Archive for February, 2011

‘Accessibility-for-All’ – Post EU Ratification of the 2006 UN CRPD

2011-02-28:  Further to my posts, dated  15 January 2011  and  5 February 2011

There is an easy way to understand the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which was ratified by the European Union (EU) just before Christmas Day 2010:

For a sizeable group of vulnerable people in all of our societies, the sole route of access to many, if not most, of the Human and Social Rights set down in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) … is the UN CRPD … which only became an International Legal Instrument on 3 May 2008 … just short of 60 Years after the UDHR was adopted on 10 December 1948 !

That is precisely why Accessibility is such a critical component of the 2006 UN Convention … which has already been described, here, as a ‘Mixed Agreement’ (see the post of 5 February 2011).

Accessibility is the principal, common ingredient in ‘fields that fall in part within the competence of the European Union, in part within that of the Member States and in part within the shared competence of the EU and its Member States’.  Accessibility has an impact … and always will have an impact … on all of these fields.

Policy and Decision Makers at every level within the European Union and the EU Member States would need to become accustomed to this new concept very, very quickly.

It is also essential, therefore, for the EU and the Member States to closely co-operate in implementing legislation which stems from the UN CRPD in a coherent manner … and to ensure unity in the international representation of the Union.



1.  Establishing an Initial Framework …

Exactly how should we make sense of … bring order and assign priorities to … the Accessibility-related Articles in the UN Convention … using the different terms ‘Accessibility’ and ‘Accessibility-for-All’ … ‘People/Persons with Disabilities’ and ‘People with Activity Limitations’ (2001 WHO ICF) … in relation to the different components of the Human Environment, i.e. the Built, Social, Virtual and Economic Environments ???

Our recommendation … SDI’s Recommendation … is to refer, in the first instance, to this ‘Accessibility-for-All’ Matrix … which we developed a few years ago … in preparation for this crucial period of implementation …

Colour image showing Sustainable Design International's 'Accessibility-for-All' Matrix. The Goal is a Sustainable Human Environment which is Accessible-for-All. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing Sustainable Design International's 'Accessibility-for-All' Matrix. The Goal is a Sustainable Human Environment which is Accessible-for-All. Click to enlarge.


If we then drill down … in order to fully understand ‘Accessibility of a Building’, for example … this then comprises:

  • Approach to the building ;
  • Entry through principal entrance(s) ;
  • Health, Safety, Convenience & Comfort in Use, including thermal comfort, indoor air quality, protection from fire, etc ;
  • Egress from the building (during normal conditions) ;
  • Removal from the vicinity of the building (during normal conditions) ;


  • Evacuation from the building (during, for example, a fire emergency) ;
  • Safe Movement to a ‘place of safety’ (during, for example, a fire emergency), which is remote from the building ;


  • Each stage of a Work Process, at every level, in places of work ;
  • Use of Electronic, Information & Communication Technologies (EICT’s) ;


  • Management, Services, and Attitudes of People in the building ;
  • Recruitment, Employment, Training & Promotion Practices.


2.  Overlaying UN CRPD Article 9 – Accessibility …

Onto the Initial Framework outlined above … overlay Article 9 … and crosscheck in detail.  Note well the strong language used … ‘States Parties shall’ … and do not forget that this is not a Wish List … but a clear delineation of the Scope of an Important Human and Social Right which now has a proper basis in both International and European Union Law !

1.  To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas.  These measures, which shall include the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility, shall apply to, inter alia:

(a)  Buildings, roads, transportation and other indoor and outdoor facilities, including schools, housing, medical facilities and workplaces ;

(b)  Information, communications and other services, including electronic services and emergency services.

2.  States Parties shall also take appropriate measures:

(a)  To develop, promulgate and monitor the implementation of minimum standards and guidelines for the accessibility of facilities and services open or provided to the public ;

(b)  To ensure that private entities that offer facilities and services which are open or provided to the public take into account all aspects of accessibility for persons with disabilities ;

(c)  To provide training for stakeholders on accessibility issues facing persons with disabilities ;

(d)  To provide in buildings and other facilities open to the public signage in Braille and in easy to read and understand forms ;

(e)  To provide forms of live assistance and intermediaries, including guides, readers and professional sign language interpreters, to facilitate accessibility to buildings and other facilities open to the public ;

(f)  To promote other appropriate forms of assistance and support to persons with disabilities to ensure their access to information ;

(g)  To promote access for persons with disabilities to new information and communications technologies and systems, including the Internet ;

(h)  To promote the design, development, production and distribution of accessible information and communications technologies and systems at an early stage, so that these technologies and systems become accessible at minimum cost.


So … what is the situation in the Member States of the European Union ?

In an upcoming post … let’s take Ireland as a case in point, just for the hell of it … and discuss some of the consequences … stemming from the EU’s ratification of the UN CRPD … on the operation of the Building Regulations and Disability Access Certificates (DAC’s).




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Landfill Fires & Contaminated Water Supplies – Join Some Dots ?

2011-02-23:  With the blanket media coverage of the upcoming Irish General Election, which will be held on Friday next, 25 February 2011 … the following 2 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Press Releases concerning the ongoing Kerdiffstown Landfill Fire Incident in County Kildare … which were issued in quick succession on Friday afternoon last, 18 February 2011 … may not have received adequate public attention …

1.  Friday 18th February 2011: Statement on Behalf of Co-Ordinating Group

Re:  Kerdiffstown Fire

Date released: Feb 18 2011, 3:12 PM

Active firefighting has been wound down as brigades undertake a phased withdrawal from the Kerdiffstown landfill site near Naas.  The fire, which flared up on 18 January 2011, was unprecedented in Ireland and it proved very challenging.  Initial assessments indicate that, by comparison with international experience, the time taken to suppress the fire was relatively short – given its nature and the environment in which it took place.  Fire brigades will maintain a precautionary watch on the site until the middle of next week.  The site remains a very dangerous area and people should not enter it for any reason.  The Environmental Protection Agency has increased security in the interests of public safety and to prevent further trespass in the area.

