The Travelling Fire in France


One of our research team students will be travelling to Paris France to study travelling Fires Methodology with CERIB.

Very excited to announce that our grant was recently approved. Our Project titled A Framework for Travelling Fires in Structural Design for Canada is a multi-national collaboration with CERIB in Paris France, and Imperial College in London, United Kingdom. The project involves student Rheanna Johnson visiting and interning in France the next 2 to 3 months to collaborate with Mohammed Heidari at CERIB’s head quarters. Rheanna is supported with a Mitacs Globalink Scholarship. She is joining Chloe Jeanneret abroad who last month departed for Imperial College, as part of the NSERC summer research grant. Chloe is collaborating with Dr. Guillermo Rein and his Haze lab team. The students are both studying the design fire methodology called travelling fires. Travelling Fires Methodology has been utilized in nearly 40 iconic structures across the world, and is being implemented within a Canadian case study this fall.

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Heritage Timber, Tree Rings, and Fire

Post and beam

Slow burning timber construction methods  circ. 1890

The past few days we have been sorting through the structures lab after the end of the last academic year. Among the materials which we were indexing and storing were the heritage timbers that we tested for the CSCE paper (posted below). The timbers were installed in a heritage building built approximately in 1890 or so. In a retrofit of a building they were removed. We tested the timber beam first in structural loading. The beam was tested for our second year undergrads to see. Then we extracted two planks from the timber as it only had moderate damage for flame spread testing (to be compared to modern engineered lumber of the same moisture content). Since then the planks have sat. Looking at the timbers myself and Mina Li, opted to count the tree rings this week to estimate the timbers age yesterday. Relating to Canada’s 150 we were in for a bit of a shock.  We counted approximately 180 rings on one of the pieces of lumber. In one sense because the lumber was cut from a solid tree and reduced to a square column we estimate that about 20 or so additional rings were probably present and unaccounted in our estimate. So in that sense this tree that this lumber came from was growing in the 1600s!! Amazing piece of Canadian history, and joy of this was that the students could see the lumber tested in both a ambient structural test and a flame spread fire tests. The timber will be preserved for future teaching demonstration exercises. In the mean time, a preliminary report of these tests has been prepared and is available in the public domain. You can download our paper here that we presented at CSCE led by student researcher Arlin Otto, who will be joining Arup UK this summer.

Beam comparison

Comparison of heritage versus modern engineered lumber in flame spread tests of representative and equal moisture content.

Above is the structural video of the timber beam being loaded only to peak load. Very little damage was instigated. The beam dimension were 290 x 240 mm. The largest beam we tested was 300 x 270 mm.

As we move towards tall timber, see my talk at ASTM last month, we undoubtedly will be left with the question of how engineered timber compares to the historical counterparts. And there I see a lot of confusion that we need to appreciate and consider – hence studies like this. Ill get into that at another time, but i do want to highlight the manufacturing differences as they really are not the same things in my opinion. More to come on that topic.


I am often asked the differences between heritage and engineered construction. This exposed timber column can be found in Vancouver. It is about 400x400mm. These sizes are common to see in heritage construction. 200×200 can also be found as common sizes.  Today engineered timber is made up of thin laminations glued together to make larger sizes. 

Posted in Case study fire, fire conference, Opinion, Tall buildings | Tagged , , , , ,

Best Paper at IfireSS in Naples Italy

Pool fire testOur research team traveled to Naples Italy to attend the IfireSS conference. Ben Nicoletta presented his paper to a  keen audience. The paper, Performance of Gfrp stay-in- place Form work for Bridge Dec ks after Real and Simulated Fire Damage (download herewas an interesting work with collaboration from University of Waterloo and Queen’s University. It is a preliminary study which we are currently developing into a larger project. Ben’s hard work paid off and he won best paper at the conference. Currently Ben is interning in a joint research collaboration with the global consultancy firm Entuitive (via graduate Matt Smith). Ben was supported at the conference by research team students Hailey Todd and Chloe Jeanneret. Chloe is performing an internship with Dr. Guillermo Rein’s Haze Lab at Imperial College and the trip was not too far for her. Hailey is working on stadium design.


Ben Recieves his Best Paper award, and we pose for a group photo outside the venue.

