Constructing for Fire Safety Still a Major Focus for Research
annual observances of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New
York serve as a constant reminder to the engineering
community that building construction is often key to human survival in any
natural or man-made disaster. As investigative analyses have shown, the major
root cause for the structural collapse of the WTC twin towers in 2001 was
excessive heat levels generated through the fiery explosion of projectile
aircraft and their unspent fuel reserves.
the course of the WTC investigations, construction industry and fire protection
professionals began new research aimed at curbing or preventing mass structural
failure from heat levels at elevated temperatures. Since 2009, the National
Institute of Standards and Technology’s Engineering Laboratory has been
examining the adhesion properties of spray-applied fire resistive materials
(FRMs) for structural steel. The performance of these materials—specifically
their dislodging upon impact from a debris field—was identified as a key factor
in the failure of the steel framework of the twin towers.
points out that the adhesion properties of FRMs at high temperatures, which are
vital for modeling and performance predictions, were not available in 2001.
Providing this necessary measurement science infrastructure for FRMs will
ultimately allow the forecasting of their performance during standardized testing
by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and actual fire
exposures, in addition to the adoption of performance-based code requirements sourced
in science and engineering.
the NIST Engineering Laboratory, this project poses major challenges. FRMs
change dramatically during exposure to high temperatures, including mass
losses, dimensional changes (shrinkage and expansions), chemical reactions, and
microstructural modifications effecting mechanical properties. To expedite
research, attention is being focused on applying an NIST-developed fracture
mechanics approach to FRM adhesion at elevated temperatures. Building on the
success of a recently completed consortium where the new adhesion test methods
were developed and commissioned, these techniques will be adapted to measure
FRM temperature dependence.
NIST research project, also initiated in 2009, is looking at the total building
envelope in terms of fire resistance design. Although current building codes specify
fire ratings of individual building components and assemblies from standard
fire endurance tests, such as ASTM E-119, NIST contends that there are no
accepted scientific measurement tools to evaluate the fire performance of
entire structures—including connections—under realistic fire scenarios. “The
state of the art in measurement science to predict structural performance to
failure under extreme loading conditions, such as during an uncontrollable
fire, is lacking,” agency officials admit.
an alternative to current prescriptive design methods, NIST recommends the
development of performance-based standards and code provisions to enable the
design and rehabilitation of structures to resist actual fire conditions, in
addition to the development of tools, guidelines, and test methods necessary to
evaluate the fire performance of the constructed project as a whole system. For
instance, the agency says a key recommendation resulting from the WTC
investigations was that careful consideration should be given to the
possibility that certain design features, such as long-span floor systems and
connections that cannot accommodate unusual thermal effects, may adversely
affect the performance of the entire structural system under abnormal or
excessive fire conditions.
new technical approach is incorporating a broad range of knowledge concerning
fire load, material response, and overall structural response to elevated
temperatures. Building layout, windows and ventilation, construction materials,
passive and active fire protection systems, and the amount and location of
combustibles will be included in this approach. Recent technical advances will
also aid in this research by providing the ability to forecast both the
development and propagation of building fires and structural system performance
at elevated temperatures.
closely aligned initiative, the Whole Building Design Guide, a program of the
National Institute of Building Sciences, is addressing the need for new
facilities and renovation projects to be designed to incorporate efficient,
cost-effective passive and automatic fire protection systems—systems that are
effective in detecting, containing, and controlling or extinguishing a fire
event in the early stages. At the core of WBDG is the mission to creatively and
efficiently integrate code requirements with other fire safety measures and
design strategies to achieve a balanced facility that will provide desired
levels of safety.
to WBDG, the major components necessary for developing a successful fire
protection design include: the design team; design standards and criteria; site
requirements; building construction requirements; egress requirements; fire
detection and notification system requirements; fire suppression requirements;
emergency power, lighting, and exit signage; and special fire protection
a minimum, all building construction requirements should address the following
elements: construction type, allowable height, and area; exposures and separation
requirements; fire ratings, materials, and systems; occupancy types; interior
finishes; and exit stairway enclosures.
advocate for whole building design, professional engineer Morgan Hurley, fellow
and technical director of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, advises,
“It is beneficial to involve fire protection engineers in a design at the
earliest stages of planning, generally at the feasibility or concept design
stage.” He cites the benefits: greater design flexibility; innovation in
design, construction, and materials; equal or better fire safety; and
maximization of cost/benefit.
from a ‘whole building’ approach does not require that design be on a
performance basis,” Hurley explains. “It is necessary, however, that the design
of fire protection-related systems be coordinated with each other and with
other building systems and the overall building design.”
