Facilities - Fire Engineering - Civil Engineering - Universityof Canterbury

Facilities - Fire Engineering

Fire Engineering has two laboratories: the small-scale fire laboratory and the medium-scale fire laboratory. The small-scale fire laboratory contains the Cone Calorimeter used for ignition, burning rate and flame spread measurements; the wind-tunnel; a small-scale furnace and the ISO ignition apparatus. The medium-scale fire laboratory contains the furniture calorimeter that can measure fires up to around 2 MW. Space is also available in the Civil and Natural Resources Engineering laboratories for specific projects.

The fire laboratories include instrumentation and data acquisition equipment used as needed for particular research and testing projects. Both the furniture and cone calorimeters are used for graduate laboratory classes as well as Masters and Ph.D. research projects.

Research students also have access to a 'hot-disk' apparatus to obtain solid material properties and DSC/TGA testing equipment for gas phase measurements.

Cone calorimeter

Cone calorimeterIgnition and burning rate

The cone calorimeter is used intensively to obtain ignition and burning rate data. Materials tested have included upholstered furniture foam and fabric combinations, various species of timber, manufactured wood products, gypsum wallboard, cables and metro train construction materials.

RIFTFlame spread

The cone calorimeter was adapted to measure opposed flow flame spread by the apparatus referred to as the Reduced scale Ignition and Flame spread Technique (RIFT). The RIFT is used to examine opposed flow flame spread over several species of New Zealand timber and timber products such as Beech, Rimu, Radiata Pine, Macrocarpra, Plywood, Particle board, Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF) and Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL).


The Lateral Ignition and Flame Transport (LIFT) test apparatus is a standard test method for obtaining ignition and flame spread properties. The LIFT test apparatus was built in-house and can be setu-up so that materials can be tested either in the vertical or horizontal orientation. Recent work has compared the results obtained from teh RIFT and LIFT.

Wind tunnelWind-tunnel

Students taking the Fire Safety Systems course, as well as Master's research students carrying out project work, use the wind-tunnel. It was used to determine appropriate distributions of the Response Time Index (RTI) for a range of commercially available sprinklers. Measurement of the sprinkler conduction (C) factor has also undertaken.

small scale furnace imageSmall-scale furnace

The small-scale furnace is used for testing structural timber connections under fire conditions. Internal connections using high strength steel bars epoxy grouted into LVL members have been under development at the University and were assessed in the furnace.

Civil engineering laboratory

Atrium Atrium smoke control

An atrium 1/10 th scale-model was built to study the effects of spill plumes. The model consisted of a supporting steel frame with ceramic fibre insulation boards attached. The model simulated a fire within a communicating space in an atrium building, and consisted of two main units, the fire compartment and the smoke exhaust hood. Experiments investigated the entrainment of air into the spill plume in which a downstand and a balcony were present. Water mist system

Water mist systems

A compartment and plenum space was designed to carry out experiments on the use of a water mist system with a displacement ventilation system. Fire tests were conducted to measure the effects of the water mist system on the compartment conditions.


ISO 5657 Ignition apparatusISO Ignition apparatus

The ISO 5657 ignition apparatus was used to obtain ignition and burning rate data on upholstered furniture foam and fabric combinations and various species of timber.


Furniture Calorimeter

The furniture calorimeter can be used to measure the rate of heat release of a variety of items such as furniture, piled stock, vegetation, etc.

Computer resources

Students have access to a wide range of general computer applications and specialised fire modelling tools including:
  • The SAFIR thermal and structural analysis program
  • The Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS) large eddy simulation CFD program
  • Compartment zone modelling software such as CFAST, FPETool and BRANZFIRE
  • The Simulex evacuation model
  • @Risk Monte Carlo Simulation Package
FDS modelling of the McLeans
Island Road experiments

Evacuation analysis using Simulex.

Salt water fluid flow

The density difference between salt water and fresh water can be used to represent the flow of hot smoke in a compartment. Fire Engineering has been working with our colleagues in Fluids to examine flows prior t backdrafts and fluids through ceilng vents. The fluids laboratory has extensive darkroom facilities and in-house expertise to support Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) and Particle Tracking Velocimety (PTV) measuring techniques.

Library facilities

The library contains many Fire specific journals, books and electronic resources. More information is available through the Fire Engineering Subject Portal on the library website.