Archive for April, 2016

GB Climate Change’s Green Deal – National Audit Office Report !

2016-04-23:  Yesterday … Earth Day … and also the Official Signing Ceremony for the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement at United Nations Headquarters, in New York City …

UN Official Signing Ceremony for the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement

Click image to enlarge.

On the day before that, 21 April, in a Press Release issued by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

A prolonged run of record global temperatures and extreme weather, the rapid melting of Arctic ice, and widespread bleaching of ocean coral reefs underline the urgent need to sign and implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said that 2016 has so far overshadowed even the record-breaking year of 2015.

“The magnitude of the changes has been a surprise even for veteran climate scientists. The state of the planet is changing before our eyes,” said Mr Taalas.

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A little earlier in April 2016 … and within the above international context came this problematic, but not-entirely-unexpected tale from Great Britain … the tip of a foul-smelling iceberg in quite a few countries …

Green Deal & Energy Company Obligation

“Improving household energy efficiency is central to government achieving its aims of providing taxpayers with secure, affordable and sustainable energy.  The Department of Energy and Climate Change’s ambitious aim to encourage households to pay for measures looked good on paper, as it would have reduced the financial burden of improvements on all energy consumers.  But in practice, its Green Deal design not only failed to deliver any meaningful benefit, it increased suppliers’ costs – and therefore energy bills – in meeting their obligations through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) Scheme.  The Department now needs to be more realistic about consumers’ and suppliers’ motivations when designing schemes in future to ensure it achieves its aims.”

Amyas Morse, Head of the British National Audit Office (NAO), 14 April 2016.

[ And as you read further down … consider how important it must be for future effective climate change policy implementation in all of our countries, particularly those countries with an ‘historical responsibility’ …

  • that accurate, precise and reliable climate change data and statistics be gathered together and properly managed … and this means, for example, that at European Union Member State level, the national statistics organization must be in control of the process … and at EU level, Eurostat must be in control ;
  • that implementation be stringently and independently monitored for long-term effectiveness ;
  • that economists be removed from core decision-making in this area … and the veto they currently exercise over necessary mitigation and adaptation actions be removed. ]

The National Audit Office has today concluded that the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) Green Deal has not achieved value for money.  The scheme, which cost taxpayers £240 Million including grants to stimulate demand, has not generated additional energy savings.  This is because DECC’s design and implementation did not persuade householders that energy efficiency measures are worth paying for.

The NAO Report: Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation also found that DECC’s design of its Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme to support the Green Deal added to energy suppliers’ costs of meeting their obligations.  This reduced the value for money of ECO, but the Department’s information is not detailed enough to conclude by how much suppliers have met their obligations for saving carbon dioxide (CO2) and reducing bills.

The report finds that while the Department achieved its target to improve 1 Million Homes with the schemes, this is not a direct indicator of progress against the objective of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.  This is because different types of energy-efficiency measures save different amounts of CO2.

The schemes have saved substantially less CO2 than previous supplier obligations, mainly because of the Department’s initial focus on ‘harder-to-treat’ homes, as its analysis showed that previous schemes had absorbed demand for cheaper measures.  The Department expects the measures installed through ECO up to 31 December 2015 to generate 24 Mega Tonnes of carbon dioxide (Mt CO2) savings over their lifetime, only around 30% of what the predecessor schemes achieved over similar timescales.

Demand for Green Deal finance has fallen well below the government’s expectations, with households only funding 1% of the measures installed through the schemes with a Green Deal loan.  The schemes have not improved as many solid-walled homes, a key type of ‘harder-to-treat’ homes, as the Department initially planned.  As part of changes to ECO in 2014, the Department enabled suppliers to achieve their obligations with cheaper measures, moving away from its focus on harder-to-treat properties.  ECO has generated £6.2 Billion of notional lifetime bill savings to 31 December 2015 in homes most likely to be occupied by fuel poor people.  Beyond this, the Department cannot measure the impact of the schemes on fuel poverty.

There are significant gaps in the Department’s information on costs, which means it is unable to measure progress towards two of its objectives: to increase the efficiency with which suppliers improve the energy efficiency of ‘harder-to-treat’ houses, and to stimulate private investment.  The lack of consistency in the government’s approach during the schemes could increase the long-term costs of improving household energy efficiency.

