Assessment of the thermal efficiency, structure and fire resistance of lightweight building systems for optimized design
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The use of lightweight building systems is very controversial as existing knowledge about their performance is limited. Not enough research has been conducted to determine the suitability of these modern construction technologies and there is an ongoing controversy as to whether they are an appropriate replacement to traditional construction techniques. The prime objective of this study is to present a number of methodologies to assess lightweight external walling systems focusing on thermal efficiency, structure and fire performance, which are currently the main driving forces for this industry. Traditionally, these areas have been studied separately but there is a need to integrate them in order to get comprehensive solutions to the way these systems are designed. The drive to achieve improvements in one of these specific areas could potentially result in reduced effectiveness in the others. That is the reason why an integrative approach is recommended. These techniques are meant to be applied in the design phase of building projects so as to provide early quantitative information about the systems analyzed. The methodologies described herein are then applied to real life light steel building solutions. Within this context, two different wall constructions are examined and conclusions made on their relative performance. The study highlights the importance of having analytical and experimental solutions as a framework for further development. Two different approaches have been considered to assess thermal efficiency, structure and fire performance. On the one hand, a prescriptive approach has been employed to establish regulation compliance. On the other hand, a performance based approach is taken to actually understand and explain how these systems work in real life conditions. The outcome is a comprehensive set of tools to assure both industry and other stake holders.