Evacuation of Disabled Persons

From 2007 to 2010
The attention for accessibility has increased substantially in Flanders in recent years. The hotel and catering industry in particular has always been a pioneer in this regard. For them the disabled and the elderly form an important target group. Accessibility, fire safety and evacuation are important points of attention for them. In practice it is difficult to assess for an architect or building owner whether a design or a building is satisfactory in this regard, since a lot of specialised knowledge is required for such an assessment.

In this project 3 models were developed to evaluate buildings on the following points:

- Accessibility: for this aspect the Polis model, the result of a European project, was developed further. In the Polis model the accessibility of a building for persons with a disability is measured using indices. These give each component of the building a percentage that assesses to what extent that part of the building is usable for a person with a specific disability.
- Fire safety: This part of the project assesses to what extent a building complies with the (Belgian) legislation on fire safety, with a focus on persons with a disability. In this model the evaluation of the building also happens with indices assessing whether a building is satisfactory.
- Evacuation: The evacuation model checks if a building can be evacuated safely and timely. Evacuation differs from accessibility in the time aspect and the interaction of multiple persons during the evacuation, necessitating a different approach than for accessibility.
Transport & Mobility Leuven developed the evacuation model. The pedestrian model NOMAD, developed at the TU Delft, was used as a starting point. In a pedestrian model an environment (e.g. a building) is modelled in which simulated pedestrians move around. By carefully defining scenarios it is now possible to use this pedestrian model as a (simple) evacuation model. This under certain assumptions regarding the total number of persons and the distribution of persons with a disability throughout the building.

The implementation of different types of pedestrians allows the model to simulate different types of persons with a disability (motor disabilities, visual, auditive, cognitive). The monitoring of a number of characteristics during the simulation allows an evaluation of the building regarding evacuation. This is communicated to the user through indices, similar in interpretation to the Polis indices.

A case study was performed for the Holiday Inn-hotel in Gent. This analysis showed that the main bottleneck during an evacuation is the exit of the restaurant, where a lot of people try to get through a fairly small door.


From 2007 to 2010


Instituut voor de Aanmoediging van Innovatie door Wetenschap en Technologie in Vlaanderen (IWT)


Het Wetenschappelijk en Technisch Centrum voor het Bouwbedrijf (WTCB, projectcoördinator), de Provinciale Hogeschool Limburg (PHL), Federatie Ho.Re.Ca, Innovatiecentrum voor Huisvesting met Aangepaste Middelen (In-HAM)

Our team

Sven Maerivoet, Laurent Franckx
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