In recent months, Rohit Pantham from the University of Auckland’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has conducted New Zealand’s first scientific investigation into the performance of light steel-framed housing in the event of a fully developed fire, under the supervision of Dr Charles Clifton, Associate Professor of Civil Engineering.
Basing the investigation on a fully developed fire that occurred in an Auckland residence, a model was established that took into account all the relevant conditions that existed within the fire. Through comparing the predicted failure times of the wall and ceiling linings, and taking into account the combustible material in the room and the boundary conditions (e.g. the material/surface of the walls), the model was able to calculate that the fire exceed 900°C in the enclosure of origin and over 600°C in the roof space.
The conclusion of the investigation was that the house performed exceptionally well. Despite being exposed to a fully developed fire, the steel framing did not collapse in either the walls or ceiling. This not only prevented the house from collapsing but meant that most of it remained weathertight after the event and that the fully developed fire was restricted to the enclosure of origin. Even more telling was the fact that a significant portion of the steel framing could have been cleaned and reused.
This investigation demonstrates that light steel framing will perform in the event of a fire.
The full report is available online.