regulations & standards
Two days ago, on the 12th Anniversary of the 9-11 World Trade Center Attacks in New York City … I couldn’t help recalling a period of time 20 years earlier, and the still vivid memories of institutional ‘after-shocks’ following the 1981 Dublin Stardust Discotheque Fire in February of that year. For a very long time afterwards, the Irish Fire Establishment disappeared from public view and hearing … without any trace ! As a young architect, at the time, just starting out in private practice … it was a critical lesson on the importance of ‘reality’ … and the malignancy of ‘realpolitik’.
As the years rolled by, and more and more information was revealed by troubled ‘insiders’ and uncovered by brave journalists … it was clear to me that the Dublin Fire had spawned two entirely separate and unconnected realities:
- The Frontline Tragedy … of the fire victims (those who were killed or injured on the night, and those who survived), their families and (to this day) their mournful pleas for justice and truthful answers, the local communities, the first responders, e.g. firefighters, ambulance personnel, and Garda/police and (to this day) their continuing struggle for adequate resources, the staff of the Dublin hospitals … and a shocked public.
- Defensive Institutions … senior policy and decision makers in national and local authorities, or agencies, having jurisdiction and/or responsibility for blatantly inadequate building codes and standards, poorly resourced technical control systems over building design and construction, and a dysfunctional emergency response infrastructure … senior politicians, on both sides of the political spectrum, who ‘fixed’ the format and major outcomes from the post-incident investigation (they ensured that minor outcomes were either implemented in a ham-fisted bureaucratic manner, or were ignored) … the various building design disciplines directly involved and their respective professional organizations … etc., etc.
These Same Realities have been re-born … and have evolved in scale … out of the savage destruction on that Tuesday, 11 September 2001.
2013-09-10: Recently, much ado has been made in the technical press about a New Multi-Storey Office Block in Vienna which has achieved the German ‘Passivhaus’ (Passive House) Standard …
Is There A Problem ?? Yes !!
1. It takes approximately 3 Years of Building Occupation, by ‘real’ people, before the actual performance of a building can be properly monitored and reliably shown. The building is still ‘drying out’ for the first year. It takes at least one to two years of running the complex technologies and systems in today’s buildings … training people how to operate them efficiently and effectively … and fine-tuning and de-bugging as you go along … before everything begins to work together, as originally intended during the building design stage. Then, if all goes well … in the third year of occupation, the careful (i.e. accurate and reliable) monitoring of ‘real’ building performance, by means of portable measuring devices and devices installed within the construction, can commence.
So … what exactly has achieved the German ‘Passivhaus’ (Passive House) Standard … the design intent for the building, or the building’s ‘real’ performance ???
2. Much more fundamentally … achieving this Standard is a good starting point … but in a new building project … It Is Not Enough !
A. Energy Conservation and Efficiency Burden Sharing by Different Building Types
Separate strategies are required to greatly improve the energy performance of:
- existing buildings … onto which many energy efficiency measures can be successfully grafted, but it will be difficult work and will certainly not be cheap ;
- buildings of historical, architectural or cultural importance … the integrity of which must be protected ; and
- new buildings and facilities … which must therefore carry the major burden.
B. Paradigm for New Buildings – A ‘Positive Energy’ Return + Assured Building User Comfort
Primary Energy Consumption should be less than or equal to 15 kWh/m2/yr.
Renewable Energy and Heating Systems should contribute a reliable quantity of energy, per year, which covers the following:
i) the Building’s/Facility’s Primary Energy Consumption ;
ii) an Energy Efficiency Degradation Factor which takes account of the degradation in energy efficiency …
(a) normally expected during the life cycle of renewable energy and heating systems installed in the building. The rate of degradation will depend on the quality of maintenance and servicing ; and
(b) caused by wasteful patterns of building management and/or use ;
iii) the energy consumed by Private Transport associated with the building or facility ;
iv) an Energy Return to an Intelligent District, Local or Regional Grid exceeding, by a multiple of 3 (three), the total energy consumed by the Building/Facility (including its Energy Efficiency Degradation Factor) and any associated Private Transport.
Primary Energy includes the energy required to generate, transmit and distribute electricity, as well as energy directly consumed on site.
User Thermal Comfort = Air Temperature + Mean Radiant Temperature + Air Humidity + Air Velocity, i.e. draughts (ISO 7730).
And interestingly enough … on the Passivhaus WebSite (German language version) … www.passivhaus.de/passivhaus-informationen/vom-passivhaus-zum-plusenergiegebaeude.html … this is now the thinking there also !!
Should have been happening 10 years ago !
2013-09-05: A few days ago, I was travelling on a motorway in Ireland … the scenery was luscious, and daylight and weather conditions were good … when I noticed that the visibility and marking of Emergency Response and Public Service Vehicles varied considerably. The rear of one vehicle, in particular, had highly visible markings … but it was pulling a high trailer, without any markings … and, of course, the vehicle itself and its bright luminescent markings were almost obscured.
What would happen at night, in heavy rain … if any of these vehicles had to stop on a road without any public lighting … as they responded to a traffic accident … or because they were part of a Garda/police checkpoint ? Serious danger for the responders and other road users is the obvious answer !
