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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Heron Tower and the begining of the concept of travelling fires in design

A recent article about Arup's fire design of Heron Tower (among the tallest buildings in London) appeared in The Heron Tower project won the Fire Safety Engineering design category at the Fire Excellence Awards in May 2009.

14 September 2009,

Heron Tower is a landmark in our collaboration with Arup since it led to a joint PhD thesis and a series of papers. Since 2007 we are working together to define novel design fires in similar large spaces to that in Heron Tower. We came up with the concept of "travelling fires". The initial work was presented at Interflam 2007.

Figure: Snapshot from the fire model using FDS published here. Temperature map for a 500 kW/m2 well-distributed fire on the bottom floor with top and bottom floor ventilation. The atrium acts as a chimney, linking the bottom and the top floors.

Since then, the research has advanced significantly and led to several other papers and case studies. We recently published an overview and a building survey in the magazine Fire Risk Management. The key element behind this research is the need to provide design solutions to the large parts of modern buildings that fall outside the limits set out in the Eurocodes.

The two articles published in Fire Risk Management led to an unusual number of Letters to the Editor. Letters from Mike Wood, Pilkington Group, and from Dr Kirby, Sirius Fire Safety Consultants, were received. This and this were our respective replies (our reply to Dr Kirby is also attached below).

NOTE: Thanks to Chris for mentioning the article.

On Fire Risk Management Feb 2010, Dr Kirby from Sirius Fire Safety Consultants commented on our article "Out of Range".

Our reply, Beyond Limits, in Fire Risk Management March 2010 read:
We are pleased to read the letter that Dr Kirby, from Sirius Fire Safety Consultants, wrote in response to our December cover article, "Out of range". In our article, we reported a survey of 3,080 compartments on the campus of the University of Edinburgh buildings underlining the compartment volume that falls inside of the design fire specifications of current Eurocode 1 (66 % of the older buildings, but only 8% of the most modern one). Instead of volume, Dr Kirby prefers to quote our results as % of the number of compartments (95 % of the older buildings, but only 63% of the most modern one), assuming perhaps that all compartments are equally important regardless of the very large differences in size (e.g., atria vs. single desk office). But the main conclusion of our article, that the modern building contains a very large portion of built environment outside the limits of the Eurocode, stands true no matter what survey quantity is quoted.
Dr Kirby also refers to the UK National Application Document which extends beyond the Eurocode 1 range and without limit, the use of these post-flashover design fires. We consulted this document while investigating the technical origins of the Eurocode, but after two years of searching and requests, we have not been able to find a copy of the validation work it cites. If Dr Kirby or any reader of the FRM magazine could kindly send us a copy of the validation work, we would be grateful. We hope that full details of these studies are made available to the fire research community at large for the benefit of all.
We agree that Eurocode 1 is a good document and a first step putting fire engineering into a codified form. We appreciate Dr Kirby's kind words of support for research in alternative design fires. His comments on fuel-control fires in large compartments resonate very well with our previous article in this publication ("Travel guide", November 2009, pp.12-16 by J Stern-Gottfried, G Rein and J Torero). In that article, we highlight that in large compartments, a post flashover fire is not likely to occur, but that a travelling fire spreading across the floor plate should be considered instead. We think that in the future travelling fires should also be considered as design fires and compliment the current Eurocode. Work conducted to date is available and easily accessible to the fire research community at large for the benefit of all.
Dr Guillermo Rein, BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering, The University of Edinburgh

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