Modern, stylish buildings have greater fire load
In several recent fire incidents in Ahmedabad city, it was observed that the intensity of fire increases greatly if the material caught in flames included PVC, plastic, false ceiling or foam – used extensively in modern buildings. But what impact do such materials have on the severity of fire?
A study by IIT Gandhinagar (IIT-Gn) tries to answer the question. The research, working on a mathematical model of fire load energy density (FLED) in office and dormitory space, pointed at higher fire risk in modern buildings. The values found during the study were three times higher than the previously-recorded values.
The study titled ‘Enhanced fire severity in modern Indian dwellings’ published in current science was carried out by research scholar Nasar Ahmad Khan and assistant professor Gaurav Srivastava, department of civil engineering, IIT-Gn.
“In simple terms, FLED can be described as the calorific value of all combustible items divided by a given space. Thus, if we take an office floor and count all the things – right from machines to stationary and furniture, it would give us the picture of what can happen in times of fire. The unit in which it is calculated is megajoules per square metre (MJ/m2),” said Dr Srivastava.
According to the researchers, the mean FLED value they got by carrying out study in 938 sq m area (1334 MJ/m2 ) was over three times higher than the value (348 MJ/m2 ) found in a similar study conducted in Kanpur in 1993.
What do the numbers signify? “The modern lifestyle and building techniques have changed the material used in residences and offices drastically over past two decades,” said Srivastava.
Material such as corrugated plastic roofs, partition walls, plastic doors, false ceiling panels, core panels for walls, interior finish materials, electronic equipment and gadgets are much more common in modern context which significantly increases the fire load. The proportion of cellulosic material was found to have decreased whereas plastic saw almost similar increase.