national law

U.S. Implementation of NIST’s 9-11 WTC Recommendations ?!?!

2016-05-05:  A Mickey Mouse Effort would be a polite way of describing the long drawn-out and tortuous process of implementing NIST’s Recommendations in the United States.  A better description might be … FUBAR !

15 Years After the 2001 WTC 9-11 Attacks in New York City … absolutely nothing has been done concerning the implementation of a significant number of Recommendations … other Recommendations have been only partially implemented, with many being limited to application in buildings over 128m high (420 feet in ye olde silly imperial units of measure), or else buildings over 22.86m high (75 feet) which have an occupant load exceeding 5,000 people or are essential facilities, e.g. hospitals.  And believe it or not, some implementing measures are still being challenged and they may yet be reversed in the years ahead.  Forget about discussing the already narrow Fire Safety Objectives in building codes/regulations, or Protecting Society, etc., etc.  In essence, it has all come down to that ‘durty’ four letter word: COST !

But read this 2011 Status Report for yourselves.  I have kept in touch with the current situation over there.

NIST’s WTC 9-11 Recommendations Status Report (2011-08-08) – PDF File, 330 Kb

Why should this matter ?

In 2005 & 2008, the U.S. National Institute of Standards & Technology issued a series of very important [ critical ] Recommendations on badly needed revisions to the Design – Construction – Management – Firefighting Procedures for Very High/Tall Buildings, High-Risk Buildings, Iconic Buildings, and Innovatively Designed Buildings.  Many, if not all, of these Recommendations were, and remain, just as valid and just as necessary in the case of other building types … whatever their height.

A lot of effort was expended here, a few years ago, on a detailed examination of the NIST Recommendations.  In one respect, the Recommendations have become dated and obsolete.  The recent 2016 Brussels and 2015 Paris Hive Attacks have altered how we must categorize and deal with buildings of ‘high-risk’.  From the start, however, the disability-related Recommendations only concerned mobility impaired building occupants … a serious flaw.

NIST does not have the legal authority to implement its own Recommendations within the United States.  However, implementation by the Model Code (e.g. IBC & NFPA) Organizations has been brutally slow and entirely inadequate.

And … it is very noticeable how so many other countries around the world are continuing  to completely ignore NIST’s Recommendations.  9-11 never happened !

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SFE 2016 DUBLIN – A Benchmark Fire Engineering Event !

2015-11-06 !   We are very pleased to announce that the Fire Safe Europe Alliancewww.firesafeeurope.eu … has become actively involved, together with Glasgow Caledonian University and FireOx International, in co-hosting SFE 2016 DUBLIN.  To facilitate the Network’s full engagement and provide sufficient time for promotion, etc … it was jointly agreed that the new dates for this Event shall be from 28-30 September 2016.

We have every confidence that SFE 2016 DUBLIN will now be a much better event … having a wider range of stakeholder participation.

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2015-06-29 …

Sustainable Fire Engineering – Effective Fire Safety for All in Sustainable Buildings !
28-30 September 2016      Dublin, Ireland
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www.sustainable-firengineering.ie  or  www.sfe-fire.eu
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Approved Regional Sustainable Built Environment Conference in the 2016-17 Series
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The Gresham Hotel, O’Connell Street, Dublin, Ireland

Céad Míle Fáilte (Hundred Thousand Welcomes) to Dublin, in Ireland … and to the First International Conference devoted to this complex subject !

The 21st Century has had a cruel and savage birth: extreme man-made events, hybrid disasters, severe natural events, complex humanitarian emergencies, with accelerating climate change and variability.  The old certainties are crumbling before our eyes …

The resolute Answer to these threats and the rapidly changing social and environmental needs of our world is Sustainable Fire Engineering !

•  SFE fulfils a critical role in the realization of a Safe, Resilient & Sustainable Built Environment for All ;
•  SFE facilitates positive progress towards the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals & 169 Performance Targets, which were adopted in September 2015 ;
•  SFE fast-tracks proper compliance with the Basic Requirements for Construction Works in the European Union’s Construction Products Regulation 305/2011 (Annex I), specifically the interlinked Requirements 7, 2, 1, 3 & 4.

Please join us in an informal, multidisciplinary and pre-normative forum … as we examine Sustainable Fire Engineering more deeply.Event Logo for SFE 2016 DUBLIN

INTRODUCTION to SFE 2016 DUBLIN

Fire Losses – both direct and indirect – amount to a very significant percentage of GDP in all economies, whether they are rich or poor … and result in enormous environmental damage and social disruption.  Fire Engineering, including Fire Prevention and Protection in Buildings, is a major multi-billion Euro/Dollar component of the Construction Industrial Sector – worldwide.

