The Building and Fire Research Laboratory (BFRL) has as its mission to “meet the measurement and standards needs of the building and fire safety communities.” It accomplishes this through its vision of being “the source of critical tools—metrics, models, and knowledge—used to modernize the building and fire safety communities. [BFRL] programs are identified, developed, carried out, the results implemented, and consequences measured in partnership with key customer organizations” (BFRL, 2003).
The BFRL carries out its mission and vision by organizing its efforts in order to meet major goals. The four current major goals of BFRL are in the following areas:
High-performance construction materials and systems,
Enhanced building performance,
Fire loss reduction, and
The laboratory staff is organized in three divisions, as shown in Appendix A:
Materials and Construction Research Division (MCRD),
Building Environment Division (BED), and
Fire Research Division (FRD).
In addition, BFRL includes an Office of Applied Economics (OAE) and a codes and standards activity, which were also reviewed.
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Years 2004 – 2005 2 Building and Fire Research Laboratory INTRODUCTION The Building and Fire Research Laboratory (BFRL) has as its mission to “meet the measurement and standards needs of the building and fire safety communities.” It accomplishes this through its vision of being “the source of critical tools—metrics, models, and knowledge—used to modernize the building and fire safety communities. [BFRL] programs are identified, developed, carried out, the results implemented, and consequences measured in partnership with key customer organizations” (BFRL, 2003). The BFRL carries out its mission and vision by organizing its efforts in order to meet major goals. The four current major goals of BFRL are in the following areas: High-performance construction materials and systems, Enhanced building performance, Fire loss reduction, and Homeland security. The laboratory staff is organized in three divisions, as shown in Appendix A: Materials and Construction Research Division (MCRD), Building Environment Division (BED), and Fire Research Division (FRD). In addition, BFRL includes an Office of Applied Economics (OAE) and a codes and standards activity, which were also reviewed. Appendix A also presents the staffing trends for the laboratory (see Figure A.2).
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Years 2004 – 2005 MAJOR OBSERVATIONS In the past 2 years, BFRL has had an outstanding record of service to the country. These recent examples of excellent service build on a long-standing history of service to the country by this laboratory. The quality and effectiveness of the laboratory have been successfully called upon on several occasions. Based on this performance, new opportunities have been created for the future. Some of the major new initiatives of the laboratory in FY 2004-2005 were as follows: Responsibility for carrying out the provisions of the National Construction Safety Team Act of 2002 (NCSTA) was assigned by Congress to NIST, with BFRL as the lead laboratory. Under NCSTA, BFRL undertook a massive effort aimed at fully investigating the collapse of the World Trade Center’s (WTC’s) Twin Towers. It is noted that a separate advisory panel exists for this study. Also under NCSTA, BFRL investigated the Rhode Island nightclub fire that occurred in 2003. NIST was designated as lead agency for the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program upon congressional reauthorization of the program. Owing to a lack of designated funding, BFRL has yet to fully address the personnel and resource implications of this important national priority, or to develop a comprehensive working plan for this role. The BFRL has been given the leadership role for the Senior Executive Interagency Blast Mitigation Committee (IBMC). In the area of chemical and biological contamination of buildings, BFRL has taken the lead through its CONTAM computer program (for analysis of multizone, indoor air quality and ventilation) in evaluating the effectiveness of enhanced filtration and of “Shelter-in-Place,” identifying building-specific strategies for chemical, biological, and radiation (CBR) protection. CONTAM is now embedded in the Building Protection Toolkit of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The BFRL was very active during the past 2 years, to a large extent because of the extra burdens of major research for the country on the WTC investigations and the application of new and developed procedures for the determination of contaminant spread in buildings. The WTC activities, along with the investigation of the fire at The Station nightclub in Rhode Island, represent the first two official investigations carried out under NCSTA. The excellent manner in which these investigations were carried out is a highlight of this period for BFRL and an example of the ability of this laboratory to marshal expertise, both from in-house and from outside consultants, and to manage such investigations in a fully professional manner. Despite a lack of funding for NCSTA and limited funds for the WTC investigation, BFRL conducted these investigations in a comprehensive and exemplary fashion. During both years of this review, the panel was informed by NIST staff that these obligations had had a serious impact on the other ongoing activities within BFRL, and that there was uncertainty as to how best to prepare for such services to the country in the future without adequate funding. The quality of the work throughout BFRL is high. As documented in reports provided by the groups within BFRL, the work is published in the top journals in each area and presented at the leading conferences. The researchers are well aware of related work in university and government laboratories and are collaborating with key researchers in the related areas. Following are selected highlights of BFRL activity over the past 2 years: The NIST patented weathering device, Simulated Photodegradation by High Energy Radiant Exposure (the SPHERE), has been used in the Service Life Prediction program of the Polymeric
