Fire Technology

, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 167–184 | Cite as

An Overview of Design Fires for Building Compartments



The worldwide trend of moving towards performance-based codes has brought about a need for computational tools, most of which rely on suitably-defined design fires, to adequately predict the impact of fires on buildings and their occupants. This literature review was carried out to determine the range of methods used to characterize design fires. The methods currently available were found to be largely empirical in nature and unsophisticated. The two main quantities used to describe design fires are the heat release rate (pre-flashover scenario) and temperature-time profiles (post-flashover). The most commonly used pre-flashover design fires are t2 fires, whereas a host of empirical correlations are available for post-flashover design fires.


design fires heat release rate t2 fire pre-flashover post-flashover 



Floor area (m2)


Area of a ventilation opening (m2)


Total internal area of bounding surfaces of an enclosure (m2)


A parameter in Equation (7), =\(\sqrt{k\rho c_{\rm p}}\) (W s0.5/m2K)


Reference value of b (W s0.5/m2K)


Constant used in Equation (18)


Specific heat capacity (kJ/kg K)


Height of ventilation opening (m)


Opening factor (m1/2)


Reference value of the opening factor (m1/2)


Ventilation factor (m5/2)


Thermal conductivity (kW/m K)


Pyrolysis coefficient (kg/s m5/2)

\(M^{\prime\prime}_{\rm f}\)

Fire load density (kg/m2)


HRR (kW)

\(\dot{Q}_{\rm o}\)

Reference HRR (kW)


Total fire load energy density (MJ/m2)


Incident radiation heat flux (MW/m2)


Radial distance (m)


Rate of pyrolysis


Temperature (°C)


Reference temperature (°C)


Time (s)


Duration of burning (s)


Duration of heating phase, given by Equation (11) (h)


Time to reach a reference HRR (s)


Time at which maximum temperature occurs (min)


Fictitious time used in Equation (6) (h)

Greek Letters


Growth or decay constant for a t2 fire (W/s)


A constant given by Equation (14) (K s−1/6)


Shape constant


Density (kg/m3)





Pertains to hot gas


Maximum value

Ambient condition



Heat release rate (kW)




HRR (synonymous with HRR) (kW)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Research Council of Canada, Institute for Research in Construction—Fire Research ProgramOttawaCanada

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