Paving The Way Through Scientific Research

By bringing together the scientific and fire protection communities, FM Global's International Codes and Standards (IC&S) group has been able to spearhead changes in fire codes around the world.

In China, IC&S is building on FM Global's long and beneficial partnership with the Tianjin Fire Research Institute (TFRI). FM Global and TFRI have been working together to understand the science behind fire and fire protection for more than 30 years.

The partnership began soon after the U.S. and China established full diplomatic relations in 1979, through the efforts of Dr. Cheng Yao, FM Global's research division manager at the time, who opened a dialogue with China's four fire research institutes. The relationships with all four have grown ever since, including a particularly strong connection with Tianjin.

"My colleagues have a very long and successful relationship with FM Global," explains Bingjie Yang, researcher with the TFRI Fire Code Department. "FM Global has provided a great deal of technical support for our fire testing research and has shared a lot of information which has helped us as we revise our codes and standards."

Established in 1965, TFRI is one of the leading fire science research institutes in the world. Its work includes fire theory research; fire-cause analysis and determination; research on fire protection and prevention technology; fire engineering technology; and fire code standardization. It is also home to the national quality inspection center which conducts product testing on fixed firefighting systems and fire-resistant building components.

Tianjin Building

Over the years, FM Global and TFRI have worked closely, partnering on research projects and sharing results. FM Global has shared its technical knowledge on testing equipment and building test facilities and has hosted scientists from TFRI at the Center for Property Risk Solutions in Norwood, Massachusetts, USA. On its end, the TFRI quality inspection center now does product testing for FM Approvals on building materials and fire protection systems used by FM Global clients in China.

"Today we work more in cooperation on projects," says Xin Liu, Ph.D. a researcher at the TFRI Fire Testing Department for the last 10 years. "When we started large-scale fire testing, FM Global shared its knowledge and experience for setting up the testing lab and for conducting large-scale tests."

Liu even spent a year in the United States as a visiting scholar. She worked with FM Global engineers and scientists at the company's research center in Massachusetts and at its Research Campus in Rhode Island.

FM Global recently worked with TFRI to demonstrate the value of sprinklers in warehouses in specific classes. FM Global's own research has long shown that facilities that store what are considered hard-to-combust or non-combustible materials (Class D and E facilities in China) can, and do, experience catastrophic fire losses.

"The belief in China is that Class D and E warehouses don't contain combustible materials, so there is no fire hazard," explains Rachel Yin, Ph.D., FM Global codes and standards senior consultant. "But they do have packing materials, cartons, wood pallets and other materials that pose a significant fire hazard."

FM Global and TFRI started the discussion of the fire hazard in Class D and E warehouses in 2014. TFRI wanted to do its own research on sprinklers in these facilities. With the help of FM Global, the research institute conducted 13 full-scale fire tests and surveyed 18 Class D and E warehouses. The fire tests showed the significant risk of fire, and 17 of the 18 warehouses surveyed were in need of sprinkler protection.


“Our standards are closely aligned with those in the fire codes in china, which can only help our clients.”
Bert Yu, Ph.D., FM Global staff vice president and principal research scientist


"When they started doing the tests they expected the fires to be very small," Yin explains, "but the tests show that they were in fact very large and the growth rate far exceeded their expectations."
The research concluded that automatic fire sprinkler protection is required for most of the warehouses that are considered to have lower levels of combustible loading. The research project was recognized as of great significance for improving the fire safety of warehouses in China at the expert panel review with many highly respected Chinese fire safety experts in 2018.

FM Global is working proactively with TFRI to propose revision to the Chinese Building Fire Code to incorporate the research findings, when the restructured government fire service system comes into shape in 2019.
The new requirements will be similar to FM Global's recommendations, which will increase protection against catastrophic loss for FM Global clients in China. It is just one example of the partnership providing value for clients and improving loss prevention efforts.

"By working closely with the Chinese fire institutes, we are able to share our research and our standards," says Bert Yu, Ph.D., FM Global staff vice president and principal research scientist. "As a result, our standards are closely aligned with those in the fire codes in China, which can only help our clients."