The following is a guest post by research assistant and team member, Natalie Mazur. This June, Natalie is presenting The Experiences of Women in Undergraduate Engineering at the 9th Canadian Engineering Education Association’s Annual Conference., Vancouver, Canada. The paper can be downloaded here .
Members of our team attended the SFPE fire conference in Hawaii last week. Team member Hailey Quiquero gave a fantastic presentation on modelling timber structures in fire from a FEM point of view. Her work is a collaboration with the University of Canterbury. Dr. Gales gave a presentation regarding steel connections based on team alumni Matt Smith’s work as he could not make the conference.
The past few days we have been sorting through the structures lab after the end of the last academic year. Among the materials which we were indexing and storing were the heritage timbers that we tested for the CSCE paper (posted below). The timbers were installed in a heritage building built approximately in 1890 or so. In a retrofit of a building they were removed. We tested the timber beam first in structural loading. The beam was tested for our second year undergrads to see. Then we extracted two planks from the timber as it only had moderate damage for flame spread testing (to be compared to modern engineered lumber of the same moisture content). Since then the planks have sat. Looking at the timbers myself and Mina Li, opted to count the tree rings this week to estimate the timbers age yesterday. Relating to Canada’s 150 we were in for a bit of a shock.
On April 22nd, as part of a break from school at the end of the term, I took in the 911 Memorial Museum in New York. Not the most uplifting story to hear on a vacation, but a place I have been meaning to visit for years. I felt the museum to be very tasteful and a very important learning piece for those to learn what exactly happened that day (but ill argue understanding is different word to use here and a word I do not think we ever will be able to associate to that day). I feel it so important that people do be aware, today’s students that i teach, were far to young to know a world pre 911, they grew up in a different world. And from that the observations that you can learn visiting are just so much more important. The museum allows you to see quite a bit in terms of artifacts (fire trucks, and even the original foundations of the the tower). But it does educate what happened.
The Salesforce Tower will soon be completed and overtake the Pyramid as San Francisco’s newest and tallest building. I had a great oppertuinity to take a stroll through the construction area early this month and decided to highlight a few aspects of what i learnt and saw.
To me when i see cities like this, i am filled with creative inspiration. Its very easy to predict what the future skyline of San Francisco will look like. Where the tall buildings will appear (note that for now special planning approval must be given in San Fran), where the heritage will be conserved etc.
Research team member, Matthew Smith, and Engineer at global consulting firm, Entuitive, successfully defended his masters thesis: Towards a Performance-Based Fire Design Framework for Composite Steel Deck Construction in Canada . His thesis and defense were of the highest quality that there were no corrections necessary. Matt was subsequently nominated for the university’s senate medal (he has also just been awarded the SFPE National Capital Region Chapter Scholarship in Fire Safety Engineering in Canada for his work. A big thank you to his examiners whom I would say have a combined experience of over 60 years practicing steel construction. Also a big thank you to project sponsors: CISC and Entuitive, as well as to reps from FM Global and the National Research Council, NIST for their previous feedback and contributions.
Its been about 15 years since the events of September 11th. I remember the day very clearly still. Reflecting on how much has changed since that day in society and our built environment is staggering. While visiting NIST this summer I had the opportunity to do some of this reflection. Largely a lot of the structural work being done there is to aim to improve the safety of our buildings. Outside their new fire lab they have preserved steel pieces from that day in a memorial. If you want to read more about the structural and human behavioral analysis of the events from that day the journal Fire Technology has a really comprehensive issue from 2013 which is a very enlightening read.
We visited NIST last week to discuss human behavior in fire and structural testing on steel structures (ill post later on those stories…). The agenda was quite simple arrive August 16th in the evening, attend a one day visit and return August 18th.
On August 17th at approximately 2 am I was awoken by loud banging on my door. I heard a man yelling ‘you have to get out’. I did not react to this immediately because based on my stay at various hotels in the past ive heard this often by many people banging on doors. Then, the man yelled, that a fire was located in the building (later it was discovered this was actually a gas leak next door). At this point i started to react though very slowly. The alarm sounded. A T-three signal with audio que to leave. Then I really started to react to the point where i was trying to grab everything i could in terms of passport, and wallet. It was easy finding the stairs as everything was illuminated, i wonder what i would have done had things not been so illuminated. It took me id say 30 seconds to act once i realized the situation i was in, and about 2 to 3 minutes to get out of the building (I met my research student in the hall, so i did not need to search). Outside of the building I noticed most people did not have possessions with them ( at least large purses, bags or so). However when allowed to re-enter the building I and at least 10 others were cuing to get cards to get back into the building. I chatted with the staff after the event and they informed me that the staff and the local police ran the evacuation. The seriousness of the situation was made because of a fire about a week before by a gas leak apparently. It was interesting upon reflection because normally a verbal que will push one to leave faster. I was merely conditioned to go slower. But the seriousness of the drill, verbal combined with alarm i believe pushed all people to act quickly to leave. Something to think about more combined with standard theory when my grad course People in Fires meets next spring. Of course we did visit NIST to chat about other research which is best saved for another day.
The MGM Grand Fire occurred on November 21st 1980. It represents a significant case study in the study of Human Behavior in fire as well as for smoke dynamics. About 87 people were killed in this fire. Recently I had a chance to visit and talk to certain staff members at the current building over 35 years later. There are many rumors associated to the fire today but I thought a visual representation is quite telling when you compare the building to other hotels on the strip in Las Vegas. Most people are completely unaware that the building is still standing today.
Ive included some more recent photos herein. To many who visit the current building there is not much remembrance to the fire that is obvious to the casual pedestrian walking by. If you search really hard there really isn’t a plaque talking about the fire that is visible. However there are many reminders present if you look carefully as the included imagery resonates. The patrons are oblivious to what happened for the most part., although some online do contend the buildings haunting and unusual activities – though i dont advise talking about these stories within the building or near by as many are sensitive to these types of stories. Images posted for reflection to those keen on our disciplines history.