It is known that many high-rise building fires spread from floor to floor due to weaknesses, which exist in the external glazing facade. Fire is an unpredictable phenomenon, the presence of the ignition source, fuel and adequate oxygen are all equally important to sustain combustion. In a compartment fire were oxygen may be scarce, the ability of a fire to generate cracks in external glazing systems due to increased thermal stresses can result in an increased level of oxygen availability, which in turn has a major effect on the heat release rate of the fire. This scenario was studied previously by Pagni.

Research by Shields also predicted that an island must be created in the glazing panel prior to the vent scenario. A large amount of experimental and numerical research has been conducted in relation to temperature and stress distribution in glass. Pagni predicted that a temperature difference of 58°C across a glazing panel would lead to the initiation of cracks. Keski-Rahkonen predicted that a temperature difference of approximately 80°C, across the glazing was required for the initiation of cracking. This difference in first crack temperature was due to variable assumptions being made by both researchers as to glazing properties at elevated temperatures.

The majority of the research previously conducted was using conventional single or double-glazing samples, set up in the vertical plane to replicate the predominant vertical facade scenarios of the time.  Aside from some work conducted by Quinn and Nadjai, no comprehensive studies have been undertaken to address the performance of unprotected and protected triple glazing system during fire.

The subject of this project consists of an experimental research to assess the performance of vertical and inclined triple and double-glazing system under localised fires and furnace fire resistance. The project has enormous potential in terms of economic and social benefits, it has been estimated that over €3.6bn/year (conservative estimate) could be saved if more effective fire-prevention measures were adopted for residential buildings across UK & Europe and residents of tower blocks can feel secure in their homes, in the aftermath of the Grenfell tragedy. FireSERT has state of the art research facilities which are virtually unique within a university setting. These include a 600m2 burn hall, which houses a range of calorimeters including a ten-megawatt facility for full-scale research. Large-scale combination wall and floor furnaces together wit intermediate/small scale furnaces facilitate experimental research and product development.

Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement


This project is funded by: Efectis UK/Ireland

The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the home rate and, for applicants with UK residence only, a maintenance allowance of not less than £15,480 per annum for three years. EU residents may also apply but if successful will receive fees only.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University