Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction
Under the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Assistance to Firefighter Grant Program, UL examined fire service ventilation practices and the impact changes in modern home geometries have had upon fire behavior. There has been a steady change in the residential fire environment over the last several decades, including larger homes, open floor plans and increased synthetic fuel loads. Through this research, UL developed empirical data needed to quantify the fire behavior associated with these scenarios and develop practices to reduce firefighter injury and death.
UL constructed two houses in its large fire facility in Northbrook, IL. The first was a one-story, 1200 ft2, 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom house with 8 rooms. The second was a two-story 3200 ft2, 4 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom house with 12 total rooms, and featured a modern open floor plan, two-story great room and open foyer. Fifteen experiments were conducted varying the ventilation locations and the number of ventilation openings. This included ventilating the front door only, opening the front door and a window near and remote from the seat of the fire, opening a window only, and ventilating a higher opening. One scenario in each house was conducted in triplicate to examine repeatability.
The results of these experiments enable the fire service to examine and update current thought processes, tactics, standard operating procedures and training content. For more information about this project please see:
Comparison of Modern and Legacy Home Furnishings
An experiment was conducted with two side by side living room fires. The purpose was to understand the difference between modern and legacy furnishings. The rooms measured 12 ft by 12 ft, with an 8 ft ceiling and had an 8 ft wide by 7 ft tall opening on the front wall. Both rooms contained similar amounts of like furnishings.
The modern room was lined with a layer of ½ inch painted gypsum board and the floor was covered with carpet and padding. The furnishings included a microfiber covered polyurethane foam filled sectional sofa, engineered wood coffee table, end table, television stand and book case. The sofa had a polyester throw placed on its right side. The end table had a lamp with polyester shade on top of it and a wicker basket inside it. The coffee table had six color magazines, a television remote and a synthetic plant on it. The television stand had a color magazine and a 37 inch flat panel television. The book case had two small plastic bins, two picture frames and two glass vases on it. The right rear corner of the room had a plastic toy bin, a plastic toy tub and four stuffed toys. The rear wall had polyester curtains hanging from a metal rod and the side walls had wood framed pictures hung on them.
The legacy room was lined with a layer of ½ inch painted cement board and the floor was covered with unfinished hardwood flooring. The furnishings included a cotton covered, cotton batting filled sectional sofa, solid wood coffee table, two end tables, and television stand. The sofa had a cotton throw placed on its right side. Both end tables had a lamp with polyester shade on top of them. The one on the left side of the sofa had two paperback books on it. A wicker basket was located on the floor in front of the right side of the sofa at the floor level. The coffee table had three hard-covered books, a television remote and a synthetic plant on it. The television stand had a 27 inch tube television. The right front corner of the room had a wood toy bin, and multiple wood toys. The rear wall had cotton curtains hanging from a metal rod and the side walls had wood framed pictures hung on them.
Both rooms were ignited by placing a lit stick candle on the right side of the sofa. The fires were allowed to grow until flashover. The modern room transitioned to flashover in 3 minutes and 30 seconds and the legacy room at 29 minutes and 30 seconds.
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