NeXt Generation of Leaders
Name: Michael Vianzon, PE
Title: Project manager
Company: Fuel Tech
Been There: Three months
# of employees: 150
Previous Gigs: Project engineer at Nalco Mobotec
How did you first get into engineering? My father was an electrical engineer and I enjoyed tinkering around the garage looking to fix things like the lawn mower, and fixing things around the house. My first internship was at a distillery and organizing spare parts was my main goal which gave me first hand experience with equipment.
If you weren’t an engineer you’d be ….If I wasn’t an engineer I would be a pilot of a Boeing 747 flying the transatlantic flights.
What’s your peak experience as an engineer so far? Project engineer on a successful installation of a pollution control system at a major power plant in Poland.
What do you value in the people you work with? I value hard work, honesty, and reliability in the people I work with.
What do you think companies need to do to attract younger generations into the engineering industry? Companies need to start putting more emphasis on the importance of professional engineering licenses.
What does leadership mean to you? Leadership means a strong and honest idea that pushes people to be better than they are.
Leaders you admire? My father and grandfather.
Web site you can’t go a day without visiting? CNN, Google, and Weather Channel.
Something readers would be surprised to learn about you? I shook the Sultan of Brunei’s hand and his royal family in his palace.
You wake up tomorrow as CEO of your Company—what’s the first thing you’d change? I would spend the first 30 days just trying to get to know as many of the employees as possible and just listen to what motivates them.
Finish this sentence: In 10 years, I will have…graduated my first child out of grade school and hopefully help give them as much of an experience in the engineering field before college.
Book you can’t go a year without rereading? I have never reread a book, well, not for fun anyways.
Blog you can’t go without reading? The Huffington Post.
Facebook or MySpace? Facebook.
How do you strike a work/life balance? Engineering can take up a lot of time and the schedule is always changing. Every chance I get; I make sure I spend time with my family whether it’s a movie, dinner, or even just an evening walk in the park.
NSPE is a member of
the HPBCCC, a coalition of more than 100 associations and corporations that
seeks to heighten awareness and inform policymakers about high-performance
building issues, including new building technologies, enhanced U.S. economic
competitiveness, and increased energy efficiency. The coalition provides
guidance and support to the congressional High-Performance Buildings Caucus.
A Field Guide For Inspection of Sewerage and Drainage Construction
An inspector plays a crucial role in any construction project. The job demands knowledge, awareness, keen observation skills, and the ability to deal with contractors and project owners. “A Field Guide For Inspection of Sewerage and Drainage Construction,” published by the Professional Engineers in Construction, provides the inspector with the necessary knowledge to inspect sewerage and drainage construction projects.
The guide, specifically written to advance the mission of high-quality construction standards, provides a series of proven policies, established procedures and techniques, and helpful resources, including “Inspection Checklists,” that are applicable to construction projects on any size or scale.
NSPE members can purchase and download the guide at www.nspe.org/fieldguide.
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NCEES Seeks Volunteers for Fundamentals of Engineering Exam Content Review
NCEES is currently seeking engineering professionals to participate in a content review for the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. The results of this survey will be used to update the test specifications for the exam, which is typically the first step in the process leading to professional engineering licensure.
NCEES requires a cross section of professionalsâ€” including licensed professional engineers, academics teaching engineering courses, and engineer internsâ€” from all engineering disciplines to complete an online survey about the fundamental knowledge and skills necessary for an engineer intern to work in a manner that safeguards the health, safety, and welfare of the public.
"These studies help NCEES ensure its licensing exams remain relevant to current professional practice," explained Director of Exam Services Tim Miller, P.E. "The value of this content review depends on the number of people who participate, so NCEES is eager to get input from as many engineering professionals as possible."
The survey can be completed in 30-45 minutes. Responses must be received no later than December 5, 2011. For more information, e-mail FEcontentreview@ncees.org.
About NCEES NCEES is a national nonprofit organization composed of engineering and surveying licensing boards representing all U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rice, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. An accredited standards developer with the American National Standards Institute, NCEES develops, scores, and administers the examinations used for engineering and surveying licensure throughout the Unites States. NCEES also provides services facilitating professional mobility for licensed engineers and surveyors. Its headquarters in located in Clemson, S.C.
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