Chapter 7

Building and Fire Research Laboratory



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An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS: Fiscal Year 1997 Chapter 7 Building and Fire Research Laboratory

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An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS: Fiscal Year 1997 PANEL MEMBERS Thomas L. Anderson, Fluor Daniel Hanford, Inc., Chair Kenneth W. Dungan, Risk Technologies, LLC, Vice Chair Ronald L. Alpert, Factory Mutual Research Janet S. Baum, Health, Education & Research Assoc., Inc. Lee W. Burgett, The Trane Company Marcia L. Coleman, E.I. Du Pont de Nemours & Co., Inc. Ronny J. Coleman, California State Fire Marshal Filip C. Filippou, University of California at Berkeley Gavin A. Finn, Prescient Technologies, Inc. Anthony E. Fiorato, Portland Cement Association Robert Fowler, City of Pasadena Permit Center Richard M. Kelso, University of Tennessee at Knoxville Boyd C. Paulson, Stanford University Leslie E. Robertson, Leslie E. Robertson Associates, R.L.L.P. Rose A. Ryntz, Ford Motor Company Richard E. Schuler, Cornell University Daniel J. Seery, United Technologies Research Center Miroslaw J. Skibniewski, Purdue University Forrest O. Stark, Dow Corning Corporation James A. White, Western Fire Center, Inc. Submitted for the panel by its Chair, Thomas L. Anderson, and its Vice Chair, Kenneth W. Dungan, this assessment of the fiscal year 1997 activities of the Building and Fire Research Laboratory is based on site visits by individual panel members, a formal meeting of the panel on March 25–26, 1997, and the annual report of the laboratory.

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An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS: Fiscal Year 1997 LABORATORY-LEVEL REVIEW Laboratory Mission The Building and Fire Research Laboratory (BFRL) stated that its mission is to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. industry and public safety by developing performance prediction methods, measurement technologies, and technical advances needed to assure the life-cycle quality and economy of constructed facilities. Over the past several years, this mission statement has been sharpened to describe a closed mission rather than simply a pledge to work in specific areas. This new statement reflects a focus on results, rather than on process, and the panel finds this change commendable. In addition, the laboratory is now better aligned with the NIST mission. Another advancement by the laboratory is the new “success” strategy, which thematically links individual projects from throughout the laboratory into a few major products. (This approach is discussed in detail in the planning section.) Both the new mission and the reorganization implied by this success strategy will require that laboratory staff make a major adjustment in how projects are chosen and how research is carried out. Small groups and individual activities will be replaced by large teams working on various aspects of a few overarching products. This new approach necessitates a change in the BFRL's current research culture. Ensuring that this transition is smoothly executed will require the constant attention of laboratory management at all levels. Technical Merit and Appropriateness of Work Overall, the technical merit of the laboratory projects is quite good. The current array of laboratory programs forms a coherent whole in support of the emerging National Construction Goals for research and development.1 These goals were set out in 1995 by the Subcommittee on Construction and Building of the Committee on Civilian Industrial Technology of the National Science and Technology Council. BFRL staff played an important part in the development of the document “Construction and Building: Federal Research and Development in Support of the U.S. Construction Industry,” which defines the National Construction Goals as well as other general strategies for research and development in this area. Overall, the staff is strong and benefits from industry input, although some areas have insufficient industrial interactions. The Office of Applied Economics is unique in the United States. Only three American universities come close to matching the array of combined technical and economic competence gathered in this group. NIST personnel are doing commendable research on how the construction industry can strengthen the U.S. economy. In addition, the panel believes that this office's ability to convince potential practitioners of the value of laboratory products will be extremely useful. In the area of High-Performance Materials and Systems, much important work is being accomplished. The panel was particularly pleased by the emphasis on developing the techniques 1   Subcommittee on Construction and Building of the Committee on Civilian Industrial Technology, National Science and Technology Council, “Construction and Building: Federal Research and Development in Support of the U.S. Construction Industry,” National Science and Technology Council, Washington, D.C., 1995, pp. 7–9.

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An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS: Fiscal Year 1997 necessary to enable adoption of new standards and tests. The increased focus on methods to implement new technologies will go a long way toward ensuring that laboratory products are embraced by industry. The panel commends this effort and related initiatives to expand the avenues of dissemination of laboratory results in this vital area. The Mechanical and Environmental Systems work is extremely timely, particularly in the area of sustainable design and construction. One example is the development of computer programs, such as MOIST (moisture flow analysis software) and CONTAM (a multizone indoor air-quality model designed to track airflow and contaminant dispersal), associated with indoor air-quality issues. These software packages are leading-edge activities that allow architects and engineers to factor sustainable development ideals into their designs. In the Automation and Information Technology area, the work is quite scholarly and comparable with work being conducted at major universities. The panel was somewhat concerned about how priorities were set and funding distributed. The current level of industrial input to the work in simulation and robotics is insufficient. Structural Engineering is producing highly visible and important test standards for seismic base isolation systems as well as pioneering work on welded steel beam connections for improved seismic performance. However, the laboratory's wind design products do not appear to be connected to this segment of the design profession. The Fire Science and Fire Safety Engineering personnel are engaged in work of outstanding technical merit, and the impact of this work on industry is effective and strong. Technology developed by this section of the laboratory enables the construction sector to better incorporate effective and economical protection from fire hazard for humans and structures into constructed facilities. The integration of fire sciences with fire engineering is particularly commendable. The panel was pleased by BFRL's expansion of research dissemination programs. The laboratory has made a particular effort to use the Internet to communicate and share its results. In many instances, staff have put special emphasis on making Web sites comprehensible and easy to use. As part of this Internet work, the laboratory receives feedback from visitors to these Web sites. Much of the response has been positive, and consumer comments have helped continuously improve the laboratory Web pages. Industrial Impact Over the last several years, the laboratory has developed a two-pronged approach to serving industry. The work is balanced between scientists and engineers who are doing world-class research at the leading edge of technology and generalists with substantial human-relation skills who focus on transferring laboratory products to industrial use. This mixture of tasks suits the highly fragmented nature of the construction industry and the laboratory's diversified mission.

