Fire Technology

, Volume 53, Issue 4, pp 1535–1554 | Cite as

Engineering Approach for Designing a Thermal Test of Real-Scale Steel Beam Exposed to Localized Fire

  • Chao Zhang
  • Lisa Choe
  • John Gross
  • Selvarajah Ramesh
  • Matthew Bundy


This paper reports the design and results of a thermal test on heating of a 6 m long steel W beam subjected to a localized fire conducted at the National Fire Research Laboratory of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. A engineering approach was proposed to determine the heat release rate of the test fire. By the approach, a recently developed simple fire model was first used to approximately calculate the heat release rate and then a sophisticated model was used to check/refine the calculation. The concept of adiabatic surface temperature was used in the sophisticated model to represent the thermal boundary conditions at exposed surfaces in fire. The proposed approach successfully predicted the critical value of heat release rate of 500 kW to reach a target temperature of \(500^{\circ }\hbox {C}\) in the test specimen. A calibration test was also conducted to understand the difference between the predicted and measured steel temperatures in the investigated test, and found that the sophisticated model over-predict the adiabatic surface temperatures which would contribute to the over-prediction of the steel temperatures. The error of the predicted maximum steel temperature in the test specimen was within 10%. The study reported here is not necessarily a validation of the sophisticated model, rather the study provides a successful case study using current knowledge and tools to design realistic and controlled fire tests.


Localized fire Controllable test steel beam FDS–FEM approach Simple fire model Fire dynamics simulator (FDS) Adiabatic surface temperature Finite element simulation Plate thermometer Temperature calculation Experimental design 



Thanks to Drs. Craig Weinschenk, Randall McDermott, and Kevin McGrattan of NIST for their support in developing and improving the numerical models. Thanks to Dr. Christopher Smith of NIST for his helpful comments on explaining the experimental results. Thanks to Mr. Nelson Bryner of NIST for his comments on measurement uncertainties in the test. Valuable suggestions and review comments from Drs. Anthony Hamins and Dat Duthinh of NIST are acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fire Research DivisionNational Institute of Standards and TechnologyGaithersburgUSA
  2. 2.College of Civil EngineeringTongji UniversityShanghaiChina

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