Archive for September, 2011

Check Now for Child Safe Window Blinds & Other Coverings !

2011-09-27:  A recent child fatality in Ireland has alerted our population to the common danger of  Window Blinds, Shades and Other Window Coverings which are not Child Safe.

Colour photograph showing a small child reaching for the control wand of a Vertical Window Blind in familiar surroundings, for example, at home. This is just one of a range of Child Safe Window Covering Solutions.

Colour photograph showing a small child reaching for the control wand of a Vertical Window Blind in familiar surroundings, for example, at home. This is just one of a range of Child Safe Window Covering Solutions.

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In Ireland … our Consumer Protection Laws are weak … our National Consumer Protection Organizations are even weaker … and the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) is under-resourced, and not fit for purpose.

In the European Union (EU) … a work programme, having the aim of eliminating the risk of strangulation and internal asphyxiation due to child accessible window covering cords and small parts, only commenced in the early part of 2011.  Refer to this Page on the WebSite of the European Commission’s Directorate General for Health & Consumers (DG SANCO)http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/health_consumer/dyna/enews/enews.cfm?al_id=1109

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HOWEVER, back on 15 December 2009 the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)  issued the following Press Release …

CPSC Announces Voluntary Recalls to Repair Millions of Roman Shades and Roll-Up Blinds by Multiple Firms

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is announcing that multiple firms are recalling millions of units of Window coverings, including Roman shades and roll-up blinds.  These window coverings present a serious risk of strangulation to young children.

Colour photograph showing a common type of Window Blind, in Europe, which has caused Child Fatalities.

Colour photograph showing a common type of Window Blind, in Europe, which has caused Child Fatalities.

CPSC has received reports of five deaths and 16 near-strangulations in Roman shades since 2006, and three deaths in roll-up blinds since 2001.  Strangulations in Roman shades occur when a child places his/her neck between the exposed inner cord and the fabric on the back side of the blind or when a child pulls the cord out and wraps it around his/her neck.  Strangulations in roll-up blinds occur when the lifting loop slides off the side of the blind and a child’s neck becomes entangled on the free-standing loop or if a child places his/her neck between the lifting loop and the roll-up blind material.

The recalled Roman shades and roll-up blinds were sold by a variety of manufacturers and retailers, including major discount department stores, home improvement stores and window covering manufacturers and retailers.  Remedies vary among firms from repair kits to refunds.

“Parents need to make sure there are no accessible cords on the front, side, or back of their window coverings”, said CPSC Chairperson Inez Tenenbaum.  “Avoid these deadly dangers by getting the repair kit or installing cordless window coverings in all homes where small children live or visit.”

To help prevent child strangulation in window coverings, CPSC and the  Window Covering Safety Council  urge parents and caregivers to follow these guidelines:

  • Examine all shades and blinds in the home.  Make sure there are no accessible cords on the front, side or back of the product.  CPSC recommends the use of cordless window coverings in all homes where children live or visit.
  • Do not place cribs, beds and furniture close to windows with corded window coverings because children can climb on them and gain access to the cords.
  • Make loose cords inaccessible.
  • If the window shade has looped bead chains or nylon cords, install tension devices to keep the cord taut.

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A Table at the end of the CPSC Press Release (15 December 2009) indicated that  IKEA was ‘voluntarily’ recalling 3,360,000 Roman Shades, Roller Blinds and Roll-Up Blinds from its stores, nationwide in the USA.  Don’t worry … I blinked, and then re-checked that number !

What has IKEA done in its stores, continent wide in Europe ??

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Buildings & Firefighters Not Yet Safer ! – 10 Years After 9-11 (II)

2011-09-20:  Continuing on from where I left off on 11 September 2011

Applying the Recommendations contained in the 2005 & 2008 National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST – USA) Reports on the 9-11 WTC Buildings 1, 2 & 7 Collapses to the everyday practice of Architecture and Fire Engineering has been a central part of our work for many years.  Long discussions on this subject have taken place within CIB (International Council for Building Research) Working Commission 14: ‘Fire Safety’ … and I also chair Commission 14’s Research Working Group IV on ‘Fire-Induced Progressive Collapse’.

My particular interest in Disproportionate Damage and Progressive Collapse reaches back as far as the late 1980’s !

So I was intrigued, amused … and at the same time, highly concerned … to read the following Letter to the Editor of the Irish Times Newspaper, on Saturday 10 September 2011 …

Recalling 9/11

Sir, – One of the most important factors in the tragedy of 9/11, and one that has received scant attention, was the mode of failure of the towers.

They were struck high up on their structures and failed via progressive collapse.  Had they been designed this side of the Atlantic, they would not have collapsed.  These were flimsy structures. –

Yours, etc,

Jim Ryan, Chartered Structural Engineer,

Waterfall, Cork.

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JIM …  If the WTC Towers (which were not flimsy structures !) had been designed on this side of the Atlantic … they would have collapsed.

Furthermore …  If the Towers had only been completed last week in the USA, Ireland, England & Wales, India or China … they would still collapse, if a similar event were to occur next year.

To be crystal clear …  What we witnessed, on Tuesday 11 September 2001, was a Collapse Level Event (CLE) which exposed, very harshly and cruelly, a catastrophic failure in all of our common Design and Construction Practices and Procedures used in/by/as …

  • Architectural Design | (Ambient) Structural Engineering | Fire Engineering ;
  • Building Management Systems ;
  • Emergency Responders | Firefighters | Rescue Teams ;
  • Technical Control Organizations Having Authority (AHJ’s) or Jurisdiction ;
  • Fire Safety Objectives in Building Legislation, Codes and Standards.

To the average ‘person in the street’ …  Whether he/she lives in Manhattan or Chicago in the USA, Dublin or Cork in Ireland, Cardiff or London in Britain, Dilli or Mumbai in India, Beijing or Shanghai or Hong Kong in China … it is unacceptable that buildings collapse … entirely unacceptable !!

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COLLAPSE OF WTC BUILDINGS 1, 2 & 7

JIM …  Unless you believe in conspiracy theories, please study the 2005 & 2008 NIST(USA) Reports on the 9-11 WTC Buildings 1, 2 & 7 Collapses.  The 2 Final Reports can be downloaded from this Page on Sustainable Design International’s Corporate WebSitehttp://www.sustainable-design.ie/fire/structdesfire.htm … along with other key documents and links.

