The Research Problem
The standard analyses of life safety in buildings and transportation systems use simple uniform flow rates and walking speeds to calculate evacuation times which do not reflect the increasing proportions of elderly, obese and mobility impaired in our society. To address this issue, many research organizations have conducted project specific movement studies, some of which are tabulated in the recent SFPE Handbook of Fire Protection Engineering. However, these data sets often lack a common structure and are difficult to use as a resource.
York University, Canada, led a collaborative multi- institutional effort, including Arup and LUND University, Sweden, aiming to compile and organize contemporary, project specific, movement speeds from existing published and unpublished data sets from industry and academic partners globally, with special considerations for accessibility, upwards/downwards movement, etc.). The project also studied the underlying fundamental individual characteristics of movement to set the stage for future improvements in data collection.
In addition to this report, the project output included an online portal and database, which is currently in final stages of development.
(Anthropomorphic Data and Movement Speeds [PDF])
(Determining Evacuation Capability with Biomechanical Data [PDF])
This project contributes to the Human Behavior thread of the SFPE Research Roadmap
The Research Problem
Occupant load is a critical factor in egress analyses for fire safety systems. Codified values for occupant loads for many occupancies are estimates which frequently do not reflect actual conditions. More realistic data from occupant load studies is available, however it is derived by varying types of people counting systems. Further, a full statistical analysis of the data, taking into account its variability, is often not undertaken and reported. For retail buildings in particular, the variability of the occupant load can provide important design information.
The research study had three components:
- An in depth assessment of currently available people counting systems, identifying strengths and weaknesses.
- A review of occupant loads in actual fire incidents in retail buildings to assess optimum measurement intervals and statistical analyses.
- An in depth statistical analysis of occupant data in Swiss retail stores, exploring the impact of occupancy detailed type, building configuration and location.
(Final Report [PDF])
This project contributes to the Human Behavior thread of the SFPE Research Roadmap.
The Research Problem
Modern vehicles present new fire hazards, including increased combustible content and alternative fuels. Modern parking garages have optimized space requirements for vehicle parking and storage and often implement automated retrieval features and car stacking, which presents unique hazards as well. The goal of this project is to quantify the fire hazard of modern vehicles in parking structures and vehicle carriers to provide guidance for standards and fire safety design of these structures.
The SFPE Foundation collaborated with the NFPA Fire Protection Research Foundation undertake a research needs study to determine priority needs for performance-based knowledge to assist the FPE in evaluating design considerations and codes with a potential focus on risk, egress, detection and suppression.
The project consisted of four components:
• A review of the literature to assess fire incidents, current fire protection requirements, and industry trends in parking structures and vehicle (eg marine) carriers.
• A hazard assessment of modern vehicles in the context of parking structures, and bench-marked against traditional vehicle and fueling systems.
• Based on the above information, an assessment of existing fire protection design criteria with a focus on sprinkler protection.
• Identification of gaps in information needed to provide technical guidance to inform appropriate design criteria.
Modern Vehicle Hazards in Parking Structures and Vehicle Carriers [PDF]
This project contributes to the Building Fires, Resilience/Sustainability, and Non-Building Fires threads of the SFPE Research Roadmap.
In August 2020, the Foundation granted an award to the Fire Research Group of New Zealand for the Development of Fire Engineering Practitioner Tools. The goal of this project is to develop a comprehensive set of tools that may be used by engineers in alignment with the best practices of the 5th edition of the SFPE Handbook of Fire Protection Engineering. Completed in late 2021, this project includes an international survey of current practices, an assessment of available tools, a gaps analysis, and a report that summarizes the findings and priorities for industry tool development.
Fire Engineering Practitioner Tools: Survey and Analysis of Needs
This project contributes to all nine threads of the SFPE Research Roadmap.
Completed in 2021, the goal of this project was to understand what elements would be required to develop and maintain a “living” comprehensive dataset that could be used for assessing hazards and creating design fires. The report includes a literature review that identifies data sources and a framework that could be used by engineers to standardize the approach and development of design fires. This framework is aligned with the state of the practice as described in the 5th edition of the SFPE Handbook of Fire Protection Engineering and the SFPE Engineering Guide to Performance-Based Fire Protection, with references from the international community.
Design Fire and Material Performance Database Report
This project contributes to the Building Fires and Fire Dynamics threads of the SFPE Research Roadmap.
