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Patent Searching and Data


Title:
PANEL
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2011/113102
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Described herein is a panel (300) for use in forming a fabricated structure including one or more wall portions (302); and one or more structural portion (304) extending longitudinally adjacent a wall portion (302). The structural portion(s) (304) is configured to strengthen the fabricated structure in use. The wall portion (302) can include one or more secondary strengthening structures (308) that stiffen the wall portion. A panel assembly using the panel and fabricated structures are also described.

Inventors:
KATSALIDIS EPAMINONDAS (AU)
Application Number:
PCT/AU2011/000298
Publication Date:
September 22, 2011
Filing Date:
March 17, 2011
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
EKCO PATENT & IP HOLDINGS PTY LTD (AU)
KATSALIDIS EPAMINONDAS (AU)
International Classes:
E04C2/32; E04B1/00; E04B1/08; E04B2/08; E04B2/72; E04B2/88; E04C2/08; E04C2/284; E04C2/38
Foreign References:
GB1445860A1976-08-11
US5979136A1999-11-09
EP0065914B11984-12-12
US5311716A1994-05-17
GB738287A1955-10-12
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FREEHILLS PATENT & TRADE MARK ATTORNEYS (101 Collins StreetMelbourne, VIC 3000, AU)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1. A panel for use in forming a fabricated structure including: at least one wall portion; and at least one structural portion extending longitudinally adjacent a wall portion, said structural portion configured to strengthen the fabricated structure in use.

2. A panel as claimed in clam 1 wherein the at least one wall portion includes: one or more secondary strengthening structures adapted to strengthen the wall portion.

3. A panel as claimed in claim 2 wherein the secondary stiffening structure includes at least one stiffening rib which extends longitudinally across the wall portion.

4. A panel as claimed in claim 2 wherein the stiffening ribs extend longitudinally across the wall portion in a direction generally parallel to the structural portion of the panel.

5. A panel as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein a first side of the wall portion is defines a plane.

6. A panel as claimed in claim 5 wherein the plane is defined by substantially planar surface regions, co-planar strips or bosses or the like, which together serve to define regions or points on a common plane

7. A panel as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the wall portion includes an overlap portion adapted, in use to be overlapped with an adjacent panel or other structure.

8. A panel as claimed in claim 8 wherein the structural portion includes an overlap section that is complementarily shaped with the overlap portion of a wall portion of a like panel, such that in use, two like panels can be overlapped along their respective overlap portions to define an extended wall portion in combination.

9. A panel as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the structural portion preferably includes a stiffening structure that projects outward from the panel opposite a first side of the wall portion.

10. A panel as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the structural portion is shaped to form an integral beam with the panel.

11. A panel structure, including a plurality of like panels as claimed in any one of the preceding claims.

12. A panel assembly as claimed in claim 1 in which the panels forming the panel assembly are arranged such that each panel overlaps at least one other panel, and adjacent panels are affixed to each other in the overlapping regions.

13. A panel assembly as claimed in either of claims 11 or 12 wherein the wall portions of the panels are aligned to define an extended wall surface.

14. A panel assembly as claimed in any one of claims 11 to 13 wherein panel assembly includes at least one transversely extending structure for supporting a plurality of panels.

15. A panel assembly as claimed in any one of claims 11 to 13 wherein the panel assembly includes at least two transversely extending members to which are mounted the plurality of panels, said transversely extending members being positioned relative to the structural portion of the panels such that the structural portions of the panels extend longitudinally between at least two transversely extending members, said transversely extending members and structural portions of the panels together forming a structural support for the panel assembly.

16. A panel assembly as claimed in any one of claims 11 to 15 which further includes at least one lining layer supported adjacent a first side of a wall portions of an underlying panel.

17. A panel assembly as claimed in claim 16 which includes a one or more intermediate layers positioned between the lining layer and the underlying panel. 18. A panel assembly as claimed in claim 17 wherein the intermediate layer is, or includes, any one or more of: a sound insulating layer, a heat transmitting layer; a polymer layer.

19. A panel assembly as claimed in claim 17 wherein at least one of the intermediate layers is sandwiched between two other layers of the assembly and damps sound transmission through the panel structure using constrained layer damping.

20. A panel assembly as claimed in claim 15 which further includes at least one strengthening member spanning between the transversely extending members.

21. A panel assembly as claimed in claim one of claims 11 to 20 which comprises at least part of any one of a floor, wall, roof of a fabricated building unit.

22. A fabricated building unit having at least one of a wall, floor and roof structure that includes a panel as claimed in any one of claims 1 to 10.

23. A building including a plurality of fabricated building units as claimed in claim 22.

Description:
Panel

Field of the invention

The present invention relates to a panel. The panel of the present invention is particularly useful in the construction of modular building units. The present invention also provides assemblies and building units constructed using the panel.