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An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS: Fiscal Year 1997 Laboratory Resources The Building and Fire Research Laboratory receives most of its support from internal NIST sources. These include NIST Scientific and Technical Research and Services (STRS) funding, which is a direct appropriation from Congress; Competence Funding from the NIST Director's Office to build expertise in key areas of future industrial needs; and funding from support of other NIST units, such as the Advanced Technology Program (ATP) and the Manufacturing Engineering Program (MEP). There is also income from the measurement services performed by the laboratory. The final source of support is external funding from other federal agencies (OA), nonfederal government (NF) organizations, and Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs). Funding sources for the Building and Fire Research Laboratory (in millions of dollars):   Fiscal Year 1996 Fiscal Year 1997 estimated) NIST-STRS (excluding Competence) 17.9 19.1 Competence 0.2 0.4 ATP 0.4 0.4 MEP 0.2 0.2 Measurement Services 0.1 0.2 OA/NF/CRADA 9.0 10.9 Misc. Reimbursement 0.2 0.2 Total 28.2 31.3 Note that throughout this report, totals may not add due to rounding. At the moment, the staff of the Building and Fire Research Laboratory includes 175 full-time permanent (FTP) positions, of which 126 are for technical professionals. There are also 121 nonpermanent and supplemental personnel, including postdoctoral students and guest researchers. The level and type of outside funding is appropriate, and the projects supported in this way are well aligned with the laboratory mission and nicely complement internally funded programs. The inadequacy of several major facilities is of grave concern. The fire test facility in Building 205 urgently needs to be renovated. Years of delay in making needed improvements have seriously impeded the laboratory's ability to carry out the public safety aspect of its mission. Without a fully functioning fire test facility, quantification of fire safety standards, development of advanced measurement systems, and fire model verification are extremely difficult to do. The panel supports the laboratory's current funding of a design study of the necessary repairs and upgrades to this facility. With such a plan in hand, the laboratory will be prepared to seek future funding for capital improvements from NIST. The environmental chambers are critical to support the growing influence and significance of the work in sustainable design and construction. The panel strongly supports

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An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS: Fiscal Year 1997 repair of these facilities; the announcement of partial support for this work from the Department of Energy is an encouraging first step. The panel remains concerned about the status of the large-scale structural load test facility. It was unclear who the potential users of this testing machine are or how willing they would be to support this facility. The number of customers and their level and length of future commitment is important information that should be gathered before any decision is made about renovating this facility. Laboratory Planning Laboratory planning is good and improves each year. The recently revised strategic planning process has benefited from guidelines on strategic planning developed by the NIST Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology. The new approach begins with situational analysis, then develops a strategic vision for the future, and subsequently results in an operating plan. Similar processes are widely used in the private sector. The current effort to improve the Building and Fire Research Laboratory 's strategic planning began in mid-1995 when an outside contractor interviewed a cross-section of laboratory staff. The laboratory' s Management Council, which is made up of the five senior laboratory managers and the five division chiefs, then participated in a series of off-site seminars. These meetings dealt with the strategy process, vision, mission, need for change, and finally identification of major potential products that could be linked to industry task groups and champions. In January 1997, the Management Council selected the most appropriate and viable products, which were refined and upgraded over the next several months. In the spring of 1997, all staff members were informed of these products and their corresponding goals to ensure understanding and cooperation at all operating levels within the laboratory. The success strategy resulting from this process has been reviewed by NIST management, and the laboratory's funding for fiscal year 1998 will be allocated based on this new approach. The most important facet of the restructuring of the planning process is the conceptual shift from a process-oriented to a results-based plan. This change recognizes the political and budget realities that will define the laboratory's working conditions in the near future. The laboratory's present tasks are to define the resource requirements of each major product, including facilities and equipment needs, and to find potential industrial partners and champions to assist in technology transfer. Above all, the Building and Fire Research Laboratory is working to build and empower in-house multidisciplinary product teams that cut across group and divisional boundaries and make good use of external collaborations. The panel is concerned that this process will be especially difficult in the area of mechanical and environmental systems, where the diversity of issues within the construction and design industries has resulted in many small projects with a wide variety of goals. The new planning process is still under way, but the panel finds the approach fundamentally sound. The new strategy is results oriented and focuses on packaging the laboratory's products in a more visible and appealing manner. Building on laboratory strengths, establishing industry partnerships, focusing on near-term, high-impact activities and (most importantly) enlisting industry champions for major products have always been part of the

