in terms of time plateau, the temperatures in rebar and concrete
temperature curve of DF1, DF2, or DF3). The load was increase with fire exposure time.
maintained constant throughout the fire test duration.

Rebar Temperature ( C)
Furnace temperature ( C)

DF1 500
800 DF3 400

600 300

200 HSCP1
0 0 60 120 180 240 300
0 60 120 180 240 300 360 420 Time (min)
Time (minutes)
Fig. 4 Measured rebar temperatures in RC columns HSC2 and
Fig. 3 Time temperature curves used in the fire tests HSCP1
Materials and Structures (2013) 46:20592075 2065

Fig. 5 Illustration of fire-induced spalling in RC columns HSC2 and HSCP1

The extent of spalling during fire tests was mon- 0.2

itored by making observations through the window 0.15

Deflection (mm)
ports of the furnace and through post-test (fire 0.1
exposure) observations on these HSC columns. Based 0.05
on the observations, the extent of spalling in the five 0
tested columns was classified as minor, moderate, and -0.05
severe and results are summarized in Table 1. Spalling -0.1
is said to be minor when only small fragments of HSC2
concrete break-off the surface (from outer layers) of -0.2
0 60 120 180 240 300
the RC column. Spalling is said to be moderate when
Time (minutes)
pieces of concrete break-off the surface but does not
reach the steel reinforcement, while it is said to be Fig. 6 Measured axial deformations as a function of time for
severe when spalling results in reinforcement (lon- columns HSC2 and HSCP1
gitudinal and transverse) being exposed to fire. After
the fire tests, the extent of spalling, represented as concrete. When the steel (reinforcement) yields,
percentage loss of volume, was measured and is concrete carries a progressively increasing portion of
tabulated in Table 1. Spalling in HSC2 column started the load. However, due to the start of cooling phase,
at 15 min and ended at 35 min into the fire resistance the rebars and concrete did not experience very high
test. The extent of spalling in this column was 43 % of temperatures and thus significant creep deformation
its fire exposed volume; however, no fire induced may not have occurred in these columns. The five
spalling occurred in other tested columns. Figure 5 columns did not fail under fire exposure and were able
illustrates the state of column HSC2, resulting from to sustain full burnout conditions. This can be
spalling, after completion of fire test. attributed to recovery in strength and stiffness prop-
The typical structural response during fire is erties of concrete and steel once the column enters the
illustrated through axial deformationtime plots for cooling phase in the design fire. Further discussion on
columns HSC2 and HSCP1 in Fig. 6. All columns the behavior of columns HSC2 and HSCP1 under fire
expand in the early stages of fire exposure which is exposure can be found elsewhere [29].
mainly due to the thermal expansion of both concrete
and steel. With increased fire exposure time, the
columns contract as a result of loss of strength and 5 Residual strength test procedure
reduced modulus of elasticity in steel reinforcement
due to increasing cross-sectional temperatures and The post-fire residual strength tests were conducted
also due to load redistribution to concrete from 24 h after the fire resistance tests, after ensuring that
reinforcement. Since the reinforcement (longitudinal) the steel rebars cooled down to room temperature.
is outside the concrete core, the temperature rises Each column was tested to failure under the same
much faster in the steel rebars than in the inner core of support conditions as that existed during fire exposure.
2066 Materials and Structures (2013) 46:20592075