Background of the invention

In the following description, unless the context dictates otherwise the term a "wall" should be understood broadly to refer to a structure defining a boundary or at least partly dividing of a volume or region. Thus a panel used in a structure described as a wall might also be suited to use as a floor or roof, or divider or other structure.

There have been many proposals to utilise prefabricated building methodologies in order to enable inexpensive and fast construction of buildings. Examples of prefabricated modular systems include those disclosed in the following patent specifications: US 6,625937; US 5,706,614; US 4,120,133; US 6,826,879; US 4,045,937; US 5,402,608; US 4,807,401 ; US 4,545,159; and WO2005/038155.

The applicant has also described new developments in this field in our co-pending international patent application PCT7AU2009/001236 entitled Unitised Building System.

The structures described in these prior patent specifications typically use plurality of building units constructed from steel or other material which are then connected together to form a building.

For example, in our prior patent specification a plurality of building unit assemblies are prefabricated and then assembled according to a predefined structure to create a building. In most embodiments, the building units are formed from steel. However, other materials may be used. In our earlier specification PCT/AU2009/001236, Figure 16, which is re-produced herein as Figure 1 , illustrates the structure of one embodiment of the building unit assembly and connection assemblies for interconnecting various units. In broad terms the construction of such a building unit assembly follows a process of, constructing a self supporting unit, followed by the attachment of one or more support columns to its exterior.

In the illustrated arrangement of Figure 1 , the sidewall 6 is formed from profiled steel sheeting 179 which is similar to that used in shipping containers. Typically the sheet has a thickness of 1.6mm and a single sheet is used for the entire wall which may have a height of 2700mm and a length between 10m to 20m. The sidewall 6 includes an upper rail 180 which is welded to the top edge of the profiled wall sheeting 179. Typically the rail 180 is 60x60mm and having a wall thickness of 3mm. The sidewall 6 also includes a bottom rail 182 which is of generally C shaped section having a lower flange 183 and a wider upper flange 185 which is welded to the bottom edge of the sheeting 179. The depth of the central web of the bottom rail 182 is typically 160mm and the material has a thickness of 4.5mm.

The floor 8 could be made up from a plurality of steel purlins 184 extending laterally across the building between the sidewalls 6 and located at 400mm centres. The ends of the purlins are welded or bolted to the central web of the bottom rail 182 of the sidewall 6, as shown. The floor further includes plywood flooring 186 mounted by screws, or the like, to the purlins 184.

The roof 10 is made up from profiled steel sheeting 186 which can be the same as that used in the sidewall 6. The roof further includes a roof rail 188 which in the illustrated arrangement is an L-section channel, 55x55mm having a wall thickness of 6mm. The roof rail 188 can be welded or bolted to the upper rail 180 of the sidewall 6.

The other sidewall 4 of the building unit 2 is of similar construction and need not be described. The components of the sidewalls 4 and 6 and the floor and roof 8 and 10 define the box like structure of the building unit which is capable of supporting its own weight and live loads applied to it in use. In the illustrated arrangement, the internal sidewalls are lined with a double layer of fire rated plasterboard 190 and 192 which are connected to the inside of the sheeting 179 by means of upper and lower battens 194 and 196. Similarly, the roof is lined by two plasterboards 198 and 200 connected to the inner face of the panels 186 by ceiling battens 202. The double layers of plasterboards together with the air spaces between the plasterboards and the profiled sheeting 179 and panels 186 increases fire rating and soundproofing of and between the building units.

Figure 1 also shows a column element 22 and its associated lower and upper mounting blocks 24 and 26. In the arrangement illustrated arrangement, the column element 22 is formed from a square section steel beam, 100x100mm and having a wall thickness of 9mm. Its upper end 20 is welded directly to the upper rail 180 of the sidewall 6. The top of the column element 22 is welded to the upper mounting block 26 and bottom of the column element 22 is welded to the lower mounting block 24. In the illustrated arrangement, the lower mounting block 24 is somewhat wider than the upper block 26 and its inner side extends into the channel which forms the bottom rail 182 of the sidewall 6 and is welded thereto. This completes the connection of the column element 22 and the mounting blocks 24 and 26 to the sidewall 6. The other column elements 16, 18 and 20 of the building unit assembly are connected in a similar way and need not be described.

Figure 2 of the present specification reproduces Figure 79 of PCT/AU2009/001236 and illustrates the construction of second type of building unit. This embodiment differs from that of the previous embodiments in that it chiefly uses flat sheet material for its wall, floor and roof construction, rather than the corrugated profiled sheets used in the previous embodiments. Figure 2 illustrates a partially exploded cross-sectional view of a building unit 400. The building unit includes a wall panel 402, a roof panel 404 and a floor panel 406. The roof panel 404 has a corner angle section 408, which may for example be an angled section 110mm x 110mm with a thickness of 4mm. This is welded to wall sheet material 410, which may be of sheet steel of 1.6mm thick.

