Archive for April, 2009

Recent CIB W14 Meeting in Lund, Sweden

2009-04-30:  I was away in Lund recently … it’s one of the big university towns in the south of Sweden … attending an important meeting of CIB Working Commission 14 : Fire.  CIB stands for ‘Conseil International du Bâtiment’ (International Council of Building Research).

 

CIB W14 is an international, multi-stakeholder, trans-disciplinary, pre-normalization forum for discussion on research and innovation in Built Environment Fire Engineering.

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Colour photograph showing the Dinner for participants at the CIB W14 & ISO TC92 Meetings which were held in Lund University during Week 17. Our very friendly Host was Mr. Robert Jönsson, Head (and Associate Professor) of the Department of Fire Safety Engineering & Systems Safety at Lund University. 30 of his students also attended the Dinner. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2009-04-23.

Colour photograph showing the Dinner for participants at the CIB W14 & ISO TC92 Meetings which were held in Lund University during Week 17. Our very friendly Host was Mr. Robert Jönsson, Head (and Associate Professor) of the Department of Fire Safety Engineering & Systems Safety at Lund University. 30 of his students also attended the Dinner. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2009-04-23.

Successful meetings, and presentations(!), in Lund … and, on the return journey home, successful business in Stockholm … the weather was marvellous throughout …

Colour photograph showing Kungsträdgården, a principal piazza in Central Stockholm lined with Cherry Blossoms, on a beautiful, sunny April evening. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2009-04-25.

Colour photograph showing Kungsträdgården, a principal piazza in Central Stockholm lined with Cherry Blossoms, on a beautiful, sunny April evening. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2009-04-25.

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BER Certificates & ‘Big Brother’ – 1984 Style ? (V)

2009-04-14:  ‘Big Brother’ has arrived on our doorsteps … not in the style of today’s reality television … but in the George Orwell 1984 style of a generation ago … when 1984 used to be far into the distant future.

 

I wasn’t quite sure, but I thought that some readers … avid followers of Ireland’s BER Soap Opera … might be interested in the contents of a certain Important Notice Regarding BER Certificates (on official headed notepaper) … with the name of Mr. Steven Manek MIAVI, Partner, Douglas Newman Good (estate agents) at the bottom of the page … and dated March 2009 … which was circulated to DNG’s client vendors …

 

” We have now been advised by the Irish Auctioneers and Valuers Institute (IAVI) to contact all our vendor clients and advise them that an officer from one of the local authorities has started visiting estate agents’ offices in the greater Dublin area to inspect BER certificates for properties currently for sale/rent.

 

The IAVI have further advised us that if a certificate is not available the inspector is currently allowing a short grace period for provision of a certificate (even though there is no legal reason for them to do so).  If a certificate is not available within that time frame there is a risk of prosecution thereafter as it is a legal requirement to provide a BER certificate.  The maximum fine for a vendor under the legislation is €5,000.

 

In view of this we wish to formally notify you of your legal obligations and recommend that you obtain a BER certificate for your property as soon as possible.

 

The energy rating of a property must be carried out by a trained and registered SEI Building Energy Rating Assessor (BER Assessor).  We have a panel of assessors that can undertake this certification for you and should you wish us to handle this for you please do not hesitate to contact me.

 

 

Like too many other people … Steven does not seem to have taken the time to read the actual legislation.  Or, maybe he has … which is worse … whatever !

 

The clear intention of this nasty piece of DNG propaganda, however, is to scare the living daylights out of their own client vendors … and to drive them, like lost little sheep into the long spindly arms of their own in-house BER Assessors.

 

 

Hold onto your liathróidí folks !

 

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‘Feeling’ the Violent Earthquake in Abruzzo, Italy ?!?

2009-04-13:  Exactly a week ago … in the early hours of Monday morning (03:32 hrs local time), 6th April 2009, a violent earthquake hit the central Italian Region of Abruzzo.  The quake had a ‘magnitude’ of 6.3 on the Richter Scale … a scale developed by Charles Richter (1900-1985) during the last century, in collaboration with Beno Gutenberg (1889-1960).

 

The high numbers of fatalities and people injured continue, even at this time of writing … seven days later, to rise and rise.  Approaching 60,000 people have been left homeless.  It will take many, many years to restore buildings … and much longer than that to restore the delicate social fabric of local communities.

 

It is a remarkable joy to experience the culture, and live among the people of one such small community in the centre of Italy … Amandola (≈ 4,500 inhabitants), which is a typical hilltop town located approximately 70 Km north of L’Aquila (≈ 67,000 inhabitants), capital of the Abruzzo Region.

 

Colour photograph showing the view, taken just a few hours after the Abruzzo Earthquake, looking towards L'Aquila over the snow-capped Sibillini Mountains. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh from within the historical centre of Amandola, 70 Km away. 2009-04-06.

Colour photograph showing the view, taken just a few hours after the Abruzzo Earthquake, looking towards L’Aquila over the snow-capped Sibillini Mountains. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh from within the historical centre of Amandola, 70 Km away. 2009-04-06.

 
 

Earthquakes between 6.1 and 6.9 on the Richter Scale regularly cause damage in areas up to 100 Kilometres away from the ‘epicentre’ … that point on the earth’s surface located vertically above the place deep within the Earth where the quake originated.

