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.

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.

Research News for December 2017

Its been a busy few months. We gear up for the York University move in January. Our recent news includes:

Our team has won a number of recent research awards. Lauren Folk (now a graduate student on our team) won the Adjeleian Allen Rubeli Award Best undergraduate thesis 2017 at Carleton this fall. Her work is a collaboration with ARUP Fire that studied care home evacuation. We received three undergraduate research scholarships to study: Poverty in Canada, Timber in fire and GFRPs.

Heritage Timber, Tree Rings, and Fire

Post and beam
Slow burning timber construction methods  circ. 1890

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.  

Visiting the 911 Memorial in New York

WTCOn 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 Next Tallest Building in San Francisco

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.

United Kingdom Fire Expedition 2016

 

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Cellular beam construction in the United Kindgom

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.

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The Shard a PT concrete and Cellular beam Iconic structure in London, and currently the tallest UK building

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

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Tate Modern.

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.

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A typical ‘Sunny’ Day to see London’s Skyline.

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.

Urbanization and Fire Engineering

Toronto's Aura constructio
Toronto’s Aura construction

The last several weeks have been quite exciting spending time in Toronto, Canada. There I have been collaborating with a few companies on fire engineering projects (smoke management, fire protection, design etc.). To my amazement the city is literally turning into a ‘tall building forest’. My last visit to Toronto for this long was in the 1980s. To the left is an image of the 78 floor building called Aura. The Aura is under construction but is meant as a mixed property when finished. There will be both commercial and residential use in this building. For my UK readers this building has more stories than The Shard. The new construction seen in Toronto and many other cities is being attributed naturally to ‘urbanization’. And this appears not to be slowing down. Society in North America (and elsewhere) is readily gathering in urban centers rather than rural in modern days. Space being premium, has people building “up”, and not always “out”. Therefore it is safe to conclude that the Aura will not be the last tall building of this scale in Toronto.

large atriums
Large atrium

After Toronto, I visited Washington DC to take part in the NIST workshop on Fire Resistance of Structures (see details here).

Angled columns and floors
Angled columns and floors

The workshop had fire experts from all over the world in attendance (examples being: Finland, UK, China, USA, Sweden, France, New Zealand and of course Canada). That too was a fantastic learning experience. Discussion by American researchers highlighted the growing importance of urbanization and its relation to fire engineering.  There are many fire engineering issues to consider with the continued trends of urban growth in society (which for space restrictions in large cities means the potential creation of tall buildings).  Large compartments, egress management, smoke management, irregular construction shapes are just a few challenges that come with tall buildings.  Like the city’s growth, we- fire engineers, too are required to grow.

Of course in retrospect traveling to say Venice might have been warmer last month and more of a ‘natural’ vacation, however it would not nearly has been so productive!