Ar C.J. Walsh – Consultant Architect, Fire Engineer & Technical Controller – International Expert on Sustainability Implementation + Accessibility-for-All + Fire Safety for All + Sustainable Fire Engineering
2020-09-22: Adopted at the International Fire Conference: SFE 2016 DUBLIN (www.sfe-fire.eu) …
Many years have passed since the 1972 UN Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment and the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. In 2016, Sustainable Development remains an intricate, open, dynamic and continually evolving concept. The guide and driver for frontline practitioners, policy and decision makers must be a personal Code of Ethics … an integrated and inter-related whole which cannot be reduced to fixed rules inviting game playing and ‘trade-offs’. After working with this Code, it may be necessary to expand on and discuss its principles and/or some of the issues raised … not to narrow its focus, but to broaden interpretation.
The realization of a Safe, Inclusive, Resilient & Sustainable Built Environment demands a concerted, collaborative, very creative and widely trans-disciplinary effort at national, local, regional and international levels across the whole planet – Our Common Home. The informed operation of appropriate legislation, administrative procedures, performance monitoring and targeting, and incentives/disincentives, at all of these levels, will facilitate initial progress towards this objective … but not the quantity, quality or speed of progress necessary. Our time is running out !
This Code of Ethics applies … for those who subscribe to its values … to policy and decision makers, and the many different individuals and organizations directly and indirectly involved in the design, engineering, construction, and operation (management and maintenance) of a Safe, Resilient & Sustainable Built Environment for ALL.
The Purpose of this Code of Ethics is to guide the work of competent individuals and organizations in a context where incomplete or inadequate legislation, administrative procedures and incentives/disincentives exist … but, more importantly, where they do not exist at all … and, amid much confusion and obfuscation of the terms, to ensure that implementation is authentically ‘sustainable’, and reliably ‘safe’ and ‘resilient’ for every person in the receiving community, society or culture … before it is too late !
2020-09-08: Ignoring Britain’s silly sabre-rattling, toothless threats and boorish blackmail attempts reported in the Media during this past weekend, yesterday and today … the actual state of play in the tortuous Brexit Negotiations can best be judged from the following sources …
Michel Barnier’s Presentation to the Institute for International and European Affairs (IIEA), on 2 September 2020 … View it Here on YouTube
This is the European Union (EU), a Single Market of approximately 450 Million consumers. The EU operates under the freedoms and protections of Codified / Written Law, i.e. EU Treaties ratified by all of the EU Member States, EU Secondary Legislation (Regulations and Directives), and EU Administrative Provisions.
A suite of EU Regulations and Directives covers Industrial Products. While there is some flexibility with regard to how Directives are implemented at national level in the Member States, no such flexibility exists with Regulations. Construction Products can only be placed on the EU Single Market if they can be shown to comply with the requirements of the EU’s Construction Products Regulation (CPR) Framework, or in other words, be shown to be ‘fit for their intended use’ in the European Union …
BREXIT ~ IMPLICATIONS FOR THE BRITISH FIRE INDUSTRY
Trade ‘No Deal’ or ‘Minimal Deal’ … from 1 January 2021, Great Britain will be completely outside the European Single Market, and the EU’s Construction Products Regulation Framework. The designation ‘Notified Body’ under that Framework will fall away from British Organizations. Construction Products/Systems manufactured in, or supplied from, Britain will then have to undergo an entirely new EU Testing and Approvals Programme in order to access the European Single Market. Fire Safety related Construction Products will have to be tested, and assessed or appraised, against all 7 Basic Requirements for Buildings together, during the same period of time (see Annex I, EU Regulation 305/2011) …
Mechanical Resistance and Stability
Safety in Case of Fire
Hygiene, Health and the Environment
Safety and Accessibility in Use
Protection against Noise
Energy Economy and Heat Retention
Sustainable Use of Natural Resources
… a process which will be very interesting to observe, since the Fire Industry (particularly England’s Fire Establishment, AHJ’s, etc) dislikes, with intensity, the whole idea of ‘environmental impact’ … the concept of ‘sustainable development’ is hardly understood … and no consideration is given to the reasonable fire safety and accessibility needs of ‘vulnerable building users’ (including people with activity limitations, refugees, migrants, etc).
The tragic 2017 Grenfell Tower Fire, and its sad aftermath, have demonstrated how dysfunctional, and rotten to the core, is the whole national system of Building Fire Safety in England. More than 3 years later … on the evidence to date of an ongoing, incompetent Inquiry and a series of shoddy responses from Government … will survivors and the victims’ families ever receive Justice, and find Peace ? cf. The 1981 Stardust Discotheque Fire in Dublin. Survivors and victims’ families are still waiting for the truth to be revealed.
In parallel, mutual recognition of British Professional Building Designers, e.g. Architects, Structural Engineers, Fire Engineers, etc., within the European Union will cease.
