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Composites: Part A 37 (2006) 11511160


Fire insulation schemes for FRP-strengthened concrete slabs

Brea Williamsa, Luke Bisbyb,*, Venkatesh Kodurc, Mark Greenb, Ershad Chowdhuryb
Halsall Associates Ltd, 210 Gladstone Ave., Suite 3001 Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K2P 0Y6
Department of Civil Engineering, Ellis Hall, Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6
National Research Council Canada, Bldg M-59, 1200 Montreal Road, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1A 0R6

Received 27 April 2005; accepted 13 May 2005

In recent years, widespread deterioration of civil infrastructure has been a catalyst for the application of externally bonded fiber reinforced
polymer (FRP) sheets for reinforcement or strengthening of concrete structures. However, the performance of these FRP strengthening
systems in fire is a serious concern, and this represents a critical obstacle to the widespread implementation of FRP repair techniques in
buildings. This paper presents the results of an experimental and numerical study conducted to investigate the performance in fire of insulated
FRP-strengthened concrete slabs. Four different supplemental fire insulation systems are examined through standard fire tests, and a
numerical model to predict member behavior in fire is presented. Model predictions are shown to satisfactorily agree with test data. The
results of this study indicate that appropriately designed and insulated FRP-strengthened concrete slabs are capable of achieving satisfactory
fire endurances.
q 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Polymer-matrix composites (PMCs) (A); High-temperature properties (B); Computational modeling (C); Thermal analysis (D)

1. Introduction and background

Research initiatives around the world during the past two
decades have documented the behavior of externally bonded
fiber reinforced polymers (FRPs) for strengthening
reinforced concrete (RC) structures. In these applications,
FRPs are bonded to the exterior of RC structures, typically
using an epoxy resin saturant/adhesive, to provide
additional tensile or confining reinforcement, which
supplements that provided by the internal reinforcing
steel. Sufficient research and implementation has now
been conducted for the development of various design
codes and guidelines for the application of FRPs in
conjunction with concrete structures [14]. However, the
majority of applications to date have been on bridges and
parking structures, where fire is not a primary concern. For
externally bonded FRP systems to access the full range of
potential applications, including strengthening and repair of
interior building components, the issue of the fire resistance
* Corresponding author. Tel.: C1 613 533 3086; fax: C1 613 533 2128.
E-mail address: bisby@civil.queensu.ca (L. Bisby).

1359-835X/$ - see front matter q 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

of FRP materials and externally-bonded systems must be

Various concerns are associated with the behavior of
FRPs during fire. Most FRPs are susceptible to combustion
of their polymer matrix, potentially resulting in increased
flame spread and toxic smoke evolution. In addition,
commonly used polymer matrices and adhesives rapidly
lose strength and stiffness above their glass transition
temperature (Tg). The critical Tg threshold, which depends
on the specific polymer matrix constituents, among other
factors, typically varies from 65 to 82 8C for externally
bonded systems [1]. Thus, if left unprotected in fire FRPs
may ignite, supporting flame spread and toxic smoke
evolution [5], and may rapidly lose mechanical and/or
bond properties [6]. Based on a detailed review of literature,
studying the variation in mechanical properties of various
FRPs at high-temperature, Bisby [6] suggested a series of
semi-empirical relationships to describe the variation in
strength and stiffness of unidirectional infrastructure
composites with temperature. These relationships were
derived by fitting a sigmoid function, using a least-squares
regression analysis, to a database of results from tests on
unidirectional epoxy-matrix composites of glass, carbon,
and aramid fibers that were available in the literature.


B. Williams et al. / Composites: Part A 37 (2006) 11511160

3. The average temperature of the unexposed surface does

not rise more than 140 8C, and no individual point on the
unexposed face rises more than 180 8C, above initial
room temperature levels [8].

