Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA)

Public Procurement & ‘Design for All’ – It’s Crunch Time, Folks !

2011-10-12 & 2011-10-17:  Close your eyes … and imagine, for a split second, the value and material extent of all the Public Procurement Contracts being tendered for and awarded each week, throughout Europe.  ‘Enormous’ is the only appropriate word which must spring to your mind !   If you don’t believe me, check out the statistics for yourself !!   And that value is going to keep increasing !!!

The European Commission has recently proposed that suitable instruments be developed which will permit the operation of the Accessibility / Design for All Requirements in EU Public Procurement Directives to commence, with full effect.  This process is proving to be problematic … and it is certainly not as open and transparent as it should be.

Leaving aside the utilities sectors (water, energy, transport and postal services) … recall that EU Directive 2004/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 31 March 2004, on the Co-Ordination of Procedures for the Award of Public Works Contracts, Public Supply Contracts and Public Service Contracts had to be implemented, at national level in all of the EU Member States, no later than 31 January 2006.  This Directive was amended, in a minor way, by Directives 2005/51/EC and 2005/75/EC.  In spite of these amendments, 31 January 2006 remained the target date for national implementation.

[ Ireland’s national implementing legislation … European Communities (Award of Public Authorities’ Contracts) Regulations 2006 … came into operation on 22 June 2006.]

In addition, each Member State had to ensure that Directive 2004/18/EC was properly implemented by using effective, available and transparent Monitoring Mechanisms.

With regard to specific rules governing specifications and contract documents … Article 23.1 of Directive 2004/18/EC stated, and still does state …

‘ The technical specifications as defined in point 1 of Annex VI shall be set out in the contract documentation, such as contract notices, contract documents or additional documents.  Whenever possible these technical specifications should be defined so as to take into account accessibility criteria for people with disabilities or design for all users.’

Not the strongest possible language to encourage ‘accessibility’ … there’s nothing quite like a shall to concentrate minds !

[ However, in Ireland … with regard to the same specific rules governing specifications and contract documents … Section 23 (2) of the European Communities (Award of Public Authorities’ Contracts) Regulations 2006 states …

‘ In awarding a public contract, a contracting authority shall, as far as practicable, ensure that the technical specifications for the contract take account of the need to prescribe accessibility criteria for all persons who are likely to use the relevant works, products or service, particularly those who have disabilities.’ ]

As already discussed in my post, dated 2 November 2010 … many people in the European Union Institutions would prefer to steer completely away from the Social Aspects of Sustainable Human and Social Development … fuzzy areas, not capable of easy quantification … leaving small, peripheral groups in the Institutions (neither well connected to the mainstream, nor fully aware of the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of that mainstream) to look after the Social Aspects.

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Public Procurement in the European Union (EU)

The Award of Public Works Contracts, Public Supply Contracts and Public Service Contracts concluded in the EU Member States on behalf of State, Regional or Local Authorities and other bodies governed by public law entities, is subject to the respect of Principles enshrined in the EU Treaties and, in particular, to …

  • the principle of freedom of movement of goods ;
  • the principle of freedom of establishment ;
  • the principle of freedom to provide services ;   and
  • the principles deriving therefrom, such as the principle of equal treatment, the principle of non-discrimination, the principle of mutual recognition, the principle of proportionality and the principle of transparency.

For Public Contracts Above A Certain Value … it has been deemed necessary to draw up provisions of Community Co-Ordination of National Procedures for the award of such contracts, which are based on these principles so as to ensure the effects of them and to guarantee the opening-up of public procurement to competition.

– Adapted from Preamble Paragraph #2, EU Directive 2004/18/EC

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Is Europe Serious about Implementing the Public Procurement Accessibility / Design for All Requirements ?

Before looking at how Accessibility / Design for All is being handled within the fast evolving European Public Procurement Framework … it is sobering to compare and contrast how DG Environment (ENV), in the European Commission, is promoting and actively supporting Green Public Procurement, i.e. Public Procurement which is environment-friendly … http://ec.europa.eu/environment/gpp/index_en.htm … no messing about there !

If we (speaking as a European) are serious, therefore, about the ‘real’ implementation of Accessibility for All / Design for All / Inclusive Design / Universal Design / Barrier-Free Design in the Built Environment … it is of fundamental importance that an easily assimilated Standard (as defined in Paragraph #2, ANNEX VI of Directive 2004/18/EC) be produced ‘on the table’ for reference by Public Contracting Authorities … NOW !!!

Built Environment:  Anywhere there is, or has been, a man-made or wrought (worked) intervention in the natural environment, e.g. cities, towns, villages, rural settlements, service utilities, transport systems, roads, bridges, tunnels, and cultivated lands, lakes, rivers, coasts, and seas, etc … including the Virtual Environment.

Virtual Environment:  A designed environment, electronically generated from within the built environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the  person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.

The Built and Virtual Environments continue to merge into a new Augmented Reality.

A comprehensive document capable of answering a major portion of Europe’s current needs in this area is on the verge of being published as a full International Standard … ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’.  And … as is the case with hundreds of ISO Standards in other sectors, this standard could easily be approved by CEN, one of Europe’s Standards Organisations, as an EN (European Standard) … under the Vienna Agreement on Technical Co-Operation between ISO and CEN, which was confirmed by both organizations in 2001 … and the period to practical application of ISO 21542 on the ground would be relatively swift.

Every delay represents not only a precious opportunity missed to improve the Accessibility of the Built Environment … but another blatant Denial of Human and Social Rights to vulnerable groups of people in all our communities !

Yes, this document was badly managed at the beginning of its very long gestation period, and its contents were a bit of a mess for the first few years … AND European countries were indignant, then, at the prospect of it becoming a European Standard.  However, walking around any major city in any country in Europe today, and witnessing the universally appalling and miserable efforts at Accessibility Implementation … you would have to be outraged at the level of hypocrisy and blatant self-delusion practiced by Europeans !

BUT NOW … ISO FDIS 21542 … the Final Draft of the International Standard which was issued for voting, beginning on 22 September 2011 … is a very respectable looking document altogether.  It makes important statements about ‘creating a sustainable built environment which is accessible’.  Its purpose is ‘to define how the built environment 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’ … ‘principles which are supported by Preamble (g) and Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’.  I could go on, and on … but I will resist the temptation, since I was heavily involved in the development of this ISO Standard !

The point is … there is no longer any reason for European countries to complain about the inadequacy of this International Standard … and it should be the preferred instrument of choice to facilitate the immediate operation of the Accessibility / Design for All Requirements in EU Public Procurement Directive 2004/18/EC.

Unfortunately, this may not happen !

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Years too late, near the end of 2007 … DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion (EMPL), in the European Commission, issued the following Mandate …

M/420 EN – Brussels, 21 December 2007

Standardization Mandate 420 to CEN, CENELEC and ETSI in Support of European Accessibility Requirements for Public Procurement in the Built Environment

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (67.4 kb)

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This Mandate covers 2 Phases of Work.  Phase I deals with compiling an inventory of existing accessibility-related standards and an analysis of any gaps … as well as with issues of accessibility implementation monitoring and conformity assessment.  Phase II is the actual accessibility standard(s) development phase.

However … Mandate M/420 EN is a flawed document, and it should have received much closer scrutiny from the European Standards Organizations named in the document title … before any work in Phase I commenced.  Failing that … the first work item on the Phase I Agenda should certainly have been a critical examination of the mandate.

In a post, dated 15 January 2011 … I wrote …

The European Union’s Accessibility Strategy, related Policies and Programmes … and the monitoring, targeting and independent verification of Accessibility Implementation … all require a radical overhaul !

All those Officials in the European Commission who are involved, in any way, shape or form, with Accessibility of the ‘Human Environment’ would do well to RE-READ AND MEDITATE DEEPLY on the contents of the 2003 Final Report from the Group of Accessibility Experts, which was established by the European Commission itself … “

The Final Report from the 2003 EU Group of Accessibility Experts, of which I was a Member, can be downloaded towards the end of that post.

The Officials who drafted Commission Mandate M/420 EN paid little, if any, attention to that 2003 Expert Group Report.

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At the end of Phase I … in response to the European Commission’s Mandate M/420 EN … a long, rambling CEN Joint Report (document ref. CEN/BT/WG 207 N 29) of 425 Pages was issued, dated 8 August 2011, for general discussion and comment.

Some Comments on the CEN Joint Report …

1.  Terminology

CEN Joint Report – CEN/BT/WG 207 N 29

3.4     Conclusions View, Findings and Recommendations

3.4.1  Overview

Terms such as ‘procurement’, ‘inclusion’, ‘accessibility’ and ‘compliance’ are difficult to define precisely, and they are often not fully understood by those responsible for managing or providing the products or environments people use.  They are also not readily understood by those administrating and triggering the procurement process.

It is strange, therefore … and unacceptable … that this Report does not attempt to reduce and/or remove the ambiguity surrounding these terms … by providing a clear definition, with a supporting explanatory text, for each of the terms listed above.

I’m not even sure that the large numbers of people who helped to draft the CEN Joint Report fully understand those terms !

Most importantly, the Report is not at all precise about … and in fact appears to be completely confused by … the clear distinction which must be made between ‘accessibility’ and ‘access’.

2.  ‘Accessibility’ & UN CRPD

Accessibility does not begin and end with Article 9 of the United Nations 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) !!!   See my post, dated 15 January 2011 … and #6 below.

3.  EU Ratification of UN CRPD

The full implications arising from European Union (EU) Ratification, on 23 December 2010, of the United Nations 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) … for both EU Institutions, and the EU Member States (whether or not they have individually ratified the UN Convention) … have not been properly examined in the CEN Joint Report.

See my post, dated 5 February 2011 .

