Aziz Ahmed is part of a multidisciplinary research group within the Steel Research Hub that is aiming to develop new products and systems for cold-formed, steel-intensive mid-rise buildings. Mid-rise residential buildings are usually between five to eight storeys in height. Designing and constructing such buildings using primarily cold-formed steel (CFS) products poses several structural challenges. The current project focuses on the following issues.

Firstly, there is a lack of CFS-based shear walls to withstand high wind loads that may be experienced by the mid-rise buildings. Secondly, the lateral load resisting system of such buildings are currently designed without accounting for the advantageous effect of gravity load bearing walls, due to the lack of a system behaviour modelling technique suitable for practicing engineers. Thirdly, there are critical gaps in the current simulation capability of load-displacement and failure behaviour of shear bolted and screwed connections in steel-intensive construction. Finally, there are inadequate design guidelines for various components in a CFS building structure.

Aziz, and the research team he is part of, has successfully developed and tested high-capacity strap-braced shear panels that are optimised for Australian conditions. Although experimental tests and further development are ongoing to improve the ductility of the shear panels, the test program has already developed shear panels each with a capacity several times that of CFS shear panels typically used in Australia.

In collaboration with another project being undertaken within the Steel Research Hub, his team has also formulated an efficient modelling technique to simulate the system behaviour of CFS-intensive mid-rise buildings. It is anticipated that this technique will assist practicing engineers to optimise the design of lateral resisting systems for such buildings.

The team has also developed an advanced numerical technique to simulate the complete response of shear bolted and screwed connections between CFS components. The technique enables accurate determination of not only the ultimate capacity, but also the displacement under a particular load.  This leads to improved understanding of connection behaviour, and facilitates the formulations of structural design equations and analysis procedures for CFS structures.

Within these projects, a few other experimental activities have been completed including the testing of untightened double-shear bolted connections, nail connections, angle clip connections and shear fracture specimens. Design formulations and guidelines based on these test results will fill some of the existing gaps in the design of CFS structures. The findings will also inform future developments of new CFS products for mid-rise residential construction.

Aziz joined his team in the Steel Research Hub immediately after moving to Australia from Singapore (National University of Singapore) in 2016. The opportunities and challenges offered by this position as an associate research fellow have enabled him to grow as a researcher, and he has really enjoyed working on this multi-disciplinary team and has learned to be a researcher who can understand more about his specific field by looking at the big picture. The highly active industry-academia collaboration within the hub was another component which Aziz enjoyed as all the undertaken work aimed to have applications in the real world.

The Steel Research Hub has enabled Aziz to pursue out of the box ideas which led to two small but competitive funds (Steel Research Hub Future Challenges Award and UOW Global Challenges Award). The Hub coming to a close will mark the completion of a successful phase in his research career.