Chapter 7

Building and Fire Research Laboratory



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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 1999 Chapter 7 Building and Fire Research Laboratory

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 1999 PANEL MEMBERS Rose A. Ryntz, Visteon Automotive Systems, Chair Janet S. Baum, Health, Education & Research Associates, Inc., Vice Chair Ronald L. Alpert, Factory Mutual Research Corporation Robert A. Altenkirch, Mississippi State University Robert J. Asaro, University of California, San Diego Lee W. Burgett, The Trane Company Ronny J. Coleman, State of California James M. Delahay, Lane Bishop York Delahay Inc. Filip C. Filippou, University of California, Berkeley Gavin A. Finn, Prescient Technologies, Inc. Anthony E. Fiorato, Portland Cement Association Leon R. Glicksman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Susan D. Landry, Albemarle Corporation Richard E. Schuler, Cornell University Jim W. Sealy, Architect/Building Code Consultant, Dallas, Tex. Miroslaw J. Skibniewski, Purdue University Forrest O. Stark, Dow Corning Corporation James A. White, Western Fire Center, Inc. Elaine M. Yorkgitis, 3M Automotive Division Laboratory Submitted for the panel by its Chair, Rose A. Ryntz, and its Vice Chair, Janet S. Baum, this assessment of the fiscal year 1999 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 11–12, 1999, in Gaithersburg, Md., and documents provided by the laboratory.

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 1999 LABORATORY-LEVEL REVIEW Laboratory Mission According to laboratory documentation, the mission of the Building and Fire Research Laboratory (BFRL) is to partner with its customers to provide the measurement technologies, performance prediction methods, and technical advances needed to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. industry and public safety and assure the life-cycle quality and economy of constructed facilities. This mission statement outlines appropriate goals for the Building and Fire Research Laboratory. The focus on measurement technologies and U.S. competitiveness is well aligned with the overall NIST mission. The actual scope of the laboratory mission and programs is very broad, and the link between BFRL's historical and valuable concentration on improving public safety and the standard metrological and commercial focus of NIST could be more clearly articulated. In addition to the basic vision charted in the mission statement, the BFRL has outlined 10 programmatic objectives that define the array of projects currently under way in the laboratory. These 10 goals are split into 6 major products, each of which targets the release of a specific deliverable, and 4 other high-impact objectives, each of which is a general collection of programmatically related work. The major products are these: Computer-Integrated Construction Environment (CICE), Cybernetic Building Systems (CBS), Fire-Safe Materials (FSM), Industrial Fire Simulation Systems (IFSS), Partnership for High-Performance Concrete Technology (PHPCT), and Performance Standards System for Housing (PSSH). The high-impact objectives are the following: Service Life Prediction, Metrology for Sustainable Development, Earthquake, Fire, and Wind Engineering, and Advanced Fire Measurements and Firefighting Technologies. The approach of organizing the laboratory's work within these 10 major objectives is approximately 2 years old. The goal of this programmatic reorganization is to assist the BFRL in selecting appropriate key areas on which to focus and ensuring that the impact of laboratory work will be felt by relevant industries. The new approach is supported by the development of a laboratory-wide strategic plan. The panel is very pleased by the progress that has been made on this reorganization. Since last year, the connections between the objectives, the various projects, and the divisions has been clarified, increasing the panel's ability to perform a thorough assessment. The laboratory has also articulated a success strategy to support the laboratory's efforts to reach its objectives. The plan calls for each major product to connect with a “champion,” such