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Years 2004 – 2005 Materials Group (in the Materials and Construction Research Division) to put laboratory studies on weathering exposure on a sound scientific basis. The Building Environment Division (BED) has continued its success in developing and promoting the Building Automation and Control Network (BACnet) standard for building automation system communications. This is an excellent example of how BED can work in an industry and move it forward. Much of the research in the Fire Research Division is at the state of the art, comparable in quality to that performed at peer institutions in Canada, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Japan. In the areas of computational fluid dynamics models for fire research, information systems (library and Web resources), and metrology, NIST is outstanding. The airflow modeling algorithms that BED has developed are being implemented in one of the most commonly used building simulation tools. They are also being successfully applied to real-world problems such as building security against CBR threats. The Office of Applied Economics is the only organization in the United States focusing on the economic analysis of issues and approaches associated with built facilities to combine both theory and tool development, such as a state-of-the-art multi-attribute model for the economic assessment of fire risk-mitigation strategies. There is new success at improving the process for integrating more of the work of BFRL into building codes and standards. The BRFL has organized an in-house committee of key BFRL personnel who recommend how BFRL can best disseminate its work so that it reaches the proper code or standards organizations. Recent examples of BFRL involvement in codes and standards include the proposals derived from the World Trade Center investigation and the proposals for code changes pertaining to the use of elevators as a means of escape during an emergency condition. In carrying out its mission, BFRL attempts to maintain a balance between its long-term, more fundamentally driven work and its responsiveness to immediate needs. With the increased prominence of its role in national security and the safety of the built environment, the lack of enhanced funding has put a severe strain on many of its more fundamental areas of research. Both personnel and resources have had to be diverted to meet the country’s expectations, and there is concern about maintaining state-of-the-art expertise in the long term as well as training for new investigations. Because of the breadth of activities in BFRL, the following discussion of technical quality and merit, relevance, effectiveness, and resources is often tied to specific comments with respect to the three divisions listed above, as well as to the Office of Applied Economics and the activities related to codes and standards. TECHNICAL QUALITY AND MERIT The quality of all of the BFRL divisions is high. The rest of this section focuses on these divisions individually. There is not another facility like the MCRD Construction Metrology and Automation Group’s laser radar (LADAR) calibration facility for the construction industry. The division’s Inorganic Materials Group is very well known internationally for its work on modeling of the properties of concrete, most of which is incorporated in the Virtual Cement and Concrete Testing Laboratory (VCCTL) program. In the United States, this is the premier group in concrete research, and it is one of the best in the world. The technical quality of the MCRD’s Polymeric Materials Group is at a very high level relative to industrial and academic laboratories working on coatings and sealants. The enthusiasm and energy of
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Years 2004 – 2005 the staff and their high level of commitment merit special praise. The development of a unique facility for laboratory weathering studies (the SPHERE) is an outstanding effort, not equaled anywhere else. The MCRD Structures Group has highly qualified researchers and technical staff. In particular, the leadership on the WTC investigations is impressive and provides visibility well beyond the Structures Group for BFRL and NIST. In their supervisory role on the WTC investigations, BFRL researchers have significant interaction with the external research community and cutting-edge research and development (R&D) efforts. The excellent leadership by the Structures Group in the WTC investigations has provided a good start for a multihazard systems approach to structural design and has demonstrated good collaboration across BFRL. The WTC work was conducted with state-of-the-art tools and approaches; it goes far beyond any previous studies to combine structural response, impact loads, and fire loading. The real challenge will be to translate lessons learned to the broader challenges of performance-based design for multihazard loadings. Another BFRL division, the Building Environment Division, has continued to produce high-quality and relevant work. BED has continued its success in developing and promoting the BACnet standard for building automation system communications, providing an excellent example of how BED can work in an industry and move it forward. The technical quality of BED work in