media

CUBA: Still a Target for Ill-Informed Media Opinion & Hysteria !?!

2017-02-21:  The day after the death of Fidel Castro Ruz, Revolutionary Leader and Former President of Cuba … Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, issued a News Release on 26 November 2016, which can be viewed here … http://www.president.ie/en/media-library/news-releases/P24

Media reaction, in Ireland, to this News Release was hysterical and grossly ill-informed !

“A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery ;  it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous.  A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.”

Mao Zedong

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So here are some images from the ‘real’ Cuba … or ‘real’ images from Cuba … whichever you prefer …

Fidel Castro was one of the Principal Leaders of the Cuban Revolution.  Raul Castro, President of Cuba (and Fidel’s brother), is now the only surviving member of that Group.  Click to enlarge.  [M-26-7 = Movimiento 26 de Julio. See below.]

In 1961, the United States of America attempted a Counter-Revolutionary Invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs.  This attempt was an embarrassing failure for the USA … but a resolute and consolidating success for Cuba and the Revolution.  Photograph by CJ Walsh of a museum exhibit at Playa Giron.  2007-04-13.  Click to enlarge.

Playa Giron … one of the 1961 Invasion landing areas in the Bay of Pigs.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-13.  Click to enlarge.

Every group of houses … every street in a community … has its own Committee for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR) … an important cohesive feature in a Socially Resilient Society.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-04.  Click to enlarge.

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Hatuey, Indigenous ‘Taino’ Chief … Cuba’s First National Hero … burned at the stake in 1512 by Spanish soldiers … at Yara, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-10.  Click to enlarge.

Monument dedicated to Perucho Figueredo, who wrote the Cuban National Anthem: ‘La Bayamesa’ … in Bayamo, Cuba.  The Anthem was first played in a local church, 1868.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-10.  Click to enlarge.

Statue of General Antonio Maceo … Plaza de la Revolución … in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-09.  Click to enlarge.

Mausoleum of José Martí, Santa Ifigenia Cemetery … in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-09.  Click to enlarge.

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Moncada Army Barracks (formerly) … now a school and museum … in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.  On 26 July 1953, an attempted attack on the Barracks, led by Fidel Castro, failed.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-09.  Click to enlarge.

The Sierra Maestra Mountains … in Eastern Cuba … birthplace of the second, successful phase of the Cuban Revolution … which began with the landing of the Granma in December 1956.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-10.  Click to enlarge.

Early photograph of Dr. Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara de la Serna Lynch, in Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh of a museum exhibit in Yara.  2007-04-10.  Click to enlarge.

1958 Armoured Train Ambush Site & Monument … in Santa Clara, Cuba.  The successful ambush, on 29 December, was led by Che Guevara.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-14.  Click to enlarge.

Bosque de los Héroes … Santiago de Cuba, Cuba … white marble monument in honour of Che Guevara and the comrades who died with him (1967) in Bolivia.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-08.  Click to enlarge.

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José Martí Statue, Parque Central … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-03.  Click to enlarge.

The Capitolio … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-03.  Click to enlarge.

Statue of the Republic, Capitolio … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-04.  Click to enlarge.

Salón de los Pasos Perdidos, Capitolio … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-04.  Click to enlarge.

Gran Teatro de La Habana … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-03.  Click to enlarge.

El Floridita Bar & Restaurant … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-07.  Click to enlarge.

Main Staircase, Museo de la Revolución (formerly the Presidential Palace) … in Havana, Cuba.  Notice the bullet holes in the marble !  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-06.  Click to enlarge.

Salón de los Espejos, Museo de la Revolución (formerly the Presidential Palace) … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-06.  Click to enlarge.

Paseo del Prado … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-03.  Click to enlarge.

The Malecón … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-07.  Click to enlarge.

Ministerio del Interior, Plaza de la Revolución … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-04.  Click to enlarge.

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Mural de la Prehistoria (1959-62, and restored in 1980), by Cuban painter Leovigildo González, in the Valle de Viňales … Pinar del Rio, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-05.  Click to enlarge.

Tobacco Harvest … in Pinar del Rio, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-05.  Click to enlarge.

Statue of Benny Moré (1919-63) … Cuban singer, bandleader and songwriter … Paseo del Prado, Cienfuegos, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-14.  Click to enlarge.

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International Work Brigade (December 2011 – January 2012) at the Campamento Internacional Julio Antonio Mella … in Caimito, Cuba.  Click to enlarge.

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Fire Evacuation Use of Lifts/Elevators, Escalators & Travellators !!

2016-05-16:  Media coverage of the Brussels Hive Attack, on 22 March 2016 … and, more recently, my own experience travelling in the Rome Metro, where the lines have been constructed deep in the ground to avoid the city’s vast and rich archaeological heritage … made me seriously wonder about how vulnerable users of the built environment can possibly cope in emergencies.

Escalators (moving stairs) and Travellators (horizontal moving walkways) are very common in public buildings.  They greatly facilitate convenient and comfortable circulation for everybody … especially in large, extensive and complex building types.  Escalators are absolutely essential in metro environments, both for access and egress.

Escalators which are static … which don’t move, for one reason or another … are dangerous.  The rise of steps in the main part of the escalator is usually very high, too high for any type of public building … and at the top and bottom of the escalator, the step rise varies dramatically … which is a recipe for trips and falls, particularly in any sort of emergency.

AND … we know that during a fire emergency in a building, many people will attempt to evacuate that building by re-tracing their route of entry … whatever the hazard and wherever it is located.

Too many Standards and Guideline Documents take the easy option … and recommend that lifts/elevators, escalators and travellators should all be shut down during emergencies, and their use prevented.  For the moment, I am thinking of just two examples:

  • European Standard EN 115: Safety of Escalators and Moving Walks – Part 1: Construction and Installation.  2008-05-29, including Amendment 1 2010-02-23.
  • Guidelines for the Safe Operation of Escalators and Moving Walks, published by the Safety Assessment Federation (GB), in consultation with the British Health & Safety Executive.  Issue 1, 2011-05-24.

