Computational modelling, simulation and visualisation research supporting fire safety engineering
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Greenwich
Unit of AssessmentComputer Science and Informatics
Summary Impact TypeTechnological
Research Subject Area(s)
Information and Computing Sciences: Computer Software
Engineering: Materials Engineering
Medical and Health Sciences: Neurosciences
Summary of the impact
Research by the The Fire Safety Engineering Group (FSEG) has encompassed
fire dynamics, fire modelling, human behaviour and evacuation modelling,
and this has been applied through software engineering research and
development in the creation of state-of-the-art software packages in
SMARTFIRE and EXODUS. This research is saving lives worldwide because it
is used to design safer aircraft, ships and buildings, and this results in
social, commercial, industrial and health impacts. Economic impact stems
from licensing the SMARTFIRE and EXODUS software to over 300 organisations
in 32 countries and commercial applications of the software which enable
the realisation of cutting-edge designs and enabling the continual safe
use of heritage structures such as the Statue of Liberty. Impact on
Practitioners is a result of changes to international maritime guidelines
arising from FSEG research, used to inform the development of the software
tools, and the wide scale use of the SMARTFIRE and EXODUS software by
engineers around the world. Society impact, over and above the design of
safer environments, results from FSEG research featuring in a number of
popular documentary programmes attracting audiences measured in the
From it's early origins in the mid-80s, FSEG has been engaged in
multi-disciplinary research, bringing together mathematicians, engineers,
psychologists, computer scientists and animators to investigate fire
dynamics/fire modelling and human behaviour/evacuation modelling, and
develop effective software to model and better support environmental
design. Initial work focused on understanding fire and human behaviour in
aircraft accidents, in particular through work funded jointly by the UK
CAA and EPSRC, related to the Manchester airport Boeing 737 fire. This
research utilised commercial Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software
to develop one of the first CFD fire models to utilise body fitted
co-ordinates in order to accommodate the curved configuration of the
aircraft fuselage. Work in fire modelling expanded to include the
simulation of fire suppression using sprinklers and water mist. However,
it quickly became clear the existing commercial CFD tools lacked the power
and representational capabilities to meet the needs of the researchers,
and also failed to provide effective user support for fire engineers. This
led FSEG to begin research, with support from the EPSRC [3a], into the
development of a fire specific CFD fire simulation software tool that
could be used by fire engineers, the SMARTFIRE CFD fire simulation
software [3.1]. SMARTFIRE is an unstructured mesh CFD fire simulation code
written in C++ which has been in a constant state of evolution, based on
research developments in the underpinning models and improved software
development and algorithmic approaches, since the first version in 1997.
With support from industrial funding [3b, 3c] and research grants [3d-3i],
FSEG has expanded the fire modelling simulation capabilities of SMARTFIRE
to include advanced combustion models, toxic gas models, flame spread
models and advanced smoke models [3.2- 3.4]. A key feature of the
development of SMARTFIRE was the use of expert systems approaches to
ensure that the system was highly usable and appropriate to the needs of
fire engineers, developing a novel problem set-up phase that supported
non-experts, i.e. fire engineers who are not expert in CFD software
modelling, to deal with the complex tasks involved in configuration of the
system, such as establishing boundary conditions and meshing [3.1]. This
approach not only provided benefits in computational design of the initial
system, but also informs the evolution and development of the system as
the FSEG team, working directly with practitioners, have generated far
more effective and detailed user requirements that have informed the
development of the software in terms of usability, effectiveness and
general applicability. As a result, the software is now used in
applications from the built environment to maritime and aviation
FSEG evacuation research grew out of the fire research and was initially
concerned with developing a modelling simulation and visualisation tool
that could predict the behaviour of passengers subjected to a post-crash
aircraft fire. This early work led to the development of the world's first
microscopic evacuation model that coupled fine grained spatial resolution,
human behaviour, toxicological models and fire hazard data generated from
computational fire models. The research was supported through a series of
