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News & Press: Foundation News

SFPE Foundation Awards Student Research Grant to the Imperial College London

Thursday, May 7, 2015  
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Funds to go towards computational study of the structural response of steel and concrete buildings to the fire exposure defined by the new travelling fires methodology

The SFPE Foundation announced that a Student Research Grant has been awarded to Egle Rackauskaite, a PhD candidate at Imperial College London. The Foundation offers grants in support of baccalaureate, masters and doctoral student research projects in fire safety science or fire protection engineering. In this case, the awarded funds will go towards creating a collaboration between the Imperial College London and the University of Michigan to investigate and compare the structural response of steel frames and concrete frames to travelling fires. Egle’s work will capture the fire heterogeneity effect on the structural response and quantify it in a probabilistic framework. This would allow identifying the critical fires that could lead to the most severe conditions for the structures.

“Innovative architectural designs of new high rise structures already pose a challenge to engineers,” said Ms. Rackauskaite in her application for this grant. “This is above all the case in structural fire protection engineering. Understanding of fundamental mechanisms of whole building behaviour in fire has significantly increased in the last decades; however, most of this understanding is based on the assumption of uniform fires in a compartment. Recent work has shown that while the uniform fire assumption may be suitable for small enclosures, the large, open-plan compartments, typical of modern architecture, do not burn simultaneously throughout the whole enclosure. Instead, these fires tend to move across the floor plates as flames spread, burning over a limited area at any one time. These fires are referred to as travelling fires”. Dr. Guillermo Rein, Imperial College London, UK and supervisor of Egle, added “Travelling fires challenge the design assumptions made in most design codes. Understanding the effects of travelling fires on structures is important for the development of modern future cities with increased resilience to fire.”

Dr. Ann Jeffers, University of Michigan, USA, will co-supervise this research project. The results of the study will be presented at a future SFPE conference and submitted for consideration to the SFPE/NFPA journal Fire Technology.

“Understanding the effects of travelling fires in modern buildings is extremely important both today and for planning of future architectural development in cities,” said April Hammond-Berkol, Chair of the SFPE Foundation’s Board of Governors. “This research project will help advance the field of structural fire engineering to better protect people in future cities.” For more information about the grant or to make a donation to the foundation, visit the Foundation section.

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