Fig. 1. Approximate variation in tensile strength with temperature for

concrete and reinforcing steel (based on approximate equations presented
by Lie [14]) and for unidirectional carbon and glass fibre/epoxy matrix
FRPs (based on semi-empirical analytical relationships developed by Bisby

As an example, Fig. 1 shows the resulting variation in

tensile strength for concrete, steel, and carbon or glass/
epoxy FRPs with increasing temperature. It is evident that
FRP strength is more sensitive to elevated temperatures than
either steel or concrete. In addition to reductions in FRP
materials strength and stiffness, the bond between FRPs
and concrete, which is critical to maintain FRPs effectiveness in most externally-bonded concrete repair applications,
is likely to be severely reduced at temperatures above Tg.
Little research has been performed in this area with respect
to externally-bonded FRP systems, although results from
bond tests on FRP reinforcing bars at high-temperature have
confirmed the almost complete loss of bond strength at
temperatures above Tg [7].
Real building fires are unique, and their true behavior is
somewhat difficult to predict with accuracy. Hence,
standard fire tests have been developed by the research
community to represent typical building fires. For instance,
ASTM E119 [8] specifies a standard timetemperature
curve to be followed in standard fire resistance tests. This
curve reaches temperatures in excess of 1000 8C after 2 h. In
describing fire performance of a structural member or
assembly, a range of factors should be considered including:
smoke evolution, smoke toxicity, flame spread, fire
separation characteristics, and load-bearing capacity. However, the research program described herein is concerned
primarily with the structural fire endurance and fire
separation functions, which, for a floor slab assembly, are
defined by ASTM E119 as the length of time during which
each of the following three criteria are satisfied:
1. The structural member is capable of withstanding its
applied service load (the load which might reasonably be
expected to be supported by the member during a fire);
2. The reinforcing steel maintains a temperature of less
than 593 8C; and

A limited number of studies exist documenting the

behavior of FRP-strengthened concrete members under fire
conditions. Deuring [9] conducted a fire test program which
demonstrated that rectangular RC beams strengthened in
flexure with externally bonded carbon FRP strips, and
without supplemental fire insulation, experienced loss of
interaction between the concrete and FRP as early as 20 min
into the ISO 834 Standard [10] fire test, while FRPstrengthened beams protected with supplemental fire
insulation schemes (consisting of mechanically fastened
insulating boards) displayed lower temperatures at the
concrete/adhesive interface and lost interaction only after
about 1 h of fire exposure. A second test program conducted
at Ghent University, Belgium [11] studied the effect of the
supplemental fire protections thickness, configuration,
length, and method of adhesion (adhesive only or
mechanical fastening plus adhesive) on the fire performance
concrete beams strengthened in flexure with externally
bonded carbon FRP strips. Mechanical anchorage was
shown to provide superior maintenance of the insulations
bond to the concrete beams, and a U-shaped fire protection
configuration (applied to both the base and sides of the
beams) provided more effective insulation capacity,
reducing temperatures in the carbon FRP strip, and resulted
in lower overall deflections and greater time to loss of
composite interaction.
The only available study on the fire performance of fullscale RC members strengthened with externally-bonded wet
lay-up FRP sheets was conducted as an initial phase of the
ongoing study reported herein, where three 3.81 m-long
400 mm-diameter circular concrete columns, strengthened
(confined) with carbon FRP sheets, were insulated, loaded
to service load levels, and exposed to ASTM E119 standard
fire conditions for more than 4 h without failing [6,12]. The
insulated FRP-wrapped columns achieved 4 h fire ratings
according to ASTM requirements based on axial load
capacity, and the authors concluded that, while FRP
materials are highly sensitive to the effects of elevated
temperatures, appropriately designed, and in most cases
insulated, FRP-strengthened RC columns are capable of
achieving satisfactory fire endurances.
The current paper presents the results of an experimental
and numerical investigation conducted on four intermediate-scale insulated FRP-strengthened RC slabs exposed to
standard fire conditions. The research was performed at
Queens University, Canada, and the National Research
Council Canada (NRC), in collaboration with industrial
partners Fyfe Co. LLC and Degussa Building Systems. Two
different wet lay-up externally bonded FRP strengthening
systems and three supplemental fire insulation systems have
been studied to date. Temperature data from the fire tests are

B. Williams et al. / Composites: Part A 37 (2006) 11511160


presented and compared with predictions of a numerical

finite difference model, developed by the authors.