And …

2.  EPA to Develop Remediation Plan for Kerdiffstown Landfill, Naas, County Kildare.

Date released: Feb 18 2011, 3:26 PM

The EPA, HSE, Kildare County Council, Defence Forces and Gardaí have, for the past 27 days, been co-ordinating actions to deal with the fire and other environmental issues at Kerdiffstown Landfill, near Naas.  In particular, the EPA has been working closely with Kildare Fire Service, providing expert advice in fighting the serious fire at the Kerdiffstown landfill site, contracting in providers of cold gas injection equipment and providing air monitoring and analysis.  The EPA is exercising its powers under Section 56 of the Waste Management Act to secure the site and to start the longer-term process of remediation of the whole site.  Already the EPA has begun the following preliminary works:

  • removing stockpiles of fire-risk waste ;
  • providing 24-hour security personnel at the site for the long-term ;
  • establishing an on-site office ;
  • increased on-site monitoring and inspection ;
  • dealing with immediate Health & Safety issues on the site ;
  • removing landfill leachate.

As the plan for the remediation progresses, the EPA will be meeting with the local community on a regular basis in order to hear their views and update them on the remediation project.  Remediation works will be phased and the EPA will prioritise work that alleviates odour from the site in the short to medium term.  Funding for the short-term emergency works to date has been provided by the Department of Environment, Heritage & Local Government.  Further funding for the remediation will be released on a phased basis.  The EPA has taken enforcement action against those involved in the operation of the Kerdiffstown site, including three High Court cases.  High Court orders are in place preventing the deposit of any further waste onto the Kerdiffstown site.  The EPA will use its powers under the Waste Management Acts to seek recovery of all costs expended by the State during the remediation project.  The EPA is also seeking orders against directors of the companies who formerly operated the site in order to recover these costs.  A criminal investigation file relating to the previous operations at the site has been submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

A lot of words have been used in these press releases … but the amount of actual information which has been communicated to the public is Sweet FA !   And … please note well … there is no statement that the Landfill Fire has been extinguished.



We consider that it is very important for Firefighters and Members of the Kerdiffstown Local Community, i.e. anybody who lives within 2 Km of the Landfill Site, to have sufficient information about Landfill Fires … in order to ask some pertinent questions about this fire incident.

I hate to say this … but, languishing on an important page of the FireOx International WebSite for many years … … unloved (?!?) … has been this 2002 United States Report

U.S. Fire Administration – Federal Emergency Management Agency

May 2002 / FA-225

LANDFILL FIRES – Their Magnitude, Characteristics, and Mitigation

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (583 kb)


As you read the document … pinch yourself hard, and try to remember that the Regulatory Control over Landfill Sites in Ireland has been LITE-LITE-LITE !!!   … That there has been much illegal dumping all over the country !!   … AND … That some Local Authorities have even forgotten where old, inactive Landfill Sites are located … a case I myself encountered in Clontarf, within the functional area of what was then known as Dublin Corporation !

Black and white drawing ... Figure 1 in the 2002 U.S. FEMA Landfill Fires Report above ... showing the components of a Regulated Landfill Site, courtesy of the California Waste Management Board. How many Landfill Sites in Ireland, or in Europe for that matter, have all ... or any ... of the components illustrated above ? Click to enlarge.

Black and white drawing ... Figure 1 in the 2002 U.S. FEMA Landfill Fires Report above ... showing the components of a Regulated Landfill Site, courtesy of the California Waste Management Board. How many Landfill Sites in Ireland, or in Europe for that matter, have all ... or any ... of the components illustrated above ? Click to enlarge.



Extract from the 2002 U.S. Report … Page 8 …

Landfill emissions are the result of the decomposition of organic materials in the landfill (including yard waste, household waste, food waste, and paper).  Because of the nature of the construction of landfills, this decomposition is anaerobic and results in the production of large quantities of Methane (which is highly flammable) and Carbon Dioxide.  In fact, landfills are the largest source of methane emissions in the United States, accounting for 35% of methane emissions in 1999.  MSW (municipal solid waste) landfills generate about 93% of U.S. landfill emissions; industrial landfills account for the remaining emissions.  Methane emissions from landfills are affected by site-specific factors such as waste composition, available moisture, and landfill size.  Approximately 28% of the methane generated in landfills in 1999 was recovered.  The remainder of landfill-generated methane was dispersed in the air.

Approximately 50% of gas emitted from landfills is methane; carbon dioxide accounts for about 45 percent, and the remainder is composed of nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, and other gases.  Both Methane and Carbon Dioxide are Greenhouse Gases (GHG’s) that pose environmental problems.  Of the two gases, methane is far more potent than carbon dioxide.

[Media reports have also stated that Carbon Dioxide was used during attempts to suppress the Kerdiffstown Landfill Fire in County Kildare !?!]



Extract from the 2002 U.S. Report … Pages 14 & 15 …

In addition to the burn and explosion hazards posed by landfill fires, smoke and other by-products of landfill fires also present a health risk to firefighters and others exposed to them.  Smoke from landfill fires generally contains Particulate Matter (the products of incomplete combustion of the fuel source), which can aggravate pre-existing pulmonary conditions or cause respiratory distress.  As with all fires, those in landfills produce toxic smoke and gases.  The danger and level of toxicity of these gases depend on the length of exposure one has to them and on the type of material that is burning.

Underground fires can result in CO (Carbon Monoxide) levels in excess of 50,000 ppm (parts per million) – the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) permissible exposure limit for CO is 50 ppm.  OSHA standards prohibit worker exposure to more than 50 parts of the gas per million parts of air averaged during an 8-hour time period.  Carbon Monoxide is harmful when breathed because it displaces oxygen in the blood and deprives the heart, brain, and other vital organs of oxygen, which can cause permanent damage or death.

