Archive for April, 2011

“April in Paris !” – Recent Meeting of CIB W14: Fire Safety

2011-04-29:  A Meeting of  CIB Working Commission 14: ‘Fire Safety’  took place at the Headquarters of Groupe AFNOR … Association Française de NORmalisation … which is located just outside the centre of Paris, France … on Monday, 11 April 2011.

These meetings are typically, though not always, co-ordinated with a long series of  ISO Technical Committee 92: ‘Fire Safety’ Meetings at the same venue.  Both technical bodies have a very good working relationship, and there is a strong interchange of membership between the two.  The recent revision to the description and scope of CIB W14 will be of enormous benefit to all.

Colour photograph showing the CIB W14: 'Fire Safety' Meeting in Paris, on 11 April 2011, at the Groupe AFNOR Headquarters. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2011-04-11. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the CIB W14: 'Fire Safety' Meeting in Paris, on 11 April 2011, at the Groupe AFNOR Headquarters. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2011-04-11. Click to enlarge.

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Some Matters of Interest at the CIB W14: ‘Fire Safety’ Meeting – Presentations & Discussions about Two of the Current Pre-Normative Innovation & Research Projects …

1.  CIB W14 Working Group IV: ‘Structural Reliability & Fire-Induced Progressive Collapse’

See the Dedicated Page on this Technical Web Log (Tech-BLOG) Sitehttp://www.cjwalsh.ie/progressive-collapse-fire/ … for the latest update on the Research Project … which has proposed the following, as a Rational Route Forward

     A.  Mainstream the Language, Practices, Procedures and Design Methodologies of Fire Science & Engineering … so that other design disciplines can appreciate that Ethical Fire Science & Engineering also has a sound, modern, rational and empirical basis.   [Task for CIB W14]

     B.  Raise awareness about the primacy, and encourage the wide acceptance, of Fire Serviceability Limit States in Structural Fire Engineering … and the universal requirement that buildings must resist Fire-Induced Progressive Collapse and, in addition, also resist Disproportionate Damage.   [Task for CIB W14 Working Group IV]

     C.  Indicate the need for, and foster the development of, innovative Structural Thermal Insulation Fire Protection Systems which are durable, can resist mechanical damage in ambient and fire conditions, and can be properly shown to be ‘fit for their intended life-cycle use’.   [Task for the Fire Industry]

     D.  In steel construction … depending on its location in a building and having designed sufficiently robust connections for fire conditions … show why, where and how Thermal Insulation must now be used to maintain a Lower Temperature in the Steel … in order to ensure that its deformations (+/- deflection, expansion and distortion, etc.) remain within design parameters … both during the fire and, for a minimum period afterwards, during the ‘cooling phase’.   [Task for CIB W14 Working Group IV]

     E.  Encourage the development of Fire Engineering Design Guidelines for new and existing buildings, along with the Decision Support Tools needed for their use in practice … to support #2 and #4 above.  And propose how Existing Code/Regulation Provisions and Standards should be suitably updated and revised.   [Task for the International Fire Science & Engineering Community]

During the discussion which followed my presentation, and having reviewed progress … it was generally felt that the time was now ripe to prepare a Discussion Document for Comment.  This will be circulated about a month before the next meeting of CIB W14 … to be held in October 2011.

2.  CIB W14 Working Group 5: ‘Fire Incident Human Behaviour & Abilities’

The photograph above was actually taken during the presentation of this Research Project … at the time being given by Project Leader, Douglas Hillhouse, Organizer of the Fire Risk Engineering Programme at Glasgow Caledonian University, in Scotland.

Prior to the Paris Meeting, Douglas had circulated a Project Discussion Document for Comment … which was focused mainly on people with disabilities.  The Co-Ordinator of CIB W14, Prof. Dr. George Hadjisophocleous, was pleased to see this Research Project develop and gather momentum.

During the discussion which followed the Presentation, I made the following points …

  • The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted on 13 December 2006; it came into force, i.e. became an International Legal Instrument, on 3 May 2008; and it was ratified by a European Union (E.U.) having, for the first time after the Lisbon Treaty, its own separate legal personality … on 23 December 2010.

In February 2011 … the 2010 European Foundation Centre (EFC) Report: ‘Study on Challenges and Good Practices in the Implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’, was approved for publication by the European Commission.  Under a duty of loyal co-operation, which derives from Article 4.3 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), each E.U. Member State is now obliged to properly implement the critical accessibility-related provisions of the UN CRPD, i.e. Preamble (g) and Articles 4.3, 9, 10, 11, with 31 & 33.