2. Experimental program
The purpose of the tests discussed herein was to evaluate
the performance in fire and thermal effectiveness of various
supplemental fire insulation systems for externally bonded
FRP reinforcing systems for concrete, such that the
insulation schemes could be optimized for application on
full-scale FRP-strengthened RC beam-slab assemblies (to
be fire tested at a later date). In addition, the data from the
tests was used to validate numerical heat transfer models,
which describe insulation performance and enable parametric studies. These slab tests thus represent a preliminary
investigation of insulations effectiveness. The reader
should note that no load, other than self-weight, was applied
to the slabs during their fire exposures.
2.1. Slab specimens
The slabs were designed with dimensions (954!
1331 mm) that would allow two specimens to be tested
concurrently in the intermediate-scale furnace at NRC. A
slab thickness of 150 mm was selected as being representative of typical RC building slabs that are encountered in
practice in North America. Minimal internal steel reinforcement was provided, consisting of 315 mm diameter
deformed reinforcing steel bars spanning the long direction,
and 310 mm diameter reinforcing bars spanning the short
slab direction. The reinforcement was designed with a clear
cover of 25 mm, which is typical of cover values used in
practice [13]. The concrete mix had a specified 28-day
strength of 28 MPa, and incorporated pure crushed limestone (carbonate) aggregate. The volumetric moisture
content in the concrete was determined to be approximately
4.5% at the time of testing.
2.2. Strengthening and insulation
Two of the four slabs were strengthened and protected with
FRP and insulation systems provided by Fyfe Co. LLC, and
two were strengthened and protected with systems provided
by Degussa Building Systems. Fig. 2 shows schematics of the
completed slab cross sections, including the FRP and
insulation schemes used on each. FRP was applied to the
tension faces of the slabs, with fibers running in the longer
dimension, using a wet lay-up procedure in a manner
representative of a typical field installation.
Slabs 1 and 2 were protected with different thicknesses of
a two-component fire protection system developed specifically for the current application by Fyfe Co. LLC. This
system consisted of a layer of Tyfow VG insulation (VG),
applied to the exterior of the carbon FRP wraps, followed
by Tyfow EI coating (EI), applied to the outside surface of

Fig. 2. Through-thickness details of the four insulated FRP-strengthened

reinforced concrete slab specimens tested.

the VG. VG is a spray-applied fire-resistant plaster that was

installed in thicknesses of 19 and 38 mm for slabs 1 and 2,
respectively. EI is an intumescent epoxy surface-hardening
coating, which was trowel-applied to a thickness of
0.25 mm on the exterior of the VG insulation on each
slab. Intumescent coatings are essentially specialized paints
that, when exposed to temperatures in excess of their


B. Williams et al. / Composites: Part A 37 (2006) 11511160

Table 1
Details of slab specimens tested to date

FRP type

No. layers



Fire resistance (min)

Criterion 1

Criterion 2

Criterion 3

Tg criterion

Tyfow VG/EIa
Tyfow VG/EIa
Insulation 2










Tyfow SCHa
Tyfow SCHa




Additional information available from http://www.fyfeco.com.

Additional information available from http://www.mbrace.com.
Additional information available from http://www.degussa.com.

activation temperature expand to many times their original

thickness and form an insulating char that protects the
underlying material from the thermal insult of the fire.
Slab 3 was protected with 38 mm of MBracew Insulation
1, and slab 4 with 38 mm of MBracew Insulation 2
insulation, both of which were supplied by Watson Bowman
Acme Corporation and are proprietary Portland cement
based mortars incorporating lightweight fillers which were
trowelled onto the exterior surface of the FRP sheets. The
fire protection systems for slabs 3 and 4 did not include any
secondary surface coatings. Table 1 provides details of the
slab specimens, FRP and insulation systems used, and
parameters that were varied.
A total of 12 thermocouples were installed in (or on) each
slab at various locations throughout the concrete depth and
within the FRP and insulation layers. This allowed
temperatures to be recorded at various interfaces, and
within the concrete, and allowed for qualitative comparison
of the various insulation systems that were being evaluated.

