Faculty Advisor

Brian J. Meacham

Faculty Advisor

Nicholas A. Dembsey

Faculty Advisor

Mark Goulthorpe

Faculty Advisor

Kathy A. Notarianni


Building fire safety is significantly influenced by building and fire safety regulations (often codes and standards). These regulations specify what fire safety measures should be included in a given building as a minimum requirement. Since fire engineers develop fire safety designs based on the regulations, they are often viewed as the primary agents in ensuring the fire safety of buildings. However, their mission often starts with given building design features, such as interior spatial layout, exterior shape, site plan, and so forth, which are mostly determined by architects (or architects). Although architects design buildings within the boundaries of the regulatory requirements, their focus is not generally on fire safety, but more on visual and spatial aesthetics of buildings. These objectives are linked to building form and functionality, which are not subject to the building and fire safety regulations. These objectives can sometimes compete with fire safety objectives in such a way that buildings can be unsafe in certain situations due to unintended effects of building design features on actual fire safety performance. To determine whether a building has design features which work against fire safety performance, evaluation of building fire safety performance must take into account the effects of building design features. If fire safety performance is significantly decreased by building design attributes, additional fire safety measures or modifications of the building design should be incorporated to provide an appropriate level of fire safety performance. While there have been various building fire safety evaluation tools developed over the last forty or so years, none of them comprehensively considers building design features and their associated effects as key performance parameters. In this context, the current study develops conceptual models for fire safety performance assessment in both qualitative and quantitative manners. After scrutinizing previous fire incidents and the building features which contributed to their outcomes, various fire safety performance attributes, including building design features, are identified and cause-effect relationships among the attributes are established. Then, the attributes are organized hierarchically like a tree diagram such that the performance of one upper level attribute is determined by the combined performance of multiple lower level attributes. In this way, the performance of bottom level attributes propagates upward to the upper level attributes. Two tree diagrams are established for the most common fire safety objectives, life safety and property protection. Each attribute in the tree diagrams has two quantified values: performance value and weighting factor. The current study uses three different performance values (0.01, 0.5, and 1) for bottom level attributes representing poor, average and good performance, respectively. In addition, as each attribute can have different contribution to upper level attributes, a weighting factor between 0 and 1 is assigned to each attribute which represent the relative importance. With these two values, the performance value of an upper level attribute is calculated using the weighted sum method (summation of multiplied values of performance value and weighting factor) which is commonly used in the Analytical Hierarchy Process. As the performance of an attributes is a function of specific designs, building uses, occupants, and site conditions, in the first instance, judgments of the fire engineers can be used to assign weights and performance values, but they can also be determined jointly among stakeholders. Generally speaking, the details of attributes for fire safety performance are not determined at once. Rather they are gradually determined as the building design progresses. This means that in early design building design phase, many of the attributes are unknown as well as fire safety performance. Once appropriate information can be provided to architects by fire engineers at each building design phase, it is likely to avoid possible conflicts between design details and fire safety performance. Using the fire safety evaluation model, weak attributes for fire safety performance can be identified and possible make-up strategy and building design approach can be developed in advance. This provides the potential for the collaboration between fire engineers and architects and at the end for increasing building fire safety performance of buildings.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Fire Protection Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





performance assessment, building design, building fire safety