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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Prof. Torero is new Chair of Fire Safety at the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat

Prof. Jose Torero is the new Chair of the Fire & Safety Working Group at the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH).

The CTBUH, founded in 1969, is an international not-for-profit organization supported by architecture, engineering, planning, development and construction professionals, designed to facilitate exchanges among those involved in all aspects of the planning, design, construction and operation of tall buildings.

The role of the CTBUH Fire & Safety Working Group is to provide a genuine international cross discipline working party that can review current research and offer guidance and support from the basis of supporting tall building design for the sake of developers, tall building designers and local code enforcement agencies. This is essential under the resurgence of interest in Fire and Life Safety of Tall Buildings following the events of 9/11, but also stimulated by the current vogue in building design to reach greater heights than ever before with schemes of increasing complexity and architectural merit.

The CTBUH profile of Prof Torero says:

José Torero is currently BRE Trust/RAEng Professor of Fire Safety Engineering, Head of the Institute for Infrastructure and Environment and Director of the BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering at the University of Edinburgh. José has authored a book in computational methods for fire safety engineering, more than 20 book chapters and more than 300 technical publications in a broad array of subjects associated to fire safety engineering. He has conducted work on prescriptive and performance based design, forensic fire investigation and product development, conducted detailed structural response to fire, fire resistance evaluation, material selection, life safety analysis, smoke evacuation, detection and alarm design as well as standard and advanced fire suppression systems. José was elected fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and awarded the Arthur B. Guise Medal by the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (USA) in 2008, both in recognition of eminent achievement in advancing the Science of Fire Protection. He has participated in landmark projects like the NASA Space Shuttle Hangars in Florida, the 80 storey Heron Tower in London, the Clyde and Dartford Tunnel fire safety design, the investigations of the WTC 1, 2 and 7 collapses, the Madrid Windsor Tower Fire, the Texas City and Buncefield Explosions as well as the Ycua Bolanos supermarket fire.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Congratulations to Dr Cowlard for his PhD thesis defense

Congratulations to Adam Cowlard who successfully defended his PhD thesis on the 28th of March 2009. The committee agreed to recommend awarding the Phd Degree without changes to his thesis.

The external examiner was Prof. Carlos Fernandez-Pello from the University of California at Berkeley and the internal was Dr Guillermo Rein.

The thesis title and abstract can be found bellow. Adam has led two journal papers directly related to his thesis in [2009] and [2007].

(full thesis available in pdf )

by Adam Cowlard, University of Edinburgh, 2009
Supervisor: Prof Jose Torero.
Sponsor: BRE Trust and FireGrid

Fire Safety Engineering is required at every stage in the life cycle of modern-day buildings. Fire safety design, detection and suppression, and emergency response are all vital components of Structural Fire Safety but are usually perceived as independent issues. Sensor deployment and exploitation is now common place in modern buildings for means such as temperature, air quality and security management. Despite the potential wealth of information these sensors could afford fire fighters, the design of sensor networks within buildings is entirely detached from procedures associated to emergency management. The experiences of Dalmarnock Fire Test Two showed that streams of raw data emerging from sensors lead to a rapid information overload and do little to improve the understanding of the complex phenomenon and likely future events during a real fire. Despite current sensor technology in other fields being far more advanced than that of fire, there is no justification for more complex and expensive sensors in this context. In isolation therefore, sensors are not sufficient to aid emergency response.

Fire modelling follows a similar path. Two studies of Dalmarnock Fire Test One demonstrate clearly the current state of the art of fire modelling. A Priori studies by Rein et al. 2009 showed that blind prediction of the evolution of a compartment fire is currently beyond the state of the art of fire modelling practice. A Posteriori studies by Jahn et al. 2007 demonstrated that even with the provision of large quantities of sensor data, video footage, and prior knowledge of the fire; producing a CFD reconstruction was an incredibly difficult, laborious, intuitive and repetitive task.

Issues of accuracy aside, these models demand heavy resources and computational time periods that are far greater than the time associated with the processes being simulated. To be of use to emergency responders, the output would need to be produced faster than the event itself with lead time to enable planning of an intervention strategy. Therefore in isolation, model output is not robust or fast enough to be implemented in an emergency response scenario.