In the NAO’s accompanying investigation into DECC’s loans to the Green Deal Finance Company, also published today, it found that the Department expects that it will not recover its £25 Million stakeholder loan to the finance company, plus £6 Million of interest that has accrued on it.  The Department based its stakeholder loan on forecasts of significant consumer demand for Green Deal loans.  But demand for Green Deal finance was lower than the Department forecast from the outset, meaning the finance company could not cover its operating costs.  The Department agreed a second loan worth up to £34 Million in October 2014, of which the finance company has drawn down £23.5 Million.  The Department still expects to recover this loan in full as it will be repaid before other investors in the finance company.

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Is it any wonder that the ‘real’ Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Numbers continue to climb relentlessly ?!?

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Wind Turbine Fires – Facing Up To The ‘Environmental Impact’ !?!

2016-04-19:  A Priority Theme of  SFE 2016 DUBLIN, next September, is the ‘Adverse Environmental Impact’ caused by Preventable Fires in the Built Environment.  Last year’s horrendous devastation of large tracts of land, air and ground waters in the Tianjin port region of North-Eastern China is one very obvious example.

BUT, consider also … Wind Turbine Fires.  As we move closer and closer towards a planetary environmental precipice … there IS enormous pressure to harvest more and more energy from renewable, non-carbon resources.  Windmills, of old, used wind energy to perform an important function in a local context.  Everybody could see what was happening inside.  Local people reaped the benefits.  Modern wind turbines, on the other hand … ?

The First Major Issue concerning Wind Turbines, which received only half-hearted attention at best, was their …

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.

But, at least, ‘it’ was mentioned in conversations !

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Click image to enlarge.

The next major issue, the Fire Issue, is a different matter entirely.  This problem does NOT exist … NEVER happens … NOBODY KNOWS NOTHING !   And not just in Ireland or Europe … the ‘real’ fire statistics are either ignored, massaged or concealed.

Wind turbines differ from other forms of traditional power generation because of the inherent risk of total fire loss of the nacelle.  The main features of this risk include:

  • high concentration of value within the nacelle ;
  • high concentration of potential ignition sources within the nacelle, and increased risk of lightning strikes ;
  • unmanned operation ;
  • no possibility of fighting a fire in the nacelle by local fire service personnel, because they are too high up and/or there is no access for fire service vehicles ;
  • remote, sometimes very difficult to reach geographical locations of wind turbines, particularly in the case of offshore installations.

[ Nacelle:  A cover, or housing, for all of the generating components in a wind turbine, including the generator, gearbox, drive train, and brake assembly.]

The cost of wind turbines and their components, as well as restoration and repair costs after a fire, increase in proportion to installed generating capacity.  In addition, losses caused by service interruption also increase in a similar proportion.

According to the loss experience of Insurers, fires in wind turbines can cause significant damage to property and have very high post-fire costs.

Fire Loss in Wind Turbines Can Occur …

  • in the nacelle ;
  • in the tower ;
  • in the electrical sub-station of the wind turbine or wind farm.

Due to the high concentration of technical equipment and combustible material in the nacelle, fire can develop and spread rapidly.  There is also the danger that the upper tower segment will be damaged.  In the case of a total loss of the nacelle, restoration costs may well reach the original value of the whole turbine.

These ‘Preventable’ Fire Losses Are NOT Sustainable !

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PDF File, 601Kb – Click ‘CFPA-E Guideline’ link below to download.

Which is why, in September 2012, the European Fire Protection Associations decided to publish a common guideline in order to ensure similar interpretations in the different European countries … and to give examples of acceptable solutions, concepts and models.  The Confederation of Fire Protection Associations in Europe (CFPA-E) aims to facilitate and support fire protection work.

The European marketplace is constantly imposing new demands for quality and safety.  According to CFPA-E, fire protection forms an integral part of a modern business strategy for survival and competitiveness.  We thoroughly agree !

This CFPA-E Guideline (No.22 – September 2012) on Wind Turbine Fire Protection in Europe – produced by VdS Schadenverhütung and drafted by Hardy Rusch – is primarily intended for those people responsible for fire safety in companies and organizations.  It is also addressed to fire services, consultants, safety companies, etc … so that, in the course of their work, they may be able to assist companies and organizations in increasing levels of fire safety.