Another serious concern in landfill fires is the emission of Dioxins.  Accidental fires at landfills and the uncontrolled burning of residential waste are considered the largest sources of dioxin emissions in the United States.  The term ‘dioxins’ refers to a group of chemical compounds with similar chemical and biological characteristics that are released into the air during the combustion process.  Dioxins are also naturally occurring and are present throughout the environment.  However, exposure to high levels of dioxins has been linked to cancer, liver damage, skin rashes, and reproductive and developmental disorders.



Extract from the 2002 U.S. Report … Pages 16 & 17 …

The smoke and run-off from landfill fires can be dangerous to those living in the area and to the environment.  It is important that air and water quality issues be addressed early in a fire suppression operation to prevent contamination as much as possible.  As mentioned earlier, water used to suppress a landfill fire can overwhelm a facility’s leachate collection system, if one exists (older facilities may have been constructed prior to regulations requiring leachate collection systems).



Extract from the 2002 U.S. Report … Page 17 …

Fires occurring in landfills where hazardous wastes are buried can be particularly difficult.  In past years, illegal dumping of hazardous and toxic materials in landfills and other dumping sites was relatively common.  When a fire occurs and rescue workers have wrong or misleading information about the buried contents (e.g., illegal or unknown toxic or radioactive wastes), the fire suppression operation can be extremely dangerous.

Although not a landfill fire, the Wade Dump Fire in February 1978 clearly illustrates the dangers posed by fires involving unknown hazardous materials.  Firefighters responded to a suspected tyre fire at an abandoned rubber shredding plant on the Delaware River outside of Philadelphia.  They were unaware that the property’s owner and namesake, Melvin Wade, had transformed the plant into one of the most toxic hazardous waste dumpsites in U.S. history.  By the night of the fire, more than 3 million gallons of cyanide, benzene, toluene, and other chemicals were stored on the site – plus thousands of junk tyres.  The burning chemicals produced multi-coloured smoke and noxious fumes, which alerted firefighters to the unusual nature of the fire they were fighting.  Intensified by chemicals and other fuels, the fire raged for hours.  Drums of chemicals exploded, injuring firefighters and even damaging fire trucks.  As the night progressed, firefighters and other emergency workers noticed that the chemicals were dissolving their protective gear and making it difficult for them to breathe; more than 40 firefighters were sent to a nearby hospital for treatment.  Over the past 20 or more years, dozens of those who were present at the Wade Dump fire have become ill, and many have died from cancers and other diseases.  Melvin Wade and others responsible for creating the toxic site were found criminally responsible for their actions.



On Thursday, 17 February 2011 … the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the following report … with an accompanying, ‘spinned’ press release …

Environmental Protection Agency – Ireland


The Provision & Quality of Drinking Water in Ireland – A Report for the Years 2008-2009

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (2.77 Mb)


Once again … pinch yourself hard, and try to remember that the Regulatory Control over Public Water Supplies in Ireland has been LITE-LITE-LITE !!!   Our Public Water Supplies are not in good shape … to say the least.  However, the management and control of the country’s landfill sites – legal, illegal and no longer known – IS a relevant and related issue to the contamination of our public water supplies … not the only issue.

Now, I don’t know about you … but I certainly am not happy about either the accuracy, or the reliability, of the recent EPA Report on Ireland’s Public Water Supplies !




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Fire Performance of Concrete Tunnel Lining(s) – Student Study

My father was a secondary school teacher at Presentation College Bray, in County Wicklow … so I have always had a soft spot for education … especially life-long education.

Education is the key to a far deeper and more enriched experience of life !


Very often these days … we receive Queries from Under-Graduate and Post-Graduate Students at Universities and Institutes of Technology … and not just in Ireland !

This was an interesting one recently …

My name is … and I am a Final Year Student in … , studying B.Eng Hons. Civil Engineering.  For my dissertation, I am completing a study on Concrete Tunnel Linings in Fire.  I was hoping to carry out a case study on the Dublin Port Tunnel for my Project.  Have you any advice on the topic ?   Any help would be appreciated.

My response … bearing in mind that it is the student, himself/herself, who must do the hard work …

A few things come to mind right now …

There is a lot of information out there about the Real Fire Performance of Concrete Tunnel Lining(s).  You have to access as much of that information as practicable … in detail !   Pay very close attention to that information.

Next … please check out this Page on our Corporate WebSite … … in order to approach the subject from the viewpoint of Concrete Spalling being a Fire Serviceability Limit State.

Don’t waste your time looking at fire protection products which are applied to the surface of the concrete … this avoids the substantive (fire engineering) issues involved here.

And … what about the Effective Repair of Fire-Damaged Concrete Tunnel Lining(s) ?

Some Innovative (Fire Engineering) Design Recommendations would be a nice result from your work !

Good luck with the dissertation.


Would anybody else have some suggestions ?




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Personal Ethics – The Heart of Sustainability Implementation !

2011-02-15 …

Regular visitors, here, will have very little doubt about my understanding of Sustainable Human & Social Development … which is an intricate, open, dynamic and continuously evolving concept.  And about my firm conviction that Sustainable Design involves far more than merely substituting the word ‘sustainable’ … for ‘green’, ‘ecological’ or ‘environment-friendly’ … or any number of insipid alternatives which still regularly appear in the popular and/or academic media !   Who, in their right minds, wouldn’t be confused ?!?

‘Sustainability’ is Not … and Cannot … be just another graft onto Conventional Design Practice … whether that be Spatial Planning, Architectural / Engineering / Industrial Design or e-Design !

Sustainable Design & Construction … is the creative and ethical response, in resilient built or wrought (worked) form, to the concept of ‘Sustainable Human & Social Development’.



Opinion:  At the Heart of Implementation which is Authentically ‘Sustainable’ … (a colleague of mine is very fond of using that word ‘authentic’) … must lie a Personal Code of Ethics.  By that, I do Not mean … and I am Not referring to … a Professional Code of Conduct … which is mainly about the self-protection and self-preservation of a professional class !

