The overall aim of fire engineering research in the Department of Building Services Engineering, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, is to develop a scientific understanding of building fires and to establish an adequate theoretical basis for fire protection engineering for Hong Kong and the Mainland China. This includes the physical and chemical processes of material decomposition, fire ignition, flame properties, thermal radiation, fire spread mechanisms, smoke production and spreading mechanisms. With sound basic principles, the total fire safety concept can be implemented by working out appropriate hardware design on active fire control systems and passive construction elements; and software fire safety management.
Research effort was directed on the mathematical modelling of fire for over 20 years. Detailed combustion chemistry is studied for upgrading the model to the post-flashover stage. Fire chemistry in burning poly(methyl methacrylate), poly(vinyl chloride) and polyurethane were studied. The development of a new fire model is in progress with combustion, turbulence and radiation. Different fire zone models were evaluated.
Another focused area is on fire suppression system. Sprinkler for new architectural features such as coverage of perimeter zone in an atrium is studied. Effort was made on studying long-throw sprinkler installed at height. New technology of water mist system was studied. Adverse effects of steam production and combustion enhancement were investigated. Bench-scale tests with a cone calorimeter and full-scale burning tests were carried out to study extinguishment chemistry with advanced chemical measuring technique. New areas on Video Detection System, and total flooding gas protection system with clean agent were also investigated. Effect of thermal radiation on extinguishing concentration of heptafluoropropane, suppression chemistry and fire retardants were studied.
Advanced topics in fire include studying atrium fires and performance-based design. There is a strong demand to have comprehensive fire regulations for atria, since many new big atria are being built in the local region. Results on fire research had been applied for advising the government Buildings Department in approving fire safety designs with the Fire Engineering Approach similar to Engineering Performance-Based Fire Code through their Fire Safety Committee since 1998. That was advised by Professor Chow from 1998 to 2004, and by Dr. Fong since 2004.
Other active projects are on hotel fires, industrial fires, improved fire safety in old high-rise buildings, evaluation of fire services systems, risk analysis of the new airport terminal buildings, bus and train vehicle fires and shopping mall fires. Professor Chow was involved in monitoring the development of new generation of fire safety codes; and implementation of performance-based design in SAR and Mainland.
SKLFS has cooperated with Department of Building Services Engineering, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University for over 15 years, mainly in building fire research. Prof. CHOW WAN-KI holds the visiting professor of University of Science and Technology of China (USTC). Professor Chow is the Chair Professor of Architectural Science and Fire Engineering, appointed as the Head of Department, Department of Building Services Engineering of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He graduated from the University of Hong Kong with a first class honours BSc degree in 1977; and from Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, U.S.A. with a MSc degree in teaching in 1979. He obtained his PhD degree in Computing Physics from the University of Hong Kong in 1983. Professor Chow joined the Department of Building and Surveying/Building Services Engineering, of the then Hong Kong Polytechnic in 1981, as an assistant lecturer.