Fire Engineering - Civil and Natural Resources Engineering - Universityof Canterbury

Recent areas of research

Computer modelling

Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS)

FDS is available from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The model has been extensively used for our research work. Recent projects have looked using FDS to model road tunnel fires and comparison with balcony spill plume measurements. Work is also ongoing to transfer CAD files into FDS.

         FDS screen shot   FDS screen shot

FDS image
     FDS generated image

Key publications

  • Harrison R, Spearpoint M J, Fleischmann C M. Numerical modeling of balcony and adhered spill plume entrainment using FDS5. Journal of Applied Fire Science, 17(4) 337-366, [weblink] 2010.
  • Cheong M K, Spearpoint M J, Fleischmann C M. A comparison of a statistical and computational fluid dynamics approach to estimate goods vehicle heat release rate in road tunnel fires. Fire Technology, 46(3) 531-549, [weblink] 2010.
  • Li K Y, Spearpoint M J. Numerical simulation of smoke downdrag due to a sprinkler spray using FDS. Proc. 8th Asia-Oceania Symposium on Fire Science and Technology (AOSFST), Melbourne, Australia, 7 – 9 Dec 2010.
  • Harrison R, Spearpoint M J. The balcony spill plume: Entrainment of air into a flow from a compartment opening to a higher projecting balcony. Fire Technology, Vol. 43, No. 4, pp. 301-317 [weblink]. 2007.
  • Dimyadi J A W, Spearpoint M, Amor R. Generating Fire Dynamics Simulator geometrical input using an IFC-based building information model. Journal of Information Technology in Construction, Vol. 12, pp. 443-457 [weblink]. 2007.


The BRANZFIRE zone model is developed by Colleen Wade at BRANZ Ltd. Research at the University helps Colleen add new modules to the software and provide verification of its capabilities. Work has added a glass fracture module to the software, examined the model's ability to predict sprinkler activation provided a method to automatically show building geometry by electronic data transfer.

Research is ongoing to develop a Monte Carlo risk-based version of the Model called B-RISK.

Key publications

  • Baker G, Spearpoint M, Fleischmann C, Wade C. Development of a radiative fire spread sub model for an enhanced zone model. Proc. 8th Asia-Oceania Symposium on Fire Science and Technology (AOSFST), Melbourne, Australia, 7 – 9 Dec 2010.
  • Spearpoint M J. Transfer of architectural data from the IFC model to a fire simulation software tool. Journal of Fire Protection Engineering, Vol. 17, No. 4, pp. 271-292 [weblink]. 2007.
  • Wade C, Spearpoint M J, Bittern A, Tsai K. Assessing the sprinkler activation predictive capability of the BRANZFIRE fire model. Fire Technology, Vol. 43, No. 3, September, pp.175-193 [weblink]. 2007.


SAFIR modelThe SAFIR structural fire performance model is developed by Jean-Marc Franssen at the University of Leige, Belgium. We have been using the model to investigate the performance of reinforced concrete under fire conditions.

Key publications

  • J Chang, R.P. Dhakal, P.J. Moss and A.H. Buchanan, Connections on Hollow-Core Floor Systems for Enhanced Fire Performance, Designing Concrete Structures for Fire Safety, ACI Special Publication, SP-255-9, 2008
  • Bong M W, Buchanan A H, Dhakal R P, Moss P J. Fire performance of steel portal frame buildings. Proc. 19th Australasian Conference on the Mechanics of Structures and Materials, Christchurch, November 2006, pp. 457-462.

Evacuation models

Work is being carried out to develop a Monte Carlo risk-based network model called EvacuatioNZ. Other research has evaluated the results from the Simulex evacuation model with analytical and experimental results.

Key publications

  • Spearpoint M J. Comparative verification exercises on a probabilistic network model for building evacuation. Journal of Fire Sciences, 27(5) 409-430, [weblink] 2009.
  • Ko S Y, Spearpoint M J, Teo A. Trial evacuation of an industrial premises and evacuation model comparison. Fire Safety Journal, Vol. 42, Issue 2, 91-105 [weblink], 2007.

    Evacuation model image