Then, more recently, while walking around Howth Harbour, in Dublin … I spotted this Irish Coast Guard Vehicle … which made me feel more optimistic …
Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (4.35 MB)
Produced by the U.S. Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Association (CVVFA) Emergency Responder Safety Institute (ERSI) … with the support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s United States Fire Administration (USFA), and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) – the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Author: Ron Moore - Chief Instructor, CVVFA Emergency Responder Safety.
CVVFA ERSI WebSite: www.respondersafety.com
Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (4.87 MB)
Both of these documents must be carefully adapted by the reader to suit a European context … as the following List of Recommendations from USFA Report FA-330 will clearly indicate …
To help decrease vehicle-related injuries and fatalities of emergency responders if implemented at the appropriate levels:
1. Develop a comprehensive database that tracks accidents involving emergency vehicles and any resulting injuries and/or deaths to both emergency responders and civilians.
2. Limit speeds to a level that is safe for the vehicle being driven and the road conditions on which it is being operated.
3. Adopt a zero-tolerance alcohol (and drugs) policy and enforce an 8-hour time difference between alcohol consumption and the commencement of work.
4. Equip all emergency vehicles with appropriate traffic control and safety equipment.
5. Ensure all traffic-channelizing devices meet applicable standards.
6. Ensure flaggers, if used, are properly trained and meet Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD) qualifications.
7. Require members to wear highly reflective American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) 107 Class II, Class III, or ANSI/ISEA 207 compliant public safety vests whenever they operate in a roadway.
8. Mark the emergency vehicle perimeter with retro-reflective striping or markings.
9. Extinguish forward facing emergency vehicle lighting when parked on the roadway, especially on divided roadways.
10. Fire departments should consider the implementation of traffic safety response units.
11. Position the initial-arriving emergency vehicle in a blocking position to oncoming traffic.
12. Establish an adequately sized work zone.
13. Develop a formalized Traffic Incident Management (TIM) information sharing method between public safety and transportation agencies.
14. Manage major traffic incidents using the National Incident Management System (NIMS) Incident Command System (ICS).
15. Consider the use of Unified Command (UC) to manage traffic incidents involving multiple jurisdictions or disciplines.
16. Incorporate transportation departments into ICS when appropriate.
17. Ensure adequate training on roadway hazards and safety procedures for responders.
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 !!
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.
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.
Other People having Control / Responsibility were also Careless, Incompetent, and Negligent …
2013-07-11: Further to the Posts about the ongoing Fire Safety Fiasco at Priory Hall in Dublin, beginning on 2011-10-18 … and my recent reply to Ms. Saffron Willetts, dated 2013-06-09, which can be found at the top right-hand corner of this Page …
A house with a timber-framed party wall, whether the wall projects above the roof covering or not … in a terrace, or semi-detached … and constructed in 2004 (approaching the height of the Celtic Tiger frenzy in Ireland) ?? Not even torture in Guantánamo Bay (Cuba) would persuade me to buy … or rent !
One last word of caution … carefully examine any ‘Opinion on Compliance’ covering this property.
On Sunday evening last, 7 July 2013, I received an e-mail notification from Mr. Del Tillyer about a Belmayne ‘Fire Safety’ Press Conference to be held in his home … 19 Churchwell Place, Belmayne, Dublin 13 … on Tuesday, 9 July 2013, at 11.00 hrs. I was pleased to attend.
Back in ye good olde days of the Celtic Tiger … the price paid for this 2 Storey Timber-Framed Dwelling Unit was a staggering € 530,000 ! However, following occupation of their new home, it was noticed by the family that there were BIG problems concerning nuisance sound transmission from neighbouring units. And that’s when their long shabby saga of ‘Fire Safety at Belmayne’ began … or, more correctly, it should be called the tortuous saga of a ‘Serious Lack of Fire Safety at Belmayne’ !!
In order to satisfy the Legal Requirements of Part D: ‘Materials and Workmanship’, Second Schedule to the Irish Building Regulations … this form of construction was covered by an Irish Agrément Board Certificate …
Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (1.43 MB)
Unfortunately … any connection between IAB Certificate 04/0198 and the bitter, cold reality of how 19 Churchwell Place was actually constructed … is, at best, extremely tenuous … as the following photographs clearly show …
[ It was difficult ... but I resisted the temptation to add an elaborate caption to each image which would describe the original Shoddy, Careless, Incompetent Site Workmanship ! And please bear in mind that the opening-up shown was limited ... more problems cannot be seen, or will only become apparent in the future, e.g. the inevitable settlement of low-density thermal insulation !! ]
[ This is the other unreported and completely hidden Irish National Debt ... over 20 years of 'Lite' National Regulation of the Construction Sector and an Entirely Inadequate and Ineffective National System of Local Authority Building Control / Independent Site Technical Control have resulted in a New National Building Stock which will require an enormous amount of difficult and costly repairs during the next decades ... which will have to be paid for by the citizen ! Those responsible ... National Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ's), Professional Institutes and Societies, Property Developers, Construction Product Manufacturers, and Politicians ... have all quietly slipped away from the crime scene !! ]
The Fire Consultant on this Project is Mr. Noel C. Manning.
In the event of a fire incident at this dwelling unit … why are the construction failures shown in the photographs above so risky, so hazardous, so dangerous for its occupants (more precisely – their health, safety and welfare) ??
