ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility and Usability of the Built Environment’

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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Stop Press ! … ISO 21542 on Accessibility-for-All Published !!

2012-03-25:  No news about this momentous development, yet, on the International Design and Disability Networks … (why is that ? – are they all asleep out there ?) … but International Standard  ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility and Usability of the Built Environment’  was finally published by the International Standards Organization (ISO) in December 2011 !   Even ISO, and national standards organizations, have been slow with an official notification.

This International Standard now provides building users, architects, designers, engineers, builders, building owners and managers, manufacturers, policy makers and legislators with the requirements and recommendations to create a Sustainable Built Environment which is Accessible.

The First Edition of ISO 21542, dated 2011-12-15, represents an agreement reached by strong consensus between different countries all over the world … an agreement patiently constructed and pieced together by a small, dedicated international group of Accessibility Experts.  As one of those experts, I am tremendously relieved that this main task has been accomplished … but the process must continue … there are still errors in the document … and the fire safety texts must be expanded.

This is also an agreement which signals that uniform implementation of the main provisions (accessibility-related) in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) can commence across the globe, not just in the developed economic regions.

The purpose of this International Standard is to define how the built environment … in particular, public buildings … should be designed, constructed and managed to enable people to approach, enter, use, egress from and evacuate a building independently, in an equitable and dignified manner and to the greatest extent possible.

Colour image showing an Accessible Fire Evacuation Route Sign. From now on, Building Users should expect that these routes will be Accessible-for-All, throughout their full extent, until they reach a Place of Safety which is remote from the Building. Otherwise, they will be able to find accommodation in a suitable Area of Rescue Assistance along the route. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing an Accessible Fire Evacuation Route Sign. From now on, Building Users should expect that these routes will be Accessible-for-All, throughout their full extent, until they reach a Place of Safety which is remote from the Building. Otherwise, they will be able to find accommodation in a suitable Area of Rescue Assistance along the route. Click to enlarge.

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A new international understanding of ‘Building Accessibility’ is hereby established … ‘Access’ (approach, entry and use) can no longer be divorced from ‘Egress’ (in the normal course of events) and ‘Evacuation’ (in the event of an emergency).

The concept of ‘Access’, in isolation, and the role of the ‘Access Consultant’ are, therefore, outdated and obsolete !   And use of the word ‘Escape’, in any context, is to be firmly and rigorously discouraged !!

The intention of this International Standard is to meet the needs of the majority of people.  This goal is achieved by agreement on minimum standards of accessibility and usability which are generally accepted to accommodate diversities of age and the human condition.

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In future … proper emphasis must be placed on Real and Effective Implementation of Accessibility-for-All in the built environment … to meet the needs of real people in all of our communities.

In the past … too many scarce human resources have been diverted into pointless discussions and arguments about accessibility design philosophies.  And, particularly in Europe, we have been far too fond of ‘talk’, instead of ‘action’ !   No more !!

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ISO 21542 : 2011  applies to new and existing buildings.

IF this Standard’s requirements and recommendations are taken into consideration during the earliest stages of New Building Design … the costs of providing satisfactory accessibility and usability in a building will be minimal.

Yes, there are problems with improving the accessibility performance of Existing Buildings … just as there are problems, for example, with improving their energy performance.  However … creativity, design flexibility, and an in-depth understanding of the principles of Accessibility-for-All … will ensure that the functional requirements of this Standard are properly met.

Mindful of the  1964 Venice Charter  and other similar international instruments … accessibility must also be facilitated in Existing Buildings of Historical, Architectural and Cultural Importance.  In such cases, it will be necessary for national authorities having jurisdiction to allow some relaxation of the requirements in this International Standard … as well as to proactively recommend appropriate alternative accessibility measures.

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This new approach to Accessibility-for-All in the Built Environment … as set down in ISO 21542 … was directly informed by Preamble Paragraph (g) and Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD).

At the time of writing … the UN CRPD has been ratified by the European Union (EU) and 109 Other Countries.

An Important Note for Parties to the Convention which is entirely outside the scope of ISO 21542, and standardization generally … but very relevant to the implementation, for example, of Article 11 at national level in the ratifying Countries and EU Member States …

UN CRPD  Article 12 – Equal Recognition Before The Law

1.   States Parties reaffirm that persons with disabilities have the right to recognition everywhere as persons before the law.