These Recommendations … this Guidance, or Advice, or Whatever … show absolutely no consideration for the Safe Evacuation of People With Activity Limitations (2001 WHO ICF) in an Emergency.

These Recommendations … this Guidance, or Advice, or Whatever … are WRONG !

Subject to some simple requirements, e.g. a separate fire-protected electrical supply in each case, and appropriate management and fire service control, etc … Lifts/Elevators, Escalators and Travellators should all be available for use by people evacuating a building/facility during an emergency … and for use by firefighters accessing that same building/facility.

Building Designers, Fire Services & Standards Organizations … please take careful note !!

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‘Fire Safety for All’ Update: Dublin Declaration & Press Release

2015-02-01:  This important Event is still a few months away, but the following update will be of interest …. a mixture of some good news and some bad news …

Fire-Safety-4-All_smlTo Register / To Attend … please go to the Event WebSite: www.fire-safety-for-all.eu … places are limited in the New Conference Venue.

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1.  2015 Dublin ‘Fire Safety for All’ Declaration – A Call to Action & Successful Implementation !

From the beginning, we promised that this would not be a polite gathering in Dublin.  It will, instead, be a time for hard work and straight talking by everybody attending … and a good opportunity to have some fun also.  Dublin is a very ‘sociable’ city !

As an indication of our serious intent … please now download and examine the Proposed 2015 Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings (PDF File, 153 Kb) …

Proposed 2015 Dublin Declaration on 'Fire Safety for All' in Buildings

Proposed 2015 Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings

If you would like to comment on this document, or if you have any questions … please send an e-mail message to: fireox@sustainable-design.ie

Drafting of the CIB W14 Research Working Group V Reflection Document has already commenced.

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2.  Dublin Fire Safety for All Event’s First Press Release

A strong message from and about the Dublin Event must be widely disseminated at international and national levels … download and read / forward / circulate / publish FireOx International’s First Event Press Release (PDF File, 49 Kb), dated 1 February 2015 …

FireOx International's First Event Press Release

FireOx International’s First Event Press Release

Please help us to spread the word !

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3.  Embarrassment about Original Conference Venue

Accessibility of a Building … encompasses the complete cycle of independent use, in a dignified manner and on an equal basis with others … and includes the approach, entry and use of a building and its facilities, egress during normal conditions and removal from its vicinity … and, most importantly, safe evacuation during a fire incident to a place of safety which is remote from the building and reached by way of an accessible route.

As I write … Ireland has a truck load of accessibility-related National Building Regulations and EU Safety at Work Law (transposed at national level a long, long time ago).  We have strong Equality Law.  We have ease of access to accessibility-related International Standards (such as ISO 21542: 2011) and National Standards from other European Countries, North & South America, and Asia.  We have accessibility-related National Guidance Documents coming out of our ears, and easy access to all sorts of other guidance from around the world.  Lots and lots and lots and lots of paperwork, in digital and hardcopy formats !

Ireland today … is still one of only a few remaining countries which have yet to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the principal aim of which is to ensure that the Human Environment (including the built, social, economic, virtual and institutional environments) is sufficiently accessible for people with activity limitations to participate positively in all aspects of their local communities … a basic human right, which every able-bodied person takes for granted !

” This is not just a national disgrace, it is a huge embarrassment for our country when you consider that the European Union itself and most of the EU’s Member States have already ratified this UN Convention.”

AND … as I look around Dublin … the City is NOT accessible for its many vulnerable residents and foreign visitors !

Dublin Castle Printworks Building – Main Entrance

Colour photograph showing the Main Entrance to Dublin Castle’s Printworks Building.  Telepathy is required to be ‘aware’ that there is a ramp located way down at the far end of the building.  Notice the limited extent of ground tactile information at the bottom of the steps in the foreground, and the unmarked glazing on the left of the Entrance Doors above.

Are you sitting comfortably ?   Then I will tell you a short story … a ‘real’ story, not a fairy tale … about the Original Conference Venue …

Mr. Sean Sherlock, T.D., Minister of State at Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs with responsibility for Overseas Development Aid, has agreed to open the Event on the evening of Thursday, 9 April 2015.  All of Irish Aid’s Partner Countries in Africa have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Given the serious, socially transformative topic of this Conference … the Minister had also kindly offered to waive the fee for the hire of the Printworks Building in Dublin Castle – a very prestigious location in the City, and a building which was been extensively refurbished in time for Ireland’s recent Presidency of the European Union.  The audio-visual fit-out for this building is magnificently elaborate.  Most unfortunately, the building’s accessibility is entirely inadequate (‘ATROCIOUS’ would be a better word to describe it) !

Dublin Castle Printworks Building – Set Down Area

Colour photograph showing a marked Set Down Area at the front of Dublin Castle’s Printworks Building.  Bollards prevent a Taxi from dropping off a passenger, who uses a wheelchair, at the bottom of the ramp.

However, with the right attitude and positive co-operation from the Venue Management Team, many improvements to the building’s accessibility could have been made for the Conference.  From the beginning, however, the Management Team’s response to this issue was negative.

” It is entirely unacceptable that this State’s New and Heritage Building Stock is designed, constructed, and/or managed without a full and proper consideration … and successful implementation … of Accessibility for All and Fire Safety for All ! “

Dublin Castle Printworks Building – Main Entrance Steps

Colour photograph showing, from above, the Main Entrance Steps of Dublin Castle’s Printworks Building.  Also notice the hazardous lack of visual colour contrast in platform and step surfaces.

The Venue Management Team has refused to honour the Minister’s waiver.

Dublin Castle Printworks Building – Top of Ramp

Colour photograph showing the Top of the Ramp at the side of Dublin Castle’s Printworks Building.  Notice the lack of ground tactile information.

We have had no other option but to move the Conference and Workshop to a far better Venue just around the corner … the Radisson Blu Hotel in Golden Lane, Dublin.