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 1999 as a company, industry, or trade organization, that will assist in a real-life demonstration of the viability and benefits of NIST work and will actively vocalize the value of BFRL to funding agencies and the U.S. Congress. The next scheduled step is for the laboratory to develop a more detailed marketing plan describing the implementation of the strategy for individual products and delineating the tools BFRL staff will need to make vital connections with appropriate champions. Already it is clear that various major products are at very different levels of maturity in terms of their progress towards demonstrating laboratory technologies and achieving external support (fiscal and political) for BFRL activities. The panel anticipates a full discussion of the marketing plan and of progress on this success strategy during next year's assessment. Although the panel is supportive of BFRL management's effort to restructure the laboratory to increase the efficiency and focus of the programs, there exist a few unresolved issues. The panel's greatest concern is that the new strategies and goals do not yet seem to have been clearly communicated to the staff throughout the laboratory and the bench scientists and engineers have not yet bought into the new approach. Laboratory management is aware of this problem. By increasing staff involvement in strategy and project selection, the sense of accountability and ownership should spread to all levels of the laboratory. Technical Merit and Appropriateness of Work The technical merit of the work performed in the BFRL is very high. The current array of programs support the laboratory mission and contribute to the U.S. effort to meet the national construction technology goals for research and development.1 Overall, the laboratory has world-class researchers who exhibit great enthusiasm and dedication. The BFRL is divided into five divisions: Structures, Building Materials, Building Environment, Fire Safety Engineering, and Fire Science. In addition, within the laboratory office there is an active research program conducted on Standards and Codes Services in the Office of Applied Economics (OAE). The BFRL structure is organized along lines of expertise, which are fairly stable, and allows the laboratory to be flexible in the development of dynamic major objectives. The interdisciplinary nature of the BFRL's major objectives implies that multiple areas of expertise are needed to meet the goals, and therefore more than one division is often involved in work in support of a given objective. In this section of the laboratory overview, key observations and comments about each major objective will be given. The assessments that follow the laboratory overview are organized along divisional lines and discuss in depth the various projects that are ongoing throughout the BFRL. Overall, the panel found that the laboratory is very adept at interdisciplinary collaborations and successfully exploits synergies established in these cooperative efforts. The work on Computer-Integrated Construction Environment is on the cutting edge of international research in this field, and the panel views this project as having major potential payoffs toward the reduction of labor costs called for in the national construction goals. The projects in this area are supported entirely by internal NIST resources. BFRL staff have made great strides over the past year in building stronger connections with industry, and these relationships may translate into external support for future CICE activities. The primary 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 Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 1999 concerns of the panel in this area are the tenuous connections between the CICE groups in the Structures and Building Environment Divisions and the lack of clarity about how these groups coordinate their goals and their resources. The Cybernetic Building Systems is an excellent example of BFRL's goals for its major products. The work on CBS is well coordinated over several divisions and totally focused on producing a specific deliverable that is currently undergoing real-world proof of concept demonstrations. This mature project is supported by approximately 20 CRADAs and receives equipment donations from a wide range of companies. The only issue noted by the panel was that the effort on fire panels with predictive capabilities was somewhat high risk because it is not clear if there would be broad acceptance of this new technology within the firefighting community. The modeling efforts for the Fire Safe Materials Program are very impressive. Several companies are collaborating with NIST to provide processing equipment for the work on new flame-retardant principles for polymers. The investigations on the properties of nanocomposites are exciting and could be disseminated more widely. In the work on Industrial Fire Simulation Systems, laboratory staff have done an excellent job of integrating various physics-based results into a practical system that allows engineers to examine the effects of sprinkler output on combustion. NIST has a reputation for using fundamental science to develop generalized methodologies, and it is important that this approach be continued without expanding reliance on purely empirical results. The IFSS software is already being used by several groups outside NIST, and the panel hopes to see a more formal technology transfer system in place soon to encourage widespread adoption of this new and useful tool. The BFRL focuses on modeling and prediction in the Partnership for High-Performance Concrete Technology. Development of these techniques and the dissemination via computer-integrated knowledge systems (CIKS) make the NIST program unique and highly valued. The future goals for this work are well defined and include integration of the Office of Applied Economics work on life-cycle costs (LCCs) for bridges into CIKS. Unfortunately, progress on this major product has been slowed by a shortage of personnel devoted to this area. The efforts contributing to development of a Performance Standards System for Housing are in their infancy. The general long-term aim of this program is clear, but a plan is needed that articulates the specific deliverables that are required, the links between projects under way and these goals, and the coordination that will occur between the various divisions involved in this major product. As noted above, the next four objectives are not major products and therefore are not as narrowly focused or clearly defined. They are all collections of related work, usually occurring within one division. The laboratory has indicated that future major products are expected to arise from ongoing projects within these objectives. The work under Service Life Prediction includes investigations of organic building materials and collaboration with the coatings consortium. The array of projects is producing good and interesting results. The consortium has proven to be an effective means to coordinate industry support and transfer technology, but the panel is somewhat concerned that the agreements with the member companies limit NIST 's ability to share information about BFRL results with as wide an audience as possible. The efforts grouped as Metrology for Sustainable Development include the laboratory's work on indoor air quality and refrigerants. The work on microelectromechanical systems

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 1999 (MEMS) is fairly high risk but has significant potential payoffs. Overall, much of the work in this objective builds direct connections with BFRL's customers, but the panel was concerned that criteria for project conclusion were not clearly defined, and some projects seemed to extend beyond their useful lifetime. The Earthquake, Fire, and Wind Engineering objective is mainly focused on earthquake-related activities. The wind effort consists of theory and modeling work and continues to be understaffed and underfunded. The panel did not observe cross-divisional collaborations within this objective. Finally, a collection of projects in the Fire Safety Engineering and Fire Science Divisions constitute the laboratory's work on Advanced Fire Measurements and Firefighting Technologies. The panel continues to be pleased with the relative absence of boundaries between these two divisions and the smooth collaborations that occur among the staff. For this objective, the primary difficulty is the fragmented nature of the firefighting community. The number of different trade organizations and the variety of codes and standards developed by each of these bodies are limiting NIST's ability to develop and maintain a stable and consistent system that allows the advantages of new BFRL technologies to be effectively disseminated to the relevant communities and then to be assimilated into codes and standards for widespread use. Impact of Programs The BFRL has strong connections to the industrial communities that benefit from the work under way at the laboratory. Staff utilize roadmapping and benchmarking activities where possible and organize interactions with individual companies when the industry is less well organized. Particularly valuable NIST activities include participation in technical working groups and on standards committees, where BFRL personnel provide objective advice on technical issues and coordinate adoption of new standards and technologies. The most serious challenge facing the laboratory remains the issue of dissemination and implementation. The laboratory actively explores which tools are most likely to be utilized by NIST customers and makes efforts to publish documents and develop software to reach a wide audience. However, the communities served by the BFRL, such as the construction industry and U.S. firefighters, are fragmented and slow to adopt new techniques and methods. The panel cautions that this situation should be taken into account when planning new projects, as the laboratory's products must be implemented in order to meet the mission of enhancing competitiveness and improving public safety. NIST has held a series of workshops to quantify and publicize areas in which the NIST laboratories are best in the world; for BFRL, symposia have highlighted the laboratory's abilities in fire safety and construction metrology. In February 1999, the U.S. Coast Guard utilized BFRL-developed fire simulation software to assess potential pollution effects from a tanker wreck off the Oregon shore and decided that burning off the oil remaining in the tanker holds would minimize the resulting pollution.

