Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Kathy A. Notarianni, Department Head


Leonard D Albano, Robert Fitzgerald




How well do calculations methods prescribed in today's design codes and standards represent conditions in natural fires? Can the temperature and behavior of a steel member in fire be predicted from these calculations? A literature review of structural fire codes, full scale fire tests, published fire test data, the function and selection of design fires, mechanical and thermal behaviors of structural steel, and numerical calculation methods for the temperature of steel members was conducted as a foundation to analyze whether a not a structural fire engineer can answer these questions. Through comparisons of published data from four natural fires tests performed at the Cardington test facility in the United Kingdom to numerical calculations based upon prescribed methods from Eurocode 3 and the Swedish Design Manual, time-temperature curves were developed to demonstrate the variation in temperature of the recorded data in the natural fire tests at Cardington to the equivalent members being analyzed with numerical calculation methods. When available, fire compartment characteristics were replicated during numerical calculations to ensure the highest correlation between the recorded and calculated results. An Excel tool was created to rapidly calculate and produce the resulting time-temperature curves as well as yield strength, modulus of elasticity, and load carrying capacity using a variety of input parameters including design fire data and steel member selection. The goal of the Cardington fires study was to provide comparisons of published natural fire data to results of numerical calculation methods from the codes. Additional comparisons were developed using a US Office design to show the effects of changing compartment and design parameters on the steel temperature, yield strength, elastic modulus and load carrying capacity. Differences found in temperature of steel members between the published Cardington data and numerical calculations proved the difficulty of predicting the behavior of a structural steel beam throughout an entire length of a fire or even until failure. Discussion of results addressed the selection of design fires, input parameters, structural layouts of office buildings, heating and cooling phases of steel members, and failure criteria.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Fire Protection Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





office buildings, steel beams, lumped parameter method, Cardington Tests, design fire curves, Fire testing, Steel, Fire testing