4.  Mainstreaming ‘Accessibility’

For the majority of people involved in the spatial planning, design and development of the European Built Environment, Accessibility is all about transport issues … for example, how far a proposed new building is from a transportation node.

We are communicating such a confused message (is it Accessibility for All, Design for All, Inclusive Design, Universal Design, or Barrier-Free Design ?) … that many policy and decision makers just could not be bothered.  And who, in Europe, is really concerned with the quality of Accessibility Implementation ???

In addition … the CEN Joint Report neglected to deal adequately … or at all … with a major body of EU Legislation which has been implemented at national level, in the Member States, many years ago … Safety at Work Legislation !   All of the EU Directives require that workplaces be accessible.  Yet, I know for a fact that, in Ireland, the Health & Safety Authority (HSA) is doing absolutely nothing to check whether this requirement is being complied with or not.

A Sustainable Built Environment is Accessible for All !   So many different types of International/European/National Legislation mandate that the Built Environment shall be Accessible for All !!   Good Design demands that the Built Environment is Accessible for All !!!

So why is Accessibility not being properly integrated into the operation of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Legislation ?

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.

No case need be made for the integration of Accessibility into Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) … it self-evidently must be !

Sustainability Impact Assessment:  A continual evaluation and optimization process – informing initial decision-making, or design, and shaping activity/product/service realization, useful life and termination, or final disposal – of the interrelated positive and negative social, environmental, economic, institutional, political and legal impacts on balanced and equitable implementation of Sustainable Human and Social Development.

5.  What Is The Overriding European Social Priority ?

The overriding European Social Priority is to commence operation, with full effect, of the Accessibility / Design for All Requirements within the fast evolving European Public Procurement Framework … as quickly as possible.

Do we have to wait another 2 or 3 years, at least, for the production of an ‘acceptable’ European Accessibility Standard ??   Instead, why not approve ISO 21542 as the European Standard when it is published as a full standard … which will be very soon ?   ISO 21542 is already being used as the benchmark in the CEN Joint Report !

AND … do we have to wait, for who knows how long … before Effective Monitoring Procedures … and Independent Verification Procedures … are put in place at European and National/Regional/Local Levels ???

Quality of European Accessibility Implementation … is critical !

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2011-10-17 …

6.  Post UN CRPD – A More Demanding Scope & Quality of Implementation

Not unexpected … but it has still been a most enlightening experience to read the recent UN CRPD Committee Report on Spain … selected extracts from which are reproduced below.  The language used by the Committee is strong and direct … finally !

This is not a good report and, in places, it makes for unpleasant reading … a concrete example of the ‘hypocrisy and blatant self-delusion practiced by Europeans’, which I talked about earlier.

In accordance with Article 36.3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) … the UN Secretary-General will be making this Report available to all States Parties.

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United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Sixth Session – 19 to 23 September 2011

Concluding Observations on Initial Report of Spain

(Article 35 of UN CRPD)

The Committee considered the initial report of Spain (CRPD/C/ESP/1) at its 56th and 57th meetings, held on 20 September 2011, and adopted the following concluding observations at its 62nd meeting, held on 23 September 2011.

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III.  Principal Areas of Concern & Recommendations

A.  General Principles & Obligations (Articles 1 & 4)

11.  The Committee takes note of the adoption of Act 26/2011 which introduces the concept of ‘person with disabilities’ as defined in the Convention and expands the protection of persons with disabilities.  However, it is concerned that not all persons with disabilities are covered by the law.

12.  The Committee urges the State Party to ensure that all persons with disabilities enjoy protection against discrimination and have access to equal opportunities irrespective of their level of disability.

13.  The Committee welcomes Act 49/2007, dated 26 December 2007, establishing the Permanent Specialized Office to deal with offences and sanctions in equal opportunities, non-discrimination and universal accessibility by persons with disabilities.  However, it is concerned by the slow development and lack of promotion of this arbitration system at the regional government level; by the lack of information on the number of sanctions submitted and resolved; and by the failure of the State Party to report on actions undertaken to implement this law.  The Committee is concerned about the overall effectiveness of the system.

14.  The Committee recommends that the State Party raise awareness among persons with disabilities about the system of arbitration; increase the level of free legal aid; and ensure the regulation of offences and sanctions at the regional government level.

15.  The Committee regrets the lack of information on the meaningful participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organisations at the regional level in designing, and evaluating the implementation of legislation, policy and decision-making processes; and the participation of children with disabilities at all levels.

16.  The Committee recommends that the State Party take specific measures to: ensure the active participation of persons with disabilities in public decision-making processes at the regional level; and to include children with disabilities at all levels.

17.  The Committee takes note of Act 2/2010 of 3 March 2010 on sexual and reproductive health decriminalizing voluntary termination of pregnancy, allowing  pregnancy to be terminated up to 14 weeks and including two specific cases in which abortion is allowed for longer time limits due to the fact that the foetus has a disability:  until 22 weeks of gestation, provided there is ‘a risk of serious anomalies in the foetus’, and beyond week 22 when, inter alia, ‘an extremely serious and incurable illness is detected in the foetus’.  It also notes the explanations provided by the State Party for maintaining this distinction.

18.  The Committee recommends that the State Party abolish the distinction made in Act 2/2010 in the period allowed under law within which a pregnancy can be terminated, based solely on disability.

B. Specific Rights (Articles 5-30)

Equality and non-discrimination (Article 5)

19.  The Committee welcomes the adoption of Act 26/2011 amending regulations which will abolish the need to have a disability certificate to bring a discrimination claim before a judicial body.  However, it regrets the lack of information on cases of discrimination, and it is concerned that persons with disabilities will still be marginalized.  The Committee is further concerned by the lack of information on reasonable accommodation.  It is also concerned that in practice disability affects parents’ guardianship or custody of their children and that legal protection against discrimination on the grounds of disability is not enforceable in cases of discrimination due to perceived disability or association with a person with a disability.

20.  The Committee urges the State Party to expand the protection of discrimination on the grounds of disability to explicitly cover multiple disability, perceived disability and association with a person with a disability, and to ensure the protection from denial of reasonable accommodation, as a form of discrimination, regardless of the level of disability.  Moreover guidance, awareness raising and training should be given to ensure a better comprehension by all stakeholders, including persons with disabilities, of the concept of reasonable accommodation and prevention of discrimination.

Article 8 – Awareness-Raising

25.  The Committee commends the many initiatives taken by the State Party to implement the Convention.  However, it notes that more needs to be done to increase awareness in society, in the media and amongst persons with disabilities themselves of the right of persons with disabilities.

26.  The Committee calls upon the State Party to take proactive measures to enhance awareness of the Convention and its Optional Protocol at all levels, in particular among the judiciary and the legal profession, political parties, Parliament and Government officials, civil society, media, persons with disabilities, as well as the general public.

Article 9 – Accessibility

27.  The Committee takes note that Act 26/2011 amends regulations which will shorten the timelines for meeting accessibility requirements in public facilities; and goods and services available to the public.  However, it remains concerned at the low level of compliance with these requirements, in particular, at regional and local levels, in the private sector, and in relation to existing facilities.  The Committee is aware of situations of discrimination faced by air passengers with disabilities, including situations of denial of boarding.  The Committee reminds the State Party that Article 9 of the Convention also demands access to information and communication.

28.  The Committee recommends that sufficient financial and human resources be allocated as soon as possible to implement, promote and monitor compliance with accessibility legislation through national measures as well as through international cooperation.

Article 11 – Situations of Risk & Humanitarian Emergencies

31.  The Committee is concerned at the insufficiency of specific protocols for persons with disabilities in emergency situations.

32.  The Committee calls upon the State Party to review its laws and policies related to emergency situations with a view to including provisions guaranteeing the security and protection of persons with disabilities.

[ My Comment:  This is a gross understatement of a serious problem which continues to fester not only in Spain but, more generally, in Europe ! ]

Article 19 – Living Independently & Being Included in the Community

39.  The Committee is concerned at the lack of resources and services to guarantee the right to live independently and to be included in the community, in particular in rural areas.  It is further concerned that the choice of residence of persons with disabilities is limited by the availability of the necessary services, and that those living in residential institutions are reported to have no alternative to institutionalization.  Finally, the Committee is concerned about linking eligibility of social services to a specific grade of disability.

40.  The Committee encourages the State Party to ensure that an adequate level of funding is made available to effectively enable persons with disabilities to: enjoy the freedom to choose their residence on an equal basis with others; access a full range of in-home, residential and other community services for daily life, including personal assistance; and to enjoy reasonable accommodation so as to better integrate into their communities.

41.  The Committee is concerned that the law for the promotion of autonomy limits the resources to hire personal assistants only to those persons who have level 3 disabilities and only for education and work.

42.  The Committee encourages the State Party to expand resources for personal assistants for all persons with disabilities in accordance with their requirements.

Article 24 – Education

43.  The Committee welcomes the fact that the principle of inclusion governs the schooling of pupils with special educational needs; that discrimination in education is prohibited; and that most children with disabilities are included in the regular education system.  It commends the enactment of Organic Act 2/2006 on Education, which obliges the education authorities to provide specialist teachers, qualified professionals and the necessary materials and resources, as well as the laws that oblige schools to make necessary curricular adjustments and diversifications for pupils with disabilities.  However, the Committee is concerned by the implementation of these laws in practice, in view of reported cases of failure to provide reasonable accommodation, of continued segregation and exclusion, of financial arguments used as justification for discrimination, and of the cases of children enrolled in special education against their parents’ will.  The Committee notes with concern that parents challenging the placement of their children with disabilities in special education have no possibility of appeal and that their only alternative is to educate them at their own expense or pay for the reasonable accommodation of their child in the regular education system.