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 1999 Laboratory Resources Funding sources2 for the Building and Fire Research Laboratory (in millions of dollars) are as follows:   Fiscal Year 1998 Fiscal Year 1999 (estimated) NIST-STRS, excluding Competence 16.3 16.5 Competence 0.4 0.4 STRS-nonbase 2.5 2.2 ATP 0.5 0.6 MEP 0.1 0.2 OA/NFG/CRADA 8.9 9.3 Other Reimbursable 0.2 0.2 Total 28.9 29.4 The percentage of external support for the laboratory overall has been fairly stable at approximately 30 percent since 1996. Much of this outside funding is appropriately supporting programs consistent with the laboratory mission, and BFRL staff are adept at using OA or industrial money to encourage buy-in and adoption of laboratory results. Some personnel even prefer external funding because other agencies have proven a more reliable and consistent source of support than BFRL's internal funding allocations. Although the panel recognizes the value of the laboratory's maintaining strong connections with external customers, outside funding has several potential drawbacks. One key problem is that other agencies and companies will seldom be willing to finance the development of new initiatives and the innovative basic research that NIST undertakes in order to be prepared to meet the measurements and standards needs of the future. Another issue is that often external support does not cover the entire cost of a project. The panel believes the laboratory would benefit from the development of a system to determine the cost of human and equipment resources needed for proposed work in order to determine whether it is practical to accept the amount of support offered by outside institutions for a given project. Other problems related to external funding are discussed below in the context of issues related to resource allocation and staff development. The BFRL has recently adopted the strategic approach of organizing laboratory projects into 10 major objectives that do not fall strictly along divisional lines. The system for sharing resources across divisional boundaries in support of these interdisciplinary programs is not yet 2   The NIST Measurement and Standards Laboratories funding comes from a variety of sources. The laboratories receive appropriations from Congress, known as Scientific and Technical Research and Services (STRS) funding. Competence funding also comes from NIST's congressional appropriations, but it is allotted by the NIST director's office in multiyear grants for projects that advance NIST's capabilities in new and emerging areas of measurement science. Advanced Technology Program (ATP) funding reflects support from NIST's ATP for work done at the NIST laboratories in collaboration with or in support of ATP projects. Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) funding reflects support from NIST's MEP for work done at the NIST laboratories in collaboration with or support of MEP activities. NIST laboratories also receive funding through grants or contracts from other government agencies (OA), from nonfederal government (NFG) agencies, and from industry in the form of Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs). All other laboratory funding, including that for Calibration Services, is grouped under Other Reimbursable.

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 1999 fully in place. For some major products, such as the work on CBS, the level of coordination is exemplary, whereas in other cases, such as the research on the CICE, the distribution of funds is uneven and unclear. As of January 1999, staffing for the Building and Fire Research Laboratory included 157 full-time permanent positions, of which 129 were for technical professionals. There were also 33 nonpermanent and supplemental personnel, such as postdoctoral research associates and part-time workers. The panel continues to be impressed by the technical quality of the staff and the dedication and enthusiasm BFRL personnel display about their work and working environment. The staff appreciate the freedom to pursue innovative areas of research, to propose new initiatives, and to seek out continuing educational opportunities. NIST's reputation for technical competence, the opportunity to work with talented visitors, and broad reservoir of scientific knowledge across the institution all make BFRL an attractive place to work. The panel's concerns in the area of human resources mainly spring from the large number of projects per person. BFRL management continues its attempt to reduce the number of ongoing projects, and the panel supports efforts to examine issues related to criteria for project conclusion and whether the range of areas covered by BFRL may be too broad. When each person is contributing to five or six projects, it is difficult for that individual to manage his or her time and hard for group leaders and division chiefs to make global allocations of human resources. The burden on individual researchers is exacerbated by the diminishing number of technicians available to support experimental research and the lack of continuity when a technician retires or departs. A particular concern expressed by both senior staff at NIST and the panel is the laboratory's need to increase the population of younger personnel in the BFRL. As has been noted in previous reports, all of NIST shares recruitment difficulties because NIST's salary ranges and facilities often cannot match what is available in industry. However, the BFRL also has some issues relating to retainment of new staff members and postdoctoral research associates. A great deal of emphasis is placed on the ability to attract outside funding, and younger personnel often feel pressured to provide outside resources before they feel they have built the necessary competence in the relevant fields. This pressure is part of a staffwide uncertainty about the stability of BFRL's internal funding. Such uncertainty about the future, the absence of a strong mentoring system, and the large number of projects per researcher often result in young personnel considering offers from other institutions. The outlook for major laboratory facilities has brightened considerably over the past year. Renovations on some of the environmental chambers have been completed, and the division should be evaluating whether further repairs on the largest chamber would be cost-effective. Funding and plans are in place for the much-needed repairs and upgrades to the fire testing facility in Building 205. NIST's niche in the fire community is the development and verification of predictive models of fire situations. Because Building 205 plays a vital role in the validation of BFRL models, the panel encourages NIST management to start and finish this construction as quickly as possible to enable BFRL to fulfill its mission effectively and meet the needs of its customers in this field. In the case of the 53 MN testing machine, staff continue to investigate if the NIST experimental facilities could be integrated into the NSF's planned National Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation. Next year the panel hopes to hear more detailed estimates about what repairs and upgrades would be needed and the expected costs. Overall, the

