SFPE 12th International Conference on Performance Based Codes and Fire Design – Hawaii

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.

2018 -19 NSERC and OGS Scholarship winners announced! And other news…

As we are about to begin the summer term at York University, we have a number of news items and scholarship announcements to share.

Best Paper at IfireSS in Naples Italy

Pool fire testOur 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 herewas 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.

Ben receives his Best Paper award, and we pose for a group photo outside the venue.
Naples 2
With any conference the social program was great. We were able to explore many archaeology sites in Naples., here Hailey uses a selfie stick the way it was meant to be used, peaking behind a closed gate to look at a 2000 year old stairwell!

GFRPs, Heritage Timber, Education, Sustainable Concretes, Performance Based Fire, New Instruments and More!

Summer conferences

We have an exciting two weeks ahead. The research team will be visiting 4 conferences in the coming weeks to present 6 presentations. In addition we will have a 7th presented at ASFE and this will be announced at a later date. The below are brief descriptions of each. Open access versions will appear at a later date.

CSCE Symposium in Vancouver (May 31st to June 3rd)

Mass Heritage Timber Performance in Fire presented by Arlin Otto. The paper looks at a comparison of timber performance in fire of three unique types of timbers. The paper will also discuss adhesive bleeding seen in LVL panels .

Canadian Engineering Education Association’s Annual Conference

Our presentation ran over time, but discussion was really good on the state of engineering education in FSE within Canada. The presentation highighted various teaching methods used to illustrate how to engage students. Carleton will offer People in Fires, as a grad course once again next year.

We traveled to Halifax to take part in the Canadian Engineering Education Conference. At the conference we presented a study titled Fire Safety Engineering Education using Experiential Learning by myself and student authors Lauren Folk and Claudia Gaudreault. The presentation described successes of the re-launch of our human behavior in Fires course at Carleton University last Spring. Of emphasis is a high rise evacuation drill the students partook in. The conference was quite eye-opening in that it dealt with how design is to incorporated into the undergraduate curriculum, alot of focus was given to how we can improve enrolements of women in STEM. overall the conference touched on a number of subjects. There were two talks about fire engineering, and a number of discussions which broke out to the state of fire engineering in Canada. The highlights though included the perfect choice of venue, and the number of activities that Halifax had to offer. i was very impressed by the students i met, and hope them the best as they progress through their studies.

Most of the research team will be travelling next to Interflam to present four papers. We will then be visiting Edinburgh, and London. More to come!!!!

Fire and a Conference in New Jersey

The 9th iteration of the Structures in Fire Conference was held in June in Princeton, New Jersey.

Every two years the Structures in Fire Conference is held. This year it was held in New Jersey at Princeton University. It was a fantastic trip with two of my research team student members to take in the ninth iteration of the conference. And as always a great learning experience re-connecting with old friends and making new opportunities for collaboration.

The Conference

conferenceThe conference was held over four days and featured numerous sessions. The competition to have papers was very competitive, of my two submissions only one was accepted (ill speak on those below). To begin the conference we had an excellent and informative meeting for the ASCE fire protection committee. On that committee I am a task group leader for acceptance criteria for structural fire design. At the meeting I was able to relay information regarding the creation of a Fire Safety Engineering sub committee in Canada (CSCE) which Ill be leading (please contact me if there is interest in joining). We were also able to recruit additional individuals to help pave the way in Canada. This is very key for the safe building of such a framework in the canadian side. The whole meeting was very constructive. Afterwards we attended the opening reception of the conference. The social programme was very enriching, where my favorite part was the conference banquet. The most enjoyable presentations i found were Jose Torero’s on thermal boundaries as it spurred a very good amount of thought process on thermal boundaries, where my other favorite was Florian Block’s presentation on a case study of a heritage building interlacing with fire safety engineering. Which presents a unique teaching aspect to really push Carleton students to how fire safety engineering impacts heritage and conservation. I loved how the conference also featured a session on travelling fires research. Students joining me at the conference were very impressed with the structure, content, guests, and formatting. Discussions were numerous during the breaks, and the receptions were plentiful to foster those talks. Overall i think it was one of the best conference iterations and most productive of Structures in Fire.

Only one slide!?

Our paper presented at SIF 2016. The paper illustrates what happens to a continuous and restrained concrete slab when it is heated a second time. The overarching goal is to isolate the contribution of load induced thermal strains which are said to only occur in first heating.