  • The Final Draft of International Standard … ISO FDIS 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’ … was registered with ISO Central Secretariat on 17 March 2011.  In spite of the technically flawed submission from ISO Technical Committee 92 to ISO Technical Committee 59, which is responsible for the production of ISO 21542 … we had successfully managed to retain a substantive, and meaningful, body of text relating to Fire Safety for People with Activity Limitations.
  • Our concern, throughout this CIB W14 Research Project, would be Fire Safety for All … including people with a wide range of behavioural responses and physical/mental/cognitive/psychological abilities during a fire incident … including people with activity limitations, not just people with disabilities … and firefighters.  The user profile in a ‘real’ building must be viewed as a continuum.
  • In attempting to provide better Fire Engineering Design Solutions for people with cognitive impairments, I had realized … many years ago … that the field of Cognitive Psychology offered huge potential for a paradigm shift in Fire Engineering Research.  This potential will be identified in the Project.
  • Amongst the International Fire Science and Engineering Community, there is widespread ignorance about Panic and Panic Attacks … this may help to explain the irrational fear about dealing with this important issue … a fear which the WG 5 Project will confront !

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Of Unrelated Interest ?

During visits to Paris, I regularly ‘pop-in’ to Père Lachaise Cemetery … in the east of the city.  Access is very convenient … the Père Lachaise Métro Station being directly served by Lines 2 & 3.  Here are the last resting places (?) of Some Interesting Personalities

A.  Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) – Impressionist Painter

Colour photograph by CJ Walsh. 2011-04-12. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph by CJ Walsh. 2011-04- 12. Click to enlarge.

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B.  Jim Morrison (1943-1971) of ‘The DOORS’ – Lead Singer, Songwriter & Poet

Colour photograph by CJ Walsh. 2011-04-12. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph by CJ Walsh. 2011-04-12. Click to enlarge.

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C.  Maria Callas (1923-1977) – Opera Singer & Diva

Colour photograph by CJ Walsh. 2011-04-12. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph by CJ Walsh. 2011-04-12. Click to enlarge.

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2011 Dublin ‘Girón 50′ Victory Symposium – Final Declaration !

2011-04-23:  Never do I cease to be amazed at the number of highly vocal ‘experts’ who pontificate about the small Caribbean island state of Cuba … which has a population of approximately 11 million people, with about 2.5 million of those living in the capital city of Havana … and not once have these ‘experts’ set foot on this beautiful island.  What a pity !

A certain fascination with the 1959 Cuban Revolution and its Leaders … and a large dose of curiosity about the countryside and its people … were the principal drivers behind an extensive Family Tour in April 2007 … before Fidel Castro departed the scene.  At the time, he was seriously ill.

Straight away, therefore, let me clarify that I do not consider the Tourist Resort of Varadero to be an accurate representation of everyday life and living in Cuba.  And I mean that in the worst possible way !   Similarly, the illegally occupied U.S. Military Base at Guantánamo Bay must be excluded as a valid island experience … the annexation of the bay area remains, to this day, an international act of piracy – see the  1901 Platt Amendment  and later Treaties with Cuba procured by the threat or use of force.

Getting back to those ‘experts’ … sometimes, they might be rabid, Older Generation Cuban Exiles now living in Miami (USA) … the privileged island classes of the 1950′s … who either left hurriedly or were booted out after the success of the Castro Revolution.  At other times, the ‘experts’ might be Criminal Ex-Members of Dictator Fulgencio Batista’s Military and Police Forces who are still working for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.  For some unknown reason, however, both groups continue to hold the United States Political System – at Florida State and Federal Levels – by the balls !   Sad, but true !!

In its early days, Castro’s Revolutionary Government abolished racial discrimination, reduced rents and the cost of electricity, nationalized American and British commercial firms, and permanently ‘evicted’ the American Mafia.  The new government, however, was far from being firmly rooted, confident and stable … but all of that changed, utterly, after events in April 1961 …

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On Saturday last, 16 April 2011 … I attended a day long ‘Girón 50′ Symposium and Victory Celebration, which was held in Liberty Hall, Dublin.  This special occasion commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Victory at the Bay of Pigs (Bahia de Cochinos) … scene of the ill-fated 1961 U.S. Inspired, Financed and Resourced Counter-Revolutionary Invasion of Cuba.