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LEED, PassivHaus & BREEAM Housing ~ Atrocious Fire Safety !!

2016-04-11:  It Happened One Night !

And Maybe … if it hadn’t been that particular night, amidst all the festivities of New Year’s Eve 2015, we would never have heard about the Address Hotel Fire, in Dubayy (UAE).  A long search on the Internet afterwards led to the detailed, post fire analysis report on the 2014 Lacrosse Docklands Fire, in Melbourne (Australia) … followed by some more searching, and a very large can of worms opened up … similar nasty façade (external fabric) fires in many, many countries … involving large chunks of flaming debris falling from terrific heights, carried by the wind to a significant distance away from the building of fire origin.

Click to enlarge.

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Some people have tried to suggest that the only reason for these fires is inadequate building codes/regulations.  No … the reason for these fires is much more than that … it’s the ‘SYSTEM’ !   In other words, how the International Construction Sector is organized and goes about its ordinary, everyday activities and tasks.  We must also talk about poor quality design and construction … and a lack of stringent, independent enforcement of effective building codes/regulations and standards.  I have written this down many times before … Self-Regulation is NO Regulation !!

It is clearly and amply evident that Conventional Fire Engineering … as currently practiced, internationally … is no longer ‘fit for purpose’.  For discussion at SFE 2016 DUBLIN.  Check out the Fire Conference Website: www.sfe-fire.eu … and on Twitter: @sfe2016dublin

And First Here With The Latest Conference News:

  • A Late Abstract Submission to the Dublin Fire Conference next September 2016 will deal with the topic of Façade Fires in Tall & Not-So-Tall Buildings ;   and
  • SFE 2016 DUBLIN will, from today, be working in co-operation with the biggest fire exhibition in China – CFE 2016 – 6th International Fire Safety Exhibition in Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China (PRC).

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IN IRELAND … 2015 TERRACED HOUSING FIRE …

The general public was shocked and stunned, to put it mildly, by a very rapid and extensive 2015 Terraced Housing Fire on the outskirts of the Dublin Region …

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[ See my Blog, dated 2011-04-06 … about a different, but related, 2011 Terraced Housing Fire in Terenure, a suburb of Dublin City.]

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[ Fast forward from 2011 … overtaking Priory Hall (see my series of Blogs) … to Longboat Quay, a large residential development on the south bank of the River Liffey, which flows through the middle of Dublin.  A recent visual/surface inspection of one of the units there revealed not just a poor quality of construction … but a lack of care and attention, with a mixture of incompetence and ignorance thrown in for good measure.]

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Click to enlarge.

The 2015 Terraced Housing Fire, shown above, should not have been a surprise to the ‘System’ in Ireland.  Research carried out in the U.S.A., Belgium and The Netherlands since 2012, and a serious PassivHaus Apartment Fire in Köln, Germany, on the night of 5 February 2013  … have all shown that the modern home (highly insulated, airtight, packed with electronic equipment and wiring, and fast-burning synthetic furnishings, etc.) is the ‘perfect storm’ of fire conditions and outcomes.  More open residential design + increased fuel loads + new construction systems and materials = faster development of fires, much reduced times to flashover, far less time for occupant evacuation, particularly people with activity limitations … and shorter building collapse times.

The time to flashover in modern high-performance housing, i.e. Sustainable/Green/PassivHaus/Eco/LEED/Bio/+Energy/Low Carbon/BREEAM/Zero Carbon/SMART … can be 7 times faster than in conventional/legacy housing … or less than 5 minutes, compared with just over 29 minutes !

All of this research can be found on the Links & Docs Page of the SFE 2016 DUBLIN Website.

Let us be crystal clear … there is nothing Sustainable/Green/PassivHaus/Eco/LEED/Bio/+Energy/Low Carbon/BREEAM/Zero Carbon/SMART about the post-fire scenes of destruction shown above.  And only for the physical separation between terraces, which can be clearly seen in the last photograph … the fire would have kept spreading.

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URGENT FIRE SAFETY RECOMMENDATIONS …

Without a balanced, proper approach to the issue of Fire Safety in this type of modern, high-performance housing … occupant safety is seriously threatened.  And if, in the event of a fire incident, the occupants are asleep … or people with activity limitations are living in the house … that threat will be extremely grave indeed.

