Education

Full Session with Abstracts

500651 - Incorporating software into a structural fire engineering course

Friday, April 26
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
Location: Bayhill 31-32

Structural fire protection has long been based on prescriptive code requirements that require limited engineering. Yet recent research in the area of structural fire performance has laid the foundation for a legitimized alternative method, known as Performance-Based Design (PBD) for fire. This alternative method can provide benefits for public safety while delivering more efficient, innovative and economic building designs. The opportunity exists for the young generation of structural engineers to practice within this area leading to a profound positive societal impact. But because PBD applies engineering principles and physics-based modeling to understand how structures behave in fire, it requires a considerably higher level of engineering as compared to prescriptive design. In this context, the continuing development of advanced analysis software has played, and will continue to play, a key role in the rise of PBD for fire. The question then arises as to how structural fire engineering software can be incorporated into the training of Civil Engineers. Computer programs are used for modeling the fire development (e.g. based on Computational Fluid Dynamics, zone models, etc.) as well as the thermal-mechanical behavior of structures (e.g. based on the Finite Element Method). As such, they encompass a breadth of disciplines and numerical methods, which are vast and cannot be expected as prerequisites from Civil Engineering (CE) students. Nevertheless, educational objectives can be planned to provide CE students with profitable learning at several levels, while instigating curiosity for advanced analysis techniques. This presentation will describe the approach followed to incorporate software into a structural fire engineering course for upper-undergraduate and graduate CE students at Johns Hopkins University. A hands-on approach is favored where each student works directly with the different software on his/her own computer. Throughout the course, references are made to practical design cases that serve to define the problems under study, in terms of fire development as well as thermal-structural response. A number of problems are solved collectively in class, while others are solved individually by the students as assignments. In parallel, theoretical lectures provide the required foundational elements about the underlying theories, assumptions and limitations of the software used in class, as they are encountered during the applications. The presentation will also report on the outcomes and students feedback about the adopted educational approach.

Thomas Gernay

Assistant Professor
Johns Hopkins University

Thomas Gernay is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. He is most interested in improving the resilience of the built environment and specializes in structural fire engineering. His work focuses on the development of computational modeling techniques and risk-based methodologies for the analysis and design of structures under fire and multi-hazard scenarios. He holds a Ph.D. in structural engineering from University of Liege. Prior to his current appointment, he was a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University under a Fulbright fellowship and an Adjunct Lecturer at University of Liege. A recipient of the International Magnel Award (2017) and the IAFSS Best Thesis Award (2014), Thomas is also a co-author of the nonlinear finite element software SAFIR®.

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