44.  The Committee reiterates that denial of reasonable accommodation constitutes discrimination and the duty to provide reasonable accommodation is immediately applicable and not subject to progressive realisation.  It recommends the State Party to:

     (a)  Increase its efforts to provide reasonable accommodation in education, allocating sufficient financial and human resources to implement the right to inclusive education; paying particular attention to assessing the availability of teachers with specialist qualifications; and ensuring that educational departments of local governments understand their obligations under the Convention and act in conformity with its provisions ;

     (b)  Ensure that the decisions to place children with a disability in a special school or in special classes, or to offer them solely a reduced standard curriculum, are taken in consultation with the parents ;

     (c)  Ensure that the parents of children with disabilities are not obliged to pay for the education or for the measures of reasonable accommodation in mainstream schools ;

     (d)  Ensure that decisions on placing children in segregated settings can be appealed swiftly and effectively.

C.  Specific Obligations (Articles 31-33)

Statistics and data collection (Article 31)

49.  The Committee regrets the low level of disaggregated data on persons with disabilities.  The Committee recalls that such information is indispensable to: understanding the situations of specific groups of persons with disabilities in the State Party who may be subject to varying degrees of vulnerability; developing laws, policies and programmes adapted to their situations; and assessing the implementation of the Convention.

50.  The Committee recommends that the State party systematize the collection, analysis and dissemination of data, disaggregated by sex, age and disability; enhance capacity building in this regard; and develop gender-sensitive indicators to support legislative developments, policymaking and institutional strengthening for monitoring and reporting on progress made with regard to the implementation of the various provisions of the Convention.

51.  The Committee regrets that the situation of children with disabilities is not reflected in the data on the protection of children.

52.  The Committee recommends that the State Party systematically collect, analyse and disseminate data, disaggregated by sex, age and disability, on abuse and violence against children.

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New SDI Report on Climate Change Adaptation – Comments ?

This is the HomePage of my Technical Blog … but on a separate WebPage (see the toolbar above), I have been slowly building content, with links to related sources of information, on the subject of a CIB Working Commission 108 International Climate Change Project, which is about to enter its final important stage.

When published in the spring/early summer of next year … 2011 … the CIB W108 Report: ‘Sustainable Climate Change Adaptation in the Built Environment’ will comprise 2 Parts:

           I  – International Synthesis on Sustainable Climate Change Adaptation.

          II  – National Perspectives on Sustainable Climate Change Adaptation.

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Today, 18 November 2010 … I uploaded onto that separate WebPage the National Report for ‘IRELAND’, which will appear in Part II of the CIB Publication.  I am the person who drafted this report … and it has not been an easy task !   You will see that much attention is paid to institutional and implementation issues.

I now invite comments on the National Report … any comments … from those with a particular interest in the subject … and from the general public.

Comments should arrive here no later than Monday, 20th December 2010 … pretty please !

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Before commenting upon the National Report, however, it would be useful if you also took a glance at the following three relevant documents …

  • Ireland’s 5th National Communication (NC5) under the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, dated 3 March 2010 ;
  • UNFCCC In-Depth Review of Ireland’s 5th National Communication (NC5), dated 2 November 2010 ;
  • EU WHITE PAPER – Adapting to Climate Change: Towards a European Framework for Action … European Commission Communication COM(2009) 147 final, dated 1 April 2009.

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2009 EU White Paper – ‘Introduction’ (Page 3, first three paragraphs)

Climate change increases land and sea temperatures and alters precipitation quantity and patterns, resulting in the increase of global average sea level, risks of coastal erosion and an expected increase in the severity of weather-related natural disasters.  Changing water levels, temperatures and flow will in turn affect food supply, health, industry, and transport and ecosystem integrity.  Climate change will lead to significant economic and social impacts with some regions and sectors likely to bear greater adverse affects.  Certain sections of society (older people, people with activity limitations, low-income households) are also expected to suffer more.

Addressing climate change requires two types of response.  Firstly, and importantly, we must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), i.e. take mitigation action … and secondly, we must take adaptation action to deal with the unavoidable impacts.  The EU’s recently agreed climate change legislation puts in place the concrete measures to reach the EU’s commitment to reduce emissions to 20% below 1990 levels by 2020 and is capable of being amended to deliver a 30% reduction if agreed as part of an international agreement in which other developed countries agree to comparable reductions and appropriate contributions by economically more advanced developing countries based on their responsibilities and capabilities.  However, even if the world succeeds in limiting and then reducing GHG emissions, our planet will take time to recover from the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere.  Thus, we will be faced with the impact of climate change for at least the next 50 years.  We need therefore to take measures to adapt.

Adaptation is already taking place but in a piecemeal manner.  A more strategic approach is needed to ensure that timely and effective adaptation measures are taken, ensuring coherency across different sectors and levels of governance.

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2009 EU White Paper – The Proposed EU Framework: Objectives & Action (Page 7, #3)

The Objective of the EU’s Adaptation Framework is to improve the EU’s resilience to deal with the impact of climate change.  The framework will respect the principle of subsidiarity and support overarching EU objectives on sustainable development.

The EU’s framework adopts a phased approach.  The intention is that phase 1 (2009-2012) will lay the groundwork for preparing a comprehensive EU Adaptation Strategy to be implemented during phase 2, commencing in 2013.

Phase 1 (2009-2012) will focus on four pillars of action:

1)    building a solid knowledge base on the impact and consequences of climate change for the EU ;

2)    integrating adaptation into EU key policy areas ;

3)    employing a combination of policy instruments (market-based instruments, guidelines, public-private partnerships) to ensure effective delivery of adaptation ;    and

4)    stepping up international co-operation on adaptation.

For phase 1 to be a success … the EU, national, regional and local authorities must co-operate closely.

The proposals set out in this paper cover actions to be taken in the first phase and are without prejudice to the future structure of the EU budget and to the current and future multi-annual financial framework.

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IRELAND – Part II National Report for CIB W108 Climate Change Project

In the spring of 2007, the Department of Environment, Heritage & Local Government (DEHLG) – Ireland’s statutory Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) – published the ‘National Climate Change Strategy 2007-2012’.  This document can be accessed and downloaded at … http://www.environ.ie/en/Environment/Atmosphere/ClimateChange/   It is of concern to note, however, that ‘Climate Change’ related content is not easy to find on this WebSite !   Comprehensive Enabling Climate Change Legislation, which this Department, and the Irish Government, initially promised for Easter 2010 … and then June 2010 … has, at the time of writing (mid-November 2010), still not made an appearance in the Dáil (Ireland’s Parliament) !

The Department of Environment, Heritage & Local Government (DEHLG) lacks strong and competent political direction and the institutional capacity to effectively co-ordinate and oversee the implementation of National Climate Action.  For this reason, closer scrutiny of its activities will be required from the Dáil Committee System.

Contrary to current practice … Foreign Development Aid should not be used to obtain any sort of domestic or in-country credit for Ireland’s National Climate Change Strategy !

Specifically concerning Climate Change Adaptation … the following is stated on Page 45 of the 2007-2012 National Climate Change Strategy Document …

‘As part of a comprehensive policy position on climate change, the Government is committed to developing a national adaptation strategy over the next two years.  This strategy will provide a framework for the integration of adaptation issues into decision-making at national and local level.’

The DEHLG does not, however, intend to publish a National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy until 2013 (Ireland’s NC5).

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Climate Change Action in Ireland – Summary

Ireland’s Climate Action to date, i.e. effective Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Implementation, has been laboriously slow and lethargic.  It may best be characterized as ‘Business as Usual’, combined with some ‘Cosmetic Tinkering at the Edges’ as the need arises … the universal excuse, almost a mantra, being that “the competitiveness of the national economy must not be impaired”.  National Performance has been guided by an official policy of exploiting to the maximum all of the UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol’s Flexibility Mechanisms while, at the same time, showing a stark indifference to Climate Adaptation … an over-reliance on Marketing Campaigns in the public media as opposed to mandatory implementation on the ground … and a preference for ‘Soft’ Performance Estimation on paper/computer monitor rather than the more painful ‘real’ performance calculation, which would generate reliable data and statistics to be managed by Ireland’s Central Statistics Office, in co-ordination with EuroStat in Luxembourg.

Despite the importance of the Construction Sector in Ireland and Europe … and its very large adverse impacts on regional and local climate … a significant barrier to concerted Sectoral Climate Action exists because ‘construction’ is not yet identified as a separate Sector, by either the Environmental Protection Agency (Ireland) or the European Environment Agency (Copenhagen) … in National and European Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emission Databases.  Furthermore, our systems of governance and institutional organization, at both levels, do not appear to have the capacity … either to understand or to manage an effective response to the climate challenges created by the Sector.

Climate Change Mitigation Efforts are failing in Ireland; the current economic downturn merely camouflages that unpalatable fact.  Therefore, the necessary corrective actions described in this National Report fall under the heading of ‘Climate Change Adaptation’.

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How ‘Sustainable’ are Built Environment Adaptation Projects ?

2010-04-01:  The Inter-Basin Water Transfer Project from Lough Ree, on the River Shannon, to Dublin City, in Ireland, has been described as a Pilot Adaptation Project on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) WebSite Database relating to the Nairobi Work Programme (2005-2010).

I did not imagine this … please check out the listing, for yourselves, on this WebPage … www.unfccc.int/adaptation/nairobi_work_programme/knowledge_resources_and_publications/items/4555.php?sort=focus_sort&dirc=DESC&seite=1&anf=0&type=&region=&focus=&means=

Detailed information concerning the Project can be accessed and downloaded at this Irish Address:  www.watersupplyproject-dublinregion.ie   It will cost approximately €600 million (probably much more !) … devour many material resources and have an adverse environmental impact … the objective being to divert water from the Shannon, a large river in the mid-west of the country … to Dublin, the capital city, which is located over 100 kilometres away on the east coast … in order to deal with the expected shortage of water which will be caused, among other relevant factors, by future climate change.

