In recent years, cities in East Asia have experienced drastic transformation at a rapid speed. Along with rapid urbanization, fire risk is also increasing because of the construction of new high-rise buildings, new underground structures, and the use of new materials, such as aluminum, plastics, and so on. Fires and explosions frequently occurred in urban structures, causing deaths and property damage.
As an educational and research institution engaged in fire safety engineering, our primary mission is to respond to the urgent risk in urbanized cities by collaborating with researchers from each region. For this purpose, the Global COE set up four tasks:
- Develop and diffuse effective education and study in order to reduce fire risk
- Promote collaborative research in efforts to foster human resources through developing theory and conducting large-scale fire tests in laboratory settings
- Establish a graduate school for fire science and technology
- Further promote the use of the unique fire research and test laboratory at TUS
The most significant result of the Global COE Program so far is the establishment of the graduate school. The Graduate School of Global Fire Science and Technology launched a master’s course in April 2010, and then the doctoral course started in April 2012. The graduate school aims to train professionals who have advanced and specialized knowledge of fire safety engineering through lectures and practical experiments using the full-scale test laboratory at TUS.
Currently in the Graduate School of Global Fire Science, 37 master’s students and five doctoral students are working on individual research topics under the supervision of eight faculty members. The Graduate School of Global Fire Science is the first and only graduate course specializing in fire science and technology in Japan that offers an integrated and trans-disciplinary academic program of fire safety engineering. It specifically aims at training professionals who are qualified to:
- Understand and determine burning properties of various materials and fuels in order to identify the cause of fire and to invent new materials (e.g., flame-retardant or noncombustible materials)
- Develop prediction models for fire behavior and evacuation behavior
- Evaluate and design systems for fire protection of buildings
The graduate school is open not only to students but also to fire fighters and other specialists who seek career enhancement. In addition, we accept a number of international students, mainly from East Asia, and this helps Japanese students acquire and improve their international communication ability and leadership at the global forefront.
The curriculum of the graduate school consists of three areas: (1) basic theory and practice of fire science, (2) fire protection engineering for practical building design, and (3) fire protection engineering for policy-making and planning. Basic theory and practice of fire science covers basic knowledge such as physics, chemistry, human behavior, and fire testing and experimentation. Fire protection engineering for practical building design deals with fire phenomenon and architectural aspects, while fire protection engineering for policy-making and planning offers lectures on laws and regulations concerning fire safety. The well-balanced curriculum is designed to develop problem-solving ability from a social perspective.
Another significant achievement of the Global COE Program is research collaboration. The Global COE Program actively promotes human resource development and enhances research activities through personnel exchange programs. TUS has concluded collaborative research agreements with 13 universities and two research institutions, both within Japan and worldwide. Especially, collaboration with the Building Research Institute (BRI) in Japan and other Japanese research institutions that conduct a wide variety of multi-disciplinary research of building and urban design intensified our research ability.
TUS expects further results from the Global COE Program that will contribute to fire safety in Japan and East Asia.
For details of the Global COE Program and the Graduate School of Global Fire Science and Technology, see http://gcoe.moritalab.com/eng/.
Yoshifumi Ohmiya is with the Tokyo University of Science.