Building design

Sustainable Buildings – An Immediate & Unprecedented Challenge Demanding Genuine Collaboration !

2023-09-26:  At the time of writing, the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly is taking place in New York City.  Midway through the U.N. Sustainable Development Framework Agenda 2015-2030News about its failing progress is very discouraging

>  Amid growing geo-political crises and war, Multi-Lateralism has little chance to operate successfully and there is a growing stalemate within the Security Council ;

>  Extreme Weather Events (e.g. heatwaves, droughts, severe storms and rainfall, flooding) are becoming a regular occurrence across the Globe, and their impacts are already devastating ;

>  Only 15% of the Sustainable Development Goals are barely on track, while development gains in other SDG’s have reversed ;

>  Not only are Climate Disruption Targets not being met, but global greenhouse gas emissions are actually increasing.


[ U.N. 2023 Sustainable Goals Report – Special Edition ]

[ An Outside View: How much Progress is being Made on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals ? ]


Earlier this month (September 2023), the #UN published a Report: United in Science 2023 – Sustainable Development Edition

Compiled by the World Meteorological Organization (#WMO) under the direction of the U.N. Secretary-General, it brings together the latest updates from key U.N. Partner Organizations with a focus on weather-, climate-, and water-related sciences, research and services in support of realizing Sustainable Human & Social Development:

Climate Disruption …

  1. Total Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Emissions from fossil fuels and land use change remained high in 2022 and the first half of 2023.  Fossil fuel CO2 emissions increased 1% globally in 2022 compared to 2021, and global average concentrations continued rising through 2022 and the first half of 2023.
  2. The years from 2015 to 2022 were the eight warmest on record, and the chance of at least one year exceeding the warmest year on record in the next five years is 98%.
  3. It is estimated that current mitigation policies will lead to global warming of around 2.8 °C over the course of this century compared to pre-industrial levels.  Immediate and unprecedented reductions in Greenhouse Gas Emissions are needed to achieve the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, i.e. 1.5 °C.


Graphic Image, Figure 6 in colour, from the InterGovernmental Panel on Climate Change (#IPCC) 6th Assessment Report’s 2023 Summary for Policy-Makers.  It shows that there is a rapidly narrowing window of opportunity to realize climate resilient development, and how multiple interacting choices and actions can shift development pathways towards Sustainability.  Click to enlarge.


Sustainable Cities & Communities …

  1. Cities are responsible for a high proportion of global GHG Emissions and are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate disruption and extreme weather events, which threaten the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 11.
  2. Integrated urban weather, climate, water and environmental services, grounded in best-available science and research, are helping Cities to achieve SDG 11.
  3. Observations, high-resolution forecasting models and multi-hazard early warning systems are the fundamental basis for integrated urban services.

Good Human Health & Social Wellbeing …

  1. Trans-Disciplinary Research is fundamental to analysing, monitoring and addressing climate-sensitive health risks and climate impacts on the health sector.
  2. Climate disruption and extreme events are projected to significantly increase ill-health and premature deaths, as well as population exposure to heatwaves and heat-related morbidity and mortality.
  3. Scaling up investments in climate-resilient and low-carbon health systems, and progress towards universal health coverage (#UHC) are critical for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 3.


Graphic Image, Figure 1 in colour, from the recently published UN WMO Report: ‘United in Science 2023 – Sustainable Development Edition’.  It shows how genuinely collaborative weather-, climate-, and water-related sciences, research and services – together – support the achievement of the United Nations (#UN) Sustainable Development Goals (#SDG).  Click to enlarge.

[ The 2030 UN Sustainable Development Framework Agenda is Unequivocally Anchored in Human RightsLeave No One Behind ]


Deep & Genuine Construction Sector Collaboration …

[ Institutional Transformation ]

It is inevitable, therefore, that enormous pressures – social, economic, political, legal, and institutional – are being brought to bear on Building Design Professions, Engineers (all disciplines) and Construction Organizations to rapidly, reliably and creatively transform our existing Built Environment ; new buildings, which constitute just a small part of that workload, will be required to carry the heaviest burden.  To properly realize a Safe, Resilient and Sustainable Built Environment for ALL, however, Genuine Collaboration must be fostered … between each actor in the construction sector … between practitioners and scientists/researchers … and between different industrial sectors … silos broken apart and traditional barriers transcended.


