2016-04-19: A Priority Theme of SFE 2016 DUBLIN, next September, is the ‘Adverse Environmental Impact’ caused by Preventable Fires in the Built Environment. Last year’s horrendous devastation of large tracts of land, air and ground waters in the Tianjin port region of North-Eastern China is one very obvious example.
BUT, consider also … Wind Turbine Fires. As we move closer and closer towards a planetary environmental precipice … there IS enormous pressure to harvest more and more energy from renewable, non-carbon resources. Windmills, of old, used wind energy to perform an important function in a local context. Everybody could see what was happening inside. Local people reaped the benefits. Modern wind turbines, on the other hand … ?
The First Major Issue concerning Wind Turbines, which received only half-hearted attention at best, was their …
Environmental Impact: Any effect caused by a given activity on the environment, including human health, safety and welfare, flora, fauna, soil, air, water, and especially representative samples of natural ecosystems, climate, landscape and historical monuments or other physical structures, or the interactions among these factors; it also includes effects on accessibility, cultural heritage or socio-economic conditions resulting from alterations to those factors.
But, at least, ‘it’ was mentioned in conversations !
The next major issue, the Fire Issue, is a different matter entirely. This problem does NOT exist … NEVER happens … NOBODY KNOWS NOTHING ! And not just in Ireland or Europe … the ‘real’ fire statistics are either ignored, massaged or concealed.
Wind turbines differ from other forms of traditional power generation because of the inherent risk of total fire loss of the nacelle. The main features of this risk include:
- high concentration of value within the nacelle ;
- high concentration of potential ignition sources within the nacelle, and increased risk of lightning strikes ;
- unmanned operation ;
- no possibility of fighting a fire in the nacelle by local fire service personnel, because they are too high up and/or there is no access for fire service vehicles ;
- remote, sometimes very difficult to reach geographical locations of wind turbines, particularly in the case of offshore installations.
[ Nacelle: A cover, or housing, for all of the generating components in a wind turbine, including the generator, gearbox, drive train, and brake assembly.]
The cost of wind turbines and their components, as well as restoration and repair costs after a fire, increase in proportion to installed generating capacity. In addition, losses caused by service interruption also increase in a similar proportion.
According to the loss experience of Insurers, fires in wind turbines can cause significant damage to property and have very high post-fire costs.
Fire Loss in Wind Turbines Can Occur …
- in the nacelle ;
- in the tower ;
- in the electrical sub-station of the wind turbine or wind farm.
Due to the high concentration of technical equipment and combustible material in the nacelle, fire can develop and spread rapidly. There is also the danger that the upper tower segment will be damaged. In the case of a total loss of the nacelle, restoration costs may well reach the original value of the whole turbine.
These ‘Preventable’ Fire Losses Are NOT Sustainable !
Which is why, in September 2012, the European Fire Protection Associations decided to publish a common guideline in order to ensure similar interpretations in the different European countries … and to give examples of acceptable solutions, concepts and models. The Confederation of Fire Protection Associations in Europe (CFPA-E) aims to facilitate and support fire protection work.
The European marketplace is constantly imposing new demands for quality and safety. According to CFPA-E, fire protection forms an integral part of a modern business strategy for survival and competitiveness. We thoroughly agree !
This CFPA-E Guideline (No.22 – September 2012) on Wind Turbine Fire Protection in Europe – produced by VdS Schadenverhütung and drafted by Hardy Rusch – is primarily intended for those people responsible for fire safety in companies and organizations. It is also addressed to fire services, consultants, safety companies, etc … so that, in the course of their work, they may be able to assist companies and organizations in increasing levels of fire safety.
2016-04-11: It Happened One Night !
And Maybe … if it hadn’t been that particular night, amidst all the festivities of New Year’s Eve 2015, we would never have heard about the Address Hotel Fire, in Dubayy (UAE). A long search on the Internet afterwards led to the detailed, post fire analysis report on the 2014 Lacrosse Docklands Fire, in Melbourne (Australia) … followed by some more searching, and a very large can of worms opened up … similar nasty façade (external fabric) fires in many, many countries … involving large chunks of flaming debris falling from terrific heights, carried by the wind to a significant distance away from the building of fire origin.
Some people have tried to suggest that the only reason for these fires is inadequate building codes/regulations. No … the reason for these fires is much more than that … it’s the ‘SYSTEM’ ! In other words, how the International Construction Sector is organized and goes about its ordinary, everyday activities and tasks. We must also talk about poor quality design and construction … and a lack of stringent, independent enforcement of effective building codes/regulations and standards. I have written this down many times before … Self-Regulation is NO Regulation !!
It is clearly and amply evident that Conventional Fire Engineering … as currently practiced, internationally … is no longer ‘fit for purpose’. For discussion at SFE 2016 DUBLIN. Check out the Fire Conference Website: www.sfe-fire.eu … and on Twitter: @sfe2016dublin
And First Here With The Latest Conference News:
- A Late Abstract Submission to the Dublin Fire Conference next September 2016 will deal with the topic of Façade Fires in Tall & Not-So-Tall Buildings ; and
- SFE 2016 DUBLIN will, from today, be working in co-operation with the biggest fire exhibition in China – CFE 2016 – 6th International Fire Safety Exhibition in Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China (PRC).
IN IRELAND … 2015 TERRACED HOUSING FIRE …
The general public was shocked and stunned, to put it mildly, by a very rapid and extensive 2015 Terraced Housing Fire on the outskirts of the Dublin Region …
[ See my Blog, dated 2011-04-06 … about a different, but related, 2011 Terraced Housing Fire in Terenure, a suburb of Dublin City.]
[ Fast forward from 2011 … overtaking Priory Hall (see my series of Blogs) … to Longboat Quay, a large residential development on the south bank of the River Liffey, which flows through the middle of Dublin. A recent visual/surface inspection of one of the units there revealed not just a poor quality of construction … but a lack of care and attention, with a mixture of incompetence and ignorance thrown in for good measure.]
