Europe

Wind Turbine Fires – Facing Up To The ‘Environmental Impact’ !?!

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 !

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Click image to enlarge.

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 !

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PDF File, 601Kb – Click ‘CFPA-E Guideline’ link below to download.

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.

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2014 Zero Project Accessibility Conference – More Hot Air !!

2014-02-07:  Another year, and here we go again !   Except this time around … the bullshit, hot air and ‘blah-blah-blah’ must end !!   Certainly here, and at every other opportunity as well … I will demand to hear far less talk, but to see a lot more effective action on this important issue of human and social rights !!!

Just before Christmas (2013), I received a personal invitation to attend the Zero Project Conference on Accessibility for All, which will take place in a few weeks time on 27 & 28 February … at the United Nations Offices in Vienna (one of my favourite cities), Austria.  You can read all the details about the conference here: http://zeroproject.org/conference/    The following is my polite and restrained reply to that invitation, dated 14 January 2014 …

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RE: 2014 Zero Project Conference on Accessibility for All

To Whom It May Concern,

Thank you very much for your invitation to attend the upcoming Zero Project Conference on ‘Accessibility’ … but, having carefully examined the Draft Conference Programme, I must decline … and will not be attending.

Concerning Accessibility for All … the biggest problem within the European Accessibility Community is that we are all talk and no action.  The shameful reality is that the Human Environment (including the social – built – virtual – economic environments) remains emphatically inaccessible throughout Europe and far beyond !

Even though the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is in place, ratified by the European Union and many of the EU Member States … and International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility and Usability of the Built Environment’ has been fully adopted … the first conference session is still asking the basic question “What is Accessibility ?”

Instead of a detailed examination of how the elaborate Accessibility Agenda contained in Articles 9, 11 and 19 of the UN CRPD can be properly and satisfactorily implemented, in an independently monitored (Art. 33), harmonized and culturally-sensitive manner across the globe … you will be presenting an ‘Access’ Beauty Pageant.  Istanbul, a beautiful city with which I am very familiar, is only at the earliest stages of awareness about accessibility … and the recently published Hong Kong Fire Safety Code completely ignores fire safety for building occupants with disabilities !   Ireland is determined to delay ratification of the UN CRPD for as long as possible, and will refuse to ratify the Convention’s Optional Protocol … and I also know that implementation of the CRPD is meeting stiff resistance within the Institutions of the European Union.

Sustainable Development and the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) receive no attention in the Zero Project Conference Programme … even though it took a lot of effort to ensure that the innovative and forward-looking Preamble Paragraph (g) was incorporated in the Convention.  Within the rapidly evolving SDG drafting process, it is still not properly understood why and how Accessibility for All is a fundamental attribute of a Sustainable and Resilient Human Environment.

Concerning Mainstreaming … I describe a typical ‘real’ situation on our Technical Blog ( www.cjwalsh.ie/2012/11/new-legal-normative-environment-for-accessibility-in-europe/ ) … but this constant annoying struggle, and discussion on finding common approaches to its successful resolution, are absent from the Programme.

For us, attendance at the 2014 Zero Project Conference would be a waste of scarce organization resources.  For Europe, however, the Conference represents a much greater waste … a magnificent opportunity missed !

Regards,

C. J. Walsh, B Arch FRIAI MIBCI MIFS MIFireE – Consultant Architect, Fire Engineer & Technical Controller.

  • Member, CIB Task Group 87: ‘Urban Resilience – Benchmarking & Metrics’.
  • Member, CIB Working Commission 14: ‘Fire Safety’.
  • Chair, CIB W14 Research Working Group IV: ‘Structural Reliability & Fire-Induced Progressive Damage’.
  • Member, CIB Working Commission 108: ‘Climate Change & the Built Environment’.
  • Member, EU Expert Working Group on Urban Environment Research.
  • Member, EU EYPD Expert Group on Accessibility.

Managing Director, Sustainable Design International Ltd. (Ireland & Italy) and Sürdürülebilir Tasarım Tic.Ltd.Şti. (Turkey).

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This 2014 Zero Project Conference on Accessibility for All is divorced from Reality … and the Real Needs of many vulnerable people in all of our communities !

Without an Effectively Accessible Human Environment (including the social, built, virtual and economic environments) … access to many other human and social rights, e.g. education, housing, medicine, voting, etc., is prevented and unjustly barred.

Building Accessibility has been clearly specified in the new International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’ 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’.

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

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

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

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

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

DOHA City Fire – Monday, 28 May 2012 …

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

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

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

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

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

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A Qatari Court – Thursday, 20 June 2013 …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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‘Sustainable Fire Engineering for All’ – SDI’s Professional Service

2012-12-14 & 2012-12-30:  Further to this distressing incident … which exposed a profound lack of awareness, care and competence within the general fire safety industrial sector …

Recent Fatal Fire at a Disabled Workshop in SW Germany

… this is how we would like to help you … whether you are an individual, or an organization … whether you are located in Ireland, Italy or Turkey … some other part of Europe, the Arab Gulf Region, India, Japan, China … or wherever !

And … we can, if requested or necessary, work in collaboration with local partners in those different geographical regions.

– FireOx International is the Fire Engineering Division of Sustainable Design International Ltd. (SDI) –

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Colour photograph showing the 2 World Trade Center Towers, in New York City, immediately after the second plane impact. The mechanical damage arising from such a plane impact had been considered in the Initial Building Design Process; incredibly, any type of Fire Incident had not ! In the case of both towers and within a short period of time, Fire-Induced Progressive Damage resulted in Disproportionate Damage, and eventual Total Building Collapse. The horror and carnage at the World Trade Center Complex, and the extensive collateral damage to everywhere south of Canal Street, caused enormous long-term damage to the economy of Manhattan ... and had a very significant adverse impact on Global Financial Markets. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the 2 World Trade Center Towers, in New York City, immediately after the second plane impact. The mechanical damage arising from such a plane impact had been considered in the Initial Building Design Process; incredibly, any type of Fire Incident had not ! In the case of both towers and within a short period of time, Fire-Induced Progressive Damage resulted in Disproportionate Damage, and eventual Total Building Collapse. The horror and carnage at the World Trade Center Complex also caused enormous long-term damage to the economy of Manhattan … and had a very significant adverse impact on Global Financial Markets. Click to enlarge.

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Introduction

Fundamentally, the 9-11 World Trade Center Incident in New York (2001) was an Extreme ‘Real’ Fire Event.  It presented the International Fire Engineering Community with a catastrophic failure in conventional practices and procedures related to:

  • Fire Engineering, Structural Engineering, and Architectural Design ;
  • Human Building Management Systems ;
  • Emergency Response by Firefighters, Rescue Teams, and Medical Personnel ;
  • National and Local Organizations Having Authority or Jurisdiction (AHJ’s) ;

… and with the serious problem of entirely inadequate Fire Safety Objectives in the building legislation, model codes and design standards of the most economically advanced countries in the world.

Those people who understand the building design process, and have experience as construction practitioners, have long realised that the lessons from 9-11 must be applied across the full spectrum of building types … not just to tall buildings.  Right up to the present day, unfortunately, many people in the International Fire Engineering Community are either unwilling, or unable, to do this.

Furthermore … Fire Engineering, Architectural Design and Structural Engineering must, of urgent necessity, be seamlessly conjoined … with the aim of removing misunderstandings and the wide gaps in client service delivery between the different disciplines.

In 2002, a series of Long-Term 9-11 Survivor Health Studies commenced in the USA … and in 2005 and 2008, the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) issued a series of Post 9-11 Critical Recommendations concerning the design, construction, management and operation of buildings.

At FireOx International … we have fully integrated this essential design guidance into our frontline fire engineering and architectural practice … we have developed unique and practical solutions for worldwide application, some of which appear in International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’, published in December 2011.

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Colour photograph showing an armed assailant during the November 2008 'Hive-Attack' on Mumbai ... an extraordinarily violent, co-ordinated assault on the largest (and wealthiest) city in India, which involved the strategic targeting of built environment Places of Public Resort, Iconic Buildings, High-Rise Buildings, Buildings having a Critical Function, Transport Infrastructure and Service Utilities ... with the aim of causing widespread terror among the general population, including tourists, and disruption to the city’s important economic environment. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing an armed assailant during the November 2008 ‘Hive-Attack’ on Mumbai … an extraordinarily violent, co-ordinated assault on the largest (and wealthiest) city in India, which involved the strategic targeting of built environment Places of Public Resort, Iconic Buildings, High-Rise Buildings, Buildings having a Critical Function, Transport Infrastructure and Service Utilities … with the aim of causing widespread terror among the general population, including tourists, and disruption to the city’s important economic environment. Click to enlarge.