research grants from the EPSRC [3d] and UK CAA [3e] aimed at developing
the prototype into a practical software tool that could couple the impact
of fire to human behaviour during evacuation. The CAA funded project [3e]
supported the development of the world's first practical software tool to
simulate aircraft evacuation - airEXODUS [3.5]. Research continued to be
funded through a series of EU funded research projects [3f, 3g] which
built on the link between the CFD fire modelling capability of SMARTFIRE
and the human behaviour and evacuation modelling capability of the
airEXODUS software and expanded the modelling capability of both software
tools, through the development of advanced combustion models to
accommodate modern construction materials, and advanced behaviour models
to accommodate the interaction of passengers with crew. From an early
stage, FSEG research into human behaviour in evacuation scenarios included
the built environment. The agent based modelling concept using a fine
spatial mesh that was used to simulate aircraft evacuation was adapted to
simulate evacuation of people from building environments. This required
the modelling approach to be extended to represent stairs, the behaviour
of people on stairs and various computational approaches to represent
route finding or pathfinding, interaction with signage, group behaviour,
and behaviour in smoke filled environments [3.6]. This research was funded
through a variety of grants including [3b, 3c and 3h]. Leading on from
this, in 1999, FSEG expanded it's research to include maritime
environments. The ship environment, while similar to that of buildings,
poses additional challenges. Here, the coupling of SMARTFIRE with
maritimeEXODUS enabled fire to be reliably represented within a ship
evacuation scenario for the first time [3i]. This work was supported by a
major EU FP5 project [3i] that not only enabled data to be collected
relating to the time required by passengers on ships at sea to respond to
the evacuation alarm and begin the evacuation process [3.7], an essential
parameter in evacuation modelling, but also data related to passenger
performance in dynamic situations involving roll and the impact of smoke
on passenger performance in heel and roll situations. Data generated from
this work was used in the development of the maritimeEXODUS software,
particularly in modelling the interaction of passenger movement in smoke
filled corridors subjected to heel.
Throughout the lifetime of the evolution and development of the SMARTFIRE
and EXODUS software suites, as they are now, FSEG was engaged closely with
current state-of-the-art research in computer graphics, computer games,
and simulation and visualisation algorithmics to achieve the best possible
performance from the tools in terms of speed and accuracy of
representation. In this context, it can clearly be seen that getting this
research right can save lives.
References to the research
(Staff being submitted to UoA11 appear in bold, other authors
being submitted to other UoAs. All authors are/were members of staff
within the School of Computing & Mathematical Sciences.).
3.1 S Taylor, E Galea, M Patel, M Petridis, B Knight, J Ewer.
SMARTFIRE: An Integrated Computational Fluid Dynamics Code and Expert
System for Fire Field Modelling. Proceedings of the 5th Int Symp IAFSS,
Melbourne, Australia 1997, Ed: Y. Hasemi, pp. 1285-1296.
3.2 Z. Wang, F. Jia, E.R.Galea, M.K.Patel and J. Ewer,
Predicting HCl concentrations in fire enclosures using an HCl decay model
coupled to a CFD-based fire field model, Fire and Materials, 31,
pp443-461, 2007, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/fam.942.
3.3 Jia F, Patel M, Galea E, Grandison A, Ewer J, "CFD
Fire Simulation of the Swissair Flight 111 In- Flight Fire - Part 2: Fire
Spread analysis", The Aeronautical Journal. Vol 110, Number 1107, pp
303-314, 2006. This paper won the gold medal from the Royal Aeronautical
Journal - in 2007.
3.4 Galea, E.R., Filippidis, L., Wang, Z., and Ewer,
J., "Fire and evacuation analysis in BWB aircraft configurations:
computer simulations and large-scale evacuation experiment", The
Aeronautical Journal, volume 114, Number 1154, pp 271-277, April 2010.
This paper won the bronze medal from the Royal Aeronautical Journal in
3.5 Owen, M., Galea, E. R., Lawrence, P. J., & Filippidis, L.
(1998). The numerical simulation of aircraft evacuation and its
application to aircraft design and certification. Aeronautical Journal,
102(1016), 301-312. Retrieved from http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=2335655
This paper won the best paper award from the Royal Aeronautical Journal -
The Hodgson Prize in 1999.
3.6 Xie, H., Filippidis, L., Gwynne, S., Galea, E. R.,
Blackshields, D., & Lawrence, P. J. (2007). Signage Distances as a
Function of Observation Angle. Journal of Fire Protection Engineering,
17(1), 41-64. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1042391507064025.
