Experimental and Numerical Study for the Effect of Horizontal Openings on the External Plume and Potential Fire Spread in Informal Settlements

Mohamed Beshir, Karim Omar, Felipe Roman Centeno, Samuel Stevens, Lesley Gibson, David Rush

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

According to recent UN reports, it is estimated that more than one billion people live in informal settlements globally, exposing them to a large potential fire risk. In previous research, it was found that the main fire spread mechanism between dwellings is the external flaming (plume) and radiative heat fluxes from the vertical openings at the dwelling of origin to the surroundings. In this paper, an experimental and numerical study was conducted to quantify the effect of adding horizontal roof openings to the design of informal settlement dwellings to reduce the fire spread risk by decreasing the length of flames and radiation from the external plumes at the vertical openings. In total, 19 quarter scale ISO-9705 compartment fire experiments were conducted using an identical fuel load (80 MJ/m2) of polypropylene and were used to validate a physical computational fluid dynamics model for future studies. Five different total horizontal openings areas (0.0025, 0.01, 0.04, 0.09, and 0.16 m2) were investigated using two horizontal openings designs: (1) four square openings at the four corners of the compartment and (2) one slot cut at the middle of the compartment. It was found that adding horizontal openings decreased the average heat flux measured at the door by up to 65% and 69% for corner and slot cases, respectively. Heat flux reductions were achieved at opening areas as low as 0.01 m2 for slot cases, whereas reductions were only achieved at areas of at least 0.09 m2 for corner cases. The Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) model was validated using the experimental results. It successfully captured the main fire dynamics within the compartment in addition to the values of the external radiative heat flux. Further, a new empirical ventilation factor was generated to describe the flow field through both openings configurations which showed strong coupling with the inlet mass of fresh air to the compartment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2380
JournalApplied Sciences
Issue number5
Early online date8 Mar 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Mar 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • compartment fire
  • horizontal opening
  • external plume
  • thermally thin
  • flashover
  • urban fire spread
  • risk
  • CFD


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