Dublin Castle Printworks Building – Bottom of Ramp

Colour photograph showing the Bottom of the Ramp at the side of Dublin Castle’s Printworks Building.  Notice the difficult approach to the Ramp, and also no indication of where there are level surfaces to rest when using the Ramp.

A Building which is NOT Accessible is difficult, if not impossible, for everybody to evacuate during a real fire incident …

‘Rigorous enforcement of building codes and standards by state and local agencies, well trained and managed, is critical in order for standards and codes to ensure the expected level of safety.  Unless they are complied with, the best codes and standards cannot protect occupants, emergency responders, or buildings.’

(2005 U.S. NIST NCSTAR 1: Final Report on the Collapse of the World Trade Center Towers … Page 202, Chapter 9: Recommendations)

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United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

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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The Access Consultants for Dublin Castle were O’Herlihy Access Consultancy.

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To The Barricades ! … Creative Architecture In Context !!

2014-08-28:  Earlier this month … the final straw … as I caught up on a ‘piece’ in McGraw Hill’s Architectural Record … which reproduced an original, intriguing article from designMENA.com, posted on 12 August 2014, by Nick Ames …

Rebel Architects Star In New TV Show

Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera is to show a series of films focusing on radical architects from Pakistan, Brazil, Nigeria, Spain, Palestine and Vietnam.  The series – entitled ‘Rebel Architecture’ – focuses on architects using design to confront urban, environmental and social problems in their communities.

Dan Davies, producer of the series, said: “We couldn’t help noticing that despite all the problems afflicting humanity, many of which architecture uniquely has the ability to assist and even solve, most of the mainstream and architectural press celebrates the aesthetics of huge iconic projects, marvelling at insanely complicated ways to fold giant sheets of metal.”

“As we face issues from floods and natural disasters to an explosion of urban populations, soaring inequality and displacement through conflict, architecture seems wholly absent.  So we wanted to look beyond the discussion of the aesthetics of Star-chitecture and see what architects outside the mainstream are doing.”

The six-part series, which starts on 18 August, begins with a film documenting the work of Spanish architect Santiago Cirugeda, who uses his knowledge of planning law to occupy abandoned properties and to build structures on unused land.

It also features Pakistani architect Yasmeen Lari, who designs disaster relief shelters and Eyal Weizman, professor of spatial and visual cultures at Goldsmiths University, who explores the way the built environment is used as an instrument of occupation.

In Vietnam, the series follows Vo Trong Nghia, whose projects focus on open spaces and sustainable design, while in Nigeria, Kunlé Adeyemi has designed floating buildings to solve issues of flooding and overcrowding.

The final episode explores Rocinha, the largest favela in Brazil, with builder Ricardo de Oliveira, and master planner Luis Toledo.

“The rebel architects have to push boundaries, but they must also look beyond their own buildings,” said Davies.  “They start by looking at the wider context in which they live – be it Spain hit by the financial crisis, or Pakistan ravaged by floods – and work out how they can change the status quo with architecture.”

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I SAY …

Shouldn’t every Architect be concerned about the issues raised in Nick’s article ?   And if not … why not ??

Architecture is a wide and complex field of human creative, artistic and scientific endeavour.  Yet in the international and national media, both mainstream and architectural … it does appear, as presented, to be narrowly confined to the “aesthetics of huge iconic projects”, and “insanely complicated ways to fold giant sheets of metal”.  And the various media continue to focus on and enthusiastically applaud the current, outrageous phallic skyscraper contest in, for example, the Arab Gulf Region, China and South-East Asia … a contest which is actively promoted by such international organizations as the US-based Council on Tall Buildings & Urban Habitat.  [ I might add … with entirely insufficient attention being paid to fire safety, resilience and sustainability in those Super-Tall Buildings !! ]

If Santiago Cirugeda, Yasmeen Lari, Eyal Weizman, Vo Trong Nghia, Kunlé Adeyemi, Ricardo de Oliveira, and Luis Toledo are indeed Rebels … [ I would argue that they most definitely are not ] … and each one is working in isolation … then we must urgently instigate a Revolution

Creative Architecture In Context !!

 

PRINCIPAL BARRIER …

The Institutional Framework of Today’s Conventional Architecture … typically developed to promote and protect a 19th Century Model of Architectural Practice … exerts a powerful stranglehold over the architectural profession and the schools of architecture in many countries.  It is no longer ‘fit for purpose’ in the 21st Century !

Here in Ireland … a few days before reading the Nick Ames article … I attended a long Extraordinary General Meeting of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) … called by 10 Institute Members to demand urgent, concerted action from the Institute’s Council in response to the new and very flawed Building Control Amendment Regulations (Statutory Instruments Nos.9 & 105 of 2014), which came into effect from 1 March 2014.

Far from being an enlightening and pleasurable occasion … for many small reasons, it was annoying and frustrating.  The biggest reason of all, however, was that I saw no evidence whatever that either Council or the Membership understands the simple, fundamental truth that … self-regulation/self-certification does NOT work !

Refer back to my previous post.

The General Public in Ireland … also known as ‘The Long-Suffering Consumer’ … does not trust the Medical and Legal Professions to self-regulate, despite the vociferous protestations from both that their internal regulatory systems are packed-packed-packed with civilians.  Yes … ‘selected’ civilians !

That particular evening in the Davenport Hotel, Dublin … the RIAI’s Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) went nowhere … aided and abetted by Council Members at the head table. It was interesting to note that none of the 10 Institute Members who had called the meeting had a seat at that same table.

As we exit the Profound Economic Crisis following the Extravagant Celtic Tiger Years … and coldly look around us … we witness an architectural profession lost in a contextual wilderness – urban, environmental and social – while fumbling around in a legal and political maze.  And, every day, we experience a sprawling, ugly, depressing and unsustainable built environment which is engaged in a sad and brutal conflict with nature.

It has taken at least a generation … but the RIAI has directly overseen the slow and progressive dilution of what it means to be an Architect in Ireland.

Time for The Revolution … To The Barricades !!

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2012 Doha Shopping Mall Fire – 5 Jail Sentences for Negligence !

2013-07-19:  Once upon a time, back in 1979, when I was flying to Sydney, Australia … one of the scheduled stops on the route was Bahrain and the New International Airport Terminal there.  In spite of the flashy and expensive building, I noticed how obsolete looking (and functioning) were the fittings in the toilet area.  Could it possibly be, I wondered, that the Arab Gulf Region was being supplied with shoddy, second rate construction products from you-know-where ??

Fast forward to a few years ago … in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia … and I encountered one building – the same building – where one half had a 110 Volt electrical supply, and the other half had a 220 Volt supply.  Amazing !?!   Two different consultants, or contractors, or whatever … one from North America, and the other from Europe … with the Saudis in the middle, having to tolerate this nonsense !!

'Villaggio' Shopping Mall Fire (Doha City in Qatar) - 28 May 2012

Photograph taken by Brian Candy. 2012-05-28. Click to enlarge.

DOHA City Fire – Monday, 28 May 2012 …

I distinctly remember that some Irish people who had actually witnessed the Fatal Fire Incident at the ‘Villaggio’ Shopping Mall (www.villaggioqatar.com), in Doha (capital city of Qatar) … were afterwards talking to Mr. Joe Duffy, on the lunchtime ‘Liveline’ Programme (Ireland’s RTE Radio 1 Station).

19 People were killed on that Monday morning in Doha … 13 Children, 4 Teachers, and 2 Firefighters.  Many more were injured from inhaling toxic smoke.

According to various news reports … an electrical fire, caused by a light fitting (which was not ‘fit for its intended use’) in a Nike Shop, engulfed a section of the shopping centre … spreading to the Gympanzee Drop-and-Shop Childcare Centre on the first floor.

The staircase leading to the Childcare Centre collapsed … trapping victims inside.  One of their fire exits led directly to the seat of the fire, while the other fire exit was locked from the outside.

In addition, the ‘Villaggio’ – a luxury mock-Italian shopping centre (one of the most popular in the country !) where customers could ride around Venetian-style Canals, in Venetian-style Gondolas – was later found to be in breach of legislation because Essential Fire Safety Measures were either inadequate or missing, at the time of the fire: the fire sprinkler system was not working properly; inflammable paint and decorative mouldings were used in the construction; the building did not have effective fire evacuation procedures in place; the building was not equipped with proper fire-fighting equipment; and the fire alarm wasn’t loud enough.

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A Qatari Court – Thursday, 20 June 2013 …

The recent outcome from this Qatari Court Case has been nagging at me ever since I saw the news on Al Jazeera (English) … www.aljazeera.com

Only Some of the People having Control / Responsibility were convicted for the Negligence which resulted in the 19 Deaths, and many injuries, at the 2012 ‘Villaggio’ Fatal Fire Incident.

Four people received six-year jail terms, while the fifth received a five-year term.  All five are currently out on appeal, and will remain out of custody until the appeals process is completed.

Those convicted include Two Co-Owners of the Childcare Centre, and Members of the Mall’s Management Team.  Sheikh Ali Bin Jassim Al Thani, one of the co-owners, is also currently Qatar’s Ambassador to Belgium … while Iman Al-Kuwari, the other co-owner, is the daughter of Qatar’s Culture Minister.

Two other defendants, including the Mall’s Assistant Manager and Head of Security, were cleared of all charges.

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Other People having Control / Responsibility were also Careless, Incompetent, and Negligent …

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‘Sustainability’ – New Part 11 in India’s National Building Code !

2013-03-17:  Happy Saint Patrick’s Day !!

Submissions on India’s Draft Amendment No.1 to the 2005 National Building Code (SP 7:2005) concerning the Proposed Incorporation of a New Part 11: ‘Approach to Sustainability’ had to arrive at the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), in Dilli … by e-mail … no later than Friday last, 15 March 2013 …

Indian National Building Code Proposed New Part 11: 'Approach to Sustainability' - Cover Memo

Click to enlarge.

Indian NBC, Proposed Part 11 on ‘Sustainability’ – December 2012 Consultation

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Extract From Foreword (Page 7):

‘ Developed nations’ approach to sustainability generally concentrates on energy conservation through high technology innovations, and use of products, materials and designs with lower embodied energy.  Their green ratings are based on intent, which implies expert inputs and simulation.  The Indian construction industry will do better using our traditional wisdom and practices, building in harmony with nature through regional common knowledge, consuming as little as necessary, applying low cost technology innovations, using recycled materials, and recognizing performance (not intent) through easily measurable parameters wherever feasible.’

How Right They Are About Prioritizing ‘Real’ Performance !!

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And Just Before That Extract Above:

‘ The authentic (my insert !) Indian way of life is aparigraha (minimum possessions), conservation (minimum consumption), and recycling (minimum waste).  These three attributes are the guiding principles for sustainable buildings as well.  With these attributes and its rich heritage, India can make a substantial contribution in this field and eventually lead the world on the path of sustainability.’

An Overly Ambitious Target ?   Perhaps Not.

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SDI Supporting India’s National Sustainable Buildings Strategy …

We very much welcome this opportunity to make a Submission on India’s Draft Amendment No.1 to the 2005 National Building Code (SP 7:2005) concerning the Proposed Inclusion of a New Part 11 ‘Approach to Sustainability’.

This IS an important development for India … and it DOES mark a substantial contribution to this field, at international level.  We wish that other countries would follow your example … particularly China, the other mushrooming economies in South-East Asia, and the Arab Gulf States.

You may not be aware that Sustainable Design International (SDI) has been specializing in the theory and implementation of a Sustainable Human Environment (social, built, virtual, and economic) since the mid-1990’s.

And, for example … in September 2007, we were invited to make a series of Keynote Presentations to 20 Senior National Decision-Makers, from both the public and private sectors, at a 2-Day Workshop which was organized for us in Lisboa, Portugal.  If invited, we would be delighted to repeat this valuable exercise in Dilli, Bengaluru, and other suitable venues in India.

