Fire safety is a crucial characteristic of any inhabited space, especially of those with high risks such as large people capacity, difficult exit paths or presence of flammable materials. Architects and engineers must ensure that a place is safe for its occupants under both normal and emergency conditions. Construction and life-saving codes impose requirements on features such as the capacity of means of egress, but also on the performance of smoke management through ventilation, temperature control, and visibility in case of fire. Here, two study cases explore the use of online simulation with the SimScale cloud-based platform in order to assess code compliance and safety of closed spaces quickly and accurately.
Learn how to optimize HVAC systems for fire safety and smoke management using cloud-based CFD simulation with SimScale.
Fire Safety & Smoke Management Case Study 1: CO Extraction in a Parking Garage
The first case considers a car parking garage where the carbon monoxide (CO) concentration is controlled with a forced ventilation system. Said CO concentration levels need to meet threshold level values (TLV) imposed by code regulation. This target concentration maximum levels impose our main design constraint.
On the other hand, the same ventilation system is used for smoke management in the event of a fire in the garage. In that case, the CO production source is assumed to be a source of smoke, and the same airflow pattern (and simulation project) can be used to assess the performance.
The considered model conditions include:
- CO source production assumes 80 moving cars at 40% of total capacity
- Two forced fresh air supplies
- One open to environment place at the access ramp location
- Three forced exhaust openings
- General geometry of garage including columns and ceiling beams detail
A computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation is carried out to explore CO levels under the described normal operating conditions. The simulation was implemented in the SimScale cloud computing platform, using the CFD scalar transport module.
The simulation results allow us to plot the air flowing velocity magnitude and directions:
By checking the results, it is found that low flow velocity zones (blue colored areas) are present:
- At the vicinity of the ramp
- At the center-right, where a recirculation zone also occurs
By examining CO concentration levels, it is revealed that these zones also constitute the areas of maximum concentration:
It is found that the study case exceeds the TLV for maximum CO concentration which is 1600 PPM, and the design needs to be improved.
Design Optimization for Ensuring Fire Safety
The strategy implemented to meet the objective of lowering the maximum CO concentration level in the garage is to place jet fans to generate airflow in the high concentration, low-speed zones. The proposed locations for the fans are displayed in the following figure:
The CFD simulation is run again to include fans in the garage design. By looking at the new air flow velocity plot, the effect of the fans can be appreciated:
Now the effect of the improved ventilation system on the CO concentration levels can be checked. The CO concentration plot shows that now the TLV criteria is met:
The results found show that with the design optimization implemented, a reduction of more than 55% in the maximum CO concentration level in the garage was achieved:
To learn more about smoke simulation along with heat and smoke extraction, check out this blog!
Fire Safety & Smoke Management Case Study 2: Fire Scenario in a Parking Garage
In this case, a fire safety scenario in a car park facility is analyzed. The computer simulation is implemented using FDS (Fire Dynamic Simulator), a CFD tool specially tailored for fire-driven fluid flow (smoke and heat transport). FDS is optimized to bring a more efficient, specialized workflow for the analysis of fires. For this project, FDS was run in the SimScale cloud-based simulation platform. The FDS tool is not currently available for public usage but in a closed test phase.
The considered model includes the principal geometry features and the following conditions:
- Fire source occurring at the center of the garage
- Forced air inlet and outlets
- After a time delay of 30 seconds, all jet fans start to operate.
- Total number of jet fans is 20
- Fresh air inlet temperature is 46°C, due to local conditions
- Fire burning material is polyurethane
The first results of the simulation present the smoke propagation pattern, which allows assessing the smoke management of the ventilation system. Here the time evolution of concentration can be examined to detect danger zones. Plots for smoke propagation after five and ten minutes are presented:
It can be seen that after ten minutes, the only areas with fresh air are close to air inlets. It is also found that the smoke is distributed in more than 80% of the area after 15 minutes, and reaches a steady state after 25 minutes.
The calculated temperature distribution shows that after ten minutes, high levels are confined to the fire source area and that exit zones keep low levels, as shown in the following plot:
Another interesting result of the simulation is the sight visibility at every point, which is an important safety factor in case of fire. In the following plot, red areas have high (clear) visibility and blue areas have low (bad) visibility:
It is found that the visibility is more than 10 meters in the entire area until the 5 minutes mark. After 5 minutes, the visibility drops below 10 meters in the left corners of the garage.
The airflow velocity plot shows the action of the jet fans and the general ventilation pattern:
Two study cases for fire safety and smoke management assessment were performed. It was found that by using CFD simulation tools, code compliance can be easily checked. Also, design improvement opportunities are easily identified and optimizations tested for performance evaluation.
To learn more about CFD simulations like airflow simulation check out our public projects.