Articles by Amanda Kimball
The tall wood building project was sponsored by the Foundation’s Property Insurance Research Group through a grant from the USDA, Forest Service The Fire Protection Research Foundation (the Foundation), the research arm of the National Fire Protection Association, has released findings on how exposed timber in high-rise residences might impact fire behaviour. The new Phase 2 ‘Fire Safety Challenges of Tall Wood Buildings’ report provides data and insights from six large-scale test burns; and found that the exposed timber did influence the way the fire behaved. In recent years, economic development officials, architects, designers and the fire service have asked for research related to the fire hazards associated with tall buildings with structural components comprised of engineered wood/cross laminated timber (CLT). Fire compartmentation using CLT building elements Members of the fire service have expressed concerns about wood construction in tall buildings. Today, buildings featuring wood construction are capped at six floors or 65 feet high, but some are advocating for those heights to be extended to 85 feet high or nine stories. Fire officials cite concerns about the combustible nature of wood; they point to previous research that shows that timber elements contribute to the fuel load in buildings and can increase the initial fire growth rate. The tests were conducted without any sprinklers or firefighting intervention until the end of the tests in order to quantify the CLT contribution to compartment fires To answer the research needs and address the concerns of the fire service, the goal of the project was to quantify the contribution of CLT building elements to compartment fires and to characterize the fire protection of the CLT structural elements using physical barrier (e.g. gypsum board) for delaying or preventing their involvement in the fire. Design trends could eventually lead architects to leave the timbers partially exposed, prompting fire protection researchers to ask what this could mean for fire growth, heat release, toxicity, and other factors. NRC to conduct the CLT compartment fire study The tall wood building project was sponsored by the Foundation’s Property Insurance Research Group through a grant from the USDA, Forest Service. The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) was contracted to lead the CLT compartment fire study due to their extensive experience and expertise in CLT fire studies. The NRC executed the test plan with the National Institute of Standards and Technology at their fire lab. Six simulated studio apartments—each 30 feet long, 15 feet wide, and nine feet high—with four walls and a ceiling were built for testing. Each was filled with typical modern furnishings. The tests were conducted without any sprinklers or firefighting intervention until the end of the tests in order to quantify the CLT contribution to compartment fires (note: in North America, tall buildings are typically equipped with automatic sprinklers). In two of the four tests, researchers adjusted the amount of ventilation in the room to see how that would impact the fire Different testing methods Each of the test areas had varying levels of exposed wood—two rooms had one wall with exposed timber, one had a ceiling exposed, and one had both. Two were fully encapsulated in gypsum board and were burned to form a baseline measurement. In two of the four tests, researchers adjusted the amount of ventilation in the room to see how that would impact the fire. “We had limited information on compartment fires in these types of buildings, so it was a knowledge gap that we were looking to fill,” said Amanda Kimball, the Foundation’s research director. Kimball noted that the data collected from the tests will inform “the fire service, codes and standards bodies, designers, and insurers about possible risks within these structures.” There are currently no plans for another study. Researchers did note, however, the need to determine how the connectors that hold the timber elements together perform in fire and how holes in the wooden panels—cut to allow for passage of cables, HVAC, and other systems—might affect fire behaviour.
Amanda Kimball, an eight-year veteran of the Fire Protection Research Foundation (Research Foundation), was named Executive Director of the independent, non-profit research affiliate of the National Fire Protection Association. She replaces Casey Grant who is retiring in December after 16 years with NFPA, followed by 15 years directing Research Foundation efforts that support the NFPA mission of eliminating loss from fire, electrical and related hazards. Kimball is well-known in research circles given her role as research director since 2016, and the five years she spent prior to that overseeing Research Foundation projects ranging from literature reviews to large experimental testing endeavors involving suppression, fire alarm, and building life safety. fire protection systems As the Executive Director, Kimball will now provide leadership on research initiatives that pertain to fire protection, emergency response, and virtually everything that challenges safety in the built environment. In addition to managing a half dozen staff members, Kimball will work with the Research Foundation’s board of trustees and collaborate with project sponsors, project contractors, and advisory panel members who provide peer oversight and guidance. Kimball holds a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Fire Protection Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute; and is a registered professional fire protection engineer in the state of Massachusetts. Prior to her arrival at the Research Foundation in 2011, she worked for seven years in a consultant capacity for Arup providing insights on fire protection engineering, building code life safety, the design of fire protection systems, and the egress modeling of buildings and subway stations. building and life safety Research Foundation has facilitated major domestic and international research programs that address industry challenges “Amanda Kimball is well-suited to lead the Research Foundation into the future,” NFPA President and Research Foundation Chairman of the Board Jim Pauley said. “Her ability to collaborate with different entities and generate research that addresses safety gaps, informs audiences, and tackles emerging issues has been consistently demonstrated over the years. The board of directors is confident that she will build on the Research Foundation’s solid legacy by proactively addressing issues that threaten building and life safety.” “It is an honor to be the new executive director of the Research Foundation,” Kimball said. “So often we hear incoming leaders state that they have big shoes to fill. I know exactly why they say as much, given Casey Grant’s accomplishments, his far-reaching influence, and the undisputable impact that he has had on reducing risk in our world,” Kimball said. firefighter protective clothing “I applaud Casey’s extensive contributions and thank him for the incredible mentorship that he has offered our team members along the way” The Research Foundation was established in 1982 in response to a growing need for research that better informed NFPA’s expanding body of codes and standards. Since then, the Research Foundation has facilitated major domestic and international research programs that address industry challenges in detection and signaling, hazardous materials, electrical safety, fire suppression, storage of commodities, firefighter protective clothing, equipment, public education, and public policy.