Date of Award


Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Engineering


Civil, Structural & Environmental Engineering

First Advisor

Andrew Macilwraith


As materials are seen to be a distinct source of fire and to avoid the destructive effects of fire to people and the environment, there is certainly a need for an assessment of building materials, internal finishes and contents to be conducted in a fire engineering context. This report examines the effect of these materials on the structural environment with a view of ultimately determining compartmental fire loads.

Research has shown that there is a significant lack of information available in regards to the calorific values of materials, and in particular building materials. In addition, material calorific values and generic fire load data which have previously been published in literature and are currently being used in modern fire design principles have been determined over forty years ago. Ultimately, this questions their relevance and accuracy in the modern engineering world with ever changing materials and compositions.

Over the course of this thesis, in excess of 900 individual tests were performed using bomb calorimetry on over 170 representative materials ranging from woods, carpets, ceiling tiles, furniture laminates, marmoleum samples, structural materials, tiles, wall linings and insulations, upholstery foams and fabrics, wallpapers, window blinds, wiring and other miscellaneous items such as printed circuit boards and paper based building contents.

Based on this work, fire load surveys were performed and subsequent fire load densities were determined for a range of compartments found at the Cork Institute of Technology which included canteens, classrooms with fixed and movable seating arrangements, computer rooms, corridors, exam halls, libraries, administration offices and lecturer offices. These results were then compared with those which have been previously published in codes, standards and other fire engineering design guidance sources. To conclude, these results were then tabulated as suggested recommended fire load densities for future use in fire design principles.

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