A series of purlins 411 extend across the roof panel 404 to another angle section the same as section 408. The purlins 411 are welded to the angle 408 on its end face and along its top edge to the sheet 410. Similar purlins 411 are spaced apart along the roof panel at intervals, for example at 600mm centres. In the preferred embodiment the purlins are C10019 specification purlins.

The wall panel 402 construction is similar to that of the roof panel 404. At the top of the wall panel 402 there is an angled section 412. The angled section 412 supports the roof panel and may be of similar dimensions to the angled section 408 on the roof panel. A second angled section 414 is located at the bottom of the roof panel 402. This angled section 414 supports the floor panel 406. In this example the lower angle 414 has dimensions 210mm x 110mm and is 3mm thick. The wall panel is skinned with sheet steel, for example 2.4mm 450 MPa steel sheets. This is welded to the angle 412 at its top and angle 414 at its bottom. The sheet steel wall panel 416 is strengthened using C purlins 418 which extend between the lower angled section 414 and the upper angled section 412. The C purlins are spaced along the length of the wall and welded there to at intervals. In the illustrated embodiment the purlins 418 can be C7519 specification purlins set at 600 mm centres along the wall.

The floor panel 406 has a similar construction to the roof 404 and wall 402. The floor panel 406 has an angled section 420 at each end (only one end is shown in this diagram) to which is welded a lower floor panel comprised of sheet steel panel 422. On top of the floor panel 422 there are welded C purlins which extend between the angled sections 420 either side of the floor. In this case the floor purlins can be of C20019 specifications set at 600 mm centres along the floor panel.

As in the previous embodiments, the roof panel, floor panel and wall panel will be brought into engagement and welded together. Construction using corrugated section, as in the first example described above can be advantageous in terms of strength however, the corrugations in the sheet material limit the interior treatments and linings which are possible or practical.

The flat sheet construction, of the second example, increases options for lining the inside of the structure. However, they are more complicated and labour intensive to build because of the numerous components need to be assembled, purlins and sheets to create a structure.

Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide a panel suitable for use in a building unit of this and other types which addresses one or more of the disadvantages of the prior art, or at least provides a useful alternative to them.

Reference to any prior art in the specification is not, and should not be taken as, an acknowledgment or any form of suggestion that this prior art forms part of the common general knowledge in Australia or any other jurisdiction or that this prior art could reasonably be expected to be ascertained, understood and regarded as relevant by a person skilled in the art.

Summary of the invention

Described herein is a panel for use in forming a fabricated structure including: at least one wall portion; and at least one structural portion extending longitudinally adjacent a wall portion, said structural portion configured to strengthen the fabricated structure in use.

The at least one wall portion can include one or more secondary strengthening structures adapted to strengthen the wall portion. Most preferably the strengthening structure is adapted to stiffen the wall portion. The secondary stiffening structure can include at least one stiffening rib which extends longitudinally across the wall portion. Most preferably the stiffening ribs run parallel to the structural portion of the panel.

Most preferably, the structure defining the wall portion is configured, e.g. in shape and/or extent to define at least one surface that can cooperate with additional panel layers in use to achieve desired sound transmission characteristics through the panel using constrained layer damping.

In a preferred embodiment a first side of the wall portion is defines a plane. The plane can be defined by substantially planar surface regions, co-planar strips or bosses or other structures that serve to define a notionally planar surface of the wall portion. Most preferably close to 100% of the wall portion serves to define the plane. In some embodiments a lower proportion of the wall portion defines a plane, but preferably at least 50% of the first side lies in a common plane. Such a structure can assist in achieving desired sound transmission characteristics as mentioned above.

The wall portion can also include an overlap portion adapted, in use, to be overlapped with an adjacent panel or other structure. The structural portion can also include an overlap section. The two overlap sections can be complementarily shaped to facilitate connection of overlying similar panels along their respective overlap portions.

Most preferably the panel includes one wall portion and one structural portion. The structural portion preferably defines one longitudinal edge of the panel. A panel can include a plurality of wall and or structural portions.

The structural portion preferably includes a stiffening structure that projects outward from the panel in a direction opposite to the first side of the wall portion. The stiffening structure can be shaped to form an integral beam within the panel.

In a preferred form the wall portion and structural portion are integrally formed. Most preferably the panel is formed by roll-forming, pressing or folding sheet metal. Although, other forming techniques and materials can be used. Also disclosed herein is a wall panel assembly including a plurality of like panels of the type described herein. The like panels can be arranged such that each panel overlaps at least one other panel such that neighbouring panels can be affixed to each other in the overlapping regions. Most preferably the wall portions are aligned to define an extended wall surface.

