Sunteți pe pagina 1din 5

Annual Transactions of IESL, pp.

01- 05, 2007

The Institution of Engineers, Sri Lanka

Fire Safety in High Rise Buildings

A.D. Aluthwala, D. K. S. Wickramarathne, R. K. M. J. B. Wijeratne and
M. T. R. Jayasinghe

Abstract: With the large number of high-rise commercial and apartment buildings constructed
in Sri Lanka, the fire safety is gradually gaining the attention of professionals and general public. In
this context, it would be essential to have buildings that can win the confidence of the occupants. Fire
safety essentially consists of two aspects. That is fire resistant construction and ability to control fires
in case of occurrence. Many countries have developed many useful techniques for the above and
adaptation of a desirable and cost effective fire safety enhancement solution will be highly desirable
for the future buildings. For this purpose it would need a critical review of present practice and to
identify the areas that can be improved. This paper presents such a detailed study carried out in Sri
Lanka with respect to fire resistant construction.

Keywords: High Performance concrete, Fire resistant construction

obtained from batching plants and

1. Introduction buildings under construction.
3. The performance of currently used
Life style bounded with working and living in concrete was predicted based on the
high risers is somewhat new to us as Sri knowledge gained with available data.
Lankans. For the last decade or so, land values 4. Guidelines are developed for enhanced
have risen up especially in Colombo and the structural integrity for adoption in
high rise culture is an inevitable reality that has future.
to be faced.
3. General details of fire safety
As for living in high risers, large scale fire
damages are not so common in recent history of
Fire safety in a building should be addressed in
Sri Lanka so that the emphasis placed on fire
a number of fronts and hence would need a
safety may not be at a desirable level. For high-
multi-disciplinary approach. There are many
rise buildings, fire is a major hazard and as
standards and specifications that can be used
explained above, fire safety has to be given
[1, 2, and 3]. This is briefly presented to
considerable attention.
highlight various issues involved.
In this paper, attention is placed on the use of
Fire safety consists of two major components,
reinforced concrete as a structural material for
ensuring the fire safety with emphasis on the
Fire resistant construction
constituent material used for making various
Fire fighting in case of occurrence
grades of concrete used in Sri Lanka.

2. Objectives and Methodology

The main objective of this research is to review

the usual concrete practice adopted in Sri Lanka
with respect to various grades and constituent
material in the context of performance under
fire conditions. The following methodology is
1. The data available in literature for
concrete performance under high Eng. (Prof). M.T.R. Jayasinghe ,B.Sc. Eng (Moratuwa),
temperature is reviewed. Ph.D. (Cambridge), C.Eng., MIE(SL), Professor,
Department of Civil Engineering, University of Moratuwa.
2. The grades and constituent materials A.D. Aluthwala, D.K.S. Wickramarathne., R.K.M.J.B.
commonly used in Sri Lanka are Wijeratne; Final year students, Department of Civil
Engineering, University of Moratuwa.

In this research emphasis was placed on fire and 50, instead of grades 25 and 30 used in low
resistant construction. Major design concerns to medium rise buildings.
are as follows [4];
In many tall apartment buildings, the use of
Control of ignition transfer plates is becoming common. Some of
This can be done by controlling the these can be about 1.5 to 2.0m in thickness.
flammability of material within the With such thicknesses, the early thermal
structure, by proper selection of finishes, cracking associated with heat of hydration
or by safety management such as could become a major issue. Eventhough the
imposing restrictions on naked flames. grade of concrete may be sufficient at about 30
Provision of adequate means of escape to 40, still many additives of cement are needed
This can be forced by the imposition of a to control the heat of hydration. These additives
statutory requirement for provision of are expected to lead to pozzolonic reactions that
suitable escape facilities and by educating will continue to gain strength over a longer
the occupants on the proper use of them period.
in terms of the fire drills.
Another serious consideration is the durability
Detection of the substructure. Due to lack of buildable
This covers the installation of methods land and also the ability to reach bed rock with
whereby the fire may be detected larger diameter pile foundation, many tall
preferably at the earliest possible stage. buildings could be located in water logged
lands with poor soil conditions. These soils may
Control of spread of fire have some durability problems which are
Here concern is placed on the fire, either usually addressed by supplementing the
within the building or in adjacent concrete to have enhanced Chloride and
properties. This control may either be Sulphate resistance.
affected by an in-built feature or by the
control of distance between buildings or The use of large diameter piles located at 2.5 to
by mechanical means. 3.0 times the diameter (BS 8004: Part1) [5]
Prevention of structural damage or would need the use of pile caps or rafts of
collapse considerable thickness. In these also, the heat of
This covers maintaining the stability and hydration may need careful controlling. These
the integrity of the structure as a whole or facts indicate that tall buildings may need
in part during the fire. specially blended concrete with desirable
properties for the purpose of minimizing heat
Out of these, the structural safety and of hydration immediately after casting and long
prevention of collapse can be considered as a effects after placing concrete should be
major consideration for any building to carefully reviewed.
minimize the number of causalities. The danger
of premature collapse prior to evacuation could 5. The commonly used additives
be clearly seen in the collapse of World Trade in Sri Lanka
Centre Twin Towers in September 11th of 2001.
To have concrete with high strength, and a
4. Different grades and types of lower heat of hydration, a common strategy is
concrete used in tall buildings to have fly ash or Silica fume in small
quantities. These have the effect of reducing the
The horizontal members in tall buildings such permeability by making the concrete dense
as beams and slabs do not differ much from while giving rise to a pozzolanic reaction that
those in low to medium rise buildings, as far as will fill up most of the voids in concrete. The
structural behavior is concerned. However, in behavior observed with aggregates available in
high rise buildings sometimes, higher emphasis Sri Lanka, indicated higher strength and lower
may be placed on durability, which may need porosity values [6].
the use of some modifications.
6 The performance of concrete
The main difference comes from the vertical with additives under fire
members that would become large due to the
heavy loads on them. One solution is to use The addition of pozzolanic materials or
concrete of higher strength such as grade 40 supplementary cementitious materials like fly