The axial load on the column was increased gradually columns. This can be attributed to the partial regain of
at a rate of 10 kN/min until failure occurred. As in the strength by concrete and steel upon cooling, and strain
case of fire tests, axial deformation was recorded as a hardening of the steel reinforcement.
function of load. During post-fire residual strength The above results clearly indicate that the residual
tests, significant spalling was observed due to the load-carrying capacity of a fire-exposed RC column is
crushing of concrete at mid-height of the column prior mainly dependent on cross-sectional temperature
to collapse. attained during fire exposure and even more so on
the fire-induced spalling occurring due to rapid rise in
temperatures. Thus, for evaluating the residual
6 Residual strength results strength of a RC column, a reliable assessment of
cross-sectional temperature and spalling is critical.
The measured load deflection response for the five The following section presents the development of a
columns during post-fire residual strength tests is simplified approach for estimating the residual load
plotted in Fig. 7. It was observed that all five columns carrying capacity of a RC column.
experienced unrecoverable axial deformation during
the fire test, and this was taken as the initial
deformation in the residual strength test. The axial 7 Proposed post-fire assessment approach
load carrying capacity and post-fire residual strength
of RC columns are listed in Table 1. From tabulated 7.1 General approach
results in Table 1 and Fig. 7, it can be seen that
spalling is the major contributor to the reduction of The proposed approach for estimating the residual
residual strength in RC columns. In fact, the residual strength of RC columns after fire exposure involves
strength of column HSC2 is significantly lower than the following steps:
that of other four columns. This can be attributed to the
(a) Estimation of maximum fire temperature and
loss of cross-section (resulting from spalling), expo-
duration of fire exposure using fire incident
sure of rebars to higher temperatures, and faster
reports generated by fire fighters, visual obser-
degradation of strength and stiffness in plain HSC
vations of fire-exposed concrete columns, obser-
column as compared with HSC/FAC columns with
vation of concrete color or any other means.
(b) Estimation of the maximum temperature attained
The residual load-carrying capacity for the tested
in rebars and concrete cross section utilizing
columns was found to be approximately 90 % of the
maximum fire temperature, fire duration and
room temperature capacity computed as per ACI 318
sectional characteristics. Wickstroms [32] simpli-
[1] for the four columns which did not spall. This is in
fied empirical method can be applied to estimate
spite of the occurrence of fire-induced damage in these
the maximum rebar and concrete temperatures.
(c) Estimation of the residual strength of reinforcing
steel and concrete using strengthtemperature
800 relationships for reinforcing steel and concrete,
Axial Load (kN)

600 (d) Computation of the residual capacity of the

column by applying ambient temperature strength
400 equations, but with appropriate reduction factors
HSC-H to account for reduced strength of steel reinforce-
200 FAC-P ment and concrete. Modification of temperature in
HSCP1 core region and reinforcing steel due to spalling
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 are to be taken into consideration.
Axial Deformation (mm)
The various aspects to be considered in estimating
Fig. 7 Load-deformation plot for fire exposed RC columns the critical parameters in each step are discussed
under residual strength tests below.
Materials and Structures (2013) 46:20592075 2067