Colour photograph showing a roadside hoarding near Playa Girón, in the Bay of Pigs (Bahia de Cochinos) area of Cuba. In Spanish ... telling it like it really was, and still is ... "The First Defeat of Yankee Imperialism in Latin America". Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2007-04-13. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing a roadside hoarding near Playa Girón, in the Bay of Pigs (Bahia de Cochinos) area of Cuba. In Spanish ... telling it like it really was, and still is ... "The First Defeat of Yankee Imperialism in Latin America". Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2007-04-13. Click to enlarge.

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Colour photograph showing the entrance to the small Museum near Playa Girón, in the Bay of Pigs (Bahia de Cochinos) area of Cuba. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2007-04-13. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the entrance to the small Museum near Playa Girón, in the Bay of Pigs (Bahia de Cochinos) area of Cuba. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2007-04-13. Click to enlarge.

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The route taken by the 1961 U.S. Invasion Force was elaborate and circuitous …

Colour photograph showing the elaborate and circuitous route taken by the 1961 U.S. Invasion Force from Florida to the Bay of Pigs (Bahia de Cochinos), in Cuba. From a display at Girón Museum. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2007-04-13. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the elaborate and circuitous route taken by the 1961 U.S. Invasion Force from Florida to the Bay of Pigs (Bahia de Cochinos), in Cuba. From a display at Girón Museum. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2007-04-13. Click to enlarge.

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Playa Girón was one of the landing points in the 1961 U.S. Bay of Pigs (Bahia de Cochinos) Invasion

Colour photograph showing the deployment and movement of forces during the attempted U.S. Invasion of the Bay of Pigs (Bahia de Cochinos), in April 1961. Playa Girón is the lower of the two coastal landing points in view ... Playa Larga, the other. From a display at Girón Museum. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2007-04-13. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the deployment and movement of forces during the attempted U.S. Invasion of the Bay of Pigs (Bahia de Cochinos), in April 1961. Playa Girón is the lower of the two coastal landing points in view ... Playa Larga, the other. From a display at Girón Museum. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2007-04-13. Click to enlarge.

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2011 Dublin ‘Girón 50′ Victory Symposium – Liberty Hall

FINAL DECLARATION

We, the participants in the ‘Girón 50′ Conference commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Victory at the Bay of Pigs:

1.  Express our firm solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and Its People in their struggle for the defence of their independence, sovereignty and right to build a social and political system of their own choice, with no outside interference.

2.  Salute the process of comprehensive and popular debate in Cuban Society which led to the set of guidelines to be discussed and approved during the next few days by the 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, which is aimed at renewing and updating its economic policy in accordance with the current domestic, regional and international situation.

3.  Condemn the illegal and criminal U.S. Economic, Financial and Trade Blockade, which Cuba has suffered for over five decades and which continues to be a flagrant violation of the right of an entire nation to self-determination and the main obstacle to Cuba’s development.

4.  Call on the European Union (E.U.) to unconditionally rescind the 1996 E.U. Common Position 96/697/CFSP on Cuba, and to seriously engage in a process of normalization of relations with the island, based on mutual respect and non-interference in their internal affairs.

5.  Condemn the ongoing U.S. Sponsored Subversion and Terrorist Actions aimed at overthrowing the Cuban Revolution, and U.S. Double Standards in its War on Terror … once again illustrated by the recent acquittal of Luis Posada Carilles, self-confessed instigator of the Bombing of Cubana Airlines Flight CU-455, which killed all 73 people on board, as it travelled from Venezuela to Cuba, via Barbados, on 6 October 1976.

6.  Extend our support for the International Campaign of Freedom & Exoneration for the Miami Five – Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, René González and Fernando González – the Five Cubans illegally and unjustly imprisoned in the U.S. for fighting terrorism … and join the growing international call on President Obama, including that of Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, to release them immediately.

7.  Call on the Irish Government to continue the development of Bilateral Relations with Cuba, and Ireland’s support for the lifting of the U.S. Blockade and the rescinding of the E.U. Common Position on Cuba.

8.  Commit ourselves to undertake the relevant Solidarity Actions in support of Cuba.

Liberty Hall, Dublin.

