Photo of Blast Engineering explosion

What is Blast Engineering?

After the risk of an explosive event of has been identified it is the job of a blast engineer to understand the consequences of this event then to propose methods for reducing the harm caused to people and critical assets.

Explosions can occur as a result of the development of an explosive atmosphere, within chemical processes, the sudden release of water, liquid or gas held at high pressure or through the detonation of an explosive compound by accident or design.

Additionally explosive compounds can be made from a wide variety of materials and have differing characteristics, costs, effects and levels of safety. Furthermore they can be deployed in ways which, optimize their characteristics for either air blast, shattering effect, cutting materials, breaking rocks or even welding metals together.

I began my career as an explosives engineer in the Ministry of Defence developing the tools and techniques used in bomb disposal and I’ve got first-hand experience of these effects, the hazards they pose and ways which bomb disposal officers will deal with them.

Regrettably as we’ve seen in Paris, Brussels, Mumbai, Tianjin, Buncefield and Bishopsgate these events do occur despite the best efforts of law enforcement and health and safety agencies. Hence with blast engineering tools and techniques we can understand the risks and increase the resilience of structures and organisations.

This process is simple and is tailored to clients’ needs through a few common stages:

1. Threat and Risk Assessment

A site specific and systemic assessment of the likelihood and severity of adverse events is the basis for further work and informs calculations on the location and danger of events against structures.

It can be performed at the planning stages of a development or at a when it is in use should the process or the threat level it faces change. It will inform the wider electronic and operational security measures in addition to physical security and blast designs.

2. Blast Consequence Assessment

Informed by the threat assessment an initial assessment of the likely consequences of different events can be made in order to determine if further work is necessary.

  We have unique capabilities to assess the extent damage across a façade if there is suitable BIM or CAD. We can also incorporate a designs for a vehicle security barrier schemes to increase the distance between larger devices and the building.

3. Structural Blast Engineering

The response of the primary structure is modelled to ensure that it is resilient and has sufficient connection capacity and ductility to ensure that that the consequences of an event are not disproportionate.

   Recommendations of performance-based modifications to this structure can then be made including contractual clauses for projects being planned and cost effective modifications to existing structures can be designed.

4. Façade Blast Engineering

The glazing and framing members and systems can be optimized based upon the consequence assessment to ensure that they develop their maximum capacity to resist blasts and pose the minimum hazard to the building occupants.

Luke Stevens
Senior Security Engineer
BEng (Hons) CEng MIMechE
lukestevens@bbseven.com

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