Urbanization and Fire Engineering

Toronto's Aura constructio

Toronto’s Aura construction

The last several weeks have been quite exciting spending time in Toronto, Canada. There I have been collaborating with a few companies on fire engineering projects (smoke management, fire protection, design etc.). To my amazement the city is literally turning into a ‘tall building forest’. My last visit to Toronto for this long was in the 1980s. To the left is an image of the 78 floor building called Aura. The Aura is under construction but is meant as a mixed property when finished. There will be both commercial and residential use in this building. For my UK readers this building has more stories than The Shard. The new construction seen in Toronto and many other cities is being attributed naturally to ‘urbanization’. And this appears not to be slowing down. Society in North America (and elsewhere) is readily gathering in urban centers rather than rural in modern days. Space being premium, has people building “up”, and not always “out”. Therefore it is safe to conclude that the Aura will not be the last tall building of this scale in Toronto.

large atriums

Large atrium

After Toronto, I visited Washington DC to take part in the NIST workshop on Fire Resistance of Structures (see details here).

Angled columns and floors

Angled columns and floors

The workshop had fire experts from all over the world in attendance (examples being: Finland, UK, China, USA, Sweden, France, New Zealand and of course Canada). That too was a fantastic learning experience. Discussion by American researchers highlighted the growing importance of urbanization and its relation to fire engineering.  There are many fire engineering issues to consider with the continued trends of urban growth in society (which for space restrictions in large cities means the potential creation of tall buildings).  Large compartments, egress management, smoke management, irregular construction shapes are just a few challenges that come with tall buildings.  Like the city’s growth, we- fire engineers, too are required to grow.

Of course in retrospect traveling to say Venice might have been warmer last month and more of a ‘natural’ vacation, however it would not nearly has been so productive!

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