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 1999 panel continues to be concerned that the BFRL is underinvested in capital equipment and in maintenance for existing machinery. DIVISIONAL REVIEWS Structures Division Division Mission According to division documentation, the mission of the Structures Division is to promote construction productivity and structural safety by providing measurements and standards to support the design, construction, and serviceability of constructed facilities. The current array of projects in the Structures Division aligns well with this mission statement and supports the development of the laboratory 's major objectives. The emphasis on work related to standards is appropriate and valuable to industries involved in building design, construction, and service. Technical Merit and Appropriateness of Work The Structures Division has just completed a reorganization of its projects and structure. There are now three groups: Structural Evaluation and Standards, Structural Systems and Design, and Construction Metrology and Automation. Throughout these groups, the panel observed projects of uniformly high quality and technical merit. Several examples in which excellent progress has occurred over the past year are highlighted in the following discussion of the individual groups. In the Structural Evaluation and Standards Group, the programs address the development of measurement methods to be used for condition assessment of buildings and building materials. In the past year, the impact-echo method, a NIST-developed technique for flaw detection in concrete based on stress wave propagation, has been successfully adapted as an ASTM standard and implemented in several important areas of nondestructive evaluation. Finally, in the project on assessing soil liquefaction risk using shear wave velocity measurements, NIST staff have developed a design methodology and draft guidelines for effective use of this technique. This work has provided useful results, but the soil project is not totally aligned with the rest of the work in this division or with the laboratory's current array of major objectives, so the panel supports BFRL's decision to phase out work in this field. The Structural Systems and Design Group focuses on the performance of structural systems under normal and extreme loads and on improving structural design and construction practices. This group's work on precast concrete moment frames has resulted in the development of a completed set of design standards, and the focus is now on the implementation of these guidelines in several pilot projects in seismic high-risk areas. This project is a good example of how work in this division tends to follow an organized progression from need identification to standards development to implementation in pilot applications. Another project in the group that is following a similar path is the work on seismic rehabilitation of welded steel frame buildings. The staff on this project have compiled a comprehensive collection of

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 1999 experimental data and are now concentrating on the development of design standards. Also, this group's work on computer-based wind load standards has been tested in a pilot project, and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has acknowledged the value of this approach by altering the ASCE standard to allow the use of this sort of electronic standard. Finally, the NIST-developed testing standards for base isolation devices have been adopted by the ASCE, and the planned project on the development of testing standards for passive control devices is progressing well. Among the plans for future activities, the panel viewed the scheduled experimental work for the development of design standards for residential housing construction and the integration of analytical methods into the project as very promising and felt that this activity should be pursued with greater focus. In the Construction Metrology and Automation Group, the projects in progress are state-of-the-art cutting-edge research that promises to have a major impact on meeting the national construction goals. This group is involved in fundamental research and development of position/orientation tracking systems, sensor interface protocols for construction data telemetry, and construction site simulation. Within the CICE major product, the work of this group is closely related to ongoing projects in the Building Environment Division, and the panel cautions that as the technologies under study in each of these groups mature, tighter connections between the projects will have to be developed. In addition to the standards development and research projects under way in these three groups, the Structures Division is responsible for the federally mandated National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program. Although this work focuses specifically on earthquake-related issues, many projects in this division include more general natural hazard mitigation goals. Three specific types of these projects are those that primarily address the development of testing and measurement standards for earthquake mitigation methods and devices; that address improvement of existing standards in hazard classification and design for wind loads; and that primarily address the development of new standards for existing and new building construction based on measurements from previous or concurrent projects within or outside NIST. These are all important areas of work, and the panel believes that better coordination of the analytical efforts under way in the different projects could occur. Impact of Programs The Structures Division utilizes a variety of methods to disseminate results, including research reports and design guidelines. The panel is particularly pleased to note that most of the information describing the division's activities and outputs is now available on the World Wide Web. The division is well connected to relevant industries, and the work done at NIST is well regarded. Particularly outstanding examples of high-impact work include the development of design procedures for seismic performance of precast concrete connections and the effort on testing guidelines for base isolation devices. The reorganization of the Structures Division has created a group structure that is aligned with the major products of the BFRL. The Structural Evaluation and Standards Group supports the Partnership for High-Performance Concrete Technology, the Structural Systems and Design Group is part of the Performance Standards Systems for Housing, and the Construction Metrology and Automation Group contributes to the work on the Computer-Integrated Construction Environment. In addition, the Structures Division coordinates all of the work under

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 1999 way in the laboratory in support of the BFRL major objective on Earthquake, Fire, and Wind Engineering. Division Resources Funding sources for the Structures Division (in millions of dollars) are as follows:   Fiscal Year 1998 Fiscal Year 1999 (estimated) NIST-STRS, excluding Competence 2.3 2.5 STRS-nonbase 0.6 0.4 ATP 0.0 0.1 OA/NFG/CRADA 0.5 0.3 Total 3.4 3.3 As of January 1999, staffing for the Structures Division included 21 full-time permanent positions, of which 18 were for technical professionals. There were also two nonpermanent and supplemental personnel, such as postdoctoral research associates and part-time workers. The reorganization of the division was completed in the last year and aligns well with the major objectives of the laboratory. Morale and motivation among the staff appear to be very high. However, the human resources available in the division do not seem to be adequate to cover the wide range of activities under way; the panel observed several areas in which scarcity of staff time seems to be impeding progress. The panel's most significant concern related to resource availability is how the division is to support its efforts in some of the major products, such as PSSH and CICE, where the current work does not seem to be generating sufficient external funding. This issue is affecting programs throughout the division, which may be forced to cut back on other expenditures to support the work on the major products. One of the major commitments of this division is participation and leadership for a variety of technical and standards committees. Although these activities are important, the amount of time and effort involved places a significant burden on this relatively small division, as the panel observed last year. Since then, the load has only increased, as many of the committee responsibilities of the recently retired laboratory director have now been delegated to the staff in this division. Another key role of the division is its supervision, evaluation, and coordination of wind engineering research at Texas Tech University. This activity provides great visibility for NIST, but the time and effort spent on this congressionally mandated endeavor is also a drain on resources in a division where the personnel are spread very thin. The division would benefit from adding staff with expertise in nonlinear computation, nondestructive testing, and structural controls theory. Also, management does not seem to have a clear staffing plan for the technicians who support the experimental work in this division, nor are there succession plans in place for this group of staff. The resulting disruptions that occur when a technician leaves or is assigned to a different project interfere with the division's ability to conduct high-quality experimental work. Laboratory equipment is in dire need of maintenance and upgrade. The panel approves of the past year's efforts to improve the Tridirectional Test Facility with computer control

