Extracting Fire Engineering Simulation Data from the IFC Building Information Model

Extracting Fire Engineering Simulation Data from the IFC Building Information Model

Michael Spearpoint (University of Canterbury, New Zealand)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-928-1.ch010


Fire engineering is a distinctive discipline within the construction industry that has its own language, design goals and analytical approaches. The use of sophisticated and computationally intensive numerical fire simulation tools is becoming more prevalent and the ability to share building-related data is getting serious consideration within the discipline. This chapter examines what fire engineers would like to achieve and how building information modelling (BIM) fits in with those goals. It discusses the types of fire simulation models that fire engineers use and gives a brief description of two particular fire growth models which use different means to represent a fire scenario. The chapter then considers how the IFC building product model can be used to transfer building geometry and property data to fire simulation models. Two commercial BIM tools have been used to create some simple test case buildings to illustrate the transfer process and highlight some of the problems encountered. Finally, the chapter describes some of the challenges involved in sharing building data with fire simulation models and provides recommendations for further work.
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1 Introduction

Fire engineering is a relatively young and specialised discipline within the construction industry. The protection of people, property and the environment from the effects of fire means that fire engineers are involved in the design of everything from super high-rise towers, large capacity sports stadia, industrial and petro-chemical facilities to major road and rail tunnel projects. The chapter describes current developments in use of BIM for fire engineering design particularly where computer simulation models are used. The chapter provides a brief background to the needs and challenges of fire engineering simulation modelling and how BIM might be integrated into this design aspect. Simple case study buildings are described in the chapter to illustrate some of these developments through the use of STEP files conforming to IFC Building Product Model (simply referred to here as the ‘IFC Model’) which have been generated by commercially available BIM applications. The contents of this chapter are predominantly based on recent work carried out by the author and co-workers which has been published in various places (Spearpoint, 2003a; Spearpoint, 2003b; Spearpoint, 2006; Spearpoint, 2007; Spearpoint and Dimyadi, 2007; Dimyadi et al., 2007; Dimyadi et al., 2009).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Rate of Heat Release: The amount of energy released by a burning fuel as a function of time.

Fire Engineering: The art and science of designing buildings and facilities for life safety and property protection in the event of an unwanted fire.

Room Compartment Space: These are often used interchangeably although ‘compartment’ often has a specific regulatory meaning a space enclosed by building elements that have a specific fire rating.

Fire Rating: The length of time that a building element is able to withstand a standard laboratory fire test.

Building Element: A physical part of a building such as a wall, floor, door, window, beam, column etc

Fire Model: A mathematical representation of the processes involved in a fire. The model may include the physical, chemical, mechanical, physiological and physiological elements in which calculations are typically carried out using a computer code

Building Model: an electronic description of a building (or similar structure) which includes the geometry, topology and the property information related to building spaces and elements

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