SFPE Foundation Awards Three Research Grants on Li-Ion BESS Fires, Fire Testing of Resilient & Susta

SFPE Foundation Awards Three Research Grants on Li-Ion BESS Fires, Fire Testing of Resilient & Sustainable Building Materials, and the Interface Between Digital Buildings and Fire Service Operations

January 17, 2024: GAITHERSBURG, MarylandThe SFPE Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to enhancing the scientific understanding of fire and its interaction with the social, natural, and built environments, proudly announces the funding of research into several projects in alignment with its commitment to the Grand Challenges Initiative research agenda.

Project Title: Environmental and Health Impacts of Thermal Runaway Events in Outdoor Lithium-Ion Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) Installations 

Project team: Jamie McAllister (PhD, PE) of FireTox LLC is the principal investigator, with Brendan McCarrick (PE), and Zelda Zhao also on the project team.  

The aims of the project are to better understand the health and environmental aspects of li-ion BESS fires such as products of combustion, factors that influence propagation, and firefighting tactics. The project team will use this information to model li-ion BESS fire plume dispersion. They will then use the models to develop a risk analysis of the health and environmental impacts of such fires. 

Project Title: Fire Testing of Resilient and Sustainable Building Materials 

Project team: Principal investigator Prof. Richard Walls (PhD, MSc, BScEng, GDE, BTh, PrEng), Dr. Natalia Flores-Quiroz (PhD, MSc, BScEng), and Yohannes Shewalul (MS, BS) of Stellenbosch University, with Carlo Kuhn of Ignis Testing, and a to-be-hired postdoctoral researcher. 

The objectives of the project are to identify the sustainable building materials being used in construction, the fire testing methods being used for those materials, and potential fire risks that are not addressed in existing testing methods with further experimental fire testing.In addition to advancing the GCI research agenda, the project also contributes to the Resilience/Sustainability and Building Fires threads of the SFPE Research Roadmap. 

Project Title: The Interface Between Digital Buildings and Fire Service Operations 

Project team: Dr. Nils Johansson of Lund University will serve as project leader. He is accompanied by Dr. Enrico Ronchi of Lund University and Dr. Katelynn Kapalo of the Western Fire Chiefs Association’s Applied Sciences Center for Resilience Studies.  

The primary goal of this research project is to study the flow of digital information from smart buildings to the fire service and how it can be optimized. A specific interest is the integration of data from tools for Smart Firefighting and their usage by incident commanders. 

We are thrilled that the funding made possible through the Grand Challenges Initiative has enabled us to support not just two, but three exceptional research projects,” stated Leslie Marshall, PhD, Director, SFPE Foundation. “Each project and its dedicated team promise to bring invaluable results and advance the 10-year plan outlined in the GCI white papers.” 

Over the past year, the four GCI working groups, led by their chairs and fellows, developed white papers on four topic areas that represent pressing global challenges where fire safety science and engineering can contribute to discussions and solutions. The papers present the groups' findings and a plan for interdisciplinary research and action. In 2023, the SFPE Foundation sought proposals addressing key areas outlined in the white papers and the SFPE Research Roadmap, specifically the Resilience/Sustainability, Building Fires, Non-Building Fires, Fire Safety Systems, and Fire Service threads.  

Financing for SFPE Foundation-funded research is provided through the generous support of donors, including SFPE, SFPE chapters, SFPE members, governmental agencies, leading companies and organizations, and others. Demand for SFPE Foundation research funding support far exceeds available funds. The SFPE Foundation periodically invites research proposals through open calls and specific proposal requests.  

The Grand Challenges Initiative is led by experts serving on four working groups and made possible with the financial support of SFPE, Fire Safety Research Institute/UL Research Institutes, Code Red Consultants, FM Global, Harrington Group, Jensen Hughes, and additional corporate, academic, and research partners.   

For a full description of each project, click here. For a full description of the gaps identified in each of the above areas, please consult the SFPE Research Roadmap. Additional information about the SFPE Foundation, its Grand Challenges Initiative, and the public comments on these four papers is available at sfpe.org/foundation.  

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About the SFPE Foundation:

Established in 1979, the SFPE Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization focused on enhancing the scientific understanding of fire and its interaction with the social, natural, and built environments through strategic investments in students, research, and knowledge transfer.  Learn more at sfpe.org/foundation.

SFPE media contact: 

Austin Guerrazzi
Senior Marketing & Analytics Manager
Society of Fire Protection Engineers