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 1999 the United States that is able to develop these coherent, science-based methodologies. Although there is always a temptation to use purely empirical methods when developing simulations of complex fire phenomena, the division must continue to focus on achieving a balance between fire-science-generated results and more practical engineering estimates. A main focus of the Fire Safety Engineering Division is the work in support of the BFRL major product, the Industrial Fire Simulation System. Projects concentrate on the interaction among fire-induced gas motion, sprinkler sprays, and ceiling vents/smoke curtains, and the program is clearly outstanding and state of the art. The IFSS requires the integration of many individual and complex outputs (such as a thermal radiation submodel), and the panel applauds the division 's ability to coordinate multiple areas of ongoing research. Development of burning rate and extinguishment submodels for the IFSS is especially difficult because of the varied composition of the commodities and materials being studied. Division staff have exhibited commendable enthusiasm, energy, and thoroughness in attacking this practical problem that affects both U.S. industries and their overseas subsidiaries, where the use of smoke vents is more widespread. The IFSS projects have been very successful, and the resulting software is being put to use by several organizations outside of NIST. The panel believes that more formal support of this software model by the division is probably needed. In addition to the work on the IFSS, the division comanages the BFRL major objective on Advanced Fire Measurements and Firefighting Technologies with the Fire Science Division. The panel was pleased by the level of coordination that is happening for this work and the ease with which cross-divisional collaboration occurs. Impact of Programs In most instances, the work in the Fire Safety Engineering Division is making a significant contribution to achieving the BFRL objectives and is directly improving the quality of the tools available to U.S. fire protection engineers. The division is currently initiating a new strategic direction: developing products that advance firefighting technology. This new area of research potentially could bring great benefits both to the Fire Safety Engineering Division and to its customers, but the work is fairly high risk, and the panel and division management should carefully evaluate the strategy to assure that the resulting products continue to be in line with the mission of the division. One possible benefit of this effort is the enhancement of the effectiveness of firefighting in the complex and varied situations that arise in commercial/industrial occupancies, where the property and goods can be highly valuable or very hazardous. In this area, the division is introducing several types of new technologies to assist firefighters in these difficult circumstances. One approach is the production of training materials, such as videos based on IFSS computations. The division is also working on developing real-time prediction capabilities that could analyze the situation and offer extinguishment strategies that take optimal advantage of installed protection systems. These technological advances could strengthen the partnership among on-site loss prevention professionals, plant emergency organizations, and the local fire service. Another way in which the new initiative in advanced firefighting technologies could enhance public safety would be by opening more active communications between NIST and the firefighting community, perhaps through a revitalized Fire Administration, and by strengthening the links between fire safety engineering and the fire prevention function of the fire service. The

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 1999 panel, however, is concerned about how practical this ambition is. The fire service in the United States is a truly diverse constituency, with several hundred departments covering the most densely populated areas, and hundreds of other departments with varying levels of organization providing service for the rest of the country. It is therefore very difficult to construct dissemination plans that ensure that projects aimed at improving the effectiveness and safety of firefighting gain widespread acceptance. Unlike other projects performed in the Fire Safety Engineering Division, these advanced technologies for firefighters must satisfy the large variety of constituencies that would be involved in the implementation process. The division appears to be taking all reasonable steps towards gaining acceptance for the final products (such as the new Smart Panel displays) by involving multiple stakeholders, but it is still not clear if the NIST work will ultimately results in products widely used by the fire service. Division Resources Funding sources for the Fire Safety Engineering Division (in millions of dollars) are as follows:   Fiscal Year 1998 Fiscal Year 1999 (estimated) NIST-STRS, excluding Competence 2.3 2.4 STRS-nonbase 0.4 0.3 OA/NFG/CRADA 1.7 1.8 Other Reimbursable 0.1 0.1 Total 4.5 4.6 As of January 1999, staffing for the Fire Safety Engineering Division included 28 full-time permanent positions, of which 22 were for technical professionals. There were also seven nonpermanent and supplemental personnel, such as postdoctoral research associates and part-time workers. At the present time, the resources allotted to the Fire Safety Engineering Division appear to be adequate. The panel is somewhat puzzled by the modest planned expansion in OA funding, as this increase seems inconsistent with the laboratory's stated goal of reducing the percentage of external support for this division from the current level of 37 percent towards the overall NIST average of approximately 25 percent. A potential benefit of the new initiative on advanced technologies for firefighters is that work in this area may increase the amount of STRS funding allocated to this division, thereby reducing its dependence on outside support. In this division, a limited number of personnel are tackling a wide variety of projects, and it is important to make efficient use of the available human resources. In the IFSS work, division staff developed software called SmokeView to visualize the results of the fire prediction calculations. It is not clear to the panel that this activity was actually the best use of the valuable computational expertise of the division personnel; perhaps future development of routine software could be carried out in other parts of NIST or by an outside contractor. As the panel has noted in many previous reports, renovation of Building 205 is desperately needed, and the panel was very pleased to learn that this construction has been

