‘High-Rise’ – ‘Iconic’ – ‘Critical Function’ & ‘Innovative Design’ Buildings

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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