Sustainable Buildings – Reality vs. Superficial Impressions …

The minimum Life Cycle for a Sustainable Building is 100 years.

To be capable of later #Adaptation, a Sustainable Building must possess a sufficient/appropriate, level of #Redundancy.  Lean construction ignores this issue.

Far too many people appear to be still ‘wrestling’ with an obsolete understanding of #Sustainability.  It has many more than just 3 Aspects (social, environmental, economic).  Time for everyone to cop on and catch up !

[ Legal Aspects of Sustainable Human & Social Development: If the World is Serious about Sustainability, it must Embark on a New Era of Global Law ]


The International Fire Engineering Community, in particular, has a fixation with low-hanging fruit … ‘PV Panels’, ‘Timber Buildings’ … and ‘Performance-Based Fire Codes’, which are a hybrid of prescription (rather than Functional Fire Codes, which offer a more free, more open, and flexible option for designers).

So … before moving on in my next Post to look at the potential for Green Walls being a fire hazard, and comparing a top-down Sustainable Fire Engineering Design Approach with a bottom-up Conventional Fire Safety Approach … here is an interesting graphic image, developed by an architectural colleague in Berlin, Ar.Stefanie Blank, showing the difference between all-too-common superficial impressions and the reality of Sustainable Buildings …


Graphic Image, in colour, which compares ‘What people think Sustainable Building is’ with ‘What Sustainable Building actually is’.  There is a world of difference between ‘reality’ and ‘superficial impressions’.  The immediate and unprecedented challenge is the poor performance of existing buildings.  Click to enlarge.


Sustainable Fire Engineering Road Map …

An earlier Post … … presents the complete Road Map for reading and/or download.

As I have written many times before, the concept of Sustainable Human & Social Development is intricate, open, and dynamic … and it is also continuously evolving.  So too, the #SFE #RoadMap must continuously evolve.

Fully reflecting the content and views expressed above, it is necessary to further expand the Sustainable Fire Engineering Design Objectives on Page 10 of the Road Map … in order to clearly and directly integrate the issue of Climate Disruption


Graphic Image, in colour, which lists SFE’s revised Project-Specific Fire Engineering Design Objectives … which cover the safety of building users and firefighters, protection of property and the environment, mitigation/adaptation to climate disruption, and finally, sustainability.  This revision is dated May 2023.  Click to enlarge.



#Twitter (#X) … @sfe2016dublin …

#SustainableDevelopment #UNGA #SustainableDevelopmentGoals #SDG #ClimateDisruption #ExtremeWeatherEvents #GenuineCollaboration #ConstructionSector #SustainableBuildings #GHGemissions #UnitedInScience #SustainableCities #HumanHealth #SocialWellbeing #ArStefanieBlank #Berlin #NewYorkCity #PVpanels #TimberBuildings #BuiltEnvironment #PerformanceBasedCodes #FireCodes #FunctionalFireCodes #FireSafety #Resilience #Reality #Reliability #Redundancy #HumanEnvironment #InstitutionalEnvironment #Transformation #Creativity #BuildingDesign #FireEngineering #IPCC #FireEngineeringDesignObjectives #ClimateSynergies #ClimateTippingPoints

Sustainable Fire Engineering – Road Map To A Safe, Resilient & Sustainable Built Environment For ALL

2022-12-19:  Following on, directly, from the 2016 Dublin Code of Ethics

[ A personal Code of Ethics – is / must be – the basis for Effective Sustainability Implementation ]


Multi-Disciplinary Input  > Trans-Disciplinary Output

Sustainable Fire Engineering (SFE) is a Facilitator – no more than Architecture, Structural Engineering, or Spatial Planning – in the task of realizing a Safe, Resilient and Sustainable Built Environment for All.  However, SFE has an essential role to fill throughout the difficult journey towards that target.  In close collaboration with other design disciplines, many iterations … twists and turns along the road … will be necessary.