 

To put local news reports into some context … accurate measurement of dramatically increased levels of natural radon activity in soils, allied with a good understanding of local geology and seismology, can be an important, although not 100% reliable, indicator of what is happening deep underground.  Unfortunately, and unlike in Ireland, radon protection of buildings is not taken seriously in Italy … so, not much attention would have been paid to what anybody said about radon activity in the soils around L’Aquila before the ‘big one’ hit !

 

Tremors from an earthquake, or trembling vibrations, can be felt strongly far away from an epicentre.  I know, because I was in Amandola last Monday morning.

 

To be involved in Earthquake Resisting Design is one thing … I am very comfortable with technical issues, facts, concepts, building products, etc.  To become intimate, however, with the ‘reality’ of a mother of an Earthquake is altogether different !

 

Jerked awake in those early hours … the building was rocking, not just swaying.  Before reaching full consciousness … too much had already happened.  If the building had collapsed, I would never have known what hit me.  But, it didn’t … and there was no internal damage or cracking.

 

I don’t know why … but, I went back to sleep again.

 

Just after 08.00 hrs (local time), phone texts began to arrive from Ireland … “was everybody safe ?”.  Something ‘big’ must have happened during the night.  I rushed to put on the television news … forget about SKY NEWS, CNN, BBC and that miserable, no-good, laughable excuse for an ‘impartial, balanced and fair’ news service FOX NEWS … the best coverage … and continuous coverage … was on the Italian TV Stations.

 

Tragic scenes … of historical buildings destroyed … expected, because they would not be of modern (reinforced concrete or steel) construction … and, far many more than should be the case, of modern buildings seriously damaged or collapsed like a plate of pancakes … somewhat expected, because of inadequate technical controls over building design and construction in many parts of the country.

 

[Similar scenes of modern, ‘tofu’ construction could be witnessed after the Major Earthquakes in Central China, beginning in May 2008.]

 

Later that morning, I inspected an historical building which I had recently restored … and where I had incorporated earthquake resisting features.  Relief, relief, relief … not a single crack.

 

Travelling back to Rome by car that afternoon, fleets of emergency response vehicles moved swiftly in the opposite direction towards the Earthquake Zone …

 

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Remembering Easter Monday, 1916, in Dublin

2009-04-13:  On the Monday following Easter Sunday, in 1916 … the initial phase of the Irish Revolution was signalled by reading the Proclamation of Freedom in front of the General Post Office (GPO) on Dublin City’s main street, O’Connell Street … then called Sackville Street.

 

Some years ago, when visiting the graves of the Revolution’s Executed Leaders in Arbour Hill Cemetery, just a short walk from where I live … I was drawn to read that same Proclamation which is inscribed, above their graves, in stone.  The words are rousing … as they were meant to be at the time … but also inspiring for today.

 

The Proclamation begins …

 

IRISHMEN AND IRISHWOMEN:  In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.”

 

… and, further on, continues …

 

” The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman.  The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.”

 

 

I wonder how many of our politicians, or senior civil servants … or our bankers … our business and religious leaders … have ever taken the time to read and understand those words ?

 

We are not yet ‘free’ !

 

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e-Accessibility – Allowing Every Person to Access e-Books ?

2009-04-11:  Globalization is not just an economic concept … it is a social reality in the 21st Century.

 

The recent legal settlement in the United States of America between the Authors Guild (USA) and Google, announced 2008-10-28, relates to the protection of authors’ rights during the course of Google’s Live Project to digitize every hardcopy book … of any type.  This settlement has consequences far beyond the jurisdiction of the USA.  Beware !

 

In the middle of all this consternation, and directly linked to many things I have been discussing over the past months … on 8th April 2009, I signed the following Petition …

 

 

Petition Target:  The Authors Guild (USA)

 

Sponsor:  Reading Rights Coalition (USA)

 

” When Amazon released the Kindle 2 electronic book reader on 9 February 2009, the company announced that the device would read e-books aloud using text-to-speech technology.  Under pressure from the Authors Guild (USA), Amazon announced that it will give authors and publishers the ability to disable the text-to-speech function on any or all of their e-books available for the Kindle 2.

 

The Reading Rights Coalition (USA), which represents people who cannot read print, is protesting against the threatened removal of the text-to-speech function from e-books for the Amazon Kindle 2.

 

The Coalition includes organizations which represent the blind, people with dyslexia, people with learning or processing issues, seniors losing vision, people with spinal cord injuries, people recovering from strokes, and many others for whom the addition of text-to-speech on the Kindle 2 promised to facilitate, for the first time, easy mainstream access to thousands and thousands of books.”

 

 

I added this Text to my Signature (#3238) …

 

” This action by the Authors Guild must now be clearly described and understood as a denial of basic human rights for a sizeable sector of the population in all of our societies.  Since 3 May 2008, when it became an International Legal Instrument … the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities specifies, protects and guarantees these basic rights.  It is the stated intention of the Obama Administration that the USA will soon ratify this UN Convention.”

 

 

 

To Sign the Petition:  Go to … www.thepetitionsite.com/1/We-Want-To-Read

 

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