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FireOx International’s Commitment to You

As a necessary response to the New 21st Century Paradigm of Real Extreme Event in a Built Environment which is becoming more and more complex … is subject to climate change and severe weather events … and is vulnerable to malign and malevolent disruption –

WE are committed to … the implementation of a Sustainable Human Environment which is Fire Safe and Secure for All, meaning that an ‘appropriate project-specific fire safety level’ is our fire engineering objective, with ‘human health protection’ targeted as a priority … through the use of innovative, reliability-based and person-centred sustainable design practices and procedures.

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What is an ‘Appropriate Fire Safety Level’ in Your Building or Facility ?

It is rarely, if ever, explained to clients/client organizations that the Minimal Fire Safety Objectives in building legislation are focused solely on protecting the ‘interests’ of society, not those of the individual …  are, quite often, inadequate and/or flawed … and are, always, revised only after the latest tragedy !

To properly protect Your Interests as a client/client organization … we strongly advise that the Appropriate Level of Fire Safety in Your Building or Facility should exceed the minimal level of safety required by building legislation.  We would also caution that, in many jurisdictions (e.g. India), compliance with national building legislation is voluntary.

Which raises the issues of whether or not you will actually get what you pay for, and whether or not the Fire Protection Measures in Your Building or Facility are reliable (in other words, will they perform as intended at the time of a ‘real’ fire, which may occur at any time in a building’s long life cycle) !?!   Competent Technical Control of Design and Construction, independent of the design and construction organization(s), is essential.

You should carefully consider the following spectrum of issues which may be directly relevant to Your Project.  Following a process of consultation with you, we then develop Project-Specific Fire Engineering Design Objectives … bearing in mind that you must also comply with safety at work, anti-discrimination, and environmental legislation, etc … maintain business continuity, etc … be energy efficient, etc … and be socially responsible, etc …

–     Protection of the Health of All Building Users … including People with Activity Limitations (2001 WHO ICF), Visitors to the building or facility who may be unfamiliar with its layout, and Contractors or Product/Service Suppliers temporarily engaged in work or business transactions on site ;

–     Protection of Property from Loss or Damage … including the Building or Facility, its Contents, and Adjoining or Adjacent Properties ;

–     Safety of Firefighters, Rescue Teams and Other Emergency Response Personnel ;

–     Ease and Reasonable Cost of ‘Effective’ Reconstruction, Refurbishment or Repair Works after a Fire ;

–     Sustainability of the Human Environment (social – built – virtual – economic) … including Fitness for Intended Use and Life Cycle Costing of fire engineering related products and systems, etc … fixed, installed or otherwise incorporated in the building or facility ;

–     Protection of the Natural Environment from Harm, i.e. Adverse or Damaging Impacts.

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FireOx International – Our Fire Engineering Services

  • WE  will advise you on Fire Safety Policy, Fire Safety Strategy Development, Fire Safety Implementation … and, whether you are within or from outside the European Union, on CE Marking of Fire Protection Related Construction Products

  • WE  understand the process of Design, particularly the new language of Sustainable Design … and we will produce Creative Fire Engineering Solutions for Your Project

  • WE  are thoroughly familiar with the intricacies of Building Sites … and we will verify and/or validate Design Compliance during construction, and at project completion … and, if requested or necessary, as a completely Independent Technical Controller ; 

  • WE  communicate easily and effectively with other Professional Design Disciplines, including architects and structural engineers … and we will act as fully participating members of Your Project Design & Construction Team … and, if requested or necessary, as the Design Professional in Responsible Charge **

  • WE  practice in accordance with a comprehensive Professional Code of Ethics

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Sustainable Fire Engineering Solutions ?

  1. Are adapted to Local Geography, Climate/Climate Change, Social Need, Culture, Economy … and Severe Events (e.g. earthquakes, flooding) ;
  2. Are ‘Reliability-Based’, i.e. that design process based on practical experience, competence and an examination of real extreme events, e.g. 2001 WTC 9-11 & 2008 Mumbai Attacks, and 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident … rather than theory alone ;
  3. Are ‘Person-Centred’, i.e. that design process which places ‘real’ people at the centre of creative endeavours and gives due consideration to their responsible needs, and their health, safety, welfare and security in the Human Environment.

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FireOx International’s Contact Information

E-Mail:  cjwalsh@sustainable-design.ie

International Phone:  +353 1 8386078   /   National Phone:  (01) 8386078

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Important Note:  This Post should be read in conjunction with an earlier Post …

Sustainable Design International Ltd. – Our Practice Philosophy

It is there, not here, that we define Sustainable Human & Social Development … and describe how our Practice is responding to this open, intricate, dynamic, and still evolving concept.  The resulting transformation in how frontline services are provided to our Clients/Client Organizations ensures a much more comfortable ‘fit’ to their needs … and a greater level of protection, safety and security for society !

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

– Footnote 49 –

… the Design Professional in Responsible Chargeusually the lead architect – ensures that the (Design) Team Members use consistent design data and assumptions, co-ordinates overlapping specifications, and serves as the liaison with enforcement and review officials, and with the client or client organization. ]

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Health & Safety at a Construction Site in Osaka, Japan

2012-12-04:  How two Health and Safety Issues are handled at this Construction Site in Osaka, Japan … which, I regret to say, will be of small interest within Europe, where construction-related fatalities and injuries are far too high !

1.   Control of vehicular access to, and egress from, the Site.  Note the hosing down of the truck’s tyres before leaving, and entering back onto the public street.  On this particular day, the volume of site traffic was high.

2.   High visibility identification, and insulated protection of, overhead electric wires/cables.

Even before entering the Site … these are Very Good Indicators with regard to how Health and Safety at Work, generally, is managed …

Japan Industrial Safety & Health Association – Industrial Accidents (2010)

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Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-10-03. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-10-03. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-10-03. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-10-03. Click to enlarge.

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Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-10-03. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-10-03. Click to enlarge.

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Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-10-03. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-10-03. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-10-03. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-10-03. Click to enlarge.

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‘Sustainable Accessibility for All’ – An SDI Professional Service

2012-11-30:  Related specifically to my 2 Previous Posts on 27 November 2012 & 28 November 2012 … this is how we would like to help you … whether you are an individual, or an organization … whether you are located in Ireland, Italy or Turkey … some other part of Europe, the Arab Gulf Region, India, Japan, China … or wherever !

And … we can, if requested or necessary, work in collaboration with local partners in those different geographical regions.

Introduction

For many Weak and Vulnerable People, today’s Complex Human Environment is inaccessible and unsafe … a hostile ‘reality’ which prevents independent functioning and participation in a local community;  it is a blatant denial of their human rights.

Restrictions on Social Participation, e.g. physical barriers, sloppy user-unfriendly management procedures, discrimination, stigma, etc … also limit the Use Potential of buildings, transportation systems, public spaces and other facilities … shortening product life cycles.

These factors impose a large, negative cost burden on society generally … and on you, as an individual … or as an organization, whether private or public.  It is bad business !

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Colour photograph showing a main circulation route at a Railway Station in Kyoto, Japan ... with combined staircase and elevators. Notice, in particular, the dual height staircase handrails, for adults and children ... the strong contrast of the floor tactile information (a 'directional' indicator leading to a 'hazard' indicator, at the top of the staircase) compared to the rest of the floor, with its broad non-slip strips ... and, finally, arrows used to control staircase circulation flows at peak periods (down to the right, up on the left). Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing a main circulation route at a Railway Station in Kyoto, Japan … with combined staircase and elevators. Notice, in particular, the dual height staircase handrails, for adults and children … the strong contrast of the floor tactile information (a ‘directional’ indicator leading to a ‘hazard’ indicator, at the top of the staircase) compared to the rest of the floor, with its broad non-slip strips … and, finally, arrows used to control staircase circulation flows at peak periods (down to the right, up on the left). Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

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SDI’s Commitment to You

As a necessary response to the New Paradigm of ‘Accessibility’ mandated by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and elaborated in greater detail by International Standard ISO 21542 : 2011

WE are committed to … the implementation of a Sustainable Human Environment which is Effectively Accessible for All … through the use of innovative, person-centred and reliability-based sustainable design practices and procedures.