The 2015 Terraced Housing Fire, shown above, should not have been a surprise to the ‘System’ in Ireland. Research carried out in the U.S.A., Belgium and The Netherlands since 2012, and a serious PassivHaus Apartment Fire in Köln, Germany, on the night of 5 February 2013 … have all shown that the modern home (highly insulated, airtight, packed with electronic equipment and wiring, and fast-burning synthetic furnishings, etc.) is the ‘perfect storm’ of fire conditions and outcomes. More open residential design + increased fuel loads + new construction systems and materials = faster development of fires, much reduced times to flashover, far less time for occupant evacuation, particularly people with activity limitations … and shorter building collapse times.
The time to flashover in modern high-performance housing, i.e. Sustainable/Green/PassivHaus/Eco/LEED/Bio/+Energy/Low Carbon/BREEAM/Zero Carbon/Smart … can be 7 times faster than in conventional/legacy housing … or less than 5 minutes, compared with just over 29 minutes !
All of this research can be found on the Links & Docs Page of the SFE 2016 DUBLIN Website.
Let us be crystal clear … there is nothing Sustainable/Green/PassivHaus/Eco/LEED/Bio/+Energy/Low Carbon/BREEAM/Zero Carbon/Smart about the post-fire scenes of destruction shown above. And only for the physical separation between terraces, which can be clearly seen in the last photograph … the fire would have kept spreading.
URGENT FIRE SAFETY RECOMMENDATIONS …
Without a balanced, proper approach to the issue of Fire Safety in this type of modern, high-performance housing … occupant safety is seriously threatened. And if, in the event of a fire incident, the occupants are asleep … or people with activity limitations are living in the house … that threat will be extremely grave indeed.
Reality – Reliability – Redundancy – Resilience !
So … what needs to change ? In Ireland, our immediate problem is Timber-Framed Housing (as shown above) … and the following is an outline of what must change … NOW !
- Party Walls, i.e. the walls separating one house from another, must be constructed of solid masonry, with a uniform and uncompromised thickness of at least 200mm … plastered on both sides, not dry-lined, for adequate smoke resistance … and be continued above the roof covering for at least 300mm.
- An effective Fire Detection System must be installed. The conventional ‘package’ of one smoke detector per floor in the hallway and staircase of a standard 2 storey semi-detached house is nowhere near being adequate.
- An effective Residential/Domestic Fire Suppression System must be installed, e.g. low pressure water mist. See later post, dated 2016-06-13.
- Intermediate Timber Floors and Evacuation Routes, including fire resisting doorsets, must be reliably protected from fire and smoke. The minimum period of fire and smoke resistance must be linked to local fire service support infrastructure. In other words, the local fire services must be allowed sufficient time to arrive at the scene of a fire in strength … to search for any occupants still remaining in the fire building … and to bring the fire under control.
- Uppermost Ceilings under a trussed timber roof structure, including any trap doorsets into the roof space, must be similarly and reliably protected from fire and smoke. Once fire enters a roof space, the light trussed timber structure will collapse within a few minutes.
- Front and Back Entrance/Egress Doors must be outward opening. In the 2013 German PassivHaus Apartment Fire, the occupant found it extremely difficult to open inward opening doors and windows because of the high positive pressure caused by the developing fire.
- Internal Linings of External Walls must comprise 2 layers of plasterboard, with all joints staggered … steel fixed, at not more than 150mm centres. Once fire breaches the internal lining of an external wall, the whole building will become involved in the fire. Horizontal and vertical fire sealing behind these linings, even if properly installed (!), are too little and too late.
- Frontline Firefighters must be supported by specialist structural engineering and hazard appraisal units … and light/portable/reliable Thermal Imaging Cameras must be recognized as a standard tool of firefighting.
SUSTAINABLE HOUSING & RESIDENTIAL BUILDINGS …
These building types are more popularly known as Green, PassivHaus/Passive House, LEED, Eco, Bio, BREEAM, +Energy, Low/Nearly Zero/Zero Carbon, or Smart, etc., etc. In ALL of these cases, however, an Effective Residential Fire Suppression System MUST BE INSTALLED, e.g. low pressure water mist !
ENERGY CONSERVATION & EFFICIENCY UPGRADING OF EXISTING BUILDINGS …
In refurbishment projects where insulation is fixed to the internal surfaces of external walls … similar fire safety problems exist, and they must be solved by reviewing the full checklist above. Refer again to the PassivHaus Apartment Fire in Köln, Germany, on the night of 5 February 2013.
2015-04-20: After a lengthy, constructive and very interesting discussion which resulted in some important text revisions … on Friday afternoon in Dublin, 10 April 2015, at the ‘Fire Safety for All’ Conference (www.fire-safety-for-all.eu) … all participants voted to adopt, support and promote the 2015 Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings !
With regard to International Distribution and Promotion of the Declaration … many readers of this Technical Blog belong to varied professional, social and business networks. I would earnestly ask you to circulate the Declaration widely within those networks, and to actively seek the support of as many organizations and individuals as possible. This support should be confirmed by means of a simple e-mail message to: email@example.com … and I will then add the names of supporters to the Fire Safety for All WebSite (www.fire-safety-for-all.eu). Copies of the Declaration, in PDF and WORD Formats, can also be downloaded from the WebSite.
This Benchmark Declaration on Accessibility and Fire Safety for People with Activity Limitations … is an essential reference document for all stakeholders and interested parties. It draws a long-awaited, broad, distinct and stable line in the shifting sands of a rapidly evolving Sustainable Human Environment (social, built, virtual, economic, and institutional) ….
1. As of 14 July 2015 … 156 Countries, plus the European Union, have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Since the Convention became an international legal instrument in 2008, however, the UN CRPD Preamble’s Paragraph (g): ‘mainstreaming disability in sustainable development strategies’ … and Paragraph (v): ‘the importance of accessibility in enabling people to fully enjoy their rights and fundamental freedoms’ … have tended to receive insufficient public attention and scrutiny. The Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings and the related CIB W14 Research Working Group 5’s Reflection Document have been drafted with those two paragraphs very much in mind.
2. Although a situation of serious risk for vulnerable building users … it is not appropriate to deal with Fire Safety for All in Buildings under Article 11: ‘Situations of Risk & Humanitarian Emergencies’ of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities … where situations of grave risk are handled, e.g. Extreme Man-Made Events, Hybrid Disasters, Severe Natural Events, Complex Humanitarian Emergencies … all amid Accelerating Climate Change & Variability.
