The Structural Performance of Non-metallic Timber Connections

  • Andrew Thomson

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Reducing the amount of metal used within a timber structure has many advantages, particularly when dealing with connections. Fire resistance and durability are commonly cited benefits. In addition the use of alternative connector materials minimises thermal bridging and can also provide a lighter weight structural solution.Existing contemporary forms of non-metallic timber connections are commonly provided through the use of adhesives. However, these connections are reliant on a need for careful offsite, prefabricated construction. Traditional green oak carpentry connections provide a mechanically fastened non-metallic solution. However, carpentry connections are not widely compatible with contemporary architectural design or with the use of modern engineered timber products such as glulam.Building upon research completed at the University of Bath, the aim of this thesis was to develop a mechanical, non-metallic connection system suitable for contemporary applications. Specific objectives were to investigate the structural performance of a defined connection system and to develop analysis methods to facilitate design.A review of the literature demonstrated a lack of uptake and use of mechanical non-metallic connections. Guidance for the design of mechanical fasteners reflects the lack of innovation and research into the use of non-metallic materials.Following an initial experimental investigation of non-metallic materials, an experimental testing programme was completed to investigate the use of glass fibre reinforced plastic (GFRP) dowels in conjunction with densified veneer wood (DVW) plates. The findings of the experimental study demonstrate that the use of these materials can provide a robust connection system for contemporary applications. The results of the experimental work provide guidance on dowel spacing requirements, connection response to load and connection failure modes. The failure modes of the proposed connection system were shown to be unique to the materials used and specific strength analysis methods have been developed to predict connection yield and ultimate strength. A method for predicting initial connection stiffness was also developed through the use of a beam on elastic foundation model.
Date of Award1 Jan 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorRichard Harris (Supervisor), Pete Walker (Supervisor) & Martin Ansell (Supervisor)


  • timber
  • non-metallic
  • connections

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