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.

Fifth Protect workshop

protect pract_1
A one day symposium was held in Kingston, Ontario for students to practice their presentations just prior to the 2015 Protect workshop

Last week myself, and some stellar students working with me, attended the Fifth International Workshop on Performance, Protection & Strengthening of Structures under Extreme Loading held at Michigan State University organised by Drs.  Kodur and Banthia. The workshop would be what I would consider one of the more major extreme event (structural fire being my focus) research gatherings in North America this year. Attended by delegates from nearly thirty countries, the workshop offered a good level of discussion and the potential for future collaborations. Nearly 120 papers can be found in the workshop’s proceedings. I felt the key note presentations were exemplars and lived up to their billing. Each being a good level of thought and presenting detailed information and advancements for practitioners to consider. If I had any criticism to share, I would have preferred a bit more time for discussion for some presentations, however; that said, some presentations did invoke further discussion during breaks where they dealt with challenging problems our fire community faces. The best touch of the workshop I think was the river cruise the first night there. Overall the workshop was well organised, stimulating, and above all enjoyable. It was great to see colleagues that I haven’t seen in years to discuss life and research.

At the conference members of my research team (and my collaborators) put forward three papers: Material Characteristics of Glass Fibre Reinforced Polymer (GFRP) Bars at High Temperature led by Hamze Hajiloo; Post-Fire Investigations of Prestressed Concrete Structures led by Lucie Robertson; and Structural Fire Design for Composite Steel Deck protect-pract_2Construction in Canada led by Matt Smith. With this number of presentations there was a necessity to practice. With the assistance and participation of Mark Green of Queens University, and Holly Smith of Edinburgh University (United Kingdom), we organised a short one day symposium in Kingston a few days before the workshop. This is something I think we need to push more in Canada. In the United Kingdom there are multiple forums which are available for students to present their fire research before conferences and receive valuable feedback that they can incorporate in their work. The more important view in my eyes is that graduate students receive feedback from multiple professors and their peers. And such an opportunity to engage in a symposium with three universities, industry reps and a dozen graduate students from several universities was too valuable of an experience not to have particularly for the students involved. It is my hope that we can continue such efforts in the future like this to encourage this type of forum for our students studying fire engineering in Canada. This can engage our universities across Canada and strengthen collaboration. Maybe this student symposium is something we can grow in Canada and continue again next year.

How I play with Lego grown up

Research Institute by Lego
Research Institute by Lego

Last month the company Lego released their Research Institute set (conceived by geoscientist Ellen Kooijman to promote science careers for women). The set features a woman chemist, a woman astronomer, and a woman archaeologist. The set sold out on the first day (online and in-store).  I managed to pick up a set though to support the message of promoting women in sciences. The set is challenging and fun. However, I wish they would have included a woman fire engineer in the set (they did propose to include an electrical engineer in the concept stage of the set and arguably the chemist could be considered a chemical engineer). However,  I can modify and create. Maybe I will re-create a scene where one of my favorite engineers of all time, Margaret Law, performs fire experiments as she did in the 1960s at the Fire Research Station (future blog entry).

Vintage fire hall by Lego
Vintage fire hall by Lego

I find there are a lot of engineers and architects I come across (men and women) who are embracing Lego sets these days. Quite often when I go into offices, I always see the  Lego Architecture sets displayed on the book shelf’s of my colleagues.  These sets are great for stress relief after a hectic day. They are great to ponder things over. And they are visibly pleasing in the corner of an office. These sets are no longer merely childern’s toys, but something educational for all ages. I take things further though. Recently I purchased the 2200 plus piece vintage fire hall set (naturally – vintage and fire) and began assembling it (pictured) . As a scientist, I question;  ‘What makes my Lego fit together so well?’ So a while back I decided to investigate just that using a Scanning Electron Microscope.  You may remember this from a previous blog where I challenged the reader to identify several materials (concrete, a steel and a plastic- the ‘plastic’ being lego) as mystery Scanning Electron Microscope images. For the Lego, I wanted to measure out the precision of a Lego piece to the micro-metre and get an idea just how snug they connect (pictured below) and what was going on at the microscopic level of these tiny interlocking bricks.

Mystery #2
Lego at 800 x
Lego at 57x. The gray scale is typical of unprocessed SEM imaging
Lego at 57 x

The lettering was most interesting (the letter E is blown up and pictured left). But in general the indents on the piece were precise to the micro-metre. I have been told that the tolerance of Lego is actually up to 2 microns.

Now things I wonder next. Could having too many Lego in a home be a fuel load hazard for a fire?  Giving that Lego is said to be made of Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (anything with sytrene can be nasty toxicity wise when heated) I think I would rather avoid doing any high temperature tests for now. Instead, I could look into the compressive strength of Lego answering how tall can I make lego….but that has been done.

I guess some toys we never grow out of….

What do Charles Dickens, Michael Faraday and James Braidwood have in common?

Cover of James Braidwood, father of the London fire Brigade, last book. Dickens featured an article in Household words about Braidwood in 1850.
Cover of James Braidwood, father of the London fire Brigade, last book. Charles Dickens featured an article in Household Words about James Braidwood in 1850.

Be sure to check out my recent letter to the editor in Fire Technology this week here.

The letter is a teaser of the History of fire sciences and technology project that I am currently putting together.  The letter is an essay describing Charles Dickens’ role with promoting fire sciences to the greater public in the Victorian era. Excerpts of prose influenced by Dickens can be found in the article.

Flare night club fire

Flare Nightclub fire
Flare Nightclub fire

I took a stroll the other day through Kingston upon returning from NIST in Washington. Often we hear fires in the news, but we fail at times to see the resulting economic consequences which occur the days following (closed businesses from smoke damage etc.).  The above are several photos taken a few days after a fire of a nightclub in downtown Kingston, Ontario. The fire occurred prior to official opening of the night club so this is not another casualty story. I think the photos are good for reflection and need no comment from myself. Media reports and background information on the fire can be found here.

Adjacent smoke damaged stores

The Fire of Beccles, November 1586

Part the History of fire sciences and technology project that I have been working on the last two years involves digitizing/archiving old documents related to fire sciences and technology. When I say old, I mean anything from 1920 all the way back to roman times. While some of these older documents speak of new ways to scientifically understand fire behavior, most only provide information of people’s perceptions and vague but the beginnings of understanding of fire engineering and dynamics.

Beccles market town fire
Beccles market town fire

For example, many digitized pamphlets from the 1500s describe fires that destroyed large parts of cities. These pamphlets’ authors typically accept that fires were a necessary instrument of a divine plan.  The pamphlets  though provide information to the beginnings of the study of fire engineering and dynamics as a science, especially in regards to incombustible and/or combustible construction techniques.

I share the following pdf copy of one of the older documents digitized for the above project (slightly restored for initial posting). The file may be downloaded in full here.

This manuscript authorship is accredited to T.D (Thomas Deloney). The document describes the Beccles market town fire that occurred November 1586. The fire ultimately destroyed over 80 buildings (there does not seem to be much information about life loss or injuries that I could find) and caused 20k£ damages (easily over 5 million+ £ in today’s dollars). Interestingly, the article is one of the few from this time period which shows an illustration. This image is reproduced below. As an aside, I find it interesting that the image  illustrates smoke, where often in today’s illustrations of fire in media often neglect to draw smoke.

Please feel free to message me if there you have any questions about this project or the Beccles fire (

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!