Take the case of an earthquake, for example … where there will be large-scale serious building damage and many, many building collapses throughout an affected region. On the other hand, when considering fire safety for all in any building … it is necessary that the building shall remain not just structurally stable, but serviceable.
3. It is more appropriate, particularly since the publication of International Standard ISO 21542 (2011) with its expanded definition of Building Accessibility, that Fire Safety for All be incorporated into the meaning and implementation of Article 9: ‘Accessibility’ of the CRPD … in exactly the same manner that fire safety is fully integrated into everyday mainstream building use, and mainstream building fire safety codes and standards.
As there are no references, at all, to either ‘fire’ or ‘safety’ in Articles 9 … there is much to be explained and clarified in the 2015 Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings, if ‘real’ implementation is to be both practical and successful.
An improved and updated definition of Building Accessibility is contained in Principle 3 of the Dublin Declaration …
‘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.’
4. The Dublin Declaration contains a Preamble, Principles 1-9 which are headlined below, and an Appendix with many Terms and Definitions …
Principle 1 – A Human Right
Principle 2 – Successful Implementation
Principle 3 – Building Accessibility
Principle 4 – Design for Safe Evacuation
Principle 5 – Accessible EICT’s
Principle 6 – Fire Safety Skills
Principle 7 – Reasonable Spatial Provision
Principle 8 – Building Management
Principle 9 – Firefighters
5. Existing approaches to Fire Safety, Protection & Evacuation in Buildings for People with Activity Limitations … as described and illustrated in the notable examples of British Standard B.S. 9999 (2008), Singapore’s FSR 7 (2011), and Hong Kong’s Fire Safety Code Addendum (2014) … are technically inadequate, tokenistic, discriminatory, create barriers to social participation, and violate human rights. Therefore, any further use or recourse to such existing approaches must be terminated immediately !
2015 DUBLIN DECLARATION ON ‘FIRE SAFETY FOR ALL’ IN BUILDINGS
A Call to Action and Successful Implementation !
(Adopted in Dublin, 2015-04-10)
Meeting In Dublin, Ireland … on Thursday and Friday, 9 and 10 April, 2015 …
In Co-Operation With the International Council for Research & Innovation in Building & Construction (CIB), Rehabilitation International’s International Commission on Technology & Accessibility (RI-ICTA), the Global Alliance for Accessible Technologies & EnvironmentS (GAATES), and the EUropean Concept for Accessibility Network (EuCAN) ;
Recognizing the integral and interdependent nature of the natural and human environments (social, built, virtual, economic and institutional) on this small planet Earth, our common home … and the need for harmonized principles to inspire and guide the peoples of the World in the enhancement of a human environment which cherishes the dignity, worth and many abilities of every person ;
Whereas in the United Nations Charter, the U.N. Member States pledged their respect for, and the protection and observance of, fundamental human and social rights … and have determined to promote social development and better standards of living for all ;
Recalling the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted on 10th December 1948 … which established a global framework of human and social rights – basic needs and protections – and fundamental freedoms for every person and communal gathering ;
Recalling Also the Rio de Janeiro Declaration on Sustainable Social Development, Disability & Ageing, adopted on 11th December 2004 … which stressed the importance of the social aspects in Sustainable Human & Social Development ;
Mindful Especially of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), adopted on 13th December 2006 … the principal aim of which is to ensure that the human environment is sufficiently accessible to permit a vulnerable and major population group in all communities to safely exercise and enjoy the human and social rights and fundamental freedoms described in the 1948 UDHR ;
Working Towards the achievement of justice, equality of opportunity, social inclusion, active participation and development for every person with an activity limitation in all communities … and recognizing that accessibility of the human environment is an essential prerequisite for the above, and that fire safety for all is a critical life safety component of that accessibility ;
Aware Always of the universal reality that there is still a strong social stigma associated with disability and, particularly, mental ill-health … that much of the human environment is not accessible for all, and even where it is robustly mandated in law, the quality of that accessibility is poor … and that fire safety guidelines for people with activity limitations in buildings, if they exist, are inadequate and/or tokenistic, and rarely implemented ;
Welcoming the launch of the CIB Working Commission 14: Fire Safety – Research Working Group 5’s Reflection Document: Buildings & ‘Fire Incident Human Behaviour and Abilities’ which presents a practical examination and general overview of fire safety for all …
Addressed to every Country and the European Union – those many Voluntary Parties to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – and the Politicians, Authorities Having Jurisdiction, State Agencies, Professional Bodies & Institutions, Non-Governmental Organizations, Charitable & Private Organizations, etc., based within those separate jurisdictions:
We Declare That The Following Principles Must …
Be carefully studied, successfully implemented, and independently monitored … supported by Benchmarking, reliable Data and Statistics, and the informed use of pertinent Accessibility & Fire Safety Related Performance Indicators …
Principle 1 – A Human Right
Full and effective accessibility of the Human Environment (social, built, virtual, economic and institutional) is a fundamental human and social right, i.e. a basic need, for people with activity limitations – it is an essential prerequisite for the safe exercise and enjoyment of those rights, protections and freedoms set down in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent international rights instruments … and crucially, for their health, participation, inclusion and development in all communities.
Principle 2 – Successful Implementation
Successful accessibility implementation … meaning high quality accessibility performance in the built environment … is reliant upon:
- A robust legal base mandating accessibility for all and fire safety for all ;
- Determined political will ;
- Sufficient public financial resources ;
- A compassionate and understanding bureaucracy at all levels ;
- Competent … meaning duly educated, trained and experienced in accessibility and fire safety design … spatial planners, architects, structural engineers, fire engineers, quantity surveyors, technical controllers, industrial designers, building managers, and people at all levels in construction organizations ;
- Independent monitoring of accessibility and fire safety performance ;
- Innovative, well-designed accessibility and fire safety related products and systems which can be shown to be ‘fit for their intended use’.
Principle 3 – Building Accessibility
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.
Principle 4 – Design for Safe Evacuation
Accessibility design criteria must be infused into all of the practical, day-to-day work of building designers and, especially, in the development of project-specific fire engineering design objectives … and be applied from the initial stages of building design, through to the construction and reliable life cycle operation of vertical and horizontal fire evacuation routes facilitating contraflow, areas of rescue assistance, fire safety related signage, controls and fittings, fire prevention and protection measures, fire safety management procedures, routes to and locations of places of safety, etc., etc.