7.2 Maximum fire temperature Table 4 Guidance for estimating maximum temperature attained
in fire-damaged concrete based on color changes [31, 35]
The first step in evaluating the residual capacity of a RC Color Pink or Whitish Buff
column is to estimate the duration and maximum red grey
temperature attained in a fire. This information can be
Temperature range 300600 600900 9001,000
ascertained from first responders fire incident reports, (C)
from visual observations of the fire exposed column or
any other reliable method (e.g. computer models using
relevant information on compartment characteristics). is an indication that concrete temperature is in the
Generally the first responders (fire fighter) reports range of 300600 C [31, 35]. Table 4 shows the
provide a rough estimate of maximum fire temperature correlation between concrete color and temperatures
and duration of fire. Other methods such as correlation attained on the surface of concrete. While the exact
of fire exposed concrete color to fire temperatures and color of concrete is dependent on several factors (e.g.
detailed fire modeling (using relevant information on aggregate mineralogy) [31], the color transformation
compartment characteristics) can also be used. In recent of concrete can provide a rough correlation to
years there are some improvements in the way fire maximum temperature reached during a fire event.
fighters assess temperatures in fire incidents (through The temperature in the concrete, as indicated by color,
micro thermal imaging, IR thermometers, and pocket can be assumed to be approximately 90 % of the
meters) and thus fire temperatures can be estimated to a maximum temperature of the fire [3]. Thus an estimate
reasonable degree of accuracy. Further, guidelines are of temperatures reached in fire can be back calculated.
available in literature for estimating fire temperatures
based on color changes in fire exposed concrete [2, 31, 7.3 Maximum steel temperature
32, 35]. For example, Annerel and Taerwe [2] suggest
that the temperature in the fire exposed concrete, as Once the maximum fire temperature has been esti-
indicated by color, can be assumed to be approximately mated, the next step is to evaluate maximum rebar
90 % of the maximum temperature of the fire. Post-fire temperature. There are some empirical methods,
visual observations of damaged concrete column and mainly derived for standard fire exposure, to estimate
the extent of fire-induced spalling can also provide concrete temperatures [15, 16, 32]. Since temperature
some clues for gauging the fire temperature and also the of rebar can be taken to be the same as that of the
overall state of the column. concrete in the same position, Wickstroms method
If the fire exposed column has sustained severe [32], can be used to determine the temperature of rebars.
spalling and damage such that the concrete cover to Accordingly the temperature in rebars, Tbar, is given as:
rebar is fully spalled off, then the concrete in the cover    
Tbar gw gx gy  2gx gy gx gy Tf 1
region will be ignored in the calculation of residual
strength. In such a scenario, the reduced section in which, gx, gy and gw are calculated as:
without spalled concrete cover, is to be used to
calculate the 500 C isotherm, and the effect of gw 1  0:0616 th0:88 2
ht i  
buckling of rebars is taken into account. If, however, h th
there is partial or no loss of concrete cover, the residual gx 0:18 ln 2  0:81; gy 0:18 ln 2  0:81
x y
strength of the column can be calculated as a
summation of strength of rebars and concrete within
the concrete core, but with a reduced strength of where, Tf is the fire temperature, th is the time (h), and
concrete and steel resulting from higher temperatures. x and y are the depth of rebar from the surface (m) in
In lieu of any other reliable methods, maximum fire x and y direction, respectively.
temperature can also be estimated by examining the Figure 8 shows the comparison between the calcu-
color change and microstructure of the exposed lated temperatures (C) by Wickstroms method and
surface of the concrete. Based on previous fire tests, those measured in fire exposed columns at the end of
guidance is available to link concrete color to fire heating phase. It can be seen that good comparison is
temperature. So, if the concrete color is pink or red, it achieved in all columns except columns HSC-2 and
2068 Materials and Structures (2013) 46:20592075

Fig. 8 Comparison of
estimated temperature with HSC-H
measured value in fire
exposed RC columns

Concrete type
Thermalcouple damaged


Computed (Eq.1)
HSC2 Measured (test)

0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800

Temperature ( )

