Archive for October, 2010

EU Commissioner Connie Hedegaard in Dublin – Hot Air ?

2010-10-31:  At lunchtime on Friday, 29 October 2010 … European Union (EU) Commissioner, Ms. Connie Hedegaard, in charge of European Commission DG CLIMA (the new Directorate General for ‘Climate Action’) … addressed the Institute of International & European Affairs in Dublin.

While Connie’s Speech was not subject to the Europa House Rule … the Question & Answer Session, afterwards, was.

Note:  IIEA’s Europa House Rule … Irish equivalent of the Chatham House Rule … ‘ When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Europa House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.’

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Colour photograph of European Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, DG CLIMA (Directorate General for Climate Action), who visited Dublin recently on Friday, 29 October 2010.

Colour photograph of European Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, DG CLIMA (Directorate General for Climate Action), who visited Dublin recently on Friday, 29 October 2010.

Most importantly, I wanted to find out whether Europe will maintain its air of insufferable arrogance at the upcoming UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) Cancun Summit, which will be held in December (2010) … and be excluded from critical stages in Global Climate Change Negotiations, as was the case in Copenhagen last December (2009) ???   I was not reassured that we have learned from those humbling experiences !

One small case in point … in Europe, we are still messing around with talk of limiting the rise in Global Average Temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius above Pre-Industrial Levels.  However … it was demanded last year, in Copenhagen, that this rise be limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius … or lower … particularly by the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) !   Have we listened ?   No !   NGO’s in Ireland … please also take note !!!

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However !   Some good news for a change … the European Commission will produce, sometime early next year in 2011, a strategy document on ‘2050 – A Low Carbon Society in Europe’ … that is just a gist of the title, so please don’t quote me … which will also contain related EU Performance Targets for 2030.  2020 is just around the corner, folks !!

Also … Climate Change Adaptation, in Europe, will be given far more of a policy emphasis.  Up to recently, there has been little interest in this subject.  But the truth is dawning … Mitigation is failing, and Europe is already suffering from the adverse impacts of Climate Change.  Practical ways and means are now being identified, therefore, to integrate Adaptation widely into other European Union Policies and Instruments.

In 2009, the European Commission’s White Paper: Adapting to Climate Change – Towards a European Framework for Action’ [COM(2009) 147 final] was published.  Next year, following consultations, the Adaptation Framework will make its appearance … and will be promoted with vigour !   So I hope !!!

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During the Question & Answer Session which followed Connie Hedegaard’s Speech, I raised the following two issues …

1.  Missing from the 2009 Adaptation White Paper … the Press Releases, Speeches, and Memos, etc. on the DG CLIMA WebSite … and her Speech at the IIEA on Friday … is any serious or meaningful reference to Sustainable Human & Social Development in all of her work on Climate Action.  I strongly suspect, now, that she does not fully understand the meaning of the concept … which involves far, far more than being ‘use-efficient with the earth’s resources’ !

And … would Connie ever consider acquainting herself … properly … with the EU Treaties ?   She might then discover the many substantive references to ‘sustainable development’ … and none to the ‘green’ society, ‘green’ this, or ‘green’ the other !!

2.  As usual, European Union (EU) Climate Change Data & Statistics were confidently presented by Connie at the IIEA … some, not a lot !   However, there is a major question mark hanging over those statistics … are they Reliable ??   At European level … the experts in the proper management of data and statistics work in EuroStat, which is located in Luxembourg.  I visited, there, at the end of June 2010.

However, Europe’s Climate Change Statistical Databases are managed by the European Environment Agency (EEA), which is located in Copenhagen.  Does the EEA have the required expertise to manage these Statistical Databases ?   No !   Is EuroStat being excluded from making an input into the management of these Databases ?   Definitely … Yes !

In question, and in serious doubt … this is the recent EEA’s European Topic Centre on Air & Climate Change (ETC/ACC) Technical Paper 2010/4: ‘Approximated EU Greenhouse Gas Inventory for 2009 – Short Report for EU-15 & EU-27’ … please examine it carefully for yourself.

ETC/ACC Technical Paper 2010/4 was the basis for the Official Statement by Connie Hedegaard, dated 2010-09-10, on the Estimates for EU Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 2009, published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) !   She said …

” The sharp drop in overall EU Greenhouse Gas Emissions last year is not a surprise seen in the light of the economic crisis.  But the EU Emissions had already been falling steadily for several years before the recession hit, putting us well on track to meet or even over-achieve our Kyoto Protocol Targets.  This is thanks to the armoury of policies and measures implemented over the past decade, which have succeeded in breaking the automatic link that used to mean that economic growth translated into higher Emissions.  However, as the economy picks up again we can expect the drop in Emissions to level off or even be reversed temporarily.  It is therefore very important that the EU and Member States continue implementing the climate and energy package and the other measures needed to meet our 2020 Targets.  And of course I hope that the new strong figures also can inspire the necessary debate on how fast the EU can reach even more ambitious targets.”

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Just to get you started … please note how the Kyoto Industrial GHG’s (HFC’s, PFC’s and SF6) have … not ! … been handled in this Technical Paper …

September 2010 – ETC/ACC Technical Paper 2010/4

Approximated 2009 EU GHG Inventory – Short Report for EU-15 & EU-27

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (671kb)

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Embarrassing, isn’t it ???   VERY !!!

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Ireland’s Mental Health Services – In Serious & Rapid Decay !

2010-10-29:  For those of you who are not fully up to speed with Ireland’s Current Economic Disaster … very painful for some people, but not for all (!) … in the next few weeks, we will be presented with a 4 Year Budget Strategy Plan, which will be verified by the European Commission, in Brussels, and the European Central Bank, in Frankfurt … and also be presented with a Draconian First in a Series of 4 Budgets.  The track record of our Government shows that the most vulnerable groups in our society will be the Primary Targets for fiscal cutting, slashing, pillage and burning.

Which is why I am pleased to align our Organization … Sustainable Design International Ltd … with the following Open Letter to …

  • An Taoiseach (Ireland’s Prime Minister), Mr. Brian Cowan T.D. ;
  • Minister for Finance, Mr. Brian Lenihan T.D. ;
  • Minister for Health & Children, Ms. Mary Harney T.D. ;   and
  • Minister of State for Disability & Mental Health, Mr. John Moloney T.D.

Dear Ministers,

We call on the Irish Government to respond to the Crisis in our Mental Health Services !

Mental Health Services simply cannot be maintained at acceptable levels in a civilized society if there are further cuts in Ireland’s Budget 2011.  They have already been cut unfairly and disproportionately.  Spending is down 9.2% since 2006, and is at 5.3% of the Overall Health Budget – now at its lowest share in modern history.  More than half of all the staff cut from the HSE (Health Service Executive … http://www.hse.ie) in 2009 came from the Mental Health Services, despite the fact that they only represent 9% of the HSE’s workforce.

In 2006, the Government’s National Mental Health Policy, ‘A Vision for Change’, promised to end institutionalization and provide modern community-based services.  Yet, progress in developing community services has ground to a halt.  We still have the shameful situation of people living in conditions described by the Inspector of Mental Health Services as “entirely unacceptable and inhumane”; hundreds of children being admitted to adult inpatient mental health units; and large numbers of people with a mild mental or cognitive impairment in Psychiatric Institutions who should not be there in the first place.

We know that there is a financial debacle – but, it is making the mental health crisis worse.  Financial stress, debt and unemployment are putting a massive burden on people’s mental health.  Waiting lists for services are growing as people look for support – rates of suicide and self-harm rose sharply last year !

