Faculty Advisor

Nicholas A. Dembsey

Faculty Advisor

Jonathan R. Barnett

Faculty Advisor

David A. Lucht




Compartment fire scenarios are of great interest due to the large loss of life and property that occurs annually in such fires. Due to the current move towards performance-based building code standards and the increasing acceptance by the regulatory system of model results, there is a growing need for detailed compartment fire data to demonstrate the accuracy of such engineering tools as they are used to ascertain performance. A series of carefully designed full-scale room/corner tests on two vinyl ester resin composite systems have been conducted in a heavily instrumented compartment to provide compartment fire data for the calibration of engineering tools. The two composite systems were chosen based on their thermal behavior. A nominally thermally-thick glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) skin was desirable, as many analytical formulations have been developed using semi-infinite assumptions. A "thermally-thin" skin panel typical of that used in fast ferry construction, consisting of a GRP skin over a balsa core, was also tested. The test protocol used throughout the room/corner experiments was a modification of the ISO 9705 standard where the HRR of the ignition fire was varied according to the Critical Ignition Source Strength concept. To date, there has been little work done where heat fluxes from compartment fires have been measured. Therefore, one of the key data components developed in this series of tests are heat flux measurements from thin skin calorimeters. A total of twenty-five thin skin calorimeters, constructed of Inconel plates, were located throughout the room: the spatial distribution of net and incident heat fluxes within compartment for both pre- and post-flashover conditions have been determined. Additionally, rakes of bare-bead thermocouples were placed in the vent and the corner of the room coincident with the thin skin calorimeter arrays. A third rake was placed in the center of the room. The thermocouple arrays provide data regarding layer temperatures and interface heights as well as a limited determination of temperature spatial distribution within the compartment. The thermocouple rakes also permit calculation of pressure gradients across and mass flows through the vent, thus providing information regarding wall lining fire entrainment rates, of use in corner fire algorithm validations and for globally evaluating the accuracy of CFD codes. Bench-scale cone calorimeter (ASTM E1354, ISO 5660) tests have been carried out on the two composite systems to gather material fire properties necessary as model inputs for fire spread algorithms. The present study developed material properties including heat release rate, species production, and ignition data for the two composite systems. Included are uncertainty bands that account for calculation and instrument uncertainty.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Fire Protection Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





heat fluxes, fire testing, composites, instrumentation, material properties, Calorimeters, Composite materials, Fire testing, Compartment fires, Flame spread