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Colour image showing the many options for a future Dublin Region Water Supply Project ... linking the River Shannon, and its lakes, to the Capital City. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the many options for a future Dublin Region Water Supply Project ... linking the River Shannon, and its lakes ... to the Capital City, which is over 100 kilometres away on the east coast. Click to enlarge.

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BUT … just how Sustainable is this Climate Change Adaptation Project … if the following other relevant factors are considered ?????

1.  Since the 1960’s … a dysfunctional and corrupt Spatial Planning System in the Dublin City Region has actively encouraged an uncontrolled, urban and suburban horizontal sprawl to take place.  Today, this pattern of development remains unchecked.

2.  At this time, there are still no Residential Water Charges in Dublin.  The concept of water conservation is, therefore, almost unknown among householders.  National and local politicians are terrified by any prospect of having to vote in favour of imposing these necessary charges.

3.  There are enormous un-intended losses, i.e. Leaks, from the public mains potable/drinking water distribution system … approximately 40% even in the good times, and recently, well in excess of 60% following the National Snow Emergency in Ireland.

4.  Potable/drinking water supplied to houses in the Dublin City Region is not yet Metered.  There is no urgency, therefore, in locating and repairing water leaks which occur between the private property boundary of a house and the house itself.

5.  There is no existing legal requirement in Ireland’s National Building Regulations to Harvest Rainwater in any buildings, or on any hard surfaces in the vicinity of those buildings.  A current proposal to amend Technical Guidance Document H: ‘Drainage & Waste Water Disposal’ will merely present relevant guidance text to building designers concerning this option.

Furthermore, there is no effective System of Technical Control operated by the Local Authorities in the City Region … to enforce a legal requirement concerning rainwater harvesting … even if such a legal requirement were to be introduced !

6.  In 2005-2006, at the height of the Celtic Tiger Economic Boom … the existing Foul and Storm Water Drainage Infrastructure in the City Region was already stretched to keep pace with the ‘wild’ demands for new development land.  Detailed information concerning the Greater Dublin Strategic Drainage Study can be accessed and downloaded at this Irish Address:  www.dublincity.ie/WaterWasteEnvironment/WasteWater/Drainage/GreaterDublinStrategicDrainageStudy/Pages/RegionalDrainagePolicies-OverallPolicyDocument.aspx

Overloading of the existing drainage systems was evident from a marked deterioration in water quality, increased risks of flooding and pollution, and concerns that the drainage system and sewage treatment plants had insufficient capacity to cater for future development.

7.  Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA)

‘ a continual evaluation and optimization assessment – informing initial decision-making, or design, and shaping activity/product/service realization, useful life and termination, or final disposal – of the interrelated positive and negative social, economic, environmental, institutional, political and legal impacts on balanced and equitable implementation of Sustainable Human & Social Development ‘

… is not yet a standard procedure, at any level, within national, regional and local Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s).  If it were, the most glaring flaw in this project would rapidly be identified.  There is no comprehension at all, in the minds of Dublin City’s decision-makers, that water is a very valuable, but limited, resource !

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Although today is 1st April 2010 … far too many people in senior policy and decision-making roles are giving solemn, unquestioning consideration to this Project.

To be successful, however, National Adaptation Strategies, Programmes and Projects must be informed, in a meaningful way, by the concept of Sustainable Human and Social Development … and, prior to implementation, must be filtered through the lens of a comprehensive Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) !

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POSTSCRIPT

2011-09-29:  Relevant extract from the 2010 Annual Report of the Irish Comptroller and Auditor General Volume 2

WATER SERVICES EFFECTIVENESS

22.11  Funding for the provision of infrastructure for the supply of drinking water is provided by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government under two programmes.  Major water supply schemes are included in the rolling three-year Water Services Investment Programme (WSIP).  These schemes focus on the larger concentrations of population in urban areas.  Annual Rural Water Programmes (RWP) provide the bulk of funding for the construction of group water schemes and small public schemes in rural areas.

22.12  Over the period 2000-2010, €5.2 Billion of Exchequer resources have been invested in the upgrading and provision of new water services infrastructure, of which €4.2 Billion was spent on WSIP and €0.99 Billion was spent on RWP.  Overall expenditure includes investment of over €1 Billion on public water supply and networks and €168 Million on water conservation.  [The WSIP expenditure also includes €889 million relating mainly to the group water sector under the rural water programme.]  There are two key indicators of the effectiveness of expenditure on water supply and conservation:

  • the quality of drinking water;
  • the extent to which treated water reaches the consumer.

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Effectiveness of Water Supply System

22.17  Loss of output is a feature of all water distribution systems.  Unaccounted for Water (UFW) is a measure that is used to track this loss.  It is the difference between ‘net production’ which is the volume of water delivered into a network and ‘consumption’ measured in terms of the volume of water that can be accounted for by legitimate consumption.

22.18  Figure 109 shows UFW as a percentage of the net volume of water supplied for 2008 and 2009.  It sets out the national average performance and the range across local authorities.  Annex A contains the data on UFW for these two years for all county and city councils.

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Black and white image showing Figure 109: 'Unaccounted for Water (UFW) as a Percentage of Water Supplied, 2008-2009' ... from the 2010 Annual Report of the Irish Comptroller and Auditor General - Volume 2. Click to enlarge.

Black and white image showing Figure 109: 'Unaccounted for Water (UFW) as a Percentage of Water Supplied, 2008-2009' ... from the 2010 Annual Report of the Irish Comptroller and Auditor General - Volume 2. Click to enlarge.

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Black and white image showing Annex A: 'Unaccounted for Water (UFW) as a Percentage of Total Volume of Water Supplied, 2008 and 2009' ... from the 2010 Annual Report of the Irish Comptroller and Auditor General - Volume 2. Click to enlarge.

Black and white image showing Annex A: 'Unaccounted for Water (UFW) as a Percentage of Total Volume of Water Supplied, 2008 and 2009' ... from the 2010 Annual Report of the Irish Comptroller and Auditor General - Volume 2. Click to enlarge.

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22.19  Overall, the average percentage of UFW was approximately 41.48% in 2009, which showed a marginal increase over 2008 (41.20%).  Some 17 of the 34 authorities have seen an improvement in 2009, the most noticeable being a reduction in the percentage of water lost in Monaghan which was down by 27%, Cavan by 18% and Kilkenny by 15%.  The other 17 local authorities reported a disimprovement in the amount of UFW for 2009, with Limerick County Council reporting losses of 35%, up from 17% in 2008.  Fingal County Council, Limerick City Council, and Dublin City Council reported substantial increased leakage in 2009 over 2008 at 27%, 22% and 20% respectively.

Cost of Unaccounted for Water (UFW)

22.20  The cost of UFW is considerable for local authorities.  However, since the LGMSB does not collate information on water production and associated costs the data is not available in the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.  As a result, it is not possible in this report to provide an up-to-date estimate of the cost of UFW being experienced.

22.21  A value for money examination carried out in the mid-1990’s on water production and distribution showed that the cost per cubic metre of water produced varied between €0.14 to €0.39.  The study found that overall water leakage level in the authorities surveyed at that time ranged from 27% to 40% of total water produced.

22.22  The results of the study were based on estimates since none of the authorities that were the subject of the value for money examination had the means to measure accurately the level of overall leakage.

22.23  Based on its results, the examination reported that, for five local authorities reviewed at that time, the estimated annual production cost of the water lost due to leakages was in the order of €3.5 million.  Applying the Consumer Price Index to this value brings the cost to approximately €5.3 million in present-day terms.

22.24  As leakage is just one factor contributing to UFW, it appears from the losses now being recorded by local authorities that there has been little, if any, improvement in the situation despite the considerable State investment in water services in the interim.

Views of the Accounting Officer

22.25  The Accounting Officer informed me that under the National Water Conservation Sub-Programme, which commenced in 1996, the National Water Study undertook a comprehensive national water audit of all urban centres with populations exceeding 5,000 to determine the extent of UFW and leakage problems nationally.  The National Water Study examined the reasons for UFW and set out recommendations to reduce the levels of UFW.

22.26  Arising from the findings of the National Water Study and pilot water conservation schemes undertaken in the main urban centres of Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford and Limerick, water conservation strategies and operational programmes were adopted which have been rolled out nationally since 2003.

22.27  The Dublin Region Water Conservation Programme, which was carried out between 1998 and 2002 as one of the pilot schemes under the National Water Conservation Sub-Programme, reduced regional leakage from 47% to 28%.  UFW in the Dublin region now averages 30% which is amongst the lowest in the country.

22.28  Since the commencement of the water conservation sub-programme, substantial investment has been made in the fundamental infrastructure for water management, including the metering of supply input.  Also, the methodology has been standardised.  Arising from this, the reported figures now have an accuracy that the figures from earlier times could not have had.

22.29  By way of example, the Greater Dublin Water Supply Strategic Study (1996) estimated losses of 44% of total input, of which 39% was allocated to distribution losses and 5% allocated to customer losses.  When the metering infrastructure was checked and upgraded during the water conservation project (around 2000), it was found that the original meter readings for flow into supply were incorrect, and that losses were actually higher than originally thought (giving the corrected estimate for that time of 42% distribution losses and 47% in total).  Notwithstanding that the Dublin Region bulk metering infrastructure was considered reliable at the time, it was found to have inaccuracies that were subsequently corrected.