2.   States Parties shall recognize that persons with disabilities enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others in all aspects of life.

3.   States Parties shall take appropriate measures to provide access by persons with disabilities to the support they may require in exercising their legal capacity.

4.   States Parties shall ensure that all measures that relate to the exercise of legal capacity provide for appropriate and effective safeguards to prevent abuse in accordance with international human rights law.  Such safeguards shall ensure that measures relating to the exercise of legal capacity respect the rights, will and preferences of the person, are free of conflict of interest and undue influence, are proportional and tailored to the person’s circumstances, apply for the shortest time possible and are subject to regular review by a competent, independent and impartial authority or judicial body.  The safeguards shall be proportional to the degree to which such measures affect the person’s rights and interests.

5.   Subject to the provisions of this article, States Parties shall take all appropriate and effective measures to ensure the equal right of persons with disabilities to own or inherit property, to control their own financial affairs and to have equal access to bank loans, mortgages and other forms of financial credit, and shall ensure that persons with disabilities are not arbitrarily deprived of their property.

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ISO 21542 : 2011  is available from the International Standards Organization (ISO) at … www.iso.org/

The Official Abstract on the ISO WebSite states …

ISO 21542 : 2011  specifies a range of requirements and recommendations for many of the elements of construction, assemblies, components and fittings which comprise the built environment.  These requirements relate to the constructional aspects of access to buildings, to circulation within buildings, to egress from buildings in the normal course of events and evacuation in the event of an emergency.  It also deals with aspects of accessibility management in buildings.

ISO 21542 : 2011  contains provisions with respect to features in the external environment directly concerned with access to a building or group of buildings from the edge of the relevant site boundary or between such groups of buildings within a common site.  It does not deal with those elements of the external environment, such as public open spaces, whose function is self-contained and unrelated to the use of one specific building, nor does it deal with single-family dwellings, other than those circulation spaces and fittings that are common to two or more such dwellings.

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2012 Review of Part B & TGD B – Irish Building Regulations

2012-03-02:  Please bear with me while I update you at the start of this post … rather than at the end, which would be more usual here … and logical.

[ In Ireland … a related problem, which continues to fester and cause a great nuisance in an everyday work environment … concerns the lack of proper, i.e. formal, recognition of electronic communications, and information in an electronic format, by public and private organizations … in spite of the following very clear legal text …

2000 Electronic Commerce Act (No. 27 of 2000)

Section 9 – Electronic Form not to Affect Legal Validity or Enforceability

Information (including information incorporated by reference) shall not be denied legal effect, validity or enforceability solely on the grounds that it is wholly or partly in electronic form, whether as an electronic communication or otherwise. ]

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Yesterday afternoon (1 March 2012), we received the following e-mail communication from the Department of Environment, Community & Local Government (DECLG)

Folks,

Could you please send me your submissions in either Microsoft Word or Excel as it it easier to copy and paste into the format that is required , it is proving rather difficult to copy from a PDF document.

Thank You

Claire Darragh, Architecture / Building Standards, DECLG.

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I immediately replied …

Dear Claire,

Further to your informal e-mail message, which we received just a short while ago …

Please note that this is not an acknowledgement that the FireOx International Submission was received by the Department … and we certainly do not wish that you copy and paste anything relating to its contents anywhere else.

IF this is a Proper Public Consultation Process … you must adapt internal DECLG systems to suit the Submissions !   We will be communicating with the Minister’s Office concerning this issue.

Once again, I would ask you to properly acknowledge receipt of our Submission, dated 2012-02-14.

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In connection with the original FireOx International Submission … I would also like to take this opportunity to advise you that:

  • Due to an error in ISO (International Standards Organization) … the publication of ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility and Usability of the Built Environment’, on 12 December 2011, was not notified to people directly involved in its development and drafting, or to the participating national standards organizations ; 

and

  • In order to avoid the wide confusion which the term ‘Fire-Induced Progressive Collapse’ is continuing to cause at international level … the preferred term is now Fire-Induced Progressive Damage.

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I have amended our Submission accordingly.

Kind regards.

C. J. Walsh, FireOx International – Ireland, Italy & Turkey.

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2012-02-18:  The following is the text of  FireOx International’s Submission, dated 14 February 2012, to the Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government (DECLG) in Dublin … concerning the current review of the Irish Building Regulations Part B & TGD B … including, for good measure, some initial and very pertinent comments on the Irish Building Control Regulations.

