www.Recovery.gov … Pro-Active Political Accountability ?

2009-05-29:  In Ireland, we are far too accepting and comfortable with our politicians, civil and public service employees, semi-state and qwango employees guarding all information … our information … as if their lives depended on it … and transforming any of our ‘Freedom of Information’ Requests into marathon obstacle courses which require a substantial entrance fee !


This is abnormal behaviour … and we cannot – must not – tolerate it any more !!!



Relax, chill-out … and please compare and contrast with …




… an Official United States Government WebSite which contains up-to-date information on how the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 is working, including how funding is being distributed at federal, state, tribal and local levels … and (be sure to sit down for this !) … tools for people to hold the government accountable.



Established under Section 1526 of Division A (Appropriations Provisions), Title XV (Accountability & Transparency) of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, this WebSite has a precise job to do …


1.   The website shall provide materials explaining what this Act means for citizens.  The materials shall be easy to understand and regularly updated.

2.   The website shall provide accountability information, including findings from audits, inspectors general, and the Government Accountability Office.

3.   The website shall provide data on relevant economic, financial, grant, and contract information in user-friendly visual presentations to enhance public awareness of the use of covered funds.

4.   The website shall provide detailed data on contracts awarded by the Federal Government that expend covered funds, including information about the competitiveness of the contracting process, information about the process that was used for the award of contracts, and for contracts over $500,000 a summary of the contract.

5.   The website shall include printable reports on covered funds obligated by month to each State and congressional district.

6.   The website shall provide a means for the public to give feedback on the performance of contracts that expend covered funds.

7.   The website shall include detailed information on Federal Government contracts and grants that expend covered funds, to include the data elements required to comply with the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (Public Law 109–282), allowing aggregate reporting on awards below $25,000 or to individuals, as prescribed by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

8.   The website shall provide a link to estimates of the jobs sustained or created by the Act.

9.   The website shall provide a link to information about announcements of grant competitions and solicitations for contracts to be awarded.

10. The website shall include appropriate links to other government websites with information concerning covered funds, including Federal agency and State websites.

11. The website shall include a plan from each Federal agency for using funds made available in this Act to the agency.

12. The website shall provide information on Federal allocations of formula grants and awards of competitive grants using covered funds.

13. The website shall provide information on Federal allocations of mandatory and other entitlement programs by State, county, or other appropriate geographical unit.

14. To the extent practical, the website shall provide, organized by the location of the job opportunities involved, links to and information about how to access job opportunities, including, if possible, links to or information about local employment agencies, job banks operated by State workforce agencies, the Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website, State, local and other public agencies receiving Federal funding, and private firms contracted to perform work with Federal funding, in order to direct job seekers to job opportunities created by this Act.

15. The website shall be enhanced and updated as necessary to carry out the purposes of this subtitle.



On-line … the following boxed (and linked) texts can be viewed on every Page …


Accountability & Transparency

This is your money.  You have a right to know where it’s going and how it’s being spent.  Learn what steps we’re taking to conduct oversight of funds distributed under this law in order to prevent fraud, waste and abuse.


Fraud, Waste & Abuse

Large amounts of cash can attract fraud.  Learn how to report any suspected waste and misuse of the recovery money.


Importantly … there also is a specific Page dealing with the Whistleblower Protection provided by Section 1553 of Division A (Appropriations Provisions), Title XV (Accountability & Transparency) of the ARRA.  There is even information included about making a Whistleblower Reprisal Complaint !




Does this blow your mind … or does this blow your mind ?!?!







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Institutions of National Governance – Criminally Dysfunctional ?

2009-05-28:  A week can be a long time in Ireland … during this last seven days, in particular, a time of harrowing emotions … horror, shame, disbelief, anger, pain, embarrassment … and relief that the truth has finally been revealed …


On Wednesday, 20th May 2009, at 14.30 hrs … the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse was published at a launch, before a select audience, in Dublin’s Conrad Hotel.  Victims of that child abuse and representative groups were barred, with the support of Gardaí, from attending.


Has anything really changed ?


The Commission was established on 23rd May 2000 … under the 2000 Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Act (No.7 of 2000) … and given three primary functions:

         to hear evidence of abuse from persons who allege they suffered abuse in childhood, in institutions, during the period from 1940 or earlier, to the present day ;

         to conduct an inquiry into abuse of children in institutions during that period and, where satisfied that abuse occurred, to determine the causes, nature, circumstances and extent of such abuse ;   and

         to prepare and publish reports on the results of the inquiry and on its recommendations in relation to dealing with the effects of such abuse.


The Chairperson of the Commission, Mr. Justice Seán Ryan, is a judge of the High Court.