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IF India is to lead the world on this particular track, i.e. Sustainable Buildings, a coherent philosophy must be outlined in the Proposed New Part 11 of the National Building Code, and a clear direction must also be given there to decision-makers, e.g. clients/client organizations, and designers.

Certain essential content must be included in Part 11.  With regard to an improved layout of Part 11, please review the attached  SDI Document: ‘SEED Building Life Cycle’ (PDF File, 55 Kb) .

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Because you have prioritized ‘real’ building performance over pre-construction design ‘intent’, it is appropriate to begin our comments here …

1.   Sustainability Performance Indicators

In order to prioritize ‘real’ performance, the monitoring of actual sustainability performance in completed and occupied buildings must be comprehensive, accurate and reliable.  Indicators of sustainability performance must, therefore, be included in all sections of the Proposed New Part 11.

Sustainability Performance Indicators provide important signposts for decision-making and design in many ways.  They can translate physical and social science knowledge into manageable units of information which facilitate the decision-making and design processes.  They can help to measure and calibrate progress towards sustainable development goals, and sectoral sustainability targets.  They can provide an early warning to prevent economic, social and environmental damage and harm.  They are also important tools to communicate ideas, thoughts and values because, as statisticians say: “We measure what we value, and value what we measure”.

Performance Indicators may be both quantitative and qualitative … but must cover all stages of the building process, i.e. project feasibility and performance specification, spatial planning, design, construction, management, operation, maintenance and servicing, de-construction, disposal, final site clean-up and sustainable repair.

While many, though not all, types of building performance can be successfully monitored using lightweight portable equipment … a certain number of monitoring devices must also be permanently installed in the building during construction.  A facility to reliably feed the output from these devices back to data collection points, on site and remote, must also be incorporated in the Building’s Intelligent Management System.

Management and collation of sustainability performance data must be reliable.  Uncertainty is always present.  Therefore, Statements of Uncertainty should always be attached to ‘reliable’ data.

Safety Factors should always be included when targeting critical ‘health and safety’ related types of performance.

Sustainability Performance Indicators must be directly comparable across different Global Regions … within Asia, across different countries … and within India, across different States.  A Balanced, Harmonized Core Set of Indian Performance Indicators should be quickly developed.  A Balanced ‘Local’ Set of Performance Indicators will always be necessary.

People tasked with monitoring sustainable building performance must be competent … and independent, i.e. be unconnected to client, design and construction organizations.

Specifically in relation to Energy Performance, the targets to be achieved in new buildings must be far more ambitious.  Please review the attached  SDI Document: ‘SEED Positive Energy Buildings’ (PDF File, 29 Kb) .

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2.   Properly Defining ‘Sustainable Development’

As currently drafted … Definition 2.26 Sustainable Development, on Page 13 of the Proposed New Part 11, is not only ambiguous, it is inadequate for India’s needs … and it is barely the first half of the full, correct definition …

Sustainable Development  is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.  It contains within it two key concepts:

  • the concept of ‘needs’, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given ;  and
  • the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.

[ Please refer to the 1987 Report of the World Commission on Environment & Development (WCED): ‘Our Common Future’ – Chapter 2, Paragraph 1.]

This original definition in the 1987 WCED Report IS appropriate for India … and it must become the core definition at the heart of India’s National Sustainable Buildings Strategy !

A careful reading of the full definition makes it clear that there are Many Aspects to this intricate, open, dynamic and still evolving concept … the most important of which are:  Social, Economic, Environmental, Institutional, Political, and Legal.

It is a Fundamental Principle of Sustainability, and one of its Primary Values … that Implementation must be Synchronous, Balanced and Equitable across All Aspects of Sustainability.

The ‘Green Agenda’ merely considers Environmental Aspects of Sustainability … in isolation from all of the other Aspects !   This is a fatal flaw which must be avoided in the Proposed New Part 11 !!

[ I made many references to this issue during the FSAI Conferences in India ! ]

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3.   Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) for India !

Rather than Environmental Impact Assessment … surely the Proposed New Part 11: ‘Approach to Sustainability’ must now use, explain and discuss Sustainability Impact Assessment instead !?!

Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA)

A continual evaluation and optimization assessment – informing initial decision-making, or design, and shaping activity/product/service realization, useful life and termination, or final disposal – of the interrelated positive and negative social, economic, environmental, institutional, political and legal impacts on the synchronous, balanced and equitable implementation of Sustainable Human & Social Development.

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4.   A Robust Legal Foundation for ‘Sustainable Human & Social Development’

Paragraph 4 (Chapter 2, 1987 WCED Report) states …

‘ The satisfaction of human needs and aspirations is the major objective of development.  The essential needs of vast numbers of people in developing countries – for food, clothing, shelter, jobs – are not being met, and beyond their basic needs these people have legitimate aspirations for an improved quality of life.  A world in which poverty and inequity are endemic will always be prone to ecological and other crises.  Sustainable development requires meeting the basic needs of all and extending to all the opportunity to satisfy their aspirations for a better life.’

Trying to list the essential needs of people / the basic needs of all is a very difficult task … but it is work which has been on-going, at international level, since just after the Second World War.

The essential needs of people / the basic needs of all … are specified as being Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and are already fully described within the extensive framework of International Legal Rights Instruments.

Which is why, many years ago, SDI developed this definition for Sustainable Human & Social Development … in order:

  • to give this concept a robust legal foundation ;   and
  • (because of widespread confusion in media, political and academic circles) … to clearly establish that we are talking about sustainable human and social development, and not sustainable economic development, or any other type of development !

Sustainable Human & Social Development

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

*As defined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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5.   Climate Change Adaptation & Resilient Buildings in India ?

Atmospheric Ozone Depletion and Climate Change are mentioned, here and there, in the Proposed New Part 11.  The important implications of these phenomena for Sustainable Building Design in India are not explained … at all.  Why not ?