Any further cuts in Budget 2011 will signal the death knell for ‘A Vision for Change’, and condemn another generation of Irish People to a Mental Health System which is a remnant from the Age of Victorian Asylums.

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I have also signed up to support this Campaign at … http://www.healthrisk.ie/

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Japan in April and May 2010 … Accessibility-for-All !

2010-10-20:  In Europe … we are experts at talking about an Accessible Built Environment … and hopeless when it comes to effective implementation

Built Environment:  Anywhere there is, or has been, a man-made or wrought (worked) intervention by humans in the natural environment, e.g. cities, towns, villages, rural settlements, roads, bridges, tunnels, transport systems, service utilities, and cultivated lands, lakes, rivers, coasts, seas, etc. … including the Virtual Environment.

Virtual Environment:  A designed environment, electronically-generated from within the Built Environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.

However, I would like to share not just one single moment in Japan, but a Series of Special Moments … where I was observing and studying, up close and personal, the ‘real’ implementation of Accessibility-for-All in Public Places … including some discrete detailing at the Main Gate to Kanazawa CastleIshikawa-mon.

When I say Accessibility-for-All … I mean Accessibility Design, with all of the rambling philosophical bullshit removed.  The emphasis can then properly be placed on a high level of quality in Actual Accessibility Performance provided for users of the built environment … all users, because many of the details shown in the photographs below make movement in and around public places safer and more convenient for everybody.

Some of the many Aspects in Japan which, together, facilitate this high level of quality in Actual Accessibility Performance …

  • A robust legal base mandating the provision of Accessibility-for-All ;
  • Determined political will ;
  • Sufficient financial resources ;
  • A compassionate and understanding bureaucracy – at all levels in society ;
  • Competence, i.e. education, training and experience, of spatial planners, architects, engineers, quantity surveyors, etc … and members of construction organizations ;
  • Innovative, well-designed accessibility-related products which can be shown to be ‘fit for their intended use’.

The following European Guideline Framework … which I drafted in 2003, and later incorporated into the 2004 Rio de Janeiro Declaration on Sustainable Social Development, Disability & Ageing … is useful …

C.J. Walsh

Guideline Framework on EU Equal Opportunity & Social Inclusion for All

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (82kb)

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Much of the Accessibility Detailing in Japan far exceeds, in quality of performance, what is described in the Proposed International Standards Organization (ISO) Accessibility-for-All Standard … to be published, hopefully(!), in 2011 … and here is a small taste …

Colour photograph showing Accessibility-for-All in Kyoto, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing Accessibility-for-All in Kyoto, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

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Colour photograph showing Accessibility-for-All in Kyoto, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing Accessibility-for-All in Kyoto, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

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Colour photograph showing Accessibility-for-All in Kyoto, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing Accessibility-for-All in Kyoto, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

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Colour photograph showing Accessibility-for-All in Kyoto, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing Accessibility-for-All in Kyoto, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

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It is important to link one activity/task/function with the next … (please ignore the awkward step up at the entrance to the train carriage … instead, look at the wonderful entrance detail in the next photograph below) …

Colour photograph showing Accessibility-for-All in Nara, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-23. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing Accessibility-for-All in Nara, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-23. Click to enlarge.

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What a beauty !

Colour photograph showing Accessibility-for-All in Kyoto, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-24. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing Accessibility-for-All in Kyoto, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-24. Click to enlarge.

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Common everywhere … a closer look at the information which can very easily be provided on all handrails …

Colour photograph showing Accessibility-for-All in Osafune, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-21. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing Accessibility-for-All in Osafune, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-21. Click to enlarge.

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The Main Gate to Kanazawa Castle … Ishikawa-mon

Colour photograph showing Accessibility-for-All in Kanazawa, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing Accessibility-for-All in Kanazawa, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

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Colour photograph showing Accessibility-for-All in Kanazawa, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing Accessibility-for-All in Kanazawa, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

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Dublin IFE Fire Conference – Sustainable Fire Engineering !

2010-10-18:  Nothing less than a complete Paradigm Shift to Sustainable Fire Engineering is now needed … because it is Necessary … because it is Inevitable … because it is The Future !!!

This process will not proceed, however, unless the International Fire Science & Engineering Community begins to communicate and engage, meaningfully, with the Mainstream Construction Sector … where this process is already well advanced.

One Organization in our community has recently decided to bite the bullet … CIB (International Council for Research & Innovation in Building & Construction) … where Working Commission 14 (W14) – ‘Fire Safety’ … agreed, at a meeting in Zurich, to significantly expand and elaborate its own Scope … please note the keywords in bold text …

A CIB Working Commission … W14 is an international, multi-stakeholder, trans-disciplinary, pre-normalization forum for discussion, and action, on research and innovation in Fire Science and Engineering for the design, construction and operation of a Safe and Sustainable Built Environment.

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Colour image showing the Title Page of CJ Walsh's Presentation at the Institution of Fire Engineers (Ireland Branch) Annual Fire Conference ... which will be held on Wednesday, 20th October 2010, in Dublin. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the Title Page of CJ Walsh’s Presentation at the Institution of Fire Engineers (Ireland Branch) Annual Fire Conference … which will be held on Wednesday, 20th October 2010, in Dublin. Click to enlarge.

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This will be my important message on Wednesday next, 20th October 2010, when I address the Institution of Fire Engineers (Ireland Branch) Annual Fire Conference … which will be held in the Dublin Fire Brigade Training Centre, Marino, Dublin 1 … beginning at 09.30 hrs in the morning.

Institution of Fire Engineers (Ireland Branch)

2010 IFE Annual Fire Conference Brochure

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (326kb)

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Three Powerful Pulling Forces for Change … or should I say Dragging Forces, with a lot of kicking and screaming involved (!) … will have a direct impact …

1.  Sustainable Design

The interior view shown below is not that of a Sustainable Building … but of a Modern Architectural Icon, designed by the Master Architect Mies van der Rohe towards the end of the 1920’s … way back in the last century !   Two innovative architectural concepts are elegantly illustrated in the photograph …

  • Open Planning – one space ‘flows’ into the next without interruption by a physical barrier … drawing the eye and encouraging movement.  In this particular building … a building of architectural, cultural and historical importance … any attempt to impose ‘fire compartmentation’ on the layout would be utterly ridiculous !
  • Separation of Building Structure & Fabric – notice the column in the foreground.  This is quite unlike the massive form of building construction in the past !

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Colour photograph showing an Interior View of the Barcelona Pavilion, designed by the German Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1929. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2009-03-20. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing an Interior View of the Barcelona Pavilion, designed by the German Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1929. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2009-03-20. Click to enlarge.

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Fire Engineering is still trying to grapple … unsuccessfully … with innovative approaches, dating from the early part of the 20th Century, to Architectural Design.  In the 21st Century, Sustainable Design – not Green Design – involves a far more radical approach to Design, the use of Building Materials, and Construction.  In the face of this much greater challenge, Fire Engineering must begin to respond effectively … with creativity and imagination.  There is no other alternative !

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2.  Cul-de-Sac of Current Fire Engineering

Working in Building Control at the time … I encountered the Typical Building Detail shown below in an early 1990’s Dublin Hotel Extension Project … comprising a 10 metre span steel beam … with non-loadbearing steel stud partitioning beneath, separating a corridor from bedrooms … each with 1 Hour’s Fire Resistance.  During a fire and long before the period of 1 Hour has elapsed … that steel beam will have deflected by a considerable dimension.  What happens, then, to the non-loadbearing steel stud partition, below, and its fire resistance performance ???   This makes no sense.

