Modeling and Sub-scale Experiments of Building Fire Smoke Management

Student: Guanchao (Jeremy) Zhao, PhD Candidate

Sponsor: Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Discovery Grants; Concordia OVPPGS SEED Individual Funding Program


  • Wang, L. and Guanchao Zhao. 2013. Numerical study on smoke movement driven by pure helium in atria. Fire Safety Journal 61(0): 45-53. (IF: 1.22)
  • Wang, L., W. Z. Black and Guanchao Zhao. 2013. Comparison of simulation programs for airflow and smoke movement during high-rise fires. ASHRAE Transactions (Technical Paper), Vol. 119, Part 2, DE-13-014, Pages 12.


  • A high-rise building is defined as a building with the height more than 23 m (roughly 7 stories)
  • Fires in high-rise buildings are often disastrous and cause huge amount of losses.
  • Driven by stack effect, fire smoke may spread to the higher levels easily via the vertical shafts, e.g. stairs, elevators, light wells, ventilation ducts.
  • It was reported that smoke spread through shafts accounts for about 95% or more of the upward movement of smoke in high-rise buildings

Research Highlights:

1. A new method of using pure helium as a surrogate of fire smoke

  • The helium smoke test provides an alternative to the hot smoke test, which is often of safety concerns because it uses actual fires in the commissioning test of a smoke control system.
  • The new method spawns of a few safe applications of using helium to simulate flammable and/or poisonous gases for lab and field tests.

Jeremy Test

2. A new numerical model for high-rise smoke controls - COSMO (collaborated with Dr. William Black at Georgia Tech, US)

  • A computer model, COSMO (COntrol of SMOke in high-rise buildings), is also being collaboratively developed with Dr. William Black at Georgia Tech. 
  • The foundation of COSMO is based on a formulation of the three conservation equations; conservation of mass, energy and momentum. 
  • We compared CONTAM (developed by the US NIST) and COSMO. 
  • Overall, there is a reasonable comparison between the two computer predictions; however, large errors can result if the models employ unrealistic temperature distributions throughout the building structure.