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 1999 approved. However, there has been a significant delay in proceeding with this project as a result of a redesign required by aesthetic considerations. Despite this unfortunate delay, the division management expressed optimism that the work will begin within a reasonable time. The panel strongly urges NIST management to proceed expeditiously so that this essential, real-scale fire experiment facility can be returned to use. Fire Science Division Division Mission According to division documentation, the mission of the Fire Science Division is to perform research on and develop scientific and engineering understanding of fire phenomena and metrology for fire research. This mission is consistent with the mission of the BFRL, as the work done in the Fire Science Division supports the development of safer and more cost-effective building and furnishing materials by and for U.S. industry. Projects contribute to the laboratory-wide goals that relate to the science and engineering needs of fire safety. The division is involved in a series of integrated programs in support of three of BFRL's objectives. The major product, Fire-Safe Materials, is managed by staff in this division. The goal of this work is to provide performance prediction methods and measurements to industry to assist in the development and deployment of next generation fire-safe polymers for commercial applications. The BFRL objective, Advanced Fire Measurements and Firefighting Technologies, is a coordinated effort with the Fire Safety Engineering Division. This array of projects focuses on scientific and engineering research and the development of predictive tools for advanced fire safety technologies and enhanced tactical decision aids. Finally, the division's work on multifunction sensors contributes to the laboratory's program on Cybernetic Building Systems, which is managed by the Building Environment Division. The Fire Science Division's efforts on FSM and on CBS are both short-term, application-and implementation-oriented programs, and the laboratory hopes to see significant impact from these projects within the next 3 years. The Advanced Fire Measurements and Firefighting Technologies initiative is a broadly defined effort with longer-term goals that extend over 8 to 10 years. Technical Merit and Appropriateness of Work The fire research effort at NIST is internationally renowned for its numerous outstanding scientific contributions over the years. The combination of expertise both in basic science and in engineering provides results of significant value to industry. The work is clearly integrated across project, group, and divisional boundaries, and efforts are focused on fire safety for materials, products, facilities, infrastructure, and people.

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 1999 The panel is particularly impressed by the high-quality work under way in fire-safe materials and fire-suppression chemistry. Flame-retardant principles being developed in the Materials Fire Research Group could considerably change the additives currently used to lower the flammability of many polymer-based materials. NIST experiments have demonstrated that a reduction in peak heat release rates in a flaming situation by 40 to 80 percent is possible while simultaneously improving physical properties via the addition of clays. This result is impressive, but further reductions from the observed values of 300 to 400 kW/m 2 to less than 100 kW/m2 are needed to eliminate the current need for active fire suppression for polymers. In the Fire Sensing and Extinguishment Group, development of detailed kinetic mechanisms to describe and explain the gas-phase chemistry of flame inhibition is providing valuable information for research on next-generation suppression agents. These calculations have shown that there are limits to the effectiveness of suppression agents that act by recombining superequilibrium levels of radicals catalytically, and this information will guide the selection of future agents. In the Advanced Fire Measurements Group, the characterization of thermocouple measurements in fire environments is informational rather than innovative. Since limited resources are available for BFRL's work, the panel suggests that management consider reprogramming the funds currently devoted to this project toward an effort with a greater potential to have a dramatic impact on the fire safety and science communities. Impact of Programs The ongoing shift in emphasis from production of research results to facilitation of improvements to fire safety will continue to have a positive impact on the laboratory's ability to deliver value in a timely fashion. The refocusing also appears to be stimulating the industrial interactions observed by the panel in the Fire Science Division. For example, division staff have successfully collaborated with various corporations on the research related to use of nanocomposites in fire-safe materials. In addition to this sort of strong interaction with individual companies, the panel believes that the division could do more to build awareness of NIST capabilities and results in the industrial community at large. One approach would be to increase staff attendance at industry conferences and workshops, not just at scientific symposia. A factor that is limiting communication about this division's work is the number of proprietary grants and contracts under way that place boundaries on the dissemination of results achieved at NIST. Overall, work in the Fire Science Division has had an impressive impact on a variety of customers. The panel observes that there is one new area that the division might consider exploring. NIST could fulfill a current industrial need by coordinating proficiency testing for small-scale flammability measurement. Examples include Underwriters Laboratories 94 (UL-94) vertical and horizontal burn tests, limiting oxygen index, cone calorimetry (heat release and smoke density), and smoke density (National Bureau of Standards Smoke Chamber). Currently, programs to provide standards that ensure that the flammability properties are measured accurately and precisely do not seem to exist.