Unfortunately … a fundamental conflict exists between Sustainable Building Design Strategies and the fire safety responses adopted in today’s Conventional Fire Engineering.  To take a simple example: for cooling, heating or ventilation purposes in a Sustainable Building, it is necessary to take advantage of natural unobstructed patterns of air movement in that building.  On the other hand, fire engineers in private practice and control personnel in Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s) will demand that building spaces be tightly compartmented in order to limit the spread of fire and smoke … dramatically interfering with those natural patterns of air movement.

Unusual fire behaviour and a range of difficult fire safety issues (critical, in the case of firefighters) also arise from the Innovative Design Features (for example, ‘green’ roofs, elaborate intelligent façades) and Building Products / Systems (for example, photovoltaic panels) being installed in Sustainable Buildings.

A wide chasm separates the language and understanding of these two very different design disciplines.  As a result, the performance of Sustainable Buildings can be seriously compromised.  If, on the other hand, adequate independent technical control is absent on site … it is fire safety which is weakened.

And because, in most countries, the emphasis is placed on pre-construction design intent rather than the ‘real’ performance of the completed/occupied building … these problems are ignored and remain hidden … until a serious fire breaks out !

SUSTAINABLE FIRE ENGINEERING’s AIM

The Aim of Sustainable Fire Engineering is to dramatically reduce all direct and indirect fire losses in the Human Environment (including social, built, economic, environmental, virtual, and institutional) … and to protect the Natural Environment.

Towards Zero Preventable Fires in the Built Environment !

In essence … Sustainable Fire Engineering heavily front-loads Fire Prevention and Fire Protection Measures … above and beyond the minimal and very limited fire safety objectives mandated by current legislation.

SFE’s Key Concepts are … RealityReliabilityRedundancyResilience !

SFE Design Solutions are …

  • Adapted to local geography, climate change and variability, social need, economy, and culture ;
  • Reliability-based ;
  • Person-centred ;
  • Resilient.

SFE 2016 DUBLIN OBJECTIVES

1.  To initiate discussion and foster mutual understanding between the International Sustainable Development / Climate Change / Urban Resilience Communities and the International Fire Science & Engineering Community.
2.  To bring together today’s disparate Sectors within the International Fire Science and Engineering Community … to encourage better communication between each and trans-disciplinary collaboration between all.
3.  To transform Conventional Fire Engineering into an ethical and fully professional Sustainable Design Discipline which is fit for purpose in the 21st Century … meaning … that fire engineers can participate actively in a sustainable design process, and can respond creatively with sustainable fire engineering design solutions which result in Effective Fire Safety for All in Sustainable Buildings.
4.  To launch a CIB W14 Research Working Group VI Reflection Document: ‘Sustainable Fire Engineering Design & Construction’ … which will establish a framework for discussion on the future development of Sustainable Fire Engineering.

SFE 2016 DUBLIN WEBSITE

Today !   Visit the SFE 2016 DUBLIN Website at … www.sustainable-firengineering.ie  or  www.sfe-fire.eu

Download the Information on the Links Page … Review the wide range of Topics which will be examined and discussed at SFE 2016 DUBLIN … Submit an Abstract for a Paper … and Give serious consideration to becoming an Industry Exhibitor, or an Enlightened, Far-sighted Sponsor !!

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‘Fire Safety for All’: Open Call for Innovative Products & Systems

2015-02-02:  This is NOT … I repeat NOT … a small niche market in the Global Multi-Billion Euro Fire Safety & Protection Related Construction Industrial Sector !   This IS the whole nine yards !!

This is an Open Call for Innovative, Well-Designed Fire Safety / Protection and Accessibility Related Construction Products and Systems, Other Measures and Means, Mechanical and Electronic Devices, ETC, ETC, ETC, ETC !

This Call is particularly aimed at Manufacturers, Suppliers and Distributors in China, India, Japan, and Mainland Europe !

We want to see ‘Real’ Products and Systems, Measures and Means, Mechanical and Electronic Devices, ETC, ETC, ETC, ETC … not flashy brochures … at the 2015 Dublin ‘Fire Safety for All’ Industrial Exhibition, on 9 & 10 April !

