9-11 WTC Attacks in New York – ‘Reflections in a Cold Eye’ !

2013-09-13 …

Two days ago, on the 12th Anniversary of the 9-11 World Trade Center Attacks in New York City … I couldn’t help recalling a period of time 20 years earlier, and the still vivid memories of institutional ‘after-shocks’ following the 1981 Dublin Stardust Discotheque Fire in February of that year.  For a very long time afterwards, the Irish Fire Establishment disappeared from public view and hearing … without any trace !   As a young architect, at the time, just starting out in private practice … it was a critical lesson on the importance of ‘reality’ … and the malignancy of ‘realpolitik’.

As the years rolled by, and more and more information was revealed by troubled ‘insiders’ and uncovered by brave journalists … it was clear to me that the Dublin Fire had spawned two entirely separate and unconnected realities:

  1. The Frontline Tragedy … of the fire victims (those who were killed or injured on the night, and those who survived), their families and (to this day) their mournful pleas for justice and truthful answers, the local communities, the first responders, e.g. firefighters, ambulance personnel, and Garda/police and (to this day) their continuing struggle for adequate resources, the staff of the Dublin hospitals … and a shocked public.
  2. Defensive Institutions … senior policy and decision makers in national and local authorities, or agencies, having jurisdiction and/or responsibility for blatantly inadequate building codes and standards, poorly resourced technical control systems over building design and construction, and a dysfunctional emergency response infrastructure … senior politicians, on both sides of the political spectrum, who ‘fixed’ the format and major outcomes from the post-incident investigation (they ensured that minor outcomes were either implemented in a ham-fisted bureaucratic manner, or were ignored) … the various building design disciplines directly involved and their respective professional organizations … etc., etc.


These Same Realities have been re-born … and have evolved in scale … out of the savage destruction on that Tuesday, 11 September 2001.




Enhanced by Zemanta

‘Passivhaus’ Standard is Not Enough in New Building Projects !

2013-09-10:  Recently, much ado has been made in the technical press about a New Multi-Storey Office Block in Vienna which has achieved the German ‘Passivhaus’ (Passive House) Standard

Multi-Storey 'RHW.2' Office Block in Vienna, Austria

Is There A Problem ??   Yes !!

1.   It takes approximately 3 Years of Building Occupation, by ‘real’ people, before the actual performance of a building can be properly monitored and reliably shown.  The building is still ‘drying out’ for the first year.  It takes at least one to two years of running the complex technologies and systems in today’s buildings … training people how to operate them efficiently and effectively … and fine-tuning and de-bugging as you go along … before everything begins to work together, as originally intended during the building design stage.  Then, if all goes well … in the third year of occupation, the careful (i.e. accurate and reliable) monitoring of ‘real’ building performance, by means of portable measuring devices and devices installed within the construction, can commence.

So … what exactly has achieved the German ‘Passivhaus’ (Passive House) Standard … the design intent for the building, or the building’s ‘real’ performance ???


2.   Much more fundamentally … achieving this Standard is a good starting point … but in a new building project … It Is Not Enough !

A.  Energy Conservation and Efficiency Burden Sharing by Different Building Types

Separate strategies are required to greatly improve the energy performance of:

  • existing buildings … onto which many energy efficiency measures can be successfully grafted, but it will be difficult work and will certainly not be cheap ;
  • buildings of historical, architectural or cultural importance … the integrity of which must be protected ;   and
  • new buildings and facilities … which must therefore carry the major burden.


B.  Paradigm for New Buildings – A ‘Positive Energy’ Return + Assured Building User Comfort

Primary Energy Consumption should be less than or equal to 15 kWh/m2/yr.

And …

Renewable Energy and Heating Systems should contribute a reliable quantity of energy, per year, which covers the following:

i)   the Building’s/Facility’s Primary Energy Consumption ;

ii)  an Energy Efficiency Degradation Factor which takes account of the degradation in energy efficiency …

(a)  normally expected during the life cycle of renewable energy and heating systems installed in the building.  The rate of degradation will depend on the quality of maintenance and servicing ;   and

(b)  caused by wasteful patterns of building management and/or use ;

iii) the energy consumed by Private Transport associated with the building or facility ;

iv) an Energy Return to an Intelligent District, Local or Regional Grid exceeding, by a multiple of 3 (three), the total energy consumed by the Building/Facility (including its Energy Efficiency Degradation Factor) and any associated Private Transport.