Does current Fire Engineering have a robust rational and empirical basis … or is it just one remove from Voodoo and Witchcraft ??

Black and white 'concept' drawing, with a small touch of colour, showing a typical detail in an early 1990's Dublin Hotel Extension Project ... of a 10 metre span steel beam ... with non-loadbearing steel stud partitioning beneath, separating a corridor from bedrooms ... each with 1 hour's fire resistance ?!? Drawn by CJ Walsh.

Black and white ‘concept’ drawing, with a small touch of colour, showing a typical detail in an early 1990’s Dublin Hotel Extension Project … of a 10 metre span steel beam … with non-loadbearing steel stud partitioning beneath, separating a corridor from bedrooms … each with 1 hour’s fire resistance ?!? Drawn by CJ Walsh.

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3.  NIST(USA) Recommendations on the 9-11 WTC Building Collapses

Determined resistance by Vested Interests … a Lack of Institutional Capacity, i.e. failure to be able to properly anticipate, or to be adequately prepared, and/or to respond effectively and in a timely manner to major fire incidents … and a small element of the ‘Issue Attention Cycle’, where considerable investment in time and resources were necessary to make real progress on the issues thrown up by 9-11 but, unfortunately, governmental and public attention soon waned and dissipated … shifting to new problems, e.g. the Illegal Iraq ‘Crusade’ … have all contributed to a situation where there has been little in the way of substantive implementation of the Recommendations contained in the 2005 and 2008 NIST(USA) Reports on the 9-11 WTC Buildings 1, 2 & 7 Collapses … in the United States of America, Europe … or anywhere else.

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Colour photograph of the World Trade Center Complex in New York, taken at the time of the 2nd Plane Impact during the morning of Tuesday, 11th September 2001. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph of the World Trade Center Complex in New York, taken at the time of the 2nd Plane Impact during the morning of Tuesday, 11th September 2001. Click to enlarge.

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That is not our approach, here, at FireOx International – the Fire Engineering Division of Sustainable Design International Ltd.  Instead, we have decided to present all of the NIST Recommendations … to our readers … in a Series of Posts on this Technical Blog.

Sustainable Fire Engineering HAS a robust rational and empirical basis !

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Mater National Children’s Hospital – Re-Location, No-Location ?!

2010-10-16:  On Friday afternoon (15th October 2010), between 16.00 hrs and 18.00 hrs … I attended a Joint Session of the Health Care Design Committee of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI).  An e-mail blurb, which was sent out beforehand to the RIAI Membership, described this Joint Session exactly as follows …

‘ The RIAI Healthcare Design Committee has organised a joint session by Norwegian and Irish Healthcare Architects and other professionals in order to review and discuss healthcare policies and design practices in Ireland and Norway.

There will be 6 Speakers (3 Irish and 3 Norwegian) each talking for 5-10 minutes.  Each speaker will outline a point of interest in the field of healthcare policy and design, which will be followed by a general discussion.’

It was a very interesting event … and well worth the time spent attending.  I did not wait for the Wine Reception afterwards !

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One of the important lessons for me, however, was that Health Care Buildings should be Low-Rise, i.e. no higher than 3 Storeys above ground level.  In this context, a considered relationship between people inside the building (whether patients, medical staff, visitors or non-medical employees) and a carefully designed external environment with grass, trees, colourful landscaping, sunshine, birds chirping merrily in those trees, water rippling in the background, etc. all play a critical role in the restoration and maintenance of health.

Many years ago, as a long-stay patient in Dublin’s Mater Hospital … the continuous view of only overcast skies above was very depressing.  And, looking down … it was worse.  At ground level, the sight to behold was shabby outbuildings, badly maintained hard surfaced areas and, of course, cars parked anywhere and everywhere.

As a recent short-stay patient in the Accident & Emergency Department of that same Mater Hospital … I was shocked to see the overcrowding, the confusing and disorientating maze of cramped corridors and spaces, the inefficient and time-wasting administrative practices and procedures, the frustrating pre-dominance of medical ‘protocol’ over patient needs … and the almost total disregard for the Patient’s Charter, which I know for a fact, is hanging somewhere on a wall within that vast medical complex.  I know, because I once saw it … and having read it, I promptly almost keeled over at the enormous gulf between what was written down … and what was the grim reality !   Little or no value is attached to Patient Dignity within Ireland’s Health Care System.

On no occasion, during the RIAI Health Care Design Joint Session, was the Proposed High-Rise National Children’s Hospital on the Mater Hospital Site even raised … never mind discussed.  Most strange for such a Joint Session !   A modern, properly designed Children’s Hospital is desperately needed in Dublin … existing medical facilities for children are clapped out.  Also desperately needed … substantial innovative thinking on the design of Health Care Facilities !   BUT … there are serious problems within the existing Mater Hospital Complex which must be sorted out … and solved … before a Major New Project is grafted on !

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During the General Discussion which followed the Joint Session Presentations, the first person from the floor asked a very pertinent question regarding Post Occupancy Evaluations (POE’s) of the Health Care Buildings which had earlier been demonstrated by the speakers.  This question was laughed off … I kid you not !

My view is that Post Occupancy Evaluation is an essential component of the process of ‘design’ … if an architect has any sort of serious intention that he/she will not repeat design errors.  Feedback from building users is an exceedingly rich resource !   It should not easily be squandered.

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A little later … I ventured to comment, also from the floor … that the Session had been very interesting, but the Presentations had been concerned merely with the nuts and bolts of architecture.  Not once had any of the speakers raised the following issues … which was disappointing …

1.  Human Health – Speakers, during the Session and perhaps in the course of their everyday design practice, were working with an outdated concept of Human Health, i.e. it being an absence of injury or disease.  On the other hand, the World Health Organization (WHO) has long ago defined Human Health … in the WHO Charter … as:

‘A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’

While some elements of this wider concept could be discerned … this comprehensive understanding of Human Health had not fully and coherently informed any of the work, either in Norway or Ireland, which had been presented.

2.  A Trans-Disciplinary Approach to Design – Many times in the past, I have really enjoyed working as part of a Multi-Disciplinary Design & Implementation Team … it can’t be beaten.  Furthermore, I would expect that cutting edge breakthroughs in Fire Engineering Design for Building Evacuation will result from a close collaboration between Fire Engineers, Architects and Cognitive Psychologists.  How disappointing, therefore, to be presented with a typical design approach which is a generation out of date !

3.  Person-Centred Design – One of the Speakers stated that Architects must have empathy … for whom, exactly, I wasn’t quite sure.  Whoever that person was, or those people were … this idea falls very, very far short of the concept of Person-Centred Design …

‘ That design process which places ‘real’ people at the centre of creative endeavours and gives due consideration to their responsible needs, and their health, safety, welfare and security in the Human Environment.’

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In Conclusion … I witnessed a Stunning Lack of Innovative Thinking on Health Care Facility Policies and Design at the RIAI Joint Session between Norway and Ireland !

That experience … together with the OTT ‘Performance’ this morning (Saturday, 2010-10-16) of Health Minister, Ms. Mary Harney T.D., on the Marian Finucane Radio Show (RTE Radio 1, from 11.00-13.00 hrs) … listen back at  http://www.rte.ie/radio1/marianfinucane/  … have, together, increased my concern about the National Children’s Hospital Project !!