Some indication of the enormous quantity of 9-11 WTC Incident Documentation issued by NIST(USA) can be seen below …

Colour photograph showing the enormous quantity of 9-11 WTC Incident Documentation, issued by the U.S. National Institute of Standards & Technology, which is still readily available for the public to access and download.

Colour photograph showing the enormous quantity of 9-11 WTC Incident Documentation, issued by the U.S. National Institute of Standards & Technology, which is still readily available for the public to access and download.

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PUBLIC SAFETY 10 YEARS AFTER 9-11 ?

If it is entirely unacceptable to the Public that buildings collapse … in how many National Building Codes does the following Critical Public Safety Equation appear today ?   The answer is NONE !

Colour image showing Page 21 from my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing Page 21 from my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

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Is there some fundamental reason why Levels of Safety for the Public should vary so much from one country to another ?   NO, there is not !

Within Europe, and in relation to the New EU Construction Product Regulation 305/2011, which I discussed here a few days ago … the European Commission, in a discussion document dating back to the mid-1980’s, suggested that the only way to effectively realize a Single Market for Construction Products would be to introduce Harmonized EU Building Regulations in all of the EU Member States.  Of course the Member States, at the time, went ballistic at the very mention of this idea … and it was quickly withdrawn.  I take great pleasure in repeating that important idea today.

Jim …  The Critical Public Safety Statement above is fully consistent with … and meets … the ‘Basic Requirements for Construction Works’ in Annex I of EU Regulation 305/2011.

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However, in relation to any one EU Member State … let’s take Ireland as an example … compare a situation where, in a remote rural location, it might take almost an hour for a sufficient fire service presence to arrive at the scene of a building fire emergency … with a similar situation in the middle of a city, or large town, where the time required will not be greater than 15 minutes … then, although the Level of Safety for the Public can be / should be / must be the same in both situations … I would expect, in the remote rural location having a poor fire service support infrastructure, that the range of Fire Protection Measures to be employed in a typical building would be more extensive, and the performance expected of those Measures would be higher … in order to achieve an Equivalent Level of Safety in both rural and urban locations.  Is that not a rational idea ??

Unfortunately, that’s not how the present systems work … National or European !   Levels of Public Safety differ from one country to the next … and from one region, within any one country, to the next … without any good reason … and without meaningful consultation and the full understanding of the Public.

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BUILDINGS & FIREFIGHTERS ARE NOT YET SAFER

JIM …  In spite of all of the spin coming from the other side of the Atlantic … and discounting criminality and fraud in construction practices … Buildings and Firefighters are not yet safer … because the large, difficult, complex flaws and failures in Conventional Fire Engineering have not yet been aggressively confronted … and properly solved.

In a post last year, on 18 October 2010 … I referred to the Cul-de-Sac of Current Fire Engineering … and illustrated a typical architectural detail in a Dublin Building – a common detail also to be found in India, China, USA, England & Wales, etc., etc – which demonstrates a Fundamental Flaw at the very core of conventional thinking and practice.

On Thursday next … 22 September 2011 … at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar and Workshop in the RDS, Dublin … I will present this flawed detail … and a solution which is fully compatible with … and answers … the NIST Recommendations !

BUT … would anybody like to show me where any National Building Codes have been revised and updated to solve this Fundamental Flaw ?

Colour image showing Page 33 from my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing Page 33 from my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

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Colour image showing Page 35 from my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing Page 35 from my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

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Colour image showing Page 36 from my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing Page 36 from my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

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Colour image showing Page 37 from my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing Page 37 from my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

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Colour image showing Page 38 from my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing Page 38 from my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

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A CASE STUDY OF ENGLAND & WALES

10 years after 9-11 … there are two reasons for taking a closer look at England & Wales (Britain)

  • The Building Regulations for England & Wales were used as the model for the Irish Building Regulations, which were first introduced here in the early 1990’s.  And, in the absence of Harmonized European Standards … British National Standards tend, with only a few exceptions, to become the default Irish National Standard ;
  • British National Standards are being applied in many different parts of the world outside England & Wales … in most cases, without any proper consideration of content … or adaptation to local conditions.

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Colour image showing the Cover Page of Approved Document B: 'Fire Safety' ... Volume 2 - Buildings Other Than Dwellinghouses ... from the Building Regulations for England & Wales. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the Cover Page of Approved Document B: 'Fire Safety' ... Volume 2 - Buildings Other Than Dwellinghouses ... from the Building Regulations for England & Wales. Click to enlarge.

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The Institution of Fire Engineers (Ireland) Annual Fire Conference, which was held last year, on Wednesday 20th October 2010 … in the Dublin Fire Brigade Training Centre, Marino, Dublin … threw up some interesting ‘notions’ for consideration by a diverse range of participants.

One curious proposition … repeated quite often during the day … was that Approved Document B, in the British System of Building Regulations, was basically still a sound document … and that it should pass an upcoming major review with little difficulty.

I don’t agree … Approved Document B is inadequate and dysfunctional !

With regard to Structural Performance in Fire … instead of referring to Approved Document A – Structure … the reader is referred to Appendices at the back of Approved Document B, which only reinforce the erroneous concept of Single Structural Element Fire Protection …

And along with its many other major problems … see my post, dated 2009-06-14 … British Standard BS 9999 takes no account of any of the 2005 & 2008 NIST Recommendations, Fire-Induced Progressive Collapse or Disproportionate Damage … and, in fact, directly conflicts with aspects of the Building Regulations for England & Wales …

Colour image showing Page 51 in the Appendix of my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing Page 51 in the Appendix of my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

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In order to take a close look at Approved Document B … I used the vehicle of a Notional Hotel Project in Cardiff, Wales … similar to the Early 1990’s Dublin Hotel Project shown above …

Colour image showing Page 52 in the Appendix of my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing Page 52 in the Appendix of my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

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With regard to properly showing Fitness for Intended Use of Fire Protection related Products and Building Systems … instead of referring to Regulation 7 … the reader is again referred to Appendices at the back of Approved Document B … which explains why we have such serious problems, i.e. lack of Durability and very low Resistance to Mechanical Damage, with the Thermal Insulation Products used for the Fire Protection of Structural Steelwork …

I also had to quote from Part D of the Irish Building Regulations to fill a gap in the British Regulation 7

Colour image showing Page 53 in the Appendix of my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing Page 53 in the Appendix of my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

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Beautiful Sunset – Turgutreis, Bodrum Peninsula, Turkey

2011-09-17:  Remembering a Beautiful Sunset … looking out over the Sea and the many small Islands … those wisps of Cloud creating such a magical effect … on the evening of Tuesday, 14 June 2011 … followed by rakı, good food and wine … and enjoying good company …

Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2011-06-14. Click to enlarge.

Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2011-06-14. Click to enlarge.

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Saturday, September 17th, 2011 human environment, photography, travel 1 Comment

BER Certificates & New Improvements to French DPE System

2011-09-15:  Further to my post, dated  8 June 2009 …

On 13 September 2011 … the French Ministère de l’Écologie, du Développement Durable, des Transports et du Logement announced 6 measures to improve their National DPE (Diagnostic de Performance Energétique) System … equivalent to our BER (Building Energy Rating) System in Ireland.

In the context of my earlier post, you will find these improvements interesting …

Colour image showing the recently announced revision to the National DPE (Diagnostic de Performance Energétique) Building Rating System in France. The new system will enter into force on 1 January 2012.

Colour image showing the recently announced revision to the National DPE (Diagnostic de Performance Energétique) Building Rating System in France. The new system will enter into force on 1 January 2012.

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Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet et Benoist Apparu, Secrétaire d’Etat chargé du Logement, ont présenté, Mardi 13 Septembre 2011, 6 Mesures pour Améliorer et Fiabiliser le Diagnostic de Performance Energétique (DPE).  Pour plus de transparence, une amélioration des méthodes de calcul, une meilleure formation des diagnostiqueurs et un contrôle plus efficace de la profession.

Rendu obligatoire depuis le 1er Janvier 2011 par le Grenelle Environnement, le  Diagnostic de Performance Energétique (DPE)  est amené à jouer un rôle de plus en plus important dans les décisions d’acquisition ou de location de logements.

Un Outil Apprécié des Français

La Performance Energétique des Bâtiments représente un double enjeu: elle permet d’améliorer le pouvoir d’achat des Français par une meilleure maitrise des dépenses d’énergie, et par ailleurs, elle participe à la lutte contre le changement climatique.

[ Aujourd’hui, le secteur du bâtiment représente 42.5 % des dépenses d’énergie.  Il est le plus gros consommateur d’énergie en France parmi l’ensemble des secteurs économiques. ]

Désormais connu du grand public, le dispositif bénéficie d’une image positive auprès des Français puisqu’en Mars 2011, 80% des ménages considèrent la consommation énergétique du logement comme un critère de choix très important, et 60% déclarent que s’ils étaient appelés à mettre leur appartement en vente, ils envisageraient de faire des travaux pour en améliorer la performance énergétique.

« Le DPE a été très rapidement adopté par les Français et est devenu un critère essentiel pour guider leur choix d’acquisition et location de logement.  Il était donc important d’en faire un outil dans lequel ils ont une entière confiance.  Les mesures qui vont être mises en place ont pour but de faire de l’étiquette énergétique un outil de référence incontestable, permettant aux Français d’améliorer leur pouvoir d’achat en évaluant et en maitrisant mieux leur consommation d’énergie » ont souligné les Ministres.

6 Mesures pour une Etiquette Energétique Fiabilisée

Ce programme s’axe autour de 6 mesures portant sur plus de transparence, une amélioration des méthodes de calcul, une meilleure formation des diagnostiqueurs ou encore un contrôle plus efficace de la profession.

     1. Une Meilleure Transparence vis-à-vis des Particuliers:  Le diagnostiqueur devra à présent expliciter les données qu’il renseigne auprès du particulier à travers un relevé détaillé.  Cela permettra au particulier d’être entièrement informé sur la façon dont a été réalisé son document.  La remise d’un document officiel limitera également le risque de DPE ‘frauduleux’.

     2. Amélioration de la Méthode de Calcul:  Pour un résultat plus fiable, il s’agit d’augmenter le nombre de données à analyser afin de faire un calcul plus précis de la performance énergétique.

     3. Utilisation de Logiciels Validés par le Ministère:  Pour un meilleur encadrement des logiciels utilisés, il s’agit de limiter la liste de logiciels autorisés à générer des DPE aux logiciels ayant été soumis à une procédure d’évaluation menée entre 2008 et 2010 par le ministère et l’Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Energie (ADEME).

     4. Une Base de Données des DPE sera Mise en Ligne:  Les statistiques permettront, entre autre, de nourrir l’élaboration des stratégies nationales et locales.

     5. Une Montée en Compétence des Diagnostiqueurs, en augmentant le niveau de difficulté des examens.  Jusqu’à aujourd’hui, un seul examen existait, à présent 2 niveaux de difficulté seront mis en place selon la mention (mention « bâtiments d’habitation » ou « tous types de bâtiments » – tertiaires, publics, privés, etc.).

     6. Un Contrôle plus Efficace, avec pour les particuliers, un annuaire des diagnostiqueurs mis en ligne par le ministère, et la mise en place d’une enquête de la Direction Générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes (DGCCRF) dans le secteur du diagnostic immobilier dans le cadre de sa mission de protection économique du consommateur …

L’ensemble de ces mesures, qui entreront en vigueur dès le 1er Janvier 2012, permettront l’amélioration d’un outil encore récent, mais dont l’utilité et l’efficacité sont déjà démontrées.

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U.S. National Mesothelioma Awareness Day – 26 September !

2011-09-14:  Again … closely related to our current discussions about the Environmental Impacts of the 9-11 WTC Incident in New York …

You will find the following useful information about Mesothelioma on the Irish Lung Foundation’s WebSitehttp://www.irishlungfoundation.ie/

THE PLEURA: THE LINING OF THE LUNG  –  Both of your lungs are surrounded by two very thin layers, like ‘cling film’.  These layers are called the pleura.  The inner layer of film is attached to the lung.  It is known as the visceral pleura.  The outer layer is called the parietal pleura.  The two layers are separated by a very small amount of fluid.  This fluid keeps the pleura moistened.  The pleura are very thin.  This allows the lungs to expand and contract without difficulty.  However, the pleura can become thickened or hard.  This will prevent the lungs from expanding properly, making it difficult to breathe.  This happens with Mesothelioma.