FAC-P. The reason for this variation is that for column contribution to strength of the column after fire
HSC-2 spalling occurred resulting in a higher mea- exposure; while concrete within the core region
sured temperature, and for column FAC-P thermo- provide full strength contribution to the residual load
couple was damaged at final stage leading to a lower bearing capacity of a fire-exposed RC column.
measured temperature. The boundary for this key layer can be evaluated by
The temperature induced strength loss in steel and finding the 500 C isotherm in the column section. As
concrete is dependent on the maximum temperature seen in Fig. 9a, there exists a rounding effect at the
attained in the growth phase of fire. The residual corners of the column section in realistic temperature
strength of column can be an issue when the fire distribution. This rounding effect at corners arises due
temperatures are close to or higher than ISO 834 fire to heating of column from two sides. For simplicity an
(or ASTM E119 fire). If the fire temperatures remain idealized square, denoted by P1P2P3P4 in Fig. 9b,
much below ISO 834 or ASTM E119 temperatures, is taken as the core region of column section after
the column may not experience any loss of strength at fire exposure. The depth to the core region that
all. The temperatures in growth phase of building fires corresponds to 500 C isotherm, x, can be calculated
often do not vary beyond 1015 % from those of by applying Wickstroms method.
standard fires; thus Wickstroms equation, being the For a square column section heated from 4-sides, gx
best equation available in literature, can be used [32]. has a same value as that of gy due to symmetry in the
However, some modification needs to be applied if column section and fire exposure conditions. Under
spalling occurs in the column and reinforcing steel is these conditions, substituting Tbar with Tc and gy with
exposed directly to fire. Under such scenario, maxi- gx, Equation (1) can be rewritten as
mum fire temperature can be taken as the temperature Tc
of the rebar in fire exposed RC columns. 1  2gw g2x 2gw gx  0 4
7.4 Determination of core region in concrete Denoting (12gw) by A, 2gw by B and Tc/Tf by C, Eq. 4
section can be expressed as
Ag2x Bgx  C 0 5
In simplified fire resistance analysis of RC columns, it
is often assumed that no loss of strength occurs in The solution to above quadratic equation yields
layers of concrete below 500 C, while no strength is p
left in layers of concrete above 500 C [5, 19]. The B  B2 4AC
gx 6
layers beneath 500 C isotherm are referred to as 2A
core region which is defined as the region in the According to physical meaning, gx should be greater
concrete section with a temperature lower than 500 C than zero and less than 1.0, since temperature in the
(see Fig. 9). It can be assumed that concrete outside inner concrete layers is to be higher than the room
(greater than 500 C) the core region has no temperature and lower than that of the fire-exposed
Materials and Structures (2013) 46:20592075 2069

500 x Core region x

P1 P4 P1 P4


P2 P3 P2 P3


(a) Actual 500C isotherm (b) Idealized core region

Fig. 9 Core region (500 C isotherm) in RC column section

column surface. Hence, B B2 4AC =2A is the proposed design approach, the loss of strength in
the rational root for gx. reinforcing steel is assumed to follow according to
Substituting gx in Eq. 3, depth to core region, x0 , can temperature-residual strength test data reported by
be determined as Neves et al. [28]. The variation of residual strength of
s steel as a function of maximum temperature is shown
0 th in Fig. 10.
x gx 0:81 7
e 0:18 When the extent of spalling is such that the cover
concrete to steel rebar fully spalls off, steel rebars
Hence the area of core region of concrete can be between two adjacent stirrups act as separate com-
determined as pression bars due to loss of confinement of concrete,

0 2
and thus experience buckling. To account for this local
Acore d  2x 8 buckling, a buckling strength reduction coefficient, kst,
should be applied. According to recent research [18],
where, d is the width (or depth) of the column. kst is mainly affected by initial bending displacement
However, a modification is to be applied in of steel bar, spacing of stirrups, diameter and initial
temperature calculations if the fire exposed column strength of steel bars (see Fig. 11). Jiang et al. [18]
has sustained severe spalling and damage such that the proposed the following relation to calculate the
rebars were fully/partially exposed to fire. In such a coefficient kst as:
scenario, concrete cover is assumed to be lost and the
reduced cross-section is utilized to determine the
Residual strength ratio fyt /fy

500 C isotherm and the core region. 1.0

7.5 Residual strength in rebar and concrete 0.8

fyt/fy=1-0.28 (T-500)/300
Knowing the temperature in rebars and concrete
layers, the temperature induced loss of strength in
steel (rebars) and concrete can be evaluated. Gener- 0.2

ally, reinforcing steel recovers most of its strength and 0.0

stiffness upon cooling [9, 28]. However, the higher the 0 200 400 600 800 1000

maximum temperature attained in rebars, the lower is Maximum temperature ( )

the residual strength of steel, particularly when the Fig. 10 Variation of residual strength of rebar as a function of
maximum temperature in rebars exceeds 500 C. In experienced maximum temperature
2070 Materials and Structures (2013) 46:20592075