Fire fighting is therefore left as an isolated activity that does not benefit from sensor data or the potential of modelling the event. In isolation sensors and fire modelling are found lacking. Together though they appear to form the perfect compliment. Sensors provide a plethora of information which lacks interpretation. Models provide a method of interpretation but lack the necessary information to make this output robust. Thus a mechanism to achieve accurate, timely predictions by means of theoretical models steered by continuous calibration against sensor measurements is proposed.

The concept of super-real time predictions steered by measurements is studied in the simple yet meaningful scenario of concurrent flow flame spread. Experiments have been conducted with PMMA slabs to feed sensor data into a simple analytical model. Numerous sensing techniques have been adapted to feed a simple algebraic expression from the literature linking flame spread, flame characteristics and pyrolysis evolution in order to model upward flame spread. The measurements are continuously fed to the computations so that projections of the flame spread velocity and flame characteristics can be established at each instant in time, ahead of the real flame. It was observed that as the input parameters in the analytical models were optimised to the scenario, rapid convergence between the evolving experiment and the predictions was attained.

Open access to full thesis at

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Short report on the FireGrid Workshop "Integrated Fire Protection" at Watford, UK

by Dr Stephen Welch, BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering, The University of Edinburgh, UK.

BRE Global hosted the FireGrid Workshop "Integrated Fire Protection" on 24 March 2009 at Watford, UK. 10 speakers from academia, industry and the fire service gave presentations on the the proof of concept of this new technology.

FireGrid is an innovative project exploring the use sensor-linked grid-enabled fire simulations to assist emergency responders. Successful completion of the most recent phase of the work, via the project "An integrated Emergency Response System for the Built Environment" funded by the Technology Strategy Board (2006-2009), was marked by a recent a dissemination workshop reporting the progress and outcomes.

The day commenced with an opening reflection on the fact that as airline pilots are utterly dependent on navigation aids, a day may come when fire emergency responders must also learn to "trust their instruments". Subsequent talks covered in detail the vision of FireGrid, the context of pervasive sensors and evolution of "intelligent" buildings, sensor technologies including early detection, and the sensor-linked grid-enabled fire simulations which can provide predictions of future hazards, together with interpretation of the model results to provide information meaningful to an end user. A series of live experiments have demonstrated the individual technology integrations required to fulfil the vision. These culminated in the final project demonstrator, a full-scale fire test at BRE Burn Hall in October 2008, where a prototype FireGrid system was effectively deployed to provide information on fire conditions and possible hazard evolution to "end users", and an assembled audience, via display panels.

With fulfilment of all intended objectives, various avenues are now being pursued to further develop the FireGrid concept.

The slides of the workshop can be found here:

* The FireGrid Project, by Prof Jose Torero, University of Edinburgh.

* FireGrid and the Built Environment, by Dr Debbie Smith, BRE Global

* Sensor Technology, by Peter Mundy, Xtralis.

* System Integration and Future Development, by John Holden, BRE Global

* Data Collection and Communication, by Dr Stephen Potter, University of Edinburgh.

* Computer Modelling, by Dr Suresh Kumar and Dr Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell, BRE Global, and Dr Stephen Welch, University of Edinburgh.

* Case Study - The Final Demonstrator, by Dr George Beckett University of Edinburgh and Paul Jenkins, London Fire Brigade

Stephen Welch

NOTE: The FireGrid Newsletters can be accessed here, No. 1 March 2007 and No. 2 March 2008.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Visit by Prof Fernandez-Pello and seminar on wildland fires

Prof. Carlos Fernandez-Pello, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Associate Dean of the Graduate Division at the University of California at Berkeley gave the seminar "Modeling Wildland Fire Propagation and Spotting" on Friday 27th March.