None of these comments will come as any surprise to regular visitors here.

It should also be noted that the same comments are just as relevant in the case of the British (England & Wales) Building Regulations, Part B and Approved Document (AD) B !

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Ms. Claire Darragh, Architecture & Building Standards Section, DECLG.

Dear Claire,

Thank you for this opportunity to advise the Department on some urgent and necessary improvements to Part B: ‘Fire Safety’ of the 2nd Schedule to the Building Regulations in Ireland … and its supporting Technical Guidance Document (TGD) B.

1.  Some Initial Comments

  • The continuing debacle of the Priory Hall Apartment Complex, in Donaghmede Dublin 13, is just the tip of a very large iceberg in Ireland.  Yet, when we now hear that there will be a ‘risk-based’ approach to Septic Tank Inspections, instead of an approach which involves inspecting all septic tanks … independently, competently and thoroughly … it is clear that the Minister, and senior officials in his Department, have failed to learn any lessons from ‘Priory Hall’.

What was happening on Irish construction sites during the Celtic Tiger boom years … has been happening for twenty years all over the country … more precisely, since the introduction of legal national building regulations in 1991, with NO effective building control … and, before that again, in those parts of the country outside of the major urban areas having legal building bye-laws AND effective building control, i.e. mandatory inspections by competent local authority personnel at the foundation level and drainage level of ALL projects … and, depending on the type of project, occasional or frequent inspections above ground level.

Over the years, local authority officials who carried out building bye-law inspections accumulated a considerable wealth of knowledge and understanding about local construction conditions and practices.  This valuable resource, widely used by the construction industry at the time, has now been diluted and discarded.

PLEASE LEARN THE LESSONS FROM ‘PRIORY HALL’ !!

In connection with ALL Applications for Fire Safety Certificates (Part B) and Disability Access Certificates (Part M) … competent and thorough inspections must, from now on, be carried out by local authority personnel to confirm proper implementation of Part B & M, respectively, of the 2nd Schedule to the Building Regulations.

Furthermore … while on site, local authority personnel must not be discouraged, or restricted, from dealing with any other Parts of the 2nd Schedule to the Building Regulations.  Under the present dysfunctional system, important horizontal linkages between different Parts of the 2nd Schedule are being widely disregarded and ignored, e.g. between Parts B & D, between Parts B & M, and between Parts B & A … or between Parts M & D, etc., etc !

  • European Union (EU) Council Directive 89/106/EEC has been repealed … and, instead, we now have EU Regulation No 305/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 9 March 2011, laying down Harmonised Conditions for the Marketing of Construction Products.

Unlike the earlier EU Directive … this Regulation, applicable in all EU Member States, is binding in its entirety.

And although Annex I of EU Regulation 305/2011 will enter into force from 1 July 2013 … the Department should now prepare for, and slowly begin the process of, incorporating all of the Annex I Basic Requirements for Construction Works into the 2nd Schedule of the Irish Building Regulations.

SEE BELOW …

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2.  Firefighter Safety

Fully consistent with Basic Requirement for Construction Works 2(e), in Annex I of EU Regulation No. 305/2011 … Revise Part B Requirement 5 to read as follows …

B5  Firefighter Safety, and Access and Facilities for the Fire Service

A building shall be so designed and constructed that the safety of firefighters is adequately considered and, in the event of an outbreak of fire, that there is adequate provision for access for fire appliances and such other facilities as may be required to assist the fire service in the protection of life and property.

Two examples of issues which should be highlighted in a relevant revision/addition to TGD B’s Guidance Text:

  • The incorporation, in building designs, of alternative safe means of approach towards the scene of a fire by firefighters ;
  • The provision of wider staircases in buildings in order to facilitate the recovery of an injured/impaired firefighter during the course of firefighting operations.

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3.  Protection of Vulnerable Building Users from Fire

The European Union ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on 23 December 2010.  Ireland has not yet ratified the Convention.

However … fully consistent with Ireland’s legal obligation, under Article 4.3 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), to co-operate fully with EU Institutions in their implementation of this UN Convention … Revise Part B Requirement 1 to read as follows …

B1  Means of Evacuation in the Event of an Outbreak of Fire

A building shall be so designed and constructed that the protection of vulnerable building users is adequately considered and, in the event of an outbreak of fire, that there are adequate and accessible means of evacuation from the building to a place of safety remote from the building, capable of being safely and effectively used.