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An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS: Fiscal Year 1997 laboratory's plans. The new approach is therefore an enhanced version of the previous strategy and is considered highly commendable by the panel. Through the Administration's National Science and Technology Council Subcommittee on Construction and Building, the Building and Fire Research Laboratory has taken the lead in coordinating public- and private-sector research efforts toward a united set of National Construction Goals. In this effort, the laboratory is working closely with more than a dozen federal agencies. The National Construction Goals and the new focus on major products have eased the laboratory's chronic dilemma of discontinuing programs versus seeking additional funding support. The resolution is provided by the demand created through the work with the President 's Office of Science and Technology Policy and the resulting support for related projects. Clearly, the laboratory has made a significant course correction that should enhance NIST management's support for its programs. The most significant challenge in implementing the new strategy will be changing the culture of the laboratory staff so that they will embrace the restructuring and the new product-oriented approach. Laboratory leadership has made considerable progress in the strategic planning process over the last few years. There are several areas in which the panel wishes to comment on the value of the laboratory 's work so far. Continued deployment of the new strategic plan is an important near-term objective. This process will focus the laboratory 's efforts and help in deciding which work should be discontinued. It is also not clear if the laboratory has articulated the distinctive niche the Building and Fire Research Laboratory fills within the community of other federal agencies and industrial research facilities working on similar problems. Defining the laboratory's place includes highlighting capabilities unique to NIST. It also means ensuring that all programs reflect a broad understanding of the state of relevant science performed at other laboratories and place suitable emphasis on input from industry to determine important related objectives. Another key piece of laboratory planning is improving human resources. Laboratory management takes this task seriously, and managers have constructed a commendable program in this area. As personnel development boards do in the private sector, BFRL management regularly monitors and coordinates the professional growth and development of the staff. Unlike in many companies, this evaluation process occurs frequently and for almost all personnel. The laboratory's Management Council gathers semiannually to review staff development, with particular emphasis on opportunities for special training and on recognition through performance achievement awards. At these day-long sessions, management evaluates all personnel, ranks them, and sets salary and merit plans. Such attention by management to human resources and staff development will serve the laboratory well as BFRL activities are reorganized into major products. Management is currently emphasizing that such products are the result of team efforts. All new supervisors receive 45 hours of training, and each group leader must have or be developing a qualified backup. To further ensure that projects do not become dependent on one individual and evolve as the technology and industry change, the laboratory provides special assignments to personnel to accelerate career growth and development and to build a diverse staff. Examples of such assignments include leading international study groups and serving as national officers of professional societies and standards organizations. This training has enabled the laboratory to recover quickly from staff lost due to retirement and attrition. Furthermore, when hiring opportunities arise, the laboratory tries to find experts in the major product areas.

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An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS: Fiscal Year 1997 When the strategic direction has changed, staff members have always demonstrated their ability to make the necessary adjustments. The laboratory's history of flexibility will be valuable in adopting the new approach. Past shifts in strategic direction have taught the laboratory how to deal with a transition and to adapt. For example, fluctuations in the availability of OA funding have led to the recognition that plans for project conclusions should exist, as they do in the engineering, procurement, and construction industries, where every project assignment has an explicit beginning and an end. DIVISIONAL ASSESSMENTS The Building and Fire Research Laboratory consists of five divisions: Structures, Building Materials, Building Environment, Fire Safety Engineering, and Fire Science. In addition, the Laboratory Office oversees two offices: the Office of Applied Economics and the Office of Technology Transfer. However, most programs in the BFRL operate across divisional boundaries. Activities are classified according to programmatic thrust or research area. There are three official thrusts of the Building and Fire Research programs: High-Performance Materials and Systems for Constructed Facilities, Automation in Construction and Constructed Facilities, and Loss Reduction. Finally, the laboratory 's projects fall into five research areas, and this assessment is correspondingly organized into six sections: Performance-Based Standards and Economics, High-Performance Materials and Systems, Mechanical and Environmental Systems, Automation and Information Technology, Structural Engineering, and Fire Science and Fire Safety Engineering. Each section begins with a list of the divisions in which the activities described in that section occur. The work of the Office of Applied Economics is assessed separately at the end of the section on Performance-Based Standards and Economics. Performance-Based Standards and Economics This area includes projects on performance-based standards in the Structures and the Fire Safety Engineering Divisions, as well as work done by the staff of the Office of Applied Economics in conjunction with personnel throughout the laboratory. Mission The mission of the work on Performance-Based Standards and Economics is to encourage private-sector research and innovation by supporting development of a comprehensive national and international performance standards system to guide the procurement, evaluation, and acceptance of innovative building and fire-safety products and services and to develop standardized economic models and methods in support of resource allocation decisions in the construction and fire safety communities and in the building and fire research program. The programs in this area are designed to support development of performance-based standards through collaborations among several BFRL divisions. The widespread transition from prescriptive building, fire, and safety codes to performance-based standards promises to

