Skip to main content

A Case Study on a Fire-Induced Collapse Accident of a Reinforced Concrete Frame-Supported Masonry Structure


In 2003, an 8-storey reinforced concrete (RC) frame-supported masonry structure, located in Hengyang City, China, underwent a severe fire-induced collapse accident. Information on the structure and the fire scenario is presented. It includes the design data, the site observation record of the fire incident, and the laboratory material test results. Preliminary investigation reveals that about 45.9% of the bottom storey of the RC frame experienced temperatures in excess of 800°C, and its central area reached 1300°C. Such a severe fire load, of fairly high temperature and large area, is thought to be the primary cause of the progressive collapse of the entire building structure. To better understand the collapse mechanism, this study presents a coupled thermo-mechanical numerical simulation of the building collapse. The actual collapse area is well reproduced by the proposed numerical model. The simulation further demonstrates that the initial damage happened to two interior columns exposed to temperature of 1300°C. Such damage was also attributable to the large gravity load they carried, and the complicated nature of the local structural arrangements. The adjacent structural members were subsequently damaged, because they were also weakened by the fire, and were over-loaded by the redistributed load. Failure of the two interior columns and adjacent area eventually triggered a progressive collapse. Further, the effect of some critical factors on the collapse mechanism is discussed. On the basis of this numerical case study, practical design considerations on the key structural components, the fire compartments, and the structural robustness are given for the prevention of the fire-induced progressive collapse of RC frame structures.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 4
Figure 5
Figure 6
Figure 7
Figure 8
Figure 9
Figure 10
Figure 11
Figure 12
Figure 13
Figure 14
Figure 15


  1. Building Research Establishment Ltd. (2003) Client report: results and observations from full-scale fire test at BRE Cardington (Client report number 215–741). Cardington

  2. Sun R, Huang ZH, Burgess IW (2012) Progressive collapse analysis of steel structures under fire conditions. Eng Struct 34(2):400–413

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Gillie M, Usmani AS, Rotter JM (2001) A structural analysis of the first Cardington test. J Constr Steel Res 57(6):581–601

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Gillie M, Usmani AS, Rotter JM (2002) A structural analysis of the Cardington British Steel Corner Test. J Constr Steel Res 58(4):427–442

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Lamont S, Usmani AS, Drysdale DD (2001) Heat transfer analysis of the composite slab in the Cardington frame fire tests. Fire Saf J 36(8):815–839

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Mostafaei H (2013) Hybrid fire testing for assessing performance of structures in fire-application. Fire Saf J 56(2):30–38

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Robert F; Collignon C, Scalliet M (2013) Large scale fire test on tunnel segment: real boundary conditions in order to evaluate spalling sensitivity and fire resistance. In: Proceedings of the 3rd international workshop on concrete spalling due to fire exposure, Paris

  8. Drysdale D (2011) An introduction to fire dynamics. Wiley, New York

    Book  Google Scholar 

  9. Franssen JM (2005) SAFIR: a thermal/structural program modelling structures under fire. Eng J, AISC 42(3):143–158

    Google Scholar 

  10. Cai J, Burgess IW, Plank RJ (2003) A generalised steel/reinforced concrete beam-column element model for fire conditions. Eng Struct 25(6):817–833

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Gilliea M, Usmani A, Rotter M, O’Connor M (2001) Modelling of heated composite floor slabs with reference to the Cardington experiments. Fire Saf J 36(8):745–767

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Sanad AM, Usmani A, Rotter JM, O’Connor M (2000) Composite beams in large buildings under fire: numerical modelling and structural behaviour. Fire Saf J 35(3):165–188

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Yin YZ, Wang YC (2004) A numerical study of large deflection behaviour of restrained steel beams at elevated temperatures. J Constr Steel Res 60(7):1029–1047

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Usmani AS, Chung YC, Torero JL (2003) How did the WTC towers collapse: a new theory. Fire Saf J 38(6):501–533

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Quintiere JG, di Marzo M, Becker R (2002) A suggested cause of the fire-induced collapse of the World Trade Towers. Fire Saf J 37(7):707–716

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. National Institute of Standards and Technology (2005) Final report on the collapse of the world trade center towers. Gaithersburg

  17. McAllister T, Sadek F, Gross JL, Averill JD, Gann RG (2013) Overview of the structural design of world trade center 1, 2, and 7 buildings. Fire Technol 49(3):587–613. doi:10.1007/s10694-012-0285-6

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Kotsovinos P, Usmani A. (2013) The world trade center 9/11 disaster and progressive collapse of tall buildings. Fire Technol 49(3):741–765. doi:10.1007/s10694-012-0283-8

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. McAllister TP, Gross JL, Sadek F, Kirkpatrick S, MacNeill RA, Zarghamee M, Erbay OO, Sarawit AT (2013) Structural response of world trade center buildings 1, 2 and 7 to impact and fire damage. Fire Technol 49(3):709–739. doi:10.1007/s10694-012-0289-2

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Capote JA, Alvear D, Lazaro M, Espina P, Fletcher I, Welch S, Torero JL (2006) Analysis of thermal fields generated by natural fires on the structural elements of Tall Buildings. In: Proceedings of the international congress on fire safety in tall buildings, Santander

  21. Fletcher IA, Borg A, Hitchen N, Welch S (2006) Performance of concrete in fire: a review of the state of the art, with a case study of the Windsor tower fire. In: Proceedings of the 4th international workshop in structures in fire, Aveiro