N K sh fst,k

K sh fst,d

f st,k


f st,d

Longitudinal bar Stirrup Strain

Fig. 11 Buckling of steel reinforcing bars in a fire exposed RC o y d u
Fig. 12 Effect of strain hardening on strength of rebar

kst 1:136  111:6 original strength after cooling and rehydrate when the
s 2 !
s s maximum temperature attained in concrete is below
 0:972 0:004  0:003 9 500 C, the coefficient of residual strength of normal
ds ds
strength concrete (NSC) is taken to be 1.0 [26].
where e is the initial bending displacement of steel bar, However, for residual strength calculations the
s is spacing of stirrups and ds is the diameter of steel strength contribution from portion of concrete which
rebar. reach temperatures higher than 500 C is taken to be
Another factor that can contribute to residual zero [26].
strength is due to strain hardening effect in rebars. The temperature induced strength degradation in
The strain hardening effect in structural steel is high strength concrete (HSC) is higher than NSC
illustrated in Fig. 12 [12, 14], in which fst,k and fst,d [17, 21, 33, 34]. Figure 13 shows the residual strength
are nominal yield strength and design yield strength, ratio (fct/fc) of NSC and HSC as a function of
respectively, Ksh is the factor used to represent temperature, where fct and fc are concrete strength at
increased strength due to strain hardening, and ey, ed, temperature T and that at room temperature, respec-
and eu are strains related to yield, design and ultimate tively [3, 7, 17, 25, 33]. It can be seen that little
strength, respectively. In situations where there is strength loss in HSC occurs when temperature is
reliable information on strength property of rebars below 200 C, however, strength loss increases after
(through post residual strength tests on steel coupons), 200 C and is much steeper beyond 500 C. Also,
a strain hardening factor can be applied for evaluating there are noticeable deviations in strength loss of HSC
residual strength of rebars, i.e. fyt0 = Kshfyt. However, reported by two researchers. This may be due to the
there is very little data on strain hardening effect fact that the residual strength of HSC is affected by
specific to reinforcing steel, especially after cooling many factors including mix proportions, heating
(residual) of steel. Therefore, in most practical situ- characteristics and the level of loading. Considering
ations, the strain hardening effect can be ignored the fact that the strength loss in HSC is steeper than
(Ksh = 1.0) so as to obtain a more conservative that in NSC in 20500 C, a strength reduction
estimation of residual strength. coefficient of 0.9 is recommended for HSC (as
The temperature-induced strength loss in concrete opposed to 1 for NSC). This strength reduction
occurs at a lower rate than that in reinforcing steel. coefficient for HSC was arrived at by computing
Based on the fact that concrete can regain most of its weighted means of concrete residual strength
Materials and Structures (2013) 46:20592075 2071