• Evacuation way finding in buildings must be intuitive and obvious ;
• 3 Keywords for building designers must be: reality – reliability – redundancy.
Principle 5 – Accessible EICT’s
Electronic, information and communication technologies are ubiquitous in today’s complex built and virtual environments. During a real fire incident in a building, they serve a function which is critical for the safety of all building users and firefighters, property protection, minimizing environmental damage and harm, and sustainability. For that reason, they must have a control and/or user interface which is accessible for all.
Principle 6 – Fire Safety Skills
People with activity limitations who occupy or use a building frequently must be included in all practice fire evacuations, in order to learn the skill of safe independent evacuation to an accessible place of safety remote from the building. During a real fire incident, evacuation assistance provided by other building users or rescue by firefighters, and the time spent waiting for that assistance or rescue in the building must be kept to an absolute minimum.
People with activity limitations must be actively encouraged to participate in fire safety preparatory planning and regular practices … and, without exception, must be consulted and included in all activities concerning their own evacuation from a building.
Management systems and fire protection measures in buildings are never 100% reliable. People with activity limitations must, therefore, be actively encouraged to be self-aware in situations of risk, and facilitated in learning the skill of self-protection.
Principle 7 – Reasonable Spatial Provision
Reasonable spatial provision must be allocated in a building for the needs of real users, who vary in the range of their individual behaviour and abilities … and for the real building user population profile which, avoiding discrimination, must reflect a society as a whole. Concerning fire safety for all and the necessary size, for example, of an area of rescue assistance which adjoins a fire evacuation staircase on every floor in a building … the following indicators, exclusive of extra provision for assistants, must guide the architect and fire engineer in the collaborative design process:
(a) Minimum reasonable provision for people with disabilities in a building – 10% of design occupant/user population ;
(b) Minimum reasonable provision for people with activity limitations in a building … 15% of design occupant/user population.
Principle 8 – Building Management
Building managers must ensure that fire safety for all preparatory planning is effective, and that practices are held regularly … before any real fire incident occurs. And as part of their normal, day-to-day functioning … managers must be fully aware that, without due attention to accessibility-related services, product maintenance and occupant/user welfare policies, the quality of accessibility in a building will rapidly deteriorate.
Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPS) must not be used to limit or restrict access to any part of a building and its facilities.
Principle 9 – Firefighters
Firefighters must be trained to interact with and rescue people with activity limitations from buildings, using procedures and equipment which will not cause injury to either. Fire services must ensure that they operate such procedures and possess such regularly serviced equipment.
Emergency service organizations must operate reliable systems to notify the fire services of emergency situations, which are accessible for all and useable by the public at all times.
APPENDIX – Terms & Definitions
Area of Rescue Assistance: A sufficiently large building space directly adjoining, and visible from, a main vertical evacuation route – robustly and reliably protected from heat, smoke and flame during and after a fire – where people may temporarily wait with confidence for further information, instructions, and evacuation assistance or rescue, without obstructing or interfering with the evacuation travel of other building users.
Contraflow Circulation in a Fire Building: Emergency access by firefighters or rescue teams into a building and towards a real fire … while building users are still moving away from the fire and evacuating the building.
Evacuation from a Fire Building: To withdraw, or cause to withdraw, all users from a building which is on fire … in pre-planned and orderly phased movements to an accessible place of safety remote from the building.
Fire Compartmentation: The division of a building into fire-tight compartments by fire, smoke and heat resisting elements of construction, in order to …
a) contain an outbreak of fire, including any smoke and heat generated by the fire ;
b) prevent damage, within the building, to other adjoining compartments and spaces ;
c) protect a compartment interior from external fire attack, e.g. fire spread across the building’s facade or from an adjacent building ;
d) minimize adverse, or harmful, environmental impacts outside the building.
Human Health: A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
People with Activity Limitations (E) / Personnes à Performances Réduites (F): Those people, of all ages, who are unable to perform, independently and without aid, basic human activities or tasks – because of a health condition or physical / mental / cognitive / psychological impairment of a permanent or temporary nature.
The above Term includes …
- wheelchair users ;
- people who experience difficulty in walking, with or without a facilitation aid, e.g. stick, crutch, calliper or walking frame ;
- frail, older people ;
- the very young (people under the age of 5 years) ;
- people who suffer from arthritis, asthma, or a heart condition ;
- the visually and/or hearing impaired ;
- people who have a cognitive impairment disorder, including dementia, amnesia, brain injury, or delirium ;
- women in the later stages of pregnancy ;
- people impaired following the use of alcohol, other ‘social’ drugs e.g. cocaine and heroin, and some medicines ;
- people who suffer any partial or complete loss of language related abilities, i.e. aphasia ;
- people impaired following exposure to environmental pollution and/or other irresponsible human activities, e.g. war and terrorism ;
- people who experience a panic attack in a real fire situation or other emergency ;
- people, including firefighters, who suffer incapacitation as a result of exposure, during a real fire, to smoke and poisonous or toxic substances, and/or elevated temperatures.
Place of Safety:
• Any accessible location beyond a perimeter which is  metres from the fire building or a distance of  times the height of such building, whichever is the greater ; and
• Where necessary triage can safely be rendered … and from where effective medical care and supervision can be organized and provided within one hour of injury (the ‘golden hour’) ; and
• Where people can be identified.
Note: If there is a risk of an explosion associated with a fire – multiply the numbers in square brackets above by 4.
Progressive Damage in Fire / Fire-Induced Progressive Damage: The sequential growth and intensification of structural deformation and displacement, beyond fire engineering design parameters, and the eventual failure of elements of construction in a building – during a fire and the ‘cooling phase’ afterwards – which, if unchecked, will result in disproportionate damage, and may lead to total building collapse.
Note: Fire-induced progressive damage may commence long before there is any breach in the integrity of a fire compartment’s boundaries.
Real Fire: A fire which develops in a building and is influenced by such factors as the type of building and its occupancy (numbers, abilities and activities) ; the combustible content (fire load) ; the ventilation, geometry and thermal properties of the fire compartment or building space (should no fire compartmentation exist) ; the fire suppression systems in the building, and the actions of firefighters.
