Fire Banner

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Edinburgh Student wins 2014 SFPE Student Scholar Award!

Many congratulations to Alastair Bartlett, a 2014 MEng Graduate in Structural and Fire Safety Engineering from the BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering, who has been awarded the 2014 Student Scholar Award from the Educational and Scientific Foundation of the SFPE. The award was made for Alastair's MEng Thesis, entitled "Charring Rates for Cross Laminated Timber under Standard and Non-Standard Heating Scenarios," which was supervised by Arup Professor Luke Bisby and Rushbrook Lecturer Rory Hadden.

Alastair will present his work at the SFPE Annual Conference in California this autumn, and has recently signed up to undertake an Arup/EPSRC CASE PhD Studentship at the University of Edinburgh, supervised by Rory Hadden (and Luke Bisby), continuing his work to study the fire performance of mass timber buildings.

Alastair and his MEng thesis partner, Andrew Ballantyne, along with Rory and Luke, are currently working on a journal paper to present their findings, and we expect that this will be published and posted on this Blog in due course.

The formal SFPE Award Citation is included below:

Educational and Scientific Foundation Chair’s Message

"The Educational and Scientific Foundation is happy to announce that the winning paper for the 2014 Student Scholar Award entitled "Charring Rates for Cross Laminated Timber under Standard and Non-Standard Heating Scenarios" was submitted by Alastair Bartlett.  Alastair undertook his thesis work as part of a five year Master’s degree program in Structural and Fire Safety Engineering at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, UK.  His advisors were Professor Luke Bisby and Dr Rory Hadden.

Alastair will be presenting his paper at our SFPE Annual Conference in Long Beach, CA in October of this year.  Please make sure to attend the meeting and join us for Alastair Bartlett's presentation."


A Brief Summary of the Work is as Follows

The use of engineered timber products such as cross-laminated timber (CLT) in high-rise construction is of increasing interest to architects, designers and the general public. A key factor preventing widespread uptake of this construction methods is a lack of understanding relating to the performance of engineered timber in fire. This presents a barrier to the construction of high-rise, sustainable timber structures. This thesis provides a more in-depth, practical knowledge of the behaviour of timber across a range of potential fire scenarios.

Charring has been identified as the fundamental mechanism through which the structural integrity of timber exposed to fire can be quantified. This thesis investigates the key design criteria of charring rate of timber exposed to a range of heating regimes including standard and non-standard heating. This thesis is novel in it’s use of the custom-built Heat-Transfer Rate Inducing System, developed by Cristian Maluk at the University of Edinburgh, to assess the charring rate of 300mm x 200mm x 120mm Sitka spruce and Scots pine CLT samples. The tests performed as part of this project were intermediate-scale, which avoids the high costs and lack of repeatability associated with repeated furnace testing, while still allowing large samples to be tested.

The CLT was exposed to the following heating regimes: constant heat flux, quadratically increasing heat fluxes and the heat flux from a simulated furnace test (an inverse model to infer incident heat flux from temperature data was developed). These were selected to allow comparison to existing data and standard test methods while exploring the parameter space further.

A novel analysis method was developed to determine the charring-rate as a function of time based on temperature data. The results showed a time-dependent charring rate, which differs from the Eurocode assumption of a constant charring rate model. The average charring rate for tests undertaken using the standard fire curve were found to be around 0.7mm/min (similar to the existing literature, and slightly above Eurocode values), but with significant variation. The constant heat flux tests were compared to similar small-scale tests carried out in the FM Global Fire Propagation Apparatus and it was found that charring rate increases with incident heat flux, and charring is significantly faster on a large, vertically orientated sample than on a small, horizontally orientated sample. It was also observed that charring rate was often not uniform across the sample surface. The results from the quadratically increasing heat fluxes show that charring rate increased linearly with heating rate, with average charring rates increasing from 0.64mm/min at a growth rate of 8.33W/m^2.min to 0.81mm/min at a growth rate of 16.7W/m^2.min, which again differ substantially from the values given in the Eurocodes.

Many congratulations to Alastair!!!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

SiF 2014 – New city, new conference sessions, same old story?

Views from a post-doc

The 8th international conference on Structures in Fire was held in the massive and ever changing city of Shanghai from 11th to 13th June 2014. A large delegation from Edinburgh attended the conference, many for their first taste of this conference series, and many of the delegation had the opportunity to present their research, with 7 oral papers and one poster paper being presented.  The conference attracted over 250 delegates from all around the world (apart, yet again, from Africa).

Bund - Shanghai (Copyright D.Rush)
This year 282 two-page extended abstracts were submitted and reviewed by the scientific committee, with around 150 papers being selected for the 80+ oral and 60+ poster presentations.  All of the research that was presented, whether through a poster or oral presentation, also had an 8-page research paper included within the conference proceedings, which rightly gives all the papers the same level of rigour for a conference striving to present the most current research being performed in the area of structures in fire, and the organisers should be commended for this.

