How FSEG have pioneered Computational Fire Engineering to become, and remain, a world leader in the discipline


The university's Fire Safety Engineering Group share an update on their research and how it is transforming lives.

How is safety built into iconic structures such as the New World Trade Center in New York, the Airbus A380 superjumbo, and large cruise ships?  A new discipline called Computational Fire Engineering, holds the key.  This uses advanced computer simulation of fire and evacuation during the design phase to enhance safety and security in the event of a fire or terrorist incident, and to improve the efficiency of people flows in crowded spaces. 

The Fire Safety Engineering Group (FSEG) of the University of Greenwich pioneered Computational Fire Engineering, and remains a world leader in the discipline. The group and their advanced fire and evacuation/pedestrian dynamics modelling tools, SMARTFIRE and EXODUS, have solved some of the world's toughest fire and safety engineering problems. Examples of these challenging applications are aircraft, such as the Airbus A380 superjumbo, ships, such as the Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy, complex structures, such as the Sydney and Beijing Olympic stadia, and the World Trade Center evacuation.

The 25-strong multi-disciplinary team of mathematicians, physicists, behavioural psychologists, fire safety engineers and computer scientists have been pushing back the frontiers in this fast-growing discipline for over twenty-five years, with their unique combination of leading edge research, large scale human factors trials, and practical real world consultancy. This expertise has been recognised through awards such as The Queen's Anniversary Prize (2002), Royal Aeronautical Society Gold Award (2006 and 2018), Royal Institution of Naval Architects Medal of Distinction (2013) and The Guardian University Award for Research Impact (2014). 

Team members contribute to formal Inquiries, such as those for the Paddington Rail Crash, the Swiss Air MD11 crash and the current Inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire. They also participate in international standards committees, including IMO and ISO, and several UK government committees concerned with homeland security and civil defence.

Prof Ed Galea, Director of FSEG says

FSEG safety research ranges in scale from the small-scale, such as fires in the home, to the very large-scale, such as evacuations of the urban environment, precipitated by natural or man-made disasters.

It also has significant breadth in its range of applications, from buildings of all types, cruise ships, naval vessels, passenger aircraft, trains and crowded spaces.

Recent and ongoing FSEG projects include: 

  • AUGGMED: This project developed a unique training environment for emergency services responding to terrorist attacks in crowded places utilising Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, advanced fire and evacuation simulation and game engines.
  • GETAWAY: This award-winning project involved the development of an innovative approach to making the humble emergency exit sign more effective in guiding people to safety during an emergency evacuation.
  • Construction Site Evacuation: This project was the world's first formal study into how construction site workers behave during emergency evacuation of high-rise construction sites.
  • GEO-SAFE: This project is building an understanding of how people in their homes react and behave towards wildfires in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI).
  • IN-PREP: This project is concerned with developing an evacuation modelling toolset for planning urban-scale evacuation procedures, and as an aide to incident managers, providing real-time decision support during actual emergencies.
  • GATEway: In this project, FSEG explored how pedestrians interact with AUTONOMOUS vehicles.  If AV are to become a safe reality, it is essential to understand how pedestrians are likely to react and behave when crossing roads with and without AV.
  • LIFEBID: This project explored how people react and behave, when faced with a fire in their homes, exploring why so many are injured and killed in domestic fires, and what we can do to encourage safer behaviour.

Visit the FSEG YouTube channel for videos, animations and lectures describing their work, you can also follow Prof Galea and FSEG on social media at: