2005 & 2008 NIST WTC 9-11 Recommendations

Sustainable Fire Engineering – 2016 End Of Year Report !

2016-12-28:  Happy New Year to One and All !


‘ The creative, person-centred and ethical Fire Engineering response, in resilient built form and smart systems, to the concept of Sustainable Human and Social Development – the many aspects of which must receive balanced and synchronous consideration.’


Organized by FireOx International (Ireland, Italy & Turkey), in joint collaboration with Glasgow Caledonian University’s School of Engineering & Built Environment (Scotland) … and having a widely multi-disciplinary attendance from the U.S.A., Hong Kong SAR (China), Spain, Finland, Scotland, Norway, Germany, England, The Netherlands and Ireland … SFE 2016 DUBLIN was a unique, and very successful, two-day gathering within the International Fire Engineering and Fire Service Communities.

The organizers are very grateful to our Supporters: CIB, FIDIC, iiSBE, and the UNEP’s Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative … and our Sponsor: Rockwool International.

SUSTAINABLE FIRE ENGINEERING fulfils a Critical Role in the realization of a Safe, Resilient and Sustainable Built Environment 4 ALL !

SUSTAINABLE FIRE ENGINEERING facilitates Positive Progress in implementing the United Nation’s 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which incorporates 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 Performance Targets !

SUSTAINABLE FIRE ENGINEERING fast-tracks Proper Compliance with the 7 Basic Performance Requirements – functional, fully integrated and indivisible – in Annex I of European Union Construction Products Regulation 305/2011 !



A Building is a permanent construction, complying with basic performance requirements and capable of being easily adapted … comprising structure, essential electronic, information and communication technologies (EICT’s), and fabric (non-structure) … having a minimum life cycle of 100 years … and providing habitable, functional and flexible interior spaces for people to use.

Building Users have a wide and varied range of abilities and behaviours … some having discernible health conditions and/or physical, mental, cognitive, psychological impairments … while others, e.g. young children, women in the later stages of pregnancy and frail older people, are also particularly vulnerable in user-hostile, inaccessible environments.  Not everyone will self-identify as having an activity limitation because of the high level of social stigma associated with ‘disability’.  Building designers and fire engineers must accept that building users have rights and responsible needs ;  the real individual and group fire safety requirements of vulnerable building users must be given proper consideration by both design disciplines, working collaboratively together.

Real Building Users have a wide and varied range of abilities … and during a Fire Evacuation, they will NOT behave like ‘marbles or liquid in a computer model’ !  People with Disabilities, on their own, account for approximately 20% of populations in developed countries … more in developing and the least developed countries.


‘Fire Safety for ALL’ in Buildings – Not Just for SOME – A Priority Theme of Sustainable Fire Engineering

Current Revision of International Standard ISO 21542 (2011): ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’


Following the savage 2008 Mumbai Hive Attack in India, and the more recent 2015 and 2016 Attacks in Europe, i.e. Paris, Brussels, Istanbul and Berlin … it is entirely wrong to assume that the main and/or only targets will be specific high-risk buildings types, i.e. Tall/High-Rise, Iconic, Innovative and Critical Function Buildings (refer to 2005 & 2008 NIST WTC 9-11 Recommendations).  All buildings and adjoining/adjacent public spaces must be carefully assessed for the risk of direct or collateral involvement in an Extreme Man-Made Event.

It is a fundamental principle of reliable and resilient structural engineering that horizontal and vertical structural members/elements of construction are robustly connected together.  All buildings must, therefore, be capable of resisting Disproportionate Damage.  The restriction of this requirement, within some jurisdictions, to buildings of more than five storeys in height is purely arbitrary, cannot be substantiated technically … and ethically, must be disregarded.

Fire-Induced Progressive Damage is distinguished from Disproportionate Damage – a related but different structural concept – by the mode of damage initiation, not the final condition of building failure.  This phenomenon is poorly understood.  But, unless it is impeded, or resisted, by building design … Fire-Induced Progressive Damage will result in Disproportionate Damage … and may lead to a Collapse Level Event (CLE), which is entirely unacceptable to the general population of any community or society.  All buildings must, therefore, be capable of resisting Fire-Induced Progressive Damage.

