Mini symposia/Special sessions

MS40 Building Safety and Reliability in Fire and Development of Smart Fire Safety Engineering

Assistant Prof. Liming Jiang:

Session Chairs:
Dr. Liming Jiang, Assistant Professor in Department of Building Services Engineering,The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong SAR China,
Prof. Asif Usmani, Head of Department of Building Services Engineering, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong SAR China,

Abstract of the special session:
The largest single cost for sustaining a high quality of life and maximising the potential of humanity is that of civil infrastructure. Engineers bear the lion's share of the responsibility for ensuring the safety of occupants and sustainability and resilience of infrastructure. However, technological advances and human ingenuity and aspiration for an increasingly better quality of life are fundamentally changing the nature of the built environment, which is often also fundamentally changing the nature of threats from fire. Urban environments are exposed to greater risk as prescriptive fire safety strategies which are still widely applied in the practice are no longer fit for purpose. Occupants and firefighters are left facing an unpredictable hazard, that designers and regulators have no sufficient control and understanding on, as the London Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 tragically demonstrated. On top of the human cost, costs due to losses from fire are estimated at approximately 1 per cent of global GDP per year. Therefore, while sustainability is paramount, a society’s resilience to disasters should also be a critical consideration in sustainable urban development.
The key scientific challenges of fire safety are the extreme complexities and uncertainties embedded in the development of a fire. The spreading behaviour and the scope of a fire are subject to various fuel distributions, ventilation conditions, collapse of partitions, and so on. Uncertainties also play a significant role in predicting the structural response to fire exposure. The collapse of the WTC Twin Towers on 11 September 2001 are believed to have been caused by the aircraft impact damage and the subsequent huge fires. However, the neighboring WTC 7 building collapsed without being directly hit and collapsed solely due to the spreading fire ignited by the burning debris that penetrated the building as a result of WTC1 collapse. Despite the enormous computational power now available, the uncertainties associated with the collapse simulation of buildings of the scale of the WTC7 are overwhelming. Therefore no consensus exists on explaining the collapse mechanism of WTC7.
To discuss the fire safety of structures with explicit inclusion of uncertainties, the session chair Dr Jiang and the co-chair Prof Usmani would like to propose a minisymposium on this theme within the scope of ICOSSAR 2021. The Chair and Co-Chair primarily work in the field of structural fire safety engineering and started their research from The University of Edinburgh, UK. They developed ‘Structure in fire’ simulation capabilities for the open source software system for earthquake engineering simulation (OpenSEES) ( and have conducted extensive research in understanding the behavior of structures in fire. Inspired by the localised fire studies they had been working on a novel ‘travelling fire’ model proposed to deal with the spreading fire behavior in modern buildings with large open plan spaces. In 2016, Prof. Usmani joined The Hong Kong Polytechnic University as the head of department of Building Services Engineering and later on Dr. Jiang joined the university as well. In view of the unpredictability and uncertainties of fire behavior in built environment, Prof. Usmani has led the group to successfully win a Theme-Based Research Scheme project from the Hong Kong Research Grant Council worth HK$ 33.33 Million, which aims to combine smart building technology (BIM/Digital twins), state-of-art fire and structural response modelling, big-data, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) based forecasting engine to provide a solution towards Smart Urban Resilience and Firefighting: SureFire. This project will provide useful new research to broaden the proposed minisymposium to also reflect the latest developments in the area of smart fire safety engineering. By means of sharing and discussion, the symposium will convey the significance of structural safety in fire to the audience and inspire researchers and practitioners to improve the safety and reliability of structures in fire by exploiting cutting-edge technologies.

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