Life is short … and I am no longer prepared to accept Public Relations Spin, Withholding and/or Concealment of Vital Information, Individual Incompetence, and Lies … from our Politicians and Senior Civil Servants !!!

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Institutional Failure Increasing European Biodiversity Losses ?

2010-10-14 …

Our Ultimate Goal … as Human Beings … must be to arrive, as quickly as practicable, at a dynamic and harmonious balance between a Sustainable Human Environment and a flourishing, not just a surviving, Natural Environment … with the Overall Aim of achieving Social Wellbeing for All.

Note:  Human Environment … Anywhere there is, or has been, an intrusion by a human being in the natural environment.

Note:  Social Wellbeing … A general condition – in a community, society or culture – of health, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development.

Simply stated … Biodiversity is Critical for the Good Health of the Natural Environment !   And yes … the Natural Environment is a Living System … and we must become comfortable when using such terms as ‘health’, ‘injury’ or ‘harm’ in relation to its condition.  Or, should I say ‘her’ condition ??

Furthermore … a Flourishing Natural Environment is an essential foundation for Biodiversity within a Sustainable Built Environment.

Note:  Built Environment … Anywhere there is, or has been, a man-made or wrought (worked) intervention by humans in the natural environment, e.g. cities, towns, villages, rural settlements, roads, bridges, tunnels, transport systems, service utilities, and cultivated lands, lakes, rivers, coasts, seas, etc. … including the virtual environment.

[A Short Digression:  One important point needs immediate and unequivocal clarification … it is only in the context of Biodiversity within the Built Environment can there be any consideration or discussion about the Sustainable Use/Exploitation of that Biodiversity !]

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Shamefully … as Human Beings … we have made a terrible, terrible mess of Our Planet.  And it continues … and continues …

Initiated at the time of the Deepwater Horizon Offshore Drilling Rig Explosion and Fire, on 20th April 2010 … this summer’s BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexicoan unprecedented Local Environmental, Social and Economic Tragedy and a Regional Disaster … unfolded very quickly and very prominently in front of our eyes.  It was a long time, however, before the full nature and extent of this catastrophic incident was revealed.

Excluding the issues of Public Relations Spin, Withholding and/or Concealment of Vital Information, Individual Incompetence, and Lies … Institutional Failure (or, to put it another way, Lack of Institutional Capacity) alone … i.e. failure to properly anticipate, or to be adequately prepared, and/or to respond effectively and in a timely manner … added to, and magnified, the scale of this disaster.

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On Wednesday, 14 July 2010, the following brief overview describes the United States Disaster Response … my sincere apologies for reproducing the quaint, but prehistoric, Imperial Units of Measure …

Disaster Response Vessels

  • Vessels of Opportunity:  2,754
  • Barges:  more than 540
  • Skimmers:  more than 580
  • Other Vessels:  more than 3,000
  • Total Active Response Vessels:  more than 6,870

and

  • Aircraft:  119

Boom Data

  • Boom deployed:  more than 3.27 million feet
  • Boom available:  more than 855,000 feet
  • Total Boom:  more than 4.12 million feet

Oil Recovered

  • Oily Water Recovered:  nearly 32.9 million gallons
  • Amount Estimated Burned:  nearly 10.97 million gallons
  • Oil Captured (CAP) over last 24hrs:  more than 539,000 gallons

Oil Dispersants

  • Surface dispersant used:  more than 1.07 million gallons
  • Sub-sea dispersant used:  more than 762,000 gallons
  • Total Dispersant Used:  more than 1.83 million gallons

Personnel Involved

  • Overall Personnel Responding:  more than 44,000 personnel

[Sourcehttp://www.restorethegulf.gov/release/2010/07/15/operations-and-ongoing-response-july-15-2010]

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United States National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling

 Staff Working Paper No.2 – 6 October 2010

Decision-Making within the Unified Command

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (276kb)

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IN EUROPE … during this International Year of Biodiversity … a Major and Widespread Regional Disaster is unfolding quietly, slowly … hidden from the view of the general European public … and in relation to which important lessons must be learned from the Gulf of Mexico Oil Disaster.  Please examine closely that U.S. National Commission’s Staff Working Paper No.2 above.

On 4th October 2010 … the European Environment Agency (EEA) published Report No.5 : ‘Assessing Biodiversity in Europe’ … which clearly stated (in the final paragraph of the final chapter … and then, only when quoting from another document !) …

‘ a large proportion of European species and habitats are either facing extinction, have an unfavourable conservation status, or their status is unknown.’

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THE QUESTION which must be asked is … whether there is yet proper … or even sufficient … Institutional Capacity at European Union and EU Member State levels to implement Any European Biodiversity Strategy … with the clearly specified target of protecting, conserving and nurturing Biological Diversity in Europe ???

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Does the following cautiously worded text convince you ?   Not me, I’m afraid !

EEA Technical Report No.5 / 2010 – Chapter 4 – ‘Conclusions, Way Forward & Knowledge Gaps’

European Biodiversity has declined dramatically in the last two centuries, with the conversion of natural habitats to meet growing demands for food, energy and infrastructure.  Although the pace of change has varied across the region and has generally slowed considerably in the last couple of decades, agricultural land use now accounts for almost half of the European terrestrial area.

In coastal and marine areas, industrial fishery operations have had similarly large impacts, affecting both fish populations and habitats throughout European coastal and marine waters.  Nearly half of assessed fish stocks in Europe fall outside safe biological limits.  The majority of biodiversity in Europe now exists within a mosaic of heavily managed land and seascapes, and is to a large degree linked to agricultural, forestry and fishery practices across the continent.

In recent decades, growing awareness of biodiversity decline has led to improved commitments, policies and practices for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity throughout much of Europe.  Biodiversity is now higher on the political agenda in Europe than ever before.  Significant targeted responses have been made by public, civil society and private institutions to restore habitats, protect threatened species and reduce the main threats to biodiversity in Europe.

As a result of the policies adopted and implemented at international and European scales, including the Birds, Habitats, and Water Framework Directives, there are indications that some aspects of biodiversity are improving in status in parts of Europe.  There have been significant increases in forest cover in the last two decades across northern Europe and the status of many waterways has improved across Europe as a result of reduced industrial and agricultural pollution in many countries.  Recovery plans have been documented and are being implemented for many of Europe’s threatened species, with some successes.

While ambitious targets are being set in Europe to halt biodiversity loss and some progress is being made, many threats remain and new ones are growing.  This erodes the ability of ecosystems to provide services to people in Europe and beyond.

Threats to Europe’s biodiversity include habitat loss and degradation, unsustainable harvesting, establishment and spread of invasive alien species, pollution from agricultural runoff in many countries, unsustainable forest and agriculture management, increasing water abstraction and use, and increasing climatic change impacts, especially in southern and northern Europe, and in mountainous areas across the region.  The loss of wetland and dryland habitats also continues.

Future Progress in addressing these threats and conserving Europe’s Remaining Biodiversity will depend on success in Four Key Areas:

1.  Enhanced Implementation Of Measures Targeted At Biodiversity Conservation.  There has been progress in protecting and restoring threatened species and habitats across much of Europe, and protected areas and sustainable farmland and forestry management practices have grown steadily.  However, there remains considerable opportunity to scale up such practices across the region, including coastal and marine areas.  Such direct efforts for biodiversity conservation are a cornerstone of conservation.  They are essential to manage the most important threats and conserve the most threatened biodiversity.  However, alone they are insufficient to address biodiversity loss in the medium and long term because many of the direct drivers, and all of the indirect drivers of biodiversity loss, emanate from other sectors.