computer-integrated building processes is at the leading edge in this field. Through continual participation in key national and international building industry organizations—including Fully Integrated and Automated Technology (FIATECH); the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE); the American Institute of Steel Construction; the International Alliance for Interoperability; and the International Organization for Standardization—the BED maintains a broad knowledge of and strong links with work being done by others in the field. BED staff manage the FIATECH Automating Equipment information eXchange (AEX) project. The AEX project is developing standards for data exchange between software tools used by the capital facilities industry. Such standards have the potential to greatly improve efficiency and quality in the facility design, construction, and operations life cycle. BED’s Computer-Integrated Building Processes Group is finally beginning to deliver products through the FIATECH AEX project, which is increasing the visibility of and industry participation in information-exchange protocols. The guarded hotplate has been the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard test method for measuring heat-transfer properties of materials. The High-Temperature Guarded Hotplate now under fabrication at NIST will extend the range of temperatures under which Standard Reference Materials can be tested. The High-Temperature Guarded Hotplate, under development for a number of years, is nearing completion. It is expected that the investment in technology and instrumentation will be bringing usable research applications very soon. The airflow modeling algorithms that BED has developed are being implemented in one of the most commonly used building simulation tools. They are also being successfully applied to real-world problems such as building security against CBR threats. BED testing of residential fuel cells is also innovative, and the technical level of this project is very high. The resulting data provide a wealth of quantitative information that is not available in the open literature. A paper describing the results is being prepared for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Journal of Fuel Cell Science and Technology. The BED, a recognized leader in this field, has produced a large number of technical publications. BED personnel are extensively involved in the relevant professional societies (ASHRAE and ASTM) and federal government committees (in the Department of Homeland Security and Environmental Protection Agency) dealing with the issue of CBR protection. The Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration (HVAC/R) Group has brought much
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Years 2004 – 2005 of its research to closure in recent years. Further evidence of high technical quality is given by the publications in the area of HVAC/R equipment performance—especially the 14 papers from this four-person group in 2004. One of the researchers was awarded the 2004 NIST Best Communication Award for a paper, and a paper by another researcher is being translated for publication by several foreign countries. BED programs demonstrate a balance between addressing immediate needs of customers and carrying out longer-term research. Much of the research in the Fire Research Division is at the state of the art, comparable in quality to that performed at peer institutions in Canada, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Japan. In the areas of CFD models, information systems (library and Web resources), and metrology, NIST is outstanding. In most projects the work is complementary to or builds on the state of the art. The Large Fire Laboratory facilities are very impressive. The FRD has developed the facilities and expertise to respond effectively to many of the fire disasters and issues that compromise fire safety in order to increase personal and national safety and security. In a few areas, FRD is engaged in capability building to reach the level that exists elsewhere. In these cases there needs to be special attention paid to making full use of knowledge and capabilities developed elsewhere. The WTC investigation and, to a lesser extent, the investigation of the nightclub fire at The Station in West Warwick, Rhode Island, have energized FRD. The enthusiasm of those reporting to the panel on their research was palpable, and the excitement of seeing FRD’s contributions receive recognition within NIST and nationally has stimulated all members of the division. The response to the WTC event has helped strengthen the integration of efforts within the division and also has also strengthened ties between FRD and the other divisions within BFRL. An impressive product of this collaboration is the coupling of the Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS) with heat-transfer and structural codes and the verification of the predictions of the coupled FDS and heat-transfer models in tests conducted at the Large Fire Laboratory. The Office of Applied Economics, a distinct office with a dedicated staff within BFRL, provides economic products and services through research and consulting to industry and government agencies in support of productivity enhancement, economic growth, and international competitiveness, with a focus on improving the life-cycle quality and economy of constructed facilities. The focus of OAE’s research and technical assistance is microeconomic analysis. The OAE provides information to decision makers in the public and private sectors who are faced with choices among new technologies and policies relating to manufacturing, industrial processes, the environment, energy conservation, construction, facility