In parallel, British Fire Research involvement in EU Research Networks will also cease … unless a heavy price is paid to be involved as a 3rd Country. British Institutions should forget any notions they might have about Network Leadership.
In parallel, Information and Data Flows between Britain and the EU will be disrupted or cease altogether … unless Britain complies fully with the requirements of EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) 2016/679. As a vassal state of the USA, this compliance may prove difficult for Britain !
EU Fire Safety Related Product/System Manufacturers ~ A Word of Caution !
Many EU Construction Product/System Manufacturers continue to use the services provided by British Fire Test Laboratories and/or Fire Consultancy Organizations located in Great Britain … some of which have already established EU-based dummy companies and letterheads. These British organizations must be avoided altogether. For example, the practice of fire testing in England and later adding a title page of a Full Test Report with an EU location address is entirely unacceptable !
2020-07-23: Time is fast running out. You have to ask yourself: “Do I feel lucky ? Am I a GreenWasher“ – do I enjoy playing with numbers, relaxing with estimates having tenuous links to reality, cheating the ‘system’ (just like Germany’s Dieselgate), or convincing myself (and everybody else) that progress is being made when the evidence clearly shows that things are getting worse … “or an Implementor ??” – establishing meaningful Benchmarks, setting (and iteratively re-setting) ambitious Performance Targets using reliable, up-to-date data and statistics, then closely monitoring Positive Progress, and reporting Real Verifiable Results …
In 2015 … 193 World Leaders, representing all of the United Nations’ Member States, adopted a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) … placing our world, i.e. its people, environment and limited resources, on a path towards a more sustainable future … more specifically, aiming to ‘free humanity from poverty, secure a healthy planet for future generations, and build peaceful, inclusive societies as a foundation for ensuring lives of dignity for all’.
To properly track the implementation of these consensus goals … reliable, quality, and timely data is vital. Yet, five years later too much of the data is still out-of-date or unavailable, and too many people are being left behind in the numbers. Half of the data used to measure the SDG Target Performance Indicators are missing. Two-thirds of poverty data from Sub-Saharan Africa and global deforestation figures are five years out-of-date. Only 100 countries in the world have nationally-representative data on violence against women, and more than 25 million refugees around the world go uncounted in national statistics.
With only 10 years left to achieve the SDG Targets, there is a critical need NOW for a Data Platform which makes quality and timely data for the SDG’s Accessible to All, improves knowledge of geospatial tools and Geographic Information Systems (#GIS), and builds capacity to use these tools to support global policy and decision making …
In partnership with the Environmental Systems Research Institute (#ESRI) and National Geographic … SDG’s Today: Global Portal for Real-Time Data … is a platform developed by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (#SDSN). This one-of-a-kind open access data platform has the potential to revolutionize how we understand and communicate the urgency of the SDG’s and how solutions are developed, by providing a much-needed virtual space where key stakeholders from around the world can access and engage with timely data (updated annually or in more frequent intervals) on the SDG’s, and learn how to use the data effectively to push Agenda 2030 forward. The platform also houses GIS training and education resources and supports countries and other institutions to produce, share, and engage with the data to help ensure that, together, we meet the global goals by 2030.
Using Data To Effectively Implement The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development …
The Court of Auditors assessed whether EU co-funded energy efficiency investments in buildings had cost-effectively helped the EU towards meeting its 2020 energy saving target. The Auditors concluded that operational programmes and project selection were not driven by a cost-effectiveness rationale. While Member States required buildings to be renovated to save a minimum of energy and improve their energy rating, this sometimes happened at a high cost. Because of a lack of comparative assessment of project merits and of minimum/maximum thresholds for cost-effectiveness, projects delivering higher energy savings or other benefits at lower cost were not prioritised. In overly-polite language, they recommend improving the planning, selection and monitoring of investments to improve the cost-effectiveness of spending.
With all of the Hot Air and Ridiculous Hoopla about improving Energy Conservation and Efficiency in New Buildings (Green, BREEAM, PassivHaus, LEED, nZEB, etc., etc.) … by far the biggest Energy Problem is with Europe’s Existing Building Stock. This Auditor’s Report shows that Progress in Meeting Agreed EU Targets is dismal, and there is still a cynical approach in Member States to the use of EU Funding …
The words ‘green’, ‘environmental’, ‘ecological’ and ‘sustainable’ are becoming part of everyday language in the Developed World, but are frequently interchanged without understanding. To date, however, the concept of Sustainable Development has been hijacked by Environmentalists. For example, no connection at all may be seen between a ‘sustainable’ building and ensuring that it can be safely and conveniently entered and used by ordinary people.