16 April 2011.

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AS WE approach Easter Sunday, 2011 … let us remember the Miami Five who have been unjustly incarcerated for much too long …

Colour photograph showing a Miami Five Freedom Campaign Hoarding on the top of a building in Cienfuegos, Cuba. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2007-04-14. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing a Miami Five Freedom Campaign Hoarding on the top of a building in Cienfuegos, Cuba. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2007-04-14. Click to enlarge.

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AND … after the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, many countries in Central & South America, Iraq and Afghanistan … let us ponder, at length, on the question of when, if ever, the United States of America will learn to join the International Community of Nations … as an equal !

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Osaka’s 2011 Cherry Blossom Walk in Post-Disaster Japan ?

2011-04-19:  This year’s Osaka Cherry Blossom Viewing & Festival Market is taking place right now … from 14 April until 20 April 2011 … at the Osaka Mint Bureau (Zoheikyoku) … the head office of Japan Mint … a governmental agency responsible for the supply of coins and medals, and the analysis, testing and certification of metals.

The 560 metre long Cherry Blossom Walk in Osaka is famous, throughout Japan, for its 352 Cherry (Sakura) Trees … comprising 128 Cherry Varieties.  It is open for public viewing during one week each year, usually in April, when the flowers are in full bloom.

In 2010, there were 602,000 visitors … and I was very fortunate to be one of those !

Colour photograph showing the 2010 Cherry Blossom Viewing & Festival Market at the Osaka Mint Bureau (Zoheikyoku) in Japan. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-20. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the 2010 Cherry Blossom Viewing & Festival Market at the Osaka Mint Bureau (Zoheikyoku) in Japan. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-20. Click to enlarge.

In 2011, the Themed Flowering Cherry is ‘IMOSE’ … so named, because it often bears two fruits from one flower.  The flowers are light and dark red in colour … with around 30 petals, which bloom in two stages.

Colour photograph showing the 2010 Cherry Blossom Viewing & Festival Market at the Osaka Mint Bureau (Zoheikyoku) in Japan. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-20. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the 2010 Cherry Blossom Viewing & Festival Market at the Osaka Mint Bureau (Zoheikyoku) in Japan. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-20. Click to enlarge.

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Colour photograph showing the 2010 Cherry Blossom Viewing & Festival Market at the Osaka Mint Bureau (Zoheikyoku) in Japan. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-20. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the 2010 Cherry Blossom Viewing & Festival Market at the Osaka Mint Bureau (Zoheikyoku) in Japan. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-20. Click to enlarge.

Before the recent Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster in Japan … I would have automatically selected photographs which focused on the Cherry Blossoms, and had few if any people in view.  Now, however, it is important to show ordinary Japanese people … people of all ages … enjoying a simple pleasure in life.  These are the very same people who were caught up in the tragedy, and continue to suffer horrendously.

Now is the time, after the world’s short attention span has moved on to the next natural or man-made disaster, to continue to keep these people in our thoughts.

Colour photograph showing the 2010 Cherry Blossom Viewing & Festival Market at the Osaka Mint Bureau (Zoheikyoku) in Japan. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-20. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the 2010 Cherry Blossom Viewing & Festival Market at the Osaka Mint Bureau (Zoheikyoku) in Japan. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-20. Click to enlarge.

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Colour photograph showing the 2010 Cherry Blossom Viewing & Festival Market at the Osaka Mint Bureau (Zoheikyoku) in Japan. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-20. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the 2010 Cherry Blossom Viewing & Festival Market at the Osaka Mint Bureau (Zoheikyoku) in Japan. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-20. Click to enlarge.

2011 Japanese Earthquake & Tsunami Appeal

I am a Member of the Ireland Japan Association (IJA).  If you wish to make a donation, please go directly to the IJA WebSite … http://www.ija.ie/ … and please, please give generously.  Thank you.

Colour photograph showing the 2010 Cherry Blossom Viewing & Festival Market at the Osaka Mint Bureau (Zoheikyoku) in Japan. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-20. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the 2010 Cherry Blossom Viewing & Festival Market at the Osaka Mint Bureau (Zoheikyoku) in Japan. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-20. Click to enlarge.

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New Dublin Criminal Courts Building – Denying Human Rights !

2011-04-07:  The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is an issue, right here and now, for Architects in Ireland … and the Irish Built Environment, whoever designs, constructs, operates or manages it … not because this country has, or has not, ratified the Convention … but because the European Union has ratified this Convention !   And as we have all witnessed, on countless times since the early 1970′s … it has required a big stick from Europe to drag Ireland’s social legislation into the modern era.