All buildings must also be carefully assessed for the risk of involvement in a Severe Natural Event, e.g. earthquakes, floods, landslides, typhoons and tsunamis.

In all of the above Risk Assessments … the minimum Return Period (also known as Recurrence Interval or Repeat Interval) must never be less than 100 years.

Reacting to surging energy, environmental and planetary capacity pressures … with accelerating climate change … Sustainable Buildings are now presenting society with an innovative and exciting re-interpretation of how a building is designed, constructed and functions … an approach which is leaving the International Fire Engineering and Fire Service Communities far behind in its wake, struggling to keep up.

Colour ‘infographic’ showing the design features of 1 Bligh Street, Sydney CBD, Australia … ‘tall’/skyscraper commercial office building, completed in 2011 … designed by Ingenhoven Architects (Germany) and Architectus (Australia).  Can Fire Engineers understand this new design approach … and then collaborate, actively and creatively, within the Project Design Team ?

Black and white plan drawing of 1 Bligh Street (Level 26), Sydney CBD, Australia … a ‘sustainable’ office building … BUT … Effective ‘Fire Safety for All’ in this building ?  Has Firefighter Safety been considered ??  Property Protection ???  Business Continuity ????  The very harmful Environmental Impacts of Fire ?????

Passive and Active Fire Protection Measures, together with Building Management Systems (whether human and/or intelligent), are never 100% reliable.  Society must depend, therefore, on firefighters to fill this reliability ‘gap’ … and to enter buildings on fire in order to search for remaining or trapped building users.  This is in addition to their regular firefighting function.  Therefore, there is a strong ethical obligation on building designers, including fire engineers, to properly consider Firefighter Safety … should a fire incident occur at any time during the life cycle of a building.

Structural Serviceability, Fire Resistance Performance and ‘Fire Safety for All’ in a building must, therefore, be related directly to the local Fire Service Support Infrastructure … particularly in developing and the least developed countries.  AND … Fire Codes and Standards must always be adapted to a local context !

Colour photograph showing knotted sheets hanging from high-level windows which were used for ‘escape’ by guests … clearly indicating a catastrophic failure of fire protection measures and management within the building. Fire and smoke spread quickly throughout the multi-storey hotel, resulting in 12 dead, and over 100 injured (approximately 1/3 critically).

Colour photograph showing a guest rescue by ladder.  Notice the condition of the ladder and firefighter protection.  Fire safety in a building must be related directly to local Fire Service Support Infrastructure … particularly in developing and the least developed countries.

The fire safety objectives of current Fire Codes and Standards are limited, usually flawed … and will rarely satisfy the real needs of clients/client organizations, or properly protect society.  Fire code compliance, in isolation from other aspects of building performance, will involve a consideration of only a fraction of the issues discussed above.  There is once again, therefore, a strong ethical obligation on building designers, including fire engineers, to clearly differentiate between the limited fire safety objectives in Fire Codes and Standards … and Project-Specific Fire Engineering Design Objectives … and to explain these differences to a Client/Client Organization.  Facility Managers must also explain these differences directly to an Organization’s Senior Management … and directly inform the Organization’s Board of Directors … as appropriate.SFE Mission:  To ensure that there is an effective level of Fire Safety for ALL – not just for SOME – in the Built Environment … to dramatically reduce all direct and indirect fire losses in the Human Environment … and to protect the Natural Environment.

4 Key SFE Concepts:  Reality – Reliability – Redundancy – Resilience !

SFE Design Solutions:  Are …

  • Adapted to Local Context & Heritage ;
  • Reliability-Based ;
  • Person-Centred ;   and
  • Resilient.