  22. Flint G, Lamont S, Lane B, Sarrazin H, Lim L, Rini D, Roben C (2013) Recent lessons learned in structural fire engineering for composite steel structures. Fire Technol. 49(3):767–792. doi:10.1007/s10694-012-0291-8

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Lamont S, Lane B, Flint G, Usmani A (2006) Behavior of structures in fire and real design—a case study. J Fire Prot Eng 16(2):5–35

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. The Ministry of Construction of the People’s Republic of China (2001) Technical specification for inspecting of concrete compressive strength by rebound method (JGJ/T 23-2001). Beijing

  25. The Ministry of Construction of the People’s Republic of China (1988) Technical specification for testing concrete strength with drilled core (CECS 03:88). Beijing; 1988

  26. The Ministry of Construction of the People’s Republic of China (1989) Code for design of concrete structures (GBJ 10-89). Beijing

  27. General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People’s Republic of China (1988) Hot rolled ribbed steel bar for the reinforcement of concrete (GB 1499-98). Beijing

  28. General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People’s Republic of China (1991) Hot rolled low carbon steel wire rods (GB/T 701-91). Beijing

  29. State Bureau of Building Materials Industry (2000) Precast concrete paving units (JC/T 446-2000). Beijing

  30. State Bureau of Building Materials Industry (1997). Normal concrete small hollow block (GB 8239-1997). Beijing

  31. The Ministry of Construction of the People’s Republic of China (2000) Technical standard for site testing of engineering (GB/T 50315-2000). Beijing

  32. Vander Voort GF (2004) ASM handbook: metallography and microstructures, vol 9. ASM International, Novelty

    Google Scholar 

  33. The Ministry of Construction of the People’s Republic of China (2006) Code of design on building fire protection and prevention (GB50016-2006). Beijing

  34. Xu Y, Wu B (2009) Fire resistance of reinforced concrete columns with L-, T-, and +-shaped cross-sections. Fire Saf J 44(6):869–880

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Huang ZH, Burgess IW, Plank RJ (2009) Three-dimensional analysis of reinforced concrete beam-column structures in fire. J Struct Eng, ASCE 135(10):1201–1212

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Shi XD, Tan TH, Tan KH (2002) Concrete constitutive relationships under different stress-temperature paths. J Struct Eng, ASCE 128(12):1511–1518

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Guo ZH, Shi XD (2003) Behaviour of reinforced concrete at elevated temperature and its calculation. Tsinghua University Press, Beijing (in Chinese)

    Google Scholar 

  38. Lu X, Lu XZ, Guan H, Ye LP (2013) Collapse simulation of reinforced concrete high-rise building induced by extreme earthquakes. Earthq Eng Struct Dyn 42(5):705–723

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Lie TT, Irwin RJ (1993) Method to calculate the fire resistance of reinforced concrete columns with rectangular cross section. ACI Struct J 90(1):52–60

    Google Scholar 

  40. Lie TT, Celikkol B (1991) Method to calculate the fire resistance of circular reinforced concrete columns. ACI Struct J 88(1):84–91

    Google Scholar 

  41. MSC Software Corp. (2005) MSC.Marc Volume A: Theory and User Information

  42. Li Y, Lu XZ, Guan H, Ye LP (2011) An improved tie force method for progressive collapse resistance design of reinforced concrete frame structures. Eng Struct 33(10):2931–2942

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Li Y, Lu XZ, Guan H, Ye LP (2014) An energy-based assessment on dynamic amplification factor for linear static analysis in progressive collapse design of ductile RC frame structures. Adv Struct Eng 17(8):1217–1225

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Li Y, Lu XZ, Guan H, Ye LP (2014) Progressive collapse resistance demand of RC frames under catenary mechanism. ACI Struct J 111(5):1225–1234

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Law A, Stern-Gottfried J, Gillie M, Rein G (2011) The influence of travelling fires on a concrete frame. Eng Struct 33(5):1635–1642

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. International Standard Organization (1999) International standard ISO 834-1: fire resistance tests—elements of building construction—Part 1: general requirements. Geneva

  47. European Committee for Standardization (2004) Eurocode 2: design of concrete structures. Part 1–2: general rules structural fire design (EN 1992-1-2). Brussels

  48. Kodur VKR, Wang TC, Cheng FP (2004) Predicting the fire resistance behavior of high strength concrete columns. Cem Concr Compos 26(2):141–153.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. American Society of Civil Engineers (2005) Minimum design loads for buildings and other structures (ASCE7-05). Reston

  50. United States General Services Administration (2003) Progressive collapse analysis and design guidelines for new federal office buildings and major modernization projects. Washington D.C.

  51. Department of Defense (2010) Unified facilities criteria (UFC): design of structures to resist progressive collapse. Washington D.C.

Download references


The authors are grateful for the financial support received from the National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program) (No. 2012CB719703), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 51208011) and Australian Research Council through an ARC Discovery Project (DP150100606).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Xinzheng Lu.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Li, Y., Lu, X., Guan, H. et al. A Case Study on a Fire-Induced Collapse Accident of a Reinforced Concrete Frame-Supported Masonry Structure. Fire Technol 52, 707–729 (2016).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Frame-supported masonry structure
  • Fire-induced collapse
  • Site investigation
  • Numerical simulation