2.  Policy Coherence On Biodiversity Is Required With Other Sectors.  In order to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity, policies in other sectors that have an impact on or depend on biodiversity need to be supportive.  These include those on trade, agriculture, fisheries, planning, transport, health, tourism, and the financial sector, including insurance.  In many EU countries, considerable funding for managing biodiversity in landscapes is obtained from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).  Mainstreaming biodiversity into these areas – in both the public and private sectors – is essential for an integrated approach to biodiversity conservation.  Successful mainstreaming will require all sectors to recognise the value of biodiversity.  Recent efforts to ascribe accurate economic values to biodiversity and ecosystem services, for example ‘The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity’ (TEEB, 2010), provide a basis for mainstreaming.

3.  A More Integrated Approach Across Sectors And Administrative Boundaries, At Landscape And Seascape Scales.  This entails applying the ecosystem approach more widely, and requires co-operation across sectors for successful implementation.  The present report shows that management of some habitat types, such as forestry and freshwater systems, is already starting to apply such approaches.  Others, such as marine habitats, mountains and agricultural land, have not yet been adjusted sufficiently.  Integrating protected areas, ecological networks, connectivity areas, production and urban landscapes into multifunctional land-use planning at a regional scale will be an essential element of a successful European conservation strategy.  Likewise at watershed and landscape scales, the integration of biodiversity and natural resources management, including that of water, will require dialogue and agreement between the multiple stakeholders using, depending on, and managing such resources.

4.  Public Awareness Of The Relevance Of Biodiversity To The Lives Of European Citizens, And The Consequences Of Biodiversity Loss At Local, European And Global Scales, Needs To Be Raised.  Significant efforts are therefore required on communication, education and public awareness, to complement the policy framework and to encourage both individual action for biodiversity conservation, and a supportive public opinion for changes in policy and practice.

This report shows that, particularly regarding forest habitats, public awareness of the value of sustainable practices and recycling is increasing.  This can be enhanced by publicising how more sustainable practices can benefit both society and the ecosystems themselves.

Despite being the region with the longest and broadest biodiversity knowledge base, key knowledge gaps remain across Europe.  Filling such gaps would support action and policies across the four key areas.

Knowledge gaps exist in individual elements of biodiversity.  Little is known, for example, about many aquatic systems (and especially floodplains and deltas), genetic diversity beyond the agricultural sector, and for many taxa at the species level.  Considerable further work is required to assess the status of plants, invertebrates and fungi, and to assess trends in species status.  A global base of species level assessments (or ‘Barometer of Life’) would cost some €45 million (Euros), according to recent estimates (Stuart et al., 2010).

My Note: Taxon (plural Taxa) … Any unit used in the science of Biological Classification, or Taxonomy.  Taxa are arranged in a hierarchy from kingdom to sub-species, a given taxon ordinarily including several taxa of lower rank.  In the classification of protists, plants and animals, certain taxonomic categories are universally recognized; in descending order, these are kingdom, phylum (in plants, division), class, order, family, genus, species, and sub-species, or race.

In addition to knowledge of specific elements of biodiversity, interdisciplinary knowledge gaps are particularly apparent, with little in the way of accumulated knowledge on the interlinkages between biodiversity, ecosystem services and human wellbeing.  Recent efforts to link biodiversity science with economics have been particularly promising but further interdisciplinary research and assessment would support strengthened decision-making and policymaking processes on European biodiversity in the 21st century.

Key Gaps in Knowledge that emerge from this report are as follows …

  • Data Availability:  Data beyond EU-27 Member States are often limited, especially European-level information on biodiversity (species, communities and genetic stock).  Generally, data for marine species and habitats are much scarcer than for terrestrial ecosystems, and across Europe some important ecosystem types (e.g. marine and coastal) are among the least studied.  Data are often lacking at relevant scales, e.g. for key environmental drivers or habitat change.  This information would help set solid and relevant targets and continually improve sustainable management schemes.
  • Climate Change Adaptation Strategies:  Information on adaptation measures and strategies is often insufficient for many European ecosystems to counteract adverse climate change impacts and maintain ecosystem goods and services (e.g. FAO, 2009).  While climate change considerations have largely driven the debate on adaptive capacity and vulnerability, there is now increased recognition of the multidimensional nature of drivers of change, responses and feedback mechanisms (e.g. CDE, 2009).
  • Ecosystem Services:  Enhanced information on environmental, economic and social benefits of the ecosystem services supplied by biodiversity is lacking to inform sustainable management of ecosystems and raise public awareness of biodiversity’s value and the link to livelihoods.  The value of non-marketed goods and services are an important element in this.
  • Optimal Land-Use Strategies:  It is important to finding the optimal mix of protected and productive areas, whether used for intensive agriculture or biomass for energy.  More detailed data and analysis are needed to assess the extent and consequences of losing natural habitats through land conversion for increased biomass, e.g. biofuel feedstock production (FAO, 2008).  Ecosystem approaches are also particularly well suited for addressing competing land-use issues in a systematic and holistic framework, even in the absence of economic valuations, and they have considerable potential as an integrated management tool (Hicks et al., 2008).
  • Sustainable Management Indicators:  More knowledge on sustainable management indicators is required along the lines of the pan-European indicators of sustainable forest management.
  • Green Infrastructure:  More information is required on the potential benefits of a green infrastructure approach to facilitate land development and land conservation together in a way that is consistent with existing natural features to deliver multiple benefits to people and biodiversity.

Recognising the urgent need to address these issues and reverse the trends of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, the Environment Council adopted the 2020 Headline Target on 15 March 2010 and the European Council endorsed the Long-Term Biodiversity Vision on 26 March 2010.  These ambitious initiatives will underpin the new EU Biodiversity Strategy to be finalised by the end of 2010.  In its conclusions, the European Council specified that the strategy to address biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation should set a clear baseline outlining the criteria against which achievements are to be assessed.

EEA developed the EU 2010 Biodiversity Baseline (EEA, 2010) to respond to this need.  It offers a comprehensive snapshot of the current state of biodiversity.  It thereby supports the EU in developing the post 2010 sub-targets as part of the biodiversity strategy and provides factual data for measuring and monitoring progress in the EU from 2011 to 2020.  This new information tool demonstrates that a large proportion of European species and habitats are either facing extinction, have an unfavourable conservation status or their status is unknown.  It highlights the urgent need for conservation actions and intensified efforts.

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In Ireland … am I convinced that the New National Biodiversity Plan 2010-2015 (draft for public consultation, dated 1st September 2010) will turn out to be anything more than just another slick looking public relations document issued by our one and only Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government (DEHLG) ?   I’ll give you one guess what my answer is !!!

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CIB W14: ‘Fire Safety’ – Recent Important Meeting in Zurich

2010-10-07:  Established in 1953 … CIB (International Council for Research & Innovation in Building & Construction) is an Organization whose objectives are to stimulate and facilitate international co-operation and information exchange between research institutes and research-oriented individuals in the Global Construction Sector.

In 2010CIB is now a worldwide network of over 5000 experts … from about 500 member organisations active in the research community, in industry or in education … who co-operate and exchange information in over 50 CIB Working Commissions and Task Groups, covering all fields in building and construction related research and innovation.

