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Wednesday, March 09, 2016

UK Water Mist Seminar 2016

The UK Water Mist Seminar 2016 was held in the lecture theatre at BRE, Watford, on Tuesday 8th March 2016. I was there, and so were 120 others, mostly from fire protection companies, insurance companies, consultants, building control and a few from fire brigades and academia.

The seminar was organised by the International Water Mist Association (IWMA), which has a specific agenda - to promote the use of water mist, so it is not surprising that the majority of things said from the stage during the day were very much in favour of water mist use, as an alternative to traditional sprinklers. The implication in a few presentations was that sprinklers are old technology, whereas water mist is the future of fire protection.

"How does water mist work?" was the title of the first presentation of the day, and in his opening remarks Erling Mengshoel, from Protect Systems in Norway, apologised to the academics in the room that his presentation wouldn't contain any equations or complicated theories. It didn't contain any significant science either, got the fire triangle wrong (he gave it as "Oxygen", "Fuel load" and "Temperature") and, unfortunately, set the tone for the rest of the day, in that none of the other presentations really got to grips with important questions like where, when and why water mist is better or more efficient at mitigating the effects of fire compared to traditional sprinklers.

To summarise, water mist is a water spray system which uses higher water pressure and different kinds of nozzles from traditional sprinklers, to produce (much) smaller water droplets. These water droplets interact with flames directly, quenching the burning in the gas phase, cooling the volume, and displacing air, effectively pushing the oxygen needed for combustion away from where the burning is happening. So water mist achieves its fire protection aims by cooling and dilution. Traditional sprinklers, on the other hand, achieve their aims by surface wetting - keeping the potential fuel around the fire cool and wet, so that fire spread and growth cannot occur.

Is water mist a kind of sprinkler system? The answer given in this seminar is no, it is not. It is an alternative and rival technology.

Bob Whitely from Tyco UK gave two presentations back-to-back on where water mist is used at the moment, and on the development of a British Standard for water mist, BS 8489, which should be published in the next few weeks. Where are we? Well, water mist is used on only about 3% of land based applications with an active fire protection system. I say "land based" as water mist has a much bigger market share in offshore and marine applications. The agenda of the day, however, was to promote water mist for onshore applications, and try to get engineers, designers, regulators & insurers to consider the possibility of water mist in the other 97% of the market.

Why a British Standard? Well, the answer to that question seems to be that we really want a European or ISO standard, but they are taking so long to develop that someone has to lead the field here, and it might as well be us. Another British Standard, BS 8458, which focuses on residential use of water mist, will also be along soon.

Bob Whitely painted a fairly bleak picture of the regulation and insurance industries with regard to water mist acceptance and approval. He basically said that there are not enough people working in these industries who actually understand fire safety engineering, and so there is a bias towards traditional sprinklers and away from 'novel' systems like water mist, simply because those with the authority to approve such systems are not equipped to make the decision. I noted that when the representative of the insurance industry (Gary Howe, from Zurich Insurance) took the stage an hour later, he did not attempt to rebut this opinion.

Gary Howe's presentation was interesting and frustrating in equal measure. His main point was that if you want to put in a water mist system as an alternative to sprinklers, you have to demonstrate that your system works in each different kind of occupancy in a building you are proposing to protect - in essence, he was saying that you might need to carry out multiple full scale fire tests to demonstrate your system, for use in a single building, if you want insurance approval. That is, use a performance based approach. However, he also made a big deal of the necessity for approved nozzles, approved pumps, approved pipework, etc. That is, a prescriptive approach. Basically if you want to get a water mist system approved you have to jump through many more hoops than if you propose a traditional sprinkler (which is all prescription and no performance-based approval required). You rarely have to demonstrate that a sprinkler will work, it is just assumed to do so.

The rest of the day was a mixture of case studies and presentations from water mist companies saying how great their product is. One presentation from BAFSA spoke about the lack of and need for proper qualifications and training for sprinkler engineers, but as the topic wasn't specifically on water mist, most of the audience seemed to dismiss the message.

The most important questions about water mist are those that were not asked or addressed. Specifically, when should water mist not be used? When are traditional sprinklers better? What are the situations where neither sprinklers or water mist are effective? And so on. I guess I wasn't expecting such questions to be addressing in this forum, but I think there really is a need for discussion and research into these questions.

Yes, water mist can be a great technology for fire protection, and yes, it could be used in many applications currently served by traditional sprinklers. There may even be financial and ecological savings along the way. We already know this. Understandably, the focus of this event was on persuading the building control and insurance industries to approve water mist in cases where it can and should be approved. But I think this agenda would actually be served better by research into and education explaining the territory where water mist reaches the limits of its capabilities.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Two new academic posts in Fire Safety Engineering at The University of Edinburgh








We are very excited to invite applications for two new academic positions to build and strengthen our team in Fire Safety Engineering research and education at the University of Edinburgh:
(1) The BRE Chair in Fire Safety Engineering - http://edin.ac/1TUi7Bz 
(2) The BRE Lecturer in Fire Safety Engineering - http://edin.ac/1NXqNqw
Please spread the word, and email luke.bisby@ed.ac.uk if you would like to discuss.
p.s. - Season's Greetings from everyone in the Firegroup at Edinburgh!

