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SUSTAINABLE FIRE SAFETY DESIGN FOR BUILDING FRONTAGES

DÂRMON Ruxandra,
Technical University of Cluj-Napoca, e-mail: Ruxandra.DARMON@ccm.utcluj.ro

ABSTRACT
Within the last decade, in Romania, hundreds of buildings, mainly blocks of flats, were insulated with expanded polystyrene.
Being a combustible material, expanded polystyrene (EPS) can be considered a hazardous material related to fire safety concern
when is used as a cladding system at the exterior face of a wall. The national General Regulations concerning the buildings fire
safety recommend that the combustible cladding systems for frontages to be interrupted by non combustible strips, to prevent the
upward fire spread to the next floors. The norm doesn’t give any requirements or specification about the materials to be used,
the dimensions or the positions for the non combustible strips, therefore this provision is often disregarded or improperly set up.
In the article is proposed a calculation method based on numerical simulations for the estimation of the minimum height for the
horizontal stripes of mineral wool, build-up over the window openings.

Keywords: expanded polystyrene, mineral wool, fire behaviour, numerical simulation, performance based design

Received: March 2012
Accepted: March 2012
Revised: April 2012
Available online: May 2012

INTRODUCTION
In the context of the harmonized European technical regulations for building design, in
Romania were enacted the Eurocodes in order to comply with the new requirements and
performance based criteria. The regulation process is developing slowly, for some domains like fire
safety engineering, hindered by the lack of specialists.
Due to the huge amount of energy loss in the constructions sector, it was initiated a national
program for the thermal rehabilitation of civilian buildings. The storeyed blocks of dwelings took
priority over the other structures and within over ten years the expanded polystyrene (EPS) was the
prevalent solution for thermal insulation. Although it has good thermal insulation properties, low
weight and economicity, EPS, also has some drawbacks concerning the fire behaviour and
ignitability, being a combustible material. In accord with the General Norms for Fire Safety, Article
52 [1], in case of using combustible cladding systems for building frontages, these would have to be
interrupted by non combustible strips. The mineral wool is the most appropriate material for this
purpose, since it is a non combustible material and a good thermal insulator.
Based on the fire reaction tests carried out on cladding systems made with polystyrene (EPS)
and with mineral wool, the aim of this research was to determine by numerical simulations, the
optimal, satisfactory height of the non combustible strips.

MATERIALS AND METHODS
During this work research were carried out two series of fire reaction tests: The Ignitability,
according SR EN ISO 11925-2 [2] and Single Burning Item-SBI, according SR EN 13823 [3] on
four cladding systems produced by Saint-Gobain Weber Romania s.r.l., having the following
commercial designation and characteristics:
• Therm Weber Family – M1- expanded polystyrene with special adhesive and acrylic plaster;
• Therm Weber Family – M2- expanded polystyrene and acrylic plaster;
• Weber Therm Prestige – M3- mineral wool and silicate plaster [4];
• Therm Weber Family – M4- expanded polystyrene with special adhesive and silicate plaster.

one of the major drawbacks of expanded polystyrene is its fire behaviour. Polystyrene versus mineral wool based cladding systems The ignitability and the burning properties of the materials used for the exterior wall cladding system have an important role in the fire behaviour of a building frontages. slag wadding or fiber glass. The cladding systems based on expanded polystyrene are inexpensively compared with other materials like mineral wool. as it can be seen in the Figure 1. which is a free open source computational fluid dynamics model for low speed thermally driven flow. the thermal properties of the cladding system as thermal inertia and igition temperature and the evironmetal conditions like external temperature. 1. namely. being considered a fire hazard. Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is a suitable material for the thermal insulation of the exterior walls. The use of polystyrene for exterior cladding was restricted in many countries like United Kindom. version 5 (FDS 5). a b Fig. therefore the thermal insulation with EPS gained the top of popularity in Romania. foregoing denoted . respectively M1. The study case analised in this article for upward flame spread on the facades of residential buildings it is a block of flats. Flawed plaster of a cladding system with expanded polystyrene (the picture was taken by the author in Cluj-Napoca. It is easy to carry off and it does not increase much the dead load of a frontage due to its low density ranging between 16 and 640 [kg/m3]. Germany or Canada. type T 770 having P+4E. Under the fire action polystyrene is highly flammable and while burning it produces carbon dioxide and toxic products as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons [6] and chlorine. Smokeview is a vizualization program used to display the output of FDS [5]. 2. below.036 [W/m K]. M2 and M4 and one cladding system based on mineral wool. In many cases the coarse execution or the use of low class materials lead to the failing of the plaster which protects the insulating material. The test results from FBI test were modeled with the software Fire Dinamic Symulator. two series of fire reaction tests were carried out on three cladding systems based on expanded polystyrene. Mineral wool has the highest fire reaction class. The shape of the fire plume outside a ventilated fire compartment and the upward flame spread is influenced by the total heat flux emerging from the window openings. A1 and good thermal properties. Fire reaction tests In order to analyze and compare the fire behavior of thermal systems. having the thermal conductivity around 0. wind speed rate and pressure [6]. which make it suitable in case of thermal insulation and fire protection systems for buildings. Although it has multiple advantages.1. Unirii Street) In order to decrease the fire hazard for the exterior cladding systems the design norms reccommend the use of non combustible materials.