Everyday Reality:  If we examine, for a moment, two interesting examples … Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation or the 9-11(2001) Collapses of World Trade Center Buildings 1, 2 & 7 in New York … such is the great time-lag between general societal recognition of a critical design challenge … and then, the passing of relevant national legislation which can really only demarcate a minimal threshold of performance … and next, the associated production of standardized design guidelines … and finally, the imposition of effective monitoring and verification procedures … that the only practical approach is to base Sustainability Implementation on a robust Personal Code of Ethics … with an overt emphasis on Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

I hasten to add that this is not how we (society) are currently educating the design disciplines … and this is not how the professional institutes are operating.



For many years, in my presentations around Europe, the Arab Gulf Region, India and South America … I have been actively promoting the WFEO/FMOI (UNESCO) Model Code of Ethics as a suitable template for use by all of the design-related disciplines.  Recently, however, our Organization … Sustainable Design International … has undertaken a major review of this 2001 Code, and produced a 2011 Update which tackles the following matters of major concern in our world of shameful waste and social inequality:

  • Sustainable Human & Social Development ;
  • Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation ;
  • Strengthening the Voice of Vulnerable Social Groups, particularly People with Activity Limitations.



World Federation of Engineering Organizations – Fédération Mondiale des Organisations d’Ingénieurs


Since 1990, WFEO/FMOI has worked to prepare a Code of Ethics under the supervision of Donald Laplante (Canada), David Thom (New Zealand), Bud Carroll (USA), and others.  It is expected that the Model Code, adopted in 2001, will be used to define and support the creation of codes in member and related professional institutions.  This version of the Model Code was updated by C.J. Walsh (Ireland) in 2011.


                   I.            BROAD PRINCIPLES



IV.           CONCLUSION


  • Sustainable Development & Climate Change
  • Protection of the Public, and the Natural Environment
  • Faithful Agent of Clients and Employers
  • Competence & Knowledge
  • Fairness and Integrity in the Workplace
  • Professional Accountability & Leadership




Ethics is generally understood as the discipline or field of study dealing with moral duty or obligation.  This typically gives rise to a set of governing principles or values, which in turn are used to judge the appropriateness of a particular conduct or behaviour.  These principles are usually presented either as broad guiding principles of an idealistic or inspirational nature or, alternatively, as a detailed and specific set of rules couched in legalistic or imperative terms to make them more enforceable.  Professions which have been given the privilege and responsibility of self regulation, including the engineering professions, have tended to opt for the first alternative, espousing sets of underlying principles as codes of professional ethics which form the basis and framework for responsible professional practice.  Arising from this context, professional codes of ethics have sometimes been incorrectly interpreted as a set of ‘rules’ of conduct intended for passive observance.  A more appropriate use by practicing professionals is to interpret the essence of the underlying principles within their daily decision-making situations in a dynamic manner, responsive to the needs of the situation.  As a consequence, a code of professional ethics is more than a minimum standard of conduct ;  rather, it is a set of principles which should guide professionals in their daily work.

In summary, the Model Code presented herein elaborates the expectations of engineers and society in discriminating engineers’ professional responsibilities.  The Code is based on broad principles of truth, honesty and trustworthiness, respect for human life and social wellbeing, fairness, openness, competence and accountability.  Some of these broader ethical principles or issues deemed more universally applicable are not specifically defined in the Code, although they are understood to be applicable as well.  Only those tenets deemed to be particularly applicable to the practice of professional engineering are specified.  Nevertheless, certain ethical principles or issues not commonly considered to be part of professional ethics should be implicitly accepted to judge the engineer’s professional performance.

Issues regarding protection of the natural environment, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and sustainable development know no geographical boundaries.  The engineers and citizens of all nations should know and respect the ethics of sustainability.  It is desirable, therefore, that engineers in each nation continue to observe the philosophy of the Principles of Sustainable Ethics, as delineated in Section III of this code.


Professional engineers shall:

  • hold paramount the safety, health and wellbeing of the public, particularly people with activity limitations, indigenous peoples and other vulnerable groups in society … and the protection of both the natural and the built environments in accordance with the Principles of Sustainable Human & Social Development ;
  • promote health and safety within the workplace ;
  • offer services, advise on or undertake engineering assignments only in areas of their competence, and practice in a careful and diligent manner ;
  • act as faithful agents of their clients or employers, maintain confidentially and disclose conflicts of interest ;
  • keep themselves informed in order to maintain their competence, strive to advance the body of knowledge within which they practice and provide opportunities for the professional development of their subordinates and fellow practitioners ;
  • conduct themselves with fairness, and good faith towards clients, colleagues and others, give credit where it is due and accept, as well as give, honest and fair professional criticism ;
  • be aware of and ensure that clients and employers are made aware of the environmental and socio-economic consequences of actions or projects, and endeavour to interpret engineering issues to the public in an objective and truthful manner ;
  • present clearly to employers and clients the possible consequences of overruling or disregarding engineering decisions or judgment ;
  • report to their association and/or appropriate agencies any illegal or unethical engineering decisions or practices of engineers or others.


Engineers, as they develop any professional activity, shall:

  • try with the best of their ability, courage, enthusiasm and dedication, to obtain a superior technical achievement, which will contribute to and promote a healthy and agreeable surrounding for all people, including indigenous peoples and other vulnerable social groups, in open spaces as well as indoors ;
  • strive to accomplish the beneficial objectives of their work with the lowest possible consumption of raw materials and energy and the lowest production of wastes and any kind of pollution ;
  • discuss in particular the consequences of their proposals and actions, direct or indirect, immediate or long term, upon human health, social equity and the local culture and system of values ;
  • study thoroughly the environment that will be affected, assess all the impacts that might arise in the structure, dynamics and aesthetics of the eco-systems involved, urbanized or natural, as well as in the pertinent socio-economic systems … and select the best alternative for development which is environmentally sound, resilient to climate change and sustainable ;
  • promote a clear understanding of the actions required to restore and, if possible, to improve the environment that may be disturbed, and include them in their proposals ;
  • reject any kind of commitment that involves unfair damages for human surroundings and nature, and aim for the best possible technical, socio-economic, and political solution ;
  • be aware that the principles of eco-system interdependence, biodiversity maintenance, resource recovery and inter-relational harmony form the basis of humankind’s continued existence and that each of these bases poses a threshold of sustainability that should not be exceeded.


