40 Years of Fire Safety Engineering at the University of Edinburgh

Tomorrow marks the 40th Anniversary of Fire Safety Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, the first and largest academic fire safety engineering department in the world. Recognised internationally for four decades of pioneering work in the field of fire safety engineering, researchers from Edinburgh have delivered some of the most significant pieces of fire analysis the industry has seen, including involvement in investigations of the Kings Cross underground fire (1987), the fire in the Mont Blanc vehicle tunnel (1999), the World Trade Center towers collapse (2001) and the Buncefield explosion in Hemel Hempstead (2005).

In particular, the seminal engineering analysis following the World Trade Center collapses in 2001 led to the view that fire should be considered a core design load for buildings, which was not previously the case – a landmark achievement in itself. The department’s Professor Dougal Drysdale also authored An Introduction to Fire Dynamics – now in its 3rd edition and seen by many as the definitive reference text in the field.

In celebration of the anniversary, a two day symposium is taking place this Thursday and Friday (May 15th and 16th) at Surgeons’ Hall in Edinburgh, reuniting four decades of graduates to take stock of the profession and to help chart a course for its future. A host of leading authorities in fire safety engineering will speak at the event, including;

  • Professor Emeritus Dougal Drysdale, Former Chairman of the International Association of Fire Safety Science and author of An Introduction to Fire Dynamics
  • Professor Barbara Lane, Visiting Professor at Edinburgh, Arup Fellow and Fire Engineering Practice Leader
  • Professor Luke Bisby, Arup Chair of Fire and Structures at the University of Edinburgh

Professor Luke Bisby, Arup Chair of Fire and Structures at the University of Edinburgh said:

“The profession has come a long way over the past 40 years, driven by the use of scientific understanding to inform fire safety. The work at Edinburgh has been key within this, as its graduates continue to push the use of science within an industry that’s typically looked back towards historical evidence when solving problems. This symposium provides the opportunity to celebrate how far we’ve come but also assess how we can continue to make the best use of science and physics to ensure that across the industry, within both built and natural environments, we’re creating more innovative, safe and sustainable engineering solutions.”

Professor Barbara Lane, Visiting Professor at Edinburgh, Arup Fellow and Fire Engineering Practice Leader said:

“The work done at Edinburgh University during the past four decades has been invaluable in raising awareness and enhancing our understanding of fire management and risk prevention within the built environment. Research informs every aspect of what we, as fire engineers, do and how we approach buildings today – from predicting the behavioural traits of the building’s inhabitants to the most technical of design considerations. It’s absolutely right that we celebrate the progress made to date but also look forward to the future priorities, such as ensuring that fire safety receives the attention it deserves, at the earliest possible stage, within all modern building design.”