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An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS: Fiscal Year 1997 boost future international competitiveness of U.S. firms. This new approach will increase the flexibility of building design, use of materials, and construction methods and enable the construction industry to seek location-specific solutions tailored to international needs. Minimizing cost and maximizing quality should produce more efficient structures and benefit all sectors of the U.S. domestic economy, as construction currently accounts for about 12 percent of the American gross domestic product. Technical Merit and Appropriateness of Work Construction and maintenance are performed in a complex environment, so the BFRL's contributions to these industries are correspondingly diverse. Not only does the laboratory assist in defining performance-based standards, but it also contributes to their adoption by developing interactive design trade-off tools to be used for both commercial and residential structures. Such instruments consider performance criteria, while simultaneously weighing costs and environmental consequences. In the case of housing, an aesthetic dimension is sometimes added. The laboratory's efforts are thus helping to institute flexible, efficient standards by facilitating the adoption process with new models and analytical methods, crucial modeling validation procedures, and economic analyses. A key issue that might delay implementation of performance-based standards is the current fragmentation of the regulatory system— a consequence of the power local governments wield to adopt and enforce building and safety codes. The model code organizations, Building Officials and Code Administrators, International Conference of Building Officials, and Southern Building Code Congress International, have formed the International Code Council. Their goal is to produce a single set of comprehensive and coordinated national codes by the year 2000, but they will require significant help from the BFRL to help ensure uniform implementation of such a code. NIST is one of the few organizations in position to conduct the research necessary to place enforceable performance-based elements within a new unified code. The laboratory's programmatic thrusts are on target to define such new provisions and make them work to upgrade existing building and fire codes. The initiative on the Fire Safety Performance Evaluation System aims to establish a “toolkit” for evaluating the designs proposed to meet performance-based standards. This goal is ambitious, considering the astounding range and complexity of possible commercial and industrial fire scenarios. For example, whether inventories stored on wood pallets collapse during a fire is just one of the many small details that can influence whether or not fire suppression succeeds. A clearer account of the goals of this program, and perhaps a narrower focus for this work, will foster wider industry acceptance of this initiative. A major goal of the project currently under way is understanding the interactions between sprinklers and smoke vents, and the detailed operational plan of this project is an example of how the laboratory can set reasonable, achievable objectives in this area. In subsequent plans, what will be needed is an explicit description of the research's applicability to specific types of occupancies out of the hundreds that compose manufacturing, storage, and commercial/retail spaces.

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An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS: Fiscal Year 1997 Industrial Impact The Performance Standard System for Housing is an excellent approach to setting up a comprehensive performance-based code system. The effectiveness of the laboratory's work in this area will be measured both by the issuance of standards from the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the International Organization for Standardization on this topic and by evaluating the changes incorporated in American building codes. The laboratory is doing a good job of considering a diverse range of potential industrial champions. However, in the work on the Performance Standard System in Housing and the Fire Safety Performance Evaluation System, companies from the insurance and fire safety industries are not among the stakeholders. Having such industrial partners is necessary to ensure broader acceptance of the new systems. The Building and Fire Research Laboratory's movement toward performance-based standards is important to U.S. industry, because it is part of a worldwide trend toward such standards. This new approach improves the prospects for international agreement on building and fire codes; forming a consensus on expected outcomes is easier than defining consistent, detailed prescriptive requirements. If the current array of international regulations could be replaced by a unified international standard, U.S. industry would benefit greatly from reduced design and construction costs and from an increase in available markets. Resources Funding sources for Performance-Based Standards and Economics (in millions of dollars):   Fiscal Year 1996 Fiscal Year 1997 (estimated) NIST-STRS 1.4 1.0 ATP 0.1 0.1 MEP 0.2 0.2 OA/NF/CRADA 0.8 1.2 Total 2.6 2.5 The staff for research in Performance-Based Standards and Economics currently includes 16 FTP positions, 14 of which are for technical professionals. Several countries are already moving toward performance-based standards, so the BFRL can conserve resources by tapping into international expertise in the development and implementation of such standards. Building on preexisting efforts in the field will enable the laboratory to avoid the mistakes and delays experienced in other countries. However, the laboratory still needs adequate resources to allow for validation of the models and predictive methods used in performance-based systems. For this reason, laboratory personnel must have easy access to full-scale test facilities in the same way that they now can use the world-class computer resources of NIST.

