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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; timothy.chen@unsw.edu.au (T.B.Y.C.); g.yeoh@unsw.edu.au (G.H.Y.); weyang@ustc.edu.cn (W.Y.); qing.chan@unsw.edu.au (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: c.y.yuen@unsw.edu.au; 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 www.mdpi.com/journal/fire 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. 2.2. Garnock Court Fire, Scotland, 1999 The Garnock Court fire occurred on 11 June 1999, a 14-storey block of flats in Irvine, Scotland, which resulted in one death and four injuries. The Garnock Court fire in Scotland is a significant incident in history because it led to a significant change in building regulations for Scotland in 2005 which included “resistance to the spread of fire” as a functional standard for buildings [4]. Fire 2019, 2, 11 Fire 2019, 2, x FOR PEER REVIEW 3 of 14 3 of 15 2.3. Television Cultural 2.3. Television Cultural Centre Centre Fire, Fire, China, China, 2009 2009 The (TVCC) fire fire occurred on 9 February 2009, the night The Television TelevisionCultural CulturalCentre Centre (TVCC) occurred on 9 February 2009, thebefore nightChinese before New Year (Figure 1). The incident caused the death of one firefighter and seven injured civilians. Chinese New Year. The incident caused the death of one firefighter and seven injured civilians. The The tower’s northern southern facades were installed with glasscurtain curtainwalls, walls,while whilethe the east east and and tower’s northern andand southern facades were installed with glass west strips made made with with titanium–zinc titanium–zinc alloy. alloy. The fire was initiated west claddings claddings featured featured metal metal panels panels and and strips The fire was initiated on the roof by fireworks. The sparks from the fireworks on the roof penetrated the metal panels on the roof by fireworks. The sparks from the fireworks on the roof penetrated the metal panels and and ignited the insulation materials (extruded polystyrene (XPS) foam) and waterproof sheets (EPDM ignited the insulation materials (extruded polystyrene (XPS) foam) and waterproof sheets (EPDM rubber). and thethe insulation layers. It was reported thatthat the rubber). There There was wasaacavity cavitybetween betweenthe themetal metalpanel panel and insulation layers. It was reported melting and burning droplets of XPS flew down the facades. Combined with strong winds, the tower the melting and burning droplets of XPS flew down the facades. Combined with strong winds, the was entirely in flames withinwithin less than min20 [5]. The extensive of highly-combustible insulation tower was entirely in flames less20than minutes [5]. Theuse extensive use of highly-combustible and the large cavities without breaks are believed to have contributed significantly to the downward insulation and the large cavities without breaks are believed to have contributed significantly to the spread of the fire from thefire upper lower floors. downward spread of the fromtothe upper to lower floors. Figure 1. The north wing of the new Television Cultural Centre (TVCC) tower on fire, 09 February 2009. Photograph by Wing, distributed under CC-BY license. 2.4. Shanghai Apartment Apartment Fire, Fire, China, 2.4. Shanghai China, 2010 2010 In 2010, aa fire fire occurred occurred in 28-storey residential In 2010, in aa 28-storey residential building building in in Shanghai, Shanghai, causing causing 58 58 casualties casualties and and injuring 71. It was one of the most catastrophic fire incidents in history involving combustible cladding injuring 71. It was one of the most catastrophic fire incidents in history involving combustible material. the time, undergoing renovations renovations for the installation exterior wall cladding At material. At the thebuilding time, thewas building was undergoing for theofinstallation of insulations (polyurethane (PU) foam); the scaffolding was decked with wood and bamboo, a typical exterior wall insulations (polyurethane (PU) foam); the scaffolding was decked with wood and scaffolding materialscaffolding in China [6]. It is believed that theItfire was caused welding which ignited bamboo, a typical material in China [6]. is believed thatby the fire wassparks caused by welding the insulation chips or the wood and bamboo scaffolding on the 9th/10th floor [7]. The insulation sparks which ignited the insulation chips or the wood and bamboo scaffolding on the 9th/10th floor materials were highly flammable good access to with air supply, thetofire externally a [7]. The insulation materials werewith highly flammable good and access airspread supply, and the at fire rapid rate. It was reported that the fire spread to the roof in 4 minutes, and within 14 min the entire spread externally at a rapid rate. It was reported that the fire spread to the roof in 4 minutes, and north-facing facade was utterly burned out [8]. was The utterly fire also spreadout into apartment rooms. within 14 minutes the entire north-facing facade burned [8].several The fire also spread into While the building was equipped with automatic sprinklers systems from the 1st to the 4th floors, several apartment rooms. While the building was equipped with automatic sprinklers systems from they were completely ineffective in completely controlling ineffective the spread in of the fire on the walls. the 1st to the 4th floors, they were controlling theexternal spread of the fire on the external walls. 2.5. Tecom Building Fire, Dubai, 2012 2.5. Tecom Building Fire, Dubai, The Tecom building fire in2012 Dubai injured two people and damaged nine floors of the building. The building was installed with aluminium composite panels with a polyethylene core. High amounts The Tecom building fire in Dubai injured two people and damaged nine floors of the building. of burning debris consisting of twisted metal rods and sheets fell onto the streets. It damaged five The building was installed with aluminium composite panels with a polyethylene core. High vehicles and left bystanders on the road with minor burn injuries [9]. 
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