Naples 2

With any conference the social program was great. We were able to explore many archaeology sites in Naples., here Hailey uses a selfie stick the way it was meant to be used, peaking behind a closed gate to look at a 2000 year old stairwell!

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Fire and Materials Journal

Fire and materials 3Very exciting to announce that effective this year I am joining John Wiley’s journal, Fire and Materials as an Associate Editor. In this role I will be considering mainly the structural materials papers. Fire and Materials is one of the more older peer reviewed journals for our research community beginning in 1976. The journal is led by Steven Grayson. More information is to come on this initiative. For now be sure to check out my own Fire and Materials paper on the Creep of Prestressing steel which can be downloaded here .

Posted in History, Research news | Tagged , , , , , , ,

GFRPs, Heritage Timber, Education, Sustainable Concretes, Performance Based Fire, New Instruments and More!

Summer conferences

We have an exciting two weeks ahead. The research team will be visiting 4 conferences in the coming weeks to present 6 presentations. In addition we will have a 7th presented at ASFE and this will be announced at a later date. The below are brief descriptions of each. Open access versions will appear at a later date.

CSCE Symposium in Vancouver (May 31st to June 3rd)

Mass Heritage Timber Performance in Fire presented by Arlin Otto. The paper looks at a comparison of timber performance in fire of three unique types of timbers. The paper will also discuss adhesive bleeding seen in LVL panels .

Developing Reclaimed Concrete Cement for Structural Grade Sustainable Concretes by Mina Li. The paper will talk of an innovative initiative that seeks to devlop new alternatives for cementing technologies. Mina will also present on how this reclaimed cement was used for Carleton’s toboggan team.

Enabling operational resilience through performance-based fire design by Matt Smith. The paper will discuss various initiative for growing performance based fire design in Canada. Matt will present a case study. Matt is an Engineer at Entuitive.

CEEA Symposium in Toronto (June 4th to June 9th)

Teaching the Fundamentals of Civil Engineering Materials through Experiential Learning by Natalie Mazur.  The paper explores the initiatives for building a comprehensive Materials course at University. The presentation will focus on themes of professional skill development. We will have focus on STEM related initiatives in education .

IfireSS Conference in Naples Italy (June 7th to June 9th)

Performance of Gfrp stay-in- place Formwork for Bridge Decks after Real and Simulated Fire Damage by Ben Nicoletta. The paper considered stay in place gfrp sip formworks with real and artificial damages to understand failure mechanisms. The work is a collaboration with Queen’s University and the University of Waterloo.

ASTM Tall Wood Fire Safety (June 13th)

Novel Imaging Technique to Characterize Flame Spread Rate and Char Progression Rate of Burning Wood by John Gales. Based on the work initiated at NIST and in collaboration, we will present the novel results of measuring char and flame spread in the LIFT test. This is a follow on presentation to our original work presented at Interfalm earlier this year.

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Visiting the 911 Memorial in New York

WTCOn April 22nd, as part of a break from school at the end of the term, I took in the 911 Memorial Museum in New York. Not the most uplifting story to hear on a vacation, but a place I have been meaning to visit for years. I felt the museum to be very tasteful and a very important learning piece for those to learn what exactly happened that day (but ill argue understanding is different word to use here and a word I do not think we ever will be able to associate to that day). I feel it so important that people do be aware, today’s students that i teach, were far to young to know a world pre 911, they grew up in a different world. And from that the observations that you can learn visiting are just so much more important. The museum allows you to see quite a bit in terms of artifacts (fire trucks, and even the original foundations of the the tower). But it does educate what happened.

It was very heart breaking to read and hear the stories, and for someone like myself it feels like yesterday when it happened. There were three very interesting conversations i overheard at the memorial. One was a grandparent telling her niece the story of flight 93, how she articulated the heroism was touching, another were two youths (must have been less than 18) debating conspiracy. One clearly articulating the maths and physics of progressive collapse and material behaviour behind the collapse and the associated fires



to one arguing conspiracy. The exchange is all too frequent, But rest assured, the concerns in high rises and fire are something we study for all buildings. The museum mainly deals with honoring those who lost their lives that day. The final story was a man about my age telling his four year old son what happened and the questions it generated by the youth in response..again that whole question of understanding…..I guess studying behaviour now makes me more aware of what people are doing and saying around me.