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An Accessible Building is Safer, Easier to Use and More Comfortable for ALL Building Users

If Fire Safety for All is properly considered at Building Design Stage :
• Buildings are easier to understand (intuitive) during a Real Fire Evacuation
Fire Evacuation Routes (obvious) are easier to find and to use
• Everyone can safely evacuate a Building on Fire – no more tragic tales about people being left behind in multi-storey schools and offices
RealityReliabilityRedundancy – are the 3 Essential Keywords

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

So …

Grab a Bicycle – Get a Horse – Take a Train or a Plane – Come to Dublin in April !

Fire-Safety-4-All_smlTo Exhibit / To Sponsor … please go to the Event WebSite: www.fire-safety-for-all.eu

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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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2015 Paris Hive Attacks & Fire Engineering for Urban Resilience !

2015-01-31:  The beginning of this 21st Century is deeply unsettling … history is catching up on us, and old certainties are crumbling before our eyes …

The recent, extremely violent Paris Hive Attacks … which occurred between Wednesday and Friday (7-9 January 2015) … have again shown that co-ordinated attacks on a small number of carefully chosen, low-level targets can be just as effective in causing widespread social and economic disruption in a City as a single attack on a high-level target.  Search for our previous detailed discussion, here, on the 2008 Mumbai ‘Hive’ Attacks.

On this tragic occasion, the attacks happened in Europe … not, as before, in far-off India.

Following the 2001 WTC 9-11 Attacks in New York City … the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in 2005 and 2008, recommended that these Building Types should be treated as ‘Risk Priorities’ …

• Tall / High-Rise Buildings ;
• Iconic Buildings ;
• Buildings Having a Critical Function ;
• Buildings Having an Innovative Design.

However, a typical medium-rise office building (in Paris) and off-street supermarket do not fall into the above categories … another indication that the NIST Recommendations must soon undergo a thorough international review and updating.

In the real world, the whole urban and sub-urban infrastructure of a City is at risk from Extreme Man-Made Events … one more risk among significant others, i.e. Hybrid Disasters (e.g. 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident), Severe Natural Events (e.g. earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis) and Complex Humanitarian Emergencies (e.g. mass human migrations, regional famines).  And with 50% of the world’s population already living in Cities, and substantial urban population growth projected over the coming decades … it is clear that, in the short to medium term, Cities must become much more resilient.  Search for our continuing discussion, here, about Sustainable Urban Resilience.

In this context, compliance solely with the minimal and limited fire safety objectives in current national legislation – from whatever source around the world – is so far from being either adequate or acceptable … that it is no longer worth a moment’s consideration.

A Fire Engineering which is ‘fit for purpose’, i.e. is both ethical and professional, in today’s complex and dynamic Human Environment … has an essential and critical part to play in the realization of a Safe, Resilient and Sustainable Built Environment for All !

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Good Design Practice: ‘Fire Safety for All’ & EICT Accessibility

[ EICT’s = Electronic, Information & Communication Technologies ]

2014-10-13:  Electronic, Information and Communication Technologies have rapidly become an essential feature of the Built, Social and Economic Environments; they are everywhere.  During a fire incident, however, these e-Technologies serve a function which is critical for the safety of all building users and firefighters, property protection, minimizing environmental damage, and sustainability.  They must, therefore, have a user interface which is Accessible for All … from both ends.

This is a requirement of International Law … and an unambiguous National Requirement (expressed in the form of law and/or mandatory administrative provisions) in those jurisdictions which are States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

There is no European Standard (EN) on e-Technology Accessibility … and, in the European Union (EU), a coherent approach to the accessibility of even a modest range of EICT’s has not yet even been developed.

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Electronic, Information and Communication Technologies (EICT’s) must comply with Section 508 of the United States Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 … or with a suitable Standard/Guidance Document of another country which details an equivalent level of e-Accessibility performance.

U.S. Section 508 covers the following range of e-Technologies:

  • Software Applications & Operating Systems (1194.21) ;
  • Web-based Intranet and Internet Information and Applications (1194.22) ;
  • Telecommunications Products (1194.23) ;
  • Video and Multimedia Products (1194.24) ;
  • Self Contained, Closed Products (1194.25) ;
  • Desktop and Portable Computers (1194.26)

Source WebSite, Helpful Guidance & Support …

www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/communications-and-it/about-the-section-508-standards

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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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Building Materials, Irish Pyrite & Chinese Plasterboard – FUBAR !

2014-07-08:  Why do individuals and institutions wake up to a problem only when extensive damage to property, or horrendous injury to people, has already occurred … and the shit hits the fan … big time ?!?   What way is that to organize a society … or protect its communities ???

The Answer is Simple:  Prevention !   Not Cure … when damage cannot be effectively repaired … some injuries can never be healed … and it becomes very costly to do anything !!

