Fire Safety by Testing Systems and Materials Used

Introduction

In the modern highly technological world, proper attention paid to the issue of fire protection and fire safety is the condition of the continuous social development. To ensure the latter, numerous tests of fire protections systems are designed and implemented by scholars and fire protection engineering specialists. Moreover, the dispute is being developed over the materials used in construction works in respect of their applicability for the fire safety purposes. All these concerns shape the focus area of the current research paper, i. e. increasing fire safety through testing systems and materials used during construction processes.

Research Rationale

Background

So, the major problem the current research paper addresses is the need to increase fire safety in public and private buildings given the conditions of the recently observed increase in rates of accidental and non-accidental fires observed around the world. Scholars from various regions of the world notice that the growing urbanization and modernization cause additional fire safety concerns (Chow, 2005, p. 285). The examples of the latter range from such seemingly minor issues as false fire alarms produced by automatic fire protection systems to such globally relevant tragedies as the World Trade Center plane crush and the fire caused by it (SHP, 2008, p. 56; Wang, Perricone, Chang, and Quintiere, 2008, p. 224).

Research Hypothesis

So, the topic of increasing fire safety and modernizing the existing fire protection systems is obviously relevant. Accordingly, the current research paper focuses on this topic using the following hypothesis:

Among the studied subjects, there are fire-testing systems and fire safe materials, the use of which can increase fire safety in public and private buildings.

Research Questions

Drawing from the above background to the research and the hypothesis formulated on its basis, the following research questions can be developed:

  1. Are fire-testing systems capable of increasing fire safety?
  2. What is the role of materials used during construction in the determination of fire safety levels? Which materials are fire safe and which are not among the analyzed ones?
  3. Can the use fire-testing systems and fire safe materials increase fire safety levels in private and public buildings?

Answering these research questions will allow reacting to the research hypothesis, making conclusions and recommendations regarding fire safety increase in the modern society.

Literature Review

The topic of fire safety and its levels’ increase is not new, and numerous scholars have addressed its various aspects in their research works. Thus, Cote (2003) focus on the issues of fire protection system functioning in general. In their work, these authors consider the wide range of aspect from the history of fire protection engineering and the simplest specifications of fire protection systems to the detailed analyses of various system types that use water or non-water fire suppression techniques (Cote, 2003, pp. 5 – 5, 115, 121).

Further on, Allen and Rand (2007) discuss the issues of fire safety from the architectural point of view, placing special emphasis on the most modern and effective fire detecting systems and their functioning details (pp. 35 – 36, p. 49). At the same time, Allen and Rand (2007) pay much attention to the idea of fire safe materials. Without naming the exact names, the authors consider several factors upon which the determination of fire safety of a material is based. These factors include the speed of fire spreading over the material surface, the extent of smoke produced, the ability of the material to contribute to the fire power, etc (Allen and Rand, 2007, p. 121).

Chow (2009) also takes the architectural point of view and addresses the issues of fire safety technologies, introduction of safer building materials, use of glass constructions, and fire detecting software for the purposes of fire safety increase (pp. 287, 294). Wang, Perricone, Chang, and Quintiere (2008) raises the issue of scaled fire testing as a means of predicting fire development in real conditions (p. 224), while Woycheese (2007, p. 246) discusses the concept of speech intelligibility during the operation and testing of Emergency Voice Communication Systems (EVCS) for fire safety increase.

All these works present considerable data on fire safety increase techniques, but still have limitations due to either too narrow scopes or small samples surveyed. The current research paper aims at overcoming those limitations and integrating the findings from all sources into a comprehensive account on fire safety rates increase through the use of effective testing systems and fire safe construction materials.

Methodology

Accordingly, the methodology of the current research paper is based on three major factors. First of all, it incorporates the ideas of previous research works. Second, it is designed to answer the research questions. Third, the methodology used allows providing recommendations regarding fire safety rates increase. Accordingly, these three factors condition the choice of the combined qualitative-quantitative research methodology. In particular, the two strategies used within such a combined methodology are the study of the previous research findings on the current paper topic and the analysis of those findings for the purpose of recommending effective steps in increasing fire safety.

The quantitative method will be used during the research to deal with the numeric data, like the percentages of systems’ effectiveness, the compared fire safety of certain construction materials, or the comparative analysis of approximate values of various strategies analyzed. The use of the qualitative method will be wider, as far as it will allow analyzing both qualitative and quantitative data and making conclusions from them. In particular, the qualitative analysis will be used to answer such questions as “Why does this testing system display such a level of efficiency?” or “How can fire safety be increased through the use of this or that material in the given context?”. Finally, the comparative table of fire safety will be developed, in which fire safety will be assessed by coefficient from 1 to 5 reflecting the rates from the lowest to the highest safety levels respectively. All alternatives found out will be contrasted using this table, and the recommendations will be made on the basis of the coefficients of safety observed.