Above the museum is urban redevelopment, the architecture of the new world trade is amazing. Rather then go up the building to the observation, just stand below it and look up, the way the building twists its floors makes a triangle when viewed this way which points to the sky is amazing to see.  Overall. I highly feel it essential that those who were too young to go through those days, see the museum. And those who wish to remember can do the same. You grow a lot of respect for the city of New York for the heroism shown that day. No matter how strong you think you are though, your eyes will water at some point when visiting, so make sure to bring a tissue or three.


At the memorial, a white rose is placed on the name marker to mark what would have been that person’s birthday. Here Boris Khalif and Bridget Ann Esposito are remembered on what would have been their birthday.

Posted in Case study fire, fire fighting, History, Opinion, Tall buildings | Tagged , , ,

Ending the Winter with four NSERC USRA Awards, Two Graduate Scholarships, Best Professor award, EWB lecture…

Our research team received four NSERC USRA scholarships this summer (up from two last summer). The students (Natalie, Ben, Chloe and Seth) with these scholarships will study a variety of projects from Modelling pedestrian flow, timber design, to studying travelling fires with our international and national collaborators. These national awards at Carleton are given to undergraduate students who are excelling academically and have an interest to pursue further graduate studies.

Our graduate students Hailey Q won an Ontario Graduate Student Award, and so too did Matthew Smith as he recently won the SFPE National Capital Region Chapter Scholarship for Fire Safety Engineering for his thesis and these results are currently being distributed through the Canadian Institute of Steel Construction. In addition Arlin won Provost Scholar. In total the research team received about 36k in scholarships this past month.

I am also pleased to highlight that I was recognized as CSES Best Professor for 2016-17. The award was determined by student members of the Carleton Student Engineering Society. Its a more special award for teaching and research I believe, as it does not involve the professor to apply for it – the students vote. I really was blessed that they had students who worked with me on research present the award to me.

EWBRelated I was invited to lecture on developing countries and fire safety at the Engineers without Borders (EWB) wine and cheese end of year event. This was a great time where I was able to speak with a variety of individuals engaged in that type of work. The presentation was simple. one or two slides that were black and white with a lot of ranting of what i learned over three days preparing for it. This will be a very important subject area in years to come and has a lot of interest from students. I have not been really active with EWB since my queens days. The photo above was taken at launch day at Queens University on March 31st 2009.

Our summer conference circuit will be announced shortly but at the moment we plan to be presenting student led research papers at CSCE, CEEA, IFireSS, ASTM, ASFE and CONFAB. I will also have an announcement regarding some recent editorial board news, new student starts, and research grants for international summer collaborations….It is going to be a busy year ahead!!!


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The Next Tallest Building in San Francisco

The Salesforce Tower will soon be completed and overtake the Pyramid as San Francisco’s newest and tallest building. I had a great oppertuinity to take a stroll through the construction area early this month and decided to highlight a few aspects of what i learnt and saw.

To me when i see cities like this, i am filled with creative inspiration. Its very easy to predict what the future skyline of San francisco will look like. Where the tall buildings will appear (note that for now special planning approval must be given in San Fran), where the heritage will be conserved etc. Where Salesforce is located there is a movement to go tall. It represents just one structure out of many that will appear in this district. It is debated for its shape, but structurally i find it inspiring. What is also planned is a elevated green urban park to connect through this area (5.4 acres). Salesforce, a composite steel deck structure, is briefly discussed in this months issue of ASCE and upon reading a short blurb about the structure you will see that its was performance based design for seismic. I haven’t heard much on the fire aspect but ive seen on my walk about that there does not appear too much structural performance based fire design occurring here but i could be mistaken (I tried to reach out for an official tour but none could be accommodated by the building in my visit which was very disappointing – so i had to look afar and guess about its fire design……its a pity considering the efforts with CSCE, ASCE, CISC, we are trying to make globally to help steel construction).


New meets old. The iconic ferry building built in 1898 survived the earthquake in 1906, and stands tall; it was recently renovated in the early 2000s’. Note the photo was uncharacteristically taken on a cloudy day with lots of rain!


Salesforce tower, a 61 story steel structure being built adjacent to San Francisco’s new Transit Bay Center. It will be San Fran’s tallest building when completed.