the EI coating activated (i.e. it expanded and charred) within

5 min of fire exposure when it reached a temperature of
about 235 8C. Within 10 min of fire exposure the intumescent reaction was completed and the EI layer delaminated
from the underside of the slabs, falling into the test furnace.
At 132 min, the insulation on slab 1 debonded from the
underside of the slab and exposing the FRP directly to the
fire. Within 5 min of the insulation debonding the FRP had
completely delaminated from the slab, followed shortly
thereafter by extensive spalling of the concrete cover which
exposed the reinforcing steel directly to the fire. Cracks,
approximately 5 mm in width, subsequently developed at
the unexposed surface of slab 1. Slab 2, which had double
the thickness of insulation, performed extremely well during
fire exposure and showed little apparent damage during the
full 4 h of the fire test. The insulation system on slab 2
remained intact, with only very minor cracking observed.

2.3. Test setup

Slabs 3 and 4 were both protected with Portland cementbased passive fire insulation mortars; neither of these
insulation schemes incorporated an intumescent coating.
Both slabs performed extremely well and were exposed to
fire for 4 h without failing; however, development of minor
cracks in the insulation of both slabs was observed within

Two slabs were tested, two at a time, in the intermediatescale furnace at NRC, as shown in Fig. 3. Two layers of
ceramic fiber blanket insulation were placed between the
slabs to allow them to react independently to the fire. Each
slab was supported on an insulated ledge along three sides of
the furnace. The slabs were exposed to fire in accordance
with the ASTM E119 [8] standard fire curve, with no
additional applied load. The standard fire curve is included
in Fig. 4.

3.2. Slabs 3 and 4

3. Fire test results

3.1. Slabs 1 and 2
Slabs 1 and 2 were both protected with a two-part
passive/intumescent fire protection system and were
identical except for the thickness of passive VG insulation
applied to the exterior of the FRP. During fire exposure,

Fig. 3. The intermediate-scale slab furnace at NRC with two slab specimens
installed and ready for fire testing.

B. Williams et al. / Composites: Part A 37 (2006) 11511160


Fig. 4. Temperatures recorded at various locations in slabs 1 through 4 during fire testing.

the first 2 h of the tests. These cracks appeared to gradually

widen as the test progressed, likely due to thermally induced
drying shrinkage of the insulation. Nonetheless, the fire
insulation on slabs 3 and 4 remained intact for the full
duration of the test.
3.3. Temperatures
Fig. 4 shows the temperatures measured within the
concrete, FRP, and insulation layers for all four slabs tested
to date, and Fig. 5 shows a comparison of temperatures
recorded at the same location in all four slabs. For all of the
slabs, the temperature at the fire/insulation interface rose
more slowly than the fire temperature, and remained at
temperatures slightly lower than the furnace temperature
throughout the test. This is due to a combination of: the
protective capacity of the EI layer in slabs 1 and 2; the
thermocouples being slightly embedded in the insulation in
all four slabs; and a mild heat-sink effect wherein the
insulation draws heat away from the thermocouples at its
surface. It is interesting to note the similar performance of all
four insulation systems at this location, indicating that the EI
coating on slabs 1 and 2 had little direct beneficial effect on
the thermal insulating performance of the system (although

the EI coating does play a significant role as a surface

hardening agent for the VG layer under ambient conditions).
At the insulation/FRP interface, the temperature initially
increased until a plateau was reached at about 100 8C. The
duration of this plateau appeared to be dependent both on
the thickness of the insulation and on the type of passive
insulation used. For instance, for slabs 1 and 2, which
incorporated gypsum-based passive insulation of different
thicknesses, a doubling of the insulation thickness from 19
to 38 mm for slabs 1 and 2, respectively, resulted in an
increase in the 100 8C temperature plateau from about
34 min into the test to 176 min. Slabs 3 and 4, both of which
were insulated with Portland cement-based insulation
materials with a thickness of 38 mm, both displayed
plateaus that were somewhat less pronounced and that
lasted only until 65 and 70 min of fire exposure,
respectively. It is thought that the observed temperature
plateaus at this location in all slabs occurred due to the
evaporation of free and chemically bound water from the
insulation/FRP interface at temperatures close to 100 8C.
During this time, most of the thermal energy penetrating the
insulation was consumed through the latent heat of
evaporation of water, and only minimal temperature
increases were observed. Once the water had evaporated,
the temperature again began to rise. The gypsum-based


