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Advancing Fire Safety Innovation: A Conversation with Michael Strömgren, Briab's Chief Innovation Officer

Fire Safe Europe

26 Apr 2023

In this interview, Briab's Chief Innovation Officer discusses his work in advancing innovation, sustainability, and digitalisation in the construction industry, with a focus on fire safety engineering. Topics include the evolution of digitalisation, the role of Building Information Modelling (BIM), and the need for a paradigm shift in the industry.

What are you currently working on at Briab as the Chief Innovation Officer? 

As Chief Innovation Officer (CINO) at Briab, I am currently working on advancing innovation, sustainability, and digitalisation in the construction industry. My focus is on promoting the use of materials and products in a more sustainable way, implementing circular economy practices, and increasing collaboration across different stakeholders, including designers, engineers, and contractors. In addition, I lead efforts to develop more efficient and sustainable building processes, driving the transformation of the construction industry towards a more sustainable and innovative future.


In addition, I am dedicated to advancing digitalisation in the industry and its applications, such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) and the Internet of Things (IoT), to enhance efficiency and accuracy in construction projects. Through ongoing research and development projects, I am actively contributing to the improvement of various aspects of the construction industry, including fire safety engineering, regulation, and quality assurance. My collaborative efforts and vision are aimed at playing a part in shaping a safer, more resilient, and sustainable built environment for the future at Briab.


In general, how do you see innovation evolving in the field of fire safety?

My view is that we too often lack a systems perspective. The real challenge is that we need a paradigm shift in the industry and society that will impact our business models, incentives for innovation, and the development of a model that includes the life cycle perspective of a building. We tend to focus more on technology and new methods, but by looking at the bigger picture, we may gain more elsewhere. For example, construction errors are a significant contributor to unnecessary waste and carbon emissions, but we focus too little on getting things right. We recently concluded an in-house R&D project where we identified some of the most common mistakes in Sweden, and the results are quite shocking. As an industry, we often repeat the same errors over and over – even though we know in part what the solutions may be, e.g. control and review measures and to utilize BIM for efficient collaboration and communication.


How can the European Union and its networks, such as the Fire Information Exchange Platform (FIEP), better encourage innovative solutions in the fire safety sector? What’s the role that the industry needs to play to foster this process? 

The EU and FIEP should improve feedback and information exchange within the construction industry, while funding innovation projects that enhance collaboration among key stakeholders. Funding should focus on a user perspective to ensure practical challenges are addressed. Creating incentives for experimentation and risk-taking, supporting skills and knowledge development, and sharing best practices will encourage innovation in the construction industry.


Talking about innovation, digitalisation seems to be the current and future trend of the construction sector. What are the benefits of boosting digitalisation in the fire safety sector, both for producers and consumers? 

Boosting digitalisation in the fire safety sector has many benefits for producers and consumers. It can increase efficiency and accuracy in fire safety design and planning, improve collaboration among stakeholders, and enhance transparency and accountability in complying with fire safety regulations. For producers, this raises the overall quality and may also give rise to new business opportunities.


For consumers, digitalisation can lead to increased safety and reduced risk of fire-related incidents, as fire safety systems can be monitored and controlled in real time. We have to recall that fire safety is a complex subject and that different stakeholder groups have a big variance in both perspectives and competence. With digitalisation, we may tailor communication regarding fire safety much more precisely, improving our chances of reaching crucial fire safety objectives.


Overall, digitalisation in the fire safety sector provides a more efficient, collaborative, and effective approach to fire safety systems. It benefits producers and consumers alike by promoting safety, compliance, and accountability.


Do you think that the fire safety sector is lagging behind in terms of digitalisation? If yes, why and which actions can the industry implement to correct this trend? 

The fire safety sector may be lagging behind in terms of digitalisation, relying on manual processes and paper-based documentation that can lead to inefficiencies, errors, and delays in fire safety design and planning. To address this trend, the industry can invest in digital tools and software (such as BIM), establish common data standards, develop new digital technologies, and implement training and education programs to promote a culture of digital innovation and adoption.


Overall, boosting digitalisation in the fire safety sector can enhance efficiency, accuracy, and safety in fire safety design and planning. In addition, by adopting digital tools and technologies, stakeholders can streamline processes, improve collaboration, and ensure compliance with fire safety regulations. Through these efforts, the fire safety sector can keep pace with technological advancements and deliver higher-quality, more effective fire safety systems.


In the field of digitalisation, Building Information Modelling (BIM) is one of the main innovations shaping the construction industry, as it is increasingly used by this sector and required by public authorities. How did the use of BIM by fire safety engineers evolve since its conception? 

The use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) by fire safety engineers has significantly evolved since its conception. Initially used for 3D modelling and visualisation in building design and construction, BIM is now integrated into fire safety design and planning. Fire safety engineers use BIM to model and analyse fire safety systems, leading to more accurate and efficient design and planning of these systems, as well as improved collaboration among different stakeholders - not least between architects, fire safety engineers and other technical disciplines.


Public authorities in many countries increasingly require the use of BIM in building projects. This widespread adoption of BIM in the construction industry has led to an increased focus on integrating fire safety considerations into BIM models and processes, making BIM a critical component of fire safety design and planning. Overall, BIM has become an essential innovation in the construction industry, particularly in the field of fire safety engineering. Then again, we also have to look beyond BIM. How may structured data be used in more advanced applications to automate code-checking or to use AI to improve quality? This is already on the table for governmental authorities, and within Briab, we’ve already successfully tested algorithm-written building regulations in collaboration with Norwegian and Swedish building authorities.

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