CIB Working Commissions initiate projects for the purposes of R&D and information exchange … organise meetings and issue publications.  These meetings can be Commission meetings for members only, or international symposia and congresses open to everyone.  Publications can be proceedings, scientific or technical analyses and international state-of-the-art reports.

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CIB Working Commission 14 (W14) recently held an important meeting at EMPA Headquarters (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science & Technology) in Zurich, Switzerland … on Monday and Tuesday, 30th and 31st August 2010.  The meeting was very well attended … and the discussions, throughout, were lively, interesting and challenging !

The Co-Ordinator for W14 … Prof. Dr. George Hadjisophocleous, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada … is Professor in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and Holder of the Industrial Research Chair in Fire Safety Engineering.

This Meeting was Important for Two Reasons …

1.  Working Commission 14 Title & Description Revised

Early on the Monday morning, 30th August 2010 … under the Agenda Item: ‘Overview of CIB W14 Mission Statement’, I had proposed that the Commission should review the current, rather outdated Mission Statement.  A draft text, which I had submitted many months before the Zurich meeting, was used as the basis for our discussion.

It was a major step forward that the Revised Title & Description for Working Commission 14 received such enthusiastic support, and endorsement …

Revised CIB W14 Title: ‘Fire Safety’

This will make the work of Working Commission 14 more accessible to the many built environment design, construction and operation related disciplines outside the international fire science and engineering community … and to the rest of CIB, which will facilitate greater communication and co-operation with other CIB Working Commissions and Task Groups.

The revised title will also foster and promote better co-ordination with International Standards Organization (ISO) Technical Committee 92: ‘Fire Safety’.

Revised CIB W14 Description:

A Working Commission of CIB (International Council for Research and Innovation in Building & Construction) … CIB W14 is an international, multi-stakeholder, trans-disciplinary, pre-normalization forum for discussion, and action, on research and innovation in Fire Science and Engineering for the design, construction and operation of a Safe and Sustainable Built Environment.

During the Meeting, it was made crystal clear that the Built Environment did not just mean ‘buildings’ … and that Sustainable referred to all Aspects of Sustainable Development, and not merely to its environmental aspects.

All Aspects of Sustainable Human & Social Development must be taken into account at the same time and with equal weight.

This is an important foundation for the International Fire Science and Engineering Community … as it begins to communicate and engage, meaningfully, with the Mainstream Construction Sector about discussions on Sustainable Design, Construction & Operation (including management and servicing, etc.).

2.  Tighter Scope for the New CIB W14 Fire Research Projects

During the remainder of the 2-day meeting … Overview Presentations were made, Progress was reported, and Lengthy Discussions followed on the following Fire Research & Innovation Projects listed below.

I will only make a few pertinent comments about some of the Projects …

a)  Design Fires

During the discussion about this Project, I firmly made the point that proper consideration must now be given to ‘Maximum Credible Fire Scenario’ … as recommended in the 2005 NIST(USA) Final Report on the 9-11 World Trade Center Towers 1 & 2 Collapses.  See Footnote 26, on Page 208 of the 2005 Report, for the definition of this concept.

b)  Fire Performance of Materials

I drew the meeting’s attention to the serious problem of Hazardous Plasterboard/Drywall manufactured in China.  See the Post on this Blog … http://www.cjwalsh.ie/2010/05/u-s-consumer-organization-identifies-hazardous-plasterboards/

c)  Structural Performance in Fire – Connections

d)  Structural Reliability & Fire-Induced Progressive Collapse

I am the Leader for this International Project … and our progress can be followed on a separate Page of this Blog … http://www.cjwalsh.ie/progressive-collapse-fire/

e)  Human Behaviour & Abilities in Fire Emergencies

For reasons which I cannot discuss here, it was considered to be absolutely essential that this Project proceed with all haste … and full speed !

Two Issues in Particular …

In relation to the problems People with Activity Limitations (2001 WHO ICF) face in preparation for, during and after fire emergencies in buildings … Existing Standards at International and National Levels have been shown …

  • to lack any proper awareness or understanding about ‘disability’ ;
  • to present a Design, Construction and Management Response to the problems experienced by People with Activity Limitations in preparation for, during and after fire emergencies in buildings … which is far, far less than adequate … or, to put it in more direct language … a Response which is entirely unacceptable … on technical, social and legal grounds.

It must be clearly noted that the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities became an International Legal Instrument on 3rd May 2008.  As a result of Article #11 … in future, to give just one simple example, fire evacuation routes in buildings must be designed to be ‘accessible-for-all’.  This is an entirely new concept for most fire engineers … in all countries !

On my proposal, therefore, the Project Title was amended to include Human Abilities.

Secondly … and further to its introduction during my presentation at an earlier CIB W14 Meeting in Lund University, Sweden, during April 2009 … this Project will also examine the concept of ‘Maximum Credible User Scenario’, i.e. user conditions which are also severe, but reasonable to anticipate … meaning …

  • the Number of people using a building increases, on occasions which cannot be specified, to 120% of calculated maximum building capacity ;

and

  • 10% of people using the building (occupants, visitors and other users) have an Impairment (visual or hearing, physical function, mental or cognitive, psychological, with some impairments not being identifiable).

Leadership of this Project is held by Douglas Hillhouse, Organizer of the Fire Risk Engineering Programme in the School of the Built & Natural Environments, Glasgow Caledonian University.

f)  Fire Engineering Performance Criteria

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Watch this space … more interesting, pre-normative fire engineering developments are in the pipeline !

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Japan in April and May 2010 … Special Moments (II)

2010-10-03:  At an impressionable young age, I was exposed to the Landscape Design ‘Shock and Awe’ of the Palace Gardens at Versailles, just outside Paris in France.  In Europe … we are convinced that we know it all … and that we have all the answers.  Let me break the bad news … we don’t !

Japan is another world … another experience … jaw-dropping, eye-popping, breath-taking … a feast for the mind.  Here is a very good example of a different approach … to me, a far more attractive approach … to shaping and moulding the landscape …

With an area of approximately 10 hectares … Kenroku-en Park in Kanazawa City is the largest of the three famous Gardens in Japan (the others are in Mito and Okayama).  It is also considered to be the most beautiful.  The Park is an informally styled landscaped garden with characteristics typical of the Edo Period.  Originally the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle, it is located on the slope facing the castle’s Main Gate … Ishikawa-mon.  A busy road now separates the two !

This Park embodies the unification of the six qualities:  honour, ceremony, expanse, artistic design, coolness, and scenic harmony.

Completed in 1837, the Park was first opened to the public on 7 May 1874.  It was designated a National Site of Special Scenic Beauty on 20 March 1985.

Here are some random scenes … and a plan.  Enjoy … and please notice the details …

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Colour photograph showing a scene in Kenroku-en Park in Kanazawa, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing a scene in Kenroku-en Park in Kanazawa, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

Kotojitoro Lantern

Colour photograph showing a scene in Kenroku-en Park in Kanazawa, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing a scene in Kenroku-en Park in Kanazawa, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

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Colour photograph showing a scene in Kenroku-en Park in Kanazawa, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing a scene in Kenroku-en Park in Kanazawa, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

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Colour photograph showing a scene in Kenroku-en Park in Kanazawa, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing a scene in Kenroku-en Park in Kanazawa, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

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Colour image showing the plan of Kenroku-en Park in Kanazawa, Japan. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the plan of Kenroku-en Park in Kanazawa, Japan. Click to enlarge.

