The Margaret Law Award
Thursday, February 15, 2018
Established in 2018 by the SFPE board of directors, the Margaret Law Award recognizes individuals who have pioneered advancements associated with engineering fire safety of the built environment.
This award is named in honor of the outstanding achievements of Margaret Law, MBE, BSc, CEng, FIFireE, FSFPE, a pioneering woman in fields of fire safety science and fire protection engineering.
Margaret was born in London and graduated with a BSc in physics and mathematics from the University of London. She joined the Fire Research Station in the UK in 1952. For more than 20 years, she established herself as one of the world’s leading fire scientists, carrying out research into many aspects of fire behavior and its effects on building materials and structures. She also became involved in how these research results apply to building regulations, codes of practice, and design guides. Her research included ignition and fire dynamics, heat radiation from fires, requirements for building separation, and structural fire behavior.
Margaret next spent some years in the Directorate of Research Requirements of the Department of the Environment in the UK, assessing research priorities in building and construction. The application of research to solve practical problems was of particular interest to her.
In 1974, she joined the Ove Arup Partnership as an adviser on fire engineering for projects being designed by the firm. She also created innovative fire safety solutions for major projects such as the Pompidou Centre in Paris and Kansai International Airport. Her concern was with all aspects of fire safety, particularly in buildings for which the standard rules and requirements of regulations did not apply directly. She always published and explained her work so others could understand, interrogate, and implement it. She was particularly renowned for her work on structural steelwork in fire, with codified methods still relied on today in the USA, UK, and Europe.
Margaret was a visiting researcher at the Science University of Tokyo in 1987 and was made visiting professor at the University of Greenwich in 1997. She was actively involved in national and international committees concerned with fire safety throughout her career, getting fire safety engineering principles accepted within codes/standards and the regulatory framework. In the UK, she was instrumental in developments that culminated in fire engineers achieving chartered status through the Institution of Fire Engineers.
At the end of 1990, Margaret retired and became a consultant to the Ove Arup Partnership. Her book of papers, Some Selected Papers by Margaret Law: Engineering Fire Safety, was produced to honor her achievements when she finished this consultant role in 2002. Its contents are a testament to Margaret’s high standards, commitment to fundamental scientific understanding, technical rigor, and ability to translate fundamental principles into practical building design solutions.