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Felix Wiesner wins the 2015 Ove Arup Foundation Prize in Fire Safety Engineering

Fire test to study the heat transfer to
an unprotected I-section steel column
from a localised bin fire

Many congratulations to Felix Wiesner, a 2015 MEng Graduate in Structural and Fire Safety Engineering from the University of Edinburgh, who has been awarded the 2015 Ove Arup Foundation Prize in Fire Safety Engineering. The award is made to the top student graduating on the Structural and Fire Safety Engineering degree at Edinburgh.

Thesis Project

Felix's MEng Thesis, entitled "Structural Steel Temperatures under Localised Fire Exposures," was supervised by Professor Luke Bisby and Dr Rory Hadden, in association with Dr Graeme Flint in Arup's Edinburgh Office. In this outstanding work, Felix investigated the heat transfer to, and development in, I-section steel columns subjected to localised fires, with a focus on bin fires such as might occur in sports stadia and other large, open public spaces.

His work concluded that a lumped mass assumption for heat transfer calculations is highly inaccurate, and that current design recommendations for localised fires are inadequate and in many cases overly conservative. Along with his thesis partner, Grant Peters, Felix developed a computational analysis tool that can be used to rationally estimate steel temperatures resulting from localised fires in certain configurations.

Felix has recently signed up to undertake an PhD at the University of Edinburgh from autumn 2015 supervised by Professor Luke Bisby and Dr Rory Hadden, changing his focus slightly to study the fire performance of mass timber buildings. We're looking forward to welcoming him back to the team!

Background

After growing up in Stuttgart, Felix served on the Frigate Lübeck as part of his national service. Before commencing his studies he took a year to travel Australia where he worked in a variety of jobs. During his time at Edinburgh he worked as a class representative and contributed to the student radio and student newspaper.  During the summer breaks Felix worked as an intern for Arup, the University of Edinburgh, and An-Najah University in Nablus. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

SPECIAL LECTURE - Urban Fire Regimes: Past and Present


Monday 27 April 1.00pm
Seminar Room 3.01
Alexander Graham Bell Building
The King's Buildings  EH93JL

Greg BANKOFF
Professor of Modern History, University of Hull

ABSTRACT 
As Stephen Pyne reminds us, the built environment is as much a fire environment as forest and field, and fire cares little whether it burns old growth slum or ancient spruce. Every city functions as a particular type of fire regime. Just as a forest fire regime characterizes the spatial patterns, temporal sequence and ecosystem impacts of fire on the landscape, so an urban fire regime characterises the historical nexus between the environment in its fullest sense (climate, topography, and natural resources) and the socio-economic and political systems that organize and sustain concentrated human settlements. Throughout most of urban history, these structures were mainly built of materials readily sourced from the surrounding environment, particularly wood. Even when a building was constructed from more substantial matter such as bricks or stone, much of the framework, floors and ceilings continued to be made from timber. In the past, these wooden cities burnt fiercely and with regularity either through accident or from intent. The emergence of bourgeois elites in European and neo-European cities in the nineteenth century who had a special interest in the public protection of private wealth helped catalyze developments in fireproofing, fire extinguishing and insurance. This “fire gap” has come to dominate the subsequent thinking on fire safety when the reality for most people, the billions who inhabit the burgeoning informal settlements that ring the world’s fastest growing cities, the reality is quite the opposite: they still inhabit flammable cities that burn with regularity. This paper examines urban fire regimes, past and present, to show how conflagration in the built environment is always as much a social construction as it is a physical one.

BIO 
Over the last 20 years, I have published extensively on the historical dimension of how societies adapt to risk as well as engaged with contemporary civil defence and emergency management practices in Asia, Australasia and more recently in Europe. Since arriving in the UK seven years ago, I have been a member of the Independent Review Body examining the 2007 flooding in Hull as well as co-investigator on an ESRC project examining how the fragmentation of flood risk management practices in the UK created new governance challenges through the processes of privatization and the sub-contraction of services. Currently I am co-PI on a 5-year ESRC/NERC project to increase resilience to continental earthquakes in Kazakhstan, Nepal/India and China that brings together a group of earth scientists, social scientists and experienced practitioners in the communication of scientific knowledge to policy makers. Among my recent publications is a co-edited volume entitled Flammable Cities: Urban Fire and the Making of the Modern World (University of Wisconsin Press, 2011). I was also co-editor of the latest IFRC’s World Disaster Report 2014.

Pizza from 12.45pm

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Thoughts on the 2014 Wildland-Urban Fire in Valparaiso


Fire Technology letter to the editor from friends of the Edinburgh Fire Group.

The Great Valparaiso Fire and Fire Safety Management in Chile
Pedro Reszka and Andres Fuentes
Universidad Tecnica Federico Santa Maria
 
© S AF, Chilean Air Force (Reska and Fuentes 2014)

Thursday, March 05, 2015

A 'new' source of data for Fire Models' validation



An officially unpublished report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is now available for download from the BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering collection at the Edinburgh Research Archive (ERA).