B. Williams et al. / Composites: Part A 37 (2006) 11511160

Fig. 5. Comparison plots showing temperatures recorded at the same location in each of the four slabs.

insulation on slab 2, also at a thickness of 38 mm, had a

longer plateau due to the greater volume of water for
dehydration of hydrated gypsum as compared with hydrated
Portland cement.
In slab 1, temperature increased sharply beyond the
100 8C plateau to approximately 400 8C at 55 min, at which
point the rate of temperature rise decreased somewhat,
likely due to decomposition of the FRPs epoxy matrix/
adhesive; an endothermic reaction which is known to occur
at a temperature of about 400 8C. At approximately 132 min
of fire exposure the temperature at this interface in slab 1
increased dramatically due to delamination of the insulation
layer. This is clearly evident in Figs. 4 and 5. In slabs 2, 3
and 4, the temperature at the insulation/FRP interface rose at
a more gentle rate, and at 4 h the temperature at this
interface was 272, 409 and 405 8C, respectively.
Because the FRP/concrete interface was slightly farther
from the fire and was, to a very minor extent, insulated by
the low thermal conductivity FRP layer, the temperature at
this location rose more slowly than at the insulation/FRP
interface in all slabs. The temperature leveled off at
temperatures slightly less than 100 8C due to the moisture
evaporation plateau at the adjacent insulation/FRP interface.
The temperature then increased again in all slabs until the
end of the test. Delamination of the insulation and FRP on
slab 1 at 132 min of fire exposure created a large

temperature spike, resulting from sudden combustion of

the fire-exposed FRP. At the end of the test, the
temperatures at the FRP/concrete interface in slabs 2, 3
and 4 were 206, 246 and 284 8C, respectively. It is worth
noting that these temperatures are, in all cases, significantly
greater than the Tg values for the adhesive/matrices used.
3.4. ASTM E119 fire endurance criteria
As stated earlier, ASTM E119 specifies three criteria,
two of which are based purely on thermal requirements, to
determine the fire endurance rating for slabs and floor
assemblies. Figs. 6 and 7, respectively, show the temperatures recorded at the bottom of the internal tensile steel
reinforcement (Criterion 2) and at the slabs unexposed
surfaces (Criterion 3) in comparison with the allowable
ASTM E119 [8] temperature limits.
Fig. 6 shows that slabs 24 maintained reinforcement
temperatures of less than 593 8C for the full 4-h duration of
the tests. In fact, the maximum observed reinforcement
temperatures in slabs 2, 3 and 4 were only 104, 131 and
158 8C, respectively. Not surprisingly, the Criterion 2
temperature limit was exceeded in slab 1 at 147 min, shortly
after the insulation debonded from the FRP, resulting in
spalling and direct exposure of the reinforcement to the fire.
Fig. 7 shows that the average temperature of the unexposed

B. Williams et al. / Composites: Part A 37 (2006) 11511160

Fig. 6. Temperatures recorded at the level of the internal reinforcing steel in

all four slabs.

face of all four slabs remained less than the limiting

temperature for the full 4 h duration of the fire exposure.
Thus, according to the thermal requirements of ASTM E119
[8], slab 1 had a fire endurance rating of 147 min, whereas
slabs 24 all had fire endurances in excess of 4 h. It is
interesting to note that concrete slabs are typically required to
achieve 2 or 3 h fire endurance ratings in North America.
Since the slabs in the current study were not subjected to load
during fire exposure it is not possible to determine their fire
rating according to the first of the ASTM E119 criteria. Tests
on loaded slabs will be required to achieve this goal.
3.5. FRP effectiveness during fire
The ASTM E119 requirements are concerned only with
the overall performance of structural assemblies during fire,
and they do not specifically address questions regarding the
effectiveness of the externally bonded FRP systems. It is
interesting, however, to consider what the likely effects of
the observed temperatures might be on the FRP wraps. It is
well known that the structural performance of an FRP

Fig. 7. Average of temperatures recorded at the unexposed face for all four
slabs (average of five temperature readings).