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Colour photograph showing a scene in Kenroku-en Park in Kanazawa, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing a scene in Kenroku-en Park in Kanazawa, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

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Colour photograph showing a scene in Kenroku-en Park in Kanazawa, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing a scene in Kenroku-en Park in Kanazawa, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

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Colour photograph showing a scene in Kenroku-en Park in Kanazawa, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing a scene in Kenroku-en Park in Kanazawa, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

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Colour photograph showing a scene in Kenroku-en Park in Kanazawa, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing a scene in Kenroku-en Park in Kanazawa, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

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Colour photograph showing a scene in Kenroku-en Park in Kanazawa, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing a scene in Kenroku-en Park in Kanazawa, Japan. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

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Israel – A Criminal, Apartheid State & Its Own Worst Enemy !

2010-10-01:  On 22nd September, 2010 … the United Nations Human Rights Council issued the following Report (Document Reference A/HRC/15/21)

‘ Report of the international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, resulting from the Israeli attacks on the flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian assistance.’

Report Summary (in full):

This report was prepared by the fact-finding mission established by the Human Rights Council, in resolution A/HRC/RES/14/1 of 2 June 2010, to investigate violations of international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights law, resulting from the interception by Israeli forces of the humanitarian aid flotilla bound for Gaza on 31 May 2010 during which nine people were killed and many others injured.

The report sets out background information relating to the interception of the flotilla as well as the applicable international law.

The fact-finding mission conducted interviews with more than 100 witnesses in Geneva, London, Istanbul and Amman.  On the basis of this testimony and other information received, the Mission was able to reconstruct a picture of the circumstances surrounding the interception on 31 May 2010 and its aftermath.  The report presents a factual description of the events leading up to the interception, the interception of each of the six ships in the flotilla as well as a seventh ship subsequently intercepted on 6 June 2010, the deaths of nine passengers and wounding of many others and the detention of passengers in Israel and their deportation.

The report contains a legal analysis of facts as determined by the Mission with a view to determining whether violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, took place.

The fact-finding mission concluded that a series of violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, were committed by the Israeli forces during the interception of the flotilla and during the detention of passengers in Israel prior to deportation.

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Report Conclusions (Section V in full):

260  The attack on the flotilla must be viewed in the context of the ongoing problems between the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority and People.  In carrying out its task, the Mission was exposed to the depth of conviction on both sides of the correctness of their respective positions.  Similar disasters are likely to reoccur unless there is a dramatic shift in the existing paradigm.  It must be remembered that might and strength are enhanced when attended by a sense of justice and fair play.  Peace and respect have to be earned not bludgeoned out of any opponent.  An unfair victory has never been known to bring lasting peace.

261  The Mission has come to the firm conclusion that a humanitarian crisis existed on the 31 May 2010 in Gaza.  The preponderance of evidence from impeccable sources is far too overwhelming to come to a contrary opinion.  Any denial that this is so cannot be supported on any rational grounds.  One of the consequences flowing from this is that for this reason alone the blockade is unlawful and cannot be sustained in law.  This is so regardless of the grounds on which it is sought to justify the legality of the blockade.

262  Certain results flow from this conclusion.  Principally, the action of the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) in intercepting the Mavi Marmara in the circumstances and for the reasons given on the high sea was clearly unlawful.  Specifically, the action cannot be justified in the circumstances, even under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.

263  Israel seeks to justify the blockade on security grounds.  The State of Israel is entitled to peace and security like any other.  The firing of rockets and other munitions of war into Israeli territory from Gaza constitutes serious violations of international and international humanitarian law.  But action in response which constitutes collective punishment of the civilian population in Gaza is not lawful in the present or any circumstances.

264  The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence.  It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality.  Such conduct cannot be justified or condoned on security or any other grounds.  It constituted grave violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law.

265  The Mission considers that several violations and offences have been committed.  It is not satisfied that, in the time available, it can say that it has been able to compile a comprehensive list of all offences.  However, there is clear evidence to support prosecutions of the following crimes within the terms of article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention:

  • wilful killing ;
  • torture or inhuman treatment ;
  • wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health.

The Mission also considers that a series of violations of Israel’s obligations under international human rights law have taken place, including:

  • right to life (article 6, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) ;
  • torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (article 7, ICCPR; Convention Against Torture) ;
  • right to liberty and security of the person and freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention (article 9, ICCPR) ;
  • right of detainees to be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person (article 10, ICCPR) ;
  • freedom of expression (article 19, ICCPR).

The right to an effective remedy should be guaranteed to all victims.  The Mission must not be understood to be saying that this is a comprehensive list by any means.

266  The Mission notes that the retention by the Israeli authorities of unlawfully seized property remains a continuing offence and Israel is called upon to return such property forthwith.

267  The perpetrators of the more serious crimes being masked cannot be identified without the assistance of the Israeli authorities.  They reacted in a violent manner whenever they thought that anyone was attempting to identify them.  The mission sincerely hopes that there will be co-operation from the Israeli government to assist in their identification with a view to prosecuting the culpable and bring closure to the situation.

268  The Mission is aware that this is not the first time that the Government of Israel has declined to co-operate with an inquiry into events in which its military personnel were involved.  On this occasion the Mission accepts the assurances of the Israeli Permanent Representative that the position which he was directed to follow was in no way directed towards the members of the Mission in their personal capacities.  It is nonetheless regrettable that, on yet another occasion of an enquiry into events involving loss of life at the hands of the Israeli military, the Government of Israel has declined to co-operate in an enquiry not appointed by it or on which it was significantly represented.

269  The Mission regrets that its requests to the Permanent Mission of Israel for information were not entertained.  The reason initially given was that the Government of Israel had established its own independent panel of distinguished persons to investigate the flotilla incident.  The Mission was told that for that reason and also because the Secretary-General (of the United Nations) had also announced the establishment of another distinguished panel with a similar mandate, that “an additional Human Rights Council initiative in this regard are both unnecessary and unproductive”.

270  The Mission did not agree with that position and for that reason suggested to the Permanent Representative of Israel that he should direct to the Council and not the Mission a request that the Mission defer submitting its report to permit other enquiries to complete their tasks.  The Mission has not received any direction from the Council to date and considers that it would have been obligated to respond positively to any such directive from the Council.

271  In the light of the fact that the Turkel Committee (Israeli Inquiry) and the Secretary-General’s Panel have not concluded their sittings, the Mission will refrain from any remarks which are capable of being construed as not allowing those bodies to complete their tasks “unfettered by external events”.  The Mission confines itself to the observation that public confidence in any investigative process in circumstances such as the present is not enhanced when the subject of an investigation either investigates himself or plays a pivotal role in the process.

272  Elsewhere in this report, the Mission has referred to the fact that it found it necessary to re-interpret its mandate because of the manner in which the resolution appointing it was couched.  It is important in the drafting of matters of this sort that the impression is not given of the appearance of any pre-judgment.  The Mission took particular care, at the first opportunity, to indicate that it interpreted its mandate as requiring it to approach its task without any preconceptions or prejudices.  It wishes to assure all concerned that it has held to that position scrupulously.

273  All the passengers on board the ships comprising the flotilla who appeared before the Mission impressed the members as persons genuinely committed to the spirit of humanitarianism and imbued with a deep and genuine concern for the welfare of the inhabitants of Gaza.  The Mission can only express the hope that differences will be resolved in the short rather than the long-term so that peace and harmony may exist in the area.

274  Nine human beings lost their lives and several others suffered serious injuries.  From the observations of the Mission, deep psychological scars have been inflicted by what must have been a very traumatic experience not only for the passengers but also the soldiers who received injuries.  The members of the Mission sympathise with all concerned and, in particular, with the families of the deceased.