ash and Silica fume to replace part of cement attributed to the expansion caused by silica
has been a very effective method of producing fume, but not the super-plasticizers commonly
high performance concrete. Such concrete is used to reduce the water content while
gradually gaining popularity in Sri Lanka as achieving the required workability.
well. Reducing the cement content is beneficial
in reducing the heat of hydration to a certain The mechanism of failure for high performance
extent. The presence of silica fume has the effect concrete reaching high temperatures is not yet
of filling up the voids with cementitious well understood. There could be two possible
material thus improving strength and explanations for this. One being that spalling is
durability. However, this dense structure of due to the buildup of strain energy within the
high strength concrete could lead to explosive concrete due to the thermal incompatibility
spalling in case of fire as indicated by Metin between the cement paste and the aggregates.
Husem [7] When exposed to high temperatures like 8000C,
the aggregate expands while, after an initial
The actual situation that may arise in concrete expansion, the cement paste actually contracts
subjected to fire conditions was obtained with due to the loss of moisture and the generation
four mixes where one is ordinary concrete and of drying shrinkage type stresses. In the high
other three are high performance concretes. The performance concrete, the Interfacial transition
temperature to which the samples reached was zones between aggregate and cement paste are
800 0C. The results given by Chan et al. [8] are much denser compared to normal concrete,
reproduced in figures 1 & 2 to give an thus resulting in higher stress concentrations in
indication. the Interfacial transition zone at elevated
temperatures. In normal concrete the Interfacial
120 113.5
transition zone is more porous and acts as a sort
100 97.3 99.1 of thermal shock absorber.

60 BE The other explanation for high performance

40 34.9 38.7 AE concrete to have poor performance in case of a
20 15.8
24.9 23.8
fire may be due to the development of very
0 high pore pressures, as a result of the liquid
vapour transition of the capillary pore water as
well as that bound in the cement paste. A large
Figure 1- Strength reduction after exposing to
high temperatures portion of this water is known to be released
between 1000C to 2500C, when calcium silicate
100 hydrate (C-S-H) begins to degrade. This release
of water is higher in high performance concrete
due to the higher cement factor and the
presence of silica fume which produces
40 34.5 AE pozzolanic C-S-H gel from the calcium hydrate
26.9 27.1
20 17.9
formed during hydration. If this high water
8.5 8.9
pressure cannot escape from the concrete,
NC HPC 1 HPC 2 HPC 3 significant pressures will develop and may
Figure 2- Porosity after exposing to high eventually cause spalling of concrete [9].
The use of water for fighting fires also could
BE Before exposure; AE After exposure have adverse effects on high performance
concrete. For heavily loaded columns, it is
It indicates that compressive strength of important to ensure the maintenance of
ordinary concrete has a strength loss of 55% adequate elastic modulus values in order to
compared to a loss of 75% for high performance reduce differential shortening that may occur.
concrete. This may be attributed to the At about 8000C, the elastic modulus of high
significant increase in porosity of high performance concrete can drop to about 15% of
performance concrete which increased from its original value, but it is not significant at 100-
about 9% to 26%. The increase was only 18% to 300 0C range.
35% in ordinary concrete.
Due to the dense structure, the rate of heating is Unfortunately, in normal building fires the
higher in high performance concrete. This can temperature can rise up to 9000C or more and
also lead to explosive spalling. This is generally hence the chances of affecting the strength of

