An experimental study of the influence of an exposed combustible ceiling on compartment fire dynamics has been performed. The fire dynamics in compartments with combustible cross-laminated timber ceilings vs non-combustible reinforced concrete ceilings in otherwise identical compartments with three different ventilation factors were investigated. The experimental results are compared against predictions from two theoretical models for compartment fire dynamics: (a) the parametric fire model given in EN 1991-1-2, and (b) a model developed at Technische Universität Braunschweig, which are the parametric fire models currently used in Germany. It is confirmed that the introduction of a combustible timber ceiling leads to higher temperatures within the enclosure, both under fuel-controlled and ventilation-controlled scenarios. It is also demonstrated that the theoretical models considered in this article require refinement in order to adequately represent all relevant scenarios when combustible ceilings are present. A refinement of the German model, by adding the fuel from the combustible ceiling to the occupancy fuel load, was shown to not adequately capture the response for the ventilation-controlled fires.
Project contact is Yelda Turkan, Oregon State University
Over the past decade, fires have caused significant losses, both financial and through loss of lives, in timber buildings during construction (USFA 2020). Buildings under construction or in development are largely unprotected as they are not yet equipped with active fire protection systems (sprinklers), and for those buildings that are not designed for exposed timber, multiple floors are left exposed at a time as the fire protection trade trails in schedule behind the erection of the mass timber structural elements. With the addition of Type IVA, B, and C in the 2021 International Building Code (IBC), the IBC also adopted stricter requirements for mass timber buildings under construction. Under-construction mass timber buildings require that the mass timber is protected with noncombustible material within four levels of any construction more than six stories above grade. However, limited research has occurred to demonstrate that this construction sequence results in the optimal balance of safety, property loss, and cost.
The goals of this project are to: (a) develop a methodology to couple multiple commonly-used computational tools to evaluate the sequence of installation of passive fire protection in mass timber buildings under construction fire scenarios, (b) develop an analytical framework that can be implemented by industry to evaluate the risk and impact of fire protection construction sequencing on a job site while balancing property loss, cost, and life safety of construction workers due to a construction fire, and (c) identify knowledge gaps in fire dynamics in timber buildings that would increase the accuracy of predicting fire spread in mass timber buildings under construction.