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Simulation of fire technical properties of products and construction barriers to support efficient product development in industry

Final Report Summary - FIRE TOOLS (Simulation of fire technical properties of products and construction barriers to support efficient product development in industry)

The Final Publishable Summary Report is also attached as a separate document in a printable pdf format including logos, pictures.


Summary Report: Project - FIRETOOLS
Grant agreement no: 316991.

The FIRETOOLS consortium comprised the Danish Institute of Fire and Security Technology (DBI) and the Division of Fire and Safety Engineering from Lund University (ULUND) as well as a number of Associated Partners (refer: http://www.firetools-fp7.eu). The FIRE TOOLS consortium provided a training network for five Early-Stage Researchers (ESRs).

During the FIRETOOLs project, the ESRs have worked on the development of experimental and predictive methodologies, tools and models to increase the usability of fire tests conducted on building content, products and construction elements, by modeling from small size samples of materials, products and system. This development leads to an increase of efficiency in the development of new products by reducing the burden of large-scale fire testing.

The current fire testing and classification system based on prescriptive building codes have severe limitations, restricting innovation and cost-efficiency in companies supplying materials/components for buildings and within the construction sector in general. This is creating a growing need for more fire performance based fire engineering methods, and calls for the development of appropriate methods/tools to support that change.

Thus, an important outcome of the FIRETOOLS projects is the successful development of a methodology to obtain data on the continuous scale for performance based engineering design in fire safety engineering. On top of this outcome, a number of numerical tools were developed to support new product development within the building industry.

The continuous scale is defined as a method by which the fire behaviour of materials/products can be examined over a continuous time period. This is in contrast to current prescriptive systems which only considers if a material/product passes or fails certain predetermined criteria at set time points within a fire test, as illustrated in Fig. 1. for the temperature on the non-exposed side of a fire barrier.
Fig. 1 results of a fire test – Prescriptive vs continuous scale
The concept of the continuous scale offers an alternative to prescriptive pass/fail system used today for reaction and resistance to fire tests, whereby prescriptive requirements may still be met. However the additional data that may be obtained through a continuous approach offers a number of advantages with regards to the move, by many countries, towards a more performance based fire-engineering approach to building codes and regulations. If the performance based approach is to be taken advantage of fully, the understanding of how a material/product reacts towards different levels of thermal attack (i.e. different fire scenarios) is critical. It should not be limited to just being informed that it passed a certain standardised test in a single type of fire scenario (as in a prescriptive system). Such an understanding allows fire safety engineers (FSE) to better optimise their designs and strategies for buildings, not only making them safer, but also potentially less conservative and thus more cost-effective.
The methodology that has been developed and tested for various product combinations in the FIRETOOLS project involves a number of sequential steps (the “the multi-scale approach”) for model development and simulation work for obtaining the fire properties of materials on the continuous scale.
Fig. 2 shows the overall process of the multi-scale approach taken to achieve continuous scale results, beginning at the micro-scale to obtain material properties, and then moving up towards the larger –‘real’ product and system case scenarios.
The first step involves obtaining knowledge about the individual building materials by deconstructing them into the different components of which they are composed. and obtaining their individual physical and chemical properties relevant for fire simulation.
The thermo-chemical reactions are identified and modelled from micro-scale testing for each single material. Once validated at micro-scale, these reactions are implemented at solid scales, where other material parameters are optimised. When single material properties are obtained and validated at the intermediate scales, they may then be used to model product systems. A number of tools were developed for building products, content and barriers based on these principles. They support not only performance based design but also product development for industry.
Fig. 2 Multi-Scale approach for fire modeling of building products, content and barriers
The FIRETOOLS project has successfully demonstrated the power and value of the developed methodology, the use of development tools and simulation models to DBI. The result of this has been the establishment of a new business unit within DBI, Advanced Services. Advanced Services is a scientific based department (now composed of 13 persons including 4 out of 5 of the ESRs as well as 4 newly hired PhDs) providing services within performance based fire engineering as well as product development based on simulation, material characterisation etc. (largely based on the knowledge obtained from the FIRETOOLS project) to various customer groups on an international scale. The FIRETOOLS project has also contributed to a positive development of mutually beneficial collaborations with various academic institutions. With this new setup, DBI is able to provide unique and innovative services and solutions to the construction industry with positive benefits for the industry and society as a whole.