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Colour photograph showing a Large Tactile Floor Plan at one of the entrances to the terminal building at Ciampino Airport in Rome, Italy. Notice, in particular, the use of an easily understandable type font combined with the high contrast between white characters and blue background ... the presentation of information in three different languages: Italian, English and Braille ... and, finally, the panel is mounted at a convenient height and angle. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2011-10-26. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing a Large Tactile Floor Plan at one of the entrances to the terminal building at Ciampino Airport in Rome, Italy. Notice, in particular, the use of an easily understandable type font combined with the high contrast between white characters and blue background … the presentation of information in three different languages: Italian, English and Braille … and, finally, the panel is mounted at a convenient height and angle. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2011-10-26. Click to enlarge.

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SDI’s Accessibility Services 

  • WE  will advise you on Accessibility Policy, Accessibility Strategy Development, Accessibility Implementation … and, whether you are within or from outside the European Union, on CE Marking of Accessibility Related Construction Products
  • WE  understand the process of Design, particularly the new language of Sustainable Design … and we will produce Creative Accessibility Solutions for Your Project
  • WE  are thoroughly familiar with the intricacies of Building Sites … and we will verify and/or validate Design Compliance during construction, and at project completion … and, if requested or necessary, as a completely Independent Technical Controller ; 
  • WE  communicate easily and effectively with other Professional Design Disciplines, including fire engineers … and we will act as fully participating members of Your Project Design & Construction Team

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Sustainable Accessibility Solutions ?

  1. Are adapted to Local Geography, Climate/Climate Change, Social Need, Culture, Economy … and Severe Events (e.g. earthquakes and flooding) ;
  2. Are ‘Person-Centred’, i.e. that design process which places ‘real’ people at the centre of creative endeavours and gives due consideration to their responsible needs, and their health, safety, welfare and security in the Human Environment ;
  3. Are ‘Reliability-Based’, i.e. that design process based on practical experience, competence and an examination of real extreme events, e.g. 2001 WTC 9-11 & 2008 Mumbai Attacks, and 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident … rather than theory alone.

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SDI’s Contact Information

E-Mail:  cjwalsh@sustainable-design.ie

International Phone:  +353 1 8386078   /   National Phone:  (01) 8386078

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Important Note:  This Post should be read in conjunction with an earlier Post …

Sustainable Design International Ltd. – Our Practice Philosophy

It is there, not here, that we define Sustainable Human & Social Development … and describe how our Practice is responding to this open, intricate, dynamic, and still evolving concept.  The resulting transformation in how frontline services are provided to our Clients/Client Organizations ensures a much more comfortable ‘fit’ to their needs … and a greater level of protection, safety and security for society !

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Unheeded Fire Hazards in New Energy Efficient Buildings !!

2012-03-29:  The relentless pressure, within the European Union (EU), to bring a greater measure of stability to imported energy supplies … to reduce our overall use of energy … to be far more efficient in the ways we consume those lesser amounts of energy … to find cleaner sources of energy to replace oil, gas, and especially coal … to comply with ambitious targets on climate change mitigation … are all pointing in one direction with regard to design and construction.  We are forced to super-insulate new buildings !

Without many people realizing it, however, we change how fire behaves in a highly insulated building … especially when insulation materials are part of the interior finishes, not carefully buried within the construction.  [Even the old Building Bye-Laws in Dublin City permitted a cavity in a masonry wall up to 150mm wide !]   And, as usual, Building and Fire Regulations are slow to catch up with these important architectural developments.

Let me show you an example of a basement car park in a new hospital (which shall remain nameless !) … where a serious ‘fire’ problem has been festering since it was opened, and occupied, a few years ago.

This hospital could be anywhere in Europe …

Colour photograph showing the basement car park in a hospital. Click this photograph, and the photographs below, to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the basement car park in a hospital. Click this photograph, and the photographs below, to enlarge.

The ceiling height in this car park is low … approximately 2 metres above floor level.  The ceiling comprises a 6mm off-white calcium silicate board of limited combustibility (for the techies out there – this board is not ‘incombustible’, and it is not ‘non-combustible’) … above which is a 40mm rigid phenolic thermal insulation board … all fixed to the underside of a concrete floor slab.

This phenolic insulation board is very efficient … and during the normal course of events, its job is to stop the loss of heat from the hospital wards and other areas above.  A cold concrete floor is also very uncomfortable for people, i.e. hospital staff, having to walk around on it for long periods.

Because the insulation board is efficient, and it is fixed to the underside of the floor slab … in a fire situation, let’s say that a fire starts in a car … the heat from that fire will be reflected by the insulation board back downwards.  The result:  the fire will be encouraged to spread much more quickly to neighbouring vehicles.  And so, in a very short time, we will have a much larger fire … and a much more intense fire … which will be far more difficult to control and extinguish, when the fire services eventually arrive on the scene.

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There are a Number of Twists in This Story …

     1.  For all sorts of normal reasons, there are service penetration openings in the car park ceiling shown above (some small and some large), especially in a hospital which is highly serviced … the overall approach to fire and smoke sealing in this new building is not the best … and workmanship is poor …

… which, together, all mean that it will be easy for fire and smoke to spread upwards into the hospital wards and other areas … in the event of a fire emergency.

In a hospital, not everybody is alert and mobile.  It will be difficult to evacuate some people … and it will be nearly impossible, because of their health condition, to evacuate others.  In order for a fire engineering strategy of horizontal evacuation to a ‘safer’ part of the same building to be successfully put into effect during an emergency … it is imperativethat the level of passive protection from fire and smoke provided is high … much higher, here, than in the case of an average office building, for example.  AND … it is criticalthat this high level of protection from fire and smoke is reliable.

In this new hospital building … the photographic evidence clearly shows that both of these criteria have not been met.

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     2.  Another twist in the story concerns the rigid phenolic thermal insulation board used in the car park ceiling … which, as the evidence also shows, is exposed to direct view in many places …

In a short, brochure-type document produced by the European Phenolic Foam Association (EPFA): ‘Phenolic Foam Insulation – The Ultimate Insulation System for the Construction & Building Services Industry’, the following is stated with regard to the fire performance of this material …

‘ Toxic gas emission from phenolic foam is generally limited to carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide with very low levels of other gases.’

However, in a report produced by the National Research Council of Canada: ‘Toxicity and Smoke Aspects of Foamed Plastic Insulation – An Annotated Bibliography’ … the following abstracts can be found …

  • Toxicity of Off-Gases from Phenolic Rigid Foam

‘ A reference sample of phenolic rigid foam was evaluated for toxicity of off-gases, using various test conditions in the NASA-USF-PSC toxicity screening test method.  Test results show that the response of this material to the various test conditions is similar to that exhibited by the majority of other materials previously evaluated by this method.  That is, animal response times generally decreased with increasing fixed temperature, and with increasing airflow rate under rising temperature conditions.  The authors suggest that formaldehyde is one of the toxicants present although the amount of CO produced at 600°C or higher was enough to be lethal by itself.

  • Toxicity of Off-Gases from Thermal Insulation

‘ Toxicity test data on the off-gases from various thermal insulation materials are presented in this paper.  Under rising temperature without forced airflow test conditions, phenolic foams exhibited the shortest times to death, while polyisocyanurate, polyurethane and polystyrene foams exhibited the longest times to death.  The introduction of airflow significantly reduced time to death, apparently due to a higher degree of oxidation and more rapid delivery of toxicants.  The authors conclude that under the particular test conditions, plastic thermal insulations appear to exhibit less toxicity than cellulosic board and cellulose insulation, with polyimide and phenolic foams being the exceptions.

  • Relative Flammability and Toxicity of Thermal Insulation

‘ Relative flammability and relative toxicity data are presented for 30 samples of thermal insulation materials.  There appears to be no inherent, necessary compromise between flammability and toxicity in the selection of materials.  Cellulosic and plastics insulations appear to represent significantly different combinations of flammability and toxicity hazards, and require different approaches when planning and designing applications.  Polyurethane foam appeared to be significantly less toxic and slightly less flammable than wood and other cellulosic materials.  Polyisocyanurate foam seemed to be more toxic than polyurethane foam but still less toxic than the cellulosic materials.  Polystyrene foam exhibited the longest time to death while phenolic foam showed the second shortest time to death among the group of rigid foams evaluated.