Beware Greenwashing !

Sustainability is NOT a graft-on, or an optional extra, to Conventional Fire Engineering.  This intricate, open, dynamic and continuously evolving Concept must cut right to the core of everyday design practice, and must positively impact all areas of that practice.

Ethical Transformation

In this third decade of the 21st Century … the Safety Objectives in current Fire Codes / Regulations are limited, inadequate, and lagging far behind today’s creative moulding and re-shaping of the Built Environment ;  they are almost, but not entirely, irrelevant in the context of the urgently required transformation of conventional fire engineering.  For anybody who cannot see the broad, beautiful landscape beyond codes and regulations … this SFE Road Map is definitely not for you.  For those who can see, your constant companion … your compass … will be a Personal Code of Ethics.


Essential Considerations Before Starting Out On The Road …

1.  World Trade Centre Attacks in New York City, on 11 September 2001.  Two sets of important Recommendations were issued by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 2005 and 2008.  Not only is the implementation of these still incomplete, but the solid progress which has been made e.g. on Firefighter Safety, is continuously under threat from vested interests.  Other jurisdictions have tended to ignore the Recommendations.  SFE takes full account of this Extreme Man-Made Event.

2.  Grenfell Tower Fire in London, on 14 June 2017.  Evidence at the Official Inquiry continues to shock and horrify ;  the entire fire safety regulatory edifice in England is dysfunctional, and it poses a real and serious danger to Public Health and Safety.  Inquiry Phase 1 Recommendations were issued in 2019.  Already, the Recommendation concerning Evacuation for Vulnerable Building Users & PEEP’s (#33.22 e and f) has been discarded by AHJ’s … and it has also been stated (#34.14) that as everything about the single narrow staircase in the Tower appeared to be OK, it will not be investigated in Inquiry Phase 2 … a sure sign of dysfunctional dysfunction !  SFE sees beyond these major flaws.

3.  Sustainable Buildings   Il Bosco Verticale Towers in Milano … this exciting Project, designed by Stefano Boeri and completed in October 2014, has become the International Icon for innovative / environment-friendly construction.  These new approaches to building design are posing enormous fire safety challenges.   [ Remember back … was it 15 years before fire codes were able to ‘solve’ the Atrium in buildings ? ]   SFE, however, must cope with this extraordinary level of architectural creativity ;  and Fire Engineering Practitioners must be capable of active participation, collaboratively, within Project Design/Construction Teams.

Looking past the Milan Project … it is important for the reader to experience a more rounded flavour of where the exciting synergy between Creative Design and the Inclusive Language of Sustainability is at present, and where it is tending to go …

UN HABITAT ~ World Cities Report 2022 ~ ‘Envisaging the Future of Cities’ …

Ar. Vincent Callebaut, France …

Ar. Stefano Boeri, Italy …

Ar. Olando DeUrrutia, Spain …

4.  Building Energy Performance Rating Schemes   Under enormous environmental and political pressures, the headlong rush to conserve energy in buildings, and to make them more energy efficient … especially after the 2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine … is proceeding in blissful ignorance of fire safety and necessary independent technical controls.  Measurement of real building performance, after energy refurbishment has been completed, is generally avoided.


The Road Ahead … From Gro Harlem Brundtland To Reliable Fire Statistics …


Sustainable Fire Engineering Road Map

Realizing a Safe, Resilient and Sustainable Built Environment for All

(Download PDF File, 36 Overheads, 2.94 Mb)

This SFE Road Map takes account of feedback received after it was first presented on the LinkedIn Group … Sustainable Fire Engineering (#SFE) Network ~ #EthicalDesign #BeyondCodes #DefenceInDepth #SIA … from July to October 2022.  Further updated and revised in May 2023.