22.30  In terms of comparisons, the Accounting Officer pointed out that the Dublin supply is hugely significant, serving approximately one third of the population of the country.  Consequently, the Dublin supply region reduction of distribution loss from 42% to 30% currently must reflect positively on the national average (and it is the corrected Dublin Region figure from 1995/96 that is most reliably reflective of the situation at that time).

22.31  A further observation by the Accounting Officer was that without investment the leakage situation will deteriorate as assets age.  It follows that a certain level of investment is required even just to maintain the status quo.

22.32  The Accounting Officer stated that, outside of Dublin, most of the investment had been in water management systems, which while they had made a contribution to tackling leakage, were really the platform for the more intensive investment being rolled out for mains rehabilitation in the WSIP 2010-2012.  She said that this investment in water management systems had contributed to greater efficiency in the supply system, which had been demonstrated during the two severe winters and flooding in Cork, when authorities had been better able to manage the rationing of supply and restoration of supply than they would have been a decade ago.

22.33  Finally, the Accounting Officer said that the need to focus on water conservation had been demonstrated through the development of service indicators, training in water conservation, development of guidance and work with the County and City Managers Association to streamline the approaches and accelerate work in this area.

CONCLUSION – Effectiveness of Water Supply System

UFW arises from factors such as leakage, poor service connections and metering errors.  Average UFW levels in Ireland appear to be at levels twice the OECD average of 20%.  While some caution needs to be applied in interpreting the results of a limited examination of water leakage carried out over 15 years ago, present-day losses may be, in many local authorities, as high as those found in the mid-1990’s, notwithstanding an investment of over €1 Billion in water supply and conservation in the last ten years.

In the light of the potential cost of UFW it is necessary that the factors that give rise to UFW be reviewed and strategies and operational programmes to address the underlying issues contributing to the problem be re-evaluated.

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Sustainable Climate Adaptation – The Post Copenhagen Priority !

[It was necessary to commence this post … only after visiting India.  See the first post of 2010-01-18.]

Well … we really saw it all at Copenhagen during those two long weeks in December 2009.  Wasn’t it great to watch ?!?   News, gossip, political ’shenanigans’ and spin … along with riots in the streets and walk-outs in the corridors … a veritable circus … an unmitigated farce !!!   A crime against humanity ????

Following the UNFCCC Summit … the PEW Center on Global Climate Change, in the USA (using their own words: an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers, and innovative solutions to address climate change), offered this ‘credible information’ …

‘ A new political accord struck by world leaders at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen provides for explicit emission pledges by all the major economies – including, for the first time, China and other major developing countries – but charts no clear path toward a treaty with binding commitments.

The basic terms of the Copenhagen Accord were brokered directly by President Obama and a handful of key developing country leaders on the final day of the conference, capping two weeks of harsh rhetoric and pitched procedural battles that made the prospect of any agreement highly uncertain.  It then took nearly another full day of tense negotiations to arrive at a procedural compromise allowing the leaders’ deal to be formalized over the bitter objections of a few governments.

… ‘

Now compare this News Article, by Satyen Mohapatra, from the Hindustan Times, New Delhi, India … dated Saturday, 9th January 2010 …

India Brought China Onboard at Copenhagen

New Delhi: Environment & Foreign Minister Jairam Ramesh, on Friday, said India had brought China onboard at Copenhagen.

“India brought China onboard at Copenhagen.  The U.S. actually owes a lot to India”, he said here at an interaction.

Despite taking a leadership role during the negotiations, Ramesh said, the Chinese were not ready to talk directly with the US, but always as part of the BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) Group.

Recounting how the Accord was reached at Copenhagen, Ramesh said it was “floundering on three issues: whether the goal of arresting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 should be expressed in terms of temperature or emission reduction or concentration of GHG in the atmosphere; what would be the international monitoring and verification regime for the mitigation actions of the BASIC countries; and whether the Accord would be legally binding”.

“We got 2.5 out of three”, he added.

And then … consider the opening of a statement by Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, Cuban Minister for Foreign Affairs, at the last session of the Climate Summit on Friday, 18th December 2009 …

Mr. Chairman:

It has been four hours since President Obama announced an agreement that does not exist.  He is disrespecting the international community and behaving as an imperial master.

The document that you, Mr. Chairman, repeatedly claimed that did not exist is showing up now.  We have all seen drafts surreptitiously circulated and discussed in secret meetings, outside the rooms where the international community has been transparently negotiating through its representatives.

As it happens, Mr. Chairman, the non-existent document does exist.  I deeply regret the way you have conducted the works of this conference.

I can anticipate that the delegation from the Republic of Cuba has decided not to accept the declaration you are introducing.  I do not need any additional consultation in any other framework or format; therefore, I declare that at this conference there is no consensus on this document.

I add my voice to that of the representatives of Tuvalu, Venezuela and Bolivia.  Cuba considers the text of this apocryphal draft extremely insufficient and inadmissible.  The unacceptable goal of 2 degrees Centigrade would have incalculable catastrophic consequences, particularly for the small island nations.  It would also have a grave impact on numerous species of the biodiversity.

The document that you are unfortunately introducing contains no commitment whatsoever on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

I am aware of the previous drafts, which again through questionable and clandestine procedures, were negotiated in small groups and which at least made reference to a 50% reduction by 2050.  I have here with me those previous drafts that it would be worthwhile making public in this room and releasing to the media and the representatives of the civil society.

The document that you are introducing now leaves out precisely those already meagre and insufficient key phrases contained in those drafts.  This document does not guarantee, in any way, the adoption of minimal measures conducive to the prevention of an extremely grave catastrophe for the planet and for human beings.

To Cuba, the content of this document is incompatible with the universally recognized scientific criterion which deems it urgent and unavoidable to ensure at least a 45% reduction of emissions by the year 2020, and no less that 80% or 90% by 2050.

This shameful document that you bring to us is also insufficient and ambiguous with regards to the specific commitment of the developed countries to reduce emissions even when they are responsible for the global warming resulting from the historic and current level of their emissions, and it is only fit that they undertake meaningful reductions right away.  This document fails to mention any commitment by the developed nations.

Confused ?   Depressed ??   Frustrated ???

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Some Observations from the 2009 UNFCCC Copenhagen Climate Summit:

1.  The 2009 Copenhagen Accord is a voluntary political agreement among a small number of countries … an arrangement of convenience.  It has no status within the international framework of the 1992 Convention on Climate Change and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol … it is a non-document.  It does, however, provide political cover for Brazil, South Africa, India and China (BASIC) … along with the USA … whose politicians have no wish to be bound by legally binding, meaningful GHG Emission Reduction Targets benchmarked back to 1990 levels … most especially, GHG Emission Reductions which would be stringently and independently verified by competent external agencies.  The Accord also has the potential, within it, to derail the entire UNFCCC process.

The Accord is not, therefore, being presented on this WebSite.

2.  The Developed Countries (i.e. the 1992 UNFCCC Annex I Countries) demonstrated that they had a small understanding of, but very little sympathy for, the concepts of ‘equity’, ‘fairness’, ‘historical responsibility’ and ‘climate justice’.

3.  It is now clear that the European Union’s Climate Change Targets of (i) a maximum 2 degree Celsius rise in global temperature is too high … a maximum 1.5 degree Celsius rise should be the target, with an essential reference to a ‘safety factor’ in all calculations … and (ii) a 20% Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emission Reduction by 2020 is far too low.  The time for playing games with numbers is over … GHG Emission Reductions by the EU Member States should be open to stringent and independent/external verification … not just by the European Commission (which is insufficient, on its own, in this particular case) … but also by competent indigenous agencies in the BASIC Group of Countries.  To heal the rifts at Copenhagen … greater openness and transparency is required from Europe !!

Spinning of EU GHG Emission Reduction Performance by the European Environment Agency (EEA) … to make it appear that Europeans are doing more, and better, than we actually are … should be firmly knocked on the head, i.e. forbidden !

And in Ireland, to bring this subject closer to home, we urgently need to find another home … one central location, properly managed … for the relevant/related GHG Databases currently held by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Energy Ireland (SEI).  Here … let us recall a pertinent extract from the European Union Treaties … ‘statistics shall conform to impartiality, reliability, objectivity, scientific independence, cost-effectiveness and statistical confidentiality’.  This issue has been discussed in previous posts.  So … say no more !!!!

4.  Developed Countries continue to show a feigned interest in Climate Change Adaptation.  Too much of their energies and resources are still being directed at fully exploiting the ‘flexibilities’ in meeting Kyoto GHG Emission Reduction Targets.  They are wealthy enough … and they believe (mistakenly) that they possess all of the institutional capacities necessary to deal with any adverse impacts caused by Climate Change, including Variability and Extremes.  We have found recently in Ireland, however, during the National Major Flood and Snow Emergencies that we certainly do not have these capacities.  If anything, we now know that the relevant institutions in this country are incompetent, disorganized and dysfunctional.

Bearing in mind that the minimum life cycle for a Sustainable Building (just to take one important component of the Built Environment) is 100 years … the abject failure to reach a legally binding consensus agreement at Copenhagen … means that National Adaptation Strategies must now be planned and formulatedurgentlyon the basis of, at the very least, a 3-4 degree Celsius rise in global temperature.

What is Climate Change Adaptation ?

This encompasses, generally, all actions to reduce the vulnerability and strengthen the resilience of the Human Environment, including ecological and social systems, institutions and economic sectors … to present and future adverse effects of climate change and the impacts of response measure implementation … in order to minimize the threats to life, human health, livelihoods, food security, assets, amenities, ecosystems and sustainable development.

Built Environment Climate Change Adaptation, more specifically, means … reliably implementing policies, practices, projects and institutional reforms in the Built Environment … with the aim of reducing the adverse impacts and/or realizing the benefits directly/indirectly associated with climate change, including variability and extremes … in a manner which is compatible with Sustainable Human and Social Development.

