2005 & 2008 NIST Recommendations on WTC 9-11 Incident

SFE 2016 DUBLIN – A Benchmark Fire Engineering Event !

2015-11-06 !   We are very pleased to announce that the Fire Safe Europe Alliancewww.firesafeeurope.eu … has become actively involved, together with Glasgow Caledonian University and FireOx International, in co-hosting SFE 2016 DUBLIN.  To facilitate the Network’s full engagement and provide sufficient time for promotion, etc … it was jointly agreed that the new dates for this Event shall be from 28-30 September 2016.

We have every confidence that SFE 2016 DUBLIN will now be a much better event … having a wider range of stakeholder participation.


2015-06-29 …

Sustainable Fire Engineering – Effective Fire Safety for All in Sustainable Buildings !
28-30 September 2016      Dublin, Ireland
www.sustainable-firengineering.ie  or  www.sfe-fire.eu
Approved Regional Sustainable Built Environment Conference in the 2016-17 Series
The Gresham Hotel, O’Connell Street, Dublin, Ireland

Céad Míle Fáilte (Hundred Thousand Welcomes) to Dublin, in Ireland … and to the First International Conference devoted to this complex subject !

The 21st Century has had a cruel and savage birth: extreme man-made events, hybrid disasters, severe natural events, complex humanitarian emergencies, with accelerating climate change and variability.  The old certainties are crumbling before our eyes …

The resolute Answer to these threats and the rapidly changing social and environmental needs of our world is Sustainable Fire Engineering !

•  SFE fulfils a critical role in the realization of a Safe, Resilient & Sustainable Built Environment for All ;
•  SFE facilitates positive progress towards the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals & 169 Performance Targets, which were adopted in September 2015 ;
•  SFE fast-tracks proper compliance with the Basic Requirements for Construction Works in the European Union’s Construction Products Regulation 305/2011 (Annex I), specifically the interlinked Requirements 7, 2, 1, 3 & 4.

Please join us in an informal, multidisciplinary and pre-normative forum … as we examine Sustainable Fire Engineering more deeply.Event Logo for SFE 2016 DUBLIN


Fire Losses – both direct and indirect – amount to a very significant percentage of GDP in all economies, whether they are rich or poor … and result in enormous environmental damage and social disruption.  Fire Engineering, including Fire Prevention and Protection in Buildings, is a major multi-billion Euro/Dollar component of the Construction Industrial Sector – worldwide.

Unfortunately … a fundamental conflict exists between Sustainable Building Design Strategies and the fire safety responses adopted in today’s Conventional Fire Engineering.  To take a simple example: for cooling, heating or ventilation purposes in a Sustainable Building, it is necessary to take advantage of natural unobstructed patterns of air movement in that building.  On the other hand, fire engineers in private practice and control personnel in Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s) will demand that building spaces be tightly compartmented in order to limit the spread of fire and smoke … dramatically interfering with those natural patterns of air movement.

Unusual fire behaviour and a range of difficult fire safety issues (critical, in the case of firefighters) also arise from the Innovative Design Features (for example, ‘green’ roofs, elaborate intelligent façades) and Building Products / Systems (for example, photovoltaic panels) being installed in Sustainable Buildings.

A wide chasm separates the language and understanding of these two very different design disciplines.  As a result, the performance of Sustainable Buildings can be seriously compromised.  If, on the other hand, adequate independent technical control is absent on site … it is fire safety which is weakened.

And because, in most countries, the emphasis is placed on pre-construction design intent rather than the ‘real’ performance of the completed/occupied building … these problems are ignored and remain hidden … until a serious fire breaks out !


The Aim of Sustainable Fire Engineering is to dramatically reduce all direct and indirect fire losses in the Human Environment (including social, built, economic, environmental, virtual, and institutional) … and to protect the Natural Environment.

Towards Zero Preventable Fires in the Built Environment !

In essence … Sustainable Fire Engineering heavily front-loads Fire Prevention and Fire Protection Measures … above and beyond the minimal and very limited fire safety objectives mandated by current legislation.

SFE’s Key Concepts are … RealityReliabilityRedundancyResilience !

SFE Design Solutions are …

  • Adapted to local geography, climate change and variability, social need, economy, and culture ;
  • Reliability-based ;
  • Person-centred ;
  • Resilient.


1.  To initiate discussion and foster mutual understanding between the International Sustainable Development / Climate Change / Urban Resilience Communities and the International Fire Science & Engineering Community.
2.  To bring together today’s disparate Sectors within the International Fire Science and Engineering Community … to encourage better communication between each and trans-disciplinary collaboration between all.
3.  To transform Conventional Fire Engineering into an ethical and fully professional Sustainable Design Discipline which is fit for purpose in the 21st Century … meaning … that fire engineers can participate actively in a sustainable design process, and can respond creatively with sustainable fire engineering design solutions which result in Effective Fire Safety for All in Sustainable Buildings.
4.  To launch a CIB W14 Research Working Group VI Reflection Document: ‘Sustainable Fire Engineering Design & Construction’ … which will establish a framework for discussion on the future development of Sustainable Fire Engineering.


Today !   Visit the SFE 2016 DUBLIN Website at … www.sustainable-firengineering.ie  or  www.sfe-fire.eu

Download the Information on the Links Page … Review the wide range of Topics which will be examined and discussed at SFE 2016 DUBLIN … Submit an Abstract for a Paper … and Give serious consideration to becoming an Industry Exhibitor, or an Enlightened, Far-sighted Sponsor !!




2015 Paris Hive Attacks & Fire Engineering for Urban Resilience !

2015-01-31:  The beginning of this 21st Century is deeply unsettling … history is catching up on us, and old certainties are crumbling before our eyes …

The recent, extremely violent Paris Hive Attacks … which occurred between Wednesday and Friday (7-9 January 2015) … have again shown that co-ordinated attacks on a small number of carefully chosen, low-level targets can be just as effective in causing widespread social and economic disruption in a City as a single attack on a high-level target.  Search for our previous detailed discussion, here, on the 2008 Mumbai ‘Hive’ Attacks.

On this tragic occasion, the attacks happened in Europe … not, as before, in far-off India.

Following the 2001 WTC 9-11 Attacks in New York City … the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in 2005 and 2008, recommended that these Building Types should be treated as ‘Risk Priorities’ …

• Tall / High-Rise Buildings ;
• Iconic Buildings ;
• Buildings Having a Critical Function ;
• Buildings Having an Innovative Design.

However, a typical medium-rise office building (in Paris) and off-street supermarket do not fall into the above categories … another indication that the NIST Recommendations must soon undergo a thorough international review and updating.

In the real world, the whole urban and sub-urban infrastructure of a City is at risk from Extreme Man-Made Events … one more risk among significant others, i.e. Hybrid Disasters (e.g. 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident), Severe Natural Events (e.g. earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis) and Complex Humanitarian Emergencies (e.g. mass human migrations, regional famines).  And with 50% of the world’s population already living in Cities, and substantial urban population growth projected over the coming decades … it is clear that, in the short to medium term, Cities must become much more resilient.  Search for our continuing discussion, here, about Sustainable Urban Resilience.

In this context, compliance solely with the minimal and limited fire safety objectives in current national legislation – from whatever source around the world – is so far from being either adequate or acceptable … that it is no longer worth a moment’s consideration.

A Fire Engineering which is ‘fit for purpose’, i.e. is both ethical and professional, in today’s complex and dynamic Human Environment … has an essential and critical part to play in the realization of a Safe, Resilient and Sustainable Built Environment for All !




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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