Investigation of the Fire Performance of Double-skin Glass Facades

Project: Research

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Glass curtain walls are increasingly used in buildings for practical, aesthetic and economic reasons. An important development in facade design is the double-skin facade (DSF), used widely in shopping malls and office buildings to reduce acoustic impact and heat load while allowing natural daylight. However, the DSF system has the potential to become a death trap because smoke and other toxic gases can become confined within the cavity. Due to its brittle nature, glass expands and breaks easily at elevated temperatures, and this can escalate the severity of a fire outbreak. This is of particular interest in DSFs because a loss of facade integrity may provide a channel for fire to spread to other levels and adjacent buildings. In July 2017, four people were killed in a fire at the Marco Polo condominium building in Hawaii, including an occupant on the 32nd floor who died from smoke inhalation. Thirteen others were injured as the fire spread from floor to floor. In addition to the loss of life, properties worth more than US$100 million were damaged in the fire.The fire safety of DSF systems, which is not sufficiently covered by statutory building regulations, is a growing concern for regulatory authorities in Hong Kong, China and many developed countries. A better understanding of the mechanical performance of DSFs under fire would provide guidance to policymakers and address various safety and reliability concerns. The fundamental research target of the proposed project is to investigate the thermo-mechanical and fluid–structure interaction (FSI) performances of DSF systems exposed to fire, and to optimize the fire-resistant design of DSF systems. A new transient dynamic meshfree computational fluid dynamics model for fire-driven heat transfer with a realistic FSI component and glass fracture model will be developed.Experiments will be performed to investigate the thermal breakage of glass facades and the fallout behavior of DSFs during a fire. The strain and temperature distributions on glass panes, and the thermal radiative heat flux in the DSF cavity, will be measured and quantified. The meshfree simulation results will be compared and verified against data from the test series. Various parameters, including glass thickness and facade cavity, will be investigated. Furthermore, a multi-objective genetic algorithm optimization process will be implemented to find the optimal design of DSF systems to improve their fire safety and reliability. New recommendations and design guidelines for the fire safety of DSF systems will be proposed.


Project number9042644
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/198/03/23