maintenance, law enforcement, and safety. It also develops and conducts prototype training programs in applied economics for scientists and engineers. The Office of Applied Economics continues to display very high technical quality of research. The OAE is involved in the application and development of state-of-the-art technologies, particularly for implementation and dissemination. New theoretical approaches are being developed. The integration of BFRL efforts in the areas involving codes and standards into the activities of its divisions has demonstrated significant advancements from past years. The Board is very encouraged by and pleased with the work being carried out under the new director—the codes and standards work is considered exemplary and is to be applauded. RELEVANCE The Structures Group of MCRD is engaged in numerous very relevant programs, but the level of effort and commitment of resources to the WTC study are dominant, and more attention needs to be paid to other relevant applications. Many of these efforts should be addressed in parallel rather than sequen-
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Years 2004 – 2005 tially with the WTC investigations. The efforts of the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program, National Construction Safety Team, and Interagency Blast Mitigation Committee are extremely relevant activities. However, to date they are largely approached as separate and independent activities, an approach that does not take advantage of the opportunities for work on multihazard problems. The mission focus of the Construction Metrology and Automation Group is excellent; it is squarely focused on the key NIST mission of delivering measurement and standards capabilities. All projects contribute to the development of standardized tests, new methods, or new data. The activities of the Inorganic Materials Group clearly support high-priority national needs. There is a clear, though mostly coincidental, tie to NIST Strategic Focus Areas and objectives. The problem of coatings durability is very large and complex, and it is obvious that not all of it can be addressed by the Polymeric Materials Group. The current programs address an appropriate and important subset of the overall problem. Current plans to extend the work to include pigment contributions are appropriate and appear to be suitably supported. This group’s Service Life Prediction program has the potential to change industry practice in the evaluation of coatings durability. Broader applications of the methodology should enable similar improvements in the evaluation of sealants and other polymeric materials. The Board has some general concerns related to the role of the Building Environment Division in NIST’s Strategic Focus Areas and to BED’s long-term goals and future directions. The BED should highlight its role in furthering NIST’s Strategic Focus Areas and should apply concerted effort in these areas. The relevance of BED is quite evident to the Board, but may not be as evident to all those having an interest in NIST. For example, BED’s vision and effectiveness in developing technologies for information management for buildings should be recognized. The leadership role and effectiveness of the division in making the BACnet standard into an industry standard is evident. The BED has a similar leadership role in an even broader information management activity related to the Computer-Integrated Building Processes Group, which should become a flagship activity for BED and BFRL. The BED enjoys a clear leadership role in the national program entitled Healthy Buildings, as evidenced by the division’s activities on key industry committees and the tools that BED has developed that are making inroads in the industry. While Healthy Buildings is not explicitly included in the NIST Strategic Focus Area of Biosciences and Healthcare, it should be: BFRL leadership should actively advocate for including this area of activity in the definition of this Strategic Focus Area. The BED also can be a leader in another area, which has not been defined as a NIST Strategic Focus Area but that is certainly a clear focus area within industry, namely, sustainable buildings. The exponential growth of the U.S. Green Buildings Council is one clear indicator of industry’s interest in sustainable buildings. Other organizations, such as ASHRAE, are making sustainable buildings one of their high-priority strategic areas. One of the problems with sustainable buildings as an area of focus is that there are no clear definitions in the industry. NIST will always have an important role in standardizing definitions, and it should have a pivotal role in standardizing definitions for sustainable buildings. The BED has become an industry leader in many areas, but a number of its activities appear to be a collection of tangentially related projects. At present there is a large number of projects in a wide range of activities in BED, and several appear to be short term rather than long term. It may be helpful for the division to assess whether all of these projects fit into its vision. The formal confirmation by NIST and BFRL of the importance of codes and standards through inclusion of this area as a research area (Fire Standards, Codes, and Testing) is a significant and vital development for FRD that will focus the dissemination of division products. This emerging recognition at NIST and BFRL that participation in codes and standards is a major means by which FRD can impact
