1. December 2023 | Magazine:

Picture of the month: Fire tests for more safety Timber construction and sustainable insulating material investigations at the Center of Fire Safety Research

Wood and insulating materials made from renewable raw materials will be increasingly used as building materials in the future due to their resource efficiency and CO2 storage properties. The disadvantage is that these materials are flammable. Therefore, wooden structures and insulation materials made from renewable raw materials need to be designed to be fireproof in order to prevent the spread of fire – for example, caused by a burning Advent wreath. Our picture of the month for December gives an insight into the research carried out at the ZeBra Center of Fire Safety Research.

Fire test with timber constructions and sustainable insulation materials at the ZeBra Center of Fire Safety Research. Picture credits: Kristina Rottig/TU Braunschweig

Fortunately, fires are rare events, but they can have devastating consequences for life and limb. In the event of a full-blown fire in an apartment, the spread of the fire must be limited. As soon as the fire spreads rapidly around the facade and into the floors above, it becomes very difficult, if not impossible, for the fire brigade to extinguish it effectively.

Avoiding cavity fires

There is also a risk of smoldering fires, which are difficult to detect and are characterised by low heat release and fire spread, but also by the development of large quantities of toxic gases such as carbon monoxide. It is virtually impossible to prevent such fires completely. Research is therefore focusing on the development of components and construction methods that minimise the ignition of hard-to-detect cavity fires through appropriate measures, such as adequate encapsulation, and that prevent the uncontrolled spread of fire in the facade area through fire barriers.

The researchers are also working with the fire brigade to test suitable extinguishing tactics and methods. As part of a joint project with the Hamburg Fire Brigade, the Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences and the Institute for Fire and Disaster Protection in Saxony-Anhalt, ZeBra researchers have conducted full-scale fire tests to investigate the spread of fire and the use of new extinguishing methods in buildings with wooden facades and exterior walls with insulation made from renewable raw materials. Our “Picture of the Month” shows one of the fire tests. The fire spread behaviour of facades and its description will also be the subject of further basic research projects at ZeBra.

Text: Prof. Jochen Zehfuß