material decreases rapidly beyond the Tg of the polymer

matrix. While some research studies have indicated that
unidirectional FRPs used in infrastructure applications can
retain much of their longitudinal strength and stiffness at
temperatures well above their Tg, for practical purposes it is
almost certain that the bond between the FRP and the
concrete would be lost at, or slightly above, this
temperature. If it is assumed that the Tg of the matrices
used in the current study is 82 8C, a value that is at the upper
end of the likely range for systems currently used in
concrete repair applications [1], then the FRP would
probably be ineffective as early as 42, 104, 46, and 52 min
for slabs 1 through 4, respectively.
It is important to recognize that the above concept of
maintenance of FRP effectiveness during fire is not
currently enforced by applicable fire testing standards in
North America, and given the overall goals of fire-safety
engineering it does not appear that it necessarily should be.
Slab or floor assemblies are required to retain sufficient
strength during fire to support their full service load for the
required duration of fire. Thus, even if the FRP loses its
effectiveness relatively early on in the fire exposure, the
insulation will protect the underlying concrete slab so that
the overall fire endurance of the assembly proves
satisfactory. The important design consideration, then, is
to ensure that the existing (unstrengthened but insulated)
slab retains sufficient strength during fire to resist full
service loads for the required duration. In most cases this
criterion is relatively easy to ensure, provided that the
increase in strength due to FRP wrapping is kept within the
range of 2550%, depending on the live-to-dead load ratio,
and assuming that the slab is provided with some form of
supplemental fire insulation.

4. Numerical model
A numerical heat transfer model was developed in
conjunction with the slab testing described above in an
attempt to predict the temperatures at various points
throughout the cross section of an insulated FRPstrengthened RC slab. The model was programmed by
Bisby [6] and Williams [14] using a modified version of a
one-dimensional explicit finite difference heat transfer
procedure that has been presented previously by Lie [15].
The effects the intumescent coating on slabs 1 and 2 are not
included in the analysis, due to its relatively insignificant
effect on the heat transfer behavior and because of the
complexities associated with modeling these types of
coatings [16]. The model discretizes the insulation, FRP,
and concrete into a series of elemental layers and
successively applies simple thermal equilibrium equations
to each. The variation in the thermal properties (thermal
conductivity and heat capacity) of all materials with
increasing temperature is taken into account using relationships suggested by Lie [15] for concrete, Griffis et al. [17]


B. Williams et al. / Composites: Part A 37 (2006) 11511160

for carbon FRP, and Bisby [6] for the spray-applied

insulation. It is assumed that fire exposure occurs from
below, that heat transfer to the slab occurs due to radiation
only, and that heat loss from the top of the slab is by
convection only using empirical equations for convective
heat transfer above a horizontal surface as suggested by
Spiers [18]. The effects of moisture evaporation from the
concrete are included by assuming that when the temperature in a layer reaches 100 8C, all of the heat transferred to
that layer is used to evaporate water. During evaporation,
the temperature in the layer is assumed to remain at 100 8C.
Temperatures begin to rise again only when all of the
moisture in the layer has completely evaporated. The effects
of moisture migrating away from the source of heat, a
phenomenon which has been observed in testing and which
is thought to play a role in the models inability to
accurately predict temperatures near 100 8C, are not
included at this time. Because the overall theory and
application of this type of explicit finite difference heat
transfer model is not novel and has been presented in detail
elsewhere [6,14,15,19], it is not necessary to completely
describe the equations used in the current analysis.
The reader should note that several commercially
available models exist to simulate heat transfer in reinforced
concrete structural members [20,21]. The available models
typically account for the latent heat of moisture evaporation
from the concrete, but most do not attempt to treat moisture
migration. Attempts to include moisture migration in
concrete under fire exposure have been presented in the
literature [22], although the required equations significantly
increase the computational effort required and have not yet
been included in the current analysis.
Relatively straightforward numerical models have also
been developed and presented previously to treat heat
transfer in thick FRP composites exposed to fire. A review
of the state of the art in this area is presented by Davies et al.
[23]. When thick FRPs are exposed to fire, pyrolysis of the
polymer matrix near the fire exposed surface will occur,
leading to the formation of a protective char. The thickness
of the char layer increases with increasing fire exposure and
forms a thermal barrier that insulates the interior of the FRP
component. The char eventually degrades and heat transfer
beyond this point is governed by the thermal properties of
the fibers that remain. Thus, accurate heat transfer analysis
in thick FRPs requires consideration of the effects of matrix
pyrolysis, off gassing, char formation, and char erosion.
However, for the case of FRP-strengthened reinforced
concrete slabs subjected to fire, the FRP strengthening
materials are typically very thin (less than 12 mm), and
their contribution to the overall heat transfer in the member
is not significant. This point is evidenced by referring to
Fig. 8, where the observed temperature drop across the FRP
sheet is seen to be insignificant for at least the first 3 h of the
fire test. Hence, the additional computational effort required
to treat pyrolysis and charring of the FRP is, in the opinion
of the authors, not warranted for the current illustrative