WHAT IS MEANT BY MESOTHELIOMA ?  –  Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that grows on the pleura around the lung.  It can rarely grow in other places.  These include the lining of the abdomen, the lining of the testicle and the lining of the heart.  However, in 8 out of 10 cases of Mesothelioma, it is the pleura that is affected.

WHAT CAUSES MESOTHELIOMA ?  –  In the vast majority of cases, inhaling certain types of asbestos dust is the cause of Mesothelioma.  About 7 out of every 10 cases of Pleural Mesothelioma are due to exposure to asbestos.  A virus called SV40 has also been linked to the development of Mesothelioma.  However, this link has not yet been proven.  Exposure to a variety of other dusts may also cause this cancer.  Asbestos exposure does remain the most important factor.

Colour photograph showing a Firefighter on the day after 9-11 (2001). Photograph by Matthew McDermott / Corbis Sygma.

Colour photograph showing a Firefighter on the day after 9-11 (2001). Photograph by Matthew McDermott / Corbis Sygma.

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A few days ago … on Wednesday, 7 September 2011 … we received the following e-mail from the other side of the pond (USA) …

Good Morning, Friends at Sustainable Design International !

After visiting the  Sustainable Design International WebSite, I was extremely impressed by the level of environmental responsibility exhibited.  My name is Jenna Cole and I represent  MesotheliomaSymptoms.com.  I am contacting you to offer our resource to further illustrate your dedication, and to inform you about an upcoming event with hopes that you would mention our WebSite.

On September 26th, we are proud to celebrate U.S. National Mesothelioma Awareness Day.  To honour this day, we are trying to spread awareness by educating as many on-line communities about the dangers of asbestos exposure and how it can lead to this terminal disease.  Asbestos was used as insulation in buildings for centuries and can be a threat to workers and homeowners making these ‘green’ improvements.

By mentioning our Mesothelioma Survival Rate Pagehttp://www.mesotheliomasymptoms.com/mesothelioma-survival-rate … on the Sustainable Design International WebSite, you have the opportunity to dispel some of the myths surrounding this environmental hazard, while promoting National Mesothelioma Awareness Day.  Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have.  I look forward to hearing back from you soon !

Many thanks,

Jenna Cole – MesotheliomaSymptoms.com

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A Must-View, Must-Study Resource WebSite for Practicing Fire Engineers Worldwide … ‘Human Health’ following a Serious Real Fire Incident …

Human Health (WHO):  A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

9/11 Health

A Public Information WebSite developed by the New York City Health Department … providing the latest information about scientific research and services for people who may have health problems related to the 9-11 World Trade Center Incident.

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New EU Construction Product Regulation 305/2011 – Halleluiah !

2011-09-13:  Closely related to our current discussions about the 10th Anniversary of the 9-11 WTC Incident in New York …

For more years than I care to remember … I have been involved, directly and/or indirectly, with piecing together the edifice that is European Union (EU) Council Directive 89/106/EEC Interpretation … a lumbering giant which has failed, miserably, to bring about the necessary conditions for the efficient operation of an effective European Economic Area (EEA) Single Market for Construction Products.

Proper Implementation has always been the fatal weakness of this ‘system’ … because on the ground, in Europe, no such Single Market exists in reality.  Politicians, at both European and national levels and typically lacking a competence on technical issues, believe otherwise.  Bureaucrats, at both European and national levels and always lacking a working familiarity with the full scope of EU Treaties, do not want to recognise this fundamental truth.

To refresh your memories … the full title of the now Repealed EU Directive 89/106/EEC was …

Council Directive, of 21 December 1988, on the Approximation of Laws, Regulations and Administrative Provisions of the Member States relating to Construction Products

ANNEX I of that Directive described 6 ‘Essential Requirements’ …

  1. Mechanical Resistance & Stability
  2. Safety in Case of Fire
  3. Hygiene, Health & the Environment
  4. Safety in Use
  5. Protection against Noise
  6. Energy Economy & Heat Retention

The unusual feature of this particular New Approach Directive was that the ‘suitable’ construction products, i.e. products which could be shown to be fit for their intended use, had to facilitate the construction works in satisfying all of the 6 Essential Requirements, taken together as a whole … not just some of the Requirements.

Down through the years, however, it has been deeply frustrating … to have to pressure the TÜV Organization in Germany, for example, to issue proper Test Reports to their German Clients … or, as recently as last July, to have to explain basic information about CE Marking to Manufacturers.  And there appears to be no proper infrastructure in any EU Member State to check and control CE Marks on industrial products generally, never mind construction products.

Further up the chain, there were also problems.  In developing a family of 6 Separate Interpretative Documents for each of the Essential Requirements … important cross linking concepts between Requirements, e.g. Fire-Induced Progressive Building Collapse, fell into a deep void, almost never to be heard from again.  And concepts explicitly referenced in ANNEX I, such as the Safety of Rescue Teams (i.e. firefighters), received little or no attention in those Interpretative Documents … which then had a serious knock-on effect when Harmonized European Standards, European Technical Approvals (ETA’s) and EuroCodes were being drafted, based on the guidelines in Interpretative Documents.

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Lucca, Italy - Early Morning on 21 August 2011. Photograph by CJ Walsh. Click to enlarge.

Lucca, Italy - Early Morning on 21 August 2011. Photograph by CJ Walsh. Click to enlarge.

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Halleluiah !   At Long Last … published on 4th April 2011, in the Official Journal of the European Union … the new EU Construction Product Regulation 305/2011 … the full title of which is …

Regulation (EU) No. 305/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 9 March 2011, laying down Harmonized Conditions for the Marketing of Construction Products and Repealing Council Directive 89/106/EEC

ANNEX I of these New Regulations now describe 7 ‘Basic Requirements for Construction Works’ … requirements which are appropriate to the needs of our time.  Please note the newly revised/additional texts, highlighted in red …

Construction works as a whole and in their separate parts must be fit for their intended use, taking into account in particular the health and safety of persons involved throughout the life cycle of the works.  Subject to normal maintenance, construction works must satisfy these basic requirements for construction works for an economically reasonable working life.