3.7 Galea, E. R., Deere, S., Sharp, G., Filippidis, L.,
Lawrence, P. J., & Gwynne, S. (2007). Recommendations on the nature of
the passenger response time distribution to be used in the MSC 1033
assembly time analysis based on data derived from sea trials. International
Journal of Maritime Engineering, 149(A1), 15-29. Retrieved
EXAMPLE RESEARCH GRANTS:
3a. E. R. Galea. R+D of the SMARTFIRE Fire Simulation Environment. EPSRC
Grant (GR/L56749/01). 1997-2000. £171k.
3b. E. R. Galea. Evacuation analysis of cable fire scenarios. Borealis
project, 2001-2002. £30k.
3c. E. R. Galea. Toxicity from cable combustion in fires. Borealis,
3d. E. R. Galea. Fire and evacuation in aircraft environments.
EPSRC Grant (GR/K38250). 1996- 1998. £41k.
3e. E. R. Galea. airEXODUS development. UK CAA Grant
(7D/S/923/1and2). 1997-1999. £113k.
3f. E. R. Galea. VELA - Very Efficient Large Aircraft. EU
FP5 (G4RD-CT2002-00842). 2002-2004. £130k (UoG component).
3g. E. R. Galea. NACRE (Project concerned with fire+evacuation
analysis of Blended Wing Body aircraft). EU FP6 (project 516068). Apr 2005
- Mar 2009. €590,000.
3h. E. R. Galea. HEED Consortium (led by FSEG and Professor Galea
involving Universities of Ulster and Liverpool. Project concerned the
evacuation of the World Trade Centre). EPSRC (GR/S74201/01 and
EP/D507790). Sept 2004 - Oct 2007. £1.5 million.
3i. E. R. Galea. EU FP5 Fire Exit (contract GRD2-2001-50055). 2001-2005.
The quality of this research is demonstrated through the award of
national and international prizes:
• 2011, Royal Aeronautical Society's Bronze Award for a paper published
in 2010, "Fire and Evacuation analysis in BWB aircraft configurations:
computer simulations and large-scale evacuation experiment", which
appeared in the Aeronautical Journal,
• 2007, Royal Aeronautical Society's Gold Award and George Taylor Prize
for the best paper published in 2006, "CFD Fire Simulation of the Swissair
Flight 111 In-Flight Fire - Part 2: Fire Spread analysis", which appeared
in the Aeronautical Journal.
• 2003/2004 European IST prize by the European Council of Applied
Sciences, Technology and Engineering (Euro-CASE) for the development of
the EXODUS suite of software.
• 2003 Royal Aeronautical Society Hodgson Prize for best paper on a
safety topic for a publication Prof Galea co-authored, entitled,
"Examining the effect of exit separation on aircraft evacuation
performance during 90 sec certification trials", which appeared in the
Aeronautical Journal 2002.
• The 2001 RINA/LR Safer Ships Award (Royal Institution of Naval
• • The 2001 British Computer Society award for IT 2001 for the
development of EXODUS, citation:
"The winners not only demonstrate technical innovation, but also
show how technology can be used to benefit society at large."
Judith Scott, Chief Executive of The BCS.
Details of the impact
1) Economic Impact: During the assessment period, Greenwich
University Enterprises Limited (GUEL), the commercial arm of the
University of Greenwich, has generated over £837k from licensing the
EXODUS software to 250 licensees in 32 countries and £230k licensing the
SMARTFIRE software to 64 organisations in 16 countries. These licensees,
ranging from engineering consultancies, regulatory authorities and
national laboratories, use the software to explore the evacuation safety
of complex structures, ensuring that they are safe and fit for purpose
thereby generating considerable consultancy income. Example projects that
have used the EXODUS software include the Airbus A330-X, A340 and the
initial design of the Airbus A380 [5.1]. FSEG and the airEXODUS software
were used in the preliminary design of the multi-billion euro A380 where
it was used to assist AIRBUS in selecting a configuration for the largest
passenger aircraft in the world that would meet international regulatory
requirements for evacuation. Towards the end of the design programme,
Airbus again used FSEG and airEXODUS to de-risk the A380 full-scale
evacuation certification trial, saving the manufacturer potentially
millions of euro by identifying possible problems that may occur during
the certification trial and ensuring that the A380 was a safe aircraft
[5.1]. The A380 comfortably passed the evacuation certification trial and
is an aviation success story flying with the worlds leading airlines.
airEXODUS has also been used by the Canadian aircraft manufacturer
BOMBARDIER to assess the evacuation capabilities of a number of their
aircraft while still in the early design stages including the Dash8-400,
C-Series regional jet and the T507 project, ensuring that the proposed
configurations will meet international evacuation certification
requirements [5.2]. Thus airEXODUS is used to save aircraft manufacturers
tens of millions of dollars/euros in wasted development costs and lost
sales revenues by ensuring that the aircraft will pass the certification
trial and thereby also ensures that the design is safe for the travelling
public [5.1, 5.2].