Posted in Case study fire, fire conference, fire fighting, History, Opinion, Tall buildings | Tagged , , , , ,

Engineered Timber and Fire


The Fire and Materials Conference will be held this February in San Francisco USA.

We have two papers being presented by students at this year’s Fire and Materials Conference in San Francisco:

  • Comparing timber adhesive shear strength properties after fire damage 
  • Laminated veneer lumber plated connections in fire

Engineered timber is built up using adhesives. These adhesives tend to begin to break down at temperatures around 200C. The first paper presented will represent an critical evaluation of adhesive break down from heat beyond the char layer (formed in a fire). The work is still preliminary and should be submitted soon for consideration in a journal when completed. Also being considered at the conference is one of our papers which considers some preliminary work regarding Laminated Veneer Lumber connections in a collaboration with NIST; here we are using some innovated measurement technologies to measure charring front on beams that are on fire. The conference is one of my favorite ones to attend because it has a lot of opportunities for good discussion and debate – that and who doesnt love San Francisco? There are a number of innovated structures appearing all over the world at the moment and there is a valid question to ask about the performance of these materials in a real fire – particularity when we want to build 20 stories high. Our work is scratching the surface of this to make these structures safe, but there is much to do still. These papers will be available freely to download on our publications after the conference.

New Zealand Research Collaboration

Following the conference one of our research team members, Hailey Quiquero, will begin a five month research visit at the University of Canterbury with Dr. Anthony Abu where we will investigate modelling technologies that can consider the behaviour of Glulam in and after fire. The student visit is being financed through NSERC’s Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplements Program.  This is the first of four research visits that are planned for our group where students will have an opportunity to study abroad at other universities and institutions performing fire research. We will be announcing one of these new collaborations in the coming month.

Interested in joining our timber research team?

Currently we are expanding our research team to consider all these areas of timber study. Prospective Canadian graduate students with an interest to help consider making Timber Structures safe in Fire are encouraged to contact me over the next month if keen to take on similar studies.

Research photos


One of our projects shown above is a LIFT test of Laminated Veneer Lumber being tested by our research team.


Preliminary test results on the shear capacity reduction of laminates after fire will also be presented. This work holistically considers the adhesive break down below a charred layer of timber using advanced digital image correlation technologies.

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Defining the Future of Fire Safety Engineering in Canada


Matt Smith successfully defended his research thesis on Steel in fire with no required revisions and was nominated for a university senate medal.

Research team member, Matthew Smith, and Engineer at global consulting firm, Entuitive, successfully defended his masters thesis: Towards a Performance-Based Fire Design Framework for Composite Steel Deck Construction in Canada . His thesis and defense were of the highest quality that there were no corrections necessary. Matt was subsequently  nominated for the university’s senate medal (he has also just been awarded the SFPE National Capital Region Chapter Scholarship in Fire Safety Engineering in Canada for his work. A big thank you to his examiners whom I would say have a combined experience of over 60 years practicing steel construction. Also a big thank you to project sponsors: CISC and Entuitive, as well as to reps from FM Global and the National Research Council, NIST for their previous feedback and contributions.

The Research Need

Matt’s thesis addresses a very important research and consultancy area in Canada: fire safety engineering. What we lack at the moment in Canada is a strong education system which can teach practitioners the underlining behaviors of what structural systems do in real fires and how to design accordingly. And I say real fires with emphasis. Subsequently this thesis is the first application in Canada of iTFM (improved travelling fires methodology) on a real Canadian building and pays particular attention to connection behaviour and the development of Alternative Solutions for Canadian practitioners. Also discussed was a historical critique on Canadian education and practice in general with reference to alternative solution development. It is our plan to have Matt’s thesis adapted for general use in the near future through mainstream industry prior to public release of the document.

Future Research

We are currently recruiting a new MASc student whom will carry on from Matt’s initial work. Matt and myself will supervise this student on a project which intertwines resiliency with steel construction. Largely experimental, the work will be performed abroad with international university partners so this will be a fantastic once and a life time experience for a young engineer to be (more details can be found here).

We will also be engaging shortly with other research partners to work on the topic of travelling fires with an additional grad and undergraduate researcher – details to this collaboration will be announced shortly.

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