Limitations of Zone Models and CFD Models for Natural Smoke Filling in Large Spaces
Thesis DisciplineFire Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Engineering in Fire Engineering
This research report examines the use of zone modelling compared with CFD modelling to determine when zone model approximation is valid and when a CFD model might be required. A series of computer simulations with enclosures and fires of various sizes was performed to compare the capabilities and limitations of the two computer methods. The relationship between the size of the enclosure space and the size of the fire has been demonstrated in a dimensionless form.
The zone model BRANZFIRE and the CFD model FDS were used for simulating smoke development. The simulations included various full-scale experimental data on both small and large spaces found in the literature. Further simulations of large exemplar spaces with a range of fire sizes were performed to investigate different variables, which have not been examined in full-scale experiments. The simulation results have been compared based on the smoke layer height and the average layer temperature. Zukoski’s smoke filling equation was also used to compare the layer height predictions against BRANZFIRE and FDS.
It was found that different data reduction techniques gave different approximations to the layer height. A perfect match between the experimental data and the model output was very difficult to achieve. FDS showed a large uncertainty of the smoke layer height and temperature in the early stages of fire across the enclosure space. In the later stages, this uncertainly became minimised where the smoke layer height and temperature were fairly uniformly developed across the space.
For fire enclosures with instantaneous steady-state fires, the predictions between BRANZFIRE and FDS agreed well with each other if the fire size and the enclosure size were within a reasonable range. From the modelling of the full-scale experiments, FDS showed favourable layer-height comparisons against the full-scale experimental tests. However, the output results from BRANZFIRE are less comparable with those of FDS for the experiments with fire growth. An appropriate smoke transport time lag should be included for Zukoski’s smoke filling equation and BRANZFIRE; otherwise, they gave conservative estimates of the layer height to smaller fires with a growth phase.
In general, the data reduction methods and zone models should not be used if the fire is too small relative to the enclosure size. A very low temperature rise within the enclosure space would give invalid predictions of the layer height and average layer temperature. This is because there is no clear indication of a separation between the upper and lower smoke layers or temperatures. Single point data of smoke concentrations and temperatures from CFD models should be considered through the entire space or at the specified location of interest. This also applies to an extremely large fire relative to the enclosure size where temperature distribution across the space might not be very homogenous. CFD models could also be used to investigate the details of the smoke properties in the early stages of growing fires, in which the smoke transport lag and the plume effects cannot be seen in BRANZFIRE.
This research is intended to provide guidance for fire engineers by determining which of the computer methods can be used confidently and appropriately as a design tool.