Fig. 8. Comparison of model predictions and observed temperatures in slab

2 during fire testing.

analysis. The observed increase in temperature drop across

the FRP at later stages of the fire exposure may indeed be
due to polymer matrix pyrolysis at elevated temperatures,
and attempts will be made to account for these affects in
future analyses. In cases where FRP materials are
sufficiently thick to significantly affect heat transfer in the
overall structural member, the reader in encouraged to
consult the work of Davies et al. [23].
As an example of the models output, Fig. 8 provides a
comparison of the predicted and measured temperatures in
the insulation, FRP, and concrete for slab 2 during
exposure to the standard fire. The temperature at the fire/
insulation interface is over-predicted in this case, likely
because of the heat sink behavior experienced by the
thermocouple located at the surface of the insulation. In
addition, the EI coating has not been included in the
model. Finally, it is likely that the fire/insulation interface
thermocouple was very slightly embedded in the
insulation, thus reducing the observed temperatures at
that location. At the insulation/FRP and FRP/concrete
interfaces, the model adequately captures the slow rise in
temperature to around 100 8C and appropriately predicts a
decreased rate of temperature increase due to moisture
evaporation from the insulation. However, the temperature
drop across the FRP layer, which is observed to increase
above 100 8C, is not well captured by the model. The
increasing drop in temperature across the FRP is likely
due to a change in thermal properties of the epoxy matrix
above Tg, a behavior that remains incompletely understood and is that not currently accounted for in the model.
Overall, it appears that the model satisfactorily
captures the thermal behavior at each interface, such
that it could be used for preliminary parametric studies.
The model is currently being further refined to allow it to
more accurately describe the variation in thermal properties of the various materials involved. The effects of
moisture migration and evaporation form the insulation
are also being incorporated.

B. Williams et al. / Composites: Part A 37 (2006) 11511160


5. Preliminary parametric studies

While the numerical model described above should be
regarded as preliminary, simple parametric studies were
conducted and have led to some interesting insights with
respect to the fire performance of externally bonded FRP
strengthening systems for RC members. As stated previously, there is some question as to whether FRP materials
used for externally strengthening RC members can maintain
their effectiveness during fire, and what thicknesses of
insulation might be required to ensure that this occurs. Two
insulation parameters are critical in any such discussion:
thermal conductivity and insulation thickness.
Preliminary parametric studies was conducted based on a
number of assumptions: (1) that the insulation system was
that used on slabs 1 and 2; (2) that fire endurance is defined
as the time at which the FRP bondline temperature exceeds
the adhesives Tg; and (3) that Tg of the FRP is 82 8C. It is
important to remember that the second assumption is used
here only for the purposes illustration, and the authors do
not wish to promote the use of Tg limits in defining fire
resistance for FRP-strengthened concrete members. It has
also been assumed in this discussion that the slab specimens
and FRP wrapping schemes are as outlined earlier for slabs
1 and 2 of the experimental program (i.e. carbonate
aggregate slabs, 150 mm thick with two layers of
externally-bonded carbon/epoxy FRP wraps).
Using the above assumptions, the effect of insulation
thickness on fire resistance as predicted by the numerical
model is shown in Fig. 9. As expected, fire resistance
increases with greater insulation thickness, reaching about
90 min with 50 mm of insulation. The gain in fire resistance
with increases in insulation thickness is roughly exponential. It is also apparent that, even with a substantial thickness
of insulation, it appears that it will be difficult to maintain
the FRP temperature below its glass transition temperature
for a prolonged period of fire exposure.