Even within the Construction Sector, it is not well understood that the Fire Safety Objectives of Building Regulations, generally and not just in Ireland, are limited in scope to the protection of people who use and/or occupy buildings from fire (i.e. heat, smoke and flame). These Fire Safety Objectives only ‘extend’ to the protection of property (i.e. the building fabric) … insofar as the protection of that property is relevant to the protection, including the safe evacuation, of people in the building.
The biggest original construction failure shown above is that there is an extensive warren of continuous, hidden cavities within the walls, floors, service duct and ceilings of the house … which facilitates the unseen spread of fire, including toxic smoke, very rapidly throughout the building and to adjoining dwelling units. This type of insidious fire spread cannot be detected by smoke alarms located in the area of a staircase.
The serious ‘cavity’ failure is compounded by another serious construction failure … the weak and inadequate protection from fire (i.e. heat, smoke and flame) to the staircase itself … which is the only means of evacuation from the house for the occupants.
The limited Fire Safety Objectives of Building Regulations must be clearly distinguished from Project-Specific Fire Engineering Design Objectives which have a much wider scope. For an elaboration of this issue … go to: http://www.cjwalsh.ie/2012/12/sustainable-fire-engineering-for-all-sdis-professional-service/
2013-07-01: Sustainable Design Solutions are …
- Person-Centred ;
- Reliability-Based ; and most importantly
- Adapted to Local Context and Heritage (fr: le Patrimoine – see ICOMOS 2011) … geography, climate (incl. change, variability and severity swings), social need, culture, and economy, etc., etc.
‘Person-Centredness’ is a core value of Sustainable Human & Social Development … an essential principle in Sustainable Design … an indispensable support framework for Sustainability-related Policy and Decision-making … and an invaluable indicator when monitoring Sustainability Implementation.
Why so because ?
It is the mid-1990′s … in the centre of Dublin City.
Imagine, if you will, a very large historical building having a civic, justice-related function … and also an enormous Energy Bill. As described in a much earlier post, dated 2009-02-20, and the series of posts which followed on the subject of Building Energy Rating (BER) … we found that the most effective and practical remedy for this gaping and continuously haemorrhaging ‘energy’ wound was to approach the problem though the building’s users, their perception of thermal comfort, and International Standard ISO 7730.
The ‘real’ reduction in energy consumption, the ‘real’ increase in the building’s energy efficiency, and the ‘real’ improvements in building user / employee comfort and morale … were astounding !
INTRODUCTION from that Paper …
These are interesting times; the benefits of modern technology have bypassed and long overtaken the stirring thoughts, visions and catch cries of Architects at the beginning of the 20th Century. However, at this time in Europe, we must now ask ourselves some difficult questions …
“What should be the Design Agenda for the ‘Built Environment’ in the new millennium ?”
“Do we actually understand the ‘real’ needs and desires of ‘real’ people in an inclusive society ?”
It is Sustainable Design – the art and science of the design, supervision of related construction/de-construction, and maintenance of sustainability in the Built Environment – which is currently generating a quantum leap in the forward evolution of a more coherent design philosophy.
Principle 1 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development states …
‘Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.’
Deeply embedded, therefore, within this philosophy is the concept of ‘person-centredness’, i.e. that core design value which places real people at the centre of creative concerns, and gives due consideration to their health, safety, and welfare in the Built Environment – it includes such specific performance criteria as: a sensory rich and accessible (mobility, usability, communications and information) environment; fire safety; thermal comfort; air, light and visual quality; protection from ionizing / electromagnetic radiation; nuisance noise abatement; etc. An important ‘person-centred’ design aid is the questionnaire survey, which is not only a very valuable source of information, but formalizes meaningful consultation between practitioners and end users.
SDI’s Guideline Framework on achieving equality of opportunity and social inclusion, which is based on a strategy produced by Directorate-General V of the European Commission, shows how further essential elements of ‘social wellbeing’ also relate to person-centredness; these include partnership between all sectors of society, consensus, transparency and openness.
This paper explores the rational and legal basis for person-centredness of the Built Environment in Europe. Fieldwork incorporating this innovative approach is also examined. Finally, a body of principles – a European Charter – is outlined which aims to ensure that new construction works, and renovated existing buildings, perform reliably, are adaptable, accessible and responsive, ‘intelligently green’ (French: intelli-verdure), cost-effective and inherently sustainable.
CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION & MITIGATION POLICIES
AND BEFORE developing Climate Change Policies which will have such dramatic impacts on human populations, and their lifestyles, around the globe … perhaps those policies would be more effective, in the ‘real’ world and in the long-term … if we looked at the problem through the ‘eyes’ of people !
It will be worth taking a look at an interesting background paper produced by the World Bank in 2009 … whether you agree or disagree with the following statements …
“A lack of citizen understanding regarding the basics of climate science is an almost universal finding worldwide even though knowledge has increased over time. Especially notable is confusion between the causes of climate change and ozone depletion, and confusion between weather and climate.”
“North Americans know far less about climate change than their counterparts in the developed world.”
“Accurate and complete understanding of information is not a prerequisite for concern.”
“Concern is widespread around the world, but it may also be inversely correlated with the wealth and carbon footprint of a nation, or the socio-economic ‘class’ within a nation.”
“In some studies, more informed respondents reported less concern or sense of responsibility towards climate change.”
“People stop paying attention to global climate change when they realize that there is no easy solution for it. Many people judge as serious only those problems for which they think action can be taken.”
Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (290 Kb)
This World Bank Working Paper – prepared as a background paper to the World Bank’s World Development Report 2010: Development in a Changing Climate. Policy Research Working Papers are posted on the Web at http://econ.worldbank.org
World Bank Working Paper 4940 (2009) – ABSTRACT …
Climate scientists have identified global warming as the most important environmental issue of our time, but it has taken over 20 years for the problem to penetrate the public discourse in even the most superficial manner. While some nations have done better than others, no nation has adequately reduced emissions and no nation has a base of public citizens that are sufficiently socially and politically engaged in response to climate change. This paper summarizes international and national differences in levels of knowledge and concern regarding climate change, and the existing explanations for the worldwide failure of public response to climate change, drawing from psychology, social psychology and sociology. On the whole, the widely presumed links between public access to information on climate change and levels of concern and action are not supported. The paper’s key findings emphasize the presence of negative emotions in conjunction with global warming (fear, guilt, and helplessness), and the process of emotion management and cultural norms in the construction of a social reality in which climate change is held at arms length. Barriers in responding to climate change are placed into three broad categories: 1) psychological and conceptual; 2) social and cultural; and 3) structural (political economy). The author provides policy considerations and summarizes the policy implications of both psychological and conceptual barriers, and social and cultural barriers. An annotated bibliography is included.
Is anybody learning yet ?
2013-06-09: Further to yesterday’s post … and my use of the phrase ‘Adapted to Local Context and Heritage (fr: le Patrimoine)’ … in relation to Sustainable Fire Engineering Design Solutions … or, indeed, Sustainable Design Solutions generally …
The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) … has just published the hard-copy version of … ‘Le Patrimoine, Moteur de Développement : Enjeux et Projets‘ … the proceedings from the 2011 ICOMOS International Scientific Symposium, which was held in conjunction with the 17th ICOMOS General Assembly in early December 2011 … and organized by ICOMOS-France (www.icomosfrance.fr).
This bilingual (French and English) document provides a summary of the 4 Main Issues discussed during the Paris Symposium.
Manifested here … is a profound re-imagining of the concept of ‘heritage’, and its symbiotic relationship with ‘local context’ … which also now facilitates a synergetic fusion of ‘heritage’ with mainstream sustainable development theory and implementation. I have highlighted key passages …
HERITAGE - DRIVER OF DEVELOPMENT
The Theme of the International Scientific Symposium, which forms part of the ICOMOS General Assembly, is the role of heritage in the creation of tomorrow’s society.
The effects of globalization, which are manifested in growing trends towards standardization and westernization, bring various forms of instability to human societies. Until now, heritage has been confined to the role of passive conservation of the past, and so has often been seen as a burden hindering development. In the future, it should be called upon instead to play a major role, re-establishing cultural identity and diversity as key reference points for development; these factors are currently endangered, yet vital. There is therefore a need to reassess the role of heritage in a constructive way.
The concept of heritage, which ranges from designated historic monuments to a jumble of memories, first needs a clear definition which identifies its inherent nature and sets out its boundaries and limits, now and in the future.
As it would be impossible to cover all these issues at the Symposium, it is proposed to focus on the following four issues, chosen for their fundamental importance or contemporary relevance …
1. Regional Development
As more and more people abandon small towns and the countryside, migrating to large conurbations, urban development has become anarchic, ad-hoc and difficult to control. This has already had serious, even catastrophic, results … in particular:
- The disruption of spatial scale and the loss of landmarks ;
- The breakdown of social relationships, loss of communal solidarity, concerns over security, extremist and violent demonstrations ;
- An imbalance between the city – where most concerns now focus and where most development projects take place – and the countryside, where the issue is no longer merely rural decline, but rather the complete socio-economic and cultural collapse of forgotten populations ;
- The squandering and trivialization of space, which is a non-renewable resource, and in particular the loss of landscapes and farmland, resulting from both extensive urban encroachment and land being left to lie fallow.
It is vital to return to a more balanced form of development. This will be achieved by replacing the principle of urban expansion with that of regional development, which takes into account both the countryside and secondary urban centres (small and medium-sized towns), as part of a balanced network. In this context, lessons from our heritage will again be valued as an inspiration for new developments: time-honoured frameworks, traditional plot sizes, methods of organization (urban historic core zones), communication (by land - rail - water), and energy generation (small-scale solar and hydroelectric power stations), etc.
2. Sustainable (Human & Social) Development – Return to the Art of Building !
The second half of the 20th Century was marked by the frantic exploitation of fossil fuels and is credited with the international spread of Western lifestyles and buildings, said to represent ‘progress’ but nevertheless creating a decisive break with traditional models. The goals we have today for energy saving and recycling require a fundamental change in the character of both new and old buildings, in line with the following three points:
- Expertise in Re-Use. Until the 1950′s, heritage buildings – especially vernacular ones – provided countless examples of successful adaptation to the physical environment (location, orientation, protection from sun, wind, and climate); use of local materials (earth - wood - stone, etc.); traditional techniques providing / guaranteeing the greatest opportunities to acquire and perfect artisanal skills; and an optimum capacity for recycling. The resulting buildings address today’s requirements for sustainable development particularly well. Where historic buildings are capable of residential re-use according to modern sustainability criteria, we must be able to measure and maximise their current performance before adapting them according to new artificial design standards.
