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 Editionhttps://sdgs.un.org/documents/sustainable-development-goals-report-2023-53220 ]

[ An Outside View: How much Progress is being Made on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals ?https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2023/09/un-sustainable-development-goals-progress-report ]


Earlier this month (September 2023), the #UN published a Report: United in Science 2023 – Sustainable Development Editionhttps://library.wmo.int/idurl/4/68235

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 Behindhttps://www.ohchr.org/en/sdgs/about-2030-agenda-sustainable-development ]


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 Lawhttps://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/11/global-governance-sustainability ]


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 … https://www.cjwalsh.ie/2022/12/sustainable-fire-engineering-road-map-to-a-safe-resilient-sustainable-built-environment-for-all … 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

FCCC COP-15: Historical Responsibility & Poverty Reduction ?

2009-12-16:  ‘Chaotic’ is not the only word to describe what is happening right now in Copenhagen !   A few additional parliamentary expletives are required.  Is it just me … or is it obvious to everyone … that the Danes could not organize an orgy at an International Golf Tournament ?

What the world urgently needed was an ambitious, legally binding agreement … a Kyoto II Protocol, for want of a better title … to slot into place when the 1st Commitment Period ends in 2012.  What we may end up with is an ambiguous ‘political’ agreement … which will be worth approximately 1 cent more than the paper on which it will be scrawled.

There is something definitely rotten in the State of Denmark !   Multiple drafts of the same working document circulating at the same time … backroom meetings away from public scrutiny … greedy developed countries trying to avoid responsibility and action … strutting, self-important NGO’s thinking that they know all the answers … etc., etc … kill any confidence in the process stone dead.  These are not the ways of Sustainable Social Partnership.

However … at a far distance from the hustle and bustle … it can be observed that Interesting Side Events are taking place … and Thought Provoking Reports are being presented … before, during and after the main gatherings between the 7th and 18th December 2009:

  • 15th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP-15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ;
  • 5th Meeting of the Parties (MOP-5) to the Kyoto Protocol.


African Countries are not the only Group having difficulty with what is/is not happening in Copenhagen …

Two recent Discussion Papers from The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI), in India, are worth bringing to your attention.  Both raise issues which are not very popular in this part of the world.  And … it so happens that Dr. Rajendra K Pachauri – Director-General of TERI … is also Chairman of the WMO-UNEP Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) !

  1. Right to Sustainable Development: An Ethical Approach to Climate Change (December 2009), by Leena Srivastava, Neha Pahuja, Manish Shrivastava & Prabhat Upadhyay.  PDF File, 228 Kb.  Click link to read and/or download.  Discusses ideas such as: ‘equity’, ‘fairness’, ‘historical responsibility’ (of UNFCCC Annex I Countries), ‘climate justice’, etc.
  2. Linking Climate Action & Poverty Alleviation – An Approach to Informed Decision-Making (December 2009), by Atul Kumar.  PDF File, 488 Kb.  Click link to read and/or download.


To gain worldwide acceptance – across developed, developing and least developed regions of the world – and to have a reasonable chance of reliable implementation in those disparate regions … mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change, including variability and extremes, must be fully compatible with the concept of Sustainable Human & Social Development.  This is clearly elaborated in both the 1992 UNFCCC and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

To be clear among ourselves on this island … Ireland is specifically named (without any qualification), among other Developed Countries … in Annex I and Annex II of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) … and in Annex B of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which is legally binding.  The European Union is not mentioned, at all, in either document.

It is of concern to note that although India ratified the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in October 2007 – TERI (India) has very recently placed a Document (No.1 above) in the public domain, at Copenhagen, which actively forbids content extraction by people with activity limitations for the purposes of equitable accessibility !   Joined-up thinking !?!?




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