MSc Product Design Engineering School of Design

Szu-Hua Chen

Originally from Taiwan, I am a practical, result-oriented product design engineer who loves to observe problems in our daily lives and create solutions that bring joy and convenience to people. During my year in Glasgow, I focused on implementing human-centred design processes, methods, and engineering theory. I aimed to improve user experiences by factoring in the human perspective. For my final project, motivated by the Grenfell Tower Fire in 2017, I chose to address domestic fire incidents as my topic. Through my research, I not only learned more about the incident itself, but I also gained insights into the difficulties experienced by disabled people when faced with a fire in their homes. My project aims to improve their potential for survival.



One in ten households has no working smoke alarm, meaning ten percent of domestic fires are not alerted quickly. This heavily reduces the chance of a successful escape. SURFIRAL helps its users gain an extra hour to survive in an environment filled with smoke and toxic air, staying alive long enough for help to reach them. Designed for a person with limited mobility, the SURFIRAL shortens the transfer time between the bed and the safe refuge. As it can be difficult for this person to crouch in a low space to avoid smoke, the SURFIRAL is designed to get them closer to the ground and provides life-saving equipment, lighting, and an alarm to help firefighters locate them quickly.

Target User

People in wheelchairs who can live independently. People in wheelchairs: 40% of people who lost lives in the Grenfell Tower Fire were mostly in wheelchairs. Live independently: People in wheelchairs need to deal with much more difficulties in an emergency compared with those who have flatmates, in which they will not be able to get help from others. Current Fire Equipment: According to the analysis of current fire equipment that I mentioned previously, most of the product can only be used by healthy adults, while children, pregnant women, elderly, as well as the disabled are not able to use it. Figures reference:

Main Body

The main body is composed of the frame, fabric, and cushion. The selection of fabrics and cushions needs to be fireproof following the British Standard 5867:Part 2:1980-Type B.

Hole for breathing

The design of the sharp corners under the oval shape enhances the user experience. In addition, in an emergency, just lying directly on the Surfiral and getting fresh air in a thick smoke environment without additional actions. An air mask is included in the hole.

Transparent Coverr

Transparent cover allows users to see through while protecting from poison gas intrusion.


This light's design aims to increase the possibility for the victim to be located within a particular radius in an area with a lot of smoke and poor vision. The light projects arrows on the ground leading the victim toward themselves using green LEDs. The arrow projected on the ground can be fulfilled with the light glass projection principle. Why Green? 1. Green light performs less distortion when it is diffracted and scattered by smoke 2. People typically interpret green as "safe".

Personal Alert

This feature is designed to give rescuers audible clues to find victims faster in environments with limited visibility. The audio's volume and frequencies are followed by the standard on Personal Alert Safety Systems.

Handles and Foothold

Basalt has high tensile strength and the best heat resistance, yet its density is the highest of the three materials. Aluminium 5056 is the lightest material, but the tensile strength is too low. Epoxy/HS carbon fibre's heat resistance is slightly better than aluminium 5056. However, after calculation, the price of this product is almost ten times that of the other two materials, so it is not taken into account first. One of the necessary conditions for the handles and foothold is to bear the weight, so the Aluminium 5056 with a minor tensile strength was removed. Basalt was the final choice.