This project will produce the measurement science needed to enable the reduction of the contribution of residential upholstered furniture to the Nation’s fire problem. The effort will improve the quantitative understanding of the role of upholstered furniture in fire growth and spread in residences and the resulting losses, improve the understanding of smoldering, develop tests for and better understand the effectiveness of barrier fabrics, demonstrate an approach for predicting the maximum heat release rate of upholstered cushions using small scale component testing and identify the properties and appropriate small scale tests for a similar component analysis of upholstered furniture. These findings will provide the basis for development of a tool based on component analysis that will empower furniture manufacturers to design and manufacture units with quantifiable fire behavior improvements. These improvements will result in slower fire growth within a room of fire origin and significantly reduce the likelihood of flashover, which is associated with a majority of fire losses in residences.
 Here “furniture manufacturers” refers to the producer of finished furniture. It should be recognized that such a manufacturer is likely to be assembling materials received from a wide variety of suppliers and manufacturers.
Objective: By 2014, develop the measurement science to (1) allow prediction of peak heat release rate for a wide range of upholstered cushions based on the component properties of materials used in their construction (2) characterize fire losses due to flaming residential upholstered furniture, (3) maintain a standard for reducing ignition by cigarettes, and (4) develop a standard for the effectiveness of fire barrier materials.
What is the new technical idea? The burning behavior upholstered furniture (RUF) is widely recognized as a dominant factor in the ignition, spread, and growth of building fires, particularly residential fires which account for 80 % of fire deaths and property losses. The findings of a recent NIST Workshop confirmed the important role of flaming residential upholstered furniture (RUF) in fire losses and provided a path forward to quantify its contribution. Prior attempts at curbing the contribution of RUF have consisted of ignition reduction, primarily smoldering ignition. A prime example is the proposed Consumer Product Commission Standard for the Flammability of Upholstered Furniture (1634) and whole item fire tests. The former may have a positive effect when enacted, but will only address the minority of current fires ignited due to cigarettes, leaving a major fraction of existing fire losses unaddressed. Whole item fire tests of RUF, which are time consuming and costly, are impractical due to the wide range of styles and materials used along with rapid, fashion-driven changes in upholstery materials. Relatively few examples of a given RUF design are generally produced. The development of a technically sound furniture design tool based on characterized physical and combustion properties of the furniture components is required by furniture manufacturers to produce RUF with improved flammability behavior targets. Such a design tool will enable RUF manufacturers to identify the materials and configurations necessary to produce furniture with desired levels of fire performance. By designing furniture that is incapable of generating sufficient heat release rate (to be characterized as part of this project) to initiate flashover in a room, the likelihood of flashover, with its associated fire losses, in residences will be substantially reduced.
The new technical idea is to develop capabilities to address various aspects of the fire behavior of RUF and then combine these approaches to form the required tool. The validity of this approach will be demonstrated in this project by applying it to the fire behavior of upholstered cushions, an important subcomponent of RUF. An approach will be developed to predict the maximum heat release rate of upholstered seat cushions constructed from a wide range of materials characterized by carefully chosen small-scale laboratory tests. The project is in direct alignment with the strategic roadmap on innovative fire protection.
What is the research plan? The working hypothesis is that component analysis can be used as the basis for a design tool having sufficient fidelity to predict effects of design changes on fire spread and growth on RUF. This hypothesis is being tested by assessing the degree of correlation of small-scale component tests with the burning behavior of upholstered cushions. Upholstered cushions themselves are a component of RUF. They have been chosen for initial demonstration of the approach in order to limit the wide range of geometric and material effects expected for complete RUF. Cushions will be produced from a variety of commonly used padding materials, barrier fabrics, fiber fills, and fabrics chosen to span a wide range of flammability properties. Materials will be subjected to a variety of small scale tests designed to characterize their response to fire. Special emphasis is placed on the use of existing fire statistics to estimate fire losses attributable to flaming RUF in residential fires, to provide the measurement science necessary to continue development of standard tests for barrier fabrics effectiveness, and on smoldering ignition resistance of RUF mockups. The recent NIST workshop provided guidance on approaches for using existing National Fire Incidence Reporting System (NFIRS) data to estimate residential fires losses associated with flaming RUF. The on-going effort in this project is designed to develop new approaches for analyzing these statistics and quantifying uncertainty. Based on the Workshop recommendations, researchers at NFPA and the Fire Administration have indicated that they will develop new approaches for estimating residential fire losses associated with RUF fire behavior. The barrier fabric work is not only providing the measurement science required for the development of a standard test, but is also providing guidance for the appropriate small-scale tests to correlate with the cushion tests. The third focus area is designed to sustain and improve the standard for reduced ignition propensity cigarettes, which addresses the leading cause of direct ignition of RUF. It should be noted that a major conclusion of the recent workshop on flaming RUF is that even though ignition takes place from a smoldering source, the vast majority of losses occur following transition to flaming. This component of the effort will also improve the understanding of smoldering ignition of RUF, ensuring that provisions for reducing the RUF contributions to flaming fires do not inadvertently negate the achieved reductions in smoldering ignition. The role of RUF in the development of flashed over fires will be developed and applied to quantify the improvements to be expected by improving the burning behaviors of RUF through the development of the design tool. The principal outputs will be a robust estimate for the potential gains to be achieved and a demonstration of the ability of component analysis to predict cushion burning behavior. A critical analysis of other parameters that will need to be addressed during the development of the tool for RUF manufacturer use will also be performed.
 Fire Loss in the United States During 2009, by Michael J. Karter, Jr., NFPA, Quincy, MA, 02169.
 W. M. Pitts, Quantifying the Contribution of Flaming Residential Upholstered Furniture to Fire Losses in the United States, NIST Technical Note, to appear.
 J. R. Hall, Jr., The Smoking Material Fire Problem, National Fire Protection Association, September, 2010.
 NIST Special Publication 1130, Reduced Risk of Fire in Buildings and Communities: A Strategic Roadmap to Prioritize and Guide Research, April 2012.
Standards and Codes:
Output: Drafted a presentation on the alternate substrate results on cigarette testing for ASTM Subcommittee E 5.15, Contents and Furnishings, presented at the June 2012 meeting.
Impact: NFPA analysis indicates that the standard for less fire-prone cigarettes is effective and will likely reach a 30 % reduction (250 lives) in fire deaths.
Impact: The U.S. mattress standard (16 CFR 1633) has been published as an ISO standard (ISO 12949) with Dick Gann as the Project Leader.
Anticipated Outcome: A furniture flammability draft standard will be submitted to the ISO and ASTM committees mentioned above. Dick Gann is the representative in ISO and Matt Bundy is the representative in ASTM (2014).
Anticipated Outcome: A draft standard test for fire barrier effectiveness will be completed working with ASTM E-5.15 (2014).
Barrier fabric test - No flame penetration through barrier fabric after 6 min. Photo credit: NIST
Start Date:October 1, 2011
Lead Organizational Unit:el
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