Cultural heritage

Wind Turbine Fires – Facing Up To The ‘Environmental Impact’ !?!

2016-04-19:  A Priority Theme of  SFE 2016 DUBLIN, next September, is the ‘Adverse Environmental Impact’ caused by Preventable Fires in the Built Environment.  Last year’s horrendous devastation of large tracts of land, air and ground waters in the Tianjin port region of North-Eastern China is one very obvious example.

BUT, consider also … Wind Turbine Fires.  As we move closer and closer towards a planetary environmental precipice … there IS enormous pressure to harvest more and more energy from renewable, non-carbon resources.  Windmills, of old, used wind energy to perform an important function in a local context.  Everybody could see what was happening inside.  Local people reaped the benefits.  Modern wind turbines, on the other hand … ?

The First Major Issue concerning Wind Turbines, which received only half-hearted attention at best, was their …

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.

But, at least, ‘it’ was mentioned in conversations !

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Click image to enlarge.

The next major issue, the Fire Issue, is a different matter entirely.  This problem does NOT exist … NEVER happens … NOBODY KNOWS NOTHING !   And not just in Ireland or Europe … the ‘real’ fire statistics are either ignored, massaged or concealed.

Wind turbines differ from other forms of traditional power generation because of the inherent risk of total fire loss of the nacelle.  The main features of this risk include:

  • high concentration of value within the nacelle ;
  • high concentration of potential ignition sources within the nacelle, and increased risk of lightning strikes ;
  • unmanned operation ;
  • no possibility of fighting a fire in the nacelle by local fire service personnel, because they are too high up and/or there is no access for fire service vehicles ;
  • remote, sometimes very difficult to reach geographical locations of wind turbines, particularly in the case of offshore installations.

[ Nacelle:  A cover, or housing, for all of the generating components in a wind turbine, including the generator, gearbox, drive train, and brake assembly.]

The cost of wind turbines and their components, as well as restoration and repair costs after a fire, increase in proportion to installed generating capacity.  In addition, losses caused by service interruption also increase in a similar proportion.

According to the loss experience of Insurers, fires in wind turbines can cause significant damage to property and have very high post-fire costs.

Fire Loss in Wind Turbines Can Occur …

  • in the nacelle ;
  • in the tower ;
  • in the electrical sub-station of the wind turbine or wind farm.

Due to the high concentration of technical equipment and combustible material in the nacelle, fire can develop and spread rapidly.  There is also the danger that the upper tower segment will be damaged.  In the case of a total loss of the nacelle, restoration costs may well reach the original value of the whole turbine.

These ‘Preventable’ Fire Losses Are NOT Sustainable !

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PDF File, 601Kb – Click ‘CFPA-E Guideline’ link below to download.

Which is why, in September 2012, the European Fire Protection Associations decided to publish a common guideline in order to ensure similar interpretations in the different European countries … and to give examples of acceptable solutions, concepts and models.  The Confederation of Fire Protection Associations in Europe (CFPA-E) aims to facilitate and support fire protection work.

The European marketplace is constantly imposing new demands for quality and safety.  According to CFPA-E, fire protection forms an integral part of a modern business strategy for survival and competitiveness.  We thoroughly agree !

This CFPA-E Guideline (No.22 – September 2012) on Wind Turbine Fire Protection in Europe – produced by VdS Schadenverhütung and drafted by Hardy Rusch – is primarily intended for those people responsible for fire safety in companies and organizations.  It is also addressed to fire services, consultants, safety companies, etc … so that, in the course of their work, they may be able to assist companies and organizations in increasing levels of fire safety.

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Important New Publication: ‘Heritage – Driver of Development’

2013-06-09:  Further to yesterday’s post … and my use of the phrase ‘Adapted to Local Context and Heritage (fr: le Patrimoine)’ … in relation to Sustainable Fire Engineering Design Solutions … or, indeed, Sustainable Design Solutions generally …

The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) … has just published the hard-copy version of … ‘Le Patrimoine, Moteur de Développement : Enjeux et Projets … the proceedings from the 2011 ICOMOS International Scientific Symposium, which was held in conjunction with the 17th ICOMOS General Assembly in early December 2011 … and organized by ICOMOS-France (www.icomosfrance.fr).

