Structural fire research

The Live Fire Research Facility was designed and constructed to support a wide range of research into the behaviour and control of structural fires and their impact on the surrounding building or structure. It provides an excellent venue through which to quantify fire hazards, to test and model alternative design options and to develop new design measures or systems that could be incorporated into a structure to mitigate fire damage.

In support of structural fire research, the University of Waterloo Live Fire Research Facility houses a full range of fire testing capability through its complement of small-scale fire test equipment, component or building system test areas and its two-storey burn house and fully instrumented large-scale test enclosure complete with wind generation capabilities. Complementary tools and expertise are in place for computational modeling of smoke and hot gas layer development during structural fires, as well as analysis of their impact on the overall integrity of the structure.

Members of the UW Fire Research Group are investigating new methods for the inclusion of fire as a mechanical load in structural analysis for building design. This research stems from the fact that current prescriptive practice relies on provisions of thermal insulation to protect individual structural components such that the structure can be assumed to remain at ambient temperature and that when a member is adequately protected, the effects of fire on the entire structure can be assumed negligible. Such provisions are often not practical, or even realistic, when alternative design solutions are under consideration. One alternative method under development is based on an approach used successfully in the analysis of progressive failure due to abnormal mechanical loads in 2D steel frameworks. Stiffness reduction factors are used to represent the compound effects of flexural, axial and shear deformations at member-end and member connections and fire is further accounted for as a load by supplementing the computation of load reduction factors to include stiffness-temperature relations derived from experimental work conducted elsewhere. Through better understanding of the behaviour of structural members under fire, and their consequent interaction in the entire structure, engineers will develop more effective means of fire protection, specifically targeted to address the structural effects of fire.

We welcome partnerships to develop new research initiatives in all areas related to residential and commercial structural fire safety.

Related areas of study

Performance based building codes
Innovation in firefighting equipment and methodology


Structural fires