The wall panel assembly can include a lining layer attached to the first side of one or more wall panels. The lining layer can be mechanically attached to the panel(s) e.g. using screws, rivets, clips, bolts or other mechanical fasteners. Alternatively the lining layer can be bonded to the panel(s) e.g. using an adhesive. Intermediate layers can be positioned between the lining layer and the panel(s), e.g. sound and/or thermal insulation. In a preferred form the intermediate layer is a sound insulating, heat transmitting layer, for example, a polymer layer. In this case it can be sandwiched neighbouring layers, e.g. between the lining layer and panel(s) to minimise sound transmission through the panel structure through constrained layer damping.

The panel assembly can also include at least one beam extending transverse to the direction of the structural portion of the panels. The panels can be attached to the beam e.g. by welding, bolting, screwing or some other mechanism.

Additional aspects of the invention include a building unit having at least one of a wall, floor or roof, structure that includes a panel or panel assembly as described herein. Preferably the building unit is generally of the type described in PCT/AU2009/01236.

As used herein, except where the context requires otherwise, the term "comprise" and variations of the term, such as "comprising", "comprises" and "comprised", are not intended to exclude further additives, components, integers or steps.

Brief description of the drawings / figures

Exemplary embodiments of the present invention will be described by way of example only with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

Figure 1 reproduces figure 16 of PCT/AU2009/001236; Figure 2 reproduces figure 79 of PCT/AU2009/001236;

Figure 3 illustrates a cross sectional view of a panel according to an embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 3A illustrates a cross sectional view of detail section A from figure 3;

Figure 4 illustrates, in cross section, the plurality of panels of the type shown in figure 3 assembled into a panel structure;

Figure 5 illustrates, in cross section, through a wall formed using a panel structure of the type shown in figure 4;

Figure 6 illustrates, in cross section, a partially exploded view of a building unit formed using a panel structure of the type shown in figure 5;

Figures 6A and 6B illustrate the wall panel component of figure 6 in more detail; and

Figures 7A to 7C illustrate alternative features of panels made in accordarice several embodiments of the present invention.

Figure 8 illustrates a blank that can be used to form a wall panel according to an embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 9 illustrates a profile view of the panel formed using the blank of figure 8;

Figure 10 illustrates a series of panels of the type shown in figures 8 and 9 which have been assembled into a panel assembly;

Figure 11 illustrates a blank for forming a beam used in the embodiment of the present invention;

Figures 12A and 12B show cross-sectional and elevation views of the beam formed from the blank of figure 11 ; Figures 13A and 13B illustrate end and side views of a further beam, usable in the embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 14A and 14B respectively illustrate elevation and side views of a segment of a panel assembly comprising a beam as illustrated in each of figures 12 and 13 and a series of panels of the type illustrated in figure 9, and stiffening members of figure 28;

Figure 15 illustrates another blank usable in forming a panel according to a further embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 16A and 16B illustrate the panel formed using the blank figure 15, in cross- section and elevation views respectively;

Figure 17 illustrates the cross-sectional view of a side beam usable in forming a panel assembly which includes panels of the type illustrated in figures 15 and 16;

Figure 18 illustrates a panel assembly including beams according to figure 17 and panels according to figures 15 and 16;

Figure 19 illustrates another exemplary blank that can be used to form a panel according to an embodiment of the present invention;

Figures 20 and 21 illustrate elevation and cross-sectional views of panel formed using the blank at figure 19 respectively;

Figure 22 illustrates a portion of a panel assembly formed using the panels of figures 19 to 21 ;

Figure 23 illustrates a close up end view of one side of the panel illustrated in figure 22;

Figure 24 illustrates a blank for a stiffening member used in a panel assembly according to an embodiment of the present invention; Figures 25 and 26 respectively show side and end views of a member formed from the blank of figure 24;

Figure 27 illustrates a blank for a stiffening member used in a panel assembly according to an embodiment of the present invention; and

Figures 28 and 29 respectively show end and side views of a member formed from the blank of figure 27.

Detailed description of the embodiments

In a preferred form, the invention provides a panel that combines a wall portion and a structural member. Advantageously the structural member can be configured to provide structural strength of a structure into which the panel is incorporated, whilst the wall portion defines a surface. The wall portion can be stiffened against deformation by including strengthening structures into it.

Figure 3 shows a cross section through an example panel 300. The panel generally comprises, a wall portion 302 and a structural portion 304. The portion 302 and structural portion 304 are unitarily formed in a single sheet of material, for example by roll-forming or pressing.

The wall portion 302 comprises a generally flat web in which is formed a plurality of relatively low profile stiffening ribs 306, 308 and 310. These stiffening ribs minimise longitudinal bending of the wall portion 302. A first side 311 of the wall portion 302 includes a plurality of lands 305, 307 and 305, which together define a plane. In use, the first side of the panel will define a presentation side of the structure in which the panel is used. Accordingly by providing a planar surface or series of fixing point that define a surface to which a lining can be fixed aids lining the panel.

