25/02/2010

University 'Goes To Blazes' In Design Test

Construction professionals from across the world will watch how steel beams used in modern office buildings react in a burning inferno, in the first fire test of its kind, staged by the University of Ulster this week.

Experts from the Institute of Fire Safety Engineering Research Technology (FireSERT) have organised the experiment in a special compartment at a fire glass manufacturer near Castledawson, Co Derry on Saturday.

FireSERT's Professor Ali Nadjai said: "This is the first realistic fire test to be carried out on cellular steel beams anywhere in the world."

The test is part of an ongoing €1.6 million project supported by the European Research Fund for Coal and Steel.
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"The growing popularity of the use of cellular steel beams in composite floors comes at the same time as an increasing attention to the fire safety engineering design," said Professor Nadjai.

"Their design regarding fire protection remains very primitive and this is due to the lack of general research in this area. These beams have been tested before in furnaces but never in a real life situation where there are windows and other factors that can affect a fire."

He continued: "We have secured them in a large 15m x 9m compartment, which is very similar to part of an office building, so that we can gauge accurately what would happen in a real fire.

"The aim of this test is to find the best fire protection for cellular beams. Findings from this experiment could help develop uniform European design rules for protected and unprotected beams when subjected to fire."

Around 150 delegates are expected to attend the live test on Saturday and a two-day conference at the University's Jordanstown campus.

(NS/BMcC)

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