     1. Mechanical Resistance and Stability

The construction works must be designed and built in such a way that the loadings that are liable to act on them during their construction and use will not lead to any of the following:

(a)   collapse of the whole or part of the works ;

(b)   major deformations to an inadmissible degree ;

(c)   damage to other parts of the construction works or to fittings or installed equipment as a result of major deformation of the load-bearing construction ;

(d)   damage by an event to an extent disproportionate to the original cause.

     2. Safety in Case of Fire

The construction works must be designed and built in such a way that in the event of an outbreak of fire:

(a)   the load-bearing capacity of the construction works can be assumed for a specific period of time ;

(b)   the generation and spread of fire and smoke within the construction works are limited ;

(c)   the spread of fire to neighbouring construction works is limited ;

(d)   occupants can leave the construction works or be rescued by other means ;

(e)   the safety of rescue teams is taken into consideration.

     3. Hygiene, Health and the Environment

The construction works must be designed and built in such a way that they will, throughout their life cycle, not be a threat to the hygiene or health and safety of workers, occupants or neighbours, nor have an exceedingly high impact, over their entire life cycle, on the environmental quality or on the climate during their construction, use and demolition, in particular as a result of any of the following:

(a)   the giving-off of toxic gas ;

(b)   the emission of dangerous substances, volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), greenhouse gases or dangerous particles into indoor or outdoor air ;

(c)   the emission of dangerous radiation ;

(d)   the release of dangerous substances into ground water, marine waters, surface waters or soil ;

(e)   the release of dangerous substances into drinking water, or substances which have an otherwise negative impact on drinking water ;

(f)    faulty discharge of waste water, emission of flue gases or faulty disposal of solid or liquid waste ;

(g)   dampness in parts of the construction works or on surfaces within the construction works.

     4. Safety and Accessibility in Use

The construction works must be designed and built in such a way that they do not present unacceptable risks of accidents or damage in service or in operation such as slipping, falling, collision, burns, electrocution, injury from explosion and burglariesIn particular, construction works must be designed and built taking into consideration accessibility and use for disabled persons.

     5. Protection against Noise

The construction works must be designed and built in such a way that noise perceived by the occupants or people nearby is kept to a level that will not threaten their health and will allow them to sleep, rest and work in satisfactory conditions.

     6. Energy Economy and Heat Retention

The construction works and their heating, cooling, lighting and ventilation installations must be designed and built in such a way that the amount of energy they require in use shall be low, when account is taken of the occupants and of the climatic conditions of the location.  Construction works must also be energy-efficient, using as little energy as possible during their construction and dismantling.

     7. Sustainable Use of Natural Resources

The construction works must be designed, built and demolished in such a way that the use of natural resources is sustainable and in particular ensure the following:

(a)   re-use or recyclability of the construction works, their materials and parts after demolition ;

(b)   durability of the construction works ;

(c)   use of environmentally compatible raw and secondary materials in the construction works.

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I will be anxious to see if the full intent of these ‘Basic Requirements for Construction Works’ is properly transposed into the new interpretative framework (comprising Delegated Acts, Harmonized Standards, etc., etc.) of EU Regulation 305/2011 …

and …

I will be even more anxious to see how and when specific output (Harmonized Standards, European Technical Approvals (ETA’s) and EuroCodes) from the obsolete interpretative framework of the Repealed Directive 89/106/EEC is revised and updated !

and, finally …

When will we ever see the vital Infrastructure of Implementation operating successfully in the EU Member States … so that Manufacturers can reap the enormous benefits of an effective EEA Single Market for Construction Products ??

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10 Years After 9-11 … Are Our Buildings & Firefighters Safer ??

2011-09-11:  From the beginning of the past week, news media (printed and on-line), and the television and radio schedules have all been full of articles, stories, opinions, and interpretative and speculative pieces about the 9-11 World Trade Center (WTC) Incident in New York, and its tragic aftermathToday is the 10th Anniversary … a long ten years since that sunny Tuesday morning in Manhattan !

BUT … is anybody out there asking the questions: “Are Our Buildings Safer ?” … and … “Are Our Firefighters Safer ?”   AND … if you do ask those questions … are you able to distinguish between solid, reliable information and ‘spin’ ?

So many Irish people, and people of Irish descent, were directly involved in this traumatic event … working inside the WTC offices, as stockbrokers … or outside, as maintenance personnel, or firefighters, policemen and women, or as members of the emergency medical services …

Colour photograph showing the thick cloud of toxic dust and debris spreading rapidly throughout lower Manhattan, and beyond, after the Second Tower Collapse (WTC 1/North Tower) just before 10.30 hrs (local time) on the morning of 11 September 2001. Earlier, seismic sensors located 160 Km away had recorded the time and intensity of the First Tower Collapse (WTC 2/South Tower) at 09.59 hrs (local time). Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the thick cloud of toxic dust and debris spreading rapidly throughout lower Manhattan, and beyond, after the Second Tower Collapse (WTC 1/North Tower) just before 10.30 hrs (local time) on the morning of 11 September 2001. Earlier, seismic sensors located 160 Km away had recorded the time and intensity of the First Tower Collapse (WTC 2/South Tower) at 09.59 hrs (local time). Click to enlarge.

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REALPOLITIK

The previous post about the United Nations Gaza Flotilla Report, I hope, created an uncertainty in your mind … a worrying thought regarding political interference and the negative, and very often, destructive influence of vested interests … which is a necessary frame of mind to have, also, for an essential discussion – on the 10th Anniversary of the 9-11 WTC Incident – about the Safety of Our Buildings, particularly High-Rise Buildings, Iconic Buildings, and those Buildings having a Critical Function and/or an Innovative Design … and the Safety of Our Firefighters.

