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Abraham Lincoln University Past Fire Cases Literature Review

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fire Article Fire Risk Assessment of Combustible Exterior Cladding Using a Collective Numerical Database Timothy Bo Yuan Chen 1 , Anthony Chun Yin Yuen 1, * , Guan Heng Yeoh 1,2 , Wei Yang 1,3 and Qing Nian Chan 1 1 2 3 * School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia; (T.B.Y.C.); (G.H.Y.); (W.Y.); (Q.N.C.) Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), Locked Bag 2001, Kirrawee DC, NSW 2232, Australia Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, Hefei University, Hefei 230601, China Correspondence:; Tel.: +61-2-9385-5697 Received: 7 December 2018; Accepted: 21 February 2019; Published: 25 February 2019 Abstract: Recent high-profile building fires involving highly-combustible external cladding panels in Australia as well as Dubai, China, and the United Kingdom have created a heightened awareness by the public, government, and commercial entities to act on the risks associated with non-compliant building structures. In this paper, a database of fire events involving combustible aluminium composite panels was developed based on (i) review of relevant major fire events in Australia and other countries, and (ii) numerical simulation of the ignitability, fire spread, and toxic emissions associated with composite panels. Through the application of large-eddy-simulation (LES)-based computational fire field models, the associated risks for a standardized two-storey building with external cladding was considered in this study. A total of sixteen simulation cases with different initial sizes of the fire and different air cavity widths in the exterior cladding assembly were examined to investigate the tolerable situations and their influences. It was discovered that for most cases, with an initial fire size greater than 400 kW/m−2 , the fire will spread from the first to second floor before the allowed egress time period. Keywords: fire risk assessment; combustible building materials; high-rise buildings; large eddy simulation; pyrolysis 1. Introduction The rapidly increasing utilisation of advanced lightweight materials, including light alloys, polymers, and fibre-reinforced composites that are highly flammable poses significant fire risks impacting people, environment, and the economy. They can be often found in exterior cladding systems, otherwise known as exterior insulation finishing systems (EIFS) or external thermal insulation composite systems (ETICS). These systems are designed to be cost effective solutions for thermal insulation, weather resistance, and aesthetic external wall finishes. In Australia, the most basic exterior cladding system consists of: 1. 2. An insulation layer, often a polymer such as polystyrene (EPS), polyisocyanurate (PIR) or polyurethane (PU); A surface finish layer that can be a surface coating or a sandwich panel (such as an aluminium composite panel (ACP)). Composite panels or sandwich panels are made of a thin outer metal skin of steel or aluminium and cores of insulating material which often include highly-combustible expanded polystyrene (EPS), Fire 2019, 2, 11; doi:10.3390/fire2010011 Fire 2019, 2, 11 2 of 14 polyurethane (PUR), and sometimes polyethylene (LDPE) and mineral fibre. In recent years, owing to alarming concerns of significant fire incidents caused by the burning of sandwich panels such as the Grenfell Tower Fire and the Dubai Tower Fires, it was recently discovered that polymer materials within these panels including EPS, PUR, and LDPE were the root causes of these fires. These events have created a heightened awareness by the public and have propelled governmental authorities and commercial entities to act on the risks associated with the non-compliance of such structures that have been erected in the building and construction landscape. Therefore, it is essential to understand the fire behaviours of exterior cladding systems and how different materials and their configuration effect the flammability of that system. Currently, there are many different types of exterior cladding systems and the complexity varies according to the number of layers. These layers often consist of polymeric materials, therefore the potential for a flammable cladding system increases with the increase in complexity of the system [1]. Other than the high-flammable core found in aluminium composite panels, there are many other factors that influence the fire safety of exterior cladding systems. These include the width of the cavity between the insulation and the external panels, the types of insulation material, the installation of fire barriers in between levels, and the structural weaknesses of joints and connection between individual panels that deteriorate with high temperature. Unfortunately, the relevant legislation and building codes have yet to catch up with the requirements for assessing the fire risks involved in these buildings and many key aspects of exterior facade flammability are not well understood [1,2]. Therefore, it is of great importance to develop a systematic approach to evaluate the risks for existing and ongoing development of combustible cladding materials (i.e., ACPs) that could be applicable to a wide range of building configurations. In this study, a review of past major fire incidents from 1990 to the present is provided. Furthermore, a holistic methodology to analyse the fire risk of non-compliant buildings is proposed according to building code (AS 4391-1999). Finally, this method will be examined by means of a full-scale numerical fire simulation to investigate its viability. 2. Review of Past Fire Cases The history of fire cases involving combustible external composite panels stretches back many decades. Composite panels were first developed as a cost-effective, lightweight building material that could be rapidly installed for external cladding or facades of industrial buildings. Through considerable development over the past few decades, these panels are now widely used across a vast variety of buildings. The main advantage of composite panels is that they are inexpensive, can be easily cut and shaped in any size or dimension, are lightweight, and have excellent insulation characteristics. The products also come with a wide variety of surface finishes to suit architectural designs. The issue of combustible composite panels now concerns both private residences and commercial offices and factories. 2.1. Knowsley Heights Fire, Liverpool UK, 1991 One of the first historical cases of an external cladding fire occurred in Knowsley Heights, a residential building which was refurbished with additional thermal insulation to the external walls. The fire started in a rubbish compound outside the building and ignited the external cladding system, which spread rapidly across the face of the building [3]. This incident resulted in the introduction of horizontal cavity barriers at each floor to prevent other similar incidents from occurring again.
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