  • Carbon Monoxide Production from Overheated Thermal Insulation Materials

‘ Carbon monoxide yields were obtained for selected thermal insulation materials.  The data are presented and discussed in this paper.  Among the rigid foamed plastics, phenolic gave the highest yield of CO under a rising temperature and no airflow test conditions.  Polyurethane foams based on propoxylated aromatic amino polyol appeared to produce less CO than polyurethane foams based on propoxylated trimethylolpropane polyol.  Under fixed temperatures of 800°C without airflow test conditions, similar results were obtained for the rigid foamed plastics.’

  • Toxicity of Pyrolysis Gases from Phenolic and Isocyanurate Rigid Foams

‘ Special reference samples of phenolic and isocyanurate rigid foams were evaluated for toxicity of pyrolysis gases, using 6 different test conditions of the USF toxicity screening test methods.  Under rising temperature conditions, phenolic foam appeared to be consistently more toxic than the isocyanurate foam.  CO level appears to be the factor, which is twice as high from the phenolic foam.  The temperatures corresponding to the times to death indicate that the toxicants were evolved below 500°C for phenolic and below 640°C for isocyanurate.  These are in agreement with that of the University of Pittsburgh (UP) data.  At a fixed temperature of 800°C, there appeared to be no difference in toxicity between the phenolic and isocyanurate foams, although the former tended to produce more carbon monoxide.’

  • Toxicity of Pyrolysis Gases from Phenolic, Isocyanurate and Polystyrene Rigid Foam Insulation

‘ Samples of phenolic, isocyanurate, and polystyrene rigid foam insulation were evaluated for toxicity of pyrolysis gases, using four different test conditions of the toxicity screening test method developed at the University of San Francisco.  The test conditions were 200 to 800°C rising temperature and 800°C fixed temperature, each without forced airflow and with 1 L/min airflow.  On the average over these four particular test conditions, phenolic foam appeared to exhibit the greatest toxicity and polystyrene foam appeared to exhibit the least toxicity.

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As already discussed in an  earlier post , dated 2011-01-13 … we know that Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odourless, colourless and toxic gas … and because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, CO can kill before you are aware it is there.

So … it will be easy for Fire, Visible Smoke and Carbon Monoxide to spread upwards into the hospital wards and other areas of this building … in the event of a fire emergency.

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This Hospital’s ‘Fire’ Problem & Its Solution

The ‘fire’ problem in this hospital has been allowed to fester for a number of years because the issues shown in the photographs above are either inadequately addressed … or not addressed at all … in Ireland’s Technical Guidance Document (TGD) B … a document which is intended merely to present some supporting guidance for operating Part B: ‘Fire Safety’, in the 2nd Schedule of the Building Regulations.

Unfortunately, all parties directly responsible for this hospital debacle are under the very mistaken impression that the guidance in Technical Guidance Document B is prescriptive regulation.  This is a major error !   Furthermore … TGD B is fundamentally flawed … and it is particularly inadequate when the building type is a health facility.

To Correct This ‘Fire’ Problem … a Fire Suppression System should immediately be installed in the basement car park.  At the same time, if not before … ALL Service Penetration Openings in the concrete floor slab should be properly sealed so that, during a fire incident, the passage of fire and smoke and CO into building spaces above the slab will be prevented.  And … the quality of workmanship, on site, must be high !

An appropriate number of Carbon Monoxide Detectors should be installed in the hospital wards and other areas above the concrete floor slab.

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The ‘Institutional’ Problem

The procedure of having to submit so-called Compliance Reports with applications for Fire Safety Certificates, in Ireland, only confirms … and reinforces … the very mistaken impression in everybody’s minds that the guidance in Technical Guidance Document B is prescriptive regulation.

In the case of a different hospital … let me give you an example of a text contained in one such Compliance Report … submitted to an Irish Local Authority, sometime during 2004 …

Single Steps at Final Exit Doors

It is noted that Clause 1.4.3.4 of TGD-B is ambiguous vis-à-vis steps located on the line of final exit doors, i.e. as opposed to a condition where there is a step beyond the line of a door.  Accordingly, it is reasonable and appropriate to make reference to the current England and Wales Approved Document B (2000 Edition) for guidance on this issue in so far as Technical Guidance Document B is based on an early draft of the Approved Document.  It is noted that the UK AD-B in Clauses 6.15 and 6.21 specifically allow single steps at final exits provided they are located on the line of the doorway in question.  Furthermore, the recently issued Northern Ireland Technical Bulletin E (1994) also allows such steps, subject to the riser not exceeding 180mm.  On the basis of the foregoing, single steps are considered acceptable at the final exit doors subject to the riser not exceeding 180mm and the step being located on the line of the door.

This is mindless, incompetent nonsense … and it was accepted by the Local Authority.

How often, anymore, does anybody encounter a step … 180mm high, or of any height … at the front entrance to a new building ?   Building designers have finally understood the message that new buildings must be accessible-for-all … and a single step, in any situation, is a trip or a fall accident waiting to happen.  Now imagine the situation where people are attempting to evacuate an average office building, for example, during a fire emergency … and they encounter a single step at the final fire exit !?!   Now really stretch your imagination … and imagine where people are trying to evacuate a hospital !!??!!

FUBAR !!

The System is not only entirely dysfunctional … it is corrupt !

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END

 

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NIST’s Recommendations on the 9-11 WTC Building Collapses

2011-10-25:  Since shortly after my visit to Lower Manhattan in mid-October 2001 … we have maintained an Archive Page on Structural Fire Engineering, World Trade Center Incident (9-11) & Fire Serviceability Limit States … at SDI’s Corporate WebSite.  And I have referenced here … many, many times … the Recommendations contained in the 2005 & 2008 Final Reports of the U.S. National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) on the 9-11 World Trade Center Building 1, 2 & 7 Collapses.

In this post (and a series of future posts) … I find it most necessary that the 2005 & 2008 NIST Recommendations now be presented for everyone to read.  Yes, some of Recommendations apply specifically to Tall and Very Tall Buildings … and Building Designers in India, China, Brazil, Russia & South Africa (BRICS), the Arab Gulf RegionEurope and North America, etc., should be fully aware of their contents.

BUT … I am also strongly convinced … precisely because I am an Architect, a Fire Engineer and a Technical Controller … that most of the NIST Recommendations apply to ALL Buildings … so catastrophic was the failure exposed on that fateful day (11 September 2001) … in all of our common design and construction practices … and our operation, maintenance and emergency response procedures !

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PRELIMINARY COMMENTS

  1.     Extract from Paragraph #9.2, Chapter 9, NIST Final Report on the Collapse of the World Trade Center Towers – Report Reference NIST NCSTAR 1 (2005) …

  • NIST believes  that these Recommendations are both realistic and achievable within a reasonable period of time, and that their implementation would make buildings safer for occupants and emergency responders in future emergencies.
  • NIST strongly urges  that immediate and serious consideration be given to these Recommendations by the building and fire safety communities – especially designers, owners, developers, codes and standards development organizations, regulators, fire safety professionals, and emergency responders.
  • NIST also strongly urges  building owners and public officials to:  (i) evaluate the safety implications of these Recommendations for their existing inventory of buildings;  and (ii) take the steps necessary to mitigate any unwarranted risks without waiting for changes to occur in codes, standards, and practices.

  2.     At the time of writing … it is important to point out that although they are related Structural Concepts … and there is still, to this day, a lot of confusion about these concepts in the USA … it is important to clearly distinguish between …

Disproportionate Damage

The failure of a building’s structural system  (i) remote from the scene of an isolated overloading action;  and (ii) to an extent which is not in reasonable proportion to that action.

Fire-Induced Progressive Collapse

The sequential growth and intensification of distortion, displacement and 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.

  3.     Recommendation 2, below, would certainly need to be understood and implemented within today’s additional design constraints of Sustainable Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience to Severe Weather Events.  Therefore … Design Wind Speeds must be increased, accordingly, for ALL Buildings.

