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Performance-Based Design

With highly technical knowledge of fundamental fire science, Combustion Science & Engineering, Inc provides fire modeling services that you can trust are reliable, accurate and of the highest standards. The fire protection engineers of CSE can provide invaluable insight on any problem using the latest modeling tools and computer hardware. Working with the design team, the technical analysis can be used to optimize and reduce cost of smoke control systems, evaluate structural response, or simulate occupant movement.


The spread of smoke represents the greatest hazard to occupants, especially in large buildings. Staff members at CSE have extensive experience using the Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS) model for performance-based design, research and forensic applications. A detailed 3D fire modeling analysis of the predicted smoke and people movement can determine whether a proposed or existing design will allow occupants to safely egress before being exposed to hazardous conditions. This can allow for enhanced life safety while simultaneously reducing both initial and long-term costs compared to a prescriptive design, as well as allowing unique and innovative architectural designs.


An advanced smoke control analysis is often beneficial for facilities such as:

  • Atriums and vertical connecting spaces

  • Large open spaces; arenas, theaters

  • Stairwells and elevator shafts

  • Underground facilities and parking garages


Using their expertise, CSE will perform well-conceived fire model simulations, interpret the results and provide easy to understand visual representations of the fire and smoke conditions in the building under different system configurations, weather conditions, fire scenarios, and many other variables. Staff of CSE can also provide thorough third-party reviews of other FDS model calculations and give detailed feedback on the validity of the results, as well as detailing any shortcomings or areas for improvement.


Building Pressurization and Airflow Modeling

Pressurization systems for stairways and elevator shafts necessitate increasingly complex calculations. The full airflow in the building and pressurized spaces can be analyzed using CONTAM to achieve balance under different weather and ventilation conditions. Outside temperature, wind, HVAC, leakage, injection point location, and stack effect must all be evaluated to ensure that the maximum and minimum pressure differences can be maintained. A wide range of scenarios can be evaluated in CONTAM in a short amount of time to optimize and speed up the design process for pressurized stairwells and elevator shafts.


Wind and Gas Dispersion Modeling

The FDS code can be used to analyze outdoor scenarios such as wind effects, gas dispersion pool fires, and more. Modeling of wind can be done for single buildings, or larger areas up to several city blocks, limited by the desired level of detail. This is useful for identifying high- and low-pressure zones for example, and the effects on doors and windows. The model can also predict spread of gases released through an area, such as from chimneys, vehicles or accidental chemical releases.

Structural Heat Exposure

Heat exposure to building structural members can be vital when analyzing structural integrity and risk of collapse during and after a fire. The FDS model employs detailed heat transfer algorithms which can give the time history of temperatures of critical members, as well as detailed 3D maps of material surface temperatures for the whole structure. Temperature data can be input into a simple thermal calculation or exported to a full finite element model as input.


People Movement Modeling

The staff of CSE have experience using the Pathfinder software by Thunderhead Engineering to simulate human movement and building egress. The model gives a realistic real-time 3D view of any space and the movement of pedestrians through it, pinpointing congestion points, evaluating evacuation strategies, and aiding in optimizing of stair and exit usage. The model can be used for fire egress or any other application involving movement of large number of people as seen in transportation centers, sports arenas, lobby areas and many more.


Such detailed analysis may be critical in particularly complex scenarios, for example merging of multiple floors, phased egress, or accounting for occupant groups with different movement speeds such as wheelchairs, elderly or children. In large assembly spaces an analysis combining the results of the FDS smoke model with an occupant egress model can give an even more detailed prediction of the level of smoke and toxic products the occupants may be exposed to, where, and for how long. The effects of smoke on occupant movement speeds can also be accounted for. This allows for a holistic optimizing of the life safety design under a range of scenarios which would be unachievable using traditional methods.

If your sector could benefit from our expertise and you’d like to hire us for your next project, please get in touch.

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