The full Ryan Commission Report can be downloaded here … www.childabusecommission.com/rpt/pdfs/



Although Commission Recommendation No.5 (Volume IV, Chapter 7, Paragraph 7.06) states …


Childcare policy should be child-centred.  The needs of the child should be paramount.

The overall policy of childcare should respect the rights and dignity of the child and have as its primary focus their safe care and welfare.  Services should be tailored to the developmental, educational and health needs of the particular child.  Adults entrusted with the care of children must prioritise the wellbeing and protection of those children above personal, professional or institutional loyalty.


[ Why is this critical Recommendation only in position ‘5’ ?   Concerning the rights and dignity of children, why is the word ‘should’ used instead of ‘must’ ? ]


… none of the 20 Commission Recommendations refer directly to the 1989 United Nations (OHCHR) Convention on the Rights of the Child, which became an International Legal Instrument on 2nd September 1990 … and which Ireland signed on 30th September 1990, and later ratified on 28th September 1992.


The Convention has not yet been fully incorporated into Irish National Law.  Why not ?


In relation to Ireland, the UN (OHCHR) Committee on the Rights of the Child observed the following in late 2006 …


” … the Committee regrets that some of the concerns expressed and recommendations made have not yet been fully addressed, in particular those related to the status of the child as a rights-holder and the adoption of a child rights-based approach in policies and practices.”




Some Comments & Questions …


1. The Hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland (with the notable exception of Dublin Archbishop, Dr. Diarmuid Martin), the Catholic Religious Orders and the Catholic Church generally … have lost their moral authority … and all credibility.  If child abuse was deeply in-grained and systemic in Ireland’s institutions … what was happening in institutions run by the 18(?) Irish Religious Congregations in other countries ?   What assets have been transferred out of Ireland by the 18(?) Irish Religious Orders since the year 2000 ?


2. The Irish Government Ministry having jurisdiction … the Department of Education … has been clearly shown to be criminally dysfunctional.  What radical changes in its organization, policies, practices and procedures will be put in place following the Ryan Commission Report ?   We also ask the same question of the Department of Health & Children !




Perhaps Unnoticed … Another Institution …


Reported in an article on Page 4 of The Irish Times (2009-05-21) … on the same day that the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse published its findings … 20th May 2009 … the family of a six-year-old girl, Sarah Jinks, who died in a fire on 10th January 1999 at a local authority house in Sligo, secured €115,000 in settlement of their High Court Action alleging that Sligo County Council had negligently failed to maintain a safe electrical system in the house.  During the Action, Sarah’s mother, Ms. Philomena Jinks, had claimed that the Council failed to respond with sufficient thoroughness to complaints about dangers in the house.



The ‘Real’ Institution Involved …


Let me place in the public domain some revealing background to a series of fatal fires at a local authority housing estate on the far side of the country from Sligo … and a Letter, dated 22nd September 2005, which we were forced to write to Bray Town Council, in County Wicklow …


Colour photograph showing the scene after a fire in a terraced house at Oldcourt Housing Estate, Bray, Co. Wicklow. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2005-08-18.
Colour photograph showing the scene after a fire in a terraced house at Oldcourt Housing Estate, Bray, Co. Wicklow. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2005-08-18.


Mr. Seán O’Neill,

Town Engineer,

Comhairle Baile Bhré,

Civic Offices,

Main Street,


Co. Wicklow.


Re:  Fire Safety Survey of Oldcourt Estate, Bray.


Mr. O’Neill,


In good faith, we submitted a Tender Proposal (copy enclosed with the original letter) for a Fire Safety Survey of the Oldcourt Housing Estate to you.  As of today, we have had no communication, written or oral, from Bray Town Council.


We fully understood the critical need for this to be an authoritative, competent, comprehensive and entirely independent Fire Safety Survey.  Our principal concern was that this must be shown to be so, especially to local residents.  We remain uniquely qualified, in Ireland and Europe, to complete the special and unique task involved.


It was with complete shock, dismay and alarm, however, that we saw our Organization actually named in Media Reports of discussions which took place at the September Council Meeting in Bray.


As a matter of public record, we now wish to clarify a few issues …


1.       We commenced our work on the basis that the Tender Documentation issued by Bray Town Council was unreliable.  This we were only able to do because of our extensive experience with Local Authority Housing, and the ‘ways’ and ‘means’ of Local Authorities in Ireland.


2.       The Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government (DEHLG) has been intimately involved – at every level – with the planning, costing, design and construction of Local Authority Housing in every part of Ireland – from our direct experience, since the mid-1980’s.  The Department is, therefore, very far from being a Disinterested Party in the serious matters under examination at the Oldcourt Housing Estate.  It was extraordinary to see a representative of the DEHLG on the Interview Panel.