  4.     As such a high level of performance is expected … indeed demanded … of a Sustainable BuildingSustainable Fire Engineering must be ‘reliability-based’.  In other words, it must have a rational, empirical and scientifically robust basis … unlike conventional fire engineering, which is yet aimlessly wandering around in pre-historic caves !

  5.     Finally … there is no use trying to hide the fact that progress on implementing the NIST Recommendations, within the USA, has been lamentably slow.  Outside that jurisdiction, the response has ranged from mild interest, to complete apathy, and even to vehement antipathy.  The implications arising from implementation are much too hard to digest … for long established fire safety professionals and researchers who are unswervingly committed to the flawed and out-of-date practices and procedures of conventional fire engineering and, especially, for vested interests !

However … is it either in society’s interest, or in the interests of our clients/client organizations … that, to give you a simple example which is relevant close to home, British Standard 9999 (published on 31 October 2008): ‘Code of Practice for Fire Safety in the Design, Management and Use of Buildings’ takes absolutely no account of any of the NIST Recommendations ?   As far as the British Standards Institution is concerned … 9-11 never happened … which I think is an inexcusable and unforgivable technical oversight !

For this reason, the General Public in ALL of our societies and Clients/Client Organizations in ALL countries should also be fully aware of the contents of these Recommendations …

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Colour photograph showing the two World Trade Center Towers immediately after the impact of the second plane. At a fundamental level, this was a very serious 'real' fire incident ... which was extensively, and very thoroughly, investigated by the U.S. National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) ... and resulted in the important 2005 & 2008 NIST Recommendations. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the two World Trade Center Towers immediately after the impact of the second plane. At a fundamental level, this was a very serious 'real' fire incident ... which was extensively, and very thoroughly, investigated by the U.S. National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) ... and resulted in the important 2005 & 2008 NIST Recommendations. Click to enlarge.

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2005 NIST WTC RECOMMENDATIONS

GROUP 1.   Increased Structural Integrity

The standards for estimating the load effects of potential hazards (e.g. progressive collapse, wind) and the design of structural systems to mitigate the effects of those hazards should be improved to enhance structural integrity.

NIST WTC Recommendation 1.

NIST recommends that:  (1) progressive collapse be prevented in buildings through the development and nationwide adoption of consensus standards and code provisions, along with the tools and guidelines needed for their use in practice;  and (2) a standard methodology be developed – supported by analytical design tools and practical design guidance – to reliably predict the potential for complex failures in structural systems subjected to multiple hazards.

a.   Progressive collapse* should be prevented in buildings.

[ * F-19  Progressive collapse (or disproportionate damage) occurs when an initial local failure spreads from structural element to structural element resulting in the collapse of an entire structure or a disproportionately large part of it.]

The primary structural systems should provide alternate paths for carrying loads in case certain components fail (e.g. transfer girders or columns).  This is especially important in buildings where structural components (e.g. columns, girders) support unusually large floor areas.*

[ * F-20  While the WTC towers eventually collapsed, they had the capacity to redistribute loads from impact and fire damaged structural components and sub-systems to undamaged components and sub-systems.  However, the core columns in the WTC towers lacked sufficient redundant (alternative) paths for carrying gravity loads.]

Progressive collapse is addressed only in a very limited way in practice and by codes and standards.  For example, the initiating event in design to prevent progressive collapse may be removal of one or two columns at the bottom of the structure.  Initiating events at multiple locations within the structure, or involving other key components and sub-systems, should be analyzed commensurate with the risks considered in the design.  The effectiveness of mitigation approaches involving new system and sub-system design concepts should be evaluated with conventional approaches based on indirect design (continuity, strength and ductility of connections), direct design (local hardening), and redundant (alternate) load paths.  The capability to prevent progressive collapse due to abnormal loads should include:  (i) comprehensive design rules and practice guides;  (ii) evaluation criteria, methodology, and tools for assessing the vulnerability of structures to progressive collapse;  (iii) performance-based criteria for abnormal loads and load combinations;  (iv) analytical tools to predict potential collapse mechanisms;  and (v) computer models and analysis procedures for use in routine design practice.  The federal government should co-ordinate the existing programmes that address this need:  those in the Department of Defence;  the General Services Administration;  the Defence Threat Reduction Agency;  and NIST.  Affected Standards:  ASCE-7, AISC Specifications, and ACI 318.  These standards and other relevant committees should draw on expertise from ASCE/SFPE 29 for issues concerning progressive collapse under fire conditions.  Model Building Codes:  The consensus standards should be adopted in model building codes (i.e. the International Building Code and NFPA 5000) by mandatory reference to, or incorporation of, the latest edition of the standard.  State and local jurisdictions should adopt and enforce the improved model building codes and national standards based on all 30 WTC Recommendations (2005).  The codes and standards may vary from the WTC Recommendations, but satisfy their intent.

b.   A robust, integrated predictive capability should be developed, validated, and maintained to routinely assess the vulnerability of whole structures to the effects of credible hazards.  This capability to evaluate the performance and reserve capacity of structures does not exist and is a significant cause for concern.  This capability would also assist in investigations of building failure – as demonstrated by the analyses of the WTC building collapses carried out in this Investigation.  The failure analysis capability should include all possible complex failure phenomena that may occur under multiple hazards (e.g. bomb blasts, fires, impacts, gas explosions, earthquakes, and hurricane winds), experimentally validated models, and robust tools for routine analysis to predict such failures and their consequences.  This capability should be developed via a co-ordinated effort involving federal, private sector, and academic research organizations in close partnership with practicing engineers.

NIST WTC Recommendation 2.

NIST recommends that nationally accepted performance standards be developed for:  (1) conducting wind tunnel testing of prototype structures based on sound technical methods that result in repeatable and reproducible results among testing laboratories;  and (2) estimating wind loads and their effects on tall buildings for use in design, based on wind tunnel testing data and directional wind speed data.  Wind loads specified in current prescriptive codes may not be appropriate for the design of very tall buildings since they do not account for building-specific aerodynamic effects.  Further, a review of wind load estimates for the WTC towers indicated differences by as much as 40 % from wind tunnel studies conducted in 2002 by two independent commercial laboratories.  Major sources of differences in estimation methods currently used in practice occur in the selection of design wind speeds and directionality, the nature of hurricane wind profiles, the estimation of ‘component’ wind effects by integrating wind tunnel data with wind speed and direction information, and the estimation of ‘resultant’ wind effects using load combination methods.  Wind loads were a major factor in the design of the WTC tower structures and were relevant to evaluating the baseline capacity of the structures to withstand abnormal events such as major fires or impact damage.  Yet, there is lack of consensus on how to evaluate and estimate winds and their load effects on buildings.

a.   Nationally accepted standards should be developed and implemented for conducting wind tunnel tests, estimating site-specific wind speed and directionality based on available data, and estimating wind loads associated with specific design probabilities from wind tunnel test results and directional wind speed data.

b.   Nationally accepted standards should be developed for estimating wind loads in the design of tall buildings.  The development of performance standards for estimating wind loads should consider:  (1) appropriate load combinations and load factors, including performance criteria for static and dynamic behaviour, based on both ultimate and serviceability limit states;  and (2) validation of wind load provisions in prescriptive design standards for tall buildings, given the universally acknowledged use of wind tunnel testing and associated performance criteria.  Limitations to the use of prescriptive wind load provisions should be clearly identified in codes and standards.

The standards development work can begin immediately to address many of the above needs.  The results of those efforts should be adopted in practice as soon as they become available.  The research that will be required to address the remaining needs also should begin immediately and results should be made available for standards development and use in practice.  Affected National Standard:  ASCE-7.  Model Building Codes:  The standard should be adopted in model building codes by mandatory reference to, or incorporation of, the latest edition of the standard.

NIST WTC Recommendation 3.