1.2 7.6 Residual capacity of columns

Residual strength ratio: fct/fc

Once the residual strength of steel reinforcement and
0.8 NSC-Dong concrete in core region are estimated, the residual
0.6 HSC-Hu
capacity of the fire-exposed column can be computed
HSC-Xiao by applying the room-temperature design strength
0.4 equation specified in standards (e.g. [1, 11]). The
0.2 residual strength of reinforcing steel, concrete and
NSC-Li reduced dimensions of the damaged concrete section
0 have to be substituted in place of the room-tempera-
0 200 400 600 800 1000
Temperature ( ) ture strength of rebar and concrete, and the full
sectional dimensions of the column. Buckling of rebar
Fig. 13 Residual strength ratio of HSC and NSC as a function is accounted for through coefficient kst, when concrete
of temperature
cover to rebars completely spalls off. Accordingly, the
Table 5 Calculation process of the weighted means of residual residual strength capacity of a fire exposed RC column
strength of core region concrete is given as:
Temperature 200 300 400 500 Nr Acore fct kst As fyt 10
range (C)
where Nr is the residual strength of fire exposed RC
ki 1.000 0.988 0.892 0.764 column, Acore is the area of core region, As is the
kef 0.911 area of steel rebars, kst is the reduction coefficient due
to buckling (only used when cover concrete to rebars
coefficient at temperature 200, 300, 400, and 500 C, spalls off), fct is the residual strength of concrete, fyt is
respectively (shown in Table 5). In Table 5, ki is the the residual strength of steel rebar.
strength reduction coefficient of concrete at different
temperatures and kef is the mean value of the strength
reduction coefficients of concrete residual strength.
Here, strength reduction coefficient of concrete at each 8 Validation
of the temperatures (ki) is taken from the test data
reported by Xiao and Konig [33]. For temperature The validity of the aforementioned approach is
above 500 C, there is no strength contribution from established by comparing the predicted residual
HSC, as in the case of NSC, towards residual capacity strength from the proposed approach with values
of the column. In lieu of 0.9 as a consolidated measured in the residual strength tests. The validation
reduction factor to account for higher deterioration of was carried out for both NSC and HSC columns (see
strength in high strength concrete core at temperatures Table 6). Based on the test data on rebars from fire
beyond 500 C, the strength loss can be assumed to exposed columns, ksh was taken as 1.15 for all
start when temperature in concrete core (of HSC) columns. Value of e/s was taken as 0.006 for column
exceeds 400 C isotherm [11]. HSC2 to account for buckling of longitudinal bar after

Table 6 Comparison of estimated and measured residual strength in fire exposed RC columns
Columns fc (MPa) x0 (mm) D (mm) Acore (mm2) fct (MPa) As (mm2) fst0 (MPa) kst Ncal (N) Ntest (N) Ncal/Ntest

NSC-2 42 305 67 29,241 31.0 2,040 482 1 2,169 2,671 0.81

HSC2 107 98 203 49 95.4 1,136 362 0.458 213 214 1.00
HSCP1 93 81 203 1,681 83.7 1,136 410 1 656 899 0.73
FAC-P 100 84 203 1,225 90.0 1,136 400 1 613 694 0.88
HSC-S 77 81 203 1,681 69.3 1,136 409 1 630 836 0.75
HSC-H 80 82 203 1,521 72.0 1,136 407 1 621 734 0.85
2072 Materials and Structures (2013) 46:20592075