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 1999 Division Resources Funding sources for the Fire Science Division (in millions of dollars) are as follows:   Fiscal Year 1998 Fiscal Year 1999 (estimated) NIST-STRS, excluding Competence 1.9 2.1 Competence 0.2 0.2 STRS-nonbase 0.2 0.2 ATP 0.1 0.1 OA/NFG/CRADA 2.0 1.8 Total 4.4 4.4 As of January 1999, staffing for the Fire Science Division included 28 full-time permanent positions, of which 25 were for technical professionals. There were also eight nonpermanent and supplemental personnel, such as postdoctoral research associates and part-time workers. The personnel are quite capable, and the expertise available is appropriate to conduct the research agenda of this division. The Fire Science Division receives 45 percent of its support from external sources; this fraction is the highest of any of the divisions in BFRL. Care should be taken to ensure that OA-funded projects have an appropriate context within the strategic plan and are selected to meet specific laboratory objectives rather than to fill in perceived budgetary needs. In addition, it is important to verify that the funding provided for a given externally supported project is sufficient to cover the cost of conducting the work. Too many partially funded, externally mandated activities will strain the division's supply of STRS money and create an environment in which more outside funding must be sought just to keep up with existing projects. Allocation of modest resources against the multiple priorities of the many public and industrial constituencies interested in fire safety requires ongoing diligence to ensure that all efforts are consistent with division and laboratory plans. Decisions to embark on new projects should be accompanied by the completion or conclusion of existing activities. This reevaluation of priorities should take into account the changing needs of the fire science and safety community as well as the evolving goals of the BFRL. Office of Applied Economics and Standards and Codes Services The OAE and the BFRL's work on Standards and Codes Services are administered within the laboratory office. However, most of the projects in these two areas are undertaken in collaboration with staff in other divisions of BFRL and throughout the NIST operating units.

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 1999 Mission According to laboratory documentation, the mission of the OAE is to provide 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 Standards and Codes Services work has two main goals: to support the development of a comprehensive national and international performance standards system to guide the procurement, evaluation, and acceptance of innovative housing products and systems and to assist the U.S. construction industry in major developing markets to avoid technical barriers to trade and to promote the application of U.S. technology in international construction markets through the development and adoption of appropriate building and construction practices, codes, specifications, and standards. The work of OAE staff allows BFRL and NIST to more clearly define the relevant customer base and to articulate and quantify the value of the laboratory's products and results. This work indirectly supports the BFRL and NIST missions by enabling scientists throughout the institution to perform and disseminate their work efficiently. In Standards and Codes Services work, staff are heavily involved in the formulation and development of tools that allow organizations to define criteria to be used in writing performance-based standards and that assist building designers in successfully meeting these performance objectives. Since the world is moving rapidly toward the adoption of performance-based codes, NIST's work in this area plays a key role in enhancing the competitiveness of U.S. companies in international markets. Technical Merit and Appropriateness of Work OAE and Standards and Codes Services staff are active in a wide variety of projects, from tools for economic product evaluations to technical methods for measuring building performance, which can be expected to have an impact on the building industries in many different ways. Impressive work continues on the development of models to predict and measure the performance of indoor air quality controls and equipment. The work began with computer-aided laboratory analyses and has now progressed to comparisons between the model's predictions and the measured performance of actual products. These comparisons are demonstrating the accuracy of the computer predictions. In the next phase of this work, NIST staff hope to conduct comparison tests in a real-life residential structure. The Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES) project permits designers to weigh the life-cycle economic and environmental consequences of using alternative materials and construction techniques. Built into this computerized evaluation tool is an assessment of the long-term direct and indirect consequences of using alternative materials, but the relative importance of economic versus environmental considerations is assigned by the user, who is free to explore the sensitivity of outcomes to these weights. Although improvements to this package still continue, an electronic version of BEES that is applicable to commercial-type buildings has been released for distribution to designers, developers, and builders. BEES is particularly valuable to these communities in light of the global concern for improving the sustainability of construction. BEES builds on earlier OAE projects (such as UNIFORMAT II, a classification of building elements), and it is being expanded to allow it to be used by builders of

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 1999 residential dwellings. In this guise, it promises to become a valuable component of the emerging BFRL major product, Performance Standard Systems for Housing, by adding safety and environmental considerations to the overall valuation process of selecting alternative design methods and materials for new residential construction. Overall, the work on PSSH aims to develop tools and methodologies for predicting and evaluating the structural performance of residential buildings that have utilized traditional and nontraditional construction materials and methods. Even though work on PSSH is just beginning, early versions of NIST-developed models have the potential to become effective instructional tools with a significant impact on the housing industry. An example is the transformation of computer modeling results into easy-to-understand forms that illustrate how proper fastening (nailing) of sheathing panels improves construction. In addition to performing traditional research on how to weigh technological opportunities and evaluate outcomes in light of objectives, OAE staff also provide assistance to various NIST divisions on establishing project priorities, comparing the cost-effectiveness of alternative technological solutions, aligning what is measured with what is valued by society, and helping to structure and conduct performance-based analyses. A new effort this year is a collaboration with the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) on the use of data envelopment analyses to assess the performance of the Manufacturing Extension Centers and to define and evaluate which characteristics enhance center effectiveness. In the future, the NIST expertise available in applied economics and codes and standards could be effectively directed in several new directions. One would be the inversion of current models that evaluate the performance of new materials in order to enable the use of defined performance criteria to guide the search for new composites. Another possible new program would take advantage of recent advances in real-options analysis to study methodologies to predict actual user responses and adoption rates of new products developed in BFRL. Impact of Programs Overall, the work of OAE and Standards and Codes Services staff contributes to 7 of the 10 BFRL major objectives. Particularly notable programs include the development of user-friendly approaches to the evaluation of alternative systems and components for the Computer-Integrated Construction Environment; the identification of potential users of Cybernetic Building Systems technologies and the development of economic tools to determine cost-effective levels of investment by such users; the integrated life-cycle-cost assessments of alternative materials and composites for the Partnership for High-Performance Concrete Technology and the BEES work; and the codes and standards efforts in support of the Performance Standards Systems for Housing. In each of these cases, a substantial portion of the effort is oriented toward the development and testing of user-friendly computer-based tools, often utilizing the Web. For example, the output software analyzing the economics of new materials is accessible by users over the Internet. This package has previously been developed to evaluate costs of bridge maintenance, and now it is being applied to study the benefits of high-performance concretes. Other projects that hold long-range promise for enhancing BFRL objectives include analyses and simulations of the Structural Performance of Housing Systems, Implementation Tools for Indoor Air Quality Standards, and Infiltration and Ventilation in Large Buildings. Each of these projects involves collaborations with researchers from the technical divisions of