3.       The Members of the Tender Interview Panel may have been ‘experts’, but we are not sure in which field.  They showed little interest in our extensive practical experience of the complex area of fire engineering and its dynamic interaction with other aspects of performance in buildings and the built environment.  It was necessary to explain some fundamental facts about the limited safety objectives of the Building Regulations to one Member.  Some of the working methods necessary to effectively complete the Fire Safety Survey, of which we have direct and extensive experience, were unknown to all Members.  It was clear that the Panels Members did not fully read our Tender Proposal.


4.       At one stage in the Tender Interview, it was strongly ‘suggested’ to us that the Survey was to be a purely technical exercise, with no involvement whatever by the residents.  At approximately the ‘two-thirds’ stage in the short interview, we realized that there was some ‘agenda’ in the background.  We did not, therefore, make any final comments to the Panel.


We must now conclude that the Tender Process, organized by Bray Town Council, for a Fire Safety Survey of the Oldcourt Housing Estate appears to be corrupt.  With deep regret, we hereby withdraw our Tender Proposal.


We require a full explanation as to why we have received no communication from you, or anybody else associated with Bray Town Council.  We demand a full apology from the Council, and this must be published widely in the local and national media.


We are consulting with our legal advisors.


Signed:  C. J. Walsh, Chief Technical Officer, FireOx International.


Copy:  Ms. Deirdre deBurca, Chairperson, Bray Town Council.



[ No response has ever been received to this letter … from any party. ]





And … we have not forgotten the deep corruption which went to the core of the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Stardust Fire Disaster.







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Sustainable Globalization – A Contradiction or a Target ?

2009-05-19:  Globalization is not just an economic concept … it is a social reality in the 21st Century …


In discussions about Sustainable Human & Social Development … it is the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) and its 1987 (Brundtland) Report: Our Common Future which tends to attract most attention … that is, if people have gone to the trouble of actually reading the report ! 


However, fast forward to November 2001 … the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization (WCSDG) was created by a decision of the Governing Body of the International Labour Office (ILO), in Geneva, Switzerland.  Its brief was to prepare an authoritative report on the social dimension of globalization, including the interaction between the global economy and the world of work.


Later, in February 2002 … Ms. Tarja Halonen, President of Finland, and Mr. Benjamin Mkapa, President of Tanzania, accepted the ILO Director-General’s invitation to act as Co-Chairs of the Commission.  Nineteen other members were appointed from across the world’s regions, with a diversity of backgrounds and expertise.


The WCSDG’s Report: A Fair Globalization – Creating Opportunities for All was published in February 2004.



Before the current dark days of global economic crisis, financial meltdown, consumer spending collapse and spiralling unemployment … the WCSDG’s Recommendations might have appeared somewhat radical.  Now, however, they are too tame by far …


” We seek a process of globalization with a strong social dimension based on universally shared values, and respect for human rights and individual dignity; one that is fair, inclusive, democratically governed and provides opportunities and tangible benefits for all countries and people.


To this end we call for:


         A Focus on People

The cornerstone of a fairer globalization lies in meeting the demands of all people for: respect for their rights, cultural identity and autonomy; decent work; and the empowerment of the local communities they live in.  Gender equality is essential.


         A Democratic & Effective State

The State must have the capability to manage integration into the global economy, and provide social and economic opportunity and security.


         Sustainable Development

The quest for a fair globalization must be underpinned by the interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars of economic development, social development and environmental protection at the local, national, regional and global levels.


         Productive & Equitable Markets

This requires sound institutions to promote opportunity and enterprise in a well-functioning market economy.


         Fair Rules

The rules of the global economy must offer equitable opportunity and access for all countries and recognize the diversity in national capacities and developmental needs.


         Globalization with Solidarity

There is a shared responsibility to assist countries and people excluded from or disadvantaged by globalization.  Globalization must help to overcome inequality both within and between countries and contribute to the elimination of poverty.


         Greater Accountability to People

Public and private actors at all levels with power to influence the outcomes of globalization must be democratically accountable for the policies they pursue and the actions they take.  They must deliver on their commitments and use their power with respect for others.


         Deeper Partnerships

Many actors are engaged in the realization of global social and economic goals – international organizations, governments and parliaments, business, labour, civil society and many others.  Dialogue and partnership among them is an essential democratic instrument to create a better world.


         An Effective United Nations

A stronger and more efficient multilateral system is the key instrument to create a democratic, legitimate and coherent framework for globalization.”