spalling of concrete cover, and as zero for the other For the other four HSC columns, with same cross-
columns where no serious spalling occurred. sectional size and reinforcement but different concrete
For the validation of NSC column, results of mixes, the residual strength is mainly affected by
residual strength reported in the literature [26] are heating time, temperatures in rebars and concrete and
used. Lie [26] tested a normal strength RC column compressive strength of concrete. Ratio of predicted to
(designated as NSC-2) of 3.81 m length and measured residual strength of these four columns
305 mm 9 305 mm square cross-section. The com- ranges from 0.73 to 0.88. The main reason for this
pressive strength of concrete in the columns was variation can be attributed to concrete batch mix with
42 MPa. The column was reinforced with four / different columns having different concrete mixes.
25 mm longitudinal bars and /10 mm stirrups at It can also be seen from the tabulated results that the
305 mm spacing. The clear concrete cover was 48 mm predicted residual compression capacity is more
in both columns. The yield strength of the longitudinal conservative for columns without spalling (columns
bars was 444 MPa, and that of stirrups was 427 MPa. FAC-P, HSC-H, HSCP1 and HSC-H) than for HSC
The column was exposed to ASTM E-119 fire for 2 h specimen with significant spalling (column HSC2).
and then allowed to cool down at 4.66 C/min. The The maximum deviation of the predicted capacity is
column was loaded throughout the fire duration with about 27 % as compared to measured one. The reason
an axial load of 1,022 kN. After the column cooled for wider variation may be due to high temperature
down, the residual strength test was carried out by creep effect and un-even spalling caused additional
loading the fire-exposed column at a rate of 12.5 kN/ bending in the column, which is not accounted for in
min till failure was attained. the calculations. Overall, the proposed method is
A comparison of predicted and measured residual capable of estimating the residual load-carrying
strength for NSC column NSC-2 is presented in capacity of fire-exposed NSC and HSC columns with
Table 6. Ratio of the predicted residual strength to reasonable accuracy.
that of measured capacity is 0.81 for NSC column,
indicating that the predicted residual strength is
conservative and that the proposed method is 9 Design applicability
capable of estimating the residual load-carrying
capacity of a fire-exposed NSC specimen with The proposed methodology provides an approach for
sufficient accuracy. estimating the residual strength of fire-exposed RC
For validation of the proposed equations to HSC columns. It should be noted that the aim of this
columns, data from the above discussed five HSC approach is for estimation of residual capacity rather
columns were used. The residual strength of these fire than evaluation of actual load carrying capacity of
exposed HSC columns was evaluated by applying the fire exposed RC columns. For evaluating such
proposed equations and the predicted residual strength actual capacities, accurate assessment of residual
was compared to measured value in residual strength strength in steel and concrete and accurate assessment
tests. The computed and measured residual capacities of temperatures is required.
of columns, together with key factors, are compared in The applicability of the proposed approach in a
Table 6. The obtained results infer that the proposed practical situation is illustrated through a numerical
approach gives conservative estimation (in the range example in Appendix A. The calculation of critical
of 0.731) of residual capacity for different type of parameters together with the residual capacity assess-
HSC columns. It can be seen that for high strength ment of a fire-exposed RC column is presented in
concrete column HSC2, the residual strength in rebar detail.
(fyt) and area of core region of concrete are smaller It should be noted that the proposed method has a
than that of the other columns, although this column few limitations. The approach can only be used for
was exposed to fire for shorter duration. In the case of concentrically loaded non-slender columns with a
column HSC2, a lower strength reduction coefficient square cross-section. It is due to the fact that stability
(kst) was used to account for bulking of rebar since becomes a main factor which may have notable effect
there was significant spalling during fire test on this on the residual strength of fire-exposed slender
HSC column. columns. Interaction of bending and compression, as
Materials and Structures (2013) 46:20592075 2073

well as column stability, need to be considered for with an accuracy that is sufficient for practical
eccentrically loaded columns. For columns with non- applications. The approach is applicable for wide
square section, modifications are needed to the range of RC columns.
proposed method to account for the effect of uneven
temperature increase in two orthogonal directions. Acknowledgments The research presented in this paper is
Also, the proposed method is applicable only when the primarily supported by Michigan State University through
spalling in columns does not reach beyond the Strategic Partnership Grant (No. 71-4434). Any opinions,
reinforcement cage. In the case of severe spalling findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in
this paper are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect
condition (beyond reinforcement cage), details of the the views of the sponsors.
spalled section need to be studied, so as to achieve a
reliable estimation of residual load bearing capacity.
The current approach to post-fire residual strength Appendix A: Calculation of residual capacity of fire
assessment is mainly based on visual inspection and damaged RC column
lacks scientific basis. Thus, at present, there is no
rational approach for estimating the residual load Problem definition
carrying capacity of fire-exposed RC columns.
Knowledge of structural integrity is a key consider- Determine the residual strength of a fire exposed RC
ation in post-fire damage assessment and in develop- column. The square cross-sectioned (305 mm in size)
ing quick rehabilitation strategy. A simple, readily column is 3 m in length, and is made of 42 MPa
available tool such as the one presented here facilitates concrete. The column has four /20 mm longitudinal
estimation of residual strength of fire-exposed RC bars and /10 mm stirrup spaced at 305 mm and the
columns. Such an approach would help to determine clear concrete cover is 50 mm. The yield strength of the
the most cost effective repair and rehabilitation longitudinal bars is 444 MPa, and that of stirrups is
strategy in fire-damaged RC columns. 427 MPa. The typical service load on the column is
1,992 kN. Assume that this column was exposed to
ISO834 fire for 2 h and then the fire cooled down for 2 h.
10 Conclusions