Many opportunities can arise from Adaptation.

Why is a Sustainable Approach to Climate Change Adaptation Necessary ?

As an example and very briefly …

In Ireland, it has been proposed as an Adaptation Project … to divert water from the Shannon, a very large river in the west of the country … to Dublin, the capital city, which is located on the east coast … in order to deal with the expected shortage of water which will be caused by Climate Change in the medium term … among other factors.

“Fine”, you might say … and you may later add: “an interesting civil engineering infrastructural project”, as you visualize, in your mind’s eye, impressive Roman Aqueducts in the south of France or outside Rome.

BUT … if you then consider that there are no residential water charges in Dublin (so the concept of water conservation is almost unknown among householders); water supplied to houses in the Dublin Region are not yet metered (so there is no urgency to locate and deal with water leakage inside the private property boundary); there are enormous unintended losses, i.e. leaks, from the public potable water distribution system (approximately 40% even in the good times, and recently well in excess of 60% following the National Snow Emergency !); there are no requirements in our National Building Regulations to harvest any rainwater in any buildings or on any hard surfaces in the vicinity of those buildings … and, finally, Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) is not yet a standard procedure, at any level, within National and Local Authorities Having Jurisdiction.

So … just how ‘sustainable’, in reality, is the Shannon-Dublin Water Diversion Scheme as a Climate Change Adaptation Project ???

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2010 ACRECONF in Delhi (Dilli), India – 8th & 9th January

It was a great pleasure to be invited to speak on the subject of Sustainable Fire Engineering at the 2010 ACRECONF in Delhi (Dilli), India.  This ground breaking conference in Asia took place at the India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, Delhi … on the 8th & 9th January last.  Back during August (2009) in Bengaluru … the ACRECONF Chairman, Mr. Ashish Rakheja, told me that he expected an attendance of somewhere between 500-600 people at the Delhi Conference.  Over the two days of the actual conference, approximately 1800 delegates participated … an enormous response by architects, civil and service engineers, developers, client and construction organizations, etc., etc., from right across the country … and from the deep south.

Colour photograph showing some of the many participants at the 2010 ACRECONF in Delhi, as they enjoy talking and networking during the morning coffee break of the second day at the conference. The venue was the India Habitat Centre on Lodhi Road. The weather was chilly for the time of year, and there had been a heavy fog earlier in the morning. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-01-09.

Colour photograph showing some of the many participants at the 2010 ACRECONF in Delhi, as they enjoy talking and networking during the morning coffee break of the second day at the conference. The venue was the India Habitat Centre on Lodhi Road. The weather was chilly for the time of year, and there had been a heavy fog earlier in the morning. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-01-09.

For me … refreshing, extremely impressive, and certainly the highlight of the conference … was a multi-media presentation … on the second morning, just after the coffee break … by Mr. Karan Grover, the renowned Indian Architect.  He is quite an individual !

Before the break, delegates had been treated to an elaboration of the Environmental Design Innovations incorporated into the 71 storey Pearl River Tower (Guangzhou, China), by Mr. Varun Kohli of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) in New York.  Construction of the Tower is now well under way.  Afterwards, however, an important discussion took place concerning the issue of fire safety, and fire engineering generally, in Sustainable Buildings.  It became clear to all of the participants that this issue is a major oversight … an intentional gap … in the design of these buildings.  I made the point, forcibly, that Sustainable Fire Engineering is open to innovation and design creativity. There will be an important follow-up to this discussion.

Colour photograph showing a silly tourist on a bicycle rickshaw, as he is brought sightseeing around the Bazaar District in Old Delhi. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by Mr. Daljeet Singh, Ministry of Tourism, with CJ Walsh's camera. 2010-01-09.

Colour photograph showing a silly tourist on a bicycle rickshaw, as he is brought sightseeing around the Bazaar District in Old Delhi. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by Mr. Daljeet Singh, Ministry of Tourism, with CJ Walsh's camera. 2010-01-09.

Unfortunately, the conference was peppered with references to ‘Green’ Buildings … an outdated marketing concept (!) … which, within its limited world-view, gives people the false comfort of not having to deal with thorny issues such as ‘social justice, solidarity & inclusion for all’.  I have discussed this issue many times in previous posts.

Even more unfortunately, where the Brundtland Definition of ‘Sustainable Development’ was actually presented in one session … as usual, it was only the first half of the definition which made any appearance.  The second, and more important, half of the definition had mysteriously vanished without trace … which made the whole effort a meaningless exercise !   What a waste !!   No wonder there is such confusion over the concept … at all levels … in most countries !!!

It was not surprising, therefore, that what was not stressed enough, during the entire conference, was that Sustainable Design Solutions must be appropriate to local geography, climate, economy, culture, social need and language(s)/dialect(s), etc.  The LEED Building Rating System (USA), for example, is not being properly adapted to local conditions in India !

A final issue … another major oversight … another intentional gap … in the design of buildings … Accessibility-for-All !   Even though India ratified the 2006 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 1st October 2007 … this essential aspect of design … certainly in Sustainable Buildings … received no mention whatever during the conference … except by yours truly, in my presentation.

Overall … a magnificent achievement for the organizers !

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French Term ‘Développement Durable’ – A Critical Error

Happy New Year (2010) !   Buona Fortuna a Tutti e Tutte !!

Time to get serious again.  Does anything about this next little anecdote sound familiar ?

The country is France … a critical error is discovered … there follows much beating of breasts, many tears are shed, apologies all over the place … but …. everyone keeps going forward, exactly as before.  No … not the infamous Thierry Henry Handball Incident.  Something different … something technical … something which continues, day after day, to add to the international confusion about the meaning of Sustainable Development, or to be more precise Sustainable Human & Social Development !

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In January 2009, the French Sénat considered a Proposed Amendment to the Grenelle de l’Environnement Legislation

From the Official Record (No 631 – 22 Janvier 2009) … Article 1ER

I.   A la deuxième phrase du premier alinéa de cet article, remplacer les mots:

développement durable

par les mots:

développement soutenable

II.  En conséquence, procéder à la même substitution dans l’ensemble de ce projet de loi.

The purpose of this Amendment … Objet

Cet amendement a pour but de revenir aux sources du concept de développement soutenable telles qu’énoncées dans le Rapport Brundtland de 1987 et par le Sommet de Rio de 1992.  C’est «un modèle de développement qui satisfait aux besoins de la génération présente, a commencé par ceux des plus démunis, sans compromettre la capacité des générations suivantes à satisfaire les leurs».  Cette définition de la soutenabilité du développement s’oppose radicalement à celle de la durabilité du développement qui peut être prônée par toutes et tous, notamment les grands groupes industriels et financiers, sans que soit pour autant mise en œuvre une réelle politique de protection de l’environnement.

The Proposed Amendment was defeated.

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What happened was later explained by Yann Cohignac … on the French WebSite www.developpementdurable.com (!!!) …

Le «développement durable» est un oxymore: un développement perpétuel ne peut en aucun cas être durable.  Il vaudrait donc mieux parler de «développement soutenable».  Cette opinion, défendue par certains sénateurs, a agité les premiers débats autour de l’examen de la Loi 1 du Grenelle de l’Environnement.  Mm Muller et Desessard, ainsi que Mmes Blandin, Boumediene-Thiery et Voynet avaient ainsi déposé un amendement pour opérer un changement sémantique dans l’ensemble du texte.

Objectif: rétablir le sens des mots.  Car, selon Jacques Muller (PS, Haut-Rhin), «notre modèle de civilisation est insoutenable au sens physique et biologique, car nous n’avons pas de planète de rechange, mais également au plan éthique.  Le développement industriel productiviste, qui n’est ni durable, ni généraliste, est la négation de la solidarité avec les générations futures et entre les habitants du village planétaire».  Et de dénoncer les entreprises qui pratiquent le greenwashing, «se contentant de spots publicitaires et de campagnes de communication mâtinés de développement durable sans rien changer à leur politique exclusivement orientée vers le profit à courts termes».

Ce qui fait dire au sénateur que «dans un monde aux ressources limitées, c’est une aberration de parler de croissance durable du PIB.  Par respect pour ceux qui aspirent simplement au développement, nous préférons parler de développement soutenable, écologiquement et éthiquement».

Trop Tard Pour Changer

Au Sénat, on a reconnu que l’expression «développement durable», tirée de l’anglais «sustainable development», était très mal traduite.  «Toutefois, l’article 6 de la Charte de l’environnement, adossé à la Constitution, fait référence au développement durable», répond Bruno Sido, rapporteur de la Commission des affaires économiques du Sénat (sans parler du ministère même du «développement durable»).

Et surtout: «les Français se sont appropriés l’expression, quelque fausse qu’elle soit.  Comme la bataille contre l’usage incorrect de l’expression “bien achalandé”, c’est une cause perdue.  Mettons plutôt notre énergie à défendre les idées qu’à changer les termes.  Avis défavorable».  Amendement refusé, donc.  La traduction impropre de l’expression sera ainsi durablement utilisée dans l’Hexagone.  Une exception culturelle française de plus.

Les Raisons de la Confusion Sémantique

En 1992 a lieu le second Sommet de la Terre, à Rio de Janeiro (Brésil).  L’expression «sustainable development» est alors concrétisée grâce au Rapport Brundtland: elle est largement médiatisée auprès du grand public, et traduite en français «développement durable».  Dans une première traduction des travaux de la Commission Mondiale sur l’Environnement et le Développement, c’est en effet le terme «développement durable» qui est retenu.  Une seconde traduction, par les Editions du Fleuve, préférera «développement soutenable», adaptation littérale de l’anglais «sustainable development».  Mais il est trop tard: l’expression est entrée dans les mœurs et déjà défendue par les tenants de la «durabilité».