2.The system M4 – after SBI test (source: pictures from the Fire Reaction Test Results from National Fire Test Laboratory. For the current study research. when no reliable data are available about the chemical composition and the real distribution of the fire load inside a fire compartment. according SR EN 13823 [3] is a fire reaction test which simulates a natural scale object burning in a corner of 3m x 3m x 3m room. All test samples had the same thickness of insulation. The acrylic plaster. Ignitability. a b Fig. The Single Burning Item (SBI). The first series. As it can be seen in the Figure 2.The system M4 .The system M4 – polystyrene based (source: pictures from the Fire Reaction Test Results from National Fire Test Laboratory. b. In Figure 3 it is shown the SBI test for a system based on expanded polystyrene. a b Fig.2. Single Burning Item (SBI). for 30 seconds. Bucharest) 2. The reaction of the samples to a burner located inside the room is monitored instrumentally and visually. Bucharest) 1.mineral wool based. the pictures took after the test indicate a good fire behavior for both kind of cladding systems. 2.1. of 10 cm. it was modeled a bedroom from a flat.3. both polystyrene and mineral wool.M3. Single Burning Item (SBI) fire reaction test a. b. according SR EN ISO 11925-2 [2] estimates whether the product sample inflames under the exposure of small flame. The . either silicate plaster didn’t set on fire.during the SBI test. Test samples after the Ignitability fire reaction test a.The system M3. situated at the first etage of a four storey block. This method is appropriate for current design cases. Ignitability. Numerical simulations using FDS 5 The numerical simulation integrates the test result data from Single Burning Item fire reaction test approaching a combination between the fire model based on nominal temperature-time curves and computer models based on fluid dynamics (CFD) in order to study of the fire phenomena occuring during the fully developed stage of an enclosure fire. type T 770.

below. based on expanded polystyrene. [10] Thus. which is 11.00 m x 5.The fire compartment where the ignition started. b. according Table E. The fire compartment floor as it was modeled in FDS a. For each time step it was measured the external temperature and the heat loss in 12 points on the frontage.thermal load was estimated as the quantity of heat release rate while burning the furniture and fabric materials. The frontage was insulated with the system M4. The initial state condition were the ambient temperature and pressure and the total simulation time was set at 900 seconds. using the following formula: Q = HRR f ⋅ A fi (1) where: HRR f = 250 [KW/m2] for dwellings. B s1 d0. having the size dimensions shown in Figure 4. It was analised the plan temperature field. with 12 termocouples and it was calculated the profile of the temperature variation in front of the spandrel between the first and second floor of the building. for the analyzed insulation systems and it can be seen that the mineral wool based system. using the fire reaction tests data. and A fi represent the floor area of the fire compartment. the fire behaviour of the system with mineral wool is much better. having 5.40 m. a b Fig.22 m2 for this study case. based on other studies available in the fire safety literature. crossing the center of the window opening.The upper floor of the fire compartment The calculation domain for the numerical simulation was a cuboid.40 m x 4. The smoke production rate and the fire spread rate are centralized in the graphs below.5 [8].4. namely M3 had the slowlier rates for both parameters in discussion.[9]. RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS Even though the four insulation systems were classified in the same fire reaction class. the maximum heat relesase rate (HRR) for the fully developed fire was calculated according the Annex E of Eurocode 1991-1-2 [8]. . divided by FDS in 116 640 unit volumes.

Another noticeable feature of mineral wool insulation. It can be applied for any kind of structure: masonry. type T770 a.8 m long and it does not attach to the spandrel above. with expanded polystyrene and mineral wool. b. as it is shown in Figure 6. Centralized test results from FBI test for the Weber thermal systems a. after it was insulated with polystyrene and mineral wool strips The efficient height of the non combustible strips can be determined for different building types depending of the destinations. type T770 having P+4E. increasing the fire performance. Providing non combustible strips over the window openings increases the general fire behaviour of a building and prevents the upward fire spread on the exterior cladding. Centralized fire spread rates Mineral wool is a very suitable material for the thermal insulation of the building frontages. version 5.80 m width and 2. CONCLUSIONS The numerical simulations performed with Fire Dynamic Simulator. mineral wool is not very popular in Romania due to its cost.b.5. Block of flats. a b Fig. a b Fig. while the latter is only possible to use on straight surfaces.. revealed that the fire plume emerging from a window opening of 1. is about 2.6. considering several fire scenario. Centralized smoke production rates. before thermal insulation. it should be adopted a mixed solution for thermal insulation. b. compared with polystyrene is that the former can be also used in case of curved frontages. for residential buildings. To increase the sustainability of the building frontages and in order to comply with the General Norms for Fire Safety. Even though it has many advantages.10 m height. concrete or wood and it does not affect the architecture of the frontage. .5..2. the dimensions of the fire compartment and opening factors. In this article it is analyzed for the wide spread block.

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