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 1999 BFRL that enable the potential value to the end-users to be continually factored into the research design to more clearly align the measurement and assessment tools with their ultimate implementation. OAE also provides the official training to the U.S. Department of Energy on the implementation of life-cycle-cost assessments, so NIST staff continually are working on improving and disseminating tools for economic valuation. In the area of codes and standards, NIST's primary impact is through its reputation as a respected and neutral third party. There are a number of major national codes and standards organizations, and if NIST staff can coordinate discussions among these institutions, some differences could be resolved and there might be coordinated national codes and standards efforts on adoption and use of performance-based criteria. Resources Funding sources for the Office of Applied Economics and the work on Standards and Codes Services (in millions of dollars) are as follows:   Fiscal Year 1998 Fiscal Year 1999 (estimated) NIST-STRS, excluding Competence 0.8 0.8 STRS-nonbase 0.1 0.1 ATP 0.1 0.1 MEP 0.1 0.2 OA/NFG/CRADA 0.7 1.0 Total 1.8 2.2 A significant percentage of the support for the OAE and the Standards and Codes Services work comes from external funding. However, given the broad mandate of NIST's efforts in these areas and the considerable attention focused on outreach activities, this portfolio of support seems to be appropriate. As of January 1999, staffing for the Office of Applied Economics and the work on Standards and Codes Services included nine full-time permanent positions, of which eight were for technical professionals. There were also five nonpermanent and supplemental personnel, such as postdoctoral research associates and part-time workers. Staff morale is extremely high and staffing appears to be adequate for the projects observed. Funding for equipment repairs and additional testing machines is needed. For example, at the time of the panel 's visit, the tridirectional testing facility was inoperative because of mechanical failures, and so testing to support economic analyses of new materials was being delayed. The OAE has hired three new professionals this year. The future addition of an individual with substantial expertise in operations research/decision sciences is the next priority for management. The panel recognizes that the specialized work of the OAE in support of the NIST mission requires economists and applied operations research analysts with a very specific set of skills, training, experience, and perspectives. Since the assimilation of the new OAE staff members into the OAE and NIST culture and activities is an important process, the panel

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 1999 recommends that any further additions to the staff be at a controlled pace over the next 2 years. There is no doubt that the demand both inside and outside NIST for collaborations with the highly qualified OAE staff is more than high enough to keep any number of new hires employed. Currently, only one person is assigned full-time to the work on Standards and Codes Services. However, laboratory management does not seem hesitant about encouraging cross-divisional staffing of projects run out of Standards and Codes Services, and appropriate projects are being accomplished in a timely manner. Nonetheless, expanding the number of dedicated standards and codes staff would increase NIST's opportunities to interface with other governmental and private organizations involved in national and international codes and standards, as BFRL has the potential to develop a new client base in this arena. Overall, staff in the OAE contribute to budget and priority-setting throughout BFRL by using the analytical hierarchy process (AHP) to perform zero-based budget analyses of all of laboratory activities. This tool was also used to identify and establish budget allocations for the realignment of BFRL major products. With OAE assistance, the AHP methodology is now being adopted throughout NIST. Another way in which the OAE expertise could potentially help BFRL and NIST maximize the use of resources is by developing assessment methodologies for determining the appropriate amount of STRS and OA funding for various projects, divisions, and laboratories. Coherent but flexible allocation guidelines that vary with differing missions and the seniority of the staff might enhance BFRL's effectiveness and assist in sustaining its long-term capabilities. MAJOR OBSERVATIONS The panel presents the following major observations. The Building and Fire Research Laboratory (BFRL) continues to make progress on restructuring its activities to conform to the recently defined 10 major objectives. The technical quality of the ongoing projects is high, and the work of the laboratory definitely supports the National Construction Goals. Laboratory management should clarify who is responsible for defining the strategies and tactics needed to meet the BFRL's 10 major objectives and how resources will be allocated to support various elements of the strategic plan. In addition, the details and importance of the new strategies need to be more clearly communicated to the laboratory staff. Increased involvement in planning and prioritization should raise the level of accountability and enthusiasm for the new approach. A more formal structure for interdivisional collaborations may strengthen some of the major products. The BFRL is well connected to a number of industry organizations and individual companies. Personnel are active on standards committees and in the formation of consortia. This laboratory has a very broad range of customers, and some industries have tended to resist the introduction of new technologies. The panel urges BFRL staff to be proactive in planning dissemination routes and in building connections with many elements of fragmented communities, such as construction and firefighting. Laboratory staff are highly reputed in the scientific communities affected by NIST's work and display significant enthusiasm for the projects under way in BFRL. The panel was somewhat concerned to learn of the uncertainty felt by younger staff members about the

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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories: Fiscal Year 1999 laboratory's funding situation and dependence on external support. To ensure a smooth transition to the next generation of researchers, laboratory management needs to develop a succession and mentoring plan. Important steps have been taken on the repair, renovation, and upgrade of major laboratory facilities such as Building 205 and the environmental chambers. The panel observes that BFRL is still underinvested in equipment purchase and maintenance.

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