Based on the presented results, the following conclu- Solution

sions can be drawn.
Ultimate bearing capacity of the column at room
RC columns exposed to realistic fire incidents can temperature is
retain most of their original load carrying capacity,  
particularly if the columns do not experience N 0:8  Ac fc As fy
significant fire-induced spalling. 0:8  305  305  42 1;256  444
There is relatively higher loss in load carrying 3;571;771 N 3;572 kN
capacity in fire exposed HSC columns as com- Step 1: Estimation of the fire duration and maximum
pared to NSC columns due to the occurrence of fire temperature
fire-induced spalling.
Addition of fibers (polypropylene, steel, or hybrid) According to the first responders report, the duration
mitigates fire-induced spalling in HSC columns of fire was 60 min. Although we can make a coarse
and thus these columns, similar to NSC columns, estimation of the maximum fire temperature from the
regain most of their load carrying capacity after color change of the exposed surface of the concrete,
being exposed to fire. here, we take the temperature of the fire to be
Rebar temperature is the main parameter govern- according to ISO834 standard fire curve which is
ing the residual load carrying capacity of fire- given by
exposed RC columns.
The proposed approach is capable of estimating Tf 20 345  log10 8  t 1
the residual strength of fire-exposed RC columns 20 345  log10 8  120 1 1; 049  C
2074 Materials and Structures (2013) 46:20592075

0 2
Step 2: Calculation of the maximum rebar temperature Acore d  2x 203  2  672 29;241 mm2
experienced during fire
Step 4: Determination of residual strength in rebar
Distance from the column surface to the center of rebar
and concrete
is 50 ? 20/2 = 60 mm, so x = 0.06 m and
y = 0.06 m. As stated above, th = 120 min (2 h),
The variation of the residual strength of steel as a
and Tf = 1,049 C. Applying Eqs. 1 to 3, gx, gy, gw
function of maximum temperature is shown in Fig. 10,
and Tbar can be calculated as
from which we can find the reduction coefficient of

h residual strength of rebar which is 0.9449 for this case.

gx gy 0:18 ln 2  0:81
x Thus, the residual strength of rebar after fire exposure
2:0 is 420 MPa.
0:18 ln  0:81 0:3276
0:062 As aforementioned in the paper, the reduction
gw 1  0:0616th0:88 1  0:0616  2:00:88 coefficient for concrete in core region is 1.0. Hence,
0:9665 the residual strength of concrete in core region is
   42 MPa.
Tbar gw gx gy  2gx gy gx gy Tf
0:9665  0:3276 0:3276  2  0:3276 Step 5: Calculation of residual capacity of the fire
0:3276 0:3276  0:3276  1; 049 exposed RC column
559  C
The residual capacity of RC column can be determined
Step 3: Determination of core region in concrete by applying Eq. 10,
(section enclosed by 500 C isotherm)
N Acore fct kst As fyt
29; 241  42 1  1; 256  420 1;749;211 N
Using gw and Tf values calculated above, the location 1;749 kN:
of 500 C isotherm, Tc is 500 C, can be evaluated.
Then coefficients A, B and C in Eq. 5 are found:
Here, stability factor kst is taken to be 1.0, since no
A 1  2gw 1  2  0:9665 0:93 spalling has been reported.
B 2gw 2  0:9665 1:933
Tc 500
C 0:48
Tf 1;049 Applying the proposed approach the residual strength
Applying Eq. 6, gx can be calculated as of fire exposed RC column is found to be 1,749 kN. The
p residual capacity of this column is about 39 % of the un-
B B2 4AC factored ultimate bearing capacity at room temperature,
2Ap and is a little lower than the service load which is
1:933 1:9332  4  0:93  0:48 1,992 kN. Thus this fire damaged RC column needed to

2  0:93 be strengthened to enhance the load bearing capacity.

According to Eq. 7, the depth x of 500 C isotherm is

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