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Years 2004 – 2005 the efficiency and safety of our built environment, consumer products, and first responders is to be commended. The research area called Reduced Risk of Fire Spread has recently been expanded from that of Flashover to Fire Spread, addressing a problem with focus of the previous program. As a result, the potential impact of the program has not been realized, an issue that needs to be addressed. The program Fundamental Fire Science has replaced the former program Advanced Measurement and Prediction Methods; an issue needing attention is that while the Fire Dynamics Simulator appears prominently in the program’s approach statement, the actual FDS project work in the program is modest. The Fundamental Fire Science Program includes projects that study heat release rate in large-scale fire measurements, use of total heat flux gauges, gas velocity measurements in the Large Fire Laboratory, new measurement of soot volume fraction in fires, fire growth and spread on real objects, predictive methods, visibility limits in smoky environments, and assessment of the universality of cone calorimeter experimental data to subgrid fire growth and spread models. The panel recognizes the value of fundamental research on fire, while at the same time concluding that the projects within the Fundamental Fire Science Program should be more systematically oriented toward producing more outcomes of importance to FRD’s clients. While calibration activities have been active in the past year, the use of the Large Fire Laboratory for project work has been limited, and new meaningful projects should be developed. Most work at the Large Fire Laboratory is on other agencies (OA) projects and not for Scientific and Technical Research and Services (STRS) research. This means that the use of the laboratory is sporadic and the outcome is opportunistic. The OAE in BFRL provides unique measurement and standards activities. The OAE has several activities relating to homeland security and, more broadly, to natural and intentional risks. Several of these activities are in collaboration with the Structures Group. The OAE often convenes groupings of industry and customer representatives to identify critical issues, identify and/or review relevant data, assess theoretical and analytical development, and provide feedback on tool development. The OAE responds in both a timely and an effective manner in its research program, and it identifies and meets its milestones. The following challenges relating to the future relevance of its efforts face the Building and Fire Research Laboratory: The planning and construction of a National Structural Fire Testing Laboratory. Planning on what it means to be the designated lead agency for the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program: How will NIST’s lead differ from that of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the past? Identifying the role that NIST/BFRL will have as they work with the Department of Homeland Security on the protection of critical infrastructure against terrorist attacks. Determining whether there is a role for NIST/BFRL in the multihazard performance assessment of buildings. Determining how the NIST Strategic Focus Areas are reflected in the BFRL vision and strategic plan. EFFECTIVENESS As evidenced by the lists of outreach activities that BFRL provided for this assessment, project results are effectively communicated to the technical community and to relevant government agencies,
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Years 2004 – 2005 for example, through widely read and well-received reports and through conference and journal publications. Especially important for the work of the past 2 years is that the WTC investigations are expected to be broadly disseminated. Representatives of all of the BFRL divisions have been invited to give keynote lectures at major conferences and in other ways are successful at making their work generally available to customers. A clearly articulated outreach initiative defining the distribution frequency and methodology of outreach would be helpful to enhance the current practice of all BFRL divisions. Over time all divisions should consider whether they are enabling future “success stories.” The level of funding needs to be better aligned with projects that have the potential for significant impact. All divisions should continue their tradition of long-term vision and investing in basic research and development to ensure that there are industry-relevant tools to meet future industry needs. Some of the work areas of MCRD, such as progressive collapse, could benefit from better and earlier dissemination of best-practice documents. Some projects of this division are not yet far enough along to assess their impact. The CONTAM program of BED has been used to evaluate the effectiveness of enhanced filtration, to provide guidance on retrofitting buildings for security, to evaluate the performance of Shelter-in-Place, and to identify building-specific strategies for CBR protection. In the areas of diagnostics and commissioning, BED is playing a key role through its leadership in internationally coordinated research and development with the International Energy Agency. The BFRL has invested effort to take this technology from basic research all the way through to agreements with manufacturers that are coming very close to commercialization. As indicated above, BED is beginning to deliver information management products through the FIATECH AEX project, which is increasing the visibility of and industry participation in information exchange protocols. This area of technology appears to be reaching a tipping point at which it has the potential to become a more important driver in the industry. Many of the BED computer programs are available for free downloading from the NIST Web site, and the others are available by purchase from NIST. There is good