Heritage Materials in Fire

torontoAt York University, our fire research team studies heritage materials and their response to fire. Our focus has been to consider timber and masonry. Doing these studies we are in the midst of preparing revised international guidance for these important structures. More recently the events in Paris have emphasized why this is such a serious topic of research to consider. For the last two years we have focused our efforts to really understanding timber performance, and we have done this by procuring real materials (columns, beams etc) from structures undergoing renovation (adaptive re-use) or sadly demolition. The importance of this study is now even more profound given this weeks events.

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On April 15th team lead Dr. Gales joined CTV News for the evening to discuss and advise on the fire behaviour that developed within the attic structure of Notre Dame, and what was to be expected in the aftermath of the fire.

Beyond the material its also important to understand the architecture of the structure. We know ventilation has a role in how a fire develops, but in large spaces (akin) to what you would find in a heritage structure (much like Notre Dame’s) attic space there are very few quantifiers that allow us to develop numerical definitions to just how severe or quickly a fire may develop.

This summer the first papers of our important research project will appear publically. Two conference papers at ASFE and Interflam present both the first and second stage results of our study of timbers. In these important works we compare 100 and 200 service life timber to modern engineered lumbers and quantify the expected behaviors of several unique samples taken from several real buildings and condition to real environmental service. In these papers we will defensibly show how the lumbers behave both from a charring perspective and indeed to a flame spread potential.

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Our next study involves the fire testing of a 100 year old farm structure. In this paper (see video below) we begin to characterize how the fire develops within an environment that is open well ventilated and of characteristic architecture. In this we can clearly see the speed of the fires development and the numerous interactions that are on-going that define the fire. This paper will also appear this summer for public release.

And then of course we are currently looking at Masonry response to fire, in the same manners that we considered lumber, we are looking at 100 and 200 year old samples, procured from real heritage buildings, which include a robust under study of mortar response. Our summer project releases will finialize with a Springer Briefs in fire book  co-authored by York Univeristy’s fire research team in collaboration with European experts on the subjects of heritage concretes, steels, masonry and of course timbers.

At York University we do not do this alone. These projects are all collaborations of students, institutions, stake holders etc. Our network extends locally to collaborations with the University of Waterloo (for many of the projects listed above) and broadly to our collaborators in Europe as noted above.

In the coming months and even years we will learn more about what exactly happened at Notre Dame. While our research is not solely to address one structure, the results being produced at York University will allow us to better understand what happened, and to appropriately defend similar structures of heritage value, if not any aged structure, from the loss from fire.

Athena SWAN and Other UK-Canada Collaborations on the Topic of Diversity and Inclusivity

The month of October has been incredibly productive for our women in engineering project (led by yours truly, Natalie). Early in the month, I had the pleasure of attending the Athena SWAN conference hosted by York University, and just a couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to travel to England to link up with professionals in the engineering discipline that are working toward positive change.

Athena SWAN is a recent initiative spearheaded by the UK to increase representation of women and minorities in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields. It is a program designed to reward institutions who consistently work toward promoting diversity and inclusivity, and its success lies in its rewards not being permanent. Institutions that carry Athena SWAN medals must continue to support inclusivity and diversity, else lose their medals for lack of improvement.20181009_061248This focus on accountability and endurance of effective programs and practices over time is precisely what our research in Canada is targeting. The Athena SWAN conference held at York University sought to understand how to bring the Athena SWAN framework to Canada, as many of our resources and problems are similar but there are marked differences that must be acknowledged. Key themes that emerged from this conference were the need to acknowledge the differences between recruitment, development, and retention in our research and discussions about diversity; the need for initiatives and collaborations to run at a national level; and the need for institutions to be transparent to the public about both their successes and failures. I hope to embed these themes in our continuing work on the retention of women in engineering across Canada, and to involve more and more institutions in our research program. It is clear that incentives to participate in the drive to include underrepresented folks in STEM are being developed more and more, and that means that we will hopefully start seeing the people who need to be participating start participating, to avoid preaching to the choir.

2018 Fire and Evacuation Modeling Technical Conference – Maryland

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.

The Experiences of Women in Undergraduate Engineering

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 . 

A long-standing issue in the field of engineering has been the representation of women. Of the students that pursue undergraduate studies, half are women. However, to this day, women make up only 21% of engineering undergraduate students in Canada. This number has not significantly changed in almost 20 years. Additionally, women make up only 17% of newly licensed engineers nationally. As we look higher and higher up the corporate ladder, fewer and fewer women are visible.

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Workshop on Advancements in Evaluating the Fire Resistance of Structures

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Presenatations will be invited for full paper consideration in the journal, Fire and Materials

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.

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.

Timber Structure Fire Test

Our Timber research was recently published in a conference paper presented at ASFE. The paper that describes our team’s work before 2016 can be downloaded here.

Since that above paper, and last year, our research team have undertaken four new and novel Timber based projects to expand knowledge in this research area as we relocate to York University.

Fire and Materials Journal

Fire and materials 3Very exciting to announce that effective this year I am joining John Wiley’s journal, Fire and Materials as an Associate Editor. In this role I will be considering mainly the structural materials papers. Fire and Materials is one of the more older peer reviewed journals for our research community beginning in 1976. The journal is led by Steven Grayson. More information is to come on this initiative. For now be sure to check out my own Fire and Materials paper on the Creep of Prestressing steel which can be downloaded here .

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 .