This presentation provides an overview of current capabilities for predicting wildland fire spread, with a focus on formation of spot fires (spotting). Under dry, hot, and windy conditions (such as Santa Anna winds in California), spotting is the primary mechanism of fire spread. Each of the main steps of spot fire formation are discussed: 1) ember/particle generation, 2) particle lofting and transport, and 3) ignition of target fuel beds by heated particles or embers. The presentation concludes with an overview of surface fire propagation modeling and its application to a real fire that occurred in California.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

NFPA Journal Latinoamericano profiles our researchers

The December 2008 issue of the NFPA Journal Latinoamericano published short interviews with three of our researchers, Freddy Jervis, Dr Pedro Reszka, and Prof. Jose Torero.

In the interview, Prof. Torero said (translation of the text in Spanish presented above) "During the years that I have worked in this profession, I have always believed that the model pursued by John Bryan (Univ of Maryland) and David Lucht (WPI) is the model to follow. This model focuses on education and invests the largest possible effort on unconditional support to the new generations. Those who presented my nomination to the Guise Medal, reaffirm in a very personal way, my believe that this model is still standing. This gives me a great satisfaction and helps me to continue the fight for even higher education standards in fire safety engineering".

Prof. Torero received the 2008 Guise Medal during the Annual Meeting of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (his talk was "Fire Protection Engineering: Quo Vadis?").

Monday, March 09, 2009

Moving a library

The BRE fire research library has been relocated to The University of Edinburgh. The library consists of more than 1300 box files containing countless books, papers and reports which were in danger of being lost. They were moved by a team from the FireGroup who travelled by truck to BRE at the end of February 2009.

After a shaky start, involving calling the AA from Biggar petrol station due to a broken fuel cap, the 10 hour drive went well. All the boxes were packed in an evening and the following day the team returned to Edinburgh.

The library now resides up three flights of stairs on 48 bookcases, which were constructed by members of the FireGroup. The files now await scanning so they can be made publicly available.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

KTP Award Winning Partnership

The Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) project led by the BRE Centre of Fire Safety Engineering at The University of Edinburgh with Powerwall Systems Ltd won the Best Partnership Scotland Award given at a 2009 KTP Awards ceremony in London, 5th March. The project sponsor was The Technology Strategy Board

The project developed a methodology for the integral design of Light Steel Framing systems accounting for the global optimization of thermal efficiency, structural strength and fire resistance. The partnership has enhanced Powerwall's Research and Development Department. The experimental and computational work has led to a PhD thesis and several publications.

Powerwall was a sponsor of the 2006 Dalmarnock Fire Tests and helped to install a fully instrumented LSF wall in the experimental compartment.

NOTE: KTP is Europe's leading programme helping businesses to improve their competitiveness through the better use of the knowledge and technology that reside within UK universities.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Invited seminar by Dr Paul Palmer on wildfire emissions observed from space

On 2 March 2009, Dr Paul Palmer from the School of Geosciences at The University of Edinburgh gave the talk "Vertical transport of surface fire emissions observed from space".

Dr Palmer's talk is part of an ongoing collaboration to bridge the gap between Fire science and Earth science with researchers at the BRE Centre of Fire Safety Engineering and School of Geosciences.

Abstract of his talk:
Wildfires are an integral part of the climate system. Only over the past decade have space-based measurements of surface properties and atmospheric chemistry measurements drawn attention to the widespread nature of biomass burning emissions and their subsequent long-range transport of pollutants. Rapid vertical mixing of trace gases associated with intense surface burning can reach the upper troposphere, with serious implications for interpreting resulting trace gas observations, but the frequency and nature of these events is currently unknown. I will outline a new methodology, based on Bayesian inference, to observe this vertical transport using satellite observations of carbon monoxide, a tracer of incomplete combustion. I will evaluate the method using close-by satellite measurements of aerosol optical properties and lidar measurements.

Six Papers and four Awards at Applications of Structural Fire Engineering - Prague 2009

The Centre presented 6 papers at the International Conference Applications of Structural Fire Engineering, celebrated in Prague on 19-20 February 2009.

Dr Luke Bisby got the Best Poster Award (see poster here) and three of our PhD students - Susan Deeny, Angus Law and Kate Anderson - obtained the young researcher award, and their papers will be published in the Acta Polytechnica (the journal of Czech Technical University in Prague).

NOTE: in addition, two papers were presented by PhD alumni from the Centre