In other parts of the World, the ambiguous WCED / Brundtland Definition of Sustainable Development is being systematically rejected ; the concept is viewed as an unaffordable luxury and/or as a means of continued domination and control by the ‘North’. Yet, sustainability must be a global compact.
In this intolerant and more fundamentalist 21st Century, the United Nations System, International Law, and Social Justice continue to come under sustained attack. And the Beslan School Tragedy* demonstrates that it is far more hazardous for disadvantaged, vulnerable and indigenous peoples in every society.
Some specific objectives for the 2004 Rio Declaration were as follows …
To present a 2nd Generation Definition of Sustainable Development which is more acceptable to the Developing World ;
To restore primacy to the Social Aspects of Sustainable Development … and particularly the ethical values of Social Justice, Solidarity and Inclusion-for-All ;
To embed the concept of the ‘Person’ in Sustainable Development … rather than the fleeting reference to ‘People’ which too often results in Disadvantaged, Vulnerable and Indigenous Groups being left behind ;
To signal one of the main challenges of Sustainable Development ahead – which will be to establish a framework of horizontal co-ordination at the many institutional levels … and between the many actors and end users … in the human environment.
Adopted in December 2004, at the Brazil Designing for the 21st Century III Conference, the Rio Declaration consists of a Preamble, 10 Principles and 5 Appendices ; its central concern involves People with Activity Limitations (2001 WHO ICF).
This Declaration extols implementation, and the targeting and monitoring of ‘real’ performance – as opposed to ‘imagined’ or ‘paper’ performance.
2019-04-05 (2021-07-22): Let us imagine, for a moment, that we are in another dimension … The Twilight Zone …
… and that this is a Positive Energy Building, set in a sprawling, diverse, interconnected and flourishing #Woodland with its ecosystems, flora and fauna … an idealized scene … the Sustainability Idyll …
But … is it … ?? What percentage of the world’s population would ever have the opportunity to live this way ???
And … lurking all around this beautiful scene, is an inherent and growing threat to life, property, and those trees, shrubs, and wildlife … #Wildfires / #Bushfires …
The Aim of Sustainable Fire Engineering (#SFE) is to dramatically reduce direct and indirect fire losses in the Human Environment (including the social, built, economic, virtual, and institutional environments) … to protect the Natural Environment … and, within Buildings, to ensure that there is an effective level of Fire Safety for All Users / Occupants, not just for Some, during the full building life cycle.
[ Human Environment: Anywhere there is, or has been, an intrusion by a human being in the Natural Environment. ]
So … how do we reduce direct and indirect fire losses in the Human Environment … and improve its #Resilience ?
A recent publication provides a good platform – a benchmark – to begin this serious conversation …
December 2018 … the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (#IUFRO), which is based in Vienna, published Occasional Paper No. 32: ‘GLOBAL FIRE CHALLENGES IN A WARMING WORLD – Summary Note of a Global Expert Workshop on Fire and Climate Change’ …
Today, catastrophic wildfires are increasingly common across the globe. Recent disasters have attracted media attention and strengthened the perception of wildfires as ‘bad’ events, a plague worsened by climate disruption that has yet to be eradicated. Although it is true that fire has a destructive potential, the reality of global fire activity depicts a much more complex picture in which fire can be a useful, if not necessary, tool for food security and the preservation of cultural landscapes, as well as a an integral element of many ecosystems and their biodiversity.
Global fire activity is shaped by diverse social, economic, and natural drivers influencing the fire environment. The culminating complexity of these factors defines, in turn, the likelihood of a landscape to burn and the potential positive or negative outcomes for communities and ecosystems that can result from a blaze. Although many regions remain understudied, the effects of ongoing climate disruption associated with other planetary changes are already visible, transforming fire activity in ways that are not well understood but are likely to be dramatic, with potential dire consequences for nature, and society in case of #Adaptation failure.
Based on the limited available statistics, there is a growing trend in the cost of wildfires. In addition to human lives that are lost to flames or smoke, and the billions of euros imputable to firefighting and insurance coverage, the growing interest in costs linked to healthcare, business stability, or the provision of ecosystem services such as drinking-water indicates negative economic consequences impacting countries’ GDP and social stability. Attempts to evaluate the future costs of wildfire disasters point at a worsening situation, yet the list of possible social and economic effects is incomplete and the magnitude of envisaged impacts is conservative.
Notwithstanding the difficulties inherent to global climate modelling, there is a scientific consensus on the future increase in the frequency of fire-conducive weather associated with drier ecosystems, a mix that will eventually result in more frequent and intense fire activity. When combined with an ever-growing world population and unsustainable land uses, the conditions leading to fire disaster will only be intensified. Although fire governance has historically advocated for fire suppression, a ‘NO FIRE’ motto is not an option anymore in the new fire reality. Current policies aiming at total fire suppression have been shown to be detrimental and are therefore outdated. The key to wildfire disaster risk reduction in a changing world now lies in learning to live with fire.