Sustainable Economic Development means … Economic Development which is compatible with Sustainable Human & Social Development !


That was the easy part … but try explaining it to economists ?!?!



Sustainable Globalization … much more than an economic concept, but a social reality in our time … means Globalization which is also compatible with Sustainable Human & Social Development … each co-existing with the other in harmony and dynamic balance … and – together – providing a high level of Social Wellbeing for All. 


Unfortunately … while economists can readily understand Individual Welfare


a person’s general feeling of health, happiness and fulfilment


… they are not familiar with the concept of Social Wellbeing


a general condition – in a community, society or culture – of health, happiness, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development.




Please help your local economist !







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Part B – Careless Disregard for Firefighter Safety ?

2009-05-15:  Firefighters have two functions:

         fighting fires ;   and

         rescuing people who are trapped in buildings, or for some reason, cannot independently evacuate a building which is on fire.



Compare for a moment, therefore, Part B5 in the Irish Building Regulations …


B5  Access & Facilities for the Fire Service


A building shall be so designed and constructed that there is adequate provision for access for fire appliances and such other facilities as may be reasonably required to assist the fire service in the protection of life and property.



… with Essential Requirement 2 of the European Union (EU) Construction Products Directive 89/106/EEC …


2.  Safety in Case of Fire


The construction works must be designed and built in such a way that in the event of an outbreak of fire:

– the load-bearing capacity of the construction can be assumed for a specific period of time ;

– the generation and spread of fire and smoke within the works are limited ;

– the spread of the fire to neighbouring construction works is limited ;

– occupants can leave the works or be rescued by other means ;

– the safety of rescue teams is taken into consideration.



Can you spot the difference ?   Go to the last indent in Essential Requirement 2.


There is a complete and careless disregard for Firefighter Safety in the Irish Building Regulations … it isn’t even mentioned.  And forget about any references to ‘firefighter safety’ in the guidance text of Technical Guidance Document B … there are none.



In July 2003 … the results of a U.S. Firefighter Disorientation Study, examining firefighter fatalities in the years 1979-2001, were released.  This important Study was prepared by Captain William R. Mora of the San Antonio Fire Department in Texas.


Firefighter Disorientation – loss of direction due to the lack of vision in a building fire – is one of the oldest, least understood and deadliest hazards of firefighting inside a building.  And according to the U.S. National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) … disorientation usually precedes firefighter fatality.


Capt. Mora’s Study focused on 17 building fires in which disorientation played a major part in 23 firefighter fatalities.


In the cases studied, the typical Disorientation Sequence was as follows:


A fire in an enclosed building with smoke showing occurs.  The arriving fire services immediately initiate an aggressive interior attack to search for the source of the fire.  During the search, the source cannot be located and conditions deteriorate with the production of heat, smoke and prolonged zero visibility.  As firefighters perform an emergency evacuation due to deteriorating conditions, hoseline separation occurs or tangled hoselines are encountered.  Disorientation then occurs as firefighters exceed their air supply, are caught in flashovers or backdrafts, or are trapped by a collapsing floor or roof.  When a firefighter is not located quickly enough, the outcome is a fatality or serious injury.  The disorientation sequence usually unfolds in a building that does not have a sprinkler system or one that is inoperable.


The 17 Buildings displayed a wide range of architectural features … including differences in size, height and type of construction.  In 100% of the fire incidents, however, the buildings had an ‘enclosed’ design with very few windows or doors (necessary for prompt ventilation and emergency evacuation by firefighters) in relation to the size of the building.  They also included basements.


This ‘enclosed’ form was the result of Architectural Design or alteration after construction was completed.  When owners altered a building, pre-existing windows or doors were closed up using materials such as plywood sheeting or brickwork.




Another Issue … a Fundamental Principle of Fire Engineering Design … after the WTC 9-11 Incident in New York … is to always ensure the provision of Alternative, Safe & ‘Intuitive’ Evacuation Routes for ALL building users.


Fully understanding the different functions of firefighters … and giving proper consideration to their safety … why aren’t Alternative, Safe and ‘Intuitive’ Fire Attack Routes for Firefighters provided, as the norm, in buildings ?



What is ‘Intuitive and Obvious’ Design for Fire Evacuation, anyway ?



Are Architects and Fire Engineers given any education or training about …


         Visuo-Spatial Learning ?

         Proprioception ?

         Cognitive Psychology ?







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PEEPS – Fundamentally Flawed & Discriminatory ?

2009-05-13:  The other day, I thought it might be interesting to google ‘PEEPS’.  The surprising results … page after page about the marshmallow candies (in English: sweets) which are sold in Canada and the USA.  I have learned something new !


