Funded Research


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.

The Project

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Sweden, aiming to compile and organize contemporary, project specific, movement speeds from existing published and unpublished data sets from industry and academic partners globally, with special considerations for accessibility, upwards/downwards movement, etc.).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.

The Goal

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 Project

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.


Determining Evacuation Capability with Biomechanical Data [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 Project

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.

The Report

Modern Vehicle Hazards in Parking Structures and Vehicle Carriers

This project contributes to the Building Fires, Resilience/Sustainability, and Non-Building Fires threads of the SFPE Research Roadmap.


The Project

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.

The Report

Fire Engineering Practitioner Tools: Survey and Analysis of Needs

This project contributes to all nine threads of the SFPE Research Roadmap.


The Project

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.

The Report

Design Fire and Material Performance Database Report

This project contributes to the Building Fires thread of the SFPE Research Roadmap.