A series of compartment fire experiments has been undertaken to evaluate the impact of combustible cross laminated timber linings on the compartment fire behaviour. Compartment heat release rates and temperatures are reported for three configuration of exposed timber surfaces. Auto-extinction of the compartment was observed in one case but this was not observed when the experiment was repeated under identical condition. This highlights the strong interaction between the exposed combustible material and the resulting fire dynamics. For large areas of exposed timber linings heat transfer within the compartment dominates and prevents auto-extinction. A framework is presented based on the relative durations of the thermal penetration time of a timber layer and compartment fire duration to account for the observed differences in fire dynamics. This analysis shows that fall-off of the charred timber layers is a key contributor to whether auto-extinction can be achieved.
Fire safety remains a major challenge for engineered timber buildings. Their combustible nature challenges the design principles of compartmentation and structural integrity beyond burnout, which are inherent to the fire resistance framework. Therefore, self-extinction is critical for the fire-safe design of timber buildings.
This paper is the first of a three-part series that seeks to establish the fundamental principles underpinning a design framework for self-extinction of engineered timber. The paper comprises: a literature review introducing the body of work developed at material and compartment scales; and the design of a large-scale testing methodology which isolates the fundamental phenomena to enable the development and validation of the required design framework.
Research at the material scale has consolidated engineering principles to quantify self-extinction using external heat flux as a surrogate of the critical mass loss rate, and mass transfer or Damköhler numbers. At the compartment scale, further interdependent, complex phenomena influencing self-extinction occurrence have been demonstrated. Time-dependent phenomena include encapsulation failure, fall-off of charred lamellae and the burning of the movable fuel load, while thermal feedback is time-independent. The design of the testing methodology is described in reference to these fundamental phenomena.
Fire safety is widely perceived as a barrier to implementation of tall timber buildings, particularly for engineered mass timber buildings with significant areas of exposed timber and timber structural framing. This negative perception is exacerbated by a lack of scientific data or experimental evidence on a range of potentially important issues that must be properly understood to undertake rational, performance-based engineering design of such structures. With the goal of delivering fully engineered structural fire designs, this paper presents and discusses a framework for using scientific knowledge, along with fire engineering tools and methods, to enable the design of timber buildings such that, when subject to real fire loads, their performance is quantified. The steps in this framework are discussed with reference to the available literature, in an effort to highlight areas where additional knowledge and tools are needed.
This paper describes selected observations, measurements, and analysis from a series of large-scale experiments on cross-laminated timber (CLT) slabs that were exposed to fire from below, using four different heating scenarios, with a sustained mechanical loading of 6.3 kN m per metre width of slab. The deflection response and in-depth timber temperatures are used to compare the experimental response against a relatively simple structural fire model to assess the load bearing capacity of CLT elements in fire, including during the decay phase of natural fires. It is demonstrated that the ventilation conditions in experiments with a fixed fuel load are important in achieving burnout of the contents before structural collapse occurs. A mechanics-based structural fire model is shown to provide reasonably accurate predictions of structural failure (or lack thereof) for the experiments presented herein. The results confirm the importance of the ventilation conditions on the fire dynamics, burning duration, and the achievement of functional fire safety objectives (i.e. maintaining stability and compartmentation), in compartments with exposed CLT.
A set of novel structural fire tests on axially loaded cross-laminated timber (CLT) compression elements (walls), locally exposed to thermal radiation sufficient to cause sustained flaming combustion, are presented and discussed. Test specimens were subjected to a sustained compressive load, equivalent to 10 % or 20 % of their nominal ambient axial compressive capacity. The walls were then locally exposed to a nominal constant incident heat flux of 50 kW/m2 over their mid height area until failure occurred. The axial and lateral deformations of the walls were measured and compared against predictions calculated using a finite Bernoulli beam element analysis, to shed light on the fundamental mechanics and needs for rational structural design of CLT compression elements in fire. For the walls tested herein, failure at both ambient and elevated temperature was due to global buckling. At high temperature failure results from excessive lateral deflections and second order flexural effects due to reductions the walls’ effective crosssection and flexural rigidity, as well as a shift of the effective neutral axis in bending during fire. Measured average one-dimensional charring rates ranged between 0.82 and 1.0 mm/min in these tests. As expected, the lamellae configuration greatly influenced the walls’ deformation responses and times to failure; with 3- ply walls failing earlier than those with 5-plies. The walls’ deformation response during heating suggests that, if a conventional reduced cross section method (RCSM), zero strength layer analysis were undertaken, the required zero strength layer depths would range between 15.2 mm and 21.8 mm. Deflection paths further suggest that the concept of a zero strength layer is inadequate for properly capturing the mechanical response of fire-exposed CLT compression elements.