FESG colleague Bart receives PhD!

On Friday the 28th of June, a jury of professors, decided unanimously that the title of Doctor in Fire Safety Engineering (UGent) should be awarded to FESG-colleague Bart Van Weyenberge. For 5 years, Bart worked in close collaboration with FESG on his PhD in which he discusses the development of a probabilistic risk based model to quantify the life safety level in buildings in case of fire.  

Hereby we would like to congratulate dr. Bart!


Bart was excellently supervised in this PhD by his 2 promoters at the University of Ghent: Prof. Bart Merci and Prof. Robby Caspeele. Their input was of crucial importance to complete the PhD successfully. In addition, a word of thanks to the Flemish Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship for granting support in the form of a Baekeland mandate.

Why a new method?

In the current prescriptive analysis, a fire safety design is checked based on a set of rules. It is implicitly assumed that when all the rules are met, the design is sufficiently safe. But what if it is not possible to comply with all the design rules? In that case, compensatory measures need to be taken in order to arrive at an equivalent solution. But what is equivalent and how can this equivalence be demonstrated? How is the reliability of the fire safety systems taken into account in this analysis? Is the reliability always taken as 100%?

Performance-based analysis that are applied today use a set of criteria against which a fire safety design is checked. In these types of analysis, the designer needs to make a large amount of assumptions (growth rate of the fire, toxic characteristics of the fire, evacuation response time, walking speed, etc.). At the end of the ride 2 times are compared: the time until untenable conditions occur, and the time required to get to a safe environment. The difference between both times is the safety factor in the calculation. However, this safety factor depends largely on the conservativeness of the assumptions and is thus not objective.

Goal of the new method to quantify life safety

The goal of the risk model which was developed is to estimate the risk for life safety corresponding to a fire safety design made for public accessible buildings in a quantitative way objectively. The advantages of a probabilistic approach are:

  • implicitly considering the conservativeness of the input parameters in the consequence analysis;
  • taking into account the efficiency of different fire safety measures;
  • considering the reliability of fire safety systems objectively;
  • the impact of the maintenance of systems is reflected in the achieved safety level.

This way, the risk assessment model which was developed allows to compare difference fire safety concepts such as providing only a sprinkler or the combination of a sprinkler and a smoke and heat control installation in an objective way. Also, the difference between the obtained life safety level for fire safety concepts according to different building codes (e.g. Belgian legislative code vs. Swedish legislative code) or between different design techniques (prescriptive vs. performance based) can be determined by using this tool. 

A major step forward for performance-based analysis!

The risk-based method developed by dr. Bart Van Weyenberge is a big step forward in the objectification of performance-based analysis. The method can be applied to:

  • determine the safety level when defining new legislation;
  • showing the equivalence of new buildings;
  • devising the most cost-effective solution in existing buildings and industry.
Link to publications:

Below you can find some of the most recent publications:

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