The high number of accepted papers meant that for the first time in the history of this conference series, parallel sessions were introduced during the middle part of each day.  Whilst members of the SiF community may be strongly for or strongly against having parallel sessions, I personally can see the positives and negatives. More papers can be accepted, if their quality is good enough, and it means that sessions can be more specialised. However, parallel sessions also mean that the delegates are split, and as delegates at such a niche conference it can be very hard to choose which session to attend; I found myself popping in and out of the sessions to view alternate presentations and thus missing their starts due to different time keeping in the sessions. Parallel sessions also stopped delegates from engaging in more holistic debates, which can happen in single session conferences.

Conference Proceedings (Copyright D.Rush)
The high number of accepted oral presentations also had a negative effect on the presentation of the posters.  In Zurich for SiF 2012, those delegates with posters had five minutes to present their work, after which they were able answer more in depth questions over tea and coffee.  This format worked really well, but was unfortunately not adopted in Shanghai, probably due to the fact that more time was required to accommodate the larger number of oral presentations. This meant that, although the posters were accompanied by research papers, they were relegated to a consolation status, being presented in a short 40 minute session over tea and coffee.     

All the research papers were accepted for this conference on the basis of a two-page abstract.  This is not a full paper due to the desire of this conference series to include the most up to date research.  However, the 282 two-page abstracts submitted must have taken a lot of time to review by the scientific committee, which aims to have at least 3 reviews for each submission. In the 6 weeks between submission and notifying the authors of the decisions made, the 52 reviewers from on the scientific committee each reviewed on average 15+ abstracts on a wide variety of topics, collated all the reviews, and decided which abstracts to invite to present full papers. This is no easy task and not conducive to high quality control, and as in Z├╝rich, some questions were raised by a number of fellow delegates over the review process and the quality of the oral papers being presented. The main issues worthy of consideration after this conference are the same as in Zurich, and to quote from my previous Blog after the SiF 2012 conference (none of which are unique to the SiF conference series):

1.  Too many papers lacked novel or significant context:
Many of the presented papers struggled to inform the listener of why they should care about the work being presented; there was little context to the work provided in most cases. Even the most engaging presentations and presenters frustrated delegates by not clearly saying at any point why the work was done and why one should care about it. The main question that needs to be answered is who benefits from the research apart from those doing the research?
2.  The lost art of presenting:
Too many of the presentations were difficult to follow and were easy to disengage from with which detracted from the discussions, as instead of collective expertise being used to further research and how to apply it in the real world, questions were being asked simply for clarification rather than for extension.  For the presentations that were presented well constructive discussions generally followed.  There were three trends that could be seen when comparing the good and bad discussions.
i.  Language barrier – Many of those who did not have a good grasp of English, the chosen language of the conference, struggled to communicate their work effectively. In some cases such presenters resorted to simply reading their slides. This problem is admittedly very hard to solve. The post presentation questioning was particularly problematic.
ii.  Hard to see the forest through the trees – many of the presenters had graphs or images, on which they would be making a comment, but rarely did they explain what the graph or image was showing or representing.  For those who aren’t experts in the area (which should be a large portion of the audience if the research being presented is at the cutting edge of the science), there would be no way of understanding what they were looking at.
iii.  Mathematical blindness – as was evident with the images, there were too many equations with not enough explanation, and in some case there were too many equations to even keep track of.  The effect of this was to turn the slide in to a blur of black and white with little apparent meaning.
3.    The works presented in the papers, for the most part, was not directly assessed by review:
With the papers being presented on the basis of only a 2-page abstract, the actual work presented in the 8-page papers was hardly critiqued at all, nor rigorously assessed, but likely only checked for editorial issues.  This led to the quality of many papers being presented being lower than it really should have been be for the SiF conference series. 

One thing that has changed for the better since SiF 2012 in Zurich is that this SiF conference did include a number of delegates from industry and consultancy, with the conference being sponsored by a fire protection paint manufacturer, International Paint Ltd. However most of the delegates and presenters were academics, myself included. Without delegates from consultancy and industry, those who apply the information in the real world and lead us to the critical and relevant areas of research, we fool ourselves that we are doing a good job because we lose perspective and context to our work and presentations. Our work becomes self-satisfying rather than industry leading, and we end up producing redundant, sometimes pointless knowledge, that in practice will never be applied.

So where could we go to improve the SiF Movement?

First, we need to increase the quality of the papers presented, which could be done by either papers selected and reviewed on full paper submissions rather than on 2-page abstracts, and/or increasing the number (or quality) of reviewers to reduce the workload on the scientific committee and improve the quality control. There should also be some guidance/template for the abstracts to help the authors highlight the relevance of their work. 

