Effect of vertically travelling fires on the collapse of tall buildings

Panagiotis Kotsovinos, Yaqiang Jiang, Asif Usmani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Many previous tall building fires demonstrate that despite code compliant construction fires often spread vertically and burn over multiple floors at the same time. The collapses of the WTC complex buildings in 9/11 as well as other partial collapses like the ones of the Windsor Tower in Madrid and of the Technical University of Delft building posed new questions on the stability of tall buildings in fire. These accidents have shown that local or global collapse is possible in multi-floor fires. In most of the previous work involving multi-floor fires all floors were assumed to be heated simultaneously although in reality fires travel from one floor to another. This paper extends previous research by focusing on the collapse mechanisms of tall buildings in fire and performs a parametric study using various travelling rates. The results of the study demonstrate that vertically travelling fires have beneficial impact in terms of the global structural response of tall buildings in comparison to simultaneous fires. Contrary to the beneficial effect of the travelling fires in terms of the global structural response, it was noticed that higher tensile forces were also present in the floors compared to simultaneous multi-floor case. Designers are therefore advised to consider simultaneous multi-floor fire as an upper bound scenario. However, a scenario where a travelling fire is used is also suggested to be examined, as the tensile capacity of connections may be underestimated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-62
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of High Rise Buildings
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Vertically travelling fires
  • Structural fire resistance
  • Performance based structural engineering
  • Tall building collapse


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