Julie Chong, 2017, Civil and Environmental Engineering

This summer I researched the environmental impacts of fireproofing material in building construction. To maintain the integrity of a building and the safety of its occupants, steel beams and columns require a fireproofing barrier, because steel becomes malleable when subjected to the heat of a fire. ‘Prescriptive’ structural design calls for a standardized amount of fireproofing material for every beam and column. This approach, however, can lead to blind adherence to building codes and over-application. Unnecessary energy is used to produce, transport and install the surplus. Hence, a new approach called ‘performancebased’ structural fire design has emerged, which calls for fireproofing material in necessary quantities only to beams and columns that need protection. To find the difference in environmental impact between the two methods, I first designed beams in a prototype building and then applied fireproofing material to them. I calculated the necessary amounts called for by both the prescriptive and performance-based approaches, then found the difference in environmental impact based on a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). I had never encountered these topics prior to this summer; it was a great learning experience that I expect to be useful in my future studies and further on in my career.