Always remember that war, greed, misery and ignorance, plus natural disasters and human-induced pollution, climate change and destruction of resources, are the main causes for the progressive impairment of the environment and that engineers, as active members of society, deeply involved in the promotion of development, must use our talent, knowledge and imagination to assist society in removing those evils and improving the quality of life for all people, including indigenous peoples and other vulnerable groups.



The interpretive articles which follow expand on and discuss some of the more difficult and inter-related components of the Code, especially with regard to the Practice Provisions.  No attempt is made to expand on all clauses of the Code, nor is the elaboration presented on a clause-by-clause basis.  The objective of this approach is to broaden the interpretation, rather than narrow its focus.  The ethics of professional engineering is an integrated whole and cannot be reduced to fixed ‘rules’.  Therefore, the issues and questions arising from the Code are discussed in a general framework, drawing on any and all portions of the Code to demonstrate their inter-relationship and to expand on the basic intent of the Code.

Sustainable Development & Climate Change

Engineers shall strive to enhance the quality, durability and climate change resilience of the Human Environment (including the built, social, economic and virtual environments), and to promote the Principles of Sustainable Human & Social Development.

Engineers shall seek opportunities to work for the enhancement of safety, health, and the social wellbeing of both their local community and the global community through the practice of sustainable development.

Engineers whose recommendations are overruled or ignored on issues of safety, health, social wellbeing, or sustainable development, shall inform their contractor or employer of the possible consequences.

Protection of the Public, and the Natural Environment

Professional Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and wellbeing of the public, including people with activity limitations, indigenous peoples and other vulnerable groups in society … and protection of the natural environment.  This obligation to the safety, health and wellbeing of the general public, which includes his/her own work environment, is often dependent upon engineering judgments, risk assessments, decisions and practices incorporated into structures, machines, products, processes and devices.  Therefore, engineers must control and ensure that what they are involved with is in conformity with accepted engineering practices, standards and applicable codes, and would be considered safe based on peer adjudication.  This responsibility extends to include all and any situations which an engineer encounters, and includes an obligation to advise the appropriate authority if there is reason to believe that any engineering activity, or its products, processes, etc., do not conform with the above stated conditions.

The meaning of paramount in this basic tenet is that all other requirements of the Code are subordinate, if protection of public safety, the natural environment or other substantive public interests are involved.

Faithful Agent of Clients and Employers

Engineers shall act as faithful agents or trustees of their clients and employers with objectivity, fairness and justice to all parties.  With respect to the handling of confidential or proprietary information, the concept of ownership of the information and protecting that party’s rights is appropriate.  Engineers shall not reveal facts, data or information obtained in a professional capacity without the prior consent of its owner.  The only exception to respecting confidentially and maintaining a trustee’s position is in instances where the public interest or the natural environment is at risk, as discussed in the preceding section ;  but even in these circumstances, the engineer should endeavour to have the client and/or employer appropriately redress the situation, or at least, in the absence of a compelling reason to the contrary, should make every reasonable effort to contact them and explain clearly the potential risks, prior to informing the appropriate authority.

Professional Engineers shall avoid conflict of interest situations with employers and clients but, should such conflict arise, it is the engineer’s responsibility to fully disclose, without delay, the nature of the conflict to the party/parties with whom the conflict exists.  In those circumstances where full disclosure is insufficient, or seen to be insufficient, to protect all parties’ interests, as well as the public, the engineer shall withdraw totally from the issue or use extraordinary means, involving independent parties if possible, to monitor the situation.  For example, it is inappropriate to act simultaneously as agent for both the provider and the recipient of professional services.  If a client’s and an employer’s interests are at odds, the engineer shall attempt to deal fairly with both.  If the conflict of interest is between the intent of a corporate employer and a regulatory standard, the engineer must attempt to reconcile the difference, and if that is unsuccessful, it may become necessary to inform his/her association and the appropriate regulatory agency.

Being a faithful agent or trustee includes the obligation of engaging, or advising to engage, experts or specialists when such services are deemed to be in the client’s or employer’s best interests.  It also means being accurate, objective and truthful in making public statements on behalf of the client or employer when required to do so, while respecting the client’s and employer’s rights of confidentiality and proprietary information.

Being a faithful agent includes not using a previous employer’s or client’s specific privileged or proprietary information and trade practices or process information, without the owner’s knowledge and consent.  However, general technical knowledge, experience and expertise gained by the engineer through involvement with the previous work may be freely used without consent or subsequent undertakings.

Competence & Knowledge

Professional Engineers shall offer services, advise on or undertake engineering assignments only in areas of their competence by virtue of their training and experience.  This includes exercising care and communicating clearly in accepting or interpreting assignments, and in setting expected outcomes.  It also includes the responsibility to obtain the services of an expert if required or, if the knowledge is unknown, to proceed only with full disclosure of the circumstances and, if necessary, of the experimental nature of the activity to all parties involved.  Hence, this requirement is more than simply duty to a standard of care, it also involves acting with honesty and integrity with one’s client or employer, and one’s self.  Professional Engineers have the responsibility to remain abreast of developments and knowledge in their area of expertise, that is, to maintain their own competence.  Should there be a technologically driven or individually motivated shift in the area of technical activity, it is the engineer’s duty to attain and maintain competence in all areas of involvement including being knowledgeable with the technical and legal framework and regulations governing their work.  In effect, it requires a personal commitment to ongoing professional development, continuing education and self-testing.

In addition to maintaining their own competence, Professional Engineers have an obligation to strive to contribute to the advancement of the body of knowledge within which they practice, and to the profession in general.  Moreover, within the framework of the practice of their profession, they are expected to participate in providing opportunities to further the professional development of their colleagues.

