Steel Structures

Department of Civil & Structural Engineering

Prof. Ian Burgess

Professor of Structural Engineering

+44 (0) 114 222 5060

Department of Civil and Structural Engineering
Sir Frederick Mappin Building
Mappin Street,
S1 3JD


Ian Burgess gained his first degree at the University of Cambridge, and his doctorate at University College London. His doctoral research work was carried out in the Structural Stability Research Group led by Professor Henry Chilver, on the general stability theory of one-way buckling systems such as reactor pressure vessel linings. Having assumed for 35 years that this had proved to be a tremendously absorbing research backwater, he has recently discovered a revival of interest in the subject led by real problems with the buckling of petrochemical pipeline linings. During a two-year NRC fellowship at McMaster University in Canada he became interested in dynamic instability phenomena, and worked in the general theory of flutter instability in aero-elastic systems. On returning to the United Kingdom to work at the University of Sheffield he identified that this phenomenon, usually associated with fluid-structure interaction, was a cause of the directional instability of slender piles driven into soft soils, and developed a theory to predict its occurrence.

In the mid-1980s he began a very fruitful and enduring collaboration with Roger Plank (recently retired as Head of the Architecture Department at Sheffield) in developing numerical techniques for modelling of the behaviour of steel and composite elements in fire. A finite element approach developed progressively from 1990 as the emphasis gradually shifted from members in isolation towards the performance of whole steel and composite framed building structures and sub-frames. The current Vulcan software is capable of non-linear modelling of 3-dimensional composite buildings as temperature distributions develop through the cross-sections of both beam-columns and slabs. The series of full-scale fire tests on the multi-storey building at Cardington were a vital ingredient in the development of the software, and in understanding the complex interactions which take place in fire. Vulcan is still being developed by the research group, but a designers’ version with an interactive graphical interface is now marketed through a University spin-out company Vulcan Solutions Ltd. This is now being used in performance-based design of fire protection strategies by leading UK consultants, and was the winner of two British Computer Society national awards in 2005. The main thrust of the research remains in numerical modelling, but some very successful experimental work has been done at Sheffield in developing a component approach to connection modelling for fire conditions. The most important current theme of the research group, after the tragic events of 11 September 2001, concerns the robustness of connections in fire and the avoidance of progressive collapse of buildings in fire. The research has been funded mainly by the EPSRC, but has also attracted funding both from industry and other government agencies. So far the research programme on fire has 28 PhD and 3 MPhil graduates and has generated more than 250 publications. Two companion papers, published in the ASCE Journal of Structural Engineering, were awarded the Raymond C Reese Prize in 2005. Two other papers (1996 and 2010) were given Henry Adams Awards by the Institution of Structural Engineers.

He has been interested in teaching developments for many years. He has been heavily involved in teaching across the whole range of Structures courses at all levels, with extended excursions into CAD, survey field courses and computer programming. He has been an active participant in a series of projects, within the University as well as in national and European consortia, to make the teaching of structural steel design more exciting, relevant and effective.

He was Head of the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering from 2005 to 2009. Outside the University he was a Water-Polo player for 40 years, but has now accepted that he will have to find something else to stave off senility. He is also an eternally optimistic fan of Sheffield United.

Recent activities and achievements

  • Henry Adams Award (IStructE) for best research paper of 1996 and 2010 in The Structural Engineer.
  • Raymond C. Reese Prize (ASCE) 2005, for two companion research papers in the ASCE Journal of Structural Engineering. This prize is awarded annually for the best paper which presents original research and demonstrates its application in practice.
  • Two British Computer Society annual awards 2005 for the software Vulcan in the categories Technology (Applications) and the BT Flagship Award for Innovation in Technology.
  • United Kingdom delegate to the EU COST C26 Action “Urban Habitat Constructions Under Catastrophic Events”, 2006- 2010.
  • Proposer and current Vice-Chair of the EU COST TU0904 Action “Integrated Fire Engineering and Response”, 2010-.
  • External examiner for undergraduate and MSc courses at Universities of Manchester 2003-2006, Cardiff 2007-2010, Glasgow 2008-2012, Edinburgh 2009-, Queen’s Belfast 2009-.
  • Convenor since 2000 of national Steel in Fire Forum, which brings together workers from academia, industry and research institutes twice each year.
  • Convenor of IStructE national study group on Teaching of Eurocodes in Universities, 2006-2010.
  • Member of IStructE Standing Committee on Implementation of Eurocodes, 2007-2010.
  • Member of EPSRC Peer Review College (re-elected 2005, 2010).
  • Member of Institution of Structural Engineers, Chartered Engineer.


BA (Cambridge), PhD (London), CEng, MIStructE