Investments in international co-operation, integrated management, local community involvement, cutting-edge technologies, and long-term data collection are critically needed to ensure the future of fire disaster risk mitigation. Moreover, future land development policies must prioritize the protection and the restoration of natural and cultural landscapes that have been degraded by the inappropriate use of fire or, conversely, by historical fire exclusion; keeping a place for fire in forest resource management and landscape restoration has been shown to be a cost-effective and efficient solution to reduce fire hazard.
Overall, synthesis of globally available scientific evidence revealed the following key issues for Landscape Management and Governance:
Climate Disruption, with longer, hotter, and drier fire seasons, in combination with other environmental changes linked to population growth and unsustainable land-use practices, is contributing to extreme wildfire events that exceed existing fire management capacities. The world is entering a ‘new reality’ that demands new approaches to fire governance.
Fire is an inherent feature of the Earth System and many ecosystems, including their fauna, are dependent on it for their long-term survival; nevertheless, ongoing changes in global fire activity in terms of location, intensity, severity, and frequency will have immense costs for biodiversity, ecosystem services, human well-being and livelihoods, and national economies – to extents that have yet to be evaluated. Investment in social, economic, and environmental monitoring is therefore urgent, especially in under-studied regions.
Integrated fire risk reduction is key to adapting to ongoing changes in global fire risk. Future #Sustainable Fire Risk Mitigation demands integrated region-specific approaches based on a clear understanding of fires in context, population awareness and preparedness, fire surveillance and early-warning systems, adaptive suppression strategies, fire-regime restoration, landscape-scale fuel management, changes to many land use practices, and active restoration of landscapes.
Engagement with local communities, land-owners, businesses and public stakeholders – via multiple tiers of governance – is crucial to restore and maintain landscapes that are biodiverse and functional, respectful of local cultures and identities, economically productive, and above all, fire-resilient.
People have historically achieved sustainable co-existence with flammable ecosystems and have often used fire as a land-management tool, thereby shaping many modern and long-standing landscapes around the world. Traditional fire knowledge is thus key to adapting to local changes in fire activity, using known techniques for the reduction of dangerous fuel loads, prescribed burning and sustainable landscape management practices.
Building adaptive capacity to confront fires must be based on knowledge of the natural and cultural roles of fire, how they have shaped our modern landscapes, and their importance in the long-term functioning of socio-ecological systems. Further developments in land-system science, geospatial technologies, and computer modelling will enhance our understanding of the long-term ecological and socio-economic drivers of fire through the widespread collection and distribution of harmonized fire data at the global level. However, creating and sharing such knowledge requires national and international investments in scientific and operational fire science programmes.
Catastrophic fires are undeniably part of our future. Current scientific estimates are conservative, meaning that changes in fire activity might be worse than anticipated. We have to act now to mitigate catastrophic fires and limit the occurrence of disastrous situations. Given disparities but also similarities in the levels of fire risk around the world, and the capacities to manage it, knowledge and technology transfers through international cooperation will be a paramount factor in learning to live with fire.
This Occasional Paper is the result of a large collaborative effort by fire scientists and practitioners who believe that learning to co-exist with changing fire activity is not only possible but necessary if we, as a global society, are to adapt to climate disruption and keep our natural and cultural landscapes healthy, resilient, and safe for the next generations. The work presented hereafter was developed during, and as follow-up to, the Global Expert Workshop on ‘Fire and Climate Change’ hosted in Vienna, Austria, on 2-4 July 2018. It stresses the diversity and the complexity of the global fire situation, a situation that is evolving, positively or negatively, in unknown proportions due to global environmental changes — with climate disruption being the most acknowledged manifestation.
Conclusion – Learning To Live With Fire
We live on a flammable planet; although not everything is meant to burn, fire cannot be eliminated. Ongoing global climate disruption combined with other planetary changes is leading to more frequent and more extreme fires exposing vulnerable societies, economies, and ecosystems to disaster situations. The recognition of fire activity as a worsening hazard threatening human security is the necessary first step towards international co-operation for the mitigation of disaster risk situations in fire-prone areas.
However, we are not defenceless. Fire scientists in many regions of the world have been developing successful strategies and tools based on cutting-edge technologies for several years. Those are now mature enough to be up-scaled and adapted to other geographic contexts as part of national fire management frameworks. Additionally, integrating existing and future scientific knowledge on climate disruption and changing fire regimes, and systematically collecting long-term data on current and past fire uses will foster better informed decisions, models and enhanced efforts towards Wildfire Disaster Risk Reduction, as well as contribute to the development of Sustainable Anthropocene Fire Regimes.