- Expertise in Building. In terms of new construction, recent examples have shown the ability of traditional practices to create architecture that is indisputably creative and modern/contemporary, and offer an alternative to artificial solutions proposed in response to new standards.
- Adapting to Sustainable Living. Rather than putting the entire onus on the built heritage, we must question our expectations about comfort and utilization. We need to abandon attempts to use sites for activities for which they are fundamentally not suited; modify usage according to the seasons (closing down places that are difficult to heat in winter); and, finally, reconsider our demands in terms of comfort, which have grown excessively and unreasonably over the last decades. The progress that would be made in the fields of environmental and public health is well known.
3. Development and Tourism
Heritage is a major part of the tourist industry, but at the same time, because of the mass consumption to which it is increasingly subject, it runs the risk of becoming meaningless, by fluctuating between preservation of museum pieces and theme-park caricatures. Cut off from its context, the real significance of heritage is drowned out by a feeble reflection, and its very nature is altered by excessive numbers of visitors and the facilities installed for them.
Several courses of action are available, among others:
- Rendering identification with cultural heritage tangible … by revealing and interpreting heritage in all the richness of its context and distinctiveness, and by encouraging public awareness of history through education and the wider media.
- Controlling public access … so as both to limit physical erosion and to ensure the comfort of visitors and provide the best conditions for them to understand and appreciate the value of heritage. Some preliminary reports on trials successfully undertaken at a number of buildings and Grands Sites [designated French cultural landscapes] may help in developing guidelines.
4. Economics of Development
“The Amphitheatre at Nîmes and the Pont du Gard have brought more to France than they ever cost the Romans.” This quotation from Abbé Grégoire in the second year of the French Republic remains valid today. Investment in our heritage produces particularly attractive returns. The cultural sector fully understands this, but adopts methods that tend to be rather commercial.
This investment must be better directed, by identifying targets and striving more for qualitative results rather than short-term profits.
2013-06-08: Looking forward to some serious, collaborative and multi-disciplinary discussions on the day … and a barrel of laughs in the process (!!) …
The Informatics Research Unit for Sustainable Engineering (IRUSE) in the Department of Civil Engineering … and The Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research … both at the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) … have jointly organized a 1-Day National Research Networking Workshop which will take place on Monday, 24 June 2013.
The NUIG ‘blurb’ for the day states … “Considering the importance of aggressive energy-efficiency measures in the Building Sector, together with the requirements for a safe, healthy, comfortable (and accessible) Built Environment … this NUIG Workshop will explore the topic of Integrated Modelling and Performance of the Built Environment.”
I was very pleased to receive an invitation to make a Presentation at this prestigious event …
‘Sustainable Fire Engineering Design’ - My Presentation Abstract
Fire Engineering … involves much more than mere compliance with building regulations and codes … whose fire safety objectives are limited, and whose performance requirements are sometimes inadequate and always minimal. More problematically … a fundamental conflict is mushrooming between Safe Sustainable Climate Resilient Building Design and Conventional Fire Consultancy Practice.
However … Sustainable Fire Engineering Design Solutions are:
- Reliability-based ;
- Person-centred ;
… and above all …
- Adapted to Local Context and Heritage (fr: le Patrimoine – see ICOMOS 2011) … geography, climate (incl. change, variability and severity swings), social need, culture, and economy, etc., etc.
This Presentation will discuss very rich collaborative research potential in the following areas …
- Creative Fire Engineering Concepts and Building Systems
- Fire-Induced Progressive Damage in Buildings
- Human Behaviour and Abilities in a Fire Situation
- Building Design for Firefighter Safety
- BMS – Fire Modelling – BIM
Research Output must be targeted at practical implementation in ‘real’ buildings … with actual user/construction performance carefully (i.e. reliably and precisely) monitored !
If anybody out there is interested in attending this NUIG Research Workshop … please contact Ms. Magdalena Hajdukiewicz (IRUSE) at: firstname.lastname@example.org
POST-EVENT UPDATE: 2013-06-27 …
While it was difficult to keep the Workshop Programme, involving a series of short 10-minute presentation slots, on track … discussions during the day were engaging, energetic and extensive.
I happily look forward to a successful and collaborative outcome from the day … Multi-Disciplinary Teams producing Trans-Disciplinary Research Output … which is geared towards practical implementation in ‘real’ buildings, with actual construction and building user performance carefully (i.e. reliably and precisely) monitored !
Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (193 Kb)
Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (1.78 MB)
However … and especially since the Workshop had been organized by IRUSE (the ‘SE’ standing for ‘Sustainable Engineering’) … it was indeed very strange to have to clarify the following points, among others:
1. The Minimum Life Cycle for a Sustainable Building is 100 Years … not 50 or 60 years !
2. Future Research Collaboration should be targeted at the multi-aspect ‘Sustainability Agenda’. The word ‘green’ (where only environmental aspects of sustainability are considered) should be actively discouraged, if not banned entirely !
3. With regard to Good Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) … two high-level performance indicators which have been developed with the aim of protecting human health, and are both now referenced in International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’ … are …
- Radon Activity (incl. Rn-222, Rn-220, RnD) in a building should, on average, fall within the range of 10 Bq/m3 to 40 Bq/m3, but should at no time exceed 60 Bq/m3 ;
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Concentrations in a building should not significantly exceed average external levels – typically within the range of 300 parts per million (ppm) to 500 ppm – and should at no time exceed 800 ppm.