By ‘Our Buildings’ … I don’t just mean buildings in Ireland, or Europe … I mean buildings on every continent of our small planet.  And … such a discussion must be trans-disciplinary, involving the use of simple language only … because it is necessary for each discipline to clearly understand what the others are saying (this rarely happens !) … and the discussion must also be transparent to, and be easily assimilated by, the general population in all of our societies.  And by ‘Our Firefighters’ … I mean firefighters worldwide.

Concerning the Gaza Flotilla Report … we could ask …

  • Would the Findings and Recommendations have been different … if there had been 4 independent and obviously impartial people on the Panel of Inquiry instead ?   The answer is … yes, of course !   And …
  • Why did UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon nominate President Álvaro Uribe (Vice-Chair), an ‘ultra’ rightwing politician from Columbia … and Mr. Joseph Ciechanover Itzhar, an Israeli, to serve on the Panel ?   I will leave you to answer that for yourself …

The important point I wish to make is that the community of International Fire Science and Engineering – just like every other ‘human’ community – is not immune from these sorts of malevolent influences !

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Colour photograph showing advanced clean up operations at the World Trade Center Complex after 11 September 2001. Fires continued to smoulder for weeks after the Incident. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing advanced clean up operations at the World Trade Center Complex after 11 September 2001. Fires continued to smoulder for weeks after the Incident. Click to enlarge.

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LONG-TERM ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF 9-11

Just five weeks after the 9-11 World Trade Center (WTC) Incident in New York … I found myself in Manhattan for the purpose of making an important presentation to a conference which was taking place not far from Madison Square Garden … while staying Down-Town in Battery Park City, at an apartment within the Security Zone.  Yes, I was worried and fearful before going … but …

Environmental Impact:  Any effect caused by a given activity on the environment, including human health, safety and welfare, flora, fauna, soil, air, water, and especially representative samples of natural ecosystems, climate, landscape and historical monuments or other physical structures, or the interactions among these factors; it also includes effects on accessibility, cultural heritage or socio-economic conditions resulting from alterations to those factors.

On first arriving in the city, by taxi from Kennedy Airport … I witnessed, at first hand, the racist hostility of a policeman towards our coloured Asian driver, who had simply asked about the procedure to pass through the Security Zone Boundary.  Later, walking near the WTC Site, I would encounter the ‘macho’ behaviour of many National Guardsmen on security duty.

At the conference, I met a person who was literally unable to speak – could not even bear to talk about – the 9-11 Incident.

Everywhere south of Canal Street was in a terrible, horrific condition.

The weather, fortunately, had remained generally very good … sunny, with a light breeze coming in from the sea.  Then, unexpectedly, one day towards the end of my stay … the sky was overcast and the air stood still … in lower Manhattan, it assaulted my eyes, nose and the back of my throat.  Many times, during that particular day, I retched … but could not vomit !   Yet, a representative of the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) announced that there was no problem with air quality !   Meanwhile, in Mid-Town, everything ‘appeared’ normal.

10 Years Afterwards … people, communities and the country (USA) are all still suffering … physically, mentally and psychologically … from the 9-11 WTC Incident … unable to ask for help, or perhaps, too proud or ashamed to speak up.

September 2001 – World Health Organization

WHO: How to Address Psychosocial Reactions to Catastrophe

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (12.5 kb)

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10 YEARS AFTER 9-11 – ARE OUR BUILDINGS & FIREFIGHTERS SAFER ?

Or to put it in a more technical way … how are the Critical Recommendations contained in the 2005 & 2008 NIST(USA) Reports on the 9-11 WTC Buildings 1, 2 & 7 Collapses being implemented ?   And, what is the quality of that implementation ?

At this time, two years ago … I asked …

  • Why are so many Key Institutions and Organizations in the International Building Sector still desperately trying to ignore and/or deny the Recommendations in those 2 NIST Reports ?
  • Why have National Building and Fire Codes/Regulations and Standards not yet been revised to respond, properly and satisfactorily, to the NIST Recommendations ?
  • Why can we not yet use All Lifts (Elevators) in a Building during a fire incident ?   Why are Lift (Elevator) Manufacturers still actively resisting this necessary change ?

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Colour image showing an Ostrich with its Head in the Sand ... an accurate description of the International 'Technical' Reaction to the 9-11 WTC Incident ... "it never happened" ... or "it was a unique event, and it will never happen again" ... or "this unusual event only has implications for very, very, very tall buildings" ... blah, blah, blah !!

Colour image showing an Ostrich with its Head in the Sand ... an accurate description of the International 'Technical' Reaction to the 9-11 WTC Incident ... "it never happened" ... or "it was a unique event, and it will never happen again" ... or "this unusual event only has implications for very, very, very tall buildings" ... blah, blah, blah !!

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The answers to the questions are NO … and NO … minor revisions (tinkering at the edges) have been made to Codes/Regulations & Standards in some countries … and, generally, progress on implementing the NIST Recommendations is proving to be very slow … too slow !   Most surprisingly, no revisions have been made to Codes/Regulations & Standards in many countries.

To illustrate tinkering at the edges … refer to the USA’s International Building Code (2012 Edition) … which, despite its grandiose title, is really just another of the USA’s National Model Building Codes … and check out this very disappointing Article: ‘Evolution of Building Code Requirements in a Post 9/11 World’, by David Drengenberg and Gene Corley, in the recently published Special Issue III (2011) of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) Journal … which is available at  http://www.ctbuh.org/

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Progress at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in the USA, is a little more apparent … but still, far too little and far too slow.  Check out this recent Special 9-11 Report: ‘A Decade of Difference’, by Fred Durso Jr … on the NFPA WebSite … http://www.nfpa.org/publicJournalDetail.asp?categoryID=2248&itemID=53000&src=NFPAJournal

And … released earlier this year, NFPA’s Third Needs Assessment of the U.S. Fire Service has identified ‘areas of ongoing concern’ !!

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To Be Continued …

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A More Balanced Presentation of Recent UN Gaza Flotilla Report

2011-09-05:  Something is seriously wrong when it is stated in an official United Nations (UN) Report that any aspect of the Gaza Blockade by Israel is legal, under International Law.

Colour photograph showing the MV Mavi Marmara aid-carrying ship leaving the port of Antalya, in Southern Turkey ... on 22 May 2010 ... for Gaza, in Palestine.