We hope this paper will be a catalyst for a paradigm shift, so fires are not seen as an enemy to fight but as natural and necessary phenomena, as well as a useful and necessary tool that can often help protect people and nature. It is paramount to revise, fund, and fulfil future management, research, and governance needs if we are, as world citizens, to trigger a societal change that will help us better live with fires.
The information and insights contained in this Occasional Paper connect together to promote the use of several existing solutions to the problem: defining national fire risk reduction frameworks, collecting and analyzing relevant traditional knowledge and biophysical fire data, investing in fire detection and prediction technologies, involving and preparing stakeholders, and improving fire use and landscape management in ways that help control the fuel load and the spread of fire, while limiting GreenHouse Gas (#GHG) emissions and protecting the communities and the landscapes they live in and often depend on.
The Status Quo is no longer an option; it is time to make Integrated Fire Management the rule rather than the exception.
I was very pleased to make a Presentation at both events, adapted to suit an Irish context, on … ‘Sustainable Fire Engineering – Necessary Professional Transformation For The 21st Century’ … which continues to evolve.
Sustainable Fire Engineering: The creative, person-centred and ethical Fire Engineering response, in resilient built form and smart systems, to the concept of Sustainable Human and Social Development … the many aspects of which must receive synchronous and balanced consideration !
Annual Fire Losses, both direct and indirect, amount to a very significant percentage of Gross Domestic Product (#GDP) in all economies, whether they are rich or poor … and result in enormous environmental devastation and social disruption. Some losses have not yet been fully identified, e.g. environmental impact … while others are not yet capable of being fully quantified, e.g. business interruption, brand and reputation damage. Globally, fire statistics still remain unreliable. In all cases, however, the waste of valuable human and natural resources caused by preventable fires is unsustainable and no longer acceptable.
From an entirely different perspective … Sustainable Buildings are presenting every society with an innovative and exciting re-interpretation of how a building functions in response to critical energy, environmental, climate change and planetary capacity pressures … an approach which has left the International Fire Engineering and Firefighting Communities far behind in its wake, struggling to develop the necessary ‘creative’ and ‘sustainable’ fire safety strategies.
The Aim of Sustainable Fire Engineering (#SFE) is to dramatically reduce direct and indirect fire losses in the Human Environment (including the social, built, economic, virtual, and institutional environments) … to protect the Natural Environment … and, within buildings, to ensure that there is an effective level of Fire Safety for All Occupants, not just for Some, over the full building life cycle.
The following Priority Themes for SFE lie outside, or beyond, the constrained and limited fire safety objectives of current fire regulations, codes and standards – objectives which do not properly protect society, a fire engineer’s clients, or the facility manager’s organization:
Fire Safety for ALL, not just for Some. Nobody left behind !
Firefighter Safety. Everyone goes home ! It is easy to dramatically improve firefighter safety with building design. So, why haven’t NIST’s 2005 and 2008 WTC 9-11 Critical Recommendations been properly implemented anywhere ?
Property Protection. Fire damage and post-fire reconstruction/refurbishment are a huge waste of resources. On the other hand, protection of an organization’s image/brand/reputation is important … and business continuity is essential. Heritage fire losses can never be replaced.
Environmental Impact. Prevention of a fire is far better than any cure ! But prevention must also begin by specifying ‘clean’ technologies and products. Low Pressure Water Mist Systems are not only person/environment-friendly and resource efficient … they are absolutely essential in airtight and hyper energy-efficient building types (e.g. LEED, PassivHaus, BREEAM) in order to achieve an effective level of fire safety for all occupants, and firefighters. [ Note: Environmental Impact Assessment (#EIA) has been superseded by Sustainability Impact Assessment (#SIA).]
Building Innovation, People and Their Interaction. Fire engineers and firefighters must begin to understand today’s new design strategies.
Sustainable Design and Engineering. Wake up and smell the coffee ! Legislation can only achieve so much. Spatial planners, building designers and fire engineers must subscribe to a robust Code of Ethics * which is fit for purpose in the Human Environment of the 21st Century.
Sustainable Fire Engineering Solutions are …
Adapted to a local context, i.e. climate change/variability/extremes, social need, geography, economy, and culture, etc ;
Reliability-based – lessons from real extreme and hybrid events, e.g. 2001 WTC 9-11 Attack, 2008 Mumbai/2015 Paris/2016 Brussels Hive Attacks and the 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident, are applied to frontline practice ;
Person-centred – real people are placed at the centre of creative endeavours and due consideration is given to their responsible needs, and their health, safety, welfare and security in the Human Environment ;
Resilient – functioning must be reliable during normal conditions, and include the ability to withstand, adapt to and absorb unusual disturbance, disruption or damage, and thereafter to quickly return to an enhanced state of function.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP – https://www.unenvironment.org/) has recently published the First Global Report on Environmental Rule of Law … which finds weak enforcement to be a global trend that is exacerbating environmental threats, despite the prolific growth in environmental laws and agencies worldwide over the last four decades.