UN CRPD Article 13 – Access to Justice

1.  States Parties shall ensure effective access to justice for persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others, including through the provision of procedural and age-appropriate accommodations, in order to facilitate their effective role as direct and indirect participants, including as witnesses, in all legal proceedings, including at investigative and other preliminary stages.

2.  In order to help to ensure effective access to justice for persons with disabilities, States Parties shall promote appropriate training for those working in the field of administration of justice, including police and prison staff.

Last week … from Monday, 28 March 2011 … until Thursday, 31 March 2011 … I attended as a Juror at the  New Criminal Courts of Justice Building, which is located at the Main Gate to the Phoenix Park in Dublin … near the junction between Parkgate Street and Infirmary Road.

I was very curious to experience this new building as an ordinary user.  However, I was not at all happy at the outcome … the accessibility performance was so inadequate.

In the case of this new building, it is clear that the Irish State has failed – is failing – to comply with Article 13 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities … and is thus denying a basic human right to many people in our society.

Colour photograph showing the Main Entrance to the New Criminal Courts of Justice Building in Dublin, with entrance steps in the foreground. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2011-03-30. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the Main Entrance to the New Criminal Courts of Justice Building in Dublin, with entrance steps in the foreground. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2011-03-30. Click to enlarge.

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Post Occupation Evaluation (POE) is not a well-known architectural concept among architects … and even when it is known, it is not the most favoured.  This subject has, in my direct experience, been treated with light-hearted frivolity in 8 Merrion Square, Dublin !   Afterall, who wants to meet the failures of their cherished designs head-on … up-front and in their faces ??   To some architects, successes never seem to count as being of equal, or more, importance.  But, they are both a vital tool in continuous learning.

POE, however, is a crucial part of work as a practicing architect.  It is essential to feed previous design failures and successes … and ‘real’ information about building user/occupant behaviour … back into new projects !   This is ‘real’ CPD (Continuing Professional Development) in action … and a serious issue which is completely overlooked in the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland’s current approach to CPD !!

The reason so much of the built environment … so many buildings … is/are so inaccessible for many people … is not because designers have something against people with activity limitations … it is because designers just do not want human beings … anybody … to enter and use their buildings.  People are so messy … and they always want to do silly things with a building which were never planned … or they want to change things around, spoiling ‘the design’ … etc., etc., etc.

This problem begins back in the architectural schools, and becomes a deeper problem on the professional practice courses organized by professional institutes … here, and in other countries.  POE and building user/occupant behaviour is not covered … at all !   Can you believe that ??   I still can’t.

Tyranny of the Plan is another architectural concept.  I will try to explain it this way.  Take the photograph above.  Why, for example, are there no handrails on the right hand side … the major part … of those steps ?   Because of that Tyranny of the Plan Drawing !   It looked ‘right’ … beautiful, almost sexy … just to have handrails on that part of the steps leading from the main front doors … design movement was continued and controlled.  This is not the same as people movement.

On Sunday morning last, I measured those steps myself … (riser) 150 mm in height x (going) 300 mm in depth … (2 x riser) + (1 x going) = 600 mm … ideal dimensions for steps inside a building … but not the most convenient, comfortable or safe dimensions for steps outside a building.

Handrails are definitely required throughout the full extent of the steps !   But, that would have looked very sloppy on the plan drawing.  Now, however, take a closer look at those steps … looking down from above … and just imagine that you are a frail, older person and your sight may not be the greatest … that you are visually impaired in some manner …

Colour photograph showing details of the steps, handrails and tactile ground surface indicators at the Main Entrance to the New Criminal Courts of Justice Building in Dublin, Ireland. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2011-03-30. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing details of the steps, handrails and tactile ground surface indicators at the Main Entrance to the New Criminal Courts of Justice Building in Dublin, Ireland. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2011-03-30. Click to enlarge.

The wrong type of tactile ground surface information is being given at the top and bottom of the steps … we would like to warn users of the hazard they are approaching, i.e. the steps, by using a ‘blister’ surface indicator … not direct them to turn left or right when they perceive those continuous ‘corduroy’ ridges.  The horizontal handrail extensions at the top and bottom of the short flight of steps are insufficiently long.  There is inadequate visual contrast at all of the step nosings (i.e. the leading top edges) which would have helped people to accurately locate those edges.  And, as already referred to above, the step dimensions could have been greatly improved with a slight adjustment … for example, (riser) 125 mm in height x (going) 350 mm in depth … (2 x riser) + (1 x going) = 600 mm … much better altogether for steps outside a building !   Compare and contrast with the many Japanese photographs shown in earlier posts.  There is no comparison !   This is sloppy work in Dublin.

Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969), the Master German Architect, is often quoted as having said: “God is in the details”.  Right on, Ludwig … ride ‘em cowboy !!!

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For security reasons, it was not possible to take any photographs inside the building.  However, it was abundantly clear that accessibility for people with activity limitations, generally, was inadequate.  While some small account had been taken of the needs of people using wheelchairs … people with a visual impairment would have a very difficult time using this building.  Furthermore, when it came to the ‘swearing-in’ of Jurors at Court No.7, circulation was incredibly confined and restricted … I was having to squeeze myself forward in order to be ‘processed’.  What a mess !

This was an unacceptable and very disappointing example of poor, misguided and minimalist accessibility implementation … making an ironclad case for effective independent verification of Accessibility Performance, as required by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities … at the end of the design stage in a project, and especially during the actual process of construction … to ensure that an ‘informed’ design intention becomes reality.

UN CRPD Article 33 – National Implementation & Monitoring

1.  States Parties, in accordance with their system of organization, shall designate one or more focal points within government for matters relating to the implementation of the present Convention, and shall give due consideration to the establishment or designation of a co-ordination mechanism within government to facilitate related action in different sectors and at different levels.

2.  States Parties shall, in accordance with their legal and administrative systems, maintain, strengthen, designate or establish within the State Party, a framework, including one or more independent mechanisms, as appropriate, to promote, protect and monitor implementation of the present Convention.  When designating or establishing such a mechanism, States Parties shall take into account the principles relating to the status and functioning of national institutions for protection and promotion of human rights.

3.  Civil society, in particular persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, shall be involved and participate fully in the monitoring process.

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And that is not the end of the story !   When construction of a building has been completed and it is then occupied, Competent Building Management  is critical in maintaining an initial level of good accessibility performance throughout the life cycle of that building.  Once again, however, the management of this building was sloppy … take a bow, the  Courts Service of Ireland !

Symptoms of Larger Problems … Two Short Little Anecdotes …

a) Unheeded Building Evacuation Warning

In the middle of Roll Call, on the first morning that I attended as a Juror, a Voiced Stand-By Building Evacuation Warning was announced over the building’s public address system.  It was explained that there had been ‘an incident’.  That’s all … no other information was given.  This announcement was repeated again, and again, and again.  It then stopped, momentarily, and then started again.  It finally ended.

During the announcements … we all looked around … there were at least 150 people in the room … then looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and smiled.  We at least thought that the person in charge of the Roll Call would be in a position to quickly find out what was going on … but no, she also shrugged her shoulders and carried on calling out names.

Afterwards, I asked one of the many ushers what had happened … was it a serious incident ?   He didn’t know, and just stated that ushers are generally told nothing.

This is entirely unacceptable !   Are clowns managing the New Criminal Courts of Justice Building in Dublin ??

b) Disrespectful ‘Swearing-In’ of Jurors

An Information Leaflet, produced by the Courts Service back in January 2010, entitled: ‘Attending for Jury Service’ … contains the following Introduction …

Jury Service is an important civic duty.  It is a vital part of our criminal justice system.  You must arrive on time to ensure trials are not delayed.  To assist you we have prepared this leaflet which includes a map to guide you to (the) jury assembly area of the Criminal Courts of Justice.

Concerning ‘Swearing-In a Jury’ … it is stated in the Leaflet …

The court registrar calls out your name and asks you to take an oath on the Holy Book of your choice, or you may affirm.

From the beginning, nobody was informed about these options.  On the final morning, when I was selected to be a Juror, the only Holy Book which was placed in front of Jurors was the Christian Bible.  No other Holy Book was visible.  Everyone was being processed in one way … without any consideration or respect for their dignity as an individual person.

With all of the stress of these occasions, and the formalities involved … the ‘Swearing-In’ Judge was even wearing a wig (I thought that those days were long gone !) … it would be all too easy for people … ‘automatically’, almost by reflex action, and not wanting to make a fuss … to go through a ‘standard’ processing procedure, which for them had little or no meaning.  Is that the intended purpose of ‘Swearing-In’ ??