Concerning the substantive difference in meaning and scope between ‘sustainable’ and ‘green’ … there is, perhaps, no better way to illustrate this difference than to observe the atrocious ‘Accessibility-for-All’ Performance (Accessibility for People with Activity Limitations !) of the critically acclaimed (?!?) and award winning (?!?) New Engineering Building in Galway University … which flaunts its ‘über-green’ credentials …
Can you believe what’s in those photographs ?? More importantly … can you believe what’s not in those photographs ???? In such a recently completed building … “incredible” is the only answer to both questions.
Under International Law … lack of accessibility, or inadequate accessibility, to the social, built, virtual and economic environments … IS a denial and infringement of the basic human rights of people with activity limitations. It also limits, needlessly and unnecessarily, the numbers of potential users of those environments … which makes no sense at all.
My strong recommendation to Galway University … is to immediately commission a Competent Accessibility Consultant to give the university campus a thorough going over ! You are failing the campus user population … the local community in Galway … and Irish society generally.
My even stronger recommendation to the Architects for the New Engineering Building … RMJM Architects (Robert Matthew Johnson-Marshall) in Scotland, and Taylor Architects in Ireland … is to always commission a Competent Accessibility Consultant on all of your projects … small, medium and large … because you haven’t a bull’s notion about this important dimension of building performance !!
And remember folks … Accessibility has been clearly specified in the new International Standard 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’.
Pausing … and stepping back … to consider conventional architectural practice, how architects are educated, and whether or not the professional institutes are helping, or handicapping, the forward progress of Architecture for a Better, More Sustainable World … I am deeply concerned about the future …
1. Should it be ‘Multi-Disciplinary’ or ‘Trans-Disciplinary’ ?
The word ‘trans-disciplinary’ is confusing to a lot of people … surprisingly, to many at senior levels in construction-related industries, research sectors, and academia … not just in Ireland, but internationally. The more senior the level, it seems the higher are the walls of that proverbial ‘box’. But, let me reassure you, thinking outside the ‘box’ is not confined to people in their early 20′s !!
Looking over just the initial list of Consultant Specialists in a complex architectural project … it is the task of the Architect to transform a widely ‘multi-disciplinary’ input into a coherent ‘trans-disciplinary’ output. These two concepts are very different.
Next Generation Architectural Processes and Procedures are urgently required …
2. EU Climate & Energy Policies – Key Driving Forces for Sustainability !
Recently, the European Commission issued this Green Paper … (which, by the way, has absolutely nothing to say about Climate Change Adaptation !) …
European Commission COM(2013) 169 final – Brussels, 2013-03-27
Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (104 Kb)
Concerning this Green Paper … Two Important Points …
(i) Current European Union (EU) Climate and Energy Policies are not just a passing fad … they are here to stay. With certainty, we also know that they will become more and more stringent … and that higher levels of performance will be mandated … not just on paper or a computer printout … but in reality, for example, in buildings which are constructed and actually occupied by ‘real’ building users. Refer also to recent findings, in Europe, about the large and growing discrepancy between car fuel efficiencies claimed after testing in a laboratory, and when later monitored under ‘real’ driving conditions.
(ii) It has now become obvious that the European Commission has lost the plot … big time ! Policies and Actions in closely related fields have been permitted to become fragmented, disjointed, and even counter-productive. Written into the EU treaties is the term ‘sustainable development’ … an intricate, open, dynamic and continuously evolving concept. However, senior levels (both political and bureaucratic) in the different Directorates-General of the European Commission have long ago forgotten, mislaid and/or lost the proper meaning of ‘sustainability’ … and the essential interdependency of its many aspects.
… which brings me to the urgent necessity for Next Generation Architectural Design Concepts …
In Europe … the 1990′s and early 2000′s, taken together, was a period of construction experimentation and research. We thought we could afford the resources and the lazy times … to try this, that and the other. Little emphasis was placed on practical implementation in ‘real’ buildings. However, the scale and immediacy of today’s Sustainable Development Challenges in the Built Environment have, within a few short years and much more quickly than expected, become unprecedented.
The Yanks (Gringos) are very strong on marketing … much stronger than Europe … so let’s examine a small model building … and see if its Architectural Design Concept is both coherent and comprehensive …
Mr. Amory Lovins, of the Rocky Mountain Institute in the USA ( www.rmi.org ) … has produced a very snazzy Visitor’s Guide to the sprawling complex that is ‘his home, bioshelter and office’ in Snowmass, Colorado … a Guide intended for wide public circulation.
Concerning this Building … Three Points of Interest(?) …
(i) For a fleeting moment … let us imagine that a percentage – not even all – of the vast populations living in Africa, India and China wanted the same sort of lifestyle, including the house, that Amory Lovins possesses. What would be the resource implications for this planet ??
(ii) In a first construction ‘try’ … separate solar and/or photovoltaic panels fixed in place on a roof … attached to the building, almost as an afterthought … were the norm. Now, however, these building systems are no longer innovative … they must be properly shown to be ‘fit for their intended use’ (to comply with building regulations and codes) … and they should now be fully integrated into the architectural design concept for the building … which is not the case in the photograph above. [ Car manufacturers face a similar design challenge today ... how to successfully integrate new technologies, e.g. satellite navigation screens, smartphone docking stations, usb sockets, bluetooth, etc., etc., into the front dashboard.]