The answer, of course, is rigorous implementation of environmental law … most particularly in those developed countries which have amassed their riches, over past centuries, from the plunder of natural, human and cultural resources in Central & South America, Africa and Asia.
If human society is to stay within the bounds of critical ecological thresholds, it is imperative that environmental laws are widely understood, respected, and enforced … and the benefits of environmental protection are enjoyed by people and the planet. Environmental rule of law offers a framework for addressing the gap between environmental laws on the books and in practice, and is key to achieving the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.
Environmental laws have grown dramatically over the last three decades, as countries have come to understand the vital linkages between environment, economic growth, public health, social cohesion, and security. As of 2017, 176 countries have environmental framework laws; 150 countries have enshrined environmental protection or the right to a healthy environment in their constitutions; and 164 countries have created cabinet-level bodies responsible for environmental protection. These and other environmental laws, rights, and institutions have helped to slow – and in some cases to reverse – environmental degradation and to achieve the public health, economic, social, and human rights benefits which accompany environmental protection.
The 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment brought the global environment into the public consciousness, leading to the establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme. Following the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (known as the Rio Earth Summit), many countries made a concerted effort to enact environmental laws, establish environment ministries and agencies, and enshrine environmental rights and protections in their national constitutions. By the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, the focus had shifted to implementation of environmental laws, which is where progress has waned.
Too often, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws and regulations falls far short of what is required to address environmental challenges. Laws sometimes lack clear standards or necessary mandates. Others are not tailored to national and local contexts and so fail to address the conditions on the ground. Implementing ministries are often underfunded and politically weak in comparison to ministries responsible for economic or natural resource development. And while many countries are endeavouring to strengthen implementation of environmental law, a backlash has also occurred as environmental defenders are killed and funding for civil society restricted. These shortfalls are by no means limited to developing nations: reviews of developed nations have found their performance on environmental issues lacking in certain respects. In short, environmental rule of law is a challenge for all countries. This Report discusses the range of measures that countries are adopting to address this implementation gap – and to ensure that rule of law is effective in the environmental sphere.
As the first assessment of the global environmental rule of law, this Report draws on experiences, challenges, viewpoints, and successes of diverse countries around the world, highlighting global trends as well as opportunities for countries and partners to strengthen the environmental rule of law.
The Report highlights the need to undertake a regular global assessment of the state of environmental rule of law. To track progress nationally and globally, it is necessary to utilize a set of consistent indicators. The Report proposes an indicator framework for environmental rule of law and highlights existing datasets that may be utilized in support of the global assessment.
The Report also calls for a concerted effort to support countries in pilot testing approaches to strengthen environmental rule of law. Such an initiative could support testing of approaches in diverse contexts, and then adapting them before scaling them up. It should also foster exchange of experiences between jurisdictions to foster learning.
In addition to these two cross-cutting recommendations, the Report highlights numerous actionable steps that States can take to support environmental rule of law. For example, States can evaluate the current mandates and structure of environmental institutions to identify regulatory overlap or underlap. States and partners can build the capacity of the public to engage thoughtfully and meaningfully with government and project proponents. They can prioritize protection of environmental defenders and whistle-blowers. States may consider the creation of specialized environmental courts and tribunals, and use administrative enforcement processes to handle minor offences. And there is an ongoing need to research which approaches are effective under what circumstances.
The benefits of environmental rule of law extend far beyond the environmental sector. While the most direct effects are in protection of the environment, it also strengthens rule of law more broadly, supports sustainable economic and social development, protects public health, contributes to peace and security by avoiding and defusing conflict, and protects human and constitutional rights. As such, it is a growing priority for all countries.
At this time, in London … multiple, fragmented investigations are taking place into the actual fire incident … the role of the Local Authority, and building management … those involved in the refurbishment (‘tarting up’) design and construction … the fire services, particularly their ‘Stay Put’ Policy and how it adversely impacted on vulnerable Tower occupants during the emergency … and the highly flawed regulatory model of Building and Fire Codes with light-touch Control, which is still operating in England. One of Murphy’s Laws immediately springs to mind with regard to the intended ineffectiveness of this overly-complex process !
Many other countries have adopted some or all of this modern English regulatory model which, after the repeal of an older Bye-Law format, has been shaped by political expediency, cost-effectiveness and general ineptitude … with little or no adaptation to local conditions in the adopting jurisdictions. Ireland adopted this model with some, but not a lot, of adaptation.
Fire Safety In Ireland ?
