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Strömgren Chronicles: The road to 5G of the fire safety industry

Published: 2020-05-26

Bimfire star Michael Strömgren is an international renown expert on fire safety engineering and digitalization. With 20+ papers and research reports, 20+ international presentations under his belt he is a leading name within quality assurance and information management within European Standardization (CEN) as well as on BIM and Fire Safety in Swedish Standardization (SIS). Because of this, he gets to join many exciting forums and discussion taking place all over Europe, and sometimes he takes the time to share his thoughts and experiences with us. We´d like to call these pieces The Strömgren Chronicles.

By chance, two international standardization groups, buildingSMART and CEN held meetings on the same day concerning digitalization of fire safety. Being a presenter at both meeting led to some difficulties juggling the presentation slots of these parallell meetings. However, with Covid -19 travel restrictions it’s certainly a lot easier without the need to be physically present. So what are these efforts and standardization groups, and why does standards matter?

The morning started off with a buildingSMART session where two of the presentations concerned fire safety. Briab has for a couple of years been involved in a project proposal concerning fire safety engineering and occupant movement analysis. I co-presented our propsal with fellow group members Pete Thompson of Autodesk and Angelika Kneidl of acc:urate. In the same session we got to hear of a new fire safety proposal concerning prescriptive regulations. It’s very positive to see that we in just a year see a big increase in activity on digitalization of fire safety. However, we've recognized that there's an overlap and that we need to coordinate efforts.

Gradually we have fleshed out the needs from the perspective of occupant movement and fire safety engineering, but we’ve also gotten to the system level. Fire safety as a horizontal discipline affects vastly different stakeholders, i.e. facility managers, tenants, product manufacturers, fire safety engineers, architects, fire brigades and many more. We need to get to the 10.000 feet perspective to put the pieces together. This ties a lot into the research project I’m leading on the Unbroken Chain of Information for Fire safety. My passion for this subject didn’t go unnoticed and a fellow project member even encouraged me do add “master of golden thread of information” to my e-mail signature. Flattering of course but (luckily) it doesn’t fit our signature template.

So who are buildingSMART? In short, it’s the organization who sets the openBIM standards and they play a pivotal role in securing that we “speak the same language”. Software may in the end become certified for certain schemas and applications. By having international standards we set the forms and standards that paves the way for the digital built environment. Construction industry is less global than other industries in this sence, in contrast to what 4G and 5G standards is for telecommunications. However, that may change as digitalization of the construction sector picks up speed.

It’s very positive that digitalization of fire safety is on the agenda also in European Standardization, namely the commitee on fire safety, TC 127. I was fortunate to give an introduction to the subject of fire safety digitalization as a base for the further discussions. CEN plays a strong role for European Construction as we have common regulations for products and many other common construction standards. TC 127 has developed a classification system for fire safety performance and in the end we want those properties, property values, information exchange requirements etc to be machine-readable. From my point, this is an area where TC 127 should get involved. And the good news from the meeting is that a decision was taken to pursue a liaison with the BIM committee, CEN TC 442.

Pre-corona I was forunate to lead a couple of workshops on fire safety digitalization in realation to manufacturers needs. For engineers, we need products with machine-readable properties. The product performance is often part of a system, and dependent on contextual information that may be provided by fire safety engineers, architects, MEP etc. Virtually no digital standards exists today fulfilling this need. We all aim to secure fire safety in our buildings. Digitalization empowers us to cocreate and work together towards that vision. Getting the components and data standardized is necessary to reach that vision. We are still in the early days creating these necessary standards, but at least we’ve started. Like with 5G, this doesn’t happen overnight, but we may see a huge impact in the end.

Interested to learn more? Just drop me an e-mail or a message on LinkedIn.

Appendix

You´ll find the presentations from buildingSMART and TC 127 below. The links open to a Dropbox window.