concrete are high. Figure 3 below shows the supporting the top mat reinforcement
spalling of concrete that occurred after an and will also give continuity for
intense fire in the Channel Tunnel in 1996[10]. concrete cast in two stages. Owing to
staged construction, it would be
Another problem associated with reinforced possible to use normal concrete such
concrete is that reinforcement to have as grade 30 without resorting to high
incompatible thermal expansion with concrete performance concrete with lower
at high temperatures and that may initiate heat of hydration. It is also possible
cracking. The reinforcement that reaches high to use normal strength concrete for
temperatures could loose strength causing the first pore of smaller thickness and
extensive deflection. Thus, it is necessary to then use concrete containing silica
identify places where high performance fume for the second pore of higher
concrete is necessary and normal concrete of thickness.
higher strength can be used [11]. b. If the use of high performance
concrete is essential, it would be
possible to detail the transfer plate
with two or multiple layers of bottom
reinforcement rather than single layer
of bottom reinforcement. Such an
arrangement will ensure that some
loss of concrete would have
minimum effect on the structural
performance of the transfer plate
which is vital for the integrity of the
whole structure.
3. The use of high performance concrete in
Figure 3- Fire damaged concrete of Channel columns should be discouraged since loss
Tunnel [10] of a vital column may jeopardize the
safety of the structure. This is not a
7. Reducing the implications of highly restricted condition since
concretes up to grade 40 can be easily
fire achieved with super-plasticizer. The
walls in a tall building are not generally
For tall buildings, the following are the main
loaded to a very high intensity. Therefore
locations for high performance concrete. These
the use of normal concrete is highly
are presented along with the reasons, and the
recommended unless there is an over
possibility to suffer fire damage.
riding condition for using high
performance concrete.
1. High performance concrete is needed in
4. For beams and slabs, the use of normal
piles and pile caps for enhanced
concrete is highly recommended instead
durability. This concrete is unlikely to be
of high performance concrete.
exposed to fire and hence could be used
without any hindrance. This is equally
applicable for thick rafts, which are
8. Conclusions
needed instead of having isolated pile
In the case of fire it is absolutely necessary to
ensure survival of the building until the
2. A transfer plate of 1.5 to 2.0m thickness
building is completely evacuated. In this
may need concrete of low heat of
context, it is advisable to use normal concrete in
hydration. Transfer plates are of major
areas that may be exposed to fires instead of
structural significance. However, they
high performance concrete that contain silica
could be exposed to severe fires.
fume. Such high performance concrete could
Therefore, there are two options that
suffer greater damage and hence may pose a
could be adopted.
danger when used in heavily loaded vertical
a. Cast the transfer plate in two stages
members. Another location where high
where a slab of 400 to 500mm would
performance concrete is encountered is transfer
become the formwork for the
plates. For this straightforward alternate
subsequent pours. This will need the
solutions were proposed and they could
provision of shear links that can serve
minimize the adverse repercussions that may
the dual purpose of steel needed for

arise with high performance concrete. The
alternatives possible with normal concrete have
also been proposed. This indicates that the use
of high performance concrete in a building
should be carefully controlled in order to
ensure least damage to the main structural load
carrying members, in the event of fires. This
indicates that it would be necessary to achieve
compromising solutions between the
durability, fire resistance, early heat of
hydration and strength when high rise
buildings are planned. Indiscriminate use of
high performance concrete may not be a good

1. International Building Code 2000. International
Code Council.
2. Andrew H. Buchanan, Structural design for fire
safety, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, England, 2000,
3. British Standards Institution BS 476 : parts
20,21,23 : 1987 Fire Tests on Building Materials
and Structures , London, 1987
4. John A. Purkiss, Fire Safety Engineering Design
of Structures, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, England
1996, 342p.
5. British Standards Institution BS 8004 : Part1 :
1986 Foundations , London, 1986
6. Sugathadasa, P.T.R.S., Jayasinghe M.T.R.,The
use of Silica fumes in Sri Lanka for improved
strength and durability of concrete, Engineer,
Journal of Institution of Engineers, Sri Lanka 2004.
7. Metin Husem, The effect of high temperature on
compressive and flexural strengths of ordinary
and high-performance concrete. Fire safety
Journal 41 (2006) 155-163
8. Y.N. Chan, X. Luo, W. Sun. Compressive
strength and pore structure of high-performance
concrete after exposure up to 800 0C. Cement
and Concrete Research 30 (2000) 247-251
9. Dale P. Bentz, Fibers, Percolation, and Spalling
of High Performance Concrete. ACI Materials
Journal, 97 (3), 351-359, May-June 2000.
10. Concrete Society, Assessment and Repair of fire
damaged concrete structures, Report of Concrete
Society Working Party, 1978, 77p.
11. Jayanandana A.D.C., Jayasinghe M.T.R., Usage
of local materials for high strength concrete,
Transactions IESL, Sri Lanka 1998, pp 114-123