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Explosion-Proof Construction: Materials and Procedures

Significance of Explosion on Building materials

Typically, each building is designed to protect and shelter the occupants. Yet, there is always a possibility of a massive detonation or explosion if the building is not constructed properly. Most of the building materials might transform into dangerous things that can lead to the primary cause of death and injury of the occupants. 

Hence, it is better to look forward and construct a building differently to protect more lives during a calamity or unexpected explosions in such an event. Choosing building materials that can resist impact from the explosive force is one of the most effective alternatives to achieve a blast-resistant building design.

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Securing The Building Envelope

When an explosion occurs near or inside the building structure, the metal, cement, and shards of glass wind up flying through the air. Most of the time, these materials are the primary source of fatalities in an explosion, when they disintegrate by the force of explosion- which then becomes secondary fragments. Therefore, fortifying the building envelope to contain the debris can minimize these secondary fragments and reduce such injuries and fatalities.

Fire Explosion on Construction site
Fig.1. Fire Explosion on Construction site

Reinforce Structural Components

Reinforcing concrete systems employ multiple layers thick spaced; steel reinforcement increases the strength of the building and blast resistance. This technology is ideal for securing building structures and can be utilized in site-cast and precast applications.

It exhibits high energy absorption and flexibility with high tensile strength and has elastic modulus characteristics. This reinforcement system is applicable in new and existing building structures, and it allows to dissipate the impact more efficiently during an unwanted explosion. 

  • Install Blast Walls

Blast walls provide subjective feelings of having better protection. It can protect detonation contact, flat trajectory fire, flying fragments, blast near the building wall, and serve as blinds from unwanted impacts. 

Reinforcing Existing Building Masonry 

The purpose behind reinforcing building masonry walls is to give more strength and an improved ductility restraint system wherever possible or during an impact. There are different ways to achieve this protection, depending on the type of wall. Whether infill or load-bearing and the degree of fenestration.

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  • Steel Plate And Column.

Several steel columns are secured behind the building wall in this vigorous retrofit technique and connect to the building frame on the ceiling and floor level. Steel plates are connected to the flanges of the columns, providing an in-situ tensile membrane capable of resisting high impact up to 50 psi. Thus, it is ideal for load-bearing walls that give support to the floor above. However, the installation process of this material is intense, mainly as each connection requires a sound weld. And this technique is relatively expensive. 

  • Steel Stud Partition

Vertical studs are installed between floors and provide reinforcements support to laminated glass or gypsum board. This vertical partition is then placed for at least 300mm inside the non-load-bearing wall to serve as a catcher screen. This steel stud is easy to install, and it doesn’t require any surface preparation. It is suitable to incorporate Steel Insulated Gasketed Access Panels in the wall to have easy access to some utility services in the building, such as plumbing and electrical cables. Still, it is only suitable for light blast impacts. 

  • Elastomeric Spray

The elastomeric spray uses a polyurea-base or urea coating about 15mm thick and is applied directly to the masonry wall. It will form a tensile membrane when it dries, enhancing the flexural capacity of the masonry wall and significantly reduces spalling during explosion impact. This coating is expensive, and it requires a thorough preparation of the wall. However, this coating can withstand a blast pressure impact of about 35 psi and 215psi-ms impulses that successfully reduces spalling. And cannot be applied in load-bearing walls without another load-bearing wall support.  

  • Internal Concrete Skin

In some explosion situations, it is impossible to provide a required protection level in a space. In such scenarios, the most effective protection is to retrofit the internal concrete skin of the building. This process is expensive but very effective. A complete structural analysis of a structure is required for this system whether it is necessary to underpin the building foundation to resist the dead load.

And maybe further requires strengthening the building frame to withstand huge dynamic loads to prevent the building collapse. Further, it can occupy some space of the building equivalent to the thickness of the concrete skin applied. And the necessary air gap from the existing wall. 

Keep the Glass Intact After A Blast

Glass fragments such as windows or glass walls, when propelled by a blast, are one of the most dangerous sources. However, multiple glass manufacturers nowadays are producing glass that has unique characteristics with blast-resistant glazing. And most of these materials incorporate sturdy plastic layers from the outside and inside the glass to add protection and keep shards from flying apart during the explosion. 

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Since it is impossible to guarantee no damage, no injuries from an explosion, this material will help reduce second fragments that can cause severe injuries or casualties during a blast. And the only best preparation for such an unwanted event that might happen is to strengthen the building structure itself, particularly the foundation, outside and inside walls, and class materials such as windows or glass walls in the building structure. 

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