What I was trying to find, however, was information relating to Personal Emergency Egress PlanS (PEEPS) for building users with disabilities.  PEEPS is widely referenced in British literature … and because certain people (who should know better) believe that the sun, moon and stars rise over London … it has also seeped into the Irish literature by some process of ‘preverted’ osmosis.  Most regrettable !



Yesterday, I discussed the inadequacy of developing Fire Safety Management Procedures … or, in fact, designing buildings … with the sole concern being people with disabilities.


Taking account of all the relevant, and different, types of European and National Legislation … the Rule of Thumb should always be People with Activity Limitations and Accessibility for All.



While fully understanding the need for a catchy acronym … ‘PEEPS’ does not respond well to internet searches on Google.


The next unfortunate feature of Personal Emergency Egress PlanS is the misguided use of Fire Engineering Terminology in English …



Evacuation from a Fire Building

To withdraw, or cause to withdraw, all users from a fire building in planned and orderly phased movements to a Place of Safety remote from the building.



Independent emergence of user(s) from a building, under normal ambient conditions, and removal from its immediate vicinity.



Avoidance of injury or harm which is threatened by imminent danger.



Instrumental Aggression

Aggression which is a means to another end, e.g. pushing someone aside to escape from danger.



Whenever, therefore, the terms ‘evacuation’, ‘egress’ and ‘escape’ are used interchangeably … on the same occasion … and without apparent rhyme or reason … it is time to call a halt to proceedings … and to scream “bullshit – moráns at work” !   Furthermore … the word ‘escape’ should never be used in connection with fire evacuation from a building.  BSI, CEN and ISO … please take careful note !!!



A Personal Emergency Egress Plan (PEEP) is fundamentally flawed and discriminatory because it is …


         person-specific ;  and




Would any able-bodied building user tolerate being told that a document would have to be prepared before he/she could enter and use a building … and that this document would discuss only his/her use of the building … and that use only in specified parts of the building ???   No way !   Are you serious !!   What a joke !!!


The relevant, and different, types of European and Irish National Legislation require that buildings be accessible … covering approach to, entry, use, egress (under normal conditions), evacuation (in the event of a fire emergency) and removal from their immediate vicinity.


Within this legal environment … PEEPS is fundamentally flawed.  And … because building use is limited for specified individuals to specified areas only … PEEPS is also discriminatory.



If there is to be recourse to PEEPS, it should be in very exceptional circumstances only !   And, I can certainly think of one possible situation … existing buildings of historical, architectural and cultural importance … where anything more than moderate interference with the building fabric is both ill-advised and restricted … and everyone’s use of the building must be curtailed to some extent.







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People with Activity Limitations (2001 WHO ICF) ?

2009-05-12:  Or … in French: Personnes à Performances Réduites … a term which should be used much more often !


For many decades, the language of ‘disability’ has been all over the place, to put it mildly … others might suggest, however, that it lacks coherence, and is fragmented and chaotic !   As a result, it has been difficult to make any sort of solid progress on harmonization … at a technical level … in Europe.


Adopted on the 22nd May 2001, the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability & Health (ICF), changed that situation for the better.  It is important to emphasise that the ICF is a classification of ‘Health’ … not of ‘Disability’.



People with Activity Limitations (English) /

Personnes à Performances Réduites (French):

Those people, of all ages, who are unable to perform, independently and without aid, basic human activities or tasks – because of a health condition or physical/mental/cognitive/psychological impairment of a permanent or temporary nature.


This term includes …


         wheelchair users ;

         people who experience difficulty in walking, with or without aid, e.g. stick, crutch, calliper or walking frame ;

         frail, older people ;

         the very young (people under the age of 5 years) ;

         people who suffer from arthritis, asthma, or a heart condition ;

         the visually and/or hearing impaired ;

         people who have a cognitive impairment disorder, including dementia, amnesia, brain injury, or delirium ;

         women in the later stages of pregnancy ;

         people impaired following the use of alcohol, other ‘social’ drugs, e.g. cocaine and heroin, and some medicines, e.g. psychotropic drugs ;

         people who suffer any partial or complete loss of language related abilities, i.e. aphasia ;

         people impaired following exposure to environmental pollution and/or irresponsible human activity ;




         people who experience a panic attack in a fire situation or other emergency ;

         people, including firefighters, who suffer incapacitation as a result of exposure, during a fire, to poisonous or toxic substances, and/or elevated temperatures.




A neurological disorder marked by the inability of a person to recognize that he/she has an activity limitation or a health condition.




What is the big deal here ?