[ Use of the word ‘escape’, in the context of emergencies, should be strongly discouraged at all times. ]

Concerning TGD B’s Guidance Text … reference to ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility and Usability of the Built Environment’ will be more than sufficient.

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Specifically relating to Adequate Protection of Vulnerable Building Users from Fire

NOTE WELL THAT BS 9999 (AND BS 5588:PART EIGHT)  IS (ARE)  ENTIRELY UNFIT FOR PURPOSE !!

Please carefully examine the attached PDF File – My Note for the National Standards Authority of Ireland:  ‘BS 9999:2008 & BS 8300:2009 – Impacts on Accessibility Design in Ireland & Implications for ISO Accessibility & Fire Safety Standards’ , dated June 2009.

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4.  TGD B’s Appendix A – Performance of Materials and Structures

2 Important Notes should be added to Paragraph A21 – Structural Fire Design

  • In complying with Part B, reference should also be made to Part A of the 2nd Schedule of the Building Regulations, particularly Requirement A3 – Disproportionate Collapse ;

and

  • In order to show that a Fire Protection Material/Product/System for Structural Elements properly complies with Part D … it is also necessary, besides showing that it has been adequately fire tested, to show that the material/product/system is durable over a specified, reasonably long life cycle … and that it can adequately resist mechanical damage during construction of the building and, in the event of an outbreak of fire, during the course of that fire incident.

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Specifically relating to Steel Structural Performance in Fire

You should be aware that Table A1 and Table A2 are only appropriate for use by designers in the case of single, isolated steel structural elements.

In steel structural frame systems, no consideration is given in the Tables to adequate fire protection of connections … or limiting the thermal expansion (and other types of distortion) in fire of steel structural elements … in order to reduce the adverse effects of one steel element’s behaviour on the rest of the frame and/or adjoining non-loadbearing fire resisting elements of construction.

In the case of steel structural frame systems, therefore, the minimum fire protection to be afforded to ALL steel structural elements, including connections, should be 2 Hours.  Connections should also be designed and constructed to be sufficiently robust during the course of a fire incident.  This one small revision will contribute greatly towards preventing Fire-Induced Progressive Damage in buildings … a related, but different, structural concept to Disproportionate Damage …

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 Damage

The sequential growth and intensification of structural distortion and displacement, beyond fire engineering design parameters, and the eventual failure of elements of construction in a building – during a fire and the ‘cooling phase’ afterwards – which, if unchecked, will result in disproportionate damage, and may lead to total building collapse.

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With regard to the above … please carefully examine these 2 Series of Posts on FireOx International’s Technical Blog ( www.cjwalsh.ie ), beginning on the dates indicated …

  • 2011-10-25:  NIST’s (2005) Recommendations on the 9-11 WTC Building Collapses … GROUP 1. Increased Structural Integrity – Recommendations 1, 2 & 3 (out of 30) ;

and

  • 2012-01-18:  Progressive Collapse of WTC 7 – 2008 NIST Recommendations – Part 1 of 2 … GROUP 1. Increased Structural Integrity – Recommendation A … and GROUP 2. Enhanced Fire Endurance of Structures – Recommendations B, C, D & E (out of 13).

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5.  TGD B’s Appendix F – Reference Standards

Add this Important New Standard …

  • ISO 21542 : 2011     Building Construction – Accessibility and Usability of the Built Environment

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6.  TGD B’s Appendix G – Reference Publications

Add these Two Important Publications …

  • NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology).  September 2005.  Federal Building and Fire Safety Investigation of the World Trade Center Disaster: Final Report on the Collapse of the World Trade Center Towers.  NIST NCSTAR 1.  Gaithersburg, MD, USA.

and

  • NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology).  August 2008.  Federal Building and Fire Safety Investigation of the World Trade Center Disaster: Final Report on the Collapse of World Trade Center Building 7.  NIST NCSTAR 1A.  Gaithersburg, MD, USA.

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Should you wish to receive further information on any of my comments … please consult FireOx International’s Technical Blog at  www.cjwalsh.ie … or contact me directly.

Please acknowledge receipt of this e-mail communication.

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Kind regards.

C. J. Walsh, FireOx International – Ireland, Italy & Turkey.

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