Photo: Ghent University

Increased focus on fire safety can improve the statistics

Monday 04 Apr 16
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by Sabina Askholm Larsen
The number of fire fatalities in Denmark has been stagnant since the 1980’s. The mortality rate can only be improved if fire safety becomes a much more integral part of our building process. That is the basis for an enhanced focus on fire safety at DTU Civil Engineering and a visiting professorship from a Belgian professor in numerical simulations.

The number of fire fatalities in Denmark has remained more or less unchanged since the 1980s: Around 80 per year. In the same period there have been numerous changes in the building regulations, but these changes have not resulted in an improvement in the statistics.

Fire safety is a rather complex research field where many different elements and conditions interact. Grunde Jomaas, Associate Professor at DTU Civil Engineering, knows this better than most people. He is an Associate Professor in fire safety engineering and the Head of Studies for the continued education programme Master in Fire Safety that has been offered since 1999.

“Fire safety should be a much more integral part of our building and infrastructure process. We need to have a much better understanding of smoke and fire dynamics in order to improve the statistics for fire fatalities. One way of doing this is through fire dynamics simulations, where numerical simulations are used to model the development and consequences of a fire,” says Grunde Jomaas.

In order to get a better understanding of smoke and fire dynamics, DTU Civil Engineering has invited Professor Bart Merci from Ghent University in Belgium to DTU for a visiting professorship. Bart Merci’s stay at DTU is sponsored by Otto Mønsteds Fond.

Smoke dynamics are crucial to fire safety

 Eksempel på et resultat af en numerisk simulering. Foto: Ghent Universitet
Example of a numerical
simulation result.
Photo: Ghent University

Professor Bart Merci is a Professor in combustion, fire and fire safety at Ghent University. After finishing his PhD, he focused his research on numerical simulations. His speciality is computational fluid dynamics, which can be used to improve the precision and accuracy, and thereby the usefulness, of fire modelling.

Especially smoke dynamics is an important field of research for Bart Merci. Smoke is the main cause for fire fatalities in both normal and complex buildings, so it is crucial to understand the smoke dynamics.

“We need to know how the smoke flows so we can design a ventilation system that can make the smoke flow in a certain way in order to protect people, make sure that evacuation routes are kept clear, and ensure that the fire service can enter the building more easily,” Bart Merci explains.

We all know the drill when a fire has to be extinguished: The fire fighters pull out their hoses and use a massive amount of water to extinguish the flames. But the combination of water with fire and smoke can also induce draw-backs.

“If you combine water and smoke, the smoke will cool down. The smoke might then drop lower and become dangerous for human beings. Therefore, we also need to study how smoke interacts with water,” says Bart Merci, underlining the complexity of fire safety.

In addition to making fire dynamics simulations Bart Merci also conducts practical experiments in a fire lab that is a spin-off facility from Ghent University. Here, he and his research team can use the facilities to do tests to support their scientific research, as well as education in fire safety engineering.

Simulations are useful for the industry

Grunde Jomaas is glad to be working together with Bart Merci to increase the knowledge on fire safety research at DTU.

“Bart Merci is a world-leading developer and user in fire dynamics simulations. His visiting professorship is of great value, not only to DTU but also for the building and infrastructure industry that will be able to benefit from this research area in the future,” says Grunde Jomaas.

During his visiting professorship Bart Merci will also be teaching a course in fire dynamics, co-supervise student research projects and participate in other research activities. Finally, he will provide advice for developing a new study line in fire safety in DTU’s MSc programme in Civil Engineering.

Fire safety in car parks

As part of his visiting professorship, Professor Bart Merci will give a talk on fire safety in indoor car parks.

During the talk, Bart Merci will highlight the main findings from recent research projects and link them to structural engineering aspects of fire safety which is studied by researchers at DTU.
The academic level of the talk is aimed at engineers who have not necessarily worked with fire safety before.

The talk is a CED Talk (Civil Engineering Distinguished Talk) and will take place April 13 from 3.00-4.30 PM in Building 127, Auditorium 012 at the DTU Lyngby Campus.