Skill: The ability of a person – resulting from proper training and regular practice – to carry out complex, well-organized patterns of behaviour efficiently and adaptively, in order to achieve some end or goal.
Social Environment: The complex network of real and virtual human interaction – at a communal or larger group level – which operates for reasons of tradition, culture, business, pleasure, information exchange, institutional organization, legal procedure, governance, human betterment, social progress and spiritual enlightenment, etc.
Social Rights: Rights to which an individual person is legally entitled, e.g. the right to free elementary education (Art.26(1), UDHR), but which are only exercised in a social context with other people, and with the active support of a competent legal authority, e.g. a Nation State.
Social Wellbeing: A general condition – in a community, society or culture – of health, happiness, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development.
Virtual Environment: A designed environment, electronically generated from within the built environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.
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 !
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
• Reality – Reliability – Redundancy – 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 !
Grab a Bicycle – Get a Horse – Take a Train or a Plane – Come to Dublin in April !
To Exhibit / To Sponsor … please go to the Event WebSite: www.fire-safety-for-all.eu
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.”
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 !!
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 !!
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. ]
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 Notes … www.sustainable-design.ie/arch/tgn.htm
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.
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.
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 !!
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 !
2014-04-13: Further to the Post, dated 2013-01-13 …
There are many essential qualities and features belonging to and representative of a Sustainable Human Environment (including the Social, Built, Virtual and Economic Environments). As discussed here many times before … Accessibility-for-All is one fundamental attribute, under Social and Legal Aspects of Sustainable Human and Social Development.
Another fundamental attribute … Urban Resilience … is now moving centre stage in the world of International Construction Research & Practice. WHEN, not if … this concept is fully elaborated and understood, it will have a profound impact on All Tasks, Activities and Types of Performance in the Human Environment … under All Aspects of Sustainable Human and Social Development.
After working for many years on Climate Change, particularly Adaptation … it was quite natural for me to encounter the concept of Resilience. But the aim of a newly established Core Task Group within CIB (International Council for Research & Innovation in Building & Construction) is to widen out this concept to also include Severe Natural Events (e.g. earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis), Complex Humanitarian Emergencies, (e.g. regional famines, mass human migrations), Extreme Man-Made Events (e.g. 2001 WTC 9-11 Attack, 2008 Mumbai ‘Hive’ Attacks), and Hybrid Disasters (e.g. 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident) … to set down Resilience Benchmarks … and to produce Resilience Performance Indicators. An imposing challenge !
AND … as Urbanization is proceeding at such a rapid pace in the BRICS Countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa) and throughout the rest of the Southern Hemisphere … ‘practical’ and ‘easily assimilated’ trans-disciplinary output from this CIB Task Group is urgently required. In other words, the work of the Task Group must not be permitted to become an exercise in long drawn out pure academic research … the clear focus must be on ‘real’ implementation … As Soon As Is Practicable !!
A New and Updated Groundwork …
The ethical design response, in resilient built and/or wrought form, to the concept of Sustainable Human & Social Development.
SUSTAINABLE HUMAN & SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
Development which meets the responsible needs, i.e. the human and social rights*, of this generation – without stealing the life and living resources from the next seven future generations.
*As defined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights … and augmented by UN OHCHR Letter, dated 6 June 2013, on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
The CITY (as Region)
A geographical region, with open and flexible boundaries, consisting of:
(a) An interwoven, densely constructed core (built environment) ;
(b) A large resident population of more than 500,000 people (social environment) ;
(c) A supporting hinterland of lands, waters and other natural resources (cultivated landscape) ;
together functioning as …
(i) a complex living system (analogous to, yet different from, other living systems such as ecosystems and organisms) ; and
(ii) a synergetic community capable of providing a high level of individual welfare, and social wellbeing for all of its inhabitants.
A general condition – in a community, society or culture – of health, happiness, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development.
A person’s general feeling of health, happiness and fulfilment.
A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. [World Health Organization]
The complex network of real and virtual human interaction – at a communal or larger group level – which operates for reasons of tradition, culture, business, pleasure, information exchange, institutional organization, legal procedure, governance, human betterment, social progress and spiritual enlightenment, etc.
The social environment shapes, binds together, and directs the future development of the built and virtual environments.
Anywhere there is, or has been, a man-made or wrought (worked) intervention by humans in the natural environment, e.g. cities, towns, villages, rural settlements, service utilities, transport systems, roads, bridges, tunnels, and cultivated lands, lakes, rivers, coasts, seas, etc … including the virtual environment.
A designed environment, electronically generated from within the built environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.
The virtual and built environments continue to merge into a new augmented reality.
The intricate web of real and virtual human commercial activity – operating at micro and macro-economic levels – which facilitates, supports, but sometimes hampers or disrupts, human interaction in the social environment.
And So To Work !!
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) !
2013-04-02: Sustainable Design International Ltd. (SDI) is pleased to announce that its Managing Director, C.J. Walsh, has been invited to be ‘Project Design Architect’ / ‘Design Professional in Responsible Charge’ for a New 32 Storey Hotel in Yunnan Province, People’s Republic of China (PRC).
He will have responsibility for the Project’s Architectural Concept Design and General Schematic Design … including the overall architectural character and profile of primary exterior surfaces.
Project Approximate Value = € 65 Million (Euros) … excluding interior design, finishes and furnishing (which could end up doubling, or even tripling, the overall project value).
Sustainable Design International Ltd. maintains a strict practice policy of Client Confidentiality.
[ If this Type of Professional Design Service Appeals to You, or Your Organization – Contact Us Immediately ! ]
An estimated One Billion People will be living in China’s cities by 2030. This large-scale and very rapid urbanization demands that a sustainable transformation of their urban built, social, economic and institutional environments commences Today – not at some notional point in a far distant future.
Furthermore … replicating a European approach to sustainable design and construction in other regions of the world is doomed to failure. Urban Transformation in China must be adapted to Local Geography, Climate, Climate Change, Social Needs, Cultures, Economy, and Local Severe Events (e.g. earthquakes, flooding). With European support and collaboration … China must, and will, find its own way.
