Validation of Modeling Tools for Detection Design in High Air Flow Environments - Phase 2

Fire Protection Research Foundation report: "Validation of Modeling Tools for Detection Design in High Air Flow Environments - Phase 2" Part 1 (PDF)Part 2 (PDF)Part 3 (PDF)
Author: Joshua B. Dinaburg, Dr. Jason Floyd and Dr. Daniel T. Gottuk, Hughes Associates, Inc.
Date of issue: August 2014


Information-technology and telecommunications (IT/telecom) facilities provide critical services in today’s world. From a risk standpoint, the indirect impact of fire loss due to business interruption and loss of critical operations, sometimes geographically very distant from the IT/telecom facility itself, can far outweigh the direct property loss. 

In the past few years, there have been dramatic changes in the equipment housed in these facilities, which have placed increased demands on HVAC systems. As a result, airflow containment solutions are being introduced to increase energy efficiency. From a fire safety design perspective, the use of airflow containment creates a high airflow environment that dilutes the smoke, which poses challenges for providing adequate detection, and affects the dispersion of suppression agents.

Fire protection requirements for IT/telecom facilities are directly addressed by NFPA 75, Protection of Information Technology Equipment, and NFPA 76, Fire Protection of Telecommunications Facilities. Installation of detection systems are covered by NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, which is referenced by both NFPA 75 and NFPA 76. Annex Section B.4.5 of NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, states, "There currently are no quantitative methods for estimating either smoke dilution or airflow effects on locating smoke detectors." Although tools exist to model fire development, detection time, and suppression agent dispersion, they have not been validated for this application.

Accordingly, the Fire Protection Research Foundation initiated this project with an overall goal to validate a CFD model that can be used for providing reliable analysis of detection performance in IT/telecom facilities and to provide guidance to the NFPA 75 and 76 Technical Committees on detection in IT/telecom facilities. A Phase 1 project reviewed the candidate models and identified the knowledge gaps on this topic. Phase 2 of the project involved filling in these knowledge gaps by characterizing fire sources, characterizing detector response, full scale model validation, and development of guidance for the Technical Committees using the validated model.