Fire Safety: Transforming Building Design

Fire Safety: Transforming Building Design

ERPE development of new and unique design methodologies, frameworks and tools for analysing fire spread has enhanced public safety by transforming structural design for fire. Fire safety engineering research within ERPE has created an improved scientific understanding of the effect of fire on structures and materials and thus assisted the design and construction of increasingly optimised, sustainable, and economical buildings globally with significant changes in building design and regulation.

Enhanced public safety has resulted from ERPE researchers' development of new and unique building design methodologies, frameworks and tools, summarised in Drysdale: "An Introduction to Fire Dynamics", Wiley, 2011. This has improved the scientific understanding of the effect of fire on structures and implemented significant advances for the realization of economical, sustainable and innovative buildings. The important fire-safety advances include:

  • Detection, Containment and Suppression of Fires

    A theoretical, experimental and computational investigation of fire ignition and spread. A key innovation was to create an integrated approach for building fire safety: 'FireGrid - Integrated Emergency Response System’ DTI/BIS with the Building Research Establishment project.

  • Performance-based Building Design

    Our fire safety research commenced with validated, quantifiable modelling of the structural response in the Cardington tests [1] subsequently transforming industry thinking and practice. Arup funded both fire dynamics and structural response modeling [2, 3], developing new methodologies and regulatory frameworks which revolutionise building safety. ERPE research advances were included in the NIST report on the 9/11 attacks where researchers provided validated computational models [2] to support the collapse litigations on the WTC site.

  • Changes to Building Design and Regulation

    Research outputs [1, 2, 3], in conjunction with industry, have enhanced the fire sections of the Structural Eurocodes (BS EN 1991-1-2, 1992-1-2, 1993-1-2, 1994-1-2). ERPE staff are involved in global fire code committees: American Concrete Institute (ACI, 216); British Standards Institute (BSI, B/525); European Committee on Standardization (CEN, TC 250); International Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH); Canadian Standards Association (CSA); National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) etc.

  • A New Class of Design Consultancy

    Industry has applied ERPE’s performance-based structural fire engineering techniques [1]. Heron Tower, London, led to the first regulatory approval of a tall building fire strategy with a multiple floor design fire, significantly reducing construction costs, and increasing safety. "ERPE Research has turned on its head the conventional wisdom on how to protect buildings during fires, and is now used in the world's most iconic structures including Heron Tower, The Shard, etc. This has established structural fire engineering as a mainstream skill and created new and exciting business opportunities for Arup." Director of Technology Practices, Arup.

    [1] Usmani, A.S., Rotter, J.M., Lamont, S., Sanad, A.M. and Gillie, M., "Fundamental principles of structural behaviour under thermal effects", Fire Safety Journal, 36(8): 721–744, 2001. DOI:10.1016/S0379-7112(01)00037-6

    [2] Usmani, A.S., Chung, Y.C. and Torero, J.L., "How Did the WTC Collapse: A New Theory", Fire Safety Journal, 38(6): 501-591, 2003. (

    [3] Rein, G., Torero, J.L., et. al., "Round-robin study of a priori modelling predictions of the Dalmarnock Fire Test One", Fire Safety Journal, 44(4): 590-602, 2009. DOI:10.1016/j.firesaf.2008.12.008

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Monday, 5 May, 2014 - 12:05