The Division of Fire Safety Engineering, or Brandteknik in Swedish, is today one of the main contributors to the Fire Protection Engineering Programme. Started as a bachelor’s programme in 1986, the Division of Fire Safety Engineering was the key to the establishment of the programme. Currently the Division is responsible for many of the courses taken by the students at the programme, and since 1986 more than 700 fire protection engineers have graduated from Lund University.
The origin of the Division of Fire Safety Engineering
The history goes further back, with fire safety research having been a topic at LTH, the Faculty of Engineering at Lund University, almost since its start in the early 1960’s. Originally an independent technical college, the Faculty soon became a part of Lund University as a part of the Department of Structural Mechanics. The initial research was focused on structural stability and how to protect against fire, supervised by Professor Ove Pettersson.
During the decade of the 1970’s, more attention was given to room fire properties while still considering the fully developed fire, protection against fire spread and structural stability. Additionally, fire development in a fully developed fire was modelled using the one zone model approach. The research was taken up and continued by professor Sven Erik Magnusson, then a PhD student supervised by prof. Pettersson.
In 1985, the Division became a separate unit and left the Department of Structural Mechanics. The research during this decade was based on experiments of room fires, looking at temperature distribution in the room and fire spread between floors in apartment buildings. Many large-scale experiments were conducted to test façade materials and window construction. Further attention was also given to fire development in the early stages of the fire combined with how to model room fire properties in the early stages, i.e. using the two zone model concept. With the help of faster computers, the use of computer models became more prevalent.
In the 1980’s, Professor Göran Holmstedt started working at the Division. He had a physics background and started to look at the detailed combustion of, and how to extinguish fires. His work widened the research area and introduced new topics, such as toxicity in fires, room fire modelling, model development and evacuation research. The use of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) models and modelling development became a fairly large research focus.
Establishment of educational programmes
The newer research areas were introduced in the education of the fire protection engineer students. Originally started as a 2,5 year-long programme leading to a bachelor's exam, led by senior lecturer Robert Jönsson as programme director. Jönsson held the position for many years, in conjunction with being Head of Division from 1985 to 2012.
In the late 1990’s Professor Magnusson developed an interest in the risk concept, initially oriented towards the fire risks in buildings and how to use the risk concept as an engineering tool. This initiative developed further into societal risk topics, now with the assistance of Professor Kurt Petersen. As a result, the division was greatly involved in starting the two-year master’s programme Risk Management and Safety Engineering, in 2001.
The fire research area was further extended as Professor Patrick van Hees started at the Division in 2007. van Hees had a research focus covering material fire behaviour, CFD-modelling and performance-based design, the latter developed during the 1990’s, much as a parallel track of introducing the risk concept into the field of fire safety engineering. In 2018 the Division recruited Professor Margaret McNamee, who had chemistry as her primary subject. This resulted in the Division research field growing stronger towards building sustainability.
Current research and goals
Today, much of the current research taking place is related to room fire development, material behaviour in fires, fire modelling, sustainability in the fire safety domain, human behaviour and evacuation modelling, Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) challenges, fire safety for people with functional limitations and much more.
The goal has always been keeping a strong link between research and education, having a short distance between the two areas. The original 2,5-year fire protection engineering education was extended to 3,5 years in 1994, and in 2023 the first group of students will start on the new 5-year Master of Science programme in Fire Safety Engineering. The general goal during planning for the fire safety engineering education in the 1980’s was to have a 5 year Swedish MSc programme, so now the education circle is closed.
The Division has previous experience with a master’s education in Fire Safety Engineering. In 2006 an international two-year educational programme in Fire Safety Engineering on a Master’s level was launched by the Division of Fire Safety Engineering, together with Ghent University and the University of Edinburgh. The students spend their second semester in Lund, where emphasis lies on enclosure fire dynamics, risk analysis and human behaviour.