Lack of Research in Large Open-Floor Fires Is Concerning

Large open-plan compartments dominate the contemporary modern office space, yet little experimental work has been done in regard to characterizing fires of such volumes. That lack of research concerns Vinny Gupta, master of philosophy candidate in fire safety engineering at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

“This has resulted in no established design framework for analyzing the thermal loading to the structure within large open-floor plan compartment fires,” Gupta says. “Practitioners have been restricted to analyzing such fires using computational tools such as zone models or computational fluid dynamics (CFD) models, which are typically not validated for such scenarios.”

As a researcher in fire safety engineering, Gupta has focused on the characterization of large open-floor plan compartment fires. The eventual goal of his research is to use data from large compartment fire experiments to establish a design framework for the various possible modes of potential fires and heat distributions.

“Due to limitations in existing experimental data, CFD models present a unique opportunity to estimate values regarding fires, and to effectively ‘fill in the blanks’ in the experimental data or to validate experimental measurements,” Gupta says.

“A key challenge in CFD models, especially for large open-floor plan compartment fires, is the lack of validation studies," he continues. "Therefore scenarios modeled in practice are typically modeled outside the realm of validation of the tool. It is important to highlight the uncertainties and challenges associated with using such tools outside their realms of applicability, and to bound the limits of applicability for the tool.”

Gupta hopes to address some of these issues by presenting “Accounting for Uncertainty in Computational Fluid Dynamics Modeling of Fully-Developed Compartment Fires” at the 12th International Performance-Based Codes and Fire Safety Design Methods Conference, April 23-27, 2018, in Honolulu, Oahu.

“This topic presents a brief look into the sensitivity of CFD models to simple parameters that practitioners typically controlled by the design team, i.e. ventilation and the design fire,” Gupta says. “I seek to highlight key uncertainties when using CFD tools for analyzing fully-developed compartment fires and to set basic practical guidelines for these uncertainties to be accounted for using established experimental data.”

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