Toutefois, certains relèvent régulièrement l’erreur de traduction.  De nombreuses ONG utilisent ainsi de préférence le terme de «développement soutenable» pour insister sur les dangers qui pèsent sur la biosphère face aux activités humaines.  Les adeptes de la décroissance, eux, considèrent que l’expression «développement durable» est un oxymore: les deux mots révèleraient une contradiction, puisque les ressources naturelles sont finies et non infinies.

 

 

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Sustainable Human & Social Development ?

2009-03-31:  ‘Sustainable’ … ‘Sustainability’ … ‘Sustainable Development’ … what’s all this about ? … and where to begin ?

 

Words much abused … not only in English … but definitely in French !

 

Words much confused … for example, in the USA … where ‘Sustainable’ and ‘Green’ can be interchanged in the same conversation without apparent rhyme or reason.  Is there a difference between the two ?  Some people don’t want to admit that there is … those working in the Green Building Council … or those peddling the LEED Environmental Building Rating System around the more economically advanced developing countries in the world.  In India … you can find a ‘LEED’ Building, minimally adapted to local conditions and having used many imported products and systems in its construction (from you-know-where !) … sitting prettily in the neighbourhood of a slum.

 

In Ireland … remember the good old days, 12-18 months ago … when Economists could afford (?!?) to talk about ‘Sustainable Economic Development’ … did they really mean economic development which is compatible with sustainable development ?   No, they didn’t !

 

Is there any level of awareness amongst our Politicians ?   In the National Development Plan (2007-2013), Mr. Brian Cowan T.D., then Minister for Finance, wrote in a January 2007 Foreword to the Plan …

 

” This National Development Plan is about the future of those young people, their parents, and their grandparents.  It establishes a blueprint for the economic and social development of this island for future generations.

 

In this Plan, we have a unique window of opportunity to get it right: in terms of spatial planning, support infrastructure, environmental sustainability and economic growth.”

 

… an unusual limitation on the use and context for the word ‘sustainability’ … which should now also be exhibited in the National Gallery of Art !?!

 

Some Organizations openly state that they are dealing with … or they will only be dealing with … environmental aspects of sustainable development.  That is a silly waste of time … and counterproductive !

 

 

 

Properly Defining Sustainable Development

 

Let us quickly re-wind back to the end of the 20th Century …

 

… not as far back as the Stockholm Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, which met in Sweden, from 5-16th June 1972 … which, for us, was a very interesting exercise …

 

… but to the 1987 Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), which was chaired by Gro Harlem Brundtland (Norway).  Mansour Khalid (Sudan) was Vice-Chair of the Commission.

 

The definition of ‘Sustainable Development’ appears at the beginning of Chapter 2 …

 

” Sustainable Development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.  It contains within it two key concepts:

         the concept of ‘needs’, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given ;   and

         the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.”

 

Many readers may only be familiar with the first sentence above but, in isolation, that leaves the definition of ‘sustainable development’ so vague that it is almost meaningless.  And let us be clear in our own minds … an ambiguous definition will continue to be rejected by the Developing and Least Developed Regions of the World … the concept being viewed as an unaffordable luxury and/or a means of continued domination and control by the ‘North’.

 

Other readers may be surprised by the second, and more important, half of the WCED/Brundtland Definition.  It is clear, however, that it was always intended that there would be more than 3 Aspects of Sustainable Development … Environmental, Social and Economic … to be identified and examined.  How, on this Earth, was it possible for anybody to ever bring into existence that clumsy 3-Circle Diagram ???

 

 

The 1987 WCED/Brundtland Report continues a little further on …

 

” The satisfaction of human needs and aspirations is the major objective of development.  The essential needs of vast numbers of people in developing countries – for food, clothing, shelter, jobs – are not being met, and beyond their basic needs these people have legitimate aspirations for an improved quality of life.  A world in which poverty and inequity are endemic will always be prone to ecological and other crises.  Sustainable Development requires meeting the basic needs of all and extending to all the opportunity to satisfy their aspirations for a better life.

 

 

Sustainable Development is the greatest challenge ahead of us in this 21st Century.  It remains very much an intricate, open, dynamic and evolving concept …

 

… and a clear choice must be made: decide to pursue the detailed elaboration of this concept … either with the aim of practical implementation … or of intellectual masturbation.

 

We made that choice many years ago … back in the mid-1990’s.

 

 

 

Practical Implementation of Sustainable Human & Social Development

 

In order to make any ‘real’ progress … how can we establish, agree upon and achieve a wide international consensus on what the ‘basic needs of all’ are … and with some precision ?

 

Is there an internationally recognized document, already long in existence, where these ‘basic needs’ are not only specified for all people, but are protected and guaranteed ?

 

Yes, indeed there is … the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN OHCHR) … and these needs, therefore, can also be described as being ‘responsible’.

 

 

Reading through the 1948 UDHR, it might be helpful if a distinction is made between human rights and social rights …

 

Social Rights:

Rights to which an individual person is legally entitled, e.g. the right to free elementary education (Art.26(1), UDHR), but which are only exercised in a social context with other people, and with the active support of a competent legal authority, e.g. a Nation State.

 

Commentary: In contrast to Human Rights, it is not protection from the State which is desired or achieved, but freedom with the State’s help.

 

Social Rights, as distinguished here, include and extend beyond current understandings of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

 

 

 

This is why, almost a generation after the 1987 WCED/Brundtland Definition of  Sustainable Development …

 

… Sustainable Design International, has defined Sustainable Human & Social Development as follows …

 

Development which meets the responsible needs, i.e. the Human & Social Rights*, of this generation – without stealing the life and living resources from future generations, especially our children … and their children.

 

* As defined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN OHCHR).

 

 

Furthermore … for a sizeable group of people in all of our societies, the sole route of access to the human and social rights set down in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights … is the 2006 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities … which became an International Legal Instrument on 3rd May 2008 … just short of 60 Years after the UDHR was adopted on 10th December 1948 !

 

 

A 3rd International Instrument to be placed at the top of this Framework of Basic & Responsible Needs, i.e. Rights … is the 2001 Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (UNESCO) … adopted in Paris, on 2nd November 2001 … and which came into being shortly after the World Trade Center (9-11) Incident in New York, on 11th September 2001.

 

The Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity raises cultural diversity to the level of the common heritage of humanity … as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature … and makes its defence an ethical imperative which is robustly linked to, and cannot be separated from, respect for the dignity of each individual person.

 

Paris, at the end of 2001, presented the world with a valuable opportunity …

         to reaffirm the unshakable conviction that intercultural dialogue is the best guarantee of peace ;   and

         to reject outright the theory of the inevitable clash of cultures and civilizations.

 

 

So … once it is possible to construct an initial, robust framework of International Human & Social Rights Instruments … specifying the ‘basic needs of all’ … which underpins and cuts down to the core of a far more elaborate and hard-edged, 2nd Generation Definition of Sustainable Human & Social Development …

 

 

Colour image showing an extract from CJ Walsh's Presentation: 'Sustainable Fire Engineering', at a Building Seminar in Dubayy(UAE) towards the end of October 2008. The Initial Framework of International Human & Social Rights Instruments underpinning Sustainable Human & Social Development. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing an extract from CJ Walsh’s Presentation: ‘Sustainable Fire Engineering’, at a Building Seminar in Dubayy(UAE) towards the end of October 2008. The Initial Framework of International Human & Social Rights Instruments underpinning Sustainable Human & Social Development. Click to enlarge.

 

… we can roll out the ‘Sustainability’ Agenda … and begin the serious task of transforming our Human Environment (see a previous post) by gradually improving and monitoring ‘real’ Sustainability Performance … using …

 

         Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) … see a previous post ;

 

and

 

         Performance Indicators ;

         Target Setting ;

         Benchmarking ;

         Performance Evaluation & Independent Verification ;

         Etc.

 

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BER Certificates & Necessary Sectoral Infrastructure (IV)

2009-03-14:  The Construction Sector Comedy of Errors continues without intermission …

 

On Tuesday last, 2009-03-10, I attended a Conference in Dublin Castle: ‘Energy Efficiency in Historic(al) Buildings’, organized by the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government (DEHLG) and the Irish Georgian Society.  Boys and girls … we are in trouble … flat, uninspiring presentations from our beloved DEHLG policy makers.  Missing … any wider context of required energy efficiency targets across the whole of the built environment … or views and solutions from anywhere else beyond our two little islands (Ireland & GB) on the periphery of Europe.  The approach taken to this important subject was “let’s just jump in, and see what we can do”.  What a day !

 

[Note: Thanks also to the DEHLG … Ireland still has no National Climate Change Adaptation Policy.]

 

That same morning, on Tuesday, an Opinion Piece: ‘Research Hub Benefits All’ appeared in The Irish Times (page 13), written by no other than Mr. Kieran McGowan, Chairperson of CRH.  He was full of suggestions about research in Ireland, and was most happy to support the proposed research alliance between University College Dublin (UCD) and Trinity College Dublin (TCD).  However, a quick visit to the CRH Holding Company WebSite is both relevant and informative.  There, you will learn that the Company operates in 35 countries, employing approximately 93,500 people.  Entering the key words/phrases … ‘research’, ‘construction research’, and even ‘building research’ … into the site search engine yields nothing of value … that’s right … nichts, nada, niente, zilch, zero !   With all the window dressing about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), etc, etc … the principal ‘value’ in CRH still remains short term ‘shareholder value’.  If it looks interesting, gobble it up.  Why waste money on a Research Division ? … which should be located in Ireland !