documentation for customer feedback on use of the programs. The investment in BACnet development quite a few years ago has led to industry leadership. The BED investment in basic research and algorithm development in the area of building airflow has borne fruit in the form of industry-accepted simulation tools and tools that have solved real-world problems. The FRD continues to provide a national resource for evaluating equipment for fire loss reduction and providing the assessments needed to establish standards. These activities are particularly effective because FRD personnel are well connected to the fire service community and are members of many of the relevant standards committees. FRD products can be directly implemented to the various stakeholders of BFRL. In many cases, these products have an immediate impact on direct and indirect fire-related cost, improving life safety and economic competitiveness, and they facilitate regulatory revisions. The current outreach offering products and materials to the firefighting community is good, as evidenced by attendance and presentations of FRD personnel at several related trade shows, by the Fire.gov initiative, and by the distribution during the past year of FRD results as Web-accessible reports and compact disks (CDs). The technical productivity within FRD as measured by peer-reviewed publications is modest. The staff averages about one peer-reviewed publication per professional staff member annually, but the trend is downward. Links are maintained between FRD researchers and the external community, though opportunities for interchange are less than had been available historically. Direct interchanges between staff and national laboratories worldwide have diminished over time. It is noted that some staff members still manage to participate in international fire research organizations and meetings. An issue noted within FRD is that the research should be more results-oriented. The projects should
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Years 2004 – 2005 have clearly identified outcomes with clear measures of success for clients and should be benchmarked against the work of peer organizations. The value and function of the technical programs need to evolve to be more responsive to division goals. The former FRD research program, the WTC R&D Program, has been renamed the Safety of Threatened Buildings Program. Projects within this program—Method of Fire Resistance Determination, Occupant Behavior and Egress, Emergency Use of Elevators, and Firefighter Lifts—have been its areas of research for 3 years, yet little in the way of meaningful research results has come from these efforts. Several significant efforts within FRD were made in the WTC investigations. The impact of the WTC on the laboratory’s research is far in excess of the $16 million formal cost of the investigation, and the investigation is extending beyond the original schedule. This has required ongoing focus by researchers and has seriously limited their productivity as researchers on other projects. As a result, the costs of the investigation have far exceeded the monetary cost. Since this is the first investigation performed under the National Construction Safety Team Act of 2002, it involved a steep learning process. Lessons learned from this investigation should reinforce the need to ensure that funding is available for the National Construction Safety Team and that a team is in place and prepared for the next national fire disaster. The OAE is extremely effective at employing multiple techniques to disseminate its results. All analytical tools are incorporated into software applications, applets, or Web pages. All software can be downloaded free of charge from the Web page. Most projects include training materials and/or courses to teach the analytical techniques. OAE techniques and tools have had a demonstrable long-term impact. There is strong representation by OAE personnel in technical papers and invited talks at major conferences. The current work in codes and standards is the most positive and encouraging that has been seen in the several years. There is a fresh approach to the idea of integrating the work of BFRL into the building codes and standards. Much of this new invigoration springs from the research that has gone into the WTC events of 2001. However, the BFRL Director should be given credit for recognizing the value of BFRL’s participation in this arena. To aid in this integration, the Director has asked one of the division heads to organize an in-house committee of key BFRL personnel who will meet periodically, review what the laboratory is working on, and then analyze and make recommendations on how BFRL can best disseminate its work so that it reaches the proper code or standards organization. RESOURCES Overall, groups within BFRL are for the most part just at adequate levels of human resources. As discussed below, however, there are several areas within the laboratory that are subcritical either for the tasks at hand or for those expected by the country to be needed in the future. There does not appear to be sufficient staff to properly cover all areas for the large number of projects in the Structures Group in MCRD. A serious staffing review and human resource development plan needs to be put in place to ensure that BFRL and the Structures Group can carry out their mission—not just now but 5 years from now. Given its small size, the Construction Metrology and Automation Group is doing very well; the group’s focus has improved, moving toward more scientific and fundamental work (still cognizant of applications). The plans for a construction automation testbed are exciting, but there do not appear to be the resources (staffing, facilities) in place to set up such a facility properly. The available tools are excellent and state of the art. The facilities are adequate, but unfortunately they are spread out across the NIST campus, which fragments the small group too much. The available scientific and technical competencies in the Inorganic Materials Group are adequate
