NRC Fire Research Facilities

Volume 17, Number 4, December 2012

This is a special issue of Construction Innovation, highlighting the fire research facilities and projects of NRC Construction. The research projects are reported in a series of articles in this issue. An outline of the Fire Research facilities is included below.

Burn hall, smoke tower complex and tunnel facility

The National Research Council houses world-class facilities for construction research. Among them are small-, medium-, and full-scale fire research facilities designed to help industry advance technologies for improving the fire safety of buildings and transportation systems, enhance fire detection and suppression systems, and reduce the risks and costs of fire in Canada.

Burn hall, smoke tower complex and tunnel facility

At the forefront is a large burn hall/smoke tower complex on the outskirts of Ottawa. Fire scenarios of all types have been conducted at the burn hall including research on fire detection, fire suppression and smoke management systems, as well as fire performance of building materials and systems.

The three-storey test facility built inside the burn hall can accommodate full-scale fire tests on exterior wall assemblies. These tests determine the suitability of various non-load bearing wall cladding systems to satisfy requirements of the National Building Code of Canada.

The NRC’s 10-storey highrise is fully instrumented and has complete pressurization and exhaust capabilities. The full-sized stair, elevator and service shafts allow for realistic evaluations of smoke movement and control.

The NRC Burn Hall has two large collector hoods for the collection and analysis of products of combustion. These systems are capable of measuring heat releases from 200 to 10,000 kilowatts.

Operated in partnership with Carleton University, the new tunnel facility is the most sophisticated of its kind in the world. A fully instrumented space measuring 10 m wide, 5.5 m high and 37 m long, it is used for conducting tests simulating fires in roadway and mass-transit tunnels. The tunnel facility can accommodate a full-size rail or subway car.

The combined NRC facilities use a comprehensive sensor array to collect full data sets in real time. This eliminates the need for extrapolating or modelling experimental data, and enables research into fire types and spread, fire suppression, smoke management and all other aspects of large-scale fires.

Test furnaces

Floor test furnace during a test

The column test furnace is capable of performing tests in accordance with most international fire test standards, as well as non-standard tests for determining performance against other specific fire scenarios. It was designed to produce the same conditions expected during a conventional or hydrocarbon fire exposure, such as fire temperatures, structural loads and heat transfer.

Built along with a floor furnace, the wall test furnace can perform both standard and non-standard tests, either loaded or unloaded. The furnace can accommodate a specimen size up to 3.66 m wide by 3.05 m high. Propane gas burners are arranged in eight rows of ten burners each. The total capacity is 3,525 kilowatts.

The most recent addition to the Fire Research facilities, the intermediate-scale furnace, has proven to be a versatile development tool for clients. Configurable in either wall- or floor-testing mode, this furnace is capable of testing loaded or unloaded specimens in either mode up to a size of 1.35 m x 1.98 m. The furnace is equipped with four propane burners, each with a maximum capacity of 73 kW for a total of 292 kW. The furnace is commissioned to conduct experiments under extreme fire exposure.

For more information

NRC Construction facilities are available to the construction industry on a fee-for-service basis. For more information, contact Dino Zuppa at or 613-998-9204.