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Expert blasts government on fire testing

THE GOVERNMENT is 'sticking its head in the sand' over the pressing need for more full scale fire testing, a leading structural researcher said this week.

Professor Colin Bailey of Manchester University hit out at the 'serious disadvantages and limitations' inherent in the prescriptive approach popular with governments.

he prescriptive method involves specifying minimum fire resistance periods for each structural element, based on standard small scale furnace tests.

It is popular because it involves limited design work and appears to be effective in reducing fatalities in fires.

'But this approach has serious disadvantages and limitations, ' said Bailey, speaking at an ICE conference in London.

'Actual structural behaviour in real fires - such as thermal expansion and creep - is ignored, levels of safety and robustness are unknown, and no consideration is given to economics or environmental impact, ' he said.

Bailey added that while many of the UK's leading structural engineers use structural fire engineering techniques based on advanced computer models, many of these were calibrated against results obtained from the full scale tests carried out at the now-closed Cardington testing facility in the 1990s.

'But these represented only a very limited range of building types and dimensions, ' he said.

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