Reality – Reliability – Redundancy – Resilience !

So … what needs to change ?   In Ireland, our immediate problem is Timber-Framed Housing (as shown above) … and the following is an outline of what must change … NOW !

  1. Party Walls, i.e. the walls separating one house from another, must be constructed of solid masonry, with a uniform and uncompromised thickness of at least 200mm … plastered on both sides, not dry-lined, for adequate smoke resistance … and be continued above the roof covering for at least 300mm.
  2. An effective Fire Detection System must be installed.  The conventional ‘package’ of one smoke detector per floor in the hallway and staircase of a standard 2 storey semi-detached house is nowhere near being adequate.
  3. An effective Residential / Domestic Fire Suppression System must be installed, e.g. low pressure water mist.  See later post, dated 2016-06-13, for a costed notional installation.
  4. If there is a Controlled Ventilation System, either mechanical or natural, in the house (for the purposes of air quality, heat exchange and energy conservation), it must be linked to the fire detection system.  In the event of a fire incident, the Ventilation System must immediately cease operation, and remain ‘fully open’.  This is in order to mitigate the build-up of high positive pressure, within a confined airtight space, caused by a developing fire … and to provide an exhaust route for smoke and toxic gases … during the short period of time prior to activation of the fire suppression system.
  5. Intermediate Timber Floors and Evacuation Routes, including fire resisting doorsets, must be reliably protected from fire and smoke.  The minimum period of fire and smoke resistance must be linked to local fire service support infrastructure.  In other words, the local fire services must be allowed sufficient time to arrive at the scene of a fire in strength … to search for any occupants still remaining in the fire building … and to bring the fire under control.
  6. Uppermost Ceilings under a trussed timber roof structure, including any trap doorsets into the roof space, must be similarly and reliably protected from fire and smoke.  Once fire enters a roof space, the light trussed timber structure will collapse within a few minutes.
  7. Front and Back Entrance/Egress Doors must be outward opening.  In the 2013 German PassivHaus Apartment Fire, the occupant found it extremely difficult to open inward opening doors and windows because of the high positive pressure caused by the developing fire.  This unusual phenomenon was confirmed in the 2015 Finnish Apartment Fire Tests, when much higher positive pressures were observed.
  8. Internal Linings of External Walls must comprise 2 layers of plasterboard, with all joints staggered … steel fixed, at not more than 150mm centres.  Once fire breaches the internal lining of an external wall, the whole building will become involved in the fire.  Horizontal and vertical fire sealing behind these linings, even if properly installed (!), are too little and too late.
  9. Frontline Firefighters must be supported by specialist structural engineering and hazard appraisal units … and light/portable/reliable Thermal Imaging Cameras must be recognized as a standard tool of firefighting.

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SUSTAINABLE HOUSING & RESIDENTIAL BUILDINGS …

These building types are more popularly known as Green, PassivHaus / Passive House, LEED, Eco, Bio, BREEAM, +Energy, Zero / Low / Nearly Zero Carbon, or SMART, etc., etc, etc.   In ALL of these cases, however, an Effective Residential Fire Suppression System MUST BE INSTALLED, e.g. low pressure water mist !

In everyday practice … Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s), and the Organizations and Individuals responsible for the far-too-rapid construction of these innovative building types are either completely and blissfully ignorant, or callously and negligently in denial, about the seriously negative impacts on Occupant & Firefighter Fire Safety and Building Fire Protection.

BUT … slowly … more and more reliable evidence is being gathered !   Please visit the Links & Docs Page on: www.sfe-fire.eu … and also view this Presentation on some very interesting 2015 Apartment Fire Tests in Finland: www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ss_ONolzLY

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ENERGY CONSERVATION & EFFICIENCY UPGRADING OF EXISTING BUILDINGS …

In refurbishment projects where insulation is fixed to the internal surfaces of external walls … similar fire safety problems exist, and they must be solved by reviewing the full checklist above.  Refer again to the PassivHaus Apartment Fire in Köln, Germany, on the night of 5 February 2013 … and to the 2015 Apartment Fire Tests in Finland

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