Each year, the National Fire Protection Association Research Foundation awards the Foundation Medal to project completed in the previous year that best exemplifies the Foundation’s fire safety mission to overcome technical challenges and foster a collaborative approach to execution. An awards committee consisting of representatives from the Research Foundation Board, Research Advisory Committee, and National Fire Protection Association technical staff reviewed summaries of 24 eligible projects along with staff assessments of how they meet each of the criteria.

The project Digitized Fuel Load Survey Methodology Using Machine Vision sponsored by the American Society for Health Care Engineering has been selected as the recipient of the 2020 Foundation Medal. This project addresses the need to provide reliable fuel load data to quantify design fires for buildings. The availability of fuel load data has been hindered by the lack of an efficient building surveying method.

This project developed and applied a new digitized methodology for fuel load surveys using machine vision that can facilitate the collection, storage and analysis of fuel load data for a variety of building occupancies. This first-generation, proof-of-concept methodology provides a path toward the development of a fully automatized surveying method, which could ultimately be used to provide design guidelines for fuel load density in codes and standards, for application in performance-based designs.