Archive for October 23rd, 2011

‘Priory Hall’, Fire Engineering & Protecting Society’s Interests ??

2011-10-23:  Further to my post, dated 18 October 2011 …

Has anybody’s interests been protected by what has happened at the ‘Priory Hall’ Apartment Development, in Donaghmede, Dublin 13 ?   NO.

Now that the buildings there have been completed … will it be possible to effectively repair the most serious fire protection, sound transmission and energy conservation problems with the buildings ??   NO.

At the heart of these problems lie Fundamental Design and Construction Flaws … because, back in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, indigenous builders of simple two storey semi-detached houses suddenly became ‘developers’ of apartment complexes … and these were very different building animals altogether, requiring a degree of technical competence well beyond their reach.  And, of course, during the actual construction process everything had to be finished ‘yesterday’, and as cheaply as possible (a policy of cheap product substitution was the un-stated national norm !).  In fact, so many corners were cut on Irish Building Sites, at the time, that we should refer to almost the entire construction output from this era as: The Celtic Tiger Round Towers !

And guess who is going to carry out the Corrective/Repair/Refurbishment Works at ‘Priory Hall’ ?   The very same Construction Organization which created the mess in the first place !!   Can you believe it ??

Furthermore … once these Corrective/Repair/Refurbishment Works are eventually finished … the performance of the Fire Protection Measures in ‘Priory Hall’ will still be compromised, because you can only do so much, physically, when a building is completed.  BUT … it would be possible to achieve a Proper Level of Fire Safety in ‘Priory Hall’ … by installing a Fire Suppression System (sprinklers or mist) throughout the development.  That’s what it will take !!

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Tremendous fire damage was caused to the local environment in Buncefield ... but SOCIETY can no longer suffer this scale of damage ... and these Criminal Human Acts! Click to enlarge.

Tremendous fire damage was caused to the local environment in Buncefield ... but SOCIETY can no longer suffer this scale of damage ... and these Criminal Human Acts! Click to enlarge.

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WHO IS PROTECTING SOCIETY ?

So extensive is the damage caused by fire … throughout Europe … that not all of the Direct and Indirect Fire Losses have yet been identified.

Pause, to consider this definition …

Environmental Impact:  Any effect caused by a given activity on the environment, including human health, safety and welfare, flora, fauna, soil, air, water, and especially representative samples of natural ecosystems, climate, landscape and historical monuments or other physical structures, or the interactions among these factors; it also includes effects on accessibility, cultural heritage or socio-economic conditions resulting from alterations to those factors.

And this means, of course, that our current Fire Loss Data and Statistics are unreliable.

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It is not well known, or widely publicised, that the Fire Safety Objectives of Building Regulations are limited to protecting building occupants.  The Objectives are only concerned with protecting property, insofar as it is relevant to the protection of those building occupants.

Can you image the look of astonishment on the face of a Managing Director, after his/her factory has been entirely destroyed by a fire, when told by a fire consultant …

” We complied with Part B of the Building Regulations, and here is your Fire Safety Certificate to prove it”  ??

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What should be happening instead ?

     1.  Fire Engineering Design & Practice cannot … and must not … be concerned merely with the ‘cost-effective’ compliance with minimal (which they most certainly are !) Fire Safety Objectives mandated by Building Legislation.

     2.  To properly protect the interests of Society and Clients/Client OrganizationsFire Engineering Design & Practice must also take into account: Safety at Work Legislation; Rights, Equality & Anti-Discrimination Legislation; Environmental Impact Legislation; Public Procurement Legislation; Product Liability Legislation; etc., etc.

     3.  There is an evolving realization in Ethical Fire Engineering Design & Practice, however, that there is still a significant gap to be bridged.  There is no legislation (effective, or otherwise) yet in place, anywhere, which deals with such issues as …

  • Resistance to Fire-Induced Progressive Collapse – as very strongly recommended in the 2005 & 2008 U.S. NIST Final Reports on the 9-11 World Trade Center Building 1, 2 & 7 Collapses ;
  • Protection of Vulnerable Building Users in ‘Situations of Risk’ – as required, for example, by Article 11 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) ;
  • Safety of Firefighters/Rescue Teams – as specified in Basic Requirement for Construction Works No.2, in Annex I of European Union Construction Product Regulation 305/2011 ;
  • Adaptation to Climate Change and Severe Weather Events – the Developed World Economies appear to have no interest, whatsoever, in these issues ;
  • Sustainable Human & Social Development !

     4.  We must clearly distinguish, therefore, between the Fire Safety Objectives of Building Regulations/Codes … and Project-Specific Fire Engineering Design Objectives.  This difference must be fully understood by the Fire Engineer himself/herself … and then, in all circumstances, properly explained to the Client/Client Organization.

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In designing a Building for conditions of fire, and its aftermath … which may take place at any time during the Life Cycle of that Building … Project-Specific Fire Engineering Design Objectives should cover the following spectrum of concerns … in order to properly protect the interests of Society and our Clients/Client Organizations

  –   Protection of the Health & Safety of All Building Users … including People with Activity Limitations (2001 WHO ICF), visitors to the building who may be unfamiliar with its layout, and contractors or product/service suppliers temporarily engaged in work or business transactions on the premises ;

  –   Protection of Property … including the building, its contents, and adjoining or adjacent properties … from loss or damage ;

  –   Protection of the Health & Safety of Firefighters, Rescue Teams & Other Emergency First Response Personnel ;

  –   Facility, Ease & Efficient Cost of Carrying Out Effective Reconstruction, Refurbishment or Repair Works after a Fire ;

  –   Sustainability of the Human Environment (social, built, virtual, economic, …) – including Fitness for Intended Use and Life Cycle Costing of fire engineering related products, components, systems, etc., fixed, installed or incorporated in the building ;

  –   Protection of the Natural Environment from Harm, i.e. Adverse Impacts.

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CRIMINAL RESPONSE TO 1981 DUBLIN STARDUST TRAGEDY !

As I write … a stampede has just commenced by the various Construction-Related Professional Institutes and Organizations … to demand closer independent monitoring of what is happening on Irish Building Sites.  Far too little … and definitely, far too late !   Back in the early 1990’s, everybody stood by … and co-operated with the installation of an entirely ineffective and dysfunctional system of National Building Control in Ireland … which, let us not forget, survives intact to this day … while, at the same time, the strong long-established and well-resourced Building Control Sections in Dublin and Cork were being quietly dismantled.

The Minister for the Environment, Community & Local Government, Mr. Phil Hogan T.D. … is also chirping in from his ivory tower !

Crocodile Tears !!

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Take a Fire Safety Certificate for a Building, for example …

With or Without Conditions … this document confirms that the Local Building Control/Fire Authority is satisfied that the Design Documentation for that building shows proper compliance with the Legal Requirements of Part B of the Irish Building Regulations.

Focus in on the relevant wording of a Fire Safety Certificate, which is as follows …

‘ … hereby certify that the works or building to which the application relates, will, if constructed in accordance with the plans, calculations, specifications and particulars submitted, comply with the requirements of Part B of the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations 1997 to 2008.’

Fire Safety Related Inspections of Construction Projects are not carried out by Competent Local Authority Personnel, or by Competent Independent Technical Controllers.  Therefore … a Fire Safety Certificate cannot give, and is not intended to give, any indication with regard to Fire Safety in the Completed Building.  The ‘Fire’ Establishment in Ireland knows full well that this is the situation !

Is this any sort of a reasonable, caring or competent response to the 1981 Stardust Discotheque Fire Tragedy in Dublin ??

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END

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