Click the Link Above to read and/or download a PDF File (4.42 Mb)
Report on a One-Day China Advisory Council Roundtable, co-organized by Friends of Europe and EuroChambres, which was held in Brussels on 8 March 2012. This event was part of an ‘Understanding China’ Programme (mid-2009 to mid-2012), co-funded by the European Commission.
2013 Asian Development Bank (ADB) Guidebook: ‘Increasing Climate Change Resilience of Urban Water Infrastructure’
This Guide describes a practical approach to bridge the gap between theoretical analyses of climate change impacts and the planning decisions that need to be made by city authorities and utility managers to increase climate change resilience of the water sector in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, People’s Republic of China (PRC). It focuses on answering the questions currently being asked by city planners and managers all over the world, as follows:
- What changes might be caused by climate change ?
- How will these changes affect services and utilities ?
- What can we do now to prepare for them ?
The long lead time required to plan, finance, build, and commission city infrastructure facilities means that decision makers cannot wait for more detailed data on the effects of future climate change, especially those relating to local circumstances, but must make investment decisions based on what is known now and what can be readily predicted. An important principle in this kind of ‘robust’ decision-making is provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) tenet that adaptation investments, which move a city’s infrastructure toward sustainable development (such as providing safe drinking water and better sanitary conditions), are justifiable even without climate change.
This Guide is arranged in clear steps to provide direction and information for similar exercises in other areas. Having grown out of a specific locality and its needs, the principles and solutions developed in this guide are founded on real world situations and problems …
Click the Link Above to read and/or download a PDF File (2.31 Mb)
*** THIS TALL BUILDING IN YUNNAN PROVINCE & SIMILAR COMPLEX ARCHITECTURAL PROJECTS ***
Working within the professional constraints of ‘client confidentiality’ … it is possible to have a general discussion about current building design, construction and operation issues in an international sector which is operating, more and more, beyond national borders … without adequate, or very often any, national and local regulation. By ‘regulation’, I mean a flexible system of building-related legislation which is operated in conjunction with mandatory and effective technical control.
In order to cope with today’s complex built environment and the enormous variation in the size and scale of construction projects … a ‘flexible’ mix of functional, performance and prescriptive legal requirements is the sharpest and most appropriate instrument.
And you can forget the hype about performance-based building codes coming out of the USA … hot air, and much ado about little !
Of course, the biggest issue of all is the competence of those individuals who work in Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s), i.e. technical controllers. Even in the most developed economies of the world … there are many occasions when the level of individual incompetence in an AHJ is astounding … and institutional arrangements within the AHJ itself are a mess, i.e. the AHJ is not fit for purpose.
1. Sustainable Design – Design Process Efficiency & Proper Preparation for Construction
A tremendous amount of waste is associated with and generated by the processes of conventional building design, construction and operation. There is a more up-to-date and efficient way of doing things … an essential way for Sustainable Design … and it’s called Building Information Modelling (BIM) !
Furthermore … consider, for a moment, just the initial list of Specialist Consultants who will be engaged directly by the Chinese Client when the project’s conceptual design has reached a sufficiently developed stage. How can all of these individuals and organizations – listed in the revised and agreed Project Design Agreement – obtain accurate and reliable ‘real time’ information about the rapidly evolving project from a central design library / information database … then feed their new work back into the centre without unnecessary delay ? How, next, can everyone else who needs to know, be updated with the new design input … again, without delay ? And perhaps, these consultants may also be based in different countries … working in very different time zones …
- Building Information Modelling (BIM) Consultant
- Local Design Institute (LDI) … a local architectural practice which will produce the project’s working drawings, handle local spatial planning and building code approvals, carry out site inspections, and deal directly with construction organization(s), etc., etc.
- Interior Design Consultant
- Traffic / Parking Analysis Consultant
- Curtain Wall Consultant (Curtain Wall, Skylights & Special Roof Structures)
- Retail Market Analysis Consultant
- Landscape Design Consultant
- Quantity Surveying & Cost Estimating Consultant
- Furniture Design Consultant
- Geotechnical, Civil Engineering & Structural Engineering Consultant (including structural performance under fire and earthquake conditions, resistance to fire-induced progressive damage and disproportionate damage … and also including climate resilience)
- Acoustic & Audio-Visual Design Consultant
- Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing (MEP) Engineering Consultant
- Integrated Building Automation & Management / Telecom / Security / Networking Consultant
- Fire & Life-Safety Engineering Consultant
- Water Feature Consultant
- Wind Tunnel Test Consultant
- Kitchen Equipment and Layout Design Consultant
- Art, Artefact and Accessories Consultant & Procurement Services for Art, Artefacts, and Accessories
- Tenant Storefront Design Consultant
- Helicopter Landing Pad Design Consultant
- Universal Design / Accessibility for All Consultant [including access to the building, electronic, information and communication technologies (EICT’s), and services offered at the hotel … and including fire safety, protection and evacuation for all]
2. The ‘Design Professional in Responsible Charge’ !
The Project Design Agreement requests that the Client receive advice on who might be the different Specialist Consultants listed above. In addition, it will be necessary to demarcate the boundaries within which each Consultant will operate … and, where appropriate, to prescribe a design performance target (see below) for each speciality … which must be ‘realized’ in the completed and occupied building !
Recalling the many previous posts, here on this Technical Blog, concerning NIST’s 2005 & 2008 Recommendations on the 9-11 World Trade Centre Building Collapses in New York City … ‘somebody’ must ensure that the many individuals and organizations listed above – members of the Larger (2nd Stage) Design Team – use consistent design data and assumptions … must co-ordinate design documents and specifications to identify overlaps and eliminate gaps … must serve as ultimate liaison between the Client, the Local Design Institute, AHJ officials, and the Construction Organization(s) … and must ensure that everybody is on the same communication wavelength, and working towards the same objective in a trans-disciplinary manner.
That ‘Somebody’ … the Design Professional in Responsible Charge … must be the Project Design Architect !
3. Some Sustainable Design Performance Targets
Actual construction and building user performance shall be carefully (i.e. reliably and precisely) monitored … and independently verified …
A. Basic Functional Requirements … the Building shall comply with the Basic Requirements for Construction Works – elaborated in Annex I of European Union (EU) Regulation No.305/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 9 March 2011, laying down Harmonized Conditions for the Marketing of Construction Products and Repealing Council Directive 89/106/EEC.