Colour photograph showing the MV Mavi Marmara aid-carrying ship leaving the port of Antalya, in Southern Turkey ... on 22 May 2010 ... for Gaza, in Palestine.

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On 2 August 2010 … UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, established a Panel of Inquiry to report on the 31 May 2010 Gaza Flotilla Incident in the International Waters of the Mediterranean Sea.  The Panel Team consisted of 4 Members …

  • Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Chair ;
  • President Álvaro Uribe, Vice-Chair ;
  • Mr. Joseph Ciechanover Itzhar ;   and
  • Mr. Süleyman Özdem Sanberk.

The Panel’s Report was released by the United Nations last Friday, 2 September 2011 … and can be downloaded from the following address … http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/middle_east/Gaza_Flotilla_Panel_Report.pdf

The Findings and Recommendations contained in the Panel’s Report have been widely covered since then, at national and international levels, in the various news media.

Colour photograph showing the 2010 Gaza Flotilla Panel of Inquiry Team ... Mr. Süleyman Özdem Sanberk, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, President Álvaro Uribe and Mr. Joseph Ciechanover Itzhar ... with UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, in the centre. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Colour photograph showing the 2010 Gaza Flotilla Panel of Inquiry Team ... Mr. Süleyman Özdem Sanberk, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, President Álvaro Uribe and Mr. Joseph Ciechanover Itzhar ... with UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, in the centre. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

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For a More Balanced Presentation of the Recent UN Gaza Flotilla Report, however, the following short statement by Mr. Sanberk, a graduate of the Law Faculty at Istanbul University and former Turkish Ambassador, must be reproduced – in full – and widely circulated.

Mr. Sanberk’s Statement can be viewed on Page 105 (the last page !) of the Report …

” I hereby register my disagreement with the Chairmanship on the following issues contained in the report:

  • The question of the legality of the blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel ;
  • The actions of the flotilla ;
  • Naval blockades in general ;
  • Appendix: The applicable International legal principles.

This, for the following reasons:

–  On the legal aspect of the blockade, Turkey and Israel have submitted two opposing arguments.  International legal authorities are divided on the matter since it is unprecedented, highly complex and the legal framework lacks codification.  However, the Chairmanship and its report fully associated itself with Israel and categorically dismissed the views of the other, despite the fact that the legal arguments presented by Turkey have been supported by the vast majority of the International Community.  Common sense and conscience dictate that the blockade is unlawful.

–  Also the UN Human Rights Council concluded that the blockade was unlawful.  The Report of the Human Rights Council Fact Finding Mission received widespread approval from the member states.

–  Freedom and safety of navigation on the high seas is a universally accepted rule of international law.  There can be no exception from this long-standing principle unless there is a universal convergence of views.

–  The intentions of the participants in the International Humanitarian Convoy were humanitarian, reflecting the concerns of the vast majority of the International Community.  They came under attack in international waters.  They resisted for their own protection.  Nine civilians were killed and many others were injured by the Israeli soldiers.  One of the victims is still in a coma.  The evidence confirms that at least some of the victims had been killed deliberately.

–  The wording in the report is not satisfactory in describing the actual extent of the atrocities that the victims have been subjected to.  This includes the scope of the maltreatment suffered by the passengers in the hands of Israeli soldiers and officials.

In view of the above, I reject and dissociate myself from the relevant parts and paragraphs of the report, as reflected in paragraphs ii, iv, v, vii of the findings contained in the summary of the report and paragraphs ii, iv, v, vii, viii and ix of the recommendations contained in the same text.”

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Disability Access Certificates (DAC’s) in Ireland – Confused ??

2011-09-01:  To say, bluntly, that there is confusion out there … at every level … would be a mild understatement !   Yes, the Disability Access Certificate (DAC) & Revised DAC Process is new … but that cannot explain what is happening … or, more precisely, what is not happening.

BUT … before jumping in at the deep end and examining the existing and operative Part M of the Irish Building Regulations … let me just mention, very briefly, two wider legal ‘niceties’ concerning Accessibility of Buildings for People with Disabilities

     1.  The Black Hole between Building Regulations and Equality Law

The definition of People with Disabilities in the existing Part M is limited.  It is inadequate.  Compare, now, that definition with the definition of Disability in Irish Equality Legislation … which is the complete opposite, being very wide in scope.  A deep chasm exists between the two.  Check each of them out for yourself !   And because few people are aware of this chasm … a better description of that large space might be a Black Hole.

However, the clear consequence of the Black Hole for building owners … and building designers alike … is that the ‘act’ of merely going through the motions with regard to compliance with Part M … and being satisfied with getting ‘the’ piece of paper, i.e. a Disability Access Certificate … will, without any shadow of a doubt, open the building owner to a complaint under Equality Law.  And when a building owner encounters this sort of problem … who will he, or she, hunt down for an explanation ??

Client Organizations beware … prevention is a far better strategy !!   Check out the Level of Accessibility Performance required to avoid complaints under Equality Legislation.

[ You should also consider the following … the Health & Safety Authority in Ireland is doing absolutely nothing to ensure that Workplaces are Accessible … a requirement contained in all of the European Union (EU) Safety at Work Directives and the Irish National Legislation implementing those Directives.  So, also cross check the Level of Accessibility Performance required to comply with Safety at Work Legislation.  Compliance with Part M is not sufficient ! ]

     2.  European Union Ratification of the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

For a sizeable group of vulnerable people in every EU Member State, 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 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) … which became an International Legal Instrument on 3 May 2008, and was ratified by the European Union on 23 December 2010.  That is precisely why Accessibility is such a critical component of the 2006 UN Convention !

Articles 31 & 33 of the 2006 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – together – mandate that Accessibility Implementation is taken seriously … that it is competent and effective … and, most importantly, that independent monitoring and verification is a fundamental part of the process.

Ireland has not yet ratified the UN CRPD.  And, as far as our National Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s) are concerned … everything in the garden is beautiful … Ireland is doing just great and nothing much needs to be altered in our laws, administrative provisions or resourcing … to allow Ireland to ratify the Convention, and then properly implement it.  Nothing could be further from the truth !