To properly respond to these phenomena, both must be integrated into India’s National Sustainability Strategies & Policies.

At the very least … we strongly recommend that Design Guidance on Climate Resilient Buildings be immediately drafted.  This guidance must be appropriate for implementation in each of the different climatic regions of India.

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6.   A Sustainable Indian Built Environment which is Accessible for All !

Barrier Free is mentioned, here and there, in the Proposed New Part 11.  This is to be warmly welcomed and congratulated.  Under Social Aspects of Sustainable Human & Social Development … this is an essential attribute of a Sustainable Built Environment !   However, no guidance on this subject is given to decision-makers or designers.  Why not ?

However, you should be aware that India ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) on 1 October 2007.  For your convenience, I have attached copies of the Convention in English, Hindi and Tamil.

You should also be aware that, in December 2011, the International Standards Organization (ISO) published ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’.  In its Introduction, ISO 21542 is directly linked to the U.N. Convention … almost like an umbilical cord.  The scope of this Standard currently covers public buildings.  As the Accessibility Agenda in the U.N. Convention is very broad … much standardization work remains to be finished at international level.

The correct term … Accessibility for All … has been defined in ISO 21542 as including … ‘access to buildings, circulation within buildings and their use, egress from buildings in the normal course of events, and evacuation in the event of an emergency’.

A note at the beginning of the standard also clarifies that Accessibility is an independent activity, i.e. assistance from another person should not be necessary … and that there should be an assurance of individual health, safety and welfare during the course of those (accessibility-related) activities.

In order to fulfil India’s legal obligations as a State Party to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities … adequate Design Guidance on Accessibility must be included in the Proposed New Part 11, supported by ISO 21542.

In addition, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) should immediately adopt ISO 21542 as the Indian National Standard on Accessibility for All … IS / ISO 21542.

[ I made many references to this issue during the FSAI Conferences in India ! ]

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7.   Fire Safety & Protection for All in Sustainable Indian Buildings ?

Yes … there is 1 mention of ‘fire safety’ and 40 other references to ‘fire’ in the Proposed New Part 11 … but no design guidance.  Why not ?

You should be aware that there is a fundamental conflict between Sustainable Building Design Strategies and the current state-of-the-art in Fire Engineering Design.  As a good example … for cooling, heating and/or ventilation purposes in a sustainable building, it is necessary to take advantage of natural patterns of air movement in that building.  On the other hand, fire engineers in private practice, and fire prevention officers in Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s), will demand that building spaces be strictly compartmented in order to limit the spread of fire and smoke … thereby dramatically interfering with those natural patterns of air movement.

In everyday practice, there is a vast chasm in understanding and communication between these two very different design disciplines.  As a result, serious compromises are being enforced on Sustainability Building Performance.  If, on the other hand, adequate independent technical control is absent on the site of a Sustainable Building … it is the fire safety and protection which is being seriously compromised.

A range of critical fire safety issues (fatal, in the case of firefighters) are also arising with the Innovative Building Products and Systems being installed in Sustainable Buildings.

Because the emphasis is on pre-construction design ‘intent’ rather than the ‘real’ performance of the completed and occupied building … all of these problems are being conveniently ignored, and they remain hidden from everybody’s view.

This must be addressed in the Proposed New Part 11.

[ I made many references to this issue during the FSAI Conferences in India ! ]

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C. J. Walsh – Consultant Architect, Fire Engineer & Technical Controller – Managing Director, Sustainable Design International Ltd. – Ireland, Italy & Turkey.

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END

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Recent Fatal Fire at a Disabled Workshop in SW Germany

2012-11-28:  On Monday last, 26 November 2012 … Fire broke out at a Sheltered Workshop for People with Activity Limitations, located in the small municipality of  Titisee-Neustadt, south-western Germany … not too far from the borders of France and Switzerland.  It was approximately 14.00 hrs in the afternoon … in broad daylight.

German news reports put the death toll at 14 People, including 1 Carer … with 10 People injured.

News reports also state that it took 2 Hours for Firefighters to bring this incident under control.  At the time that Photograph 1, below, was taken … smoke had spread throughout a major part of the building.

Viewers should look closely at the top of the external staircase … then, ask yourselves how any person with an activity limitation can be safely rescued, or assisted to evacuate, by means of a ladder (obscured, at the end of the building on the left) … and, finally, notice the positioning of fire hoses on the ground and on the staircase … some of the many issues which have been discussed extensively here before …

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

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2005 NIST(USA) Final Report on 9-11 World Trade Center 1 & 2 Tower Collapses

–  Recommendation  #17b  –

 To the degree possible, people with activity limitations should be provided with a means for self-evacuation in the event of a building emergency.  Current strategies (and law) generally require these people to shelter-in-place and await assistance.  New procedures, which provide redundancy in the event that the fire warden system or co-worker assistance (e.g. the buddy system) fail, should consider full building evacuation, and may include use of fire-protected and structurally hardened elevators, motorized evacuation technology, and dedicated communication technologies.

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At the heart of the impressive show of fire fighting equipment and technology … and the usual reassuring statements by local officials and other people in authority after the event … there is an equally impressive lie …

Photograph by Patrick Seeger(dpa). Click to enlarge.

Photograph by Patrick Seeger(dpa). Click to enlarge.

Current Building Codes and Regulations, Fire Safety Standards, Building Design Practices, and Building Management Procedures … do not seriously consider the safety of People with Activity Limitations … not properly – not adequately – not even INadequately.  Tokenism is the best offer available in just a few European countries.

Photograph by Patrick Seeger(dpa). Click to enlarge.

Photograph by Patrick Seeger(dpa). Click to enlarge.

According to Spiegel OnLine International …

The rescue was difficult because some people panicked, said Local Fire Chief Alexander Widmaier.  “We are dealing here with people who naturally do not respond rationally”, he said.