The second side of the panel 313 need not define a plane, but may do in some examples, e.g. the outermost points/lands on the stiffening ribs can define a plane, which can facilitate cladding or lining the second side of the panel if desired. The structural portion 304 comprises structure similar to a beam or purlin and includes an upstanding wall 312 which extends away from the plane of the wall portion 302. The upstanding wall 312 merges into relatively short transverse web 314 which merges into a short return flange 316,.

In the embodiment of figure 3, the structural portion 304 merges into the wall section 302 via a rib 318 which resembles stiffening ribs 306, 308 and 310. Figure 3A illustrates a cross sectional view of detail section A from figure 3 to better illustrate the structure of rib 318.

In overall structure, the structural portion 304, including rib 318, notionally resemble a Z-purlin which is integrally formed with the wall portion 302. The stiffening ribs 306, 308 and 310 of the wall portion 302 are sufficient to prevent deformation of the wall portion 302. However, the structural portion 302 of the panel 300 is the primary stiffening structure for the panel 300 and is intended to provide structural strength to an assembly in which the panel is used. For example, when used in a building unit of the type described herein the stiffening ribs 306, 308 and 310 stop the walls from buckling or flexing, whilst the structural portion define part of the structural support of the building unit, to enable it to be self supporting, carry live loads and assist in transfer of lateral stresses through the building unit in use.

In this example, the panel is made from 1.6mm sheet steel. The panel wall 302 includes a plurality of identical repeating profile sections, 324, 326 and 328, each of which include a two wall sub-sections separated by a wall stiffening rib. In this example each repeating profile section has a dimension, denoted "p" which is 200mm, making the overall length of the wall portion 302, 600mm. The structural portion 304 forms a structural channel having a depth "d" from the wall face 311 of the wall portion 302. In this example the depth "d" of the channel 75mm and the width of the channel is 70mm. The return flange 316 on the channel is angled away from its inner wall 312 by 5 degrees. Different dimensions e.g. "d" and "p" and material thicknesses can be used to achieve particular structural or wall properties. Table 1 illustrates a range of different dimensions that can be used in examples of panels that are particularly suited to different uses, e.g. floor panels, wall panels, and roof panels. Other dimensions and profiles are possible.

Table 1

As would be appreciated, various adaptations can be made to the specific structure of the panel 300 whilst maintaining the underlying principles of the invention. Several such several examples shown in figures 7a through 7c and Figure 8, which will be described in greater detail below.

Figure 4 illustrates how a plurality of panels (e.g. three in this case) of the type illustrated in figure 3 can be assembled to create a larger panel structure. In figure 4, there is shown a section of a panel assembly 450 formed from three panels 300 of the type illustrated in figure 3. The panels 300 are arranged such that each panel 300 partially overlaps with the next panel 300. The overlapping is such the free end 303 of each wall panel underlies the rib 318 of its adjacent overlying panel 300. Adjacent wall panels can attached e.g. welded together by spot, MIG, TIG. or arc welding down the length of the overlapping regions of the adjacent wall panels.

The wall panel arrangement 450 shown in figure 4 has a panel structure which is substantially flat on a first side 452 has a plurality of projecting structural ribs in the form of projecting structural portions 304 on the second side 454.

Thus the resulting structure of the panel structure 450 is notionally quite similar to the prior art sheet and purlin wall referred to in connection with Figure 2. However this has been achieved using a very different set of components. Advantageously the number of components used in a panel structure made according to an embodiment of the present invention is reduced, and the number of welding operations is reduced, (when compared to the sheet and purlin approach) since purlins and sheets no longer need to be separately handled and connected to each other.

Turning now to figure 5 there is illustrated a wall panel 500. The wall panel 500 is formed from three panels 300 welded to each other in the manner indicated in figure 4. The first side of the panels 300 is clad with lining layer 502. Sandwiched between the lining layer 502 and the panel structure 300 is sound absorbing layer 504. Most preferably, the sound absorbing layer 504 is polymer material and prevents transmission of sound across the panel structure 500 by a mechanism known as constrained layer damping.

The level of sound damping can be chosen by selecting an appropriately profiled panel. If a higher damping (for a given layer materials) is needed a greater extent of the panel e.g. 100% or close to 100%, can be employed in the constrained layer damping by maximising the proportion of the first side of the panel that contacts the constrained layer. This can be achieved, e.g. by having narrow stiffening structures (such as in figure 7A), or stiffening structures that are shallow enough that the first side is effectively flat, such that the sound absorbing layer can be sandwiched between the first side of the panel and the lining layer such that it makes contact with both, even in recessed parts of the stiffening structure(s). As can be seen with the construction illustrated in figure 5, a large surface area of the panel structure 500 can be used for constrained layer damping of sound. This is not possible in a heavily corrugated structure such as walls used in shipping containers and the like without the use of a lining structure which has a complex inner profile that matches the corrugations in the wall. Accordingly, it can be seen that having a relatively flat surface on the panel structure is advantageous over a highly corrugated structure.

