Book Review: Structural Design for Fire Safety, Second Edition

Structural DesignBy Maria E. Garlock, University of Princeton

Structural Design for Fire Safety is an essential resource for structural engineers seeking knowledge in how to analyze and design structures for fire.  It is comprehensive, accessible, well organized, and perhaps the most efficient and effective book for learning about structural fire engineering.  Current events continue to indicate that fires can cause significant structural damage, even structural collapse, in buildings and bridges.  Yet generally the profession does not have the educational preparation for analyzing such behavior, hence the significance of this book.

Dr. Buchanan authored the first edition of the book, published in 2000, based on class notes used to teach students at the University of Canterbury, where he has taught since 1987.  In the second edition, Dr. Abu joins him as second author and he is currently teaching the course upon which the book is based.  Therefore the book is well-suited for both teaching and learning, which can be done in a methodical way by proceeding chapter-by-chapter.  Worked examples at the end of every chapter provide an opportunity for the reader to test their comprehension. Structural Design for Fire Safety is written mainly for structural engineers (practicing and students), who have knowledge of structural mechanics and want to learn how to analyze and design structures for large fire loads.  According to the authors, “A structural engineer who has followed this book should be able to: interpret the intentions of the code requirements for structural fire safety; understand the concepts of fire severity and fire resistance; estimate time-temperature curves for fully developed compartment fires; design steel, concrete, steel-concrete composite, or timber structures to resist fire exposure; and assess the fire performance of existing structures.”

Chapter 2 of Structural Design for Fire Safety presents the basics of fire safety in buildings, discussing, among other things, fire development, spread, and resistance.  Chapter 3 provides fundamental knowledge of pre and post-flashover fires and heat transfer.  Chapter 4 goes into fire severity and fire resistance.  These chapters go into sufficient depth for the reader to understand basic concepts, and abundant references are provided for the reader who wants to learn more.  The focus of this book is on structural behavior, which is the theme of the remaining chapters (5 through 11).

Chapter 5 provides some general knowledge about designing structures for fire that does not have material specific considerations.  Chapters 6, 7, 8, and 9 discuss steel, concrete, steel-concrete composite, and timber structures, respectively.  These chapters include detailed discussions on the thermal and mechanical material properties at elevated temperatures. Chapter 10 discusses “light frame construction” referring to light wood frame construction and light steel framing such as cold-formed, where fire resistance is largely based on gypsum board protection.  Finally, Chapter 11 discusses advanced calculation methods, such as finite elements.

The second edition is similar to the first edition, the following being the major changes: (1) reorganization of some chapters, (2) addition of a chapter on steel-concrete composite structures, and (3) addition of a chapter on advanced calculation methods.  Some minor updates are also visible in various chapters, such as a longer discussion of charring rate for timber structures.  The most comprehensive change in the second edition is the 30-paged Chapter 11 on “Advanced Calculation Methods,” which mostly refers to complex computer modeling of compartment fires, structural member temperatures, and structural performance.  It discusses a wide-range of topics including tensile membrane action, component modeling of connections, and software packages for structural and thermal fire analysis.

Dr. Buchanan and Dr. Abu’s decades of experience teaching and researching in structural fire engineering comes through in each page of this book.  As someone who has used the first edition of Structural Design for Fire Safety to self-teach the subject, this second edition comes highly recommended.

Book Details

Authored by Andrew H. Buchanan and Anthony K. Abu

Wiley 2017

ISBN: 978-0-470-97289-2

438 pages