Fig. 10. Predicted variation in fire resistance with varying insulation

thermal conductivity (fire resistance defined in terms of the matrix/adhesive
glass transition temperature).

By assuming that the thermal conductivity of the

insulation remains constant with increasing temperature
(an assumption which does not hold true for most insulation
systems in fire) it is possible to examine the influence of
thermal conductivity on the fire resistance of FRPstrengthened concrete slabs using the assumptions
mentioned previously. It is also assumed that the insulation
is 25 mm thick. Fig. 10 shows that fire resistance is
maximized at lower thermal conductivity values, and that
fire resistance decreases rapidly within the 0.10.5 W/m-K
range. At thermal conductivity values above 0.5 W/m-K,
negligible reductions in fire endurance are observed. It
should be noted that the best fire insulation materials that are
currently practical for use in buildings have thermal
conductivities of about 0.1 W/m-K.
The above discussion points to the fact that, given the
thermal conductivities of currently available, cost-effective
insulation materials, and given also the fact that insulation
thickness greater than about 50 mm rapidly become impractical in many field applications, it appears that it will be very
difficult to maintain the effectiveness of externally-bonded
FRP reinforcement during fire. However, as stated previously,
maintaining effectiveness of the FRP wrap is in no way an
essential criterion for achieving adequate fire resistance.

6. Conclusions

Fig. 9. Predicted variation in fire resistance with varying insulation

thickness (fire resistance defined in terms of the matrix/adhesive glass
transition temperature).

This paper presents the results of an experimental and

numerical investigation into the fire performance of
unloaded, intermediate-scale, insulated FRP-strengthened
RC slabs. Four slab specimens were strengthened and
insulated, and their internal temperatures were monitored
during exposure to the ASTM E119 standard fire. Two
different FRP strengthening systems and three different fire
protection schemes were considered. Based on the results of
both experimental and numerical studies, the following
conclusions can be drawn:


B. Williams et al. / Composites: Part A 37 (2006) 11511160

According to ASTM E119 fire endurance criteria, a 4-h fire

endurance rating (based on thermal criteria only) can be
achieved with 38 mm of any of the four insulation schemes
examined herein. A smaller thickness of Insulation System
1 (19 mm) provided approximately 2 h of fire protection
for a 150 mm thick reinforced concrete slab.
Observations from the fire tests indicate that providing
sufficient insulation thickness is important in minimizing
cracking and preventing possible delamination of the fire
protection layer and concrete cover.
A simple heat transfer model has been developed that can
provide reasonable estimates of the temperature within
insulated FRP-strengthened RC slabs during fire exposure.
Further refinement of material thermal properties, and
incorporation of moisture migration, is necessary to
improve correlation with measured data.
While it appears that it will likely be difficult to maintain
the effectiveness of externally-bonded FRP strengthening
systems during fire, it is possible to achieve satisfactory fire
performance for FRP-strengthened RC members, provided
they are appropriately designed and adequately insulated.
Tests on full-scale insulated FRP-strengthened RC slabs
under load are required to confirm this conclusion.
7. Ongoing research
The testing and analysis presented in the current paper
represent one phase of a larger ongoing research study. In
addition to the testing and analysis presented herein, the
overall research project includes full-scale fire tests and
numerical modeling of insulated and uninsulated circular
and square FRP-wrapped RC columns [12] and insulated
FRP-strengthened reinforced concrete beam-slab
assemblies, both under load. More recently, bench-scale
tests on the high-temperature and residual mechanical and
bond properties of FRP materials are being conducted.

The authors wish to acknowledge the funding provided
by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council
of Canada (NSERC) and the Intelligent Sensing for
Innovative Structures (ISIS) Network of the Canadian
Network of Centres of Excellence. The authors would also
like to acknowledge the support of the National Research
Council of Canada, Fyfe Company LLC, Degussa Building
Systems, and Queens University, Canada.

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