#Twitter (#X) … @sfe2016dublin …

#SFE #RoadMap #SustainableFireEngineering #Reality #Reliability #FireInducedProgressiveDamage #WTC911 #SustainableDevelopment #SustainableBuildings #GrenfellTowerFire #ClimateDisruption #ClimateSynergies #UNFCCC #ClimateAdaptation #IPCC #Cities #FireCodes #Architecture #FireEngineering #SpatialPlanning #DesignTools #BIM #BeyondCodes #Ethics #CodeOfEthics #EthicalDesign #CJWalsh #DefenceInDepth #FireSafety4ALL #VulnerablePeople #Firefighters #FFsafety #Creativity #Wildfires #Bushfires #IncendiBoschivi #IncendiosForestales #OrmanYangınları #IncêndiosFlorestais #FeuxDeForêt #Resilience #Sustainability #SustainabilityImplementation #SustainableDesignInternational #Redundancy #SIA #ClimateTippingPoints #SustainabilityImpactAssessment #SocialTransformation #SocialWellbeing4ALL

‘Sustainable Fire Engineering’ – Important Indian Presentation !

2009-09-08:  It is really enjoyable to be back behind my desk, here in Dublin.  Apologies for the prolonged absence.

Since the middle of June last, my travels have taken me to Turkey, France, Italy, the south-west of Ireland to attend my cousin’s wedding in Cork … and back again to Bengaluru (Bangalore) in Southern India to make an important Keynote Presentation at the 2009 Fire & Safety Association of India (FSAI) National Fire Seminar: ‘Engineering a Safe & Secure India’, which was held on Friday, 28th August, at the Leela Palace Hotel.

My Presentation Title & Abstract

Sustainable Fire Engineering: Fire Safety, Protection & Evacuation for All

India, like other economically advanced developing countries, is at an important crossroads.  Difficult, resource-dependent decisions must be made in the next few short years concerning the rapid implementation of a Sustainable Built Environment across a vast country, i.e. one which must serve local needs and meet regional performance requirements during a long life cycle … one which will be adaptable to climate change, variability and extremes … will be in harmony and dynamic balance with the Natural Environment … and, not least, will be super energy-efficient.

Citizens of Developed Nations also have legitimate expectations.  They will express anger when they witness recently constructed buildings in seismic zones collapse, in an earthquake, like a deck of cards (China 2008, Italy 2009) … or they discover that federal/state authorities having jurisdiction, which are funded by their taxes, are ill-prepared to respond effectively to intentional traumatic disruptions to the Social Environment (New York 2001, Mumbai 2008).  Retaining the public’s confidence in national institutions is a fundamental political priority.

In the case of all new High-Rise Buildings, Iconic Buildings, and Buildings of Innovative Design or having a Critical Function … Trans-Disciplinary Building Design Teams must, at a minimum, properly respond to the Recommendations of the 2005 & 2008 NIST(USA) Final Reports on the 9-11 WTC 1, 2, and 7 Collapses.  In practice, the majority of these Recommendations should be applied to the design of all new buildings !

Fire Engineers, competent concerning the processes of ‘real’ building design and construction, must begin to understand the ‘real’ people who occupy or use buildings, every day of every week, in all parts of India … and that they each have widely differing ranges of human abilities and activity limitations.  Just as they are different from each other, they will react differently than expected in a ‘real’ building fire emergency.

Based on a Keynote Presentation before International Council for Building Research (CIB) Working Commission 14 : Fire and Sub-Committee 3 & 4 Members of ISO Technical Committee 92 : Fire Safety, at Lund University in Sweden … and his fire safety texts which have been fully incorporated into International Standard ISO DIS 21542 on Accessibility-for-All, currently under development and due for publication before the end of 2010 … CJ Walsh’s Presentation, at the FSAI National Fire Seminar in Bengaluru, will focus on ‘Fire Safety, Protection & Evacuation for All’.




Enhanced by Zemanta