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Years 2004 – 2005 to achieve success. The staff seems to be satisfied with the equipment and facilities. However, it is surprising that there are no central facilities for expensive tools such as the scanning electron microscope, transmission electron microscope, nuclear magnetic resonance, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscope (XPS). These tools provide the ability to make high-resolution measurements at the nanoscale. Currently, researchers need to share equipment, which can result in a misuse of the time of experts in providing services to colleagues. The Polymeric Materials Group is well staffed for current projects, but future changes in direction may require changes in personnel assignments. While additional technician support would be desirable to facilitate the experimental work, this does not appear to be an urgent need. The addition of further analytical capability (notably a dedicated XPS) would be desirable. The BED should have a goal for long-term growth and a plan for achieving it. While the division has effectively leveraged labor categories such as contractors, students, and visiting scientists, long-term sustainable growth requires the acquisition of more permanent staff. This cannot be done without adequate Scientific and Technical Research and Services funding. The division should find a comfortable balance between STRS and OA funding; it currently believes that it is not receiving sufficient STRS funding. The BED is effective at securing OA funding, which shows a very healthy relationship with industry and relevance, but it may not be sufficient to grow the division to fulfill future missions. The Computer-Integrated Building Processes Group is limited in its impact on long-term transformation of industry processes owing largely to funding and human resource constraints. In addition to a lack of funding and staffing, BED overall suffers from a lack of information on funding and a lack of stability in funding, both of which are needed for effective long-term planning. Several of the current FRD programs may result in significant impact on society as a whole or on individual segments of society (individual stakeholder groups). However, if FRD is to move collectively to the next level of performance, there need to be clearly stated product goals. These goals need to be supported with specific performance objectives and time lines. On many FRD products, work can go on for years with little or no definition of product goals and no measurable outcomes. The level of support for FRD projects from other agencies and industry is lower than it has been in the past. Research on thermal imagers and mattress fires, the development of models for the U.S. Forest Service on the ignition of structures at the wild-land–urban interface, and the development of high-throughput screening of fire-resistant materials are good examples of industry projects that have been completed or are under way. While the WTC investigation and the contraction of domestic expenditures have undoubtedly had an impact on OA funding, the opportunity exists to increase this funding base through effective stakeholder outreach. The level of effort is adequate to complete the project objective in many cases, but in work for other agencies, additional resources for more complete data acquisition and comprehensive analysis would have yielded results to benefit the larger community as well as the customer. This would represent a good use of STRS funding. The OAE has lost two positions (three people at the time of this writing) due to retirement, leave, or departure. Several significant opportunities, particularly a few projects associated with homeland security, will require additional resources. Available tools are adequate. The OAE needs to expand its technical competencies, particularly in human resources, to respond effectively to emerging requirements. With the WTC analysis, the Rhode Island nightclub fire report, and the creation of a National Construction Safety Team, NIST and BFRL are poised to assume a prominent role in this arena in the future. To do so, they must leverage the expertise gained during the past 18 months and incorporate it into a vision of their future. This must include the acquisition of state-of-the-art equipment for conducting structural analyses and the integration of the expertise of the various laboratories toward the fulfillment of the vision.
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Years 2004 – 2005 The tragic events of the WTC attacks showed the importance of the resources of BFRL. The expertise of experienced personnel and specialized test facilities are critical national resources. The need for such resources that can be utilized during disasters has been recognized by the formation of the National Construction Safety Team, but without funding for this initiative it may be difficult to maintain the resources at the level needed to address future crises. The resources for the WTC and the Rhode Island nightclub fire investigations were made available by transferring personnel from other programs, reducing the effectiveness of those programs. Without funding for the National Construction Safety Team, future emergencies will require similar sacrifices or more extensive use of contractors to do the research.
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