See my Post, dated 2011-09-13 … http://www.cjwalsh.ie/2011/09/new-eu-construction-product-regulation-3052011-halleluiah/
B. Good Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) … Two high-level performance indicators 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’ …
– 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 shall 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 shall at no time exceed 800 ppm.
C. Energy Conservation & Efficiency + A ‘Positive Energy’ Return + Assured Building User Thermal Comfort
See my Post, dated 2013-09-10 … http://www.cjwalsh.ie/2013/09/passivhaus-standard-is-not-enough-in-new-building-projects/
D. Project-Specific Sustainable Fire Engineering Design Objectives
See my Post, dated 2014-04-20 … http://www.cjwalsh.ie/2014/04/sustainable-fire-engineering-design-targeting-mrv/
2013-03-17: Happy Saint Patrick’s Day !!
Submissions on India’s Draft Amendment No.1 to the 2005 National Building Code (SP 7:2005) concerning the Proposed Incorporation of a New Part 11: ‘Approach to Sustainability’ had to arrive at the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), in Dilli … by e-mail … no later than Friday last, 15 March 2013 …
Indian NBC, Proposed Part 11 on ‘Sustainability’ – December 2012 Consultation
Extract From Foreword (Page 7):
‘ Developed nations’ approach to sustainability generally concentrates on energy conservation through high technology innovations, and use of products, materials and designs with lower embodied energy. Their green ratings are based on intent, which implies expert inputs and simulation. The Indian construction industry will do better using our traditional wisdom and practices, building in harmony with nature through regional common knowledge, consuming as little as necessary, applying low cost technology innovations, using recycled materials, and recognizing performance (not intent) through easily measurable parameters wherever feasible.’
How Right They Are About Prioritizing ‘Real’ Performance !!
And Just Before That Extract Above:
‘ The authentic (my insert !) Indian way of life is aparigraha (minimum possessions), conservation (minimum consumption), and recycling (minimum waste). These three attributes are the guiding principles for sustainable buildings as well. With these attributes and its rich heritage, India can make a substantial contribution in this field and eventually lead the world on the path of sustainability.’
An Overly Ambitious Target ? Perhaps Not.
SDI Supporting India’s National Sustainable Buildings Strategy …
We very much welcome this opportunity to make a Submission on India’s Draft Amendment No.1 to the 2005 National Building Code (SP 7:2005) concerning the Proposed Inclusion of a New Part 11 ‘Approach to Sustainability’.
This IS an important development for India … and it DOES mark a substantial contribution to this field, at international level. We wish that other countries would follow your example … particularly China, the other mushrooming economies in South-East Asia, and the Arab Gulf States.
You may not be aware that Sustainable Design International (SDI) has been specializing in the theory and implementation of a Sustainable Human Environment (social, built, virtual, and economic) since the mid-1990’s.
And, for example … in September 2007, we were invited to make a series of Keynote Presentations to 20 Senior National Decision-Makers, from both the public and private sectors, at a 2-Day Workshop which was organized for us in Lisboa, Portugal. If invited, we would be delighted to repeat this valuable exercise in Dilli, Bengaluru, and other suitable venues in India.
IF India is to lead the world on this particular track, i.e. Sustainable Buildings, a coherent philosophy must be outlined in the Proposed New Part 11 of the National Building Code, and a clear direction must also be given there to decision-makers, e.g. clients/client organizations, and designers.
Certain essential content must be included in Part 11. With regard to an improved layout of Part 11, please review the attached SDI Document: ‘SEED Building Life Cycle’ (PDF File, 55 Kb) .
Because you have prioritized ‘real’ building performance over pre-construction design ‘intent’, it is appropriate to begin our comments here …
1. Sustainability Performance Indicators
In order to prioritize ‘real’ performance, the monitoring of actual sustainability performance in completed and occupied buildings must be comprehensive, accurate and reliable. Indicators of sustainability performance must, therefore, be included in all sections of the Proposed New Part 11.
Sustainability Performance Indicators provide important signposts for decision-making and design in many ways. They can translate physical and social science knowledge into manageable units of information which facilitate the decision-making and design processes. They can help to measure and calibrate progress towards sustainable development goals, and sectoral sustainability targets. They can provide an early warning to prevent economic, social and environmental damage and harm. They are also important tools to communicate ideas, thoughts and values because, as statisticians say: “We measure what we value, and value what we measure”.
Performance Indicators may be both quantitative and qualitative … but must cover all stages of the building process, i.e. project feasibility and performance specification, spatial planning, design, construction, management, operation, maintenance and servicing, de-construction, disposal, final site clean-up and sustainable repair.
While many, though not all, types of building performance can be successfully monitored using lightweight portable equipment … a certain number of monitoring devices must also be permanently installed in the building during construction. A facility to reliably feed the output from these devices back to data collection points, on site and remote, must also be incorporated in the Building’s Intelligent Management System.
Management and collation of sustainability performance data must be reliable. Uncertainty is always present. Therefore, Statements of Uncertainty should always be attached to ‘reliable’ data.
Safety Factors should always be included when targeting critical ‘health and safety’ related types of performance.
Sustainability Performance Indicators must be directly comparable across different Global Regions … within Asia, across different countries … and within India, across different States. A Balanced, Harmonized Core Set of Indian Performance Indicators should be quickly developed. A Balanced ‘Local’ Set of Performance Indicators will always be necessary.
People tasked with monitoring sustainable building performance must be competent … and independent, i.e. be unconnected to client, design and construction organizations.
Specifically in relation to Energy Performance, the targets to be achieved in new buildings must be far more ambitious. Please review the attached SDI Document: ‘SEED Positive Energy Buildings’ (PDF File, 29 Kb) .
2. Properly Defining ‘Sustainable Development’
As currently drafted … Definition 2.26 Sustainable Development, on Page 13 of the Proposed New Part 11, is not only ambiguous, it is inadequate for India’s needs … and it is barely the first half of the full, correct definition …
Sustainable Development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:
- the concept of ‘needs’, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given ; and
- the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.
[ Please refer to the 1987 Report of the World Commission on Environment & Development (WCED): ‘Our Common Future’ – Chapter 2, Paragraph 1.]