Figure 6 shows a partially exploded cross section through a portion of a building unit similar to that shown in figure 2, except that the wall, roof and floor include are fabricated using panels of the type shown in figure 3.

The building unit includes a wall panel assembly 602, a roof panel assembly 604 and a floor panel assembly 606. Figures 6A and 6B illustrate the wall panel assembly 602 in more detail.

The wall panel assembly 602 construction is similar to that of the roof panel assembly 604 and floor panel assembly 606. At the top of the wall panel assembly 602 there is an angled section 612. The angled section 612 supports the roof panel assembly and may be of similar dimensions to an equivalent section on the adjacent roof panel assembly. A second angled section 614 is located at the bottom of the wall panel assembly 602. This angled section 614 supports the floor panel 606 in use. In this example, the lower angle 614 has dimensions 210mm x 110mm and is 3mm thick. The wall panel assembly 602 is skinned with, a plurality of panels 616 of the type illustrated in figure 3. Each panel 616 This is welded to the angle 612 at its top and angle 614 at its bottom. The panel 616 is given structural strength by the panels' integrally formed structural segments 618, which operate like purlins and extend between the lower angled section 614 and the upper angled section 612.

The roof panel assembly 604 has a corner angle section 608, which may for example ■be an angled section 110mm x 110mm with a thickness of 4mm. This is welded to. a series of panels 610 similar in form to panels 616 used in the wall panel 602. For example the panels 610 of the roof can be of type R100dx70bx1.6x600p indicated in table 1. The floor panel assembly 606 has a similar construction to the roof 604 and wall 602. The floor panel 606 has an angled section 620 at each end (only one end is shown in this diagram) to which is welded a lower floor panel comprised of panels 622. For example the panels 622 of the floor panel 606 can be of type F200dx70bx1.6x600p indicated in table 1.

As in the previous embodiments, the roof panel assembly, floor panel assembly and wall panel assembly will be brought into engagement and welded together.

Figures 7a through 7c illustrate three alternative embodiments according to different embodiments of the present invention showing panels in differing profiles. Each of the panel elements 700, 720, 740 each generally include a wall portion 702, 722, 742 and a structural portion 704, 724, 744 as indicated in connection with the example of figure 3.

In figure 7a, the stiffening ribs in the wall portion 702 are more upstanding and narrower than the wide, shallow ribs shown in the example of figure 3. The stiffening ribs 706, 708 and 710 have a generally channel-like form. Thus this example provides a larger proportion of its wall portion in a single plane. The structural portion 704 of the panel element 700 is similar to that of figure 3.

In figure 7B the stiffening ribs 726, 728 and 730 have a semi-circular profile. However, the structural portion 724 does not include a return flange portion as shown in the previous embodiments. Instead, the structural portion 724 is simply an upstanding flange.

Figure 7C shows a further embodiment. In this example the panel 740, relatively wide channel shaped stiffening ribs 746 and 748 are used to stiffen the wall portion 742 of the panel 740. However, it should be noted that the wall portion 740 has a significant proportion of its first side 750 which still lies in thejsame in a common plane. As with the previous embodiments, this facilitates the use of adhesives to attach a lining layer to the inner surface 750 and moreover, allows a substantial portion of the inside wall to sandwich a damping layer between the panel element and lining layer to minimise sound transmission through an assembled panel structure. The structural portion 744 of the panel element 740 also differs to the previous embodiments in that, instead of having an outwardly extending flange portion, the structural portion 744 has a return flange 744a and turns the stiffening rib back toward the wall portion 742.

A series of additional embodiments of panels and panel assemblies according to embodiments of the present invention will now be described. These embodiments are similar to those described above and illustrate additional implementations of the various aspects of the present invention.

Turning firstly to figure 8, which shows a top view of a panel blank 800, that can be used for forming a panel similar to that described above. As will be seen, the panel blank 800 is generally rectangular in form, but unlike previous embodiments, includes a series of holes 802 and 804 along the two transverse edges 806 and 808 of the blank 800. The blank 800, is formed into a panel by bending it to have a profile as illustrated in figure 9. The finished panel 900 of figure 9 is formed such that it has a wall portion 902 and a structural portion 904. The junction between the wall portion 902 and structural portion 904 includes a recessed overlap portion 906 into which the free end of the wall portion of an adjacent, like panel can be received in a panel assembly. As with the previous embodiment, the structural portion 904 forms a purlin-like strengthening rib, running longitudinally along the panel. ,

Figure 10 illustrates a series of panels of the type illustrated in Figure 9 arranged in an overlapping configuration, such that they form part of a panel assembly 1000. The panels 900 are joined to their neighbouring panel along their respective overlapping portions, as in the previous embodiments. The holes 804 running along their transverse edges can be used to attach the panels to a beam or other transversely extending supporting structure to provide structural strength to the panel assembly 1000. Preferably, the panels 900 are welded to the supporting structure around the periphery of their holes 804.