Primary Energy includes the energy required to generate, transmit and distribute electricity, as well as energy directly consumed on site.

User Thermal Comfort = Air Temperature + Mean Radiant Temperature + Air Humidity + Air Velocity, i.e. draughts (ISO 7730).


And interestingly enough … on the Passivhaus WebSite (German language version)www.passivhaus.de/passivhaus-informationen/vom-passivhaus-zum-plusenergiegebaeude.html … this is now the thinking there also !!

Should have been happening 10 years ago !




Enhanced by Zemanta

Responder Safety on Roads & ‘Eye-Popping’ Vehicle Markings

2013-09-05:  A few days ago, I was travelling on a motorway in Ireland … the scenery was luscious, and daylight and weather conditions were good … when I noticed that the visibility and marking of Emergency Response and Public Service Vehicles varied considerably.  The rear of one vehicle, in particular, had highly visible markings … but it was pulling a high trailer, without any markings … and, of course, the vehicle itself and its bright luminescent markings were almost obscured.

What would happen at night, in heavy rain … if any of these vehicles had to stop on a road without any public lighting … as they responded to a traffic accident … or because they were part of a Garda/police checkpoint ?   Serious danger for the responders and other road users is the obvious answer !

Then, more recently, while walking around Howth Harbour, in Dublin … I spotted this Irish Coast Guard Vehicle … which made me feel more optimistic …

Irish Coast Guard Vehicle, with High Visibility Markings, at Howth Harbour in Dublin.
Colour photograph showing an Irish Coast Guard Vehicle, with High Visibility Markings, at Howth Harbour in Dublin. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2013-08-24. Click to enlarge.


CVVFA-ERSI: ‘Vehicle Marking and Technology for Increased Highway Visibility – A Reference Guide for Decision-Makers’ (2013)

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (4.35 MB)

Produced by the U.S. Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Association (CVVFA) Emergency Responder Safety Institute (ERSI) … with the support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s United States Fire Administration (USFA), and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) – the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Author: Ron Moore – Chief Instructor, CVVFA Emergency Responder Safety.

CVVFA ERSI WebSite: www.respondersafety.com


Cover Page - U.S. Fire Administration Report FA-330: 'Traffic Incident Management Systems' (2012)U.S. Fire Administration Report FA-330 – March 2012

USFA: ‘Traffic Incident Management Systems’ (2012)

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (4.87 MB)


Both of these documents must be carefully adapted by the reader to suit a European context … as the following List of Recommendations from USFA Report FA-330 will clearly indicate …

To help decrease vehicle-related injuries and fatalities of emergency responders if implemented at the appropriate levels:

1.   Develop a comprehensive database that tracks accidents involving emergency vehicles and any resulting injuries and/or deaths to both emergency responders and civilians.

2.   Limit speeds to a level that is safe for the vehicle being driven and the road conditions on which it is being operated.

3.   Adopt a zero-tolerance alcohol (and drugs) policy and enforce an 8-hour time difference between alcohol consumption and the commencement of work.

4.   Equip all emergency vehicles with appropriate traffic control and safety equipment.

5.   Ensure all traffic-channelizing devices meet applicable standards.

6.   Ensure flaggers, if used, are properly trained and meet Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD) qualifications.

7.   Require members to wear highly reflective American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) 107 Class II, Class III, or ANSI/ISEA 207 compliant public safety vests whenever they operate in a roadway.

8.   Mark the emergency vehicle perimeter with retro-reflective striping or markings.

9.   Extinguish forward facing emergency vehicle lighting when parked on the roadway, especially on divided roadways.

10.  Fire departments should consider the implementation of traffic safety response units.

11.  Position the initial-arriving emergency vehicle in a blocking position to oncoming traffic.

12.  Establish an adequately sized work zone.

13.  Develop a formalized Traffic Incident Management (TIM) information sharing method between public safety and transportation agencies.

14.  Manage major traffic incidents using the National Incident Management System (NIMS) Incident Command System (ICS).

15.  Consider the use of Unified Command (UC) to manage traffic incidents involving multiple jurisdictions or disciplines.

16.  Incorporate transportation departments into ICS when appropriate.

17.  Ensure adequate training on roadway hazards and safety procedures for responders.




Enhanced by Zemanta