This past month I had the pleasure of representing the Lassonde Institute of Fire Engineering at the 15th International Wildland Fire Safety Summit and 5th Human Dimensions Conference in Asheville, North Carolina. Organized by the International Association of Wildland Fire (IAWF), the conference was a glowing success despite the unexpected snowstorm that threw a wrench in many attendees’ travel plans. The fact that only one presentation had to be cancelled as a result of these challenges highlighted to me just how determined and passionate the presenters and event organizers were to share the important research being conducted in the field of wildfire safety and human factors in the wildland urban interface (WUI).
The five-day conference ran from December 10th – 14th and consisted of a wide range of workshops, presentations, poster sessions, and networking opportunities. The conference went outside the box to offer various types of presentations, ranging from plenaries and panels that allowed for dialog and diverse perspectives, to deep-dives that encouraged in-depth learning and participation, to themed sessions of 20-minute presentations exploring new and innovative research being conducted. The conference also provided a unique opportunity for academics and practitioners to learn from each other, discuss partnerships and challenge assumptions. As a young academic entering the field, it was invigorating to be immersed in such a supportive environment.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the 2018 Fire and Evacuation Modeling Technical Conference (FEMTC). It was hosted by Thunderhead Engineering and held in Gaithersburg, Maryland, right around the corner from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). This three day event spanning from October 1st to 3rd was a single-track agenda which allowed participants to watch all presentations and engage with all speakers. Attendees ranged from engineers to geo-scientists to researchers and a few students. The presentations were a fantastic balance between technical material and more high-level fire and modeling topics. I presented on the first day on stadium egress modeling our team has been conducting over the past year in collaboration with ARUP. The open access version of the paper can be found here and the presentation video at the bottom of this blog post. Our research was well-received and represents stage one of the project, in which stage two will be built upon over the next eight months. One of my favourite aspects of the conference included the fact that many of the Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS) software developers were in attendance. Since many of the presentations were geared towards certain aspects of FDS, a lot of the Q&A periods not only consisted of audience questions, but also of comments from these FDS developers of precise recommendations and precautions to take when utilizing FDS for specific purposes.
Dr. Gales will be chairing the Workshop on Advancements in Evaluating the Fire Resistance of Structures to be held Thursday December 6th and Friday December 7th, 2018. This workshop is sponsored by ASTM Committee E05 on Fire Standards and will be held at the Washington Hilton in Washington, DC, in conjunction with the December standards development meetings of the committee. The workshop will celebrate the centennial of the furnace temperature-time curve, which defines the thermal fire exposure conditions in ASTM E119 and other fire resistance test standards.
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.
A lot will be said in the coming months, if not years regarding the fire seen at Grenfell. The few things Id say, is that cladding fires are not the only challenge we face in the community of fire engineering. Tunnels, Developing countries, Wild fires, New building materials, Risk based methodologies, etc., and I can go on, are all areas for the last decade we as a community have been stating require additional attention – many are receiving attention.
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.
Our research team traveled to Naples Italy to attend the IfireSS conference. Ben Nicoletta presented his paper to a keen audience. The paper, Performance of Gfrp stay-in- place Form work for Bridge Dec ks after Real and Simulated Fire Damage (download here) was an interesting work with collaboration from University of Waterloo and Queen’s University. It is a preliminary study which we are currently developing into a larger project. Ben’s hard work paid off and he won best paper at the conference. Currently Ben is interning in a joint research collaboration with the global consultancy firm Entuitive (via graduate Matt Smith). Ben was supported at the conference by research team students Hailey Todd and Chloe Jeanneret. Chloe is performing an internship with Dr. Guillermo Rein’s Haze Lab at Imperial College and the trip was not too far for her. Hailey is working on stadium design.
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.
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 research team recently traveled to the United Kingdom. Students (three of them + one former) presented 4 papers with me. Their work was on aging populations, engineered timber, concrete structures after fire, and advancing our knowledge in fibre reinforced polymer constructions at the Interflam conference. All the papers were well received. Our human behavior in fire paper can be downloaded off research gate here. Beyond this conference the students joining (three of them) had the opportunity to visit Arup’s London office for two days and the University of Edinburgh for a day.
This trip has become a staple on my research team. We also did this trip in 2015. Reflecting on the last experience, I felt that the trip was too short and did not have enough exposure to contemporary design. In that sense this years trip (with the thanks to the good folks at Arup in London and Edinburgh Uni) expanded on this experiential learning trip. The theme of the trip is the interaction between research and consultancy design practice. The trip’s itinerary to the United Kingdom included the following: Interflam Conference from July 4th through 6th; on the 7th a visit to Arup London (where three design projects were reviewed with the students as well as a nice presentation given by myself to the Arup structural skills team); On the 8th the students traveled to Edinburgh University to tour the fire facilities and meet their research team. Afterwards on the 9th, the students had an opportunity to take in the number of heritage structures in Edinburgh as well as visit the Edinburgh Fire Muesuem (see previous post – the museum may be permanetly closing soon). On the 11th of July, the students visited the iconic structures of London. We started with the Grade I heritage LLoyd’s building (yes it is heritage…..) to vsiting the Shard (pictured). The Carbuncle Cup winner the FryScraper was also visited (we also saw the Razor 2010’s winner also called the Strata). On the 12th, the students
visited Arup once again for a day on Human Behaviour in Fire (also to consider many heritage structures). This included two project reviews and a site tour of the Tate Modern. The students gave a presentation on their Human Behaviour in Fire and Engineered Timber work. This was a great experience for them as they got to present to engineers from offices in China, Uk and North America via a conference. On the 13th the students returned home. It was awesome the amount of time provided to the students at Arup and Edinburgh – thank you to those awesome people!
So often in research students tackle ‘pie in the sky research projects’ which are dissociated to growing our immediate capabilities to better design our existing and planned infrastructure. The dis-association between research and consultancy is severe in some cases and a communication barrier is often present. We need to get students out there to see whats being built, meet people who are building, see what these engineers need. We need not just motivate students – we need to inspire them that they can make an impact.