Figures 11 to 12B illustrate details of a beam which can be used in forming a panel assembly using the panels of figure 9. In this regard, figure 11 illustrates a portion of a beam blank 1100. The blank is a strip of 3mm steel 1102 in which is formed a plurality of apertures. The first group of apertures comprises a series of holes 1104 running along an edge of the blank 1100. The second series of apertures 1106 run along an inner portion of the black 1100. [Wayne, can you explain what the triangular holes in the wall beams are for, I assume that they are used for welding the bottom beam of the wall panel to the side rails of the floor panel.]

Figures 12A and 12B illustrate a beam 1200 which has been formed from the blank 1100 of figure 11. The beam 100 is substantially L-shaped in cross-section as illustrated in figure 12A, with the apertures 1104 and 1106 being positioned in the upstanding flange of the beam 1200. Figures 13A and 13B illustrate a second beam structure which can be used in embodiments of the present invention. The beam illustration in figures 13A and 13B is generally similar to that of figures 11 to 12B, in that it is substantially L- shaped in cross-section, as shown in figure 13A. The beam 1300, however, includes a first series of apertures 1302 in one side of the beam and a second series of apertures 1304 in the other side of the beam. As in the previous embodiment, the apertures 1302 and 1304 are able to be used in fastening the beam to panels. Most preferably, fastening takes place by welding the beam to the panels through the apertures 1302 and 1304.

Figure 14a and 14B illustrates, in elevation and end view, respectively, a segment of a panel assembly 1400 which brings together the panels and beams of figures 8 through 13B and stiffening ribs 2800 of figure 28. The panel assembly 1400 includes a first beam 1402, which is made in accordance with figures 13A and 13B, and a second beam 1404, which is made in accordance with figures 12A and 12B. Beams 1402 and 1404 support a plurality of panels 1406, which are of the type illustrated in figure 9. The panels 1406 are attached to each other by welding along their overlapping portions, and are attached to the beams 1402 and 1404 by welding through their apertures along their transverse edges. Alternatively, or additionally, the panels 1406 can be attached to the - beams 1402 and 1404 by welding through the apertures in the beams 1402,1404. The panel assembly 1400 also includes stiffening members 1408 that are used to add additional strength to a building unit incorporating the panel assembly 1400. The stiffening member is welded along its margins to the panels and at each end to the beams 1402, 1404. Details of the stiffening member 408 are illustrated in figures 27 to 29.

Figure 15 shows a blank 1500 for forming a panel according to an embodiment of the present invention. Unlike the previous embodiment, the blank 1500 is not rectangular, but includes a stepped profile along its transverse edges 1502 and 1504. The steps in this profile, correspond to different regions in the formed panel, as illustrated in figure 16A and 16B. A first portion 1506 of the blank 1500, is configured to be formed into a wall portion of the panel. The next portion of the blank 1507 provides an offset to allow nesting of neighbouring panels, in use. The next portion 1508 of the blank 1500, which is slightly wider than the portion 1506, is configured to form the upstanding web of the structural portion of the panel. The next portion of the blank 1510 is configured to be formed into the top portion of the structural portion of the panel. The final portion 1512 of the blank is configured such that it forms a return flange on the structural portion of the panel once formed. As can be seen, the portion of the blank 1510 which forms the top part of the structural portion of the panel after forming, is significantly wider than the remainder of the panel blank. Accordingly, once the blank 1500 is formed into a panel the structural portion of the panel includes a tab 1514 on each end of it which extends outwardly beyond the rest of the panel.

Figures 16A and 16B illustrate cross-sectional and end views of a panel once it is formed from the blank of figure 15. Turning firstly to figure 16A in cross-section the panel 1600 is formed such that the wall portion 1602 is generally planar, and extends in a first direction and the structural portion 1604 is formed to resemble a C purlin. As can be seen in figure 16B, the panel 1600 includes a pair of tabs 1606 which extend outwardly beyond the remainder of the structural portion 1604. The use of the tabs 1606 will be illustrated in connection with figure 18 below.

Firstly however, figure 17 illustrates a cross-section through a beam which can advantageously be used in forming a panel assembly including panels of figure 16A and 16B. The beam 1700, which is shown in cross-section in figure 17 is generally Z- shaped. It includes the first horizontal web 1702, an upright web 1704, a second transverse web 1706 and a return flange 1708. The return flange 1708 and the second transverse web 1706, along with the upright portion 1704 together form a channel 1710.

