Has European fire safety research moved down a gear?

Fire safety engineers need both useable data on the properties of fire […]

Conference Fire
Jan 2014

Has European fire safety research moved down a gear?

Fire safety engineers need both useable data on the properties of fire safety technology and standards that are closer to the reality. That was the verdict from Eurofire 2013

DBI is on the right track with its intense and increasing focus on research and development in the field of materials. This was the conclusion reached following the Eurofire 2013 Conference which took place in the Swiss city of Basel on 9th and 10th October.

– The conclusion reached at the conference was that research into fire safety technology was on the increase up to the turn of the century but has gone into decline since then. This is probably due to decreased funding. At the same time, new requirements, new construction materials and increasing requirements with regard to, for example, sustainability, also play a role because this requires that new methods of fire protection need to be developed. Thus, at the conference it was abundantly clear that there is a need for new knowledge in a variety of areas, concludes fire technology consultant, Anders Dragsted from DBI, a delegate at the conference.

Standards don’t correspond to the reality
The need for knowledge is due, in part, to a widespread worry that the many standards for fire testing do not adequately correspond to the reality. The same applies when it comes to the dimensioning of fire safety technology whereby fire safety regulations are met using calculations or simulations.

– An important message from the conference was that there is a real risk that fire safety engineers lose touch with reality and are no longer critical enough of simulated results. Therefore, we need to ensure that standards and methods match the reality more closely. Otherwise we run the risk of regulatory authorities losing confidence finding it necessary to introduce more stringent rules to the cost of dimensioning of fire safety technology, which is an important element in the ability to work with function-based fire safety requirements, insists Anders Dragsted.

Lack of data on materials
At the same time, there is a lack of fire technology data for components and construction materials in a form that can be used in calculations, which are often extremely complicated.

– Most data on material is defined on the basis of European or national standards for fire classification. However, typically there are a few discrete values for the product and that can make it difficult to use this data in calculation programs which require continuous data, says Anders Dragsted.

An example of this is the fire technology classification ’reaction to fire’ which can be, for instance, B-s1, d0. The first letter describes the extent to which the construction material is conducive to fire and the subsequent letters describe smoke production and the release of burning particles respectively.

– Such a classification cannot be used in fire technology calculations or simulations because the classification is awarded on the basis of several different parameters. The underlying test results are also difficult to use because they are only applicable to the specific conditions defined by the testing standard and those conditions are unlikely to occur in a real fire, explains Anders Dragsted.

The Fire Tools project can plug knowledge gaps
Once again, the conference proved that DBI is on the right track. Professor Patrick van Hees from Lund University presented the research project, Fire Tools, which DBI is coordinating, and it was widely agreed that Fire Tools can help plug the gaps in knowledge.

Namely, the aim of Fire Tools is precisely to create computer simulation tools, methods and models that use the traditionally expensive and time-consuming fire tests optimally while, at the same time, reduce the differences between simulation and reality. Five international PhD students are carrying out research in the project in order to contribute with crucial and useable knowledge about the modelling and simulation of fire safety.

– Better tools mean more opportunities for fire technology dimensioning. Thus, if the Fire Tools project fulfils the ambitions set out for it, work can get underway on the methods that can lead the way in further developments in the field of fire safety, explains Anders Dragsted.


Facts about the Eurofire conference

Eurofire is a conference with a more all-encompassing objective than, for example, scientific conferences, whereby researchers present their results. At Eurofire there is greater focus on general trends in the field of fire safety than on concrete research results.

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