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Design of an ASTM E119 Fire Environment in a Large Compartment


Structural fire protection design in the United States is based on prescriptive fire-resistance ratings of individual load-bearing elements which are derived from standard fire testing, e.g. ASTM E119. In standard fire testing, a custom-built gas furnace is traditionally used to heat a test specimen by following the gas temperature-time curve prescribed in the ASTM E119 standard. The span length of the test specimen seldom exceeds 6 m due to the size limitations of available furnaces. Further, the test specimen does not incorporate realistic structural continuity. This paper presents a basis for designing an ASTM E119 fire environment in a large compartment of about 10 m wide, 7 m deep and 3.8 m high constructed in the National Fire Research Laboratory of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Using the designed fire parameters which include heat release rate curve and opening condition (size and configuration), a full-scale experiment was carried out on December 20, 2018. The measured average upper layer gas temperature curve was consistent with the E119 fire curve. The maximum difference between the measured curve and the E119 fire curve towards the end of the test was about 70\(^\circ \hbox {C}\) (7%). The study indicates that by proper design and control, the time-temperature curve for the standard fire testing may be approximated in a real compartment.

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  1. Note that the first known publication of the standard fire curve is NFPA Quarterly, Vol. 9 (1916), pp. 253–260.


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We thank the NFRL staff including Ramesh Selvarajah, Brian Story, Laurean DeLauter, Anthony Chakalis, Philip Deardorff, Marco Fernandez and Artur Chernovsky for their significant contributions to design, construction and execution of this test program. Valuable suggestions and review comments from Dr. Anthony Hamins, Dr. Matthew Bundy, Dr. Matthew Hoehler, Mr. Nelson Bryner, and Dr. Hai S. Lew of NIST are acknowledged.


Certain commercial entities, equipment, or materials may be identified in this document in order to describe an experimental procedure or concept adequately. Such identification is not intended to imply recommendation or endorsement by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, nor is it intended to imply that the entities, materials, or equipment are necessarily the best available for the purpose.

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Correspondence to Chao Zhang.

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Zhang, C., Grosshandler, W., Sauca, A. et al. Design of an ASTM E119 Fire Environment in a Large Compartment. Fire Technol 56, 1155–1177 (2020).

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  • Full-scale experiment
  • ASTM E119 fire
  • Large compartment
  • Test fire
  • Design approach