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Numerical Simulation of Sprinkler Performance



Kevin B. McGrattan, Glenn P. Forney


Rapidly, changing building designs, uses, materials, contents, fire protection and the general intermix of industrial/commercial and residential occupancies has created a need to understand the potential hazards and losses from fires and performance of fire protection systems under conditions that may not be specifically addressed by historic fire testing and codes. In the absence of an accurate understanding of potential fire events, excessively conservative decisions are made, usually increasing costs and creating barriers to innovation. It is impractical and in many cases too hazardous to physically test fire scenarios of interest. The only practical means to provide the insight and performance assurance historically provided by physical testing for the performance of fire protection systems is to develop computational simulations capable of creating virtual large scale fire experiments. In cooperation with individual sprinkler manufacturers, the National Fire Sprinkler Association, Factory Mutual Research Corporation, and Underwriters Laboratories, an industrial fire simulation (IFS) system is being developed at NIST to generate predictions of fires in industrial facilities protected entirely or in part by automatic fire sprinklers. The IFS system consists of a large eddy simulation (LES) based fire model, with specified means to measure input data and deliver results. This technology will allow industry to gain valuable insight into the interaction of fire sprinklers with industrial storage fuel fires and other fire protection systems, such as roof vents and draft curtains. It will provide a new means to evaluate the facilities designs for cases that are not practical to test because of size, safety, or expense. This system will enable a movement from demonstrated performance by physical testing to reliable performance evaluation by engineering calculation.
Proceedings Title
Fire Protection Research Foundation
Conference Dates
February 24-26, 1999
Conference Location
Orlando, FL
Conference Title
Fire Suppression and Detection Research Application Symposium. Research and Practice: Bridging the Gap


fire suppression, fire detection, fire research, fire safety, fire protection, sprinklers, simulation, industrial buildings, numerical models, water, droplets, computational fluid dynamics


McGrattan, K. and Forney, G. (1999), Numerical Simulation of Sprinkler Performance, Fire Protection Research Foundation, Orlando, FL, [online], (Accessed July 16, 2024)


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Created February 24, 1999, Updated February 19, 2017