Personal profile

Research Groups

BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering

My research in a nutshell

As a Lecturer in Strucutral Engineering at the University of Edinburgh; I have extensive experience in engineering research and consultancy. My research to date has focused on the structural performance in fire of both conventional and innovative structural materials and systems, with a particular emphasis on composite columns, intumescent protective coatings and the probabilistic design of concrete structures.

Ongoing fire research is being conducted in collaboration with University College London, International Paint, Stellenbosch University, RISE, and others.

Current projects are in the areas of resilience of informal settlements against fire, probabilistic strucutral fire engineering, perfromance of materials and stuctures in real fire conditions, perfromance of composite sections at ambient and elevated temperatures incorporating fire protection, and public engagement of engineering through the dramatic arts.

The research I conduct is to support safe and resilient built environments, to reduce environmental and economic costs of construction and to promote engineering in the everyday lives of society.

Current Research Interests


Improving the Resilience of Informal Settlement

Over one billion people across the globe live in informal shack settlements, and this number is ever increasing alongside growing urbanization. These settlements are some of the most vulnerable areas for large-scale fires that cause significant harm to life and livelihood. The research aims to understand, map, and model where the risks are in informal settlements with respect to both the ignition and the spread of fire. From there intervention strategies can be developed and implemented to reduce the frequency and size of the fires.

The current research is in collaboration with Stellenbosch University and the Western Cape Fire Service. A range of large scale fire tests, CFD modelling, risk mapping is planned, as well as local surveys to understand the fuel load distributions. This is coupled with engagement activities within the communities to understand the fire spread problem and to help them manage the occurrence and severity of these fires.


The probabilistic design of structures in fire

Current fire engineering design is based almost entirely on life safety; property protection is rarely considered. In structural fire engineering, there is generally no means of rationally accounting for or quantifying property protection in fire, and there are no means to compare competing structural fire engineering designs on this basis. Careful consideration of possible damage states rarely occurs, rather simple pass/fail assessments are made against a prescribed fire resistance time. This assessment is usually based on a standard fire exposure (e.g. ISO-834) which is representative of only one physically improbable fire scenario, and which may not even represent the most onerous fire that a structure might experience. In engineering terms, real fires are more like seismic events in that no two are the same and a single fire in a building will affect different elements within the structure differently.

The research focus is on understanding current abilities to model the fundamental cross-sectional and element mechanics of elements and structures during and after real fires, and to understand the damage caused to the elements/structures.  The ability to resist load and the loads themselves are stochastic. The damage caused and the associated losses are similarly variable and related to acceptability limits within society.  The design of structures in and after fire are being assessed both experimentally and analytically, with the use of expert elicitation and citizen science.


Performance of concrete filled structural hollow sections

The performance of concrete filled hollow sections is being research at ambient temperatures, before and after fire, and during fire.

In ambient pre-fire conditions research is focussed on the effect of using an expansive concrete additive to improve the performance of concrete filled carbon and stainless-steel sections. The aim is to improve the composite action by reducing the shrinkage of the concrete. The fire-resistant design of concrete filled steel (CFS) tubular columns is not well understood and the predicted fire resistances of these columns when assessed against fire resistances found from standard fire tests is varied and not practical for implementation.  The design codes are appropriately restrictive in their application due to the gaps in knowledge surrounding the fundamental mechanics and response of a CFS column in fire. The aim of the thesis is to provide information to help improve design accuracy for practicing engineers.

The research focus is on the fundamental mechanics and design codes for CFS sections including:

  • Design code and prediction model meta-analysis of reported test data;
  • Small-scale test programme investigating interfacial phenomena such as heat transfer across air gap between the concrete core and the steel tube and bond-slip mechanisms;
  • Large-scale thermal tests investigating the sectional properties that affect the heat transfer within unprotected and intumescent protected CFS columns with International Paint Ltd. in Newcastle;
  • Axial strength tests assessing the pre-fire and post-fire structural capacities of protected and unprotected CFS columns; and
  • Computational finite difference modelling of CFS cross-sections at ambient and high temperatures.


Experimental and computational modelling of materials under realistic fire conditions

Like structural elements, the materials that these elements are made from and protected with are developed under standard fire conditions to compare and benchmark different materials and systems against one another. Engineers are therefore often limited in their ability to perform more robust designs. Improvements in testing methods and equipment has allowed greater precision and accuracy to interrogate material properties under more realistic conditions (i.e. travelling fires, variable heat fluxes, hot but cooled materials).

The research focus is to develop more detailed and accurate material property models allowing for economical structural elements and protection systems to be designed for more realistic conditions.


Public engagement of engineering research and design practice through the dramatic arts

Professional theatre searches for truth within tangible stories. It engages with audiences from a wide demographic and encourages those audiences to question and inspect the world that they live in. Theatre has the ability to educate and intrigue, entertain and move those that watch. Through theatre there is a great possibility to engage with non-engineers and educate them on how almost all aspects of their lives have, in some way, been engineered.

One particular project that I am involved in is Towers of Babel: an exciting new play about culpability, collusion, and the risks we take every day. Drawing on research by the University of Edinburgh into why and how the World Trade Centre towers fell on 9/11, this play asks why the engineering community is not acting upon the significant gaps in our understanding of fire exposed by this terrible event. Using this specific engineering failure as its focus, the play engages with wider questions about the blame culture in our society, the engineering choices made between financial cost and human cost, the science behind the collapses, and how engineers quantify, manage and articulate risk to the wider public 


Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Fire performance of unprotected and protected concrete filled structural hollow sections, University of Edinburgh

Award Date: 1 Jan 2013

Master of Engineering, •FRP - Strengthened Reinforced Concrete Members under Blast/Impact Loading, University of Edinburgh

Award Date: 1 Jan 2008


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