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Entrance space inside the Yankee stadium.

Evacuation modelling

Buildings must allow people to move freely at all times and evacuate rapidly in an emergency. Using simulation to optimise the flow of people can result in an enhanced environment and more effective fire safety design in busy and large locations, ranging from retail malls to stations and airports to sports stadia.

Mott MacDonald has extensive experience in computer evacuation modelling and has utilised this skill to evaluate pedestrian movement that would be otherwise impossible to calculate. By offering a 3D output, we demonstrate how the built environment works when a high volume of people are present and provide real-time visualisations. By viewing how the geometry will function, we can predict potential issues and work out design solutions to avoid them, for the benefit of our client.

Fire engineers use evacuation modelling to test and validate building configurations as well as to justify that a design solution is fit for purpose. Our fire engineering team use the leading simulation software, STEPS, which we designed and developed in-house to predict pedestrian movement under normal and emergency conditions.

We bring value in reducing time by trialling building configurations without engaging the entire team to commit to design. We evaluate alternative options, reviewing the implications of removing a stair from a building or the effects of a fire scenario on the escape routes in remote locations.

Evacuation modelling is a small but significant part of our pedestrian modelling expertise. All buildings require safe and efficient evacuation, however, computer modelling allows for much more ergonomic design at earlier stages of a project. Some of the benefits include:

  • Designing – an effective layout with respect to areas including passageways, stairs, escalators, lifts and assembly areas
  • Reducing – congestion and queuing at key areas such as entrances and barrier systems
  • Optimising – the position of retail outlets and advertising signage in relation to footfall, journey purpose and population profile
  • Facilitating – successful operational planning of access, safety and security with regard to normal and emergency circumstances

Our evacuation modelling can be completed in accordance with any national or international standard, for example NFPA and IBC.

With computing power and speed advancing constantly, future development of STEPS as an emergency response planning tool may involve city authorities feeding real time information into a model in the aftermath of a disaster to develop the most effective response. STEPS populates a 3D computer model of an actual or proposed environment with virtual people, producing a realistic, easily comprehended simulation of crowd behaviour.

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