NIST recommends that an appropriate criterion be developed and implemented to enhance the performance of tall buildings by limiting how much they sway under lateral load design conditions (e.g. winds and earthquakes).  The stability and safety of tall buildings depend upon, among other factors, the magnitude of building sway or deflection, which tends to increase with building height.  Conventional strength-based methods, such as those used in the design of the WTC towers, do not limit deflections.  The deflection limit state criterion, which is proposed here is in addition to the stress limit state and serviceability requirement;  it should be adopted either to complement the safety provided by conventional strength-based design or independently as an alternate deflection-based approach to the design of tall buildings for life safety.  The recommended deflection limit state criterion is independent of the criterion used to ensure occupant comfort, which is met in current practice by limiting accelerations (e.g. in the 15 to 20 milli-g range). Lateral deflections, which already are limited in the design of tall buildings to control damage in earthquake-prone regions, should also be limited in non-seismic areas.*

[ * F-22  Analysis of baseline performance under the original design wind loads indicated that the WTC towers would need to have been between 50 % and 90 % stiffer to achieve a typical drift ratio used in current practice for non-seismic regions, though not required by building codes.  Limiting drift would have required increasing exterior column areas in lower stories and/or significant additional damping.]

Affected National standards:  ASCE-7, AISC Specifications, and ACI 318.  Model Building Codes:  The standard should be adopted in model building codes by mandatory reference to, or incorporation of, the latest edition of the standard.

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Personal Ethics – The Heart of Sustainability Implementation !

2011-02-15 …

Regular visitors, here, will have very little doubt about my understanding of Sustainable Human & Social Development … which is an intricate, open, dynamic and continuously evolving concept.  And about my firm conviction that Sustainable Design involves far more than merely substituting the word ‘sustainable’ … for ‘green’, ‘ecological’ or ‘environment-friendly’ … or any number of insipid alternatives which still regularly appear in the popular and/or academic media !   Who, in their right minds, wouldn’t be confused ?!?

‘Sustainability’ is Not … and Cannot … be just another graft onto Conventional Design Practice … whether that be Spatial Planning, Architectural / Engineering / Industrial Design or e-Design !

Sustainable Design & Construction … is the creative and ethical response, in resilient built or wrought (worked) form, to the concept of ‘Sustainable Human & Social Development’.

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SUSTAINABILITY IMPLEMENTATION

Opinion:  At the Heart of Implementation which is Authentically ‘Sustainable’ … (a colleague of mine is very fond of using that word ‘authentic’) … must lie a Personal Code of Ethics.  By that, I do Not mean … and I am Not referring to … a Professional Code of Conduct … which is mainly about the self-protection and self-preservation of a professional class !

Everyday Reality:  If we examine, for a moment, two interesting examples … Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation or the 9-11(2001) Collapses of World Trade Center Buildings 1, 2 & 7 in New York … such is the great time-lag between general societal recognition of a critical design challenge … and then, the passing of relevant national legislation which can really only demarcate a minimal threshold of performance … and next, the associated production of standardized design guidelines … and finally, the imposition of effective monitoring and verification procedures … that the only practical approach is to base Sustainability Implementation on a robust Personal Code of Ethics … with an overt emphasis on Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

I hasten to add that this is not how we (society) are currently educating the design disciplines … and this is not how the professional institutes are operating.

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PERSONAL CODE OF ETHICS

For many years, in my presentations around Europe, the Arab Gulf Region, India and South America … I have been actively promoting the WFEO/FMOI (UNESCO) Model Code of Ethics as a suitable template for use by all of the design-related disciplines.  Recently, however, our Organization … Sustainable Design International … has undertaken a major review of this 2001 Code, and produced a 2011 Update which tackles the following matters of major concern in our world of shameful waste and social inequality:

  • Sustainable Human & Social Development ;
  • Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation ;
  • Strengthening the Voice of Vulnerable Social Groups, particularly People with Activity Limitations.

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WFEO/FMOI (UNESCO)

World Federation of Engineering Organizations – Fédération Mondiale des Organisations d’Ingénieurs

MODEL CODE OF ETHICS

Since 1990, WFEO/FMOI has worked to prepare a Code of Ethics under the supervision of Donald Laplante (Canada), David Thom (New Zealand), Bud Carroll (USA), and others.  It is expected that the Model Code, adopted in 2001, will be used to define and support the creation of codes in member and related professional institutions.  This version of the Model Code was updated by C.J. Walsh (Ireland) in 2011.

CONTENTS

                   I.            BROAD PRINCIPLES

II.            PRACTICE PROVISION ETHICS

III.            ETHICS OF SUSTAINABLE ENGINEERING

IV.           CONCLUSION

INTERPRETATION OF THE CODE

  • Sustainable Development & Climate Change
  • Protection of the Public, and the Natural Environment
  • Faithful Agent of Clients and Employers
  • Competence & Knowledge
  • Fairness and Integrity in the Workplace
  • Professional Accountability & Leadership

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WFEO/FMOI MODEL CODE OF ETHICS

I.  BROAD PRINCIPLES

Ethics is generally understood as the discipline or field of study dealing with moral duty or obligation.  This typically gives rise to a set of governing principles or values, which in turn are used to judge the appropriateness of a particular conduct or behaviour.  These principles are usually presented either as broad guiding principles of an idealistic or inspirational nature or, alternatively, as a detailed and specific set of rules couched in legalistic or imperative terms to make them more enforceable.  Professions which have been given the privilege and responsibility of self regulation, including the engineering professions, have tended to opt for the first alternative, espousing sets of underlying principles as codes of professional ethics which form the basis and framework for responsible professional practice.  Arising from this context, professional codes of ethics have sometimes been incorrectly interpreted as a set of ‘rules’ of conduct intended for passive observance.  A more appropriate use by practicing professionals is to interpret the essence of the underlying principles within their daily decision-making situations in a dynamic manner, responsive to the needs of the situation.  As a consequence, a code of professional ethics is more than a minimum standard of conduct ;  rather, it is a set of principles which should guide professionals in their daily work.

In summary, the Model Code presented herein elaborates the expectations of engineers and society in discriminating engineers’ professional responsibilities.  The Code is based on broad principles of truth, honesty and trustworthiness, respect for human life and social wellbeing, fairness, openness, competence and accountability.  Some of these broader ethical principles or issues deemed more universally applicable are not specifically defined in the Code, although they are understood to be applicable as well.  Only those tenets deemed to be particularly applicable to the practice of professional engineering are specified.  Nevertheless, certain ethical principles or issues not commonly considered to be part of professional ethics should be implicitly accepted to judge the engineer’s professional performance.

Issues regarding protection of the natural environment, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and sustainable development know no geographical boundaries.  The engineers and citizens of all nations should know and respect the ethics of sustainability.  It is desirable, therefore, that engineers in each nation continue to observe the philosophy of the Principles of Sustainable Ethics, as delineated in Section III of this code.

II.  PRACTICE PROVISION ETHICS

Professional engineers shall:

  • hold paramount the safety, health and wellbeing of the public, particularly people with activity limitations, indigenous peoples and other vulnerable groups in society … and the protection of both the natural and the built environments in accordance with the Principles of Sustainable Human & Social Development ;
  • promote health and safety within the workplace ;
  • offer services, advise on or undertake engineering assignments only in areas of their competence, and practice in a careful and diligent manner ;
  • act as faithful agents of their clients or employers, maintain confidentially and disclose conflicts of interest ;
  • keep themselves informed in order to maintain their competence, strive to advance the body of knowledge within which they practice and provide opportunities for the professional development of their subordinates and fellow practitioners ;
  • conduct themselves with fairness, and good faith towards clients, colleagues and others, give credit where it is due and accept, as well as give, honest and fair professional criticism ;
  • be aware of and ensure that clients and employers are made aware of the environmental and socio-economic consequences of actions or projects, and endeavour to interpret engineering issues to the public in an objective and truthful manner ;
  • present clearly to employers and clients the possible consequences of overruling or disregarding engineering decisions or judgment ;
  • report to their association and/or appropriate agencies any illegal or unethical engineering decisions or practices of engineers or others.