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An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS: Fiscal Year 1997 Planning The Fire Safety Performance Evaluation System and the Performance Standard System for Housing are highlighted as major thrusts and products in the Building and Fire Research Laboratory's plans. In addition, the subpanel saw presentations on some of the laboratory 's responses to efforts in performance-based standards from other countries and on the model development and model verification projects essential to ensuring the practicality of performance-based designs. However, the BFRL has not defined a long-range plan or strategy that describes how the laboratory will assist in the development and implementation of performance-based standards in the United States and internationally. Such a plan is needed to clarify the expected impact of the two important systems described in this section. To achieve the many benefits expected from performance-based standards, shortfalls in current technologies will have to be filled and potential difficulties with new methods of regulation overcome. The Building and Fire Research Laboratory clearly recognizes the importance of many of these problems. However, it lacks a well-defined plan to delineate which issues the laboratory intends to address, how various NIST projects will contribute to the solutions, and how the varied array of programs fit together into a cohesive whole. The range of problems is large and will require the integrated efforts of both social scientists and technological experts. Regulatory institutions and the construction industries must agree on acceptable risk levels, or they must find ways to show that the new standards are equivalent to the existing prescriptive codes. Fire-safety engineers currently lack predictive tools coupled to an accepted set of safety factors that can be used in a wide range of fire scenarios. Definitions and terminology also need to be made consistent throughout all the potential applications. In many instances, the needs and requirements of users are not well understood, especially for complex commercial and industrial applications. Furthermore, a method is needed to quantify the reliability of performance-based designs over a facility's life cycle. Finally, as performance-based standards evolve, tools necessary to evaluate their economic benefits in terms of increased workplace productivity and decreased construction and life-cycle costs (LCC) must be developed. Office of Applied Economics The Office of Applied Economics (OAE) 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. NIST's mission is to enhance the competitiveness of the U.S. economy, and the activities of the OAE are essential to accomplishing that objective. Scientists in other units focus predominantly on technological problems, but the OAE provides those personnel with the tools necessary to evaluate the socioeconomic impact of their efforts. Through their experiences with these evaluations, OAE have established the expertise needed to estimate the potential economic impact of future projects, and hence to help establish priorities throughout NIST. The activities of this office thus serve not only to quantify NIST research contributions to the expansion of U.S. economic activity, but also to assist NIST in allocating scarce resources.

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An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS: Fiscal Year 1997 The Thermal Machinery Group has done outstanding work on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and their effects on global warming and ozone layer depletion. The research completed by this group broke new ground and had a major impact on American industry. The current focus is on alternative refrigerants, such as carbon dioxide or propane. Further study is necessary to determine if such substances are the long-range answer to refrigerant needs. In the context of pending regulation of global warming compounds, the laboratory's efforts to search out refrigerants with minimal environmental impact are not being given high enough priority. This group is also leading the way in applying micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) in the environmental controls field. MEMS combine sensors with small integrated circuits to produce digital output signals directly; such output eliminates the need to transmit analog signals to other conversion interfaces. This group is engaged in excellent cutting-edge applied research on the design of mechanical systems and equipment that will directly benefit the building industry. American companies simply do not perform basic research in this field, and as a result this group's work provides critical technical support. Past work in refrigerants has demonstrated one aspect of the division 's value to American companies. Much of the effort involved integrating, organizing, and disseminating pertinent data. Another example of this sort of activity is the water vapor transmission data contained in MOIST. These data are unavailable in concise form anywhere else. Group initiatives to assemble, package, and market the data necessary to advance the technologies used by the building industry can also be seen in the work on air leakage, heat transfer, and infiltration. The division has used current state-of-the-art technology to take significant steps toward technology deployment. The IAQ (indoor air quality) analysis software, CONTAM, is available on the Internet; other software is also widely distributed. Individual researchers publish extensively in national and international journals, and the staff throughout the BFRL publishes papers and reports on CD-ROM. There are only two issues relating to dissemination that concerned the panel: Papers and reports are not currently published directly on the Internet; and versions of some of these documents are not written simply enough to be used by undergraduates and practicing architects and engineers. Current levels of technical detail make the publications more suitable for graduate students and academics. Industrial Impact In general, the construction industry is highly fragmented; as a result, individual companies are unable to support the breadth and quality of research conducted at NIST. The groups in mechanical and environmental systems conduct their research effectively and disseminate the results to users, but they are not reaching all of their potential audience. The most striking example of industrial impact is the complete elimination of the use of CFCs in the air conditioning industry. Work at NIST has played a significant role in this transition. Now new issues in IAQ and global warming are emerging, and the affected industries are expecting that NIST programs will provide the necessary technological innovations in these areas, as they did during the search for alternative refrigerants.

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An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS: Fiscal Year 1997 Resources Funding sources for Mechanical and Environmental Systems (in millions of dollars):   Fiscal Year 1996 Fiscal Year 1997 (estimated) NIST-STRS 3.0 4.2 ATP 0.2 0.1 Measurement Services 0.1 0.0 OA/NF/CRADA 1.9 3.6 Misc. Reimbursement 0.1 0.0 Total 5.2 7.9 The staff for research in Mechanical and Environmental Systems currently includes 21 FTP positions, of which 19 are for technical professionals. There is also one nonpermanent and supplemental employee. The researchers in this area work on approximately 20 to 25 separate projects each year. Most external support comes from other federal agencies such as the Department of Energy (DoE). This distribution of funding sources is appropriate for the work being done in mechanical and environmental systems. The percentage of research spending dedicated to building future competencies and doing fundamental work appears low. Staff size and composition are suitable at present, but expansion is limited by uncertainty about the future direction of the Building and Fire Research Laboratory. New researchers cannot be effectively identified and recruited until the future research structure and product goals of the groups are defined. Once these issues have been resolved, the IAQ initiatives would benefit from the addition of a chemical engineer. Throughout this division, some of the older experimental systems (especially the mechanical ones) are complicated, difficult to operate, and deteriorating. The experiments done by these groups under controlled laboratory conditions form the core of the sustainable buildings research at NIST. This research covers components, systems, and whole buildings. The facilities used are seven environmental chambers whose instruments (particularly the controls and refrigeration systems) are now woefully out of date—the air handlers and heat exchangers have actually rusted through. Any experiments that can still be run must be conducted with a full-time technician to control the systems manually. Currently the five smallest chambers are most critical to the research, and design plans have been drawn up for the replacement systems in these chambers. The necessary work will cost $1.3 million. The present commitments of $400,000 from DoE and $450,000 from NIST will allow the division to renovate the two heat-pump chambers, but it is unclear where or when the funding for repairing the remaining chambers might be found. This $1.3 million plan is for the minimum upgrade required. New instrumentation and facilities may be needed to continue research on alternative refrigerants. In other areas, laboratory facilities are currently meeting needs. The IAQ and Ventilation Group is using advanced computer technologies for modeling complex building conditions, and the basic equipment is adequate. Current research projects are not heavily dependent on open chemical processes, so industrial hygiene safety issues are not critical. The problem is that the

