Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 222222
Loughborough University

Centre for Innovative and Collaborative Construction Engineering


Dr Simon Bird


Decision problem structuring for selection of fixed firefighting systems

Project Title

Decision Problem Structuring Method for the Specification and Selection of Active Fire Protection Systems


Fire Protection Agency


Dr Kirti Ruikar
Dr Lee Bosher

Dr James Glockling
Mr J O'Neill

Director of Research:
Professor Stephen Ison

Research Period

2010 - 2014

Decision Problem Structuring Method for the Specification and Selection of Active Fire Protection Systems


In recent years there has been a proliferation of types and designs of potential active fire suppression systems for the mitigation of fire risks in buildings and equipment which has happened in association with a move from prescriptive to performance based standards. The number of candidate active fire protection solutions has consequentially increased greatly yet each technology remains suited to the protection of certain types of hazard only. Increasingly UK insurers are confronted with fire losses that are greatly exacerbated by the misspecification of extinguishing technology to the hazard. Hazards can be difficult to describe and a great deal of knowledge is required to correctly identify all factors that may contribute to the risk that will be relevant to the performance of any given extinguishing system.

Active fire protection systems are installed, in some cases to meet legislative requirements, but more commonly to achieve risk reduction for business resilience purposes (which may also lead to insurance savings). To aid these users there are many standards, guides and documents intended to assist in choosing and specifying appropriate active fire protection. These documents are of varying age, relevance, scope, quality and suitability. Some are written for national or international standards bodies by committees and independent bodies whilst others are written by trade associations, certification bodies or commercial organisations such as user groups or system suppliers.

A demand has been identified for an Active Fire Protection System Selection Tool (AFPSST). This tool should assist with the technically challenging decision making process of analysing the hazard and specifying candidate systems; making recommendations on an equitable basis. Legitimate comparison of performance is often difficult especially where standards and certification appropriate to installation and the equipment supporting ‘new technologies’ has not achieved the same level of maturity as more established methods. In many cases the user may accept compromises that are not apparent and not mentioned during specification.

If a ‘levelling’ of the data used to underpin this tool is undertaken, there is an opportunity to ensure the tool, in choosing systems, offers the user a more equal level of fire protection or at least makes them aware of the pros and cons of each candidate technology to their given application. The FPA is one of only a few organisations in a position to conduct the authoring, design and hosting of such a tool. The FPA is an independent body with unrivalled history in the development and researching of active fire suppression and has access to unique statistics and insurer information of fire loss. This provides an ideal platform from which to undertake the tasks required to develop the tool.

Aim and Objectives

The aim of this project is to provide a tool based upon industry standard ‘decision aiding’ software that will use make use of existing system specifications best practice and where gaps or inequalities are identified fill those gaps as supported by the evidence base. The design parameters from the resultant documents will be incorporated in to a software tool, which will aim to guide the user through the specification process. The output of the tool will be a recommendation of suitable system(s) and key associated parameters. In order to do this, the following tasks will be undertaken:

  • Obtain all commonly used or notable system installation standards
  • Undertake market audit to provide evidence of current process and emerging trends in the Suppression industry. Identify target users and undertake needs analysis.
  • Confirm breadth of scope of work (types of systems to be included in project)
  • Undertake systematic review of applicable installation document.
  • Identify key parameters of each documentIdentify target level of protection (cost-benefit analysis of successful outcomes verses system overhead)
  • Undertake ‘levelling’ tasks (where documents are found to be short of the level of protection desired, adapted versions to be created as basis for software tool.
  • Develop prototype decision engine. Include defined modules to allow phased development in response to complexity.
  • Develop strategy for management of “dynamic data” (data i.e. legislation that may change and can not be uncontrolled)

Project partners

The Centre for Innovative and Collaborative Engineering (CICE) at Loughborough University

The Fire Protection Association, a leading national fire safety organisation. The Project Consultancy team undertake: Risk management research (in particular fire safety), standards reviewing and writing, publication of reports and best practice fire safety and risk management guidance.

Bird, S., Bouchlaghem, N., & Yeomans, S., 2012. Decision Problem Structuring for the Specification and Selection of Active Fire Protection Systems, AEC 2012, 7th International Conference on Innovation in AEC, 15-17 August, São Paulo, Brazil.




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+44 (0)1509 222623

The Centre Administrator
Loughborough University
LE11 3TU

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