IF this is an accurate news report, and bearing in mind that it is also a translation … I SAY …

Let us be generous and kind … Local Fire Chief Alexander Widmaier has NO awareness or understanding of People with Activity Limitations and the daily challenges they face in moving around and using a built environment which is inaccessible and unsafe.

According to AFP OnLine …

Gotthard Benitz, of the Titisee-Neustadt fire service, told AFP earlier that the fire began on the ground floor of the building which also had a basement and an upper floor.

“The victims were all on the same floor where the fire was”, he said adding this was the only area to have sustained fire damage and the stairwell had remained smoke-free meaning those on the other two floors had been able to use it.

He also said firefighters were prepared for dealing with an emergency at the workshop as practice fire alarms were regularly carried out there, with the last one having been last year.

The head of Caritas in Germany, Peter Neher, told ZDF public television that emergency practice drills were done regularly.

IF this is an accurate news report, and bearing in mind that it is also a translation … I SAY …

Gotthard Benitz should also look at the top of the external staircase in Photograph 1 above.  IF there are no circulation hazards, e.g. ice, or obstacles, e.g. fire hoses … able-bodied people can easily go up or down a staircase … people who use wheelchairs or other mobility-aid devices cannot.

In their respective positions of responsibility … Gotthard Benitz and Peter Neher should both understand that all building occupants must be facilitated in acquiring the skill of evacuation to a ‘place of safety’, by way of a safe and accessible route.  An emergency practice drill, although carried out regularly once a year … is ENTIRELY inadequate … and will achieve Very Little.

Skill:  The ability of a person – resulting from training and regular practice – to carry out complex, well-organized patterns of behaviour efficiently and adaptively, in order to achieve some end or goal.

Standard fire evacuation training and practice drill procedures must be adapted to the individual-specific abilities of People with Activity Limitations.

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BUT … the new International Standard ISO 21542 is a very small step in the right direction.  See yesterday’s post.

This situation will only improve to a significant degree, however, when People with Activity Limitations, and their Representative Organizations, begin to act decisively, in unison, and with serious intent …

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Self-Protection from Fire in Buildings – Personal Check List for People with Activity Limitations

1.     Upgrade ‘My’ understanding of Accessibility

Ease of independent approach, entry, egress, evacuation and/or use of a building and its services and facilities, by all of the building’s potential users – with an assurance of individual Health, Safety and Welfare during the course of those activities ;

2.     Be assertive (not aggressive) with regard to ‘My’ own self-protection in emergency situations ;

3.     Concerning ‘My’ safety … demand that Building Management actively engages in Meaningful Consultation – and receives your Informed Consent ;

4.     Become familiar with the Fire Defence Plan for the building, and know ‘My’ part well ;

5.     Practice – practice – practice … become skilled in evacuation to a Place of Safety ;

6.     Become involved, and participate directly in the Building’s Safety Procedures.

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Self-Protection from Fire in Buildings  – Must-Do List for Representative Organizations & Groups

1.     Upgrade ‘Our’ understanding of Accessibility in a Social Context, its Current Vocabulary, and its Complexity … groups of individuals wish to socialize together … this is now, afterall, a recognised human and social right !

Ease of independent approach, entry, egress, evacuation and/or use of a building and its services and facilities, by all of the building’s potential users – with an assurance of individual Health, Safety and Welfare, and group Wellbeing, during the course of those activities ;

2.     Be assertive (and aggressive) with regard to the availability of proper Data and Statistics – we must clearly identify ‘Our’ problem with the many restrictions placed on our participation in local communities ;

3.     Produce a working statement of an Individual’s Rights – on 1 Page (!) ;

4.     Issue clear guidelines on Reliable Advocacy ;

5.     Become involved, and participate directly in the improvement of Building Codes and Regulations, Fire Safety Standards, Building Design Practices, and Building Management Procedures ;

6.      Demand resources to Monitor ‘Effective’ Implementation … and Target Relevant and ‘Practical’ Research.

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END

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Fixing ‘Priory Hall’ in Dublin – Practical Solutions Needed Now !

2011-10-18:  A large ‘can of worms’ has recently been opened in Ireland …

For the last few days, including today, I have been listening intently to Joe Duffy on the RTE Radio ‘Liveline’ Programme at lunchtime.  Joe is being very cautious because he cannot quite believe his ears … either about the unfolding harrowing events for occupants in ‘Priory Hall’, Donaghmede, Dublin 13 – a Private, Multi-Storey Apartment Development – or the tales and anecdotes about Irish Building Sites during the Celtic Tiger Years.

This will be of no consolation to anybody … but the big surprise, for me, is that there is so much public shock.  ‘Priory Hall’ is the Tip of the Iceberg !   Ireland’s current dysfunctional approach to the development of Our(!) Built Environment … has been designed (for want of a better word) in a chaotic, haphazard and malevolent way … to end up in exactly the sort of mess which we are all now witnessing in North County Dublin.

Just to be clear … what has been happening in the Irish Construction Industry, during the boom years, has been happening for twenty years all over the country … more precisely, since the introduction of Legal National Building Regulations, with NO Effective Building Control, in 1991 … and, before that again, in those parts of this jurisdiction, outside of the major urban areas having Legal Building Bye-Laws, and Effective Building Control, i.e. mandatory inspections by competent local authority personnel at the foundation level and drainage level of all building sites … and, depending on the type of project, occasional or frequent inspections above ground level.

[ 1991:  Statutory Instrument No.304 of 1991 – Building Control Act, 1990 (Commencement Order), 1991;  Statutory Instrument No.305 of 1991 – Building Control Regulations, 1991;  Statutory Instrument No.306 of 1991 – Building Regulations, 1991 ]

And the biggest joke of all … is that the sum of the many resources, both human and material, required to repair sub-standard construction throughout Ireland … will count as a positive contribution towards the economic indicator of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) !   FUBAR

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Colour photograph showing 'Priory Hall' ... a private, multi-storey apartment development located in North County Dublin, Ireland. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing 'Priory Hall' ... a private, multi-storey apartment development located in North County Dublin, Ireland. Click to enlarge.