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An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS: Fiscal Year 1997 air quality in the buildings is poor year round, and the offices and laboratories can be uncomfortable during hot summer months. The final facilities issue is the organization of the buildings housing the laboratory spaces used by these groups, and how the layout might affect the BFRL's effort to combine the many projects in mechanical and environmental systems into a few large products. Like the facilities at Battelle Memorial Institute and Midwest Research Institute, the NIST campus dates from the 1960s, and the building interiors are arranged in small modular units. For the work in mechanical and environmental systems, this has meant that major programs are scattered throughout the building, which has encouraged the staff to work on small independent projects. However, the use of demountable Hauserman panels to divide the laboratory spaces suggests that the cost and downtime involved in reconfiguring the building would not be a major impediment. Larger units would be more in keeping with the laboratory's current push for a few, large multidisciplinary programs. Therefore, the panel expects that the issues associated with project and staff reorganization will be the most significant difficulty encountered in the shift toward large, integrated research teams. Planning Within the Building Environment Division, the planning process is on a yearly cycle. Each spring, the five group leaders and the division head assess the progress made on current projects over the past year: whether the milestones established each fall are being met, what changes in direction are appropriate, and whether projects should be terminated. In June, the laboratory director makes the final decisions on which projects will be pursued in the next fiscal year. By the end of September, the chosen projects are in place, with appropriate milestones for the upcoming year defined. Laboratory management also contributes by reviewing each project quarterly to give the staff regular feedback. For the past 2 years, the mechanical and environmental systems projects have been tailored to support the National Construction Goals. Recently, the Building and Fire Research Laboratory's Management Council decided that the programs, in addition to advancing these goals, should also be organized into a few large products. To conform with this directive, the groups are currently planning a major product around work on sustainable buildings. However, this division's planning process is not easily geared toward the new concept of larger integrated projects with high-visibility products. A more formal process, perhaps using facilitators and consultants, would be helpful. Automation and Information Technology The research in this field includes one project in the Structures Division and work in two groups of the Building Environment Division.

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An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS: Fiscal Year 1997 Mission for Automation and Information Technology The Building and Fire Research Laboratory's thrust for Automation in Construction and Constructed Facilities provides for U.S. leadership in construction processes and constructed facilities by developing technical bases for integrated open systems for automation and robotics in design, construction, operations, maintenance, and renovation. Technical Merit and Appropriateness of Work The BFRL often serves as a coordinator for the development of communication and interchange standards for design and automation technologies. This is an important role, and such activities are valuable to industries that use automation and information technologies. Good examples of the laboratory's efforts are seen in the guidance provided by NIST scientists in developing standards for the exchange and representation of product data (STEP) and for Building Automation and Controls Network (BACnet). On the other hand, some efforts in computer-integrated construction environments (CICE), though generally useful, have not made use of enough industry-oriented contributions to the setting of priorities and the selection of technological focuses. The laboratory does not often collaborate closely with private companies or hire staff with recent industrial experience, and the perspective in this area is therefore somewhat narrow. The same lack of commercial connections is seen in the person-in-loop systems development project. Over the past several years, the panel has noted little private-sector involvement in this area. Industrial Impact It is too early to assess the industrial impact of the work in automation and information technology. The laboratory's input to the STEP and BACnet standards development processes will most likely prove helpful. The projects on graphical simulation, non–line-of-sight metrology, and equipment automation do not currently have strong enough involvement with industry. Such industrial guidance is necessary to narrow the focus on necessary technologies, reduce duplication of outside efforts, and better determine what industry priorities are. The BACnet work is well connected to equipment and instrumentation manufacturers but not strongly linked to those who design and install systems. Dissemination and adoption of results can only be guaranteed by aiming programs at specific potential user communities. The CICE research currently is overly focused on the industrial sector, which accounts for only 14 percent of the construction industry. Although the rest of the industry—the building, residential, public works, and institutional sectors—may be less well organized and therefore more difficult to reach, the laboratory's limited connections to these sectors are insufficient.

