Growing Fire Engineering in Canada

There is no question when you travel through Toronto you look to the sky and imagine the possibilities for iconic structures and you do see first hand the structural revolution occurring there. And more so, if your aware, you ask what this means for Canadian fire engineering design. Buildings are becoming very complex.

Where old meets new in London. A centuries old church with the 40 storey Gherkin in the background.
Where old meets new in London. A centuries old church with the 40 storey Gherkin in the background.

In Toronto alone, there are now over 25 buildings that are 50 stories or higher. Nearly 15 are under construction and nearly 30 are approved and/or proposed. Even in Ottawa there are about five or so proposed.

The Walkie Talkie (or the death ray wind tunnel generating building as locals refer to it in the background.
The Walkie Talkie (or the death ray, wind tunnel generating building as locals refer to it) in the background.

So how do you convey and prepare university students what innovative and complex designs may be like? How might you inspire them beyond designing a ‘box’? There is the cheap route – take them down to Toronto and show them first hand the newly designed buildings there; or maybe the more elaborate route and show them designs abroad (not necessary tall per say, but significant nevertheless). In Canada we have begun to push the envelope in fire engineering design, but in the United Kingdom for example, there has been a lot of attention given to fire engineering – specifically to complex buildings.

Recently two research students and myself traveled to London UK (a third went to Cambridge, UK the week after for the Human Behaviour in Fire symposium – Ill talk on that later). This was in an effort to illustrate to how iconic and fire engineered structures are designed abroad and allow a bit of comparative thought to what we do in Canada. The students presented their current research to some of the world’s largest engineering firms and had the opportunity to speak one on one with designers (many whom inspired my own career) about the challenges being faced abroad; particularly in respect to structural fire engineering. 

To achieve long spans, cellular beam composite structures are the norm in London.
To achieve long spans, cellular beam composite structures are the norm in London.

Beyond this ‘city’ class room, the students attended the Steel in Fire Forum, where one of them presented her research to a captive audience (you can see her presentation slides here). The Steel in Fire forum is merging with the Concrete in fire forum, and this was the ‘last’ session. I find it fitting that a student gave the last presentation as I believe fire safety engineering’s biggest challenges are in education, particularly in Canada (but that is discussion for another day). Above all it was fantastic that so many people took so much time to accommodate the students and myself to teach about what structural design is like in the United Kingdom, one of the world’s best examples for iconic structure construction. The trip will certainly provoke the students into thought on what they see today and possibly will see tommorrow in design.

New Book on Post-tensioned Concrete in fire

A new book will be published by Springer titled; Structural Fire Performance of Contemporary Post-tensioned Concrete Construction. The book is available now. You can now order or download it here . The book features:

Our book is a concise account of PT concrete behavior in fire.
Our book is a concise account of Post-tensioned concrete behavior in fire. It is an essential first stop for new researchers and firms trying to understand this structural system in real fires.
  • A follow up to my highly cited Fire Safety Journal 2011 literary review paper – doubling the amount of tests analyzed;
  • New insights on bonded post-tensioned concrete construction;
  • Concise account of three large scale multi span post-tensioned concrete floor high temperature tests;
  • Updated five phased deflection theory on post-tensioned concrete continuous members in fire; and
  • New evidence regarding the origins of the standard fire test and discussion regarding that test’s relevancy to unbonded post-tensioned concrete construction.

The book aims to provide raw and valuable test data (restraint, tendon stress, slab temperatures, deflection etc.) from the three large scale tests fire tests on post-tensioned concrete. This information will be useful for structural design firms and researchers interested in understanding concrete structural systems in fire.

A three span continuous post tensioned slab strip before testing under elevated temperature.
A three span continuous post-tensioned concrete slab strip before testing under elevated temperature. An account and raw data of these tests is provided in the book.

Developed based on my internationally recognized doctoral thesis (improving and expanding on portions from: chapter 2 – literary review and chapter 5- large scale testing of concrete slabs), the book represents a balanced and essential overview of the subject. Other chapters and portions of that thesis are being developed for publication elsewhere (future post to come).

The book was copy-edited by a communications intern on my research team and co-authored by the University of Edinburgh’s Luke Bisby. Our goal was to create a highly accessible book for entry undergrad students to senior engineers.