Because of the stigma which still attaches to ‘disability’ … and because some people are unable to recognise that they have an activity limitation or a health condition … depending on self-declaration, alone, for the purposes of developing suitable Fire Safety Management Procedures in a building (of any type) is a recipe for certain failure of those procedures.


And … of very direct relevance to design practice generally … compare the weak and inadequate definition of people with disabilities in Part M4 of the Irish Building Regulations (there is no reason to suspect that there will be an earth shattering improvement to this definition in the Revised Technical Guidance Document M … whenever it eventually sees the light of day !) … with the definition of disability in Irish Equality Legislation.


Chalk and Cheese !   Or … from the ridiculous to the sublime !   Check it out for yourself.


The consequence of this remarkable difference in definitions for anyone involved in the design and/or construction of a building is that … while they might very well be satisfying the Functional Requirements of Parts M and B in the Building Regulations … they will, more than likely, be still leaving the owner and the person who controls or manages the new building open to a complaint under our Equality Legislation.


In the case of Workplaces … truly brave is the person who will design a ‘place of work’ just to meet the minimal performance requirements of Building Regulations !



As a Rule of Thumb, therefore … architects, engineers, facility managers, construction organizations, etc, etc … should become more comfortable working with the concept of People with Activity Limitations.



This practical Rule of Thumb is also what lies behind the concept of Maximum Credible User Scenario, i.e. building user conditions which are severe, but reasonable to anticipate …


         the number of people using a building may increase, on occasions which cannot be specified, to 120% of calculated maximum building capacity ;   and

         10% of people using the building (occupants, visitors and other users) may have an impairment (visual or hearing, physical function, mental, cognitive or psychological, with some impairments not being identifiable, e.g. in the case of anosognosia).




[ Please note well … that miserable piece of legislation … or, bureaucrats’ charter .. the 2005 Disability Act (Number 14 of 2005) … is irrelevant to the above discussion.  But … when Irish Politicians, Senior Civil Servants and the National Disability Authority begin to take seriously the 2006 United Nations Charter on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities … the 2005 Act will have to be scrapped altogether and/or dramatically re-drafted ! ]







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Sustainable Buildings – Design Agenda for the 21st Century ?

2009-05-06:  From the late 1980’s and the beginning of the 1990’s in European Union (EU) Research Programmes, it was noticeable that the more pressing early concerns about Energy-efficiency – logical after the oil crises of the 1970’s – were beginning to merge with those of Environment-friendliness, i.e. protection of the environment.  Even at that time, however, faint background references to Sustainability were becoming more common.


In 1995, therefore, Sustainable Design International developed and introduced the acronym ‘SEED’ … which stands for Sustainable, Environment-friendly, Energy-efficient Development … as a practical control, or check, on our own work output.



The next break-through came a few years later.  I briefly discussed the wide conceptual basis for our Corporate Design Philosophy in the post: ‘Sustainable Human & Social Development ?’, dated 2009-03-31.  This basis, while still continually evolving, is critical in terms of services provided, performance targets to be achieved, methods of working and relationships with client organizations, builders, craftsmen/women, manufacturers, etc.


This should explain the futility, in our humble view, of the ‘Green’ Agenda (as distinct from the ‘Sustainability’ Agenda) … and approaches based solely on Environmental Aspects of Sustainable Development.  They are a complete waste of time and resources.



Now in 2009, we remain fully convinced that Sustainable Design Solutions are appropriate to local geography, social need, climate, economy and culture … and are ‘person-centred’ and ‘reliability-based’.


Forget the images of mud housing and reading by candle light … the Future of our Built Environment is High-Tech, Smart … and Sustainable !   Let there be no doubt !!




Why not begin, so, by looking at a Simple Building Type … Sustainable Housing ?


With all of the current hype and fuss about German ‘Passiv’ Houses and Austrian High-Tech Timber Framed Construction … we have been in contact with a number of manufacturers in this region of Central Europe.  After many meetings and detailed discussions, we are disappointed … broken hearted !


Below follows our shopping list for the practical, commercial and affordable application, i.e. non-research, of Advanced Systems of Construction (small/medium/large scale projects – new-build and existing projects).


N.B.  Current Irish legal requirements and local authority technical control procedures are entirely inadequate.


Is anybody out there listening ???