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An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS: Fiscal Year 1997 Resources Funding sources for Automation and Information Technology (in millions of dollars):   Fiscal Year 1996 Fiscal Year 1997 (estimated) NIST-STRS 1.5 1.9 Total 1.5 1.9 Apart from the industrial involvement in BACnet implementation activities, there is little outside funding contributing to the laboratory's work in this field. The quality and quantity of the facilities available to the scientists working on automation and information technology are adequate to support current projects. However, if staffing in this area increases, the limited facilities devoted to this work will have to expand as well. The staff for research in Automation and Information Technology currently includes 12 full-time permanent positions, of which 11 are for technical professionals. There are also 2 nonpermanent and supplemental personnel, including postdoctoral students and part-time workers. The laboratory's scientists in this field are well educated and technically strong, performing high-quality research at a scholarship level comparable to that at academic institutions. However, a significant weakness is the lack of hands-on experience in engineering and the construction industry. Such expertise could help set research priorities and define programs for the researchers new to this area. The personnel involved in automation and information technology research are split among three groups in two divisions: the Structural Evaluation Group in the Structures Division, and the Computer Integrated Construction and Mechanical Systems and Controls Groups in the Building Environment Division. Spreading out the staff in this manner may make it more difficult to coordinate the various projects that make up this program. Merging the groups into a new division, or absorbing the construction automation work from the Structures Division into the Building Environment Division, would encourage a more unified approach. Planning The panel was unclear about how the planning process identifies relevant needs of industry, sets priorities and goals, and defines appropriate programs and tasks to reach those goals. The historical impetus behind the projects currently under way was not well documented. STEP and BACnet are the most relevant technologies addressed by the laboratory in this field; however, the panel was not told whether those efforts were reactive (in response to an request from industry) or proactive (motivated by NIST researchers' own views on the future needs of the construction industry). How and why the work on non–line-of-sight metrology, graphical simulation, and robotics started was even less clear. These weaknesses in planning may derive in part from the lack of prioritization in the National Construction Goals report, which contains a list of areas in which industry could benefit

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An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS: Fiscal Year 1997 from technological advances.2 However, this document does not analyze each area's relative value to industry or define where the need for assistance is most urgent. At NIST, there is not enough external input in the planning process for work in automation and information technology, such as from an advisory panel of outside experts in industry and academia. Structural Engineering This area of research includes almost all the programs carried out in the Structures Division. Mission The mission of the work in structural engineering is to perform research for supporting the development of standards and practices for the resistance of buildings and lifelines (public works and utilities) to earthquakes and extreme winds. Technical Merit and Appropriateness of Work The projects on earthquake engineering are well focused, and the limited resources at NIST are leveraged by coordination with programs at other institutions, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The BFRL's connections to other governmental agencies and to industry allow rapid implementation of results through changes in federal regulations and adoption of new products. A project that demonstrates this success is the division's effort on precast concrete connections. The work on developing guidelines for lifeline construction and protection is important and should be energetically pursued. The efforts to improve wind load design standards are also well directed. Results are packaged as knowledge-based software, which encourages implementation by industry. However, this work has not been widely disseminated, and there are no mechanisms to assess the impact of such software products. Staff are expected to spend part of their time participating in committees; such activities give the laboratory exposure and build awareness of the projects under way in this division. However, the laboratory does not have a strategy for data collection and dissemination or for standardization of test procedures and reporting for earthquake behavior of existing buildings and lifelines. These are important activities, particularly in the area of reporting on the characteristics of facilities undamaged in otherwise destructive earthquakes. In addition, the data collected on earthquake and wind phenomena are not currently distributed over the Internet. 2   Subcommittee on Construction and Building of the Committee on Civilian Industrial Technology, National Science and Technology Council, “Construction and Building: Federal Research and Development in Support of the U.S. Construction Industry,” National Science and Technology Council, Washington, D.C., 1995, pp. 12–13.

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An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS: Fiscal Year 1997 Industrial Impact The research in structural engineering is effectively translated into design guidelines for industrial use. Involving private companies in coordinating and steering current projects ensures the rapid transfer of completed products to industry. In the project on seismic performance of precast concrete connections, the adoption of industry champions resulted in efficient implementation of alterations in the building codes. This approach is an excellent example of industrial interaction and should be emulated in other programs. In a similar vein, the laboratory has effectively formed and called on boards of advisors to support and guide research projects. Resources Funding sources for Structural Engineering (in millions of dollars):   Fiscal Year 1996 Fiscal Year 1997 (estimated) NIST-STRS 2.1 2.1 OA/NF/CRADA 1.1 0.6 Total 3.1 2.7 In general, laboratory equipment needs to be repaired and upgraded. However, it is unclear that demand for the 53 MN (12 million pound) universal test machine is high enough to make refurbishing it worthwhile. Do other agencies, such as the Federal Highway Administration or the military, require the capabilities of such a large machine? A nationwide campaign calling for its survival would demonstrate that funding its upgrade was necessary. The staff for research in Structural Engineering currently includes 17 full-time permanent positions, of which 14 are for technical professionals. There are also three nonpermanent and supplemental personnel, including postdoctoral students and part-time workers. Several highly productive researchers have left this division in the past few years. How and when they will be replaced has yet to be decided. Planning The planning process was not clear to the panel. An example of the division's attitude is that a recent hiring in the area of soil dynamics was driven by programmatic needs. An alternative approach would have been to hire the best all-around individual available to provide flexibility and continuity as project needs in the division change.