III.  ETHICS OF SUSTAINABLE ENGINEERING

Engineers, as they develop any professional activity, shall:

  • try with the best of their ability, courage, enthusiasm and dedication, to obtain a superior technical achievement, which will contribute to and promote a healthy and agreeable surrounding for all people, including indigenous peoples and other vulnerable social groups, in open spaces as well as indoors ;
  • strive to accomplish the beneficial objectives of their work with the lowest possible consumption of raw materials and energy and the lowest production of wastes and any kind of pollution ;
  • discuss in particular the consequences of their proposals and actions, direct or indirect, immediate or long term, upon human health, social equity and the local culture and system of values ;
  • study thoroughly the environment that will be affected, assess all the impacts that might arise in the structure, dynamics and aesthetics of the eco-systems involved, urbanized or natural, as well as in the pertinent socio-economic systems … and select the best alternative for development which is environmentally sound, resilient to climate change and sustainable ;
  • promote a clear understanding of the actions required to restore and, if possible, to improve the environment that may be disturbed, and include them in their proposals ;
  • reject any kind of commitment that involves unfair damages for human surroundings and nature, and aim for the best possible technical, socio-economic, and political solution ;
  • be aware that the principles of eco-system interdependence, biodiversity maintenance, resource recovery and inter-relational harmony form the basis of humankind’s continued existence and that each of these bases poses a threshold of sustainability that should not be exceeded.

IV. CONCLUSION

Always remember that war, greed, misery and ignorance, plus natural disasters and human-induced pollution, climate change and destruction of resources, are the main causes for the progressive impairment of the environment and that engineers, as active members of society, deeply involved in the promotion of development, must use our talent, knowledge and imagination to assist society in removing those evils and improving the quality of life for all people, including indigenous peoples and other vulnerable groups.


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INTERPRETATION OF THE WFEO/FMOI MODEL CODE

The interpretive articles which follow expand on and discuss some of the more difficult and inter-related components of the Code, especially with regard to the Practice Provisions.  No attempt is made to expand on all clauses of the Code, nor is the elaboration presented on a clause-by-clause basis.  The objective of this approach is to broaden the interpretation, rather than narrow its focus.  The ethics of professional engineering is an integrated whole and cannot be reduced to fixed ‘rules’.  Therefore, the issues and questions arising from the Code are discussed in a general framework, drawing on any and all portions of the Code to demonstrate their inter-relationship and to expand on the basic intent of the Code.

Sustainable Development & Climate Change

Engineers shall strive to enhance the quality, durability and climate change resilience of the Human Environment (including the built, social, economic and virtual environments), and to promote the Principles of Sustainable Human & Social Development.

Engineers shall seek opportunities to work for the enhancement of safety, health, and the social wellbeing of both their local community and the global community through the practice of sustainable development.

Engineers whose recommendations are overruled or ignored on issues of safety, health, social wellbeing, or sustainable development, shall inform their contractor or employer of the possible consequences.

Protection of the Public, and the Natural Environment

Professional Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and wellbeing of the public, including people with activity limitations, indigenous peoples and other vulnerable groups in society … and protection of the natural environment.  This obligation to the safety, health and wellbeing of the general public, which includes his/her own work environment, is often dependent upon engineering judgments, risk assessments, decisions and practices incorporated into structures, machines, products, processes and devices.  Therefore, engineers must control and ensure that what they are involved with is in conformity with accepted engineering practices, standards and applicable codes, and would be considered safe based on peer adjudication.  This responsibility extends to include all and any situations which an engineer encounters, and includes an obligation to advise the appropriate authority if there is reason to believe that any engineering activity, or its products, processes, etc., do not conform with the above stated conditions.

The meaning of paramount in this basic tenet is that all other requirements of the Code are subordinate, if protection of public safety, the natural environment or other substantive public interests are involved.

Faithful Agent of Clients and Employers

Engineers shall act as faithful agents or trustees of their clients and employers with objectivity, fairness and justice to all parties.  With respect to the handling of confidential or proprietary information, the concept of ownership of the information and protecting that party’s rights is appropriate.  Engineers shall not reveal facts, data or information obtained in a professional capacity without the prior consent of its owner.  The only exception to respecting confidentially and maintaining a trustee’s position is in instances where the public interest or the natural environment is at risk, as discussed in the preceding section ;  but even in these circumstances, the engineer should endeavour to have the client and/or employer appropriately redress the situation, or at least, in the absence of a compelling reason to the contrary, should make every reasonable effort to contact them and explain clearly the potential risks, prior to informing the appropriate authority.

Professional Engineers shall avoid conflict of interest situations with employers and clients but, should such conflict arise, it is the engineer’s responsibility to fully disclose, without delay, the nature of the conflict to the party/parties with whom the conflict exists.  In those circumstances where full disclosure is insufficient, or seen to be insufficient, to protect all parties’ interests, as well as the public, the engineer shall withdraw totally from the issue or use extraordinary means, involving independent parties if possible, to monitor the situation.  For example, it is inappropriate to act simultaneously as agent for both the provider and the recipient of professional services.  If a client’s and an employer’s interests are at odds, the engineer shall attempt to deal fairly with both.  If the conflict of interest is between the intent of a corporate employer and a regulatory standard, the engineer must attempt to reconcile the difference, and if that is unsuccessful, it may become necessary to inform his/her association and the appropriate regulatory agency.

Being a faithful agent or trustee includes the obligation of engaging, or advising to engage, experts or specialists when such services are deemed to be in the client’s or employer’s best interests.  It also means being accurate, objective and truthful in making public statements on behalf of the client or employer when required to do so, while respecting the client’s and employer’s rights of confidentiality and proprietary information.

Being a faithful agent includes not using a previous employer’s or client’s specific privileged or proprietary information and trade practices or process information, without the owner’s knowledge and consent.  However, general technical knowledge, experience and expertise gained by the engineer through involvement with the previous work may be freely used without consent or subsequent undertakings.

Competence & Knowledge

Professional Engineers shall offer services, advise on or undertake engineering assignments only in areas of their competence by virtue of their training and experience.  This includes exercising care and communicating clearly in accepting or interpreting assignments, and in setting expected outcomes.  It also includes the responsibility to obtain the services of an expert if required or, if the knowledge is unknown, to proceed only with full disclosure of the circumstances and, if necessary, of the experimental nature of the activity to all parties involved.  Hence, this requirement is more than simply duty to a standard of care, it also involves acting with honesty and integrity with one’s client or employer, and one’s self.  Professional Engineers have the responsibility to remain abreast of developments and knowledge in their area of expertise, that is, to maintain their own competence.  Should there be a technologically driven or individually motivated shift in the area of technical activity, it is the engineer’s duty to attain and maintain competence in all areas of involvement including being knowledgeable with the technical and legal framework and regulations governing their work.  In effect, it requires a personal commitment to ongoing professional development, continuing education and self-testing.

In addition to maintaining their own competence, Professional Engineers have an obligation to strive to contribute to the advancement of the body of knowledge within which they practice, and to the profession in general.  Moreover, within the framework of the practice of their profession, they are expected to participate in providing opportunities to further the professional development of their colleagues.

This competence requirement of the Code extends to include an obligation to the public, the profession and one’s peers, that opinions on engineering issues are expressed honestly and only in areas of one’s competence.  It applies equally to reporting or advising on professional matters and to issuing public statements.  This requires honesty with one’s self to present issues fairly, accurately and with appropriate qualifiers and disclaimers, and to avoid personal, political and other non-technical biases.  The latter is particularly important for public statements or when involved in a technical forum.

Fairness and Integrity in the Workplace

Honesty, integrity, continuously updated competence, devotion to service and dedication to enhancing the life quality of society are cornerstones of professional responsibility.  Within this framework, engineers shall be objective and truthful and include all known and pertinent information in professional reports, statements and testimony.  They shall accurately and objectively represent their clients, employers, associates and themselves, consistent with their academic experience and professional qualifications.  This tenet is more than ‘not misrepresenting’ ;  it also implies disclosure of all relevant information and issues, especially when serving in an advisory capacity or as an expert witness.  Similarly, fairness, honesty and accuracy in advertising are expected.

If called upon to verify another engineer’s work, there is an obligation to inform (or make every effort to inform) the other engineer, whether the other engineer is still actively involved or not.  In this situation, and in any circumstance, engineers shall give proper recognition and credit where credit is due and accept, as well as give, honest and fair criticism on professional matters, all the while maintaining dignity and respect for everyone involved.

Engineers shall not accept, nor offer covert payment or other considerations for the purpose of securing, or as remuneration for, engineering assignments.  Engineers should prevent their personal or political involvement from influencing or compromising their professional role or responsibility.

Consistent with the Code, and having attempted to remedy any situation within their organization, engineers are obligated to report to their association or other appropriate agency any illegal or unethical engineering decisions by engineers or others.  Care must be taken not to enter into legal arrangements which compromise this obligation.

