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Structural Collapse Research at NIST



D W. Stroup, Nelson P. Bryner


Approximately 20 % of fire fighters killed at structure fires over the past ten years have been as a result of structural collapse. Predicting a structural collapse is one of the most challenging tasks facing an incident commander at a fire scene. Usually, the lack of information on the building construction, fire size, fire location, fire burn time, building condition, and other factors makes the task nearly impossible. Over the last several years, the National Institute of Standards and Technology with funding from the United States Fire Administration has been examining potential tools and techniques for predicting structural collapse. During the course of this research project, the effects of thermal exposure and weight loading on various building construction types and materials has been studied. In addition, data on firefighter fatalities due to structural collapse was analyzed using various factors. The use of thermal imaging equipment to gather temperature data from roof surfaces and use of that data to provide warning of impending localized structural collapse was an initial focus of the work. The research results showed that there were many ways in which fire and fire fighting activities could change surface temperatures significantly and reduce the usefulness of that measurement as a means of determining the safety of structures. Other techniques that have been studied include laser range finding, motion sensing, and acoustic monitoring. Acceleration data obtained from buildings has shown the best potential for providing information concerning building stability and collapse. Additional research is underway to continue development of the building monitoring system and examine specific construction types and scenarios of concern to fire fighters.
Proceedings Title
Proceedings of the Interflam Conference | 2007 | Interscience Communications |
Conference Dates
September 3-5, 2007
Conference Location
Conference Title


building collaspe, building fires, fire data, fire fighting, large scale fire tests, structural failure, temperature measurements


Stroup, D. and Bryner, N. (2007), Structural Collapse Research at NIST, Proceedings of the Interflam Conference | 2007 | Interscience Communications |, London, -1, [online], (Accessed March 3, 2024)
Created January 1, 2007, Updated February 19, 2017