All papers were ranked before presenting, where the highest rated abstracts were to be presented in the introductory morning session. Our paper called Insights into the Complexity of Structural Fire Response from Repeated Heating Tests on Post-Tensioned Concrete was the opening presentation on the second day for concrete. This was a very complicated subject to present.  And I spent a great deal in time trying to effectively decide a way to communicate the presentation (spending about 15 hours building and practicing the presentation) . On one hand the paper includes very refined and detailed analysis on Load Induced Thermal Strains (LITS), and on the other hand there is a powerful message needing to be relayed about concrete in fire which can easily be lost in the very complicated deflection behavior observed in the test programme ( keep in mind the previous test series were so extensive they required a 91 page book to describe…..). So I took a chance and opted to break presentation convention through lecturing rather than presenting featured slides. Such a presentation is with huge risks ~ you have nothing to fall back on, and have to be flawless – your stress levels will also be higher because you will not engage everyone let alone pull off the talk flawlessly. I felt about a quarter of the audience would be lost with the presentation method i would use however no matter how well i prepared; and for that I apologize to them. However if I used traditional measures of presentation, I think i would have lost about three quarters of the audience in the time allotted – basically losing the key message entirely.   So I gave a presentation carefully in reference to the paper ( I memorized figure numbers, page numbers to point the audience to and relayed that information as so in the presentation), and walked the audience through the material using only one slide – the fire safety engineering drivers (as shown). I told a story, and attempted to teach.

First slide of my presentation (which describes a few of the drivers in research)

I received great feedback afterwards and on reflection, can definitely improve ways to deliver an improved version of this style of presentation where slides are not used (though i think ill stay clear of the format for the moment). The better bits being to reduce the length of the talk to around 6 minutes (less is more), and provide a slow dialogue for the audience to follow. What was good about the presentation was the praise that it promoted discussion and debate of the subject, and provided an engaging  lesson of cautionary tales of research and interpretation of results. Overall it had a great reception with a bit of flare for discussion (I did build a full presentation set of 20 slides if people wish to see these in which case please contact me and ill share a pdf of these slides). My own reflection is that two or three more slides would have been better. Sometimes its best to try something new., but the risks can be very high when doing so – so caution is always needed when trying something different.

CSCE Conference wrap up

I gave a talk on Fort McMurray to young professionals on June 2nd. The goal was to explain rationally the engineering and science side of the disaster.

I attended the CSCE conference this year in London Ontario with several students from Carleton. We had several presentations to do. I gave a talk to young professionals and students on Fort McMurray and my thoughts pertaining to how it happened and how we will see this again. I think there is a responsibility of young professionals to be proactive in assessing and studying international hazards and how they pertain to Canada – we need to be more proactive. I am concerned though that the learning opportunities from an engineering perspective are slipping away from us for this particular disaster. Subsequently in our research team we are looking into a few of the underlying issues related to the disaster this summer. It was however great to see the energy from the youth in discussing the issues in Canada. I had a great time chatting with student members of my former alumni school UofO.

Student capstone projects

I also took in the capstone competition to see what other groups were doing. Carleton came in first owing to the fantastic performance of the representing students who got through their presentation and Q and A flawlessly (they had two minutes to do so!) They rocked it though. This isnt an easy feat for any of the groups though. I think again you really have to hand it to the students – they did this, and they were fantastic to pull it off. I had conversations with other groups representing the competition. I think we need to do more as professors to push these projects. The students are capable of doing awesome things in their designs and the competition, and means so much to them – they are so dedicated, I remember seeing some preparing in the hotel lobby in the wee hours of the morning coming in. Another example one group missed their convocation because they wanted to push their project and present it at the conference. That is dedication. Another group told me they learnt all the steel design on their own incorporating fire protection measures in a school. I loved that design – why though? – it  was that without any training from FSE those students designed their structural layout perfectly to employ PBFD best practice layout measures (see Flints 2013 FT paper). I was astounded and hopeful for steel design in Canada and its future. Finally I spoke to another group, and the amazing thing there was the confidence in pushing one’s design. You see in practice you will have to sell the design, and many of these students are able to do so.  My favorite presentations in no order were  Carleton’s, Queens, Saskatchewan, and Memorial.  I wish the absolute best for those I had the pleasure to talk to during those conversations.

Other presentations at the conference

It was great chatting with other colleagues, I relished the chats with some senior members in the field whom were both practitioners and academics. It was great to see so many people working towards great goals at promoting and pushing the boundaries of engineering. However, i think certain individuals need a reality check on what heritage and conservation actually is…but we wont go there…..My offer stands 😉

Fire Safety Engineering Measures in Canada from CSCE

csce abstract
On June 2nd we had an afternoon of fire talks. Carleton student Hailey’s paper on DIC for timber was the top Fire Safety Engineering Student paper.