  1. To transform Conventional Fire Engineering, as practiced today, 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 and collaboratively in the sustainable design process, and can respond creatively with sustainable fire engineering design solutions which result in Effective Fire Safety for All in a Safe, Resilient and Sustainable Built Environment.
  2. To bring together today’s disparate sectors within the International Fire Engineering (and Science) Community … to encourage better communication between each, and trans-disciplinary collaboration between all.
  3. To initiate discussion and foster mutual understanding between the International Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Urban Resilience Communities … and the International Fire Engineering and Fire Service Communities.


1.  2016 Dublin Code of Ethics: Design, Engineering, Construction & Operation of a Safe, Resilient & Sustainable Built Environment for All.  Download from: http://www.sustainable-firengineering.ie/sfe2016dublin/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/2016_Dublin-Code-of-Ethics.pdf

The realization of a Safe, Inclusive, Resilient & Sustainable Built Environment demands a concerted, collaborative, very creative and widely trans-disciplinary effort at national, local, regional and international levels across the whole planet – Our Common Home.  The informed operation of appropriate legislation, administrative procedures, performance monitoring and targeting, and incentives/disincentives, at all of these levels, will facilitate initial progress towards this objective … but not the quantity, quality or speed of progress necessary.  Our time is running out !

This Code of Ethics applies … for those who subscribe to its values … to policy and decision makers, and the many different individuals and organizations directly and indirectly involved in the design, engineering, construction, and operation (management and maintenance) of a Safe, Resilient & Sustainable Built Environment for All.

The Purpose of this Code of Ethics is to guide the work of competent individuals and organizations in a context where incomplete or inadequate legislation, administrative procedures and incentives/disincentives exist … but, more importantly, where they do not exist at all … and, amid much confusion and obfuscation of the terms, to ensure that implementation is authentically ‘sustainable’, and reliably ‘safe’ and ‘resilient’ for every person in the receiving community, society or culture … before it is too late !

2.  Sustainable Fire Engineering Network … Join the LinkedIn SFE Group at https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8390667.  Interested Individuals and Organizations are all very welcome.

And … Like the Facebook SFE Page at https://www.facebook.com/sfe2016/

3.  New CIB W14: ‘Fire Safety’ Research Working Group VI Reflection Document: ‘Sustainable Fire Engineering Design, Construction & Operation’, which will establish a framework for the future development of Sustainable Fire Engineering.

Preparation of this Document will soon begin, and the following issues will be explored:

  • Conceptual Framework for Sustainable Fire Engineering (SFE), with a necessary accompanying Generic SFE Terminology ;
  • Strategy for Future SFE Development ;
  • Implementation of 2005 & 2008 NIST WTC 9-11 Recommendations ;
  • Fresh, New SFE Research Agenda ;
  • Resilient Implementation of SFE Research Agenda.

4.  SFE Websitehttp://www.sfe-fire.eu

5.  SFE Twitter Accounts … @sfe2016dublin … and … @firesafety4all




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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.”



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 !!



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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RF-Based Firefighter Communication Performance in Buildings

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.


NIST Technical Note 1792 (March 2013) - Title Page

Click to enlarge.

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.

NIST TN 1792 - Figure 16: 'Subway + System 4 Performance'

NIST TN 1792 – Figure 16: ‘Subway + System 4 Performance’. Click to enlarge.

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.

NIST TN 1792 - Figure 21: 'Tall Building + System 4 Performance'

NIST TN 1792 – Figure 21: ‘Tall Building + System 4 Performance’. Click to enlarge.

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 …

Ireland: The Fire Services Council's Firefighter Handbook (2001) - Table 2.4.2

Ireland: The Fire Services Council’s Firefighter Handbook (2001) – Table 2.4.2. Click to enlarge.




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  • SFE 2016 DUBLIN > Extent 2 Which Can Be Easily Modified At Any Late Life Cycle Stage 2 Meet Altered Performance Needs. ,
  • SFE 2016 DUBLINAREAS OF RESCUE ASSISTANCE Must Be Properly Fitted Out (ISO 21542) & Constantly Monitored From a Central Control Room !! ,
  • SFE 2016 DUBLIN > Extent 2 Which New Interior Is Designed 4 Later Easy Modification With Low User Inconvenience & Cost. ,
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