This competence requirement of the Code extends to include an obligation to the public, the profession and one’s peers, that opinions on engineering issues are expressed honestly and only in areas of one’s competence.  It applies equally to reporting or advising on professional matters and to issuing public statements.  This requires honesty with one’s self to present issues fairly, accurately and with appropriate qualifiers and disclaimers, and to avoid personal, political and other non-technical biases.  The latter is particularly important for public statements or when involved in a technical forum.

Fairness and Integrity in the Workplace

Honesty, integrity, continuously updated competence, devotion to service and dedication to enhancing the life quality of society are cornerstones of professional responsibility.  Within this framework, engineers shall be objective and truthful and include all known and pertinent information in professional reports, statements and testimony.  They shall accurately and objectively represent their clients, employers, associates and themselves, consistent with their academic experience and professional qualifications.  This tenet is more than ‘not misrepresenting’ ;  it also implies disclosure of all relevant information and issues, especially when serving in an advisory capacity or as an expert witness.  Similarly, fairness, honesty and accuracy in advertising are expected.

If called upon to verify another engineer’s work, there is an obligation to inform (or make every effort to inform) the other engineer, whether the other engineer is still actively involved or not.  In this situation, and in any circumstance, engineers shall give proper recognition and credit where credit is due and accept, as well as give, honest and fair criticism on professional matters, all the while maintaining dignity and respect for everyone involved.

Engineers shall not accept, nor offer covert payment or other considerations for the purpose of securing, or as remuneration for, engineering assignments.  Engineers should prevent their personal or political involvement from influencing or compromising their professional role or responsibility.

Consistent with the Code, and having attempted to remedy any situation within their organization, engineers are obligated to report to their association or other appropriate agency any illegal or unethical engineering decisions by engineers or others.  Care must be taken not to enter into legal arrangements which compromise this obligation.

Professional Accountability & Leadership

Engineers have a duty to practice in a careful and diligent manner, and accept responsibility and be accountable for their actions.  This duty is not limited to design, or its supervision and management, but applies to all areas of practice.  For example, it includes construction supervision and management, preparation of drawings, engineering reports, feasibility studies, sustainability impact assessments, engineering developmental work, etc.

The signing and sealing of engineering documents indicates the taking of responsibility for the work.  This practice is required for all types of engineering endeavour, regardless of where or for whom the work is done, including but not limited to, privately and publicly owned firms, large corporations, and government agencies or departments.  There are no exceptions ;  signing and sealing documents is appropriate whenever engineering principles have been used and public wellbeing may be at risk.

Taking responsibility for engineering activity includes being accountable for one’s own work and, in the case of a senior engineer, accepting responsibility for the work of a team.  The latter implies responsible supervision where the engineer is actually in a position to review, modify and direct the entirety of the engineering work.  This concept requires setting reasonable limits on the extent of activities, and the number of engineers and others, whose work can be supervised by the responsible engineer.  The practice of a ‘symbolic’ responsibility or supervision is the situation where an engineer, say with the title of Chief Engineer, takes full responsibility for all engineering on behalf of a large corporation, utility or governmental agency, even though the engineer may not be aware of many of the engineering activities or decisions being made daily throughout the firm or agency.  The essence of this approach is that the firm is taking the responsibility by default, whether engineering supervision or direction is applied or not.

Engineers have a duty to advise their employer and, if necessary, their clients and even their professional association, in that order, in situations when the overturning of an engineering decision may result in breaching their duty to safeguard the public, including people with activity limitations, indigenous peoples and other vulnerable social groups.  The initial action is to discuss the problem with the supervisor/employer.  If the employer does not adequately respond to the engineer’s concern, then the client must be advised in the case of a consultancy situation, or the most senior officer should be informed in the case of a manufacturing process plant or government agency.  Failing this attempt to rectify the situation, the engineer must advise in confidence his/her professional association of his/her concerns.

In the same order as mentioned above, the engineer must report unethical engineering activity undertaken by other engineers, or by non-engineers.  This extends to include, for example, situations in which senior officials of a firm make ‘executive’ decisions which clearly and substantially alter the engineering aspects of the work, or protection of public wellbeing or the natural environment arising from that work.

Because of developments in technology and the increasing ability of engineering activities to impact on the environment, engineers have an obligation to be mindful of the effect that their decisions will have on the environment and the wellbeing of society, and to report any concerns of this nature in the same manner as previously mentioned.  Further to the above, with the rapid advancement of technology in today’s world and the possible social impacts on large populations of people, engineers must endeavour to foster the public’s understanding of technical issues and the role of Engineering more than ever before.

Sustainable development is the challenge of meeting current human needs for natural resources, industrial products, energy, food, transportation, shelter, and effective waste management while conserving and, if possible enhancing, the Earth’s environmental quality, natural resources, ethical, intellectual, working and affectionate capabilities of people and the socio-economic bases essential for the human needs of future generations.  The proper observance of these principles will considerably help to eradicate world poverty.


WFEO/FMOI Model Code of Ethics, Adopted 2001.

This Version, Updated 2011 & Communicated to UNESCO.

[Footnote to the Code]

Sustainable Human & Social Development:  Development which meets the responsible needs, i.e. the Human & Social Rights*, of this generation – without stealing the life and living resources from future generations, especially our children, their children, and the next five generations of children.

*As defined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights




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Vienna & ‘The Third Man’ – Film Locations (II)

2011-02-14 …

The 1949 film: The Third Man – directed by Carol Reed, with the haunting zither music of Anton Karas, and starring Joseph Cotton, Alida Valli, Orson Welles and Trevor Howard … also ‘stars’ the war-damaged city of Vienna, in Austria.

The film screenplay, based on his own original story, was written by Graham Greene.