In Order to Protect your Organization and its many interests … Your Policy and Decision Makers, in Ireland, should study the implications flowing directly from EU Ratification of the UN CRPD … and then, the various Articles of the UN Convention should be examined and properly implemented … insofar as those Articles are relevant to you and your organization’s activities.  See my earlier post, dated 5 February 2011.

To date … the quality of Accessibility Implementation in Irish Buildings has been dreadful !!   For important reasons … which all parties involved should fully understand … this situation is longer acceptable.

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Colour photograph showing the front entrances to dwelling units in a New Inner City Housing Scheme in Dublin ... User Unfriendly ... Inaccessible for Many Vulnerable People in Our Society ... Dreadful Accessibility Implementation ! Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2003-09-13. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the front entrances to dwelling units in a New Inner City Housing Scheme in Dublin ... User Unfriendly ... Inaccessible for Many Vulnerable People in Our Society ... Dreadful Accessibility Implementation ! Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2003-09-13. Click to enlarge.

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Disability Access Certificates (DAC’s) & Part M

The submission of sufficient, quality information, i.e. detailed design documentation, at Disability Access Certificate (DAC) Application Stage typically signals the following to an experienced technical controller …

  • The intent of the Applicant, and the Agent(s) acting on his/her/their behalf, with regard to properly and satisfactorily complying with the relevant building legislation, i.e. Part M: ‘Access for People with Disabilities’ of the Second Schedule to the Irish Building Regulations ;  and
  • In the absence of an inspection by the Building Control Authority (BCA) during actual construction … whether or not it is likely that the completed works will match the DAC certified design documentation with regard to Accessibility Performance.

From the beginning, it is necessary to distinguish between Access and Accessibility.

To be written in stone when International Standard ISO 21542 is soon published … the components of Building Accessibility comprise …

  • Approach to the building ;
  • Entry ;
  • Use of the building, its services and facilities ;
  • Egress from the building (during normal conditions) ;
  • Removal from the vicinity of the building (during normal conditions) ;

and

  • 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.

This is also a useful guideline with regard to segregating those aspects of Accessibility Design which relate to Part M: ‘Access for People with Disabilities’ of the Second Schedule to the Irish Building Regulations, and which should be considered in any application for a Disability Access Certificate (DAC) … and those, after ‘and‘ … which relate to Part B: ‘Fire Safety’, and which should be considered in every application for a Fire Safety Certificate (FSC).

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The 2000 Building Regulations (Amendment) Regulations … Statutory Instrument No. 179 of 2000 … elaborate the relevant Irish Building Legislation concerning building access, i.e. Part M: ‘Access for People with Disabilities’ of the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations …

Access and Use

M1     Adequate provision shall be made to enable people with disabilities to safely and independently access and use a building.

Sanitary Conveniences

M2     If sanitary conveniences are provided in a building, adequate provision shall be made for people with disabilities.

Audience or Spectator Facilities

M3     If a building contains fixed seating for audience or spectators, adequate provision shall be made for people with disabilities.

Definition for This Part

M4     In this Part, ‘people with disabilities’ means people who have an impairment of hearing or sight or an impairment which limits their ability to walk, or which restricts them to a wheelchair.

Application of This Part

M5     Part M does not apply to works in connection with extensions to and the material alterations of existing dwellings, provided that such works do not create a new dwelling.”

My Note 1:  In order to safely and independently use a building … it is also necessary, under normal conditions, to use the egress routes of a building.

My Note 2:  The limited definition of ‘people with disabilities’ in Requirement M4 does not include, for example, a person without arms … or those people with a mental, cognitive or psychological impairment.

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Technical Guidance Document M (2000, re-printed in 2005) provides guidance in relation to Part M: ‘Access for People with Disabilities’ of the Second Schedule to the Irish Building Regulations.  TGD M was issued by the Department of the Environment, under Article 7 of the 1997 Building Regulations … Statutory Instrument No. 497 of 1997 … which states …

” 7.     (1)  The Minister may publish, or arrange to have published on his behalf, documents to be known as ‘technical guidance documents’ for the purpose of providing guidance with respect to compliance with the requirements of any of the provisions of the Second Schedule.

          (2)  Subject to the provisions of sub-article (3), where works or a building to which these Regulations apply is or are designed and constructed in accordance with any guidance contained in a technical guidance document, this shall, prima facie, indicate compliance with the relevant requirements of these Regulations.

          (3)  The provisions of any guidance contained in a technical guidance document published under sub-article (1) concerning the use of a particular material, method of construction or specification, shall not be construed as prohibiting compliance with a requirement of these Regulations by the use of any other suitable material, method of construction or specification.”

My Note 3:  Since the introduction of national legal building legislation in the early 1990’s, the Irish Building Regulations have a Functional Format, as required by European Union (EU) Law.  In other words, satisfactory compliance with short functional statements is mandated by law … and provided the requirements of those short statements are properly shown to be complied with, it is entirely optional as to which materials, methods of construction, standards and other specifications (including technical specifications) are used.  In this way, the free movement of products and services within the EU is facilitated and encouraged while, at the same time, technical barriers to trade are avoided.

My Note 4:  For the convenience of readers, the short functional statements mandated by law are reproduced, in a shaded box, at the beginning of each of the Technical Guidance Documents.  The Guidance Texts in each Technical Guidance Document, however, are not Prescriptive Regulations.  These texts are merely an indicator of what is likely to be suitable for the purposes of compliance with the Regulations … they are, prima facie (i.e. on ‘first appearance’ only), an indication of compliance ;  they are not ‘deemed-to-satisfy’ the Requirements of Part M.

My Note 5:  Where gaps are identified in the guidance texts of Technical Guidance Document M … and in the absence of an Irish National Standard on Building Access or Accessibility … a suggested hierarchy of approach should be to source an appropriate European Standard (EN) or, if such a standard does not yet exist, then an appropriate International Standard (ISO), or then a National Standard of any country which is a contracting party to the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA) which provides in use an appropriate level of Access/Accessibility Performance (refer to Part D of the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations).  In the unlikely absence of any of the above, an appropriate Design Guidance Document – national or otherwise – should be referenced which provides in use an appropriate level of Access/Accessibility Performance.

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Our Organization – Sustainable Design International – provides an independent (and confidential) Accessibility Monitoring and Verification Service.

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