On 6 June 2018 … while that investigative activity was hitting the headlines in England … Minister Eoghan Murphy, T.D., Ireland’s Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, quietly published the Report: ‘Fire Safety in Ireland’ … http://www.housing.gov.ie/local-government/fire-and-emergency-management/fire-safety/eoghan-murphy-publishes-report-fire … by a High-Level Task Force within his Department’s National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management, after serious concerns and fears had been expressed in the public media that a similar fire tragedy might also occur in this jurisdiction.
To be crystal clear … this Report is a Bureaucratic Whitewash … an insult to the Public ! Nice sounding technical ‘blarney’ camouflages a failure to deal directly with critical issues, and answer concerns … while other important issues are avoided altogether.
.May 2018 – Ireland’s Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government Report
Expanding on my comments in the Interview with Barry Lenihan, on RTE Radio 1’s Drive Time early evening news programme on Friday (2018-06-08) …
A. Initially, Irish Local Authorities were requested to carry out a preliminary survey to identify all buildings of more than six storeys, or 18m in height. Specifically, they were asked to identify those buildings which had an external cladding system which might be a cause for concern.
This height threshold of six storeys/18m is arbitrary … an external cladding system can be just as much a cause for concern in a building which is lower. Imagine discarded cigarette butts or a rubbish fire at the base of such a system … and the resulting speed of fire spread and development across a building façade !
B. The highly flawed regulatory model of Building and Fire Codes, with light-touch Control, which resulted in the Grenfell Tower Fire Tragedy … we also have. Wake up and smell the coffee Ireland !
At the beginning of the 1990’s, when Ireland had been persuaded by the European Commission to finally introduce legal, national building regulations having a functional format … our National Authority Having Jurisdiction, in desperation, grabbed the then Approved Documents for England & Wales … brought them back to Ireland, put Irish covers on them, and originally called them ‘Technical Documents’ … but, after seeing a tiny ray of inspiring light, later changed their title to the more accurate ‘Technical Guidance Documents’ ! This hunger for adopting all things English which are fire safety related continues to this day … with a similar, ongoing division of Technical Guidance Document B: ‘Fire Safety’ into 2 Separate Volumes.
This may have been a convenient response under pressure … but it has been very short-sighted. It has impeded the growth of a comprehensive and coherent philosophy on Safe, Inclusive, Age-Friendly, Resilient, Sustainable Planning, Design and Construction Codes/Controls which is suited to an Irish context and responsible local needs (not desires!).
C. Everywhere … this Report has a lot – too much – to say about Fire Risk Assessment ! After the Grenfell Tower Fire, however, Fire Risk Assessments must only be carried out by competent persons … and the process of Fire Risk Assessment, itself, must be radically improved ! And of course, prior to any Risk Assessment … a proper Fire Hazard Appraisal must be carried out.
D. To accurately present Fire Safety Trends in Ireland … it is not enough to furnish reliable fire fatality statistics. It is also necessary to produce reliable fire injury statistics … and reliable information on direct/indirect socio-economic losses.
E. The quality of fire safety related construction on Irish Building Sites continues to be very poor and problematic. Fire Compartmentation is nowhere near being adequately – never mind acceptably – reliable ! And during the last few years we have had quite a number of close-calls concerning fire incidents in medium-rise residential buildings.
F.Fire Evacuation for people with activity limitations is still handled atrociously in our current building regulations. This is ironic because, on 20 March 2018 last, Ireland had to be dragged screaming to ratify the U.N. 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) !
Positive Progress By Another Path !
1. Abandon the outdated English functional requirements in THEIR building regulations … and adopt a far better, more up-to-date body of functional requirements which is already on the Irish Statute Books … Annex I of the European Union’s Construction Products Regulation 305/2011. And because there are important horizontal linkages between requirements … immediately finish the ridiculous current separation between Fire Safety requirements and all of the other requirements. And yes … new Technical Guidance Documents will have to be drafted.
.Regulation (EU) No 305/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 9 March 2011, laying down harmonized conditions for the marketing of construction products and repealing Council Directive 89/106/EEC
2. Yes … ‘Persons Having Control’ of buildings have responsibilities with regard to fire safety. But that is only one side of the coin ! National and Local Authorities Having Jurisdiction have greater responsibilities.
If we are at all serious about Consumer Protection … bad, inadequate, faulty construction must be prevented beforehand … it is too late, too costly and, in many cases, too impractical to correct afterwards. Self Regulation by building design professions and construction organizations is NO Regulation ! Stringent, independent technical control inspections must be carried out on all projects by Building Control personnel … which used to happen in Dublin City/County and Cork City/County prior to the introduction of legal building regulations in the early 1990’s … and, depending on complexity, must also be carried out at critical stages during the construction process.
Building Control Sections in all Local Authorities must be properly resourced with competent personnel, equipment, training and support infrastructure.