Late in the Film … having discovered that Harry Lime (Orson Welles) is, after all, alive … Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton) demands to meet him at the Prater Giant Ferris Wheel

Holly and Harry Lime Meet at the Prater Giant Ferris Wheel

Click the Link Above to Download and/or View this Film Scene Clip (Flash Video File, 4.40 Mb)


Colour photograph showing the Prater Giant Ferris Wheel in Vienna, Austria. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2005-04-23. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the Prater Giant Ferris Wheel in Vienna, Austria. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2005-04-23. Click to enlarge.


Wiener Prater – the Prater in Vienna – is a large public park situated in the centre-city district of ‘Leopoldstadt’ … and located between the River Danube (German: Donau) and the Danube Canal.  The Wurstelprater Amusement Park stands at one corner of the Prater and includes the Riesenrad (English: Giant Ferris Wheel).


Colour photograph showing the Prater Giant Ferris Wheel in Vienna, Austria. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2008-03-15. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the Prater Giant Ferris Wheel in Vienna, Austria. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2008-03-15. Click to enlarge.


Colour photograph showing the Prater Giant Ferris Wheel in Vienna, Austria. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2005-04-23. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the Prater Giant Ferris Wheel in Vienna, Austria. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2005-04-23. Click to enlarge.


The Prater Giant Ferris Wheel was built in 1896-97 by the engineer, Walter B. Basset … a retired British naval officer.  He also built similar Wheels – very popular at the end of the 19th Century – in Chicago, London, Blackpool and Paris.  Only the Prater Ferris Wheel, in Vienna, survives today.


Colour photograph showing the Prater Giant Ferris Wheel in Vienna, Austria. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2005-04-23. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the Prater Giant Ferris Wheel in Vienna, Austria. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2005-04-23. Click to enlarge.


The Giant Ferris Wheel is 61.0 metres in diameter and turns with a speed of 0.75 m per second.  On a clear day, it presents a magnificent panorama of the city from each of its 15 cabins.


Colour photograph showing the Prater Giant Ferris Wheel in Vienna, Austria. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2005-04-23. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the Prater Giant Ferris Wheel in Vienna, Austria. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2005-04-23. Click to enlarge.


Colour photograph showing the Prater Giant Ferris Wheel in Vienna, Austria. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2005-04-23. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the Prater Giant Ferris Wheel in Vienna, Austria. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2005-04-23. Click to enlarge.


Colour photograph showing the Prater Giant Ferris Wheel in Vienna, Austria. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2005-04-23. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the Prater Giant Ferris Wheel in Vienna, Austria. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2005-04-23. Click to enlarge.




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EU Ratification of UN Disability Convention – EFC Legal Study

2011-02-05:  Further to my post, dated 15 January 2011

Many people directly or indirectly involved with Disability-Related Issues in Europe … may not yet know that, a few weeks ago, the European Union ratified the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD).  They may not even know that their own country, as a Member State of the European Union, had perhaps already ratified the UN Convention one or two years earlier.

At this time, the majority of Member States have proceeded, voluntarily, to ratify the Convention … with some of those, inexplicably, declining/refusing to ratify the Convention’s Optional Protocol.

Human & Social Rights can be a difficult subject area !

Ireland has not ratified the UN Convention … and, unfortunately, the attitude of many policy-makers and decision-makers within our Irish Institutions of State, large and small, is that it’s business as usual … no need to worry or fuss, or give a damn … until this country does actually sign on the Convention’s bottom line … an attitude which displays a magnificent ignorance of the changed reality, post Lisbon Treaty, which is the European Union’s Current Legal Environment !!

Please examine carefully, for yourselves, the findings of this Legal Study, recently approved for publication by the European Commission …

European Foundation Centre (EFC)

Brussels, October 2010

Study on Challenges and Good Practices in the Implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (1.46 Mb)



The following are selected extracts from the EFC Study … my selection (!) … to answer specific issues relating to UN CRPD Implementation within the European Union.  Typographical errors in the Study have also been corrected … and, post Lisbon Treaty, references to the EU Treaties have been properly updated …

The legal basis for the conclusion of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) signals the appropriate legal basis for its implementation within the European Union (EU).  In this respect, and in line with Article 4 of the UN Convention, implementation implies that instruments may be adopted or modified by the Union in order to comply with the Convention and give effect to its provisions and principles.  Although the choice of the legal basis for the decision concluding an international agreement is very important, it is not decisive for implementation.  In European Court of Justice Case C-178/0345, which concerned the implementation of the Rotterdam Convention on International Trade in Hazardous Chemicals, the Court stated that ” the fact that one or more provisions of the Treaty have been chosen as legal bases for the approval of an international agreement is not sufficient to show that those same provisions must also be used as legal bases for the adoption of measures intended to implement that agreement at Community level “.   The latter statement means that EU Treaty provisions other than those mentioned in EU Council Decision 2010/48/EC to conclude the UN CRPD can be used as legal bases to implement UN CRPD obligations in specific fields.


The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) is an international human rights agreement where both the European Union (EU) and its Member States are contracting parties.  The UN Convention is thus a Mixed Agreement.  Mixed Agreements involve a Shared Contractual Relationship between the EU, its Member States and one or more third countries and/or international organisations.  As a Mixed Agreement, the UN CRPD covers fields that fall in part within the competence of the EU, in part within that of the Member States and in part within the shared competence of the EU and its Member States.  It is therefore essential for the EU and the Member States to closely co-operate, in order to implement legislation stemming from the Convention in a coherent manner and ensure unity in the international representation of the Union.

EU Member States, when participating in Mixed Agreements, do not act as entirely autonomous subjects of international law; they are subject to a Duty of Loyal Co-Operation between one another and the EU.  This duty extends to each of the negotiation, conclusion and implementation phases.  In this sense, there is a collective management of the obligations under international law.  The duty of loyal co-operation, deriving from Article 4.3 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), embraces two sets of obligations: first, Member States shall take appropriate measures, whether general or particular, to ensure fulfilment of the obligations arising out of the EC Treaty or resulting from action taken by the EU Institutions;  and second: Member States shall facilitate the achievement of the Union’s tasks and shall abstain from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the Union’s objectives … which are set out in Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU).

