Study probes effects of fire, smoke

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 March, 2008, 12:00am

Hong Kong can boast a number of unique attributes, but one of the least known is the high concentration of mixed-use commercial and residential properties.

This has led Richard Yuen Kwok-kit, an academic with a leading Hong Kong university and member of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE) Fire Disciplinary Advisory Panel, to carry out research on the dynamics of fire and smoke effects focusing on conditions created by Hong Kong's distinct environment.

He said the objective of his research was to assess and demonstrate that, in the event of a fire, the health and safety of people in and around the building would not be at risk.

Dr Yuen said Hong Kong had good fire engineering infrastructure, academic training and practical application, but needed to focus more on the science aspects of fire engineering. He said better research could be achieved with direct funding from the government instead of general funding.

'With direct funding we could carry out more in-depth research on the prevention and impact of fire on our dense population living in high-rise buildings, and the many new architectural designs we have,' he said.

Right now, a large proportion of research is conducted with other overseas institutions and research facilities in the mainland.

Candy Ng Min-yee, executive engineer at J. Roger Preston, said: 'Compartmentation and provision of protected corridors and stairways in buildings are the fundamental concept in the fire safety provisions embodied in regulations.' As a fire engineer, Ms Ng is responsible for preparing fire safety master plans for her company.

These objectives are achieved through incorporating fire resistant barriers such as walls and floors within a building.

'We need to conduct more studies on aspects such as how people react to fire under different conditions and how fast people move when they are vacating a building during a fire,' said Ms Ng, who is a graduate member of the HKIE and specialised in egress analysis, and computer modelling in PhD research studies.

'More research should be carried out in Hong Kong to obtain a local database of the safe evacuation time for residential and commercial buildings with different building configurations,' she said.