Inspections concerning compliance with all functional requirements in the building regulations, including fire safety, must be carried out only by Building Control Personnel. Chief Fire Officers must not be allowed to manage or be involved in any aspect of Building Control. On the same project … a Disability Access Certificate Application and a Fire Safety Certificate Application must be inter-linked and overlap sufficiently, showing no gaps in compliance. Inspections must be carried out in connection with all Certificate Applications. Building Control personnel must satisfy themselves that actual construction at least matches, if not improves upon, what is shown in design documentation.
Building Control Inspection Reports must be made available for public view.
3.Firefighters are NOT a disposable Social Asset ! National and Local Authorities Having Jurisdiction … and some Chief Fire Officers … must begin to understand this fundamental truth !
Fire Services in all Local Authorities must each be properly resourced according to local needs … with competent personnel, equipment, training and support infrastructure. Shared provision of resources looks very neat on paper but, in practice, works very badly. Refer to the Grenfell Tower Fire and London Fire Brigade having to borrow firefighting equipment from other Fire Services.
After the 2015 Tianjin Regional Fire Devastation, in China, and the 2001 WTC Attacks on 9-11, in New York City … front line firefighters must be supported by Specialist Hazard Appraisal and Structural Engineering Units.
For Firefighter Safety in buildings and to quickly find people with activity limitations waiting in Areas of Rescue Assistance and/or other survivors in different locations … a portable and reliable Thermal Imaging Camera is an essential piece of every firefighter’s equipment.
And Firefighter Safety begins with good building design. In all but the most simple building types, Circulation Routes must be designed for Contraflow … people moving away from a fire in a building and towards safety while, at the same time, heavily equipped firefighters are entering the building and moving towards the fire.
There is no place for ‘Stay Put’ Policies in Irish Residential Buildings of any height.
Ireland’s 2017 Oireachtas Report: ‘Safe As Houses’ …
December 2017 – Houses of the Oireachtas – Joint Committee on Housing, Planning & Local Government
This was a good effort by our public representatives … but they missed core issues !
After The Grenfell Tower Fire !
Further to my last Blog, dated 2017-10-10 …
The 2017 Fire in England was not an extraordinary fire. Since the beginning of this decade, we continue to see a series of such fires: South Korea (2010) – UAE & France (2012) – Chechnya (2013) -Australia (2014) – UAE, Azerbaijan & UAE again (2015) – UAE (2016) – UAE & Russia (2017) – Turkey (2018).
With regard to Command & Control of Large Scale Emergencies … English AHJ’s should have paid attention to the 2005 & 2008 U.S. National Institute of Science & Technology (NIST) Recommendations following the 9-11 WTC Buildings 1, 2 & 7 Collapses.
The Fire Safety Objectives in current Building & Fire Codes/Regulations are very limited. In Ireland, this is clearly stated in Technical Guidance Document B …
‘ Building Regulations are made for specific purposes. Part B of the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations is therefore primarily concerned with the health, safety and welfare of persons. The fire safety measures outlined in this guidance document are intended for the protection of life from fire.’
Only insofar as it is necessary to protect the lives of able-bodied building users/occupants … is there a concern for property protection.
There is only inadequate, token concern for the protection of people with disabilities.
Client organizations, facility managers, building designers, construction organizations … and journalists … must fully comprehend these limits.
In the photograph below … look closely at the External Firefighting Operations at the bottom of the Tower. There are limits to what can be achieved from outside a building !
A Fire Suppression System (Water Sprinklers/Mist/Hybrid) is an essential Fire Protection Measure in ALL Medium and High-Rise Residential Buildings … which include Apartment Blocks, Hotels, Hostels, Student Accommodation & Social Housing, i.e. ANYWHERE there is a Sleeping Hazard.
A Reliable and Credible Fire Detection & Warning System is an essential Fire Protection Measure in ALL Buildings … and must be capable, under the control of Building Management, of transmitting warnings in many formats, i.e. Audible + Visual + Multi-Lingual Voice + Tactile.
Fire Evacuation Routes in Buildings must be designed for CONTRAFLOW … people moving away from a fire and towards safety while, at the same time, heavily equipped firefighters are entering the building and moving towards the fire.
Good Fire Evacuation Route Design is INTUITIVE and OBVIOUS. In many buildings, however, this is not always the reality. Effective Fire Evacuation Signage … comprising high-level signage, low-level signage, with both supplemented by photoluminescence … must be installed in ALL Buildings.
For the purpose of protecting Vulnerable Building Users in Fire Emergencies, ALL Lifts/Elevators in Buildings must be capable of being used for Evacuation.
Fire Risk Assessments must NO LONGER be carried out by people WITHOUT COMPETENCE in Fire Engineering AND Building Design & Construction … and the Fire Risk Assessment Process itself must be thoroughly re-examined and upgraded.
Media reaction, in Ireland, to this News Release was hysterical and grossly ill-informed !
“A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery ; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.”