It may have escaped the attention of the Courts Service that Ireland is now a pluralist and richly varied multi-cultural society.  Some people are religious, others are not … some people are Christians, others are Moslems, Jews or Buddhists, etc., etc … whatever !

A range of Holy Books must be visible to all Jurors … and they must all be informed about the option of ‘Affirming’ … before ‘Swearing-In’ commences !

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Recent Terenure Terraced Housing Fires – Party Wall Failures !!

2011-04-06:  Further to my earlier Post, dated 11 November 2010 … specifically, the photographs in that Post which showed that there was NO Fire and Smoke Separation between a house and its neighbouring property … and my statement that those photographs “could have been taken in almost any house, anywhere in the country” … so widespread is this problem …

On Friday afternoon last, 1 April 2011 … fire spread through a long terrace of houses in the Dublin City Suburbs of Terenure.  Luckily, no one was killed … but it was reported that some people were injured, including a firefighter.  This was very far from being an April Fool’s Day Joke for the owners and occupants of the buildings.  The fire losses for everyone concerned, both direct and indirect, were enormous … and will continue to increase for quite some time.

The unsustainable losses to society, waste of valuable resources and environmental damage … will never be quantified and will remain unknown …

Colour photograph showing the cordoned-off scene in the aftermath of the fires at a Terrace of Housing in Terenure, Dublin City. In the foreground, Gardaí are keeping a watchful eye. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2011-04-04. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the cordoned-off scene in the aftermath of the fires at a Terrace of Housing in Terenure, Dublin City. In the foreground, Gardaí are keeping a watchful eye. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2011-04-04. Click to enlarge.

I will make no comment here about the fires, how they started, or any of the people involved on the day of the fire. 

Colour photograph showing the Detail of a Party Wall ... the wall separating one property from another ... in the aftermath of the fires at a Terrace of Housing in Terenure, Dublin. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2011-04-04. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the Detail of a Party Wall ... the wall separating one property from another ... in the aftermath of the fires at a Terrace of Housing in Terenure, Dublin. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2011-04-04. Click to enlarge.

What I can say, with clarity and precision, is that the Party Walls between the different properties utterly failed to perform, i.e. to provide adequate Fire Separation between those properties … in other words, to resist the passage of heat, smoke and flame from one side of the Party Wall to the other … both during the fire, and for a minimum period afterwards … during the ‘cooling phase’.

I was shocked at how these fires spread through the long terrace … but I was not surprised !

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Why has this serious problem with our housing stock been allowed to fester for so long ???

Most of the Answer lies not in the Relevant Functional Requirements of Part B of the Irish Building Regulations … but in this Diagram 13 below, which is contained in Technical Guidance Document B (2006): ‘Fire Safety’.  The details shown are technically incompetent, and will NOT work in a ‘real’ fire incident.  The reference to Paragraph 3.2.5.10 at the top right hand corner of the diagram is an error … the reference should be to Paragraph 3.2.5.11: ‘Junction of Compartment Wall and Roof’.

Black and white graphic image showing part of Diagram 13: 'Junction of Compartment Wall with Roof' ... in Irish Building Regulations Technical Guidance Document B: 'Fire Safety'. These details are technically incompetent. Click to enlarge.

Black and white graphic image showing part of Diagram 13: 'Junction of Compartment Wall with Roof' ... in Irish Building Regulations Technical Guidance Document B: 'Fire Safety'. These details are technically incompetent. Click to enlarge.

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Status of the Guidance Text in Ireland’s TGD B: ‘Fire Safety’

‘ The materials, methods of construction, standards and other specifications (including technical specifications) which are referred to in this document are those which are likely to be suitable for the purposes of the Regulations.  Where works are carried out in accordance with the guidance in this document, this will, prima facie, indicate compliance with Part B of the Second Schedule of the Building Regulations.  However, the adoption of an approach other than that outlined in the guidance is not precluded provided that the relevant requirements of the Regulations are complied with.’   [Page 2 of Technical Guidance Document B]

It is of critical importance to know and understand that Guidance Text in the Irish Technical Guidance Documents is NOT prescriptive regulation, and it is NOT ‘deemed-to-satisfy’.  All of the Technical Guidance Documents contain errors … they are not infallible documents … and, with sufficient time, technical guidance becomes outdated and inadequate.  This is routine, and to be expected.