Professional Accountability & Leadership

Engineers have a duty to practice in a careful and diligent manner, and accept responsibility and be accountable for their actions.  This duty is not limited to design, or its supervision and management, but applies to all areas of practice.  For example, it includes construction supervision and management, preparation of drawings, engineering reports, feasibility studies, sustainability impact assessments, engineering developmental work, etc.

The signing and sealing of engineering documents indicates the taking of responsibility for the work.  This practice is required for all types of engineering endeavour, regardless of where or for whom the work is done, including but not limited to, privately and publicly owned firms, large corporations, and government agencies or departments.  There are no exceptions ;  signing and sealing documents is appropriate whenever engineering principles have been used and public wellbeing may be at risk.

Taking responsibility for engineering activity includes being accountable for one’s own work and, in the case of a senior engineer, accepting responsibility for the work of a team.  The latter implies responsible supervision where the engineer is actually in a position to review, modify and direct the entirety of the engineering work.  This concept requires setting reasonable limits on the extent of activities, and the number of engineers and others, whose work can be supervised by the responsible engineer.  The practice of a ‘symbolic’ responsibility or supervision is the situation where an engineer, say with the title of Chief Engineer, takes full responsibility for all engineering on behalf of a large corporation, utility or governmental agency, even though the engineer may not be aware of many of the engineering activities or decisions being made daily throughout the firm or agency.  The essence of this approach is that the firm is taking the responsibility by default, whether engineering supervision or direction is applied or not.

Engineers have a duty to advise their employer and, if necessary, their clients and even their professional association, in that order, in situations when the overturning of an engineering decision may result in breaching their duty to safeguard the public, including people with activity limitations, indigenous peoples and other vulnerable social groups.  The initial action is to discuss the problem with the supervisor/employer.  If the employer does not adequately respond to the engineer’s concern, then the client must be advised in the case of a consultancy situation, or the most senior officer should be informed in the case of a manufacturing process plant or government agency.  Failing this attempt to rectify the situation, the engineer must advise in confidence his/her professional association of his/her concerns.

In the same order as mentioned above, the engineer must report unethical engineering activity undertaken by other engineers, or by non-engineers.  This extends to include, for example, situations in which senior officials of a firm make ‘executive’ decisions which clearly and substantially alter the engineering aspects of the work, or protection of public wellbeing or the natural environment arising from that work.

Because of developments in technology and the increasing ability of engineering activities to impact on the environment, engineers have an obligation to be mindful of the effect that their decisions will have on the environment and the wellbeing of society, and to report any concerns of this nature in the same manner as previously mentioned.  Further to the above, with the rapid advancement of technology in today’s world and the possible social impacts on large populations of people, engineers must endeavour to foster the public’s understanding of technical issues and the role of Engineering more than ever before.

Sustainable development is the challenge of meeting current human needs for natural resources, industrial products, energy, food, transportation, shelter, and effective waste management while conserving and, if possible enhancing, the Earth’s environmental quality, natural resources, ethical, intellectual, working and affectionate capabilities of people and the socio-economic bases essential for the human needs of future generations.  The proper observance of these principles will considerably help to eradicate world poverty.

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WFEO/FMOI Model Code of Ethics, Adopted 2001.

This Version, Updated 2011 & Communicated to UNESCO.

[Footnote to the Code]

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, their children, and the next five generations of children.

*As defined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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END

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MACLAREN Strollers – Bad Consumer Protection in Europe ?

2009-11-11:  In the case of the recent recall of MACLAREN Baby Strollers in the USA … it is troubling to witness what is NOT happening here in Europe … either at the level of the European Union (EU) and its Institutions … or, at national level, in EU Member States.

ALL are failing the European Consumer !!

IF the Maclaren Stroller’s hinge mechanism poses a fingertip amputation and laceration hazard to a child when a consumer is unfolding/opening the stroller … ANDMaclaren has received 15 reports of children placing their finger in the stroller’s hinge mechanism, resulting in 12 reports of fingertip amputations in the United States … HOW ARE THESE PRODUCTS SAFE IN EUROPE ????

Maclaren Baby Strollers are sold in the Americas, Oceania … and throughout Europe and Asia …

Colour photograph of one model of the Recalled MACLAREN Baby Strollers in the USA.  Photograph from U.S. CPSC WebSite.

Colour photograph of one model of the Recalled MACLAREN Baby Strollers in the USA. Photograph from U.S. CPSC WebSite. Click to enlarge.

 

On 9th November 2009, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)www.cpsc.gov … issued the following Press Release #10-033 …

Maclaren USA Recalls to Repair Strollers Following Fingertip Amputations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in co-operation with the firm named below, today announced a voluntary recall of the following consumer product.  Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed.

Name of Product:  Maclaren Strollers

Units:  About one million

Distributor:  Maclaren USA, Inc., of South Norwalk, Conn.

Hazard:  The stroller’s hinge mechanism poses a fingertip amputation and laceration hazard to the child when the consumer is unfolding/opening the stroller.

Incidents/Injuries:  The firm has received 15 reports of children placing their finger in the stroller’s hinge mechanism, resulting in 12 reports of fingertip amputations in the United States.

Description:  This recall involves all Maclaren single and double umbrella strollers.  The word “Maclaren” is printed on the stroller.  The affected models included Volo, Triumph, Quest Sport, Quest Mod, Techno XT, TechnoXLR, Twin Triumph, Twin Techno and Easy Traveller.

Sold at:  Babies’R’Us, Target and other juvenile product and mass merchandise retailers nationwide from 1999 through November 2009 for between $100 and $360.

Manufactured in:  China

Remedy:  Consumers should immediately stop using these recalled strollers and contact Maclaren USA to receive a free repair kit.

Consumer Contact:  For additional information, contact Maclaren USA toll-free at (877) 688-2326 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or visit the firm’s Web site at  http://recall.maclarenbaby.com/

To see this recall on CPSC’s WebSite, including pictures of the recalled products, please go to:  http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml10/10033.html

 

What is Maclaren itself saying on its own  U.S. WebSite ?   Bear in mind that standards … no matter where their origin … are never perfect, and are always requiring revision and regular updates.

IMPORTANT NOTICE

Consistent with our unwavering commitment to child safety we are providing U.S. consumers notice of a voluntary recall of all Maclaren umbrella strollers sold in the U.S.  In cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, we are providing free of charge to all affected consumers and retailers a kit to cover the stroller’s hinge mechanism, which poses a fingertip amputation and laceration hazard to the child when the consumer is unfolding/opening the stroller.  The affected models include Volo, Triumph, Quest Sport, Quest Mod, Techno XT, Techno XLR, Twin Triumph, Twin Techno and Easy Traveller.

Maclaren USA’s Umbrella Strollers meet all U.S. ASTM & JPMA compliance standards.  These certifications guarantee our umbrella strollers meet the maximum safety standards available.  The voluntary recall is to alert the operator when opening or closing the stroller of the possible risk of injury.

Safety is our first priority and through this voluntary effort we urge consumers to contact us immediately to obtain the kit which consists of hinge covers designed specifically to fit all Maclaren strollers.

Maclaren stresses all operators read the instruction manual prior to use which contains valuable safety tips and service recommendations.

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Even though it is slightly premature, by just a few weeks, to be quoting what the Consolidated European Union Treaties, as amended by the 2007 Lisbon Treaty, have to say about Consumer Protection … it still makes interesting reading … and, anyway, the legal intent of Article 169 was not actually amended by the Lisbon Treaty …

Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, Title XV

Article 169

1.  In order to promote the interests of consumers and to ensure a high level of consumer protection, the Union shall contribute to protecting the health, safety and economic interests of consumers, as well as to promoting their right to information, education and to organise themselves in order to safeguard their interests.

2.  The Union shall contribute to the attainment of the objectives referred to in paragraph 1 through:

     (a) measures adopted pursuant to Article 114 in the context of the completion of the internal market ;

     (b) measures which support, supplement and monitor the policy pursued by the Member States.

3.  The European Parliament and the Council, acting in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure and after consulting the Economic and Social Committee, shall adopt the measures referred to in paragraph 2(b).

4.  Measures adopted pursuant to paragraph 3 shall not prevent any Member State from maintaining or introducing more stringent protective measures.  Such measures must be compatible with the Treaties.  The Commission shall be notified of them.

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