The Royal Academy of Engineering is matching the funding to provide further support for the initiative. The University’s Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation (ISSTI) will bring together the views of all of the relevant groups involved in fire safety including fire brigades, architects, regulators, policy makers, sociologists and researchers to ensure a more integrated approach to fire safety and risk.
The initiative is called IT-SAFE, Integrating Technical and Social Aspects of Fire Safety Engineering Expertise. IT-SAFE will examine how innovations can be quickly evaluated and implemented within the highly regulated guidelines relating to fire safety and building design.
Another area of research will include how to integrate fire safety into the early stages of building design – at present this is taken into account in new tall buildings, such as The Shard in London, but is not always considered in less high profile projects. The study will also examine behavioural and ‘human factors’ to understand issues such as why individuals from lower socio-economic groups are more likely to be harmed in fires and look at how this can be prevented.
There have been incredible innovations in building design over recent years however fire safety is often overlooked and under-researched. The latest Government figures show that 451 people die in fire-related incidents each year* and this initiative brings together all of the different groups to share examples of best practice; to highlight new technology and encourage more integrated thinking in this area. We hope these findings will stimulate debate and encourage regulatory change.
Sir Duncan Michael, trustee of the Ove Arup Foundation
We are in the process of recruiting an ambitious scholar to lead the programme and also a PhD student to contribute and would encourage interested parties to apply. This new grant from the Ove Arup Foundation and the Royal Academy of Engineering highlights our experience managing interdisciplinary research and we look forward to progressing research in this sensitive and important area.
Robin Williams, Director of ISSTI
The Ove Arup Foundation is already supporting a complementary research programme at the University of Edinburgh led by Dr Luke Bisby from the Buildings Research Establishment Centre for Fire Safety Engineering, which is looking at more technical considerations such as structural engineering and materials.
*Based on the latest available national fire statistics published by the Department of Communities and Local Government.