Fire safety engineering and methods of fire protection are areas of the building industry that are becoming increasingly important in today’s society. When properly installed and maintained, fire protection not only saves lives, but also prevent considerable damage to the structural integrity of the building. Active fire protection is an integral part of building design and construction, and fire sprinkler systems are an example of an active fire protection system that must be installed to a certain standard, dependant on the type of construction. Due to the high probability that a sprinkler system will extinguish or control a fire before flashover, they are widely acclaimed to be the best method of fire protection.
There are many different variables to consider when designing a structure to be fire safe. Correct design and installation of a sprinkler system is one, and there are many different options that can ensure the system is suitable for a given application. The level of cooling of a sprinkler system on steel depends on many different factors, including volume of water, area of coverage, and spray pattern. This paper outlines the process used to determine those that have the greatest effect, and what the optimal sprinkler head is for use in cooling a steel structure in a fire situation, through measuring temperatures of several points along a steel column during a simulated fire. Testing involved heating steel columns using a methylated spirits pool fire with an average heat release of 110kW in a 3mx3mx3m room of light timber frame construction. A single sprinkler resulted in overall cooling of the room without extinguishing the fire, varying the type of head tested. Results have shown that of all the sprinklers tested, one head in particular – model VK448 sidewall mounted – provided significantly improved cooling effects when compared to other tested heads.