Results

Thus, the total of four journal articles and two scholarly books were analyzed for the purposes of this study. The results of the comparative analysis present a rather controversial picture of the applicability of different fire-testing systems and fire safe materials for the purposes of fire safety increase.

Thus, if the fire-testing systems are concerned, two of them were reviewed and compared. The results reveal that full-scale test, argued about by Wang, Perricone, Chang, and Quintiere (2008), is more effective than a partially scaled, or structural test, discussed by the same author. The experiment was undertaken to compare both tests using two compartments with a large and small fire simulated in them respectively. The results revealed that when a structural test is used, the fire risk can be measured in a single element of a building, while the full scale provides the insight into the fire development of the whole site. Accordingly the temperatures observed in partially- and full scale tests differed by 20% (Wang, Perricone, Chang, and Quintiere, 2008, p. 238), which might have been a critical figure for saving lives if the real fire was in question.

Further on, if the fire safe materials are concerned, three of them were analyzed, including glass, wood, and tile, on the basis of works by Chow (2005) and Woycheese (2007). The results reveal that glass is a rather fire dangerous material, especially when used in high-rise buildings ranging from 200 to 500 meters in height. The point is that the evacuation of people from such buildings takes at least 30 minutes, and the fire temperature might increase to 295o and cause glass cracking or to 550o at which glass melts down (Chow, 2005, p. 286; Cote, 2003, pp. 5 – 5, 115, 121).

Wood and tile were tested for their safety by Woycheese (2007) in connection to the voice intelligibility. The results of the tests show that if at least 10% of the room surface is covered with wood or tile, speech intelligibility falls by 2%, and this rate falls proportionately to the increase of those materials’ use (Woycheese, 2007, p. 264; Allen and Rand, 2007, p. 121). At the same time, wood has lower temperature of burning, so its danger level is increased by the fact.

Analysis

Accordingly, the above discussed results allow answering the research question. For better visualization, the results are placed in the comparative fire safety tables mentioned in the Methodology section:

Table 1. Safety levels by fire-testing systems

Testing System 1 2 3 4 5
Partially-scaled test +
Full-scale test +

Table 2. Safety levels by materials used

Testing System 1 2 3 4 5
Glass +
Wood +
Tile +

Thus, full-scale tests are far more effective for increasing fire safety due to their comprehensive approach to fire risk assessment and projection. Concerning the material, using glass in construction is obviously rather dangerous, especially when no effective and fast evacuation systems are employed. Wood displays even lower safety coefficient, while tile is similar to glass in this respect.

So, the research hypothesis is confirmed as among the studied subjects there are fire-testing systems and fire safe materials, the use of which can increase fire safety in public and private buildings. The research questions can be answered in the following way. First, fire-testing systems can increase fire safety, and full-scale testing is such a system as its projections accuracy is 20% higher than in structural tests. Second, materials used during construction play an important role in fire safety, and glass and tile are more fire-safe for construction purposes than wood. The current research reveals that fire-testing systems and fire-safe materials can increase fire safety in private and public buildings. At the same time, the small scope of the current research does not allow generalizing these data, and further research in the area is needed.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Thus, the current research allows concluding that fire safety levels can be increased by adopting effective fire-testing systems and by using fire safe materials during building constructions. Among the studied tests, the full-scale one is the most effective one. The fire safe materials are glass and tile if compared to wood. Accordingly, it is recommended that organizations should adopt the full-scale testing systems and avoid overusing wood for construction purposes. At the same time, it is also recommended that further research of larger scope should be carried out to provide more generalization options for these findings.

References

Allen, E. and Rand, P. (2007). Architectural detailing: function, constructibility, aesthetics. John Wiley and Sons.

Chow, W. (2005). Building Fire Safety in the Far East. Architectural Science Review, 48(4), 285 – 294.

Cote, A. (2003). Operation of Fire Protection Systems. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

SHP. (2008). False Alarm. Fire and Emergency, 2, 56 – 58.

Wang, M., Perricone, J., Chang, P., & Quintiere, J. (2008). Scale Modeling of Compartment Fires for Structural Fire Testing. The Journal of Fire Protection Engineering, 18(8), 223 – 240.

Woycheese, J. (2007). Speech Intelligibility Measurements in an Office Building. Journal of Fire Protection Engineering, 17(11), 245 – 269.