Anyway … how reproducible is this model building in urban and suburban contexts … in the USA … or elsewhere in the world ?? How many people would have access to sufficient land outside a building to ‘plant’ one, or a series of photovoltaic panels ? Tracking photovoltaic panels, as shown above ?? And as seen in Italy, with those ridiculous photovoltaic fields (in a post, dated 2011-11-07 ) … good agricultural lands should not be used for this purpose … not now, not ever, never !
(iii) Sustainable Buildings are ‘high-tech’ … and a very large amount and variety of electronic and mechanical equipment is necessary in order to reliably monitor and tightly control their performance … in other words, to operate a building in accordance with its design specification. Again … these services should be fully integrated into the architectural design concept for what is, no longer, just a simple dwelling. Do similar houses without basements, for example, now need a central well-ventilated service room, complete with compact workstation ?
In my opinion … the Architectural Design Concept for this building is not coherent. The overall architectural impression is one of a large sprawling house, on a very large plot of land … with many different ‘environmental/energy’-related appendages, or add-ons. Can you see any coherence ?
It is the task of the Architect to consider all facets of building performance at the earliest stages of design … whether a small building, or a very large complex building … and to integrate those many diverse, but interdependent, facets into a coherent architectural statement … having a conceptual single crystalline shape … while also bearing in mind ‘person-centredness’, ‘flexibility’, ‘adaptability’, ‘accessibility for all’, and a ‘long and useful life cycle’.
[ An aside ... closer to home ... we are now witnessing the rise of the 'Passive House Designer'. This person, who is able to use a specific computer software package ... no less, and no more ... need not necessarily be an architect, or have any architectural education/training. Is it possible to refer to the realized output from this software as 'architecture' ... or are they merely drab, boring boxes ?? ]
3. Sustainable Buildings, Fire Safety & Fire Engineering ?
In the elaborate Amory Lovins Visitor’s Guide above … there is only one mention of fire hazard in the building … and that is in relation to a Passive Clothes Dryer (Page 40). End of story with regard to the Fire Safety Issues for its Users … and the Fire Engineering Implications arising from a chosen architectural design and chosen construction materials and methods.
When I was referring to a centrally located service room in # 2(iii) above … that room should also be structurally hardened, and fire and smoke ‘separated’ from other spaces in the house. Or … if the service equipment is located in a roof space, there are implications for roof structural reliability in a fire situation, and the fire resistance of the ceiling construction beneath. Or … if the equipment is located in a basement, a simple intermediate timber floor construction overhead is inadequate.
Furthermore … an intelligent fire detection and warning system … and a suitable domestic fire suppression system … are no longer luxuries or optional extras, but essential requirements ! Who would want to lose such a valuable investment ??
And insofar as fire safety issues are not being considered … it seems, at all … in the case of most ‘high-tech’, sustainable buildings … and certainly not in the case of the Lovins House … the Architectural Design Concepts for these buildings ‘suffer’ from a gaping hole … an enormous void … they are incomplete and, therefore, entirely inadequate.
Fire Engineering involves much, much more than mere compliance with building regulations and codes … whose fire safety objectives are limited, and whose performance requirements are sometimes inadequate and always minimal.
Unfortunately … there is a fundamental conflict between Sustainable Building Design Strategies and the current state-of-the-art in Fire Engineering Design. As an 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 consultants 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 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 from the Innovative Building Products and Systems being installed in Sustainable Buildings.
And 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 sidestepped or ignored … and they remain hidden from everybody’s view.
Sustainable Fire Engineering Design, on the other hand, is the creative response to Sustainable Design … and the powerful drivers of Climate Change Adaptation, and Energy Conservation/Efficiency in Buildings.
Sustainable Fire Engineering Design Solutions are …
- Adapted to Local Conditions … Geography, Climate (change, variability and severity swings), Social Need, Culture, and Economy, etc., etc ;
- ‘Reliability-Based’ … the design process is based on competence, practical experience, and an examination of ‘real’ extreme events, e.g. 2001 WTC 9-11 & 2008 Mumbai Attacks, and 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident … rather than on theory alone ;
- ‘Person-Centred’ … ‘real’ people are placed at the centre of creative endeavours and proper consideration is given to their responsible needs … and their health, safety and welfare … and security … in the Human Environment.
Sustainability … continues to fundamentally transform our Fire Engineering, Architectural and Consultancy Practice at Sustainable Design International Ltd (SDI) !
2013-05-22: Whatever Service Providers claim … every day, we experience mobile/cell phone reception variability, drop-off and failure in buildings … whether we are fully conscious of it or not. It’s inconvenient, but all we have to do is change location, even slightly … and ‘re-dial’. However, if we are travelling on a train or bus, and it enters a tunnel … the problem can be annoying, as the situation is beyond our control !
On the other hand, however … not too far from where I live, there is an art house cinema with underground screens on different levels. In this particular case, mobile/cell phone reception failure can be a positive joy – it will not be necessary to listen to someone else’s loud conversations during the film !
BUT … emergency first responders use radio frequency-based communication systems during the normal course of their work … and in the current built environment, these systems can also be unreliable. Improved climate resilience in our future building stock will make matters worse. So, it makes a lot of sense to take this issue seriously now !
