Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 222222
Loughborough University

Centre for Innovative and Collaborative Construction Engineering


Dr Danny Hopkin


The Fire Performance of Engineered Timber Products and Systems

Project Title

The Fire Performance of Engineered Timber Products and Systems


BRE Global Ltd


Dr Jamal El-Rimawi
Professor V Silberschmidt

Mr Tom Lennon
Mr Steven Manchester

Director of Research:
Professor D Bouchlaghem

Research Period

2008 - 2012

The Fire Performance of Engineered Timber Products and Systems


Fire is a destructive force that each year accounts for hundreds of deaths and billions of pounds worth of damage to property and financial loss, in the UK alone. Concerns for fire safety and measures to protect people and property from fire have been around in the United Kingdom for centuries, with early fire brigades operating before the ‘Great fire of London’ [2]. Early fire codes were promoted by insurance companies for which the prime focus was property protection. Today there is a larger emphasis on life safety, with legislation placing the issue of building damage with insurers or the building owner [3].

The design of a buildings structure has an important influence on the life safety of its occupants in a fire. There is an expectation that a building or parts of a building will not collapse in a fire, or allow the fire to spread beyond its compartment of origin [3]. The design of a structure to withstand elevated temperatures is much more complex than at ambient temperatures because of the introduction of time/temperature dependant behaviours. Material properties that are known at ambient temperature, such as Young’s modulus, Yield strength, Compressive strength etc., vary as a function of temperature and are less well known at high temperature.

Structural fire engineering (SFE) concentrates on the design of a structure to resist thermal actions, such that a buildings occupants have sufficient time to escape, the fire service have adequate time to perform a search & rescue operation or alternatively it must have the ability to withstand full burn out of the compartment. SFE involves the analysis of the thermal effects of fires on a structure and the design of members to achieve adequate load bearing capacities and prevent fire spread [1].

Traditionally structural fire resistance has been achieved through tabulated prescriptive guidance that is largely derived from experimental data. Prescriptive guidance, such as member dimensions, covers to reinforcement, thickness of intumescent coatings etc, is increasingly being dropped in favour of performance based design that promotes innovation and drives down costs. The Eurocodes have introduced simple and advanced calculation methods to provide alternative solutions to traditional prescriptive methods. There is a general concern that the data, from which both national and European calculation methods are derived, is out of touch with modern structural materials and construction methods. Prescriptive guidance within the Approved Documents to the Building Regulations is largely based on traditional construction methodologies. The relevance of such an assessment method has to be questioned when it is applied to modern forms of construction that now consist of large volumes of light weight insulating materials.

The construction industry is increasingly using innovative materials, construction methods and production technologies to meet the ever growing demand for sustainable construction, lower costs and consistent quality. This project seeks to provide structural fire engineering guidance that is representative of 21st century construction materials and methodologies. The project will comprise experimental fire testing of structural members and assemblies that are representative of the materials and methodologies that are typical in construction today. This data will then be used to develop and validate numerical models that can be used to simulate the global behaviour of larger scale structures in fire.


1. To develop experimental fire performance data that is representative of modern construction.
2. To develop computer simulations of structural fire performance using commercially available Finite Element Software that can be validated against experimental results.
3. To improve BRE’s understanding of the behaviour of modern structures when exposed to fire and develop new knowledge and/or methods of analysis.
4. To provide guidance to designers with regards to the structural fire design of modern structures.
5. To provide guidance on the structural fire performance of modern structures to insurers, the fire service and regulators.

Expected benefits/Outcomes

The project will build on the students existing Civil Engineering qualification (MEng) to develop additional expertise in the field of structural fire engineering. BRE will gain expertise in the fire performance of modern structures and will develop fundamental research data. The project will provide BRE with structural modelling capabilities that do not currently exist in the fire group.


LENNON, T., HOPKIN, D.J., EL-RIMAWI, J. and SILBERSCHMIDT, V., 2010. Large scale natural fire tests on protected engineered timber floor systems. Fire safety journal, 45(3), 168–182.

HOPKIN, D.J., LENNON, T., EL-RIMAWI, J. and SILBERSCHMIDT, V., 2010. Failure mechanisms of structural insulated panel (SIP) systems under natural fire conditions, V.R. KODUR and J.M. FRANSSEN, eds. In: Proceedings of the sixth international conference on structures in fire (SiF), 2-4th June 2010, DEStech pp520-527.

HOPKIN, D.J., LENNON, T., EL-RIMAWI, J. And SILBERSCHMIDT, V., 2010. A laboratory study into the fire resistance performance of structural insulated panels (SIPs), V.R. KODUR and J.M. FRANSSEN, eds. In: Proceedings of the sixth international conference on structures in fire (SiF), 2-4th June 2010, DEStech pp611-618.

HOPKIN, D., EL-RIMAWI, J., SILBERSCHMIDT, V., and LENNON, T., 2010. Modelling the fire resistance of structural insulated panels: Heat transfer. Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Fire Science and Engineering (INTERFLAM), 5-7th July 2010.



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+44 (0)1509 222623

The Centre Administrator
Loughborough University
LE11 3TU

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