To meet the urgency of Climate Change Adaptation and the challenge of Reliable Sustainability Implementation … a ‘SEED’ Building in Ireland must reach these performance targets:


         be set in Sustainable Landscaping (where appropriate) with Life Cycle Sustainable Drainage … and exhibit a considered, harmonious relationship between the building’s ‘interior’ environment and the ‘exterior’ built and social environments ;


         have a Minimum Building Life Cycle of 100 Years ;


         be Smart/Intelligent, Electronically Mature and facilitate Remote Building Management ;


         be properly shown to be Fit for Intended Use (in the Location of Use) … by CE Marking, using European Standards/Norms & European Technical Approvals (refer to Part D of the Irish Building Regulations and similar requirements in other European national building codes, European Union Safety at Work and Product Liability Legislation) ;


         be Super Energy-Efficient, with negligible thermal bridging and accidental air seepage … and promote and encourage, by design, Energy Conservation ;


         have a substantial component of Renewable Energy & Heat Technologies … sufficient to return a multiple of the building’s energy consumption to an Intelligent Regional or District Grid … and also incorporate Recycling, Rainwater Re-Use and Waste Management Technologies ;


         offer a high level of Indoor Air Quality, including proper protection from Natural Radon ;


         be Flexible and Adaptable with regard to internal layout, and Accessible for People with Activity Limitations (2001 WHO ICF) – in order to prolong Building Life Cycle and maximize Building Usability ;


         contain, as standard and for reasons of safety, a Domestic Sprinkler System and a remotely monitored Fire Detection System … plus a Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detection System, with a detection unit in the vicinity of each fuel burning appliance ;




         be Competently Built and Reliably Completed to project programme and cost estimate … with the building’s ‘Real’ Performance-in-Use capable of being tested, and continually monitored, over the complete building life cycle ;




         be simple and straightforward for Building Users/Occupiers to operate.




Principal Areas of Inadequate Performance …


1.  Showing Fitness for Intended Use.  Although a Single European Market for the Construction Sector exists on paper (not yet in reality) … this requirement is not well understood by manufacturers … particularly in Germany and Austria, where outdated national approaches to building product/system approval still take precedence over anything at European level.


2.  Domestic Sprinkler Systems.  There is a high level of resistance, among most manufacturers, to the installation of these systems.  Not acceptable !!


3.  Accessibility of Buildings for People with Activity Limitations.  Not well understood by manufacturers and building organizations (at all levels).  Although there is a lot of legislation in Europe covering this particular issue … it is routinely disregarded and/or very poorly implemented.  In Germany and Austria, for example, the long outdated term ‘barrier-free design’ is still in common use.  Can you believe that ?


4.  Radon Protection of Buildings.  Not considered important in Germany and Austria … so manufacturers just don’t bother.


5.  Fabric Thermal Performance.  Where building systems are ‘adapted’ for use in Ireland, I have seen thermal performance, as originally designed in Germany/Austria, seriously compromised by the installation of meter boxes and permanent ventilation openings in external walls.  Just the tip of the iceberg !







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A Long Delayed Evolution in International Fire Engineering ?

2009-05-04:  At my request … Agenda Item #6 for the CIB W14 Meeting, recently held on the campus of Lund University in Sweden (see post: 2009-04-30), covered the following subject …


‘ 2005 & 2008 NIST Recommendations on WTC 9-11 Incident – Fundamental Implications for Fire Engineering Design & Practice ‘



I began the presentation by explaining that architects are frustrated people at the best of times …


[It is a never ending, soul-destroying struggle to faithfully realize an architectural ‘vision’ on a building site … especially in the absence of craftsmen/women and access to a wide range of well-designed, ‘approved’ construction products.]


… but, I have been intensely frustrated for some time … as a fire engineer … in particular, for the following reasons:


1.  Negative, Irresponsible Attitude of European Lift Manufacturers

In order to effectively solve the issues of safe fire evacuation for people with activity limitations … and the timely evacuation of everyone in tall buildings … we must have lifts/elevators capable of being used for evacuation … all lifts/elevators … in all building types.  This should be the norm … the standard specification.


Ever since 2003, however, when I was a Member of the European Union (EU) Expert Group on Accessibility, I have been pressing Mr. Luc Rivet, Secretary General of the European Lift Association (ELA) to ensure that the Association acts responsibly and makes this happen in Europe … now … not at any far distant point in the future.  The time for ‘pretty’, meaningless talk at conferences, seminars and workshops has ended.


The ELA still refuses to act responsibly !




2.  Crass Inadequacy of British Standard BS 9999 : 2008

Of interest to me … but not a cause for undue concern … except that far too many people in Ireland are already giving this Standard the status of Default Irish National Standard … and too many people in other countries are doing likewise …


On 31st October 2008, the British Standards Institute (BSI) published British Standard BS 9999 – Code of Practice for Fire Safety in the Design, Management and Use of Buildings.  It took many years to draft this new national standard.