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PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS NEEDED NOW

What I have not been hearing from the radio, or reading in the newspapers, is practical solutions.

Lest there be any doubt … this is one of the professional services we provide at Sustainable Design International !

So … how do we fix Priory Hall as the situation now presents itself … in such a way that, as soon as it is practicable, a satisfactory level of long-term safety, protection, convenience and comfort will be provided for the occupants of Priory Hall … and the social wellbeing of the local community, there, can be restored.

Afterwards … we can worry about who’s responsible, and about the reasons for the many ‘system’ failures in Ireland.

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FIXING ‘PRIORY HALL’ IN DUBLIN

The following list of practical suggestions … a simple roadmap … is addressed to the Owners and Occupants of Apartments in Priory Hall.

As they have a large vested interest in the problems of Priory Hall … either directly or indirectly … no assurances or undertakings should be accepted, on face value, from either Dublin City Council (DCC) or the Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government (DECLG) … or their representatives.

     1.  Informed Consent of Apartment Owners and Occupants

Demand that the Informed Consent of the Owner/Occupant of an Apartment is required, in writing, before any necessary Corrective/Repair/Refurbishment Works are carried out …

Informed Consent:  Consent freely obtained – without threats or improper inducements – after appropriate disclosure to a person of relevant, adequate and easily assimilated information in a form and language understood by that person.

     2.  ‘As Constructed’ Drawings & Specification of Entire Development

If they exist … we’re on the way !   But, if they don’t exist … and they may not … demand that an ‘As Constructed’ Survey of the Entire Development be carried out immediately.

Demand to see a copy of the Detailed ‘As Constructed’ Drawings, and Specification, for the Entire Development.

CHECK the adequacy of the Detailed Drawings and Specification !

At this stage, remember … all of the emphasis must now be placed on actual construction … not on paperwork !   The ‘As Constructed’ Survey Drawings and Specification are only a means towards a satisfactory end … that’s all !!

     3.  Failures to Properly Comply with Current Building Regulation Requirements A to M (Second Schedule to Irish Building Regulations)

Demand to see a Detailed Schedule of the many failures to properly comply with current Building Regulation Requirements, i.e. Parts A to M in the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations, as amended.

Do not entertain, even for a moment, any discussion about past legal building regulation requirements, which were in force at the time of initial design or construction !

An important point to note !   The Guidance Texts in, for example, Technical Guidance Document B: ‘Fire Safety’ are merely that … GUIDANCE !   This guidance is not infallible … and in a few respects, is entirely inadequate … for example, when dealing with the structural performance of buildings during conditions of fire, and the ‘cooling phase’ immediately afterwards … and the fire evacuation of people with activity limitations, in which case the guidance actually ensures that fire evacuation is made extremely difficult, if not prevented altogether !

Do not be sucked in to any conversations about what is stated, or not stated, in the Technical Guidance Documents.  This is irrelevant.  The Law mandates proper compliance with the Requirements !

Some people may even attempt to quote from the Building Regulation Approved Documents for England & Wales.  Just tell them to take a long jump off a short pier … suggest Howth Harbour !

Become very, very suspicious whenever there is a use of, or reference to, the term ‘Substantial Compliance’ !!

CHECK the adequacy of this Detailed Schedule !   And … ensure that it is Comprehensive !!

     4.  The Necessary Corrective/Repair/Refurbishment Works

Demand to see Full Detailed Information, in the form of annotated drawings and descriptive texts, etc., etc … on the exact nature, timetable and phasing of all of the Corrective/Repair/Refurbishment Works which are necessary to effectively solve the serious problems in the Development.

Beware of decorative solutions, which look good to a superficial visual inspection in ambient conditions … but don’t actually solve anything !

CHECK the adequacy of this Full Detailed Information !

     5.  Independent Technical Control of Construction Works

Demand only Category A Construction Execution of the necessary Corrective/Repair/Refurbishment Works …

Category A Construction Execution:

(a)  Supervision of the works is exercised by appropriately qualified and experienced personnel from the principal construction organization ;

(b)  Regular inspections, by appropriately qualified and experienced personnel familiar with the design and independent of the construction organization(s) … and other vested interests … are carried out to verify that the works are being executed in accordance with the design.

Demand receipt of a clear undertaking, in writing, that this will be the case … before any Corrective/Repair/Refurbishment Works commence.

And remember these words from the 2005 Final Report of the U.S. National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) on the 9-11 World Trade Center Tower Collapses …

” NIST urges state and local agencies to rigorously enforce building codes and standards since such enforcement is critical to ensure the expected level of safety.  Unless they are complied with, the best codes and standards cannot protect occupants, emergency responders, or buildings.”

CHECK the adequacy of the Proposed Method of Independent Technical Control during execution of the Corrective/Repair/Refurbishment Works !

     6.  Meeting & Discussion with Other Owners/Occupants

Do not act alone … meet the other Owners/Occupants, and discuss issues with them.  Share and collate all available information together.  Try to identify information gaps.  If you do not understand something … ask !

When, and only when, you are happy … signal your Informed Consent that works should commence.

     7.  Commencement of Corrective/Repair/Refurbishment Works

Visit the Construction Site Office regularly … to show that you are taking a keen interest in what is happening.  Keep your eyes and ears wide open.

Expect that you will not be permitted to just wander around the Site.  Construction Sites are one of the most hazardous ‘workplaces’ in this country !

CHECK the adequacy of the Independent Technical Control actually being undertaken.

Demand to be updated, regularly, and at the very least on the progress of Corrective/Repair/Refurbishment Works at your Apartment … in the Common Areas of your Block … and throughout the full extent of the Approach Routes to your Block Entrances and Exits.

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Advisory Note:  Should you, or the Residents’ Committee of your Building or Development, be concerned about any matter discussed in this Post … please contact C.J. Walsh  by e-mail: cjwalsh@sustainable-design.ie  or by phone: (01) 8386078 / +353 1 8386078.

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END  (for now, but to be continued soon !)

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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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