Te Papa Museum Investigation at FEMTC 2016

Posted: August 31st, 2016 in News

The Fire and Evacuation Technical Modeling Conference (FEMTC) is fast approaching, and several abstracts have been selected. Kevin Weller, a Fire Engineer at Beca, is joining many others in more than two days worth of technical presentations. Kevin will be presenting the challenges and discoveries of investigating the safety of a twenty year old museum.

Te Papa Museum is a landmark building and the national museum of New Zealand. Designed and built in the 1990’s, the building has numerous atria connecting six floors and nearly four hectares of museum exhibitions, function centres and collections stores.

Designed at a time when fire zone models, ball-bearing evacuation models and safety factors were on the forefront of fire engineering design, this building stretched the boundaries of performance based fire engineering. The result was a heavily engineered approach to fire safety with a complex array of fire safety systems.

Twenty years on, things have changed significantly in the field of fire engineering. CFD modelling, agent-based evacuation simulations and vastly improved computational performance offer the opportunity to carry out fire engineering to a level not previously possible.

Te Papa Museum in New Zealand
The Te Papa Museum in New Zealand

With a major upgrade planned, Beca were asked by Te Papa to retrospectively interrogate the building’s design. While primarily aimed at investigating the life safety of the building, protection of the invaluable artwork and historic treasures was also a key consideration.

This paper outlines the investigation and fire assessment that was undertaken and aims to answer a number of key questions related to this, such as:
– How does the design with the old tools compare to the new?
– What benefits do the new tools actually offer?
– How does this twenty year old design stack up to modern regulatory requirements?
– Do we really have a better understanding of the risks and impacts of fire and smoke in the building with these new tools, or do they just add complication?

FEMTC 2016 will begin on November 16 in Málaga, Spain. For more information, visit the conference page.