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Friday, December 26, 2008

Short report on the 9th IAFSS Symposium in Karlsruhe

by Guillermo Rein, BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering, The University of Edinburgh, UK.

NOTE: See announcement on papers and awards at the 9th IAFSS Symposium

The 9th Symposium of The International Association of Fire Safety Science (IAFSS) was the first IAFSS symposium that I attended; it was a positive experience all together.

The venue was a good choice. The city of Karlsruhe is an appealing town that offers very good communications, diverse cultural atmosphere, and decent weather (in Sept at least). The conference centre held all the talks, breaks and poster sessions within a small area that helped the attendees have frequent and extensive interactions. The organization and events were impeccable (congratulations to Dieter Brein and his team).

The audience was largely composed of academics and some industrial presence was noted. I would be interested in knowing with more accuracy the average age of the attendees, but I would venture it was around 45 years old. I attended about 20 or 22 paper presentations. My favourite papers were those presented by Lonnermark, Matala, Koo, Rangwala, Hostikka and Marshall. They all have three things in common; the papers were of high quality, the topic was original and relevant, and the presenter was a promising, young, communicative researcher.

The most interesting Plenary Lecture was clearly that of Andy Buchanan, who provided not only a review of the challenges in the field of structures and fires but also a philosophy to understand the problem. Ingason's lecture on tunnel fires and Hadjisophocleous's lecture on design fires were also good. I was rather disappointed with the presentation of the Howard Emmons Invited Lecture since it did not present much science and I personally barely learnt anything from it.

One of the most engaging and substantial part of the IAFSS symposium were the Sunday workshops. They were held on the Sunday afternoon before the start of the 9th Symposium in Karlsruhe. This was the first time such workshops have been held. The workshop topicc were:

.Flame spread modelling
.Structural fire engineering
.Egress modelling

All three workshops were well-attended and feedback from the participants was overwhelmingly positive. At least the one that I attended (Structural Fire Engineering). We truly had a sincere exchange of ideas from very different views of the problem. Following is a participant's comment on one of the workshops (Structural fire engineering) also published in the IAFSS Spring 2008 Newsletter.

Short Report on the Structural Fire Workshop,
by Allan Jowsey, Arup Fire London

The Structural Fire Workshop organised by IAFSS provided a valuable opportunity for both consultants and researchers in the field to discuss their opinions regarding current practices, techniques and future research opportunities. The workshop provoked good discussion by specifically addressing an issue which relates not only to structural issues, but also fire dynamics and the role that it plays as a fundamental input to structural analyses. It brought together those involved in both sides of the storey as it were - a feature that is commonly lost when a conference creates parallel sessions that effectively separate the two, or indeed separate conferences entirely.

The workshop also provided a good platform for different presentation topics. It was well structured and organised to introduce the topic with an overview of the subject followed by a series of technical presentations and case studies that reflected how the field of structural fire engineering has evolved, is currently being applied in industry and where it may be heading in the future.

Not only did the workshop provide an insight into various aspects of structural fire engineering, but it provided a context into which they could be put. This in itself is valuable for young researchers to appreciate how their work can influence designs in the wider world.

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