 

 

Yesterday, 2009-03-13, another Article appeared in The Irish Times (bottom of page 5): ‘Ireland Closer to Kyoto Emissions Target Due to Economic Slump’, by Mr. Harry McGee, IT Political Staff (?).  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Press Release which generated this newspaper article was released on Wednesday, 2009-03-12, at 17.59 hrs. in the evening.

 

The 19-Page EPA Report: ‘Ireland’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Projections 2008-2020’ was issued on the same day as the newspaper article – 2009-03-13.  Excellent media management !

 

These three different texts fail to examine, or even discuss, the following issues …

 

         How many € Millions and € Millions belonging to the Irish Tax Payer are being spent, and will be spent into the far future, on buying this country out of trouble … because of the abject failure to meet our responsibilities under Kyoto I (up to 2012), and the Real EU 2020 Target of -30% GHG Emissions on 1990 levels (assuming there will be an agreement in Copenhagen, next December, on a Post-2012 Kyoto II Instrument).  This has always been the EU Target.  See Paragraph 31, German Presidency Conclusions of the Brussels European Council (8 & 9th March 2007).

 

         Having seen the numbers and range of assumptions which underpin the EPA’s GHG Emission Projections up to 2020 … how Reliable are those projections ?   Where are the critical Statements of Uncertainty ?

 

         Who are the Individuals who sat on their fat, over-paid asses throughout the last 10-15-20 years, and allowed this country to fall into such a haphazard state ?   Would any of these individuals be the same people who are now preaching sermons on ‘responsible’ GHG Emission Compliance … and still foisting upon us Voluntary Codes of Practice and Compliance Schemes, Ineffectual National Marketing Campaigns, Feather Light Regulation, and Press Releases which obscure what is really happening ?

 

Do you see any parallels with current events in the Irish Financial Sector ?

 

         Can the Irish Construction Sector be expected to meet any Real Performance Targets (e.g. Proper Building Energy Rating Labelling, Meaningful GHG Emission Reductions, Serious Energy Efficiency Improvements, whatever … ) – as distinct from Theoretical Performance on paper – without a Very Necessary Sectoral Infrastructure capable of shaping suitable responses to those targets, and ensuring that they are implemented ?

 

 

 

As already discussed in an earlier Post … a Complete Cultural Shift in the Irish Construction Sector is essential.  So, let me give you a small flavour of what we need to do …

 

 

1.  Construction Data & Statistics:

 

Ireland does not currently possess a comprehensive National Construction Database.  No reliable statistics can be presented with regard to building or construction-related performance in 1990, or 2005.  No coherent projections, therefore, can be made for the years 2010, 2012, 2020 or 2050 … under any futures scenario.

 

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) gathers construction-related Economic Data.  Energy Ireland (SEI) Databases are not reliable.

 

Construction is not identified as a separate Sector, by either the Environmental Protection Agency (Ireland) or the European Environment Agency (Denmark), in European Greenhouse Gas Emission (GHG) Databases.

 

 

 

2.  A Concerted Programme of Infrastructure Restoration:

 

         Re-establish and adequately resource an Independent National Institute for Spatial Planning & Construction Research (formerly known as An Foras Forbartha) in Ireland, having joint responsibility with the CSO for maintaining a reliable National Construction Database.

 

Construction Research & Innovation must be given a high national priority !   

 

The National Institute must establish close working relationships with the relevant European Union Institutions, particularly EuroStat in Luxembourg.

 

[By ‘independent’ … I mean at a long, long, long arm’s distance away from the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government (DEHLG).]

 

         Re-establish and adequately resource an Independent and Fully Accredited National Construction Testing & Development Complex.

 

         Re-Format, Revise & Horizontally Integrate the National Building Regulations.

 

The existing format is both limited and seriously flawed.  For discussion in a later Post.

 

         Adequately resource the Irish National Accreditation Board (NAB), and closely monitor the quality of its work.

 

         Adequately resource the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) and ensure that Ireland participates vigorously in the European Standards Organizations and ISO (International Standards Organization).

 

         Adequately resource an Independent Irish Agrément Board (IAB), and closely monitor the quality of its work.

 

[By ‘independent’ … I mean at a long arm’s distance away from the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI).  These two organizations were supposed to have been separated a few years ago anyway.]

 

         Adequately resource awareness raising and Institutional Capacity building for Sustainability and Climate Change Adaptation in the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government (DEHLG), Energy Ireland (SEI) and the Construction Industry Federation (CIF).

 

         Adequately resource awareness raising, Re-Training and Re-Education for Sustainability and Climate Change Adaptation at all levels in the rest of the Construction Sector, including All (Professional) Design Disciplines and All Construction Organizations.

 

 

 

3.  Initial Construction Quality:

 

Post-completion repairs and/or system retrofitting always involve compromises, are costly and are rarely anywhere near being 100% effective.  Ensure Proper Initial Construction Performance through robust inspection of buildings during construction … checking that all relevant legislation has been complied with and that construction products have been approved, i.e. properly shown to be ‘fit for their intended use (in the location of use)’, etc.

 

         Adequately resource, with Staff (e.g. building controllers, inspectors, administrative, legal), Monitoring Equipment (e.g. sound meters, long wave infra-red cameras, etc.) and Technical Support (e.g. training, library facilities, access to research) … all Building Control Authorities in the country.

 

Introduce a fully Integrated (including Part B of the Building Regulations) and Mandatory Inspection Scheme on all Construction Projects, at the following Construction Stages …

 

Foundations ;

Drainage ;

Ground Floor Construction ;

Super-Structure (above Radon Resisting Membrane) … inspections to take place at a level no higher than first floor ;

Roof.

 

Such an Inspection Scheme must operate uniformly across the country.  Piecemeal variations and maverick procedures operated by National Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s) or Individual Local Authorities cannot any longer be tolerated.

 

 

 

4.  Consumer Protection:

 

         Establish an Independent and Comprehensive National Building Insurance Scheme.

 

Self-Regulation by the Architectural and Legal Professions offers merely the ‘appearance’ of protection to the Irish Consumer.

 

The current system of Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) / Law Society ‘Opinions on Compliance with Building Regulations’ is inadequate … and offers no protection to the Irish Consumer.  The phrase ‘substantial compliance’ is much misunderstood and widely abused.

 

         Introduce and adequately resource the discipline of Independent Technical Controller.  He/she must be independent from Construction-related Organizations, the Building Design and Legal Professions … Local Authorities … and any other National Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s).

 

         Introduce a Mandatory Building Completion Certification System.

 

Before any Building can be occupied, a Certificate of Building Completion Performance, and an Accompanying Report, must be issued by an Independent Technical Controller.  The System will include an independent evaluation of compliance with relevant building legislation and a thorough examination of ‘real’ construction performance.

 

Building Completion Documentation can be designed to include …

         a Fire Safety Certificate, which is issued only after adequate monitoring of the actual fire safety related construction ;

         a Disability Access Certificate, which is issued only after adequate monitoring of the actual access related construction ;

         a Building Energy Rating (BER) Label ;

         a Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) ;

         etc., etc.

 

 

 

[Many of the above ideas have been incorporated in the 2008 Institute of International & European Affairs (IIEA) Publication: The Climate Change Challenge, which presents a strategic overview of Irish Climate Change Policy.]

 

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Israel a Criminal State ? Guantánamo Bay an Illegal Occupation ?

2009-01-01:  Sustainable Human & Social Development is much more than an academic theory.  It is a necessary concept for our troubled times … in our global community.  Intricate, open, dynamic and still evolving … it is very much intended for practical implementation.

 

A robust understanding of this social catalyst is critically underpinned by human and social rights.  Specifically, initial reference is made to the following International Legal Instruments:

         1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN OHCHR) ;

         2001 Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (UNESCO) ;

         2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN).

 

Sustainable Design is the ethical response, in built and wrought form, to Sustainable Human & Social Development.  As our understanding of ‘sustainability’ develops, so too must ‘design’ (spatial planning, architectural/engineering/industrial design, and e-design).

 

At a macro-level … issues causing untold social, environmental, economic, institutional, political and legal damage, destruction and harm:

 

We see on our television screens and hear from our radios that the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) are again committing criminal acts in Gaza.  These acts are authorized by the Government of Israel.  The country’s population continues to vote these Governments into power.

 

The USA’s treatment of prisoners in Guantánamo Bay was, and still is, degrading, inhumane and criminal.  Beyond that, however … the annexation of the bay area remains, to this day, an international act of piracy (refer to the 1901 Platt Amendment and later ‘treaties’ with Cuba procured by the threat or use of force).

 

The USA and British fundamentalist western crusade against the regime and peoples of Iraq was a cynical act of barbarism and a crime against humanity.  We look forward to the day when George W Bush and Tony Blair will be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

 

At a micro-level … every designer can act, and make his/her positive contribution:

 

Accessibility of buildings for people with disabilities, to take just one example, is now a legitimate social right which must be protected and nurtured, i.e. properly resourced, by all States Parties to the 2006 UN Disability Rights Convention.  People must be able to independently approach, enter, use, egress (under normal conditions) and evacuate (in a fire emergency) any building in our built environment.

 

Two Immediate Requirements for Sustainability Implementation:

  1. A radical overhaul of the Education and Training of any person connected, directly or indirectly, with the design, construction, operation, management, servicing or maintenance of our Human Environment.
  2. The widespread introduction of Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) at all levels of our Public and Private Institutions.  SIA is a continual evaluation and optimization process – informing initial decision-making, or design, and shaping activity/product/service realization, useful life and termination, or final disposal – of the interrelated positive and negative social, environmental, economic, institutional, political and legal impacts on balanced and equitable implementation of Sustainable Human & Social Development.

 

 

Happy New Year !

 

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