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In Ireland … Part D of the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations, as amended, states the following …

Materials & Workmanship

Legal Requirement D1:  All works to which these Regulations apply shall be carried out with proper materials and in a workmanlike (i.e. competent) manner.

Definition of ‘Proper Materials’

Proper Materials:  Building/construction materials (or products, systems, assemblies, etc.) which are fit for the use for which they are intended and for the conditions/location in which they are to be used.

Reference European Union (EU) Legislation

EU Regulation No.305/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 9 March 2011, laying down harmonised conditions for the marketing of construction products and repealing Council Directive 89/106/EEC.

[ N.B. The 1989 European Directive on Construction Products (89/106/EEC) was repealed, in 2011, by Article 65 of EU Regulation No.305/2011. ]

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THEREFORE …

It is the duty of a Supplier … any Supplier, e.g. manufacturer, distributor, agent, wholesaler, whatever … of building/construction materials to clearly show that they are ‘proper materials’, i.e. they are fit for the use for which they are intended and for the conditions/location in which they are to be used.

Refer to SDI’s Technical Guidance Noteswww.sustainable-design.ie/arch/tgn.htm

AND …

It is the duty of the Design Professional in Responsible Charge of a construction project (whoever he/she may be – architect, engineer, etc., etc.) to demand of a Supplier … additionally and most particularly, where there are any doubts about any relevant aspect of that material’s performance … that he/she/they clearly show that the building/construction materials they are supplying are ‘proper materials’, i.e. they are fit for the use for which they are intended and for the conditions/location in which they are to be used.

SO …

When Pyrite, for example, shows up in the hardcore under a finished concrete floor, or in the blockwork of a completed wall, in an Irish building … we know who has ignored his or her legal/professional duty concerning proper and satisfactory compliance with Legal Requirement D1 … and who is liable.

For bureaucrats and the legal profession, this is the end of the story.

BUT …

At this stage – when building occupants are hurt and extremely annoyed following, perhaps years, of inconvenience and discomfort – it’s too late !   The damage cannot be effectively repaired … and such limited repairs which can, in practical terms, be carried out will be very expensive.

PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM …

In Ireland, have we properly learned any lessons from Priory Hall, Pyrite, or Chinese Plasterboard ?   No !

Could these or similar problems occur AGAIN on an Irish building site ?   Yes !

Because … aided and abetted by the professional institutes … a ‘blind eye’ is being turned to the greatest lesson of all … that self-regulation/self-certification does NOT work !!

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And Other E.U. Member States ???

The wording in national/local legislation may be slightly different … the language certainly will be different … but the legal intent is the same.

Legal/professional duties are similar.

Self-regulation/self-certification doesn’t work there either !

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Model Disability Policy Statement for Educational Establishments

2014-04-21:  Notwithstanding the, by now, well-established existence of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’, a host of other national accessibility standards, and a plethora of accessibility design guidance materials … not every ‘real’ site, or building, or built environment, situation is covered.  It would be physically impossible.

Unless it is fixed in your mind … or, more importantly, in the ‘group-thinking’ of an organization … that Accessibility-for-All should be, for example, both independent (i.e. it is not necessary for a person to have an assistant) and inclusive (i.e. friends can do things together and no special deal is made about accessibility for one person) … it can be very difficult to emerge from beneath the weight of those documents referred to above … and to apply important disability-related principles flexibly and adaptively in the real world.

At a recent meeting with some teachers in an Irish school (which shall remain nameless) … I advised that a very good and positive start can be made by discussing together and agreeing on a Disability Policy Statement, which will help to guide future actions.  More steps are required, of course, but those will come later.

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Model Disability Policy Statement for Educational Establishments

Insofar as it relates to the educational activities of

Name of School/College/University/Institute

and its relationships in the wider local community …

We recognise and respect the rights of people with activity limitations:

  • to lead a fulfilling life – autonomously, independently, and with dignity ;
  • to integrate into the civil, political, economic, social, cultural and educational mainstream ;    and
  • to participate in the general life of the wider local community on a basis of equal opportunity with everyone else.

Good Education is an Important Key to Social Inclusion

In order to ensure your autonomy and independence, your civil, political, economic, social, cultural and educational integration, and your active participation in the general life of the wider local community – the principle of equal opportunity shall not prevent the adoption or maintenance of services, systems and policies providing for your support or assistance within this establishment.

[ Discussed and Agreed by the School/College/University/Institute Management Board on …… ]

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END

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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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END

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