Second, we need to improve the quality of the presentations, and we could provide some guidelines for the presentations including, amongst other things, stipulations that if you are presenting graphs and equations that you explain clearly what the audience is looking at, and why they are looking at it.  If the quality of the work is good enough and the presentation of it clear, then issues of language are significantly lessened.

Third, to improve the discussions around the cutting edge research being presented, allow access to the proceedings (digitally would be preferable) a week before the conference so those who wish can read papers and prepare questions. We could also change the question time format and have a series of presentations around a theme and then a general discussion on all the presentations rather than each individually.

Fourth, we need to remain relevant to the construction industry.  One way of doing this is to invite our industrial partners to join us and invite them to speak on the subjects that they feel are of major concern to them.  They could be designers, consultants, materials suppliers, architects, practitioners, and we could discuss what matters to them and to the broader building design industry, rather than existing in an isolated academic bubble with few industrialists present.

Finally, as we grow we need the leadership to grow, and I believe that we need new members on the steering committee to help guide the conference in the future. 

If we improve the quality and directly indicate the relevance of the research which is being conducted, improve the way we present it and allow more time for more informed discussions, we can grow, become more relevant, and remain the world leading forum for Structures in Fire.

David Rush

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

SiF 2014 conference - Shanghai: Paper and Posters

A strong Edinburgh delegation presented several papers at the 8th International Conference on Structures in Fire, held in Shanghai in June 2014.  The titles and authors of the papers are listed below (Edinburgh authors highlighted in bold), and the proceedings of the conference can be found at

Title: Towards fragility analysis for structural fire resistance: residual capacity of concrete columns
Authors: D. Rush, L. Bisby, I. Ioannou and T. Rossetto
Proceeding pages: 459 - 466

Title: Deformation and response of continuous and restrained post-tensioned concrete slabs at high temperatures
Authors: J. Gales and L. Bisby
Proceeding pages: 305 - 312

Title: Software firelab for probabilistic analysis of steel-framed structures in fire
Authors: S. Devaney, A. Usmani and C.S. Manohar
Proceeding pages: 919 - 926

Title: Selection criteria of fire scenarios for buildings
Authors: I.Del Prete, G. Cefarelli, A. Ferraro, E. Nigro and D. Sannino
Proceeding pages: 1079 - 1086

Title: Punching shear of restrained reinforced concrete slabs under fire conditions
Authors: H.K.M. Smith, T. J. Stratford and L. Bisby
Proceeding pages: 443 - 450

Title: Evaluating design guidance for intumescent fire protection of concrete filled structural hollow sections
Authors: D. Rush, L. Bisby and A. Jowsey
Proceeding pages: 1071 - 1078

Title: High temperature performance of sustainable concrete with recycled concrete aggregates
Authors: J. Gales, T. Parker, M.F. Green, D. Cree and L. Bisby
Proceeding pages: 1203 - 1210

Title: Mechanical properties of fibre reinforced polymer reinforcement for concrete at high temperature
Authors: E. McIntyre, A. Bilotta, L. Bisby and E. Nigro
Proceeding pages: 1227 - 1234

Title: Experimental and numerical studies on damage mechanisms in cementitious coatings on structural steel members
Authors: S.W. Chen, L.M. Jiang, A. Usmani and G.Q. Li
Proceeding pages: 1251 - 1258

Title: Analytical solutions for nonlinear response of plates under thermal loading
Authors: P. Khazaeinejad and A. Usmani
Proceeding pages: 969 - 978

Title: Post-fire residual capacity of protected and unprotected concrete filled steel hollow columns
Authors: D. Rush, L. Bisby and A. Jowsey
Proceeding pages: 435 - 442

Title: Influence of ductility on the behaviour of RC frames in post-earthquake fire 
Authors: Asif H. Shah, Praveen Kamath, Umesh K. Sharma, Pradeep Bhargava, Asif Usmani, GR Reddy, Tarvinder Singh and Hitesh Lakhani
Proceeding pages: 279 - 286

Title: Calibration of a simplified method for fire resistance assessment of partially encased composite beams
Authors: E. Nigro, I.D. Prete, D. Sannino and G. Cefarelli
Proceeding pages: 713 - 720

Title: Fire-induced progressive collapse of braced steel structures
Authors: J. Jiang, G.Q. Li and A. Usmani
Proceeding pages: 887 - 894

Title: An opensees-based integrated tool for modelling structures in realistic design fires
Authors: L.M. Jiang, Y.Q. Jiang, J. Jiang, A. Usmani and S.W. Chen
Proceeding pages: 987 - 994

Title: A novel test method for the study of structures in fire (topic: experimental studies)
Authors: C. Maluk and L. Bisby
Proceeding pages: 1063 - 1070

Title: Fire safety check of existing tall office buildings applying fire engineering approach: a case study
Authors: E. Nigro, I. D.Prete, G. Cefarelli, Anna Ferraro, Domenico Sannino and Gaetano Manfredi
Proceeding pages: 1087 - 1094