Standard Room Fire Test Research at the National Bureau of Standards
Lee B.T. and Steel J.S.
1987

Although the report was never approved for publication, it is one of the few research studies where experimental data from room-corner, Cone Calorimeter, and full-scale flame spread tests on "interior finish materials" is presented. Additionally, remarkable handwritten notes from the authors are shown throughout the report. This document has great value for validation exercises of fire models.

Thanks to Dr. Vyto Babrauskas (www.doctorfire.com) for the valuable finding.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Partnering for the Future of Fire Safety Engineering Education



The International Master of Science in Fire Safety Engineering (IMFSE), an educational program offered jointly by the Universities of Edinburgh, Ghent, and Lund since 2010, has recently been selected as one of only 19 programs (from an original cohort of 50) to be included in the European Joint Master Degree (EJMD) Catalogue for the period 2015-2018.

This unique, two-year program attracts exceptional applicants from all over the world, and prepares its graduates for future leadership roles within the fire safety engineering community. The 99 graduates to date have taken up roles in the UK, Europe, South America, Australasia, and Africa.

The attractiveness of this program amongst top applicants has previously been assured by a number of generous scholarships funded by the European Commission. In recognising the excellence of the IMFSE during its initial four years of funding, the European Commission have pledged ongoing match funding in the amount of €441,000, for nine full scholarships for international students between 2015 and 2018.

To take advantage of this generous match funding offer and guarantee the ongoing success of this world-leading initiative, the IMFSE partners (Edinburgh, Ghent, and Lund) must secure guarantees of match funding totalling at least €147,000 annually, before 6th March 2015.

We have already secured €55,000 in annual match funding for 2015-2018, and we are now seeking additional industry partners to join the IMFSE Consortium. Membership in the IMFSE Consortium will be offered to industry partners contributing a minimum of €10,000 per year for three years.

Consortium members will be invited to host summer internships, offer MSc thesis topics, participate in the annual IMFSE Fire Safety Day, and will be granted unique recruitment access to our exceptional graduates.

Industry partners interested in taking advantage of the opportunity to participate in sustaining and educating the next generation of fire safety engineering leaders are encouraged to contact Profs Bart Merci (bart.merci@ugent.be), Albert Simeoni (a.simeoni@ed.ac.uk), or Luke Bisby (luke.bisby@ed.ac.uk) before 28th February 2015 to learn more.

Additional information on the IMFSE program is available from: www.imfse.ugent.be

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tisova Fire Tests - Week 1



The setting for the Tisova fire tests could not be more picturesque, cool crisp winter days near a river in the western province of Carlsbad, on an old coal processing site. Over the past week you would have found a small band of academics making holes in floors, ceilings, walls, and beams in one of the buildings located on this site 25 minutes to the west of Karlovy Vary (where we are staying).  Whilst this is a lot of fun, it is all in the name of research.  

Karlovy Vary at night from our apartment

The aim:

To understand the structural effects of a travelling fire on concrete and composite structures, both during the fire and residually after the fire has cooled back to ambient. We are aiming to run the test on the 28th of January.  

Who’s involved:

University of Edinburgh, Technical Research Institute of Sweden (SP), Imperial College London, CSTB, Lulea Technical University, Czech Technical University in Ostrava, MajaCzech, and the Fire and Rescue service of the Karlovy Vary region. 

When did we start:

Set-up on site started on the 13th of January with two members from SP (David Lange and Fredrik Kahl) marking out holes for instrumentation and setting up the lighting for working into the evenings.  Jamie Maclean and I (David Rush) arrived on site on the 14th of January having set-off from Edinburgh on the 12th with a van full of equipment.

The test building

What have we done so far: 

The first week has been mainly drilling holes through the concrete and composite slabs for the 60 plate thermometers, drilling into the concrete and composite slab at various depths to place 112  thermocouples, and installing the 56 thermocouple trees in the fire compartment.  On top of this we have taken out the internal steel partitions that were in the fire compartment, made many holes in the plasterboard partitions on the floor above the fire compartment to run cables to the data loggers, broken a sledge hammer trying to break through a bathroom floor and created a lot of additional dust.

Thermocouple trees inside fire compartment (Photo credit Dave Lange)

Trials and tribulations:

Jamie Maclean and drill
So far there have been few trials to speak of, the only two of note are locating the troughs in the composite slab so that we can accurately measure temperatures, and a delay in the wood supply due to the time that its taking to dry it.

What’s next:

Over the next week the numbers on site will swell to around 10, meaning that we can start hooking up the 700 or so measurement channels, placing the wood (when it arrives), protecting  the necessary cabling in the fire compartment, and install the remaining thermocouples and deflection gauges

Highlights:

Globus is a big positive for us with tasty sandwiches, coffees, and pastries that keep us full of energy for the long days on site.  Finding drill bits long enough to drill 650mm into a concrete beam from above, which we wouldn’t have found had it not been for the very helpful and patient English speaking lady at the local hardware store, which we have visited everyday so far with random lists of equipment that we need.

(Photos copyright of David Rush)