Modelling the effects of boundary walls on the fire dynamics of informal settlement dwellings

Mohamed Beshir, M. Mohamed, Stephen Welch, David Rush

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Characterising the risk of the fire spread in informal settlements (ISs) relies on the ability to understand compartment fires with boundary conditions that are significantly different to normal residential compartments. Informal Settlement Dwellings frequently have thermally thin and leaky boundaries. Due to the unique design of these compartments, detailed experimental studies were conducted to understand their fire dynamics. This paper presents the ability of FDS to model these under-ventilated steel sheeted fire tests. Four compartment fire tests were modelled with different wall boundary conditions, namely sealed walls (no leakage), non-sealed walls (leaky), leaky walls with cardboard lining, and highly insulated walls; with wood cribs as fuel and ISO-9705 room dimensions. FDS managed to capture the main fire dynamics and trends both qualitatively and
quantitatively. However, using a cell size of 6 cm, the ability of FDS to accurately model the combustion at locations with high turbulent flows (using the infinitely fast chemistry mixing controlled combustion model), and the effect of leakage, was relatively poor and both factors should be further studied with finer LES filter width. Using the validated FDS models, new flashover criteria for thermally thin compartments were defined as a combination of critical hot gas layer and wall
temperatures. Additionally, a parametric study was conducted to propose an empirical correlation to estimate the onset Heat Release Rate required for flashover, as current knowledge fails to account properly for large scale compartments with thermally thin boundaries. The empirical correlation is
demonstrated to have an accuracy of ≈±10% compared with the FDS models.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages33
JournalFire Technology
Early online date26 Jan 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Jan 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Informal settlements
  • Compartment fires
  • CFD
  • modelling
  • flash-over
  • thermally thin/thick
  • Leakage


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