275  The Mission is not alone in finding that a deplorable situation exists in Gaza.  It has been characterized as ‘unsustainable’.  This is totally intolerable and unacceptable in the 21st Century.  It is amazing that anyone could characterise the condition of the people there as satisfying the most basic of acceptable standards.  The parties and the international community are urged to find the solution that will address all legitimate security concerns of both Israel and the people of Palestine, both of whom are equally entitled to “their place under the heavens”.  The apparent dichotomy in this case between the competing right of security and the right to a decent living can only be resolved if old antagonisms are subordinated to a sense of justice and fair play.  One has to find the strength to pluck from the memory rooted sorrows and to move on.

276  The Mission has given thought to the position of humanitarian organizations who wish to intervene in situations of long-standing humanitarian crisis where the international community is unwilling, for whatever reason, to take positive action.  Too often are they accused as being meddlesome and, at worst, as terrorists or enemy agents.

277  A distinction is made between activities taken to alleviate crises and action to address the causes creating the crisis.  The latter action is characterized as political action and therefore inappropriate for groups that wish to be classified as humanitarian.  This point is made because of the evidence that while some of the passengers were solely interested in delivering supplies to the people in Gaza, for others the main purpose was raising awareness of the blockade with a view to its removal, as the only way to solve the crisis.  An examination should be made to clearly define humanitarianism as distinct from humanitarian action, so that there can be an agreed form of intervention and jurisdiction when humanitarian crises occur.

278  The Mission sincerely hopes that no impediment will be put in the way of those who suffered loss as a result of the unlawful actions of the Israeli military to be compensated adequately and promptly.  It is hoped that there will be swift action by the Government of Israel.  This will go a long way to reversing the regrettable reputation which that country has for impunity and intransigence in international affairs.  It will also assist those who genuinely sympathise with their situation to support them without being stigmatised.

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The Following Earlier Text in the Report Should Also be Noted …

(Section III) E.  Consequences for Israeli Citizens of Participation in the Flotilla

Factual Description and Findings

250  The Mission found the following facts to have been established to its satisfaction.

     (a) Detention and criminal prosecution of Israeli citizens

251  Passengers with Israeli citizenship were separated from other passengers on arrival in Ashdod.  After interrogation, they were informed that they would be detained and face charges under Israeli law, including attempting to kill a soldier, seizing arms, shooting from a soldier’s gun, organizing violence and being present in a military zone.  Although taken to a different prison, they had similar experiences as the other passengers including sleep deprivation and denial of access to a lawyer.

252  On 1 June 2010, the Ashkelon Magistrate’s Court remanded in custody four Palestinian Israelis: Mr. Muhammed Zeidan, Chairman of the High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel; Sheikh Raed Salah, the Head of the Islamic Movement of Israel (northern branch); Sheikh Hamad Abu Daabe, Head of the Islamic Movement in Israel (southern branch) and Ms. Lubna Masarwa of the Free Gaza Movement.  On 3 June 2010, the same court decided to release the group with certain conditions, including a period of house arrest until 8 June, prohibition from leaving the country for 45 days and the posting of a bond of 150,000 Shekels by a third party.

253  The four people have not since been indicted, but the file is still open and the charges have not been withdrawn.

     (b) Reprisals against an elected member of the Knesset

254  One member of the Israeli Knesset, Ms Haneen Zouabi, was a passenger on the Mavi Marmara.  Ms. Zouabi was not detained, but was extensively interrogated.

255  As a result of her participation in the flotilla, the Knesset voted on 7 June 2010 to remove three of the parliamentary privileges available to Ms. Zouabi as a Member of the Knesset: her privileges in overseas travel; her diplomatic passport; payment of any legal fees in case of removal of her parliamentary immunity from criminal prosecution.  The Knesset held several sessions on the issue of her participation in the Flotilla during which there were racist and sexist remarks and physical threats made against her.  Some parliamentarians have also called for her to face criminal prosecution and measures, such as revoking her membership in the Knesset, were discussed.  The Israeli Minister of Interior accused Ms. Zouabi of treason and requested authorization from the Attorney General to revoke her citizenship.  To date, no criminal proceedings have been initiated against Ms. Zouabi.  Since her participation in the Gaza Flotilla, Ms. Zouabi has received many death threats.

256  The Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians adopted a confidential decision at its 130th session in July 2010, holding the punishment of Ms. Zouabi for exercising her freedom of speech by expressing her political position to be unacceptable and calling on the Knesset to reconsider its decision.

257  The Mission refrains from any comment on any domestic legal proceedings which may be sub-judice.  However, the Mission notes that these actions against Israeli citizens could give rise to certain violations of Israel’s international human rights obligations, including freedom of expression, political participation rights and rights to due process.

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New York 9-11 WTC Incident – Any Societal Lessons Learned ?

2010-10-01:  We have a very large Page on our Corporate WebSite devoted to some of the more important technical aspects of the World Trade Center Incident (9-11) … which occurred on Tuesday morning (local time in New York), 11th September 2001.  This Incident resulted in a major and unprecedented Collapse Level Event (CLE) for Iconic Buildings … in an Iconic City with a highly developed Economic Environment.

A long time ago … and yes, you really do have to pinch yourself to remember that it was way back then.  As a reliable reflection of the continued popular dismay and concern about 9-11 … once again, the number of visitors to our WebPage went through the roof on the 11th September just passed.

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New Yorkany City … is a geographical region, with open and flexible boundaries, consisting of :

(a)  An interwoven, densely constructed core (built environment) ;

(b)  A large resident population of more than 500,000 people (social environment) … in this case … as of 1st July 2009, according to the United States Census Bureau, the City of New York had a population of 8,391,881 people … an increase of 383,603, or 4.8%, since April 2000 ;

(c)  A supporting hinterland of lands, waters and other natural resources (cultivated landscape) ;

together functioning as …

  1. Complex Living System (analogous to, yet different from, other living systems such as ecosystems and organisms).     and
  2. A Synergetic Community capable of providing a high level of individual welfare and social wellbeing for all of its inhabitants.

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Within a few short hours in 2001 … the entire Fabric of New York’s Social Environment, south of Canal Street, had been shredded into tiny unidentifiable pieces.

Just 5 weeks after 9-11 … in the middle of October 2001 … I was staying in my cousin’s apartment within the WTC Security Zone.  The reason for my visit was to present a Paper at a Conference being held in Mid-Town Manhattan.  Many participants did not attend.  Some of the people I met there, however, were so emotionally traumatized by 9-11 that they could barely bring themselves to speak about what had happened.  On a few occasions, I had also witnessed racial harassment … one nasty case involving a policeman … of those individuals, e.g. taxi drivers, having a non-WASP Profile !   You can guess what I mean.

Fast forward to events surrounding the recent 9-11 Anniversary in 2010 … and what do we see on our television screens ??   Protests against a project to refurbish and enlarge an existing Islamic Community Centre, located not too far from the 9-11 Incident Site … and a crazy proposal, emanating from a ‘mickey mouse’ Christian Fundamentalist Pastor in Florida State, to hold a Public Burning of the Qur’an.

Dismal, Depressing and Shameful Societal Responses to the World Trade Center Incident (9-11) !!!

Having suffered … intelligent people are supposed to … and usually do … learn valuable lessons about life and living.

But … what lessons have actually been learned, in the United States of America, from 9-11 ???

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