During all of that time, however, it is not clear to me that the simple idea of considering the Recommendations contained in the 2005 & 2008 NIST Reports on the WTC 9-11 Incident ever saw the light of day within the BSI Technical Committee which drafted BS 9999.  The whole basis for the British Standard might have to be entirely re-examined … how awfully dreadful !?!


This amazing technical oversight has ensured that BS 9999 became inadequate on the very day that it was published.


Furthermore, although I had received assurances from certain people that British Standard 5588 : Part 8 would be properly incorporated into DD 9999 during the earlier stages of its development … in fact, this never happened.


Far too late in the drafting process, BS 5588 : Part 8 appears to have been shoe-horned into DD 9999.  The resulting disability-related texts in the new Standard are vague … and represent a step backwards from BS 5588 : Part 8.  And, there were many problems even with that earlier British Standard.


Finally, it has become blatantly obvious to me that nobody from BSI should ever again be allowed near the fire engineering terminology for any International or European Standards.  BSI has polluted the international terminology of fire engineering.


Let me give you an irritating example which has had a seriously adverse impact on fire safety in buildings, in many countries, down through the years …


The term Fire Door has no meaning, and should not be used … Not Ever … Never !


It still leads to endless confusion on building sites … and very poor construction.  It has been a disaster, in my own direct experience … and for everybody else associated with fire safety in buildings … including fire prevention officers in Local Authorities.


On the other hand, the term Fire Resisting Doorset / Shutter Assembly means:


‘ A doorset / shutter assembly, suitably installed or mounted on site, the function of which is to resist the passage of heat, smoke and flame for a specified time during a fire.’


A single concept … explained in simple language that anyone can understand.


I could go on about BSI and British Standards … but, I would rapidly bore myself to sleep !




Presentation at the CIB W14 Lund Meeting …


International Fire Engineering must – now – evolve as a direct result of the WTC 9-11 Incident in New York.  This necessary evolution has been delayed for far too long by selfish vested interests.


And it is essential that an Empirical and Rational Basis is clearly identified for the practice of Fire Engineering Design in the 21st Century, i.e. after 9-11.  Architects and Engineers, specifically, are desperately seeking reliable design guidance.



Colour image showing the Title Page (only) of CJ Walsh's Presentation: 'A Delayed Evolution in Fire Engineering ?', at the recent CIB W14 Meeting in Lund, Sweden. Originally scheduled for 2 Days, all commission business was efficiently completed on 23rd April 2009. Click to enlarge.
Colour image showing the Title Page (only) of CJ Walsh’s Presentation: ‘A Delayed Evolution in Fire Engineering ?’, at the recent CIB W14 Meeting in Lund, Sweden. Originally scheduled for 2 Days, all commission business was efficiently completed on 23rd April 2009. Click to enlarge.

 CJ Walsh’s CIB W14 Lund Presentation – PDF File (1.74Mb) 

Click to download the Full Presentation


The Recommendations of the 2005 & 2008 NIST Reports must, at the very least, be applied to the design of ‘High-Rise’, ‘Iconic’, ‘Critical Function’ & ‘Innovative Design’ Buildings.  In a previous post, dated 2009-01-13, I had proposed that the Recommendations should generally be applied to High-Rise Buildings of more than 7 or 8 storeys and Iconic Buildings of more than 2 storeys.  This is merely good fire engineering practice.


There are valuable lessons, from the NIST Reports, to be applied to the Fire Engineering Design of ALL buildings.  This is demonstrated in the Lund Presentation … and, for any ‘Doubting Thomas’ out there, the collapse of WTC Building 7 makes this absolutely obvious.


For a more detailed discussion about the WTC 9-11 Incident and to download the 2005 & 2008 NIST Reports, please visit this Page on our Support WebSite …




Extensive content relating to other key words and phrases in the Lund Presentation can be found elsewhere on the Site.




Importance of the CIB W14 Lund Meeting …


The discussion which followed my Lund Presentation was lively and very interesting.  This gave me an opportunity, throughout the rest of the meeting, to tweak the Proposed Future Work Programme of CIB W14 towards a more substantive consideration of the Recommendations from the 2 NIST Reports and the Continuing WTC Health Monitoring Studies.



Reluctantly … I will be the Project Leader for an International Team which will examine Fire-Induced Progressive Collapse over the next three years.


I will also be a Member of another Team which will examine Human Behaviour in Fire for a similar period.  At the meeting, I indicated that I will be concentrating on Fire Evacuation for People with Activity Limitations (2001 WHO ICF).  ‘People with Activity Limitations’ is translated into French as ‘Personnes à Performances Réduites’.



Another Page on CIB W14 : Fire Engineering will soon be added to this Technical Blog.







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