Treaty on European Union (TEU) – Consolidated Version, as Amended by the Treaty of Lisbon

Article 4.3

Pursuant to the principle of sincere mutual co-operation, the Union and the Member States shall, in full mutual respect, assist each other in carrying out tasks which flow from the Treaties.

The Member States shall take any appropriate measure, general or particular, to ensure fulfilment of the obligations arising out of the Treaties or resulting from the acts of the institutions of the Union.

The Member States shall facilitate the achievement of the Union’s tasks and refrain from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the Union’s objectives.


In relation to EU Member States Compliance with a Mixed Agreement concluded by the EU … the European Court of Justice has inferred that for matters falling within EU competence … the Member States fulfil, within the EU system, an obligation in relation to the Union which has assumed responsibility for due performance of the agreement.  In other words, if a Member State fails to take all appropriate measures to implement provisions of the Mixed Agreement that fall within the competence of the EU … it not only fails to fulfil its international obligation, but is also acting in breach of EU Law.  The European Commission may thus bring an infringement case against a Member State that has not properly fulfilled its duty.  The principle underpinning such mechanisms is the ‘duty of loyal co-operation’, which provides the foundation for managing shared competence within Mixed Agreements.

The line dividing international responsibility for implementation of the International Mixed Agreement between the EU and its Member States depends on the obligations respectively assumed.  The UN CRPD contains a clause setting out ‘separate’ responsibility.  According to Article 44.1, Regional Integration Organisations acceding to the Convention shall declare, in their instruments of formal confirmation or accession, the extent of their competence.  This division of responsibility for implementation implies that the European Union only bears responsibility for the breach of those obligations it has assumed.

EU Council Decision 2010/48/EC on the conclusion of the UN CRPD refers to EU competence in respect of those matters governed by the UN CRPD, and lists EU Instruments which demonstrate such competence.



The main objective of the Study was to analyse the obligations set out in the UN CRPD and, in particular, to gather information about the various practices of the EU Member States and the European Union in implementing the UN CRPD.

The work was carried out by the European Foundation Centre (EFC), representing the European Consortium of Foundations on Human Rights and Disability … under Contract No. VC/2008/1214 … for the European Commissions Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion.

Section 1 of this Report sets the appropriate background for the analysis that will follow.

Section 2 of the Report provides an overview and general recommendations on the implementation of the social model of disability, and core obligations deriving from Article 1 and Preamble Paragraph (e) of the UN CRPD.

Section 3 of the Report provides an overview and general recommendations on the implementation of Article 3 (General Principles), Article 4 (General Obligations), Article 5 (Equality and Non-Discrimination), and Article 9 (Accessibility) of the UN CRPD.  The section also reviews UN CRPD articles on Inter-Sectionality, namely Articles 6 (Women with Disabilities) and Article 7 (Children with Disabilities).  It is worth noting that the articles addressed in this section are articles of general and crosscutting application, and therefore their application is relevant for the implementation of all articles of the Convention.

Section 4 of the Report provides an overview and general recommendations on the implementation of selected substantive provisions of the UN CRPD which apply existing civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights within the context of disability.  Specifically, the section considers the implementation of Articles 16 (Freedom from Exploitation, Violence and Abuse) and 17 (Protecting the Integrity of the Person), which are seeking to assert protections that underscore the humanity of all persons with disabilities.  The section also considers the implementation of Articles 12 (Equal Recognition before the Law) and 19 (Living Independently and Being Included in the Community), both of which aim at maintaining and safeguarding the autonomy of the person.  Furthermore, articles on specific accessibility rights, namely Article 13 (Access to Justice) and Article 29 (Participation in Political and Public Life), are likewise addressed.  Finally, the section considers the implementation of Articles 24 (Education) and 27 (Work and Employment).

Section 5 of the Report contains an overview and general recommendations on the implementation of articles which outline steps that are necessary to support reforms.  Specifically, the section considers the implementation of Article 31 (Statistics and Data Collection), Article 32 (International Co-Operation), and Article 33 (National Implementation and Monitoring).

Section 6 of the Report suggests good practices for the EU and national policy-makers for the future and overall implementation of the Convention, and the effective achievement of its objectives.

It is worth noting that, while it is hard to be definitive, given that the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is still in its infancy and has yet to pronounce on the obligations of the UN CRPD … it is nevertheless possible on the basis of the general principles of the Convention and interpretative tools, such as the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, to identify illustrative challenges to the implementation of the UN CRPD.  For the purposes of this Study, the review of EU and Member States policies and legal instruments is based on the analysis of the UN CRPD and checklists that were produced from this Study to measure progress.

Finally, for the purposes of the Study, a challenge is defined as a ‘difficulty’ posed by existing national or EU practice which may potentially hamper the full and effective implementation of the UN CRPD by the EU Member States and/or the European Union.  In order to meet such challenges, it will be necessary, inter alia, for the EU (as appropriate) and/or its Member States to review legislation and/or policy with a view to full compliance.  On the other hand, a practice is defined as good if it fulfils certain requirements of the Convention or mainstreams the general principles, consistent with Article 3 of the UN CRPD, and has an awareness-raising impact.




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U.S. CPSC Hazardous Plasterboard/Drywall Information Site

2011-02-01:  Further to my post, dated 27 May 2010

Throughout Europe … this issue is not yet receiving proper attention !

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has received about 3,794 reports from residents in 42 U.S. States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico … who believe that their health symptoms or the corrosion of certain metal components in their homes are related to hazardous plasterboard/drywall.  State and local authorities have also received similar reports.

Consumers largely report that their homes were built in 2006 to 2007, when an unprecedented increase in new construction occurred, in part due to the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005.

In Ireland … does the phrase ‘an unprecedented increase in new construction’ sound familiar to anyone ???

U.S. CPSC Drywall Information Center




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