It is widely acknowledged that the impacts of climate change include more widespread and prolonged drought conditions, increased risk of flooding, rising temperatures, reduced snowpack, and shifts in weather patterns globally. Many of these changes not only increase the risk of fire events, but also place additional strain on the public water supplies that are an integral part of many fire protection systems. To design for more resilient communities in this context, fire protection engineers need to understand the linkages between climate change, public water supplies, and fire protection systems design. This project focuses on how fire protection system design and water supply system design must begin to include the concept of climate change, specifically water scarcity or stress, in the discussion of reliability of systems. This project conducts a detailed literature review of current water supply practices, design of suppression systems that depend upon the use of water supplies, and the impacts of water stress or scarcity on water supply systems, as well as a gap analysis of what areas need to be researched more from the lens of fire protection systems and climate change. Additionally, the report will include four case studies of areas that have experienced water shortages: Winter Storm Uri 2021 in Texas; the 2018 Cape Town, South Africa ‘Day Zero’ water crisis; Spain’s ongoing water crisis; and Australia’s water challenges. By studying these scenarios, the project provides a vast look from rural to urban areas (including the wildland urban interface), as well as differing climates, and varying reasons leading to the water stress or scarcities in the regions. A final source of data is a stakeholder survey focused on plans for and experiences with water shortages.
Water Supply & Climate Change: The Impact of Water Stress on Fire Protection Systems
This project contributes to the Resilience/Sustainability and Fire Safety Systems threads of the SFPE Research Roadmap.
View our Press Release
announcing the report.
The primary objective of the research is to characterize the environmental and health impacts following large-scale wildland and structural fire events. The primary research includes a literature review, identification of current systems for monitoring large-scale fire incidents, identification of current tools and resources used to quantify the impact of large-scale fire events, and a gap analysis to inform future research. A research team from FireTox, LLC, led by Principal Investigator Jamie L. McAllister, Ph.D., P.E., and Co-Investigator Brendan McCarrick, P.E., was selected for this project.
Environmental and Health Impacts of Fire and Fire-Suppression Activities During Large-Scale Fire Events
This project contributes to the Resilience/Sustainability, Fire Service, and Wildland/WUI Fires threads of the SFPE Research Roadmap.
View our Press Release
announcing the project.
The aim of this project is to develop a virtual handbook of engineering-based resource materials to support fire department WUI property fire risk assessments and recommended mitigation strategies for use in the field. Following the December 2021 kick-off workshop, the tool is currently in development and will be piloted and evaluated in cooperation with select fire departments in the US. A project team from Jensen Hughes, led by Darlene Rini, P.E., was selected for this project. The project is supported by an Advisory Panel composed of fire engineers, fire service personnel, and members of SFPE’s Fire Service Subcommittee.
The WUI Virtual Handbook for Property Fire Risk Assessment & Mitigation
This project contributes to the Building Fires, Fire Service, Fire Safety Systems, and Wildland/WUI Firesthreads of the SFPE Research Roadmap.
Disclaimer: This program is made possible with federal funding support from the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Fire Prevention & Safety Grant Program (FY 2020).
This project aimed to lay the groundwork for the future development of a wide range of risk-informed performance-based tools for the assessment of sustainable and fire resilient buildings. This involved characterizing the problem, researching and identifying appropriate assessment methods, identifying necessary attributes and requirements for input data, and developing a framework to underpin a risk-informed performance-based assessment methodology. The framework is built on an analysis of regulatory requirements (for fire safety) and green building systems (for sustainability), as well as the creation of an analytical hierarchy process (AHP) risk assessment methodology. The resultant scores in the SAFR-B framework are based on generous input from international experts in the field of fire safety and sustainability, while the weighting between attributes has been based on the project team’s expert input. The resultant proof-of-concept framework has been applied to a fictive case study of an apartment building from Malmö. In May of 2022, the Foundation granted an award to Dr. Brian J. Meacham (Meacham Associates, USA) and Professor Håkan Frantzich and Professor Margaret McNamee, (both from the Division of Fire Safety Engineering, Lund University, Sweden) to conduct this study. They were supported by MS student Erik Kimblad (Lund University). The project kicked off in September 2022. The findings of the study will be presented at the SFPE Annual Conference and Expo in October 2023.
Risk and Performance Assessment Framework for a Sustainable and Fire Resilient Building Environment (SAFR-BE)
This project contributes to the Resilience/Sustainability and Building Fires threads of the SFPE Research Roadmap.
View our Press Release
announcing the project.