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An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS: Fiscal Year 1997 Fire Science and Fire Safety Engineering This area of research is covered by the work of two divisions. Mission The mission of the fire-related work is to perform research for scientific and engineering understanding of fire phenomena and metrology for fire research, and to develop engineering methods to predict the behavior of fire and smoke and means to mitigate their impacts on people property, and the environment. The parallel missions of the Fire Science and Fire Safety Engineering Divisions have been refocused to integrate the science and engineering needs of fire safety. These divisions have a dual responsibility to support U.S. industrial competitiveness and to enhance public safety, with the legislative directives guiding their work dating back to the “America Burning” report in 1973. Obligations to both the public and private sectors are not inconsistent. Life and property losses from fires in all spheres of society have a tremendous impact on the efficiency and reliability of the workplace and the availability of capital and human resources for industrial growth. Technical Merit and Appropriateness of Work The fire research effort at NIST is world class. The combination of basic science and engineering provides valuable synergy unavailable anywhere else and delivers results to industry in a usable form. The major products in these divisions—efforts to quantify fire safety measures, work on less flammable materials, and development of advanced measurements systems—are well conceived and executed. Their results provide important information with critical applications to commerce, industry, and the public sector. These projects also exemplify better integration of the laboratory's fire science and fire safety engineering strengths because the research efforts drive the technical advancements in the field of fire safety. In addition to focusing on real-world problems, these products increase and extend the competencies of both divisions. Such growth is critical to sustained technical ability. Excellent work continues in Loss Reduction, a major laboratory thrust, and elsewhere. Dissemination of the results through conference attendance, publications, NIST production of CD-ROMs, and the Internet is appropriate and effective. The workshops held to assess industry needs and collaborations with outside groups such as the National Fire Protection Research Foundation provide a basis for transferring technology to industry. However, there are some areas that need improvement. The CD-ROMs are not structured and searchable by key words, but this problem may be remedied as the software used in CD development evolves. The way scientists from outside the BFRL propose research projects to the laboratory does not work well, and the laboratory has few opportunities to provide feedback to outsiders.

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An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS: Fiscal Year 1997 Industrial Impact Further development of the Large Eddy Simulation Model and its application to specific industrial problems will have a significant impact on the future of plant design and fire testing. Developing advanced measurement systems is essential to a better understanding of fire test results, which in turn will produce better predictions for the response of designs to a range of fire scenarios. Both improvements are critical to the development of performance-oriented designs, codes, and standards. This diagnostic work is essential to the traditional standards and measurements efforts at the core of NIST's mission. Resources Funding sources for Fire Science and Fire Safety Engineering (in millions of dollars):   Fiscal Year 1996 Fiscal Year 1997 (estimated) NIST-STRS (excluding Competence) 6.8 6.7 Competence 0.2 0.2 ATP 0.1 0.1 Measurement Services 0.0 0.2 OA/NF/CRADA 3.8 3.9 Misc. Reimbursement 0.1 0.1 Total 11.0 11.2 The staff for research in this area includes 58 full-time permanent positions, of which 50 are for technical professionals. There are also 16 nonpermanent and supplemental personnel, including postdoctoral students and part-time workers. Both divisions have been able to maintain the high quality of personnel, despite the declining quality of the physical resources available to the staff. Although modest, the current budgets are applied efficiently to well-established priorities. The projects funded by external agency grants are quite appropriate, focusing on real-world problems while continuing to serve the larger purposes outlined in the divisional missions. Most equipment needs are being met satisfactorily, but one major item continues to hinder divisional efforts: the inadequacy of the large burn facility in Building 205. In 1996, the raised platform was demolished and old, unusable equipment was removed. Although these improvements are significant, they are not enough to allow the facility to accommodate the size and type of testing necessary to support the divisions' measurements development and model verification needs. Although some testing currently is and will continue to be outsourced, the absence of a refurbished in-house facility seriously impedes the researchers' ability to carry out the work necessary to support the divisional and laboratory missions. Improvements in the emission control system for the building have been repeatedly delayed. Bringing this facility to a useable level will require capital expenditure by NIST management.

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An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS: Fiscal Year 1997 Planning The divisions are formally planning to integrate the science and engineering research efforts more effectively. This is a positive step, because the desired advancements in fire safety are dependent on joint efforts. MAJOR OBSERVATIONS The new “success strategy” is an important and productive step forward for the Building and Fire Research Laboratory. This packaging of multiple small projects into a few major products should have a positive impact on the laboratory 's ability to disseminate results and obtain funding. The overall technical merit of laboratory work is quite good; some examples of excellent programs include the work on performance-based standards and true LCC of structures. There are innovative dissemination programs, but occasionally the industrial interactions are not broad enough. Renovations are needed to make the fire test facility in Building 205 functional. This facility is necessary for the laboratory to continue performing high-quality research in support of fire model development and verification and advanced measurement techniques. In addition, the equipment that operates and controls the environmental chambers need to be refurbished and replaced. Also, more information about the level of national support for the meganewton structural test facility is necessary to enable the laboratory to make decisions about this facility's future.

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