Fire safety aspects of refuge floors in supertall buildings with Computational Fluid Dynamics

Cheuk Lun Chow, Wan Ki Chow

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


High-rise buildings in many big cities in the Far East, including Hong Kong, call for refuge floors as a matter of both practicality and compliance with regulations. Even though many countries fire codes are not clear in spelling out the necessity for refuge floors, it is accepted within construction that such floors are essential in resisting fire, allowing users a means of escape and allowing emergency services a means of access to stricken buildings. This paper discusses the reasons behind providing refuge floors, while also considering related fire safety provisions, such as their enclosure behind fire-resistant construction or the protection of their openings behind a water curtain. Our discussion takes a tall building with balconies as a test example of refuge floors, running a hazard assessment based on Computational Fluid Dynamics assuming a fire of the broadly accepted level of 2 MW. The paper concludes that the design of the buildings façade finally determines whether or not a refuge floor and associated fire safety provisions, such as a water curtain, can be waived. As the flat modelled used to store a high amount of combustibles up to 1135 MJm-2, the breaking of large area of glass window could lead to a major conflagration. The consequences of a scenario with a fire of 25 MW are also discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-236
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Civil Engineering and Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2009


  • Evacuation
  • Fire safety provisions
  • Refuge floor
  • Supertall buildings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Strategy and Management


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