In the last few years, the construction market has seen a significant fluctuation in availability and prices of traditional construction material such as Lumber, CMU, Steel, and Concrete. This affects the timeline and cost of construction. Amid this uncertainty, there has been an uptick in the adoption of alternate construction materials to meet deadlines and lower construction cost. One of these materials is Fiber Reinforced Polymer/Plastic (FRP) which has gained increased prominence due it’s relative ease in availability. At Florida Engineering, we have provided structural engineering for many of these projects.
FRP is a composite material made from polymer matrix reinforced with glass or carbon fibers. They are available in common shapes like C-sections, I & W-Beams, Equal and Unequal Leg Angles, and Circular, Square and Rectangular Columns. Some of the sections have been shown below.
Some of the advantages of FRP materials over traditional materials include the following:
• Equivalent Strength
• Lower Density/Lightweight
• Longer Lasting
FRP has traditionally been used in high performance commercial applications such as defense and space systems, underwater construction, ballistic armor, and seismic zone applications.
It is manufactured using a process called pultrusion which is a combination of Pull(ing) and Extrusion and involves pulling the material through dies to create the necessary cross section and cutting them in required lengths.
Other than structural shapes, FRP can also be pultruded into sheets to retrofit damaged concrete beams to provide additional flexural and shear strength as well as rebar for use in foundations and concrete/CMU walls. This has opened a whole new avenue of hybrid construction where engineers are using structures built using FRP as an addition to main structures or designing multi-story commercial and residential structures.
Some of the more popular structures built using FRP shapes are the underwater system that supply the water for the famous fountain choreography at the Bellagio Hotel ad Casino, Las Vegas, and elevated generator platforms and interconnected system for the Texas GC Electrical Substation.
FRP Structural Shapes are easy to assemble and can be ordered as preformed shapes and assembled on site. They can be used as temporary or permanent installations as well as support structures during construction.
The building codes allow for use of alternate materials like FRP, but do not provide detailed guidance to the use of such materials. As Structural Engineers, it is our responsibility to calculate and engineer the structures to be able to withstand all the loads specified in local, state, and federal codes.
Here at Florida Engineering, we have been working with nationwide manufacturers and contractors to design residential and commercial structures such as single-family residences, trusses, carports, ramps and landings, stairs, and platforms using FRP products. These designs require a site-specific analysis, using both rational formulae as well as software-based Finite Element methods. Our engineers can design and provide engineering packages that contain all the necessary information to permit and construct the required structure.