Figure 18 illustrates a panel assembly comprising a pair of transversely extending beams 1802 and 1804 of the type illustrated in figure 17, and a plurality of panels 1806 of the type illustrated in figures 16A and 16B. As can be seen, the panel's 1806 are nested between the transverse beams 1804 and 1802 such that the panel's 1806 tabs 1808 rest on top of the second transverse web of the beams 1802. The panel's wall portion rests upon the first transverse web of each of the beams 1802 and 1804. The panels 1806 can be welded to each other in the manner described above, and also welded to the beams 1802 and 1804 along one or more of their abutting edges or spot welded at their tabs 1808. The panel assembly 1800 additionally includes a range of finishing panels such as end panels 1810 and 1812, which share general characteristics with the panel of figures 16A and 16B but have varying dimensions to form a neatly finished panel assembly. The panel assembly 1800 also includes stiffening members 1814 that are used to add additional strength to a building unit incorporating the panel assembly 1400. The stiffening member 1814 is welded along its margins to the panels and at via each tab 1816 to the beams 1812. Details of the stiffening member 1814 are illustrated in figures 24 to 26.

Figures 19 through 23 illustrate yet another set of embodiments of various aspects of the present invention. In figure 19, there is shown a blank 1900, which is of similar overall appearance to that of figure 15. The blank 1900 includes a first section 1902, which once formed, is part of the wall portion of the panel. Next, a short section 1904 is provided which, when formed, forms an offset overlap portion of the panel for engaging a neighbouring panel. Next, the structural portion of the panel is formed from a series of three blank segments 1906, 1908 and 1910. The portion 1908 extends outwardly from each transverse side of the blank 1900, forming tabs 1912 on each side of the blank. The finally formed panel made from the blank 1900 is illustrated in figures 20 and 21. As can be seen, in profile, the panel 2000 is almost identical to the cross-section of panel 900, except for the relative height and depth of the structural portion 2002 the wall portion 2004. The wall portion 2004 merges with the structural portion 2002 through the offset overlap portion 2006 which is formed from the section 1904 of the blank 1900. As can be seen in figure 20, the panel 2000 includes outwardly projecting tabs 2008 on the top of the structural portion 2002.

Figure 22 illustrates a section of a panel assembly formed from a plurality of panels 2202 which are of the type illustrated in figures 20 and 21. The panels are supported at each end by one of a pair of beams. The beams 2204, are similar in shape to the beam illustrated in figure 17, with the exception that it is dimensioned to support a panel such as that illustrated in figures 20 and 21.

Figure 23 provides a more detailed cross-sectional view through one of the beams 2204 and a panel 2202 of the panel assembly 2200 of figure 22. This view, more clearly illustrates how the beams 2204 support both the wall portion 2302 and tab portion 2304 of the panel 2202.

Figure 24 illustrates a panel blank 2400 used in forming stiffening member that can be used in some panel assemblies according to the present invention. The panel blank is generally symmetrical about its centreline and includes a central web portion 2402, which defines the widest part of the blank. Outwardly from the central web are a pair of web portions 2404 that are formed into walls, followed by a pair of outermost portions 2406, that are formed into flanges in the stiffening rib. The central portion of the blank 2402 includes a pair of tabs 2408 that extend outwardly beyond the rest of the blank 2400.

Figure 26 illustrates a cross section of a stiffening member 2500 that is formed using the blank 2400. Figure 25 shows the stiffening member 2500 in elevation view. As can be seen the stiffening member 2500 is generally top-hat shaped. The tabs 2408 of the blank 2400 still protrude form the ends of the member 2400 in the form of tabs 2502. These serve the same purpose as tabs 1606 illustrated in figure 16B. The member 2500 is configured to be used in a panel assembly of the type illustrated in figure 18. The inclusion of the member 2500 in such panel assemblies allows a completed building unit incorporating the panel assembly to better transfer lateral loads. Figure 27 illustrates a panel blank 2700 used in forming stiffening member that can be used in some panel assemblies according to the present invention. The panel blank is generally rectangular and includes a central web portion 2702. Outwardly from the central web are a pair of web portions 2704 that are formed into walls, followed by a pair of outermost portions 2706, that are formed into flanges in the finished stiffening member.

Figure 29 illustrates a cross section of a stiffening member 2800 that is formed using the blank 2700. Figure 28 shows the stiffening member 2800 in elevation view. As can be seen the stiffening member 2800 is generally a top-hat shaped section. The member 2800 is configured to be used in a panel assembly of the type illustrated in figures 14A and 14B to stiffen openings in the panel assembly. The inclusion of the member 2800 in such panel assemblies allows a completed building unit incorporating the panel assembly to better transfer lateral loads.

Each of the panel elements described herein will typically be formed from single metal sheets and either pressed, where the profile allows, or roll formed to shape. Advantageously roll forming can be performed on site where a building module construction is performed and panel sections can be created in continuous lengths and cut to size using a suitably configured shear. In certain embodiments plastics or composite construction could be used to make panels by moulding or other suitable forming techniques.

It will also be appreciated that different profiles can be created and combinations of features in any of the embodiments can be rearranged to form alternative panel arrangements.

It will be understood that the invention disclosed and defined in this specification extends to all alternative combinations of two or more of the individual features mentioned or evident from the text or drawings. All of these different combinations constitute various alternative aspects of the invention.