This original definition in the 1987 WCED Report IS appropriate for India … and it must become the core definition at the heart of India’s National Sustainable Buildings Strategy !
A careful reading of the full definition makes it clear that there are Many Aspects to this intricate, open, dynamic and still evolving concept … the most important of which are: Social, Economic, Environmental, Institutional, Political, and Legal.
It is a Fundamental Principle of Sustainability, and one of its Primary Values … that Implementation must be Synchronous, Balanced and Equitable across All Aspects of Sustainability.
The ‘Green Agenda’ merely considers Environmental Aspects of Sustainability … in isolation from all of the other Aspects ! This is a fatal flaw which must be avoided in the Proposed New Part 11 !!
[ I made many references to this issue during the FSAI Conferences in India ! ]
3. Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) for India !
Rather than Environmental Impact Assessment … surely the Proposed New Part 11: ‘Approach to Sustainability’ must now use, explain and discuss Sustainability Impact Assessment instead !?!
Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA)
A continual evaluation and optimization assessment – informing initial decision-making, or design, and shaping activity/product/service realization, useful life and termination, or final disposal – of the interrelated positive and negative social, economic, environmental, institutional, political and legal impacts on the synchronous, balanced and equitable implementation of Sustainable Human & Social Development.
4. A Robust Legal Foundation for ‘Sustainable Human & Social Development’
Paragraph 4 (Chapter 2, 1987 WCED Report) states …
‘ The satisfaction of human needs and aspirations is the major objective of development. The essential needs of vast numbers of people in developing countries – for food, clothing, shelter, jobs – are not being met, and beyond their basic needs these people have legitimate aspirations for an improved quality of life. A world in which poverty and inequity are endemic will always be prone to ecological and other crises. Sustainable development requires meeting the basic needs of all and extending to all the opportunity to satisfy their aspirations for a better life.’
Trying to list the essential needs of people / the basic needs of all is a very difficult task … but it is work which has been on-going, at international level, since just after the Second World War.
The essential needs of people / the basic needs of all … are specified as being Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and are already fully described within the extensive framework of International Legal Rights Instruments.
Which is why, many years ago, SDI developed this definition for Sustainable Human & Social Development … in order:
- to give this concept a robust legal foundation ; and
- (because of widespread confusion in media, political and academic circles) … to clearly establish that we are talking about sustainable human and social development, and not sustainable economic development, or any other type of development !
Sustainable Human & Social Development
Development which meets the responsible needs, i.e. the Human & Social Rights*, of this generation – without stealing the life and living resources from future generations … especially our children, and their children … and the next five generations of children.
*As defined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
5. Climate Change Adaptation & Resilient Buildings in India ?
Atmospheric Ozone Depletion and Climate Change are mentioned, here and there, in the Proposed New Part 11. The important implications of these phenomena for Sustainable Building Design in India are not explained … at all. Why not ?
To properly respond to these phenomena, both must be integrated into India’s National Sustainability Strategies & Policies.
At the very least … we strongly recommend that Design Guidance on Climate Resilient Buildings be immediately drafted. This guidance must be appropriate for implementation in each of the different climatic regions of India.
6. A Sustainable Indian Built Environment which is Accessible for All !
Barrier Free is mentioned, here and there, in the Proposed New Part 11. This is to be warmly welcomed and congratulated. Under Social Aspects of Sustainable Human & Social Development … this is an essential attribute of a Sustainable Built Environment ! However, no guidance on this subject is given to decision-makers or designers. Why not ?
However, you should be aware that India ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) on 1 October 2007. For your convenience, I have attached copies of the Convention in English, Hindi and Tamil.
You should also be aware that, in December 2011, the International Standards Organization (ISO) published ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’. In its Introduction, ISO 21542 is directly linked to the U.N. Convention … almost like an umbilical cord. The scope of this Standard currently covers public buildings. As the Accessibility Agenda in the U.N. Convention is very broad … much standardization work remains to be finished at international level.
The correct term … Accessibility for All … has been defined in ISO 21542 as including … ‘access to buildings, circulation within buildings and their use, egress from buildings in the normal course of events, and evacuation in the event of an emergency’.
A note at the beginning of the standard also clarifies that Accessibility is an independent activity, i.e. assistance from another person should not be necessary … and that there should be an assurance of individual health, safety and welfare during the course of those (accessibility-related) activities.
In order to fulfil India’s legal obligations as a State Party to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities … adequate Design Guidance on Accessibility must be included in the Proposed New Part 11, supported by ISO 21542.
In addition, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) should immediately adopt ISO 21542 as the Indian National Standard on Accessibility for All … IS / ISO 21542.
[ I made many references to this issue during the FSAI Conferences in India ! ]
7. Fire Safety & Protection for All in Sustainable Indian Buildings ?
Yes … there is 1 mention of ‘fire safety’ and 40 other references to ‘fire’ in the Proposed New Part 11 … but no design guidance. Why not ?
You should be aware that there is a fundamental conflict between Sustainable Building Design Strategies and the current state-of-the-art in Fire Engineering Design. As a good example … for cooling, heating and/or ventilation purposes in a sustainable building, it is necessary to take advantage of natural patterns of air movement in that building. On the other hand, fire engineers in private practice, and fire prevention officers in Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s), will demand that building spaces be strictly compartmented in order to limit the spread of fire and smoke … thereby dramatically interfering with those natural patterns of air movement.
In everyday practice, there is a vast chasm in understanding and communication between these two very different design disciplines. As a result, serious compromises are being enforced on Sustainability Building Performance. If, on the other hand, adequate independent technical control is absent on the site of a Sustainable Building … it is the fire safety and protection which is being seriously compromised.
A range of critical fire safety issues (fatal, in the case of firefighters) are also arising with the Innovative Building Products and Systems being installed in Sustainable Buildings.
Because the emphasis is on pre-construction design ‘intent’ rather than the ‘real’ performance of the completed and occupied building … all of these problems are being conveniently ignored, and they remain hidden from everybody’s view.
This must be addressed in the Proposed New Part 11.
[ I made many references to this issue during the FSAI Conferences in India ! ]
C. J. Walsh – Consultant Architect, Fire Engineer & Technical Controller – Managing Director, Sustainable Design International Ltd. – Ireland, Italy & Turkey.
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