A unique version of buildingEXODUS is being incorporated within the
security system of the Pentagon as part of project Pentagon Shield. This
makes use of special software features e.g. parallel computing
implementation, CBRN toxicity model capability (based on the SMARTFIRE
developments) to enable faster than real time determination of optimal
evacuation routes for building occupants during an incident.
Battelle/DoD/Hughes turned to FSEG and buildingEXODUS when US based
evacuation software was found to be inadequate, potentially jeopardising a
multi- million dollar project [5.3]. Up until quite recently, the
SMARTFIRE-EXODUS coupling was the only modelling environment that could
bring together the detailed interaction of people and fire. The EXODUS and
SMARTFIRE software tools provide fire engineering firms a competitive edge
when bidding for projects, allowing them to win important contracts,
generating significant income for the companies. An example is the use of
buildingEXODUS, under license, by Hughes Associates to undertake an
assessment of the life safety and emergency management systems within the
Statue of Liberty [5.3]. Following this assessment and remodelling work,
the Statue of Liberty was reopened to the public by President Obama in
2009. Another example is the use of SMARTFIRE by Fire Engineering firm FDS
on the Greenwich Reach project where it assisted FDS in delivering a
project worth over £1 million to FDS [5.4].
2) Impacts on Practitioners and Professional Services: Work
carried out by FSEG in collecting empirical data to ensure accuracy of the
models of human behaviour utilised in the maritimeEXODUS software [3.7]
also demonstrated that the data used in the International Guidelines on
Ship Evacuation Analysis was incorrect and could lead to an incorrect
assessment of the suitability of a ship design for evacuation. This led to
changes to the IMO evacuation guidelines and hence to international
practice in ship design [5.5, 5.6]. As already stated under Economic
impact, over the assessment period, the EXODUS and SMARTFIRE software has
been used by over 300 licensees in 32 countries and so has become a
standard engineering design tool for safety analysis, used by fire safety
engineers around the world. The software is therefore having an impact on
the engineering profession around the world [5.3, 5.4].
3) Impacts on Society, Culture and Creativity: FSEG research into
fire and evacuation has engaged the public, informing them of our
research, educating them concerning risks associated with fire and
evacuation and how they can minimise those risks, as well as informing
future industrial partners and policy makers. This has been achieved
through several high profile TV and Radio programmes which have featured
our research such as the BBC `Horizon' documentary based on FSEG fire and
evacuation research, entitled, "How to Survive a Disaster" (first
broadcast 10/03/09 on BBC1 [5.7] which attracted a 1.7 million viewer
audience representing 7% of the audience that night [5.8]). The concepts
presented in this programme were considered so important; the US news
programme ABC Nightline featured a story on its nightly news programme
broadcast on 22/12/09 which drew on much of the material presented in the
Horizon programme [5.9]. Other programs include the Channel 4 documentary
"Terror at Sea" (first broadcast 31/01/12 on Channel 4, [5.10]) which
followed the sinking of the Costa Concordia. Prof Galea commented on
evacuation issues associated with large cruise ships (the programme
attracted a massive 3.4 million viewers (http://bit.ly/17BJjP1)
which was followed up by an interview on BBC Radio 4 Today (4 March 2012,
Sources to corroborate the impact
5.1 Airbus Chief Engineer, France.
5.2 Bombardier Senior Designer, Concept Design Team, Canada.
5.3 Hughes Associates, Principal, USA..
5.4 FDS Managing Director, UK.
5.5 International Guideline Document, IMO MSC Circ 1238 - http://bit.ly/15W1tI9,
5.6 Director Centre for International Cooperation, National Maritime
Research Institute, Japan.
5.7 http://bbc.in/15noerY; 5.8 http://bit.ly/17BHAJx;