Load Bearing Structural Elements of Glulam in Marine Environment : A literature and case study

University essay from Karlstads universitet/Fakulteten för hälsa, natur- och teknikvetenskap (from 2013)

Abstract: This thesis discusses the possibilities of using glued laminated timber as load bearing structural elements in structures in close vicinity of saltwater. Glued laminated timber, also referred to as glulam, is a refined timber product constructed of timber lamellae that are glued together. The thesis contains a literature study and a case study that covers glulam beams in a pedestrian jetty located on the Swedish west coast. The literature study addresses wood in relation to moisture, the effects that salt may have on wood in a marine environment, wood decaying mechanisms and suitable wood preservatives to prevent decay. The literature study also covers glulam as a material and the possibilities of wood pressure impregnation. A method of estimating the service life of timber elements is also discussed.   The results of the literature study were applied in a case study of a specific case, to explore the possibility of replacing the current steel beams of the structure with glulam beams. From the case study, the strength and deflection of the prospective glulam beams were calculated. Service life of the prospective glulam beams was estimated based on the environment they would be exposed to. An analysis of the market for glulam products in Sweden was also performed to find out what dimensions and wood impregnation classes are available.   The results of the literature study show that glulam can be used as main load bearing elements in a marine environment, given that the structure is placed above sea level. Salt water does not affect the wood, rather it works as a wood preservative and gives some protection against rot. However, the structure is subjected to high moisture content and pressure impregnation is necessary. The high moisture content also affects the mechanical properties of the wood as the strength and stiffness of glulam decrease with increasing moisture content. Creep of the material is also affected as it increases with increased moisture content.   Regarding strength and deflection, the results of the case study show that glulam beams available on the Swedish market are of sufficient dimensions to be used. Regarding service life, the case study showed that the estimated service life of the glulam beams is only 19 years, but the service life required is 50 years. The current structure design with prospective glulam beams does not meet the requirements for durability of the material. However, suitable design changes regarding wood moisture protection could increase service life of the glulam beams.

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