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Similar Details to those in Diagram 13 above, which are shown in the various editions of the HomeBond House Building Manual, are equally incompetent.  Furthermore, before the First Edition of the Manual was ever published in the early 1990′s … I stated this fact, very directly, to the individual having responsibility for leading the Manual Project.

And furthermore … Similar Details, which are contained in Diagram 11 of the British (England & Wales) Building Regulations Approved Document B (2006): ‘Fire Safety’ … Volume 1 – Dwellinghouses, are just as incompetent as the Irish details.  This is compellingly relevant, at the present time, since word on the jungle drums is very strongly indicating that our Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government (DEHLG) is seriously considering a major updating of Ireland’s Technical Guidance Document B.  And just give one guess where they will go for the model template ??!!??   Ah, go on … go on … go on … go on … guess !!!

The Rest of the Answer can be put down to the Poor Technical Skills of DesignersBad Workmanship on Site, building with Materials and Products which are not ‘Fit for their Intended Use’ … and an Inadequate National System of Local Authority and/or Independent Technical Control.

Check out the Party Walls in your Attic Roof Spaces today !!

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Sustainability in Action ?!? – The Edge’s Malibu Housing Project

2011-04-02:  While ‘sustainability’ may be a difficult concept to understand and implement … our collective consciousness of what is not sustainable … unsustainable … should be improving.  Does this, or that, intuitively ‘feel’ wrong ?   Please discuss.

This item came to my attention a few days ago, via an Architectural e-Newsletter from the ‘US of A’ … and it is a sad, sad reminder of the unsustainable construction frenzy which infected so many people in Ireland during the Celtic Tiger Years.

The Edge is one of our own … we delight in his success, and we are proud of him !

Colour photograph, extracted from the Project Fact Sheet (available to download from the 'Leaves in the Wind' WebSite), showing the view from Surfrider Beach of The Edge's Proposed 5 House Coastal Development in Malibu, California. The hilltop locations of 4 of the houses are indicated by white arrows. Where is the last house ? Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph, extracted from the Project Fact Sheet (available to download from the 'Leaves in the Wind' WebSite), showing the view from Surfrider Beach of The Edge's Proposed 5 House Coastal Development in Malibu, California. The hilltop locations of 4 of the houses are indicated by white arrows. Where is the last house ? Click to enlarge.

At the beginning of a slick and convincing promotional video, the Proposed Coastal Housing Development by The Edge (David Evans) and his wife Morleigh Steinberg, is described as follows …

Leaves in the Wind is an innovative five-home green building and organic design project in Malibu, California.  Each home is actively seeking LEED Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

All five terrain-appropriate, environmentally sustainable homes will be built on just over 1 acre of the 156-acre site, leaving most of the land untouched and in its natural state.”

A vague ‘artistic impression’ of each of the 5 Houses, available to download from the Project WebSite, shows that the designs are far from being earth-shatteringly innovative … and, in the case of at least 4 of the Houses, they will break the skyline at the top of the hills …

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David (aka The Edge) … some Questions and Comments …

  1. A building which breaks a hilltop skyline has an enormously adverse visual impact.  Just visit the Bodrum Peninsula, in the south-west of Turkey, to see exactly what I am talking about.  Please move the houses in Malibu.  They are not ‘terrain-appropriate’.  Don’t destroy the visual enjoyment of the landscape for everyone else in the local community !
  2. Yes … there are 5 Sites available for constructing 5 Houses.  BUT … do you really have a desperate urge to build all 5 ?   Why not just 1 … or 2 at the most … and find a ‘sustainable’ use, or uses, for the rest of the landscape ??   Are you familiar with ‘sustainable’ management ?   Would you like to do something to slow down the rate of, and perhaps even reverse, biodiversity loss in Malibu ?   If you have not done so already … would you like to consult, meaningfully, with members of the local community about your ideas … even at this advanced stage ?
  3. Have you fully considered the large range of adverse environmental impacts during the long, difficult process of construction ?
  4. Finally (for now) … I regret very much that you have been an innocent victim of Ubiquitous American Greenwash Marketing … with profound apologies to Canada, Mexico and the rest of Central and South America !   The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Building Rating System is only concerned with certain environmental aspects of Sustainable Human & Social Development.  There are many other aspects to sustainability which are equally, if not more, important.  LEED is not a Sustainable Building Rating System.  And the Green Building Council, itself, knows this !   Please do some proper research !   And PLEASE … do this before the ‘real’ design process commences … and definitely, before any work starts on site !!

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