We made huge progress for Fire Safety Engineering in Canada. At the CSCE Structures division section we successfully created a sub division for fire safety engineering which i will lead, currently I have recruited Mark Green, and Matt Smith to join me and will reach out to other volunteers shortly after SIF (feel free to contact me if keen). Ian Burgess gave a fascinating key note on steel connections in fire which i think a number of students were very keen on. We had a whole afternoon on on fire safety engineering presentations from students to industry. A MTO prestressed concrete bridge after fire was discussed, LITs was covered (see Martin Gillies blog), FRPs in fire by Queens as well as my Carleton student colleague Hailey with her student presentation on Timber in fire and DIC which was Brilliant! Two other presentations by Therese McAllister (NIST) on resiliency in structures, and Denis Millette (Golder) on the Lac Magnetic fire and the environmental clean up as key notes are sure to get people interested in the potential to grow the field of Fire Safety Engineering.  I believe we advanced fse a bit this week which is grand. Off to the US next week for SIF!


Interflam 2016 Conference Papers

Our team is very excited to be travelling to the Interflam conference this year. There we will be presenting 4 papers in posters and oral presentations. Papers have primarily been led by students on the team and involve a great and diverse set of collaborators. The conference is this July 4th through 6th in the UK. In no order a brief description of each is below:

Design For Elderly Egress In Fire Situations.  By Folk, L., Gales, J., Gwynne, S., Kinsey, M.

PFST2.pngThe paper represents a follow up to our Human Behavior in Fire Symposium paper last fall. The work deals with aging populations and evacuation modelling. It is a lead on to a new grant from NSERC Canada in collaboration with Arup.


Behaviour of Char Layer in Fire-Damaged Box Section Timber Beams. By Quiquero, H., Gales, J., and Hadjisophocleous, G

PFST3The work is the product of a NSERC student scholar’s research by Quiquero and is a follow on to her Canadian Society of Civil Engineers study on mechanics of Timber beams after exposure from severe temperature exposure., That will be presented this month.


Improving Fire Safety Of Glass Fibre Reinforced Polymers For Bridge Infrastructures. By Gales, J., Nagy, N., Weckman., B., Gaudreault, C., and Smith, H.

PFST4The work is based on a novel materials in fire collaboration between the University of Waterloo and Carleton University. Thoughts and insights into improving fire performance of composite polymers are discussed.



Post-fire Guidance for the Critical Temperature of Prestressing Steel.  By Roberston, L., and Gales, J.

This workPFST follows my steel in fire forum presentation that illustrated that post fire guidance given about the strength of prestressing steel after fire, may be in need of revision. Results of over 100 tests are used to support these preliminary conclusions.


The conference should be an exciting time this July to present these papers, see other’s studies and catch up with old colleagues from across the ‘pond’. Other conference updates will be posted soon.


Creep of Prestressing Steels in Fire

Measured creep strain at high temperature for three different prestressing steels.
Measured creep strain at high temperature for three different prestressing steels.

Our new paper, Creep of Prestressing Steels in fire, is now in press in the journal Fire and Materials (you can access it here; an open access version is to come). It is a great piece about prestressing steels used in Post-tensioned structures. We show how high- temperature creep is effected by the chemical composition of the steel. While it may seem obvious to some, the effect this can have for prestressing steel in high temperatures seen in real fires is astounding.

Consider several different prestressing steels, all behaving the same in ambient service temperatures, but when stressed and heated (700 MPa and 427C) as if they were in a fire, one fails after 5 hours, were the others fail below 1.5 hours. All likely due to the chemical composition from the production process of the steel (see the above figure). These tests are described in the paper (that and about 80 others). The same trends shows the same effect in simple strength tests at high temperature.

The paper also describes the use of digital image correlation to measure the strain at high high temperature. An innovated technique, but leading to important insights about true areas and strains as the steel fails in high temperature. A compiled video of a creep test is provided below which illustrates how quickly tertiary (third stage) creep takes effect before failure.

The above video shows the prestressing steel coated in a black and white speckle texture pattern. Image correlation is a powerful technique for measuring high temperature strains. Its a very simple process described below

Digital image correlation is an excellent strain measurement technology. This figure shows two images taken using image correlation techniques on a piece of prestressing steel. The top image illustrates time zero with an applied stress of zero. The second photo below shows the specimen at 100 seconds, with an applied stress state of 1950 MPa. The speckle pattern seen allows a software to track movement of the bar as it deforms (strains) between different pictures. The software tracks tiny patches. Think of them loke a box. The software can then be used to tell the user how much these patches move between the images.
Digital image correlation is an excellent strain measurement technology. This figure shows two images taken using image correlation techniques on a piece of prestressing steel. The top image illustrates time zero with an applied stress of zero. The second photo below shows the specimen at 100 seconds, with an applied stress state of 1950 MPa. The speckle pattern seen allows a software to track movement of the bar as it deforms (strains) between different pictures. The software tracks tiny patches. Think of them loke a box. The software can then be used to tell the user how much these patches move between the images.


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.