Fire Departments equip their firefighters with a Radio Frequency-Based Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) … also known as an Automatic Distress Signal Unit (ADSU) … which sends out a signal to a fire incident base / control centre / command post when the firefighter is motionless or in distress, with a clear indication of his/her location … or, if necessary, a general warning can be sent from the fire incident base / control centre / command post to all firefighters to evacuate a building immediately … for example, if extensive structural collapse is imminent.
Recently, the National Institute of Science & Technology (USA) issued Technical Note 1792. I have just a few short comments to make before jumping into the document …
1. The Empire State Building and a Subway Station in New York City are both iconic building types … and unusual, in the context of the USA generally … but not so in Europe, with our long tradition for ‘hard/heavy’ construction. Challenging environments for radio frequency-based communication systems are encountered in our basement / underground building types, and low-rise complex building types … never mind high-rise and tall buildings.
2. Outside buildings, adequate external access routes for Firefighting Vehicles are mandated in building codes and standards … and Firefighter Lifts are provided inside buildings, etc., etc., etc. Facilitating reliable radio frequency-based emergency communications should become a normal part of thinking about … and designing for … Safe Firefighter Access. And … before new buildings are occupied, it should become routine to carry out an emergency communications check, as part of a wider collaborative effort between Building Management Teams and Local Fire Services.
3. This NIST Technical Note is further evidence … as if any more evidence were needed … that it is a continuing and difficult process to fully implement the 2005 & 2008 NIST WTC 9-11 Recommendations. To date, the easier low hanging fruit (system and procedural inadequacies !) have been tackled, which may be presented and/or described as substantive changes in building codes and standards … mere window dressing … tokenism, at its worst ! However, as discussed here before many times, some European countries continue to completely ignore these important NIST Recommendations.
March 2013 – NIST Technical Note 1792: ‘Performance Analysis of RF-Based Electronic Safety Equipment in a Subway Station and the Empire State Building’.
To Read/Download NIST TN 1792 (PDF File, 9.02 MB), go to … http://dx.doi.org/10.6028/NIST.TN.1792
NIST TN 1792 – Summary & Conclusion (Page 59)
Radio Frequency (RF) PASS Tests were performed in a New York Subway Station and the Empire State Building because these types of structures provide challenging RF propagation-channel environments. In the Subway, the RF PASS systems were limited in their ability to communicate beyond the initial entrance level. Without the use of repeaters, most of the systems could communicate only a short distance beyond the bottom of the stairwell that connected the token booth corridor to the street. Two systems used repeaters to extend the coverage area. When a repeater was located at the base of the stairwell leading up to the street, those two systems were able to communicate the RF PASS alarms between the street level and the first passenger platform. However, with only a single repeater, neither of the two repeater systems was able to communicate between the external receive site and the second passenger level. This suggests that for structures with sizable subterranean sections, a repeater system will likely be required to reach an external incident command post. If the structure has multiple subterranean levels of increasing depth, a multiple-hop relay system will likely be necessary to ensure the reliability of the communication channel.
In the path-loss measurements and analysis performed at five frequencies, ranging from 430 MHz to 2405 MHz, there are several important insights. Based on the upper adjacent values in the box-plot statistical representation of the path-loss data from the Empire State Building (see Figure 36), path-loss values of 140 dB to 175 dB are possible for high-rises. For the Subway, the path-loss values exceed 210 dB to 240 dB at the lower two passenger platforms (see Figure 35). The frequency dependence is more pronounced for the Empire State Building results, but less apparent in the Subway data. Thus, while a system may function well at the lower end of the frequency spectrum in the above ground portions of a large building, the subway results demonstrate that subterranean structures can cause path-loss values greater than 200 dB across the 430 to 2400 MHz range.
The testing completed here focused on RF PASS system performance and RF propagation-channel measurements in a high-rise and subway station. While a primary goal of the effort was to look at the correlation between the system performance and path-loss behaviour, a secondary goal was to gather path-loss data in two high-attenuation settings. Thus, parameter values for log-normal distributions that will allow simulation of the measured path-loss conditions are included in this report. The authors hope that the data presented here, along with future sets of data, can be used to develop a complete suite of test methods, not only for RF-based PASS systems, but also for other RF-based electronic safety equipment. The path-loss values obtained here are general and could be used to develop standards for other equipment as the need arises for standards for these systems.
In Ireland … 10 UHF Channels have been allocated to the Fire Services for use with hand portable radios …
- CJ Walsh on Recent Terenure Terraced Housing Fires – Party Wall Failures !!
- Saffron Willetts on Recent Terenure Terraced Housing Fires – Party Wall Failures !!
- MTC on Spectacular Dawn over Amandola (FM), in Italy – 28 April 2013 !
- Farrokh Rostami Kia on Health & Safety at a Construction Site in Osaka, Japan
- Brandi on ‘Sustainable Accessibility for All’ – An SDI Professional Service
- built environment
- climate change
- economic environment
- eu law
- european union
- human & social rights
- human environment
- human health & safety
- institutional environment
- international law
- national law
- natural environment
- political environment
- regulations & standards
- social environment
- technical control
- virtual environment
- September 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- July 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- January 2010
- December 2009
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009
- July 2009
- June 2009
- May 2009
- April 2009
- March 2009
- February 2009
- January 2009
- December 2008