This bilingual (French and English) document provides a summary of the 4 Main Issues discussed during the Paris Symposium.

Manifested here … is a profound re-imagining of the concept of ‘heritage’, and its symbiotic relationship with ‘local context’ … which also now facilitates a synergetic fusion of ‘heritage’ with mainstream sustainable development theory and implementation.  I have highlighted key passages …

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HERITAGE – DRIVER OF DEVELOPMENT

The Theme of the International Scientific Symposium, which forms part of the ICOMOS General Assembly, is the role of heritage in the creation of tomorrow’s society.

The effects of globalization, which are manifested in growing trends towards standardization and westernization, bring various forms of instability to human societies.  Until now, heritage has been confined to the role of passive conservation of the past, and so has often been seen as a burden hindering development.  In the future, it should be called upon instead to play a major role, re-establishing cultural identity and diversity as key reference points for development; these factors are currently endangered, yet vital.  There is therefore a need to reassess the role of heritage in a constructive way.

The concept of heritage, which ranges from designated historic monuments to a jumble of memories, first needs a clear definition which identifies its inherent nature and sets out its boundaries and limits, now and in the future.

As it would be impossible to cover all these issues at the Symposium, it is proposed to focus on the following four issues, chosen for their fundamental importance or contemporary relevance …

Arles, France - Photograph 1

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2009-08-14. Click to enlarge.

1.   Regional Development

As more and more people abandon small towns and the countryside, migrating to large conurbations, urban development has become anarchic, ad-hoc and difficult to control.  This has already had serious, even catastrophic, results … in particular:

–   The disruption of spatial scale and the loss of landmarks ;

–   The breakdown of social relationships, loss of communal solidarity, concerns over security, extremist and violent demonstrations ;

–   An imbalance between the city – where most concerns now focus and where most development projects take place – and the countryside, where the issue is no longer merely rural decline, but rather the complete socio-economic and cultural collapse of forgotten populations ;

–   The squandering and trivialization of space, which is a non-renewable resource, and in particular the loss of landscapes and farmland, resulting from both extensive urban encroachment and land being left to lie fallow.

It is vital to return to a more balanced form of development.  This will be achieved by replacing the principle of urban expansion with that of regional development, which takes into account both the countryside and secondary urban centres (small and medium-sized towns), as part of a balanced network.  In this context, lessons from our heritage will again be valued as an inspiration for new developments: time-honoured frameworks, traditional plot sizes, methods of organization (urban historic core zones), communication (by land – rail – water), and energy generation (small-scale solar and hydroelectric power stations), etc.

Arles, France - Photograph 2

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2009-08-14. Click to enlarge.

2.   Sustainable (Human & Social) Development – Return to the Art of Building !

The second half of the 20th Century was marked by the frantic exploitation of fossil fuels and is credited with the international spread of Western lifestyles and buildings, said to represent ‘progress’ but nevertheless creating a decisive break with traditional models.  The goals we have today for energy saving and recycling require a fundamental change in the character of both new and old buildings, in line with the following three points:

–   Expertise in Re-Use.  Until the 1950’s, heritage buildings – especially vernacular ones – provided countless examples of successful adaptation to the physical environment (location, orientation, protection from sun, wind, and climate); use of local materials (earth – wood – stone, etc.); traditional techniques providing / guaranteeing the greatest opportunities to acquire and perfect artisanal skills; and an optimum capacity for recycling.  The resulting buildings address today’s requirements for sustainable development particularly well.  Where historic buildings are capable of residential re-use according to modern sustainability criteria, we must be able to measure and maximise their current performance before adapting them according to new artificial design standards.

–   Expertise in Building.  In terms of new construction, recent examples have shown the ability of traditional practices to create architecture that is indisputably creative and modern/contemporary, and offer an alternative to artificial solutions proposed in response to new standards.

–   Adapting to Sustainable Living.  Rather than putting the entire onus on the built heritage, we must question our expectations about comfort and utilization.  We need to abandon attempts to use sites for activities for which they are fundamentally not suited; modify usage according to the seasons (closing down places that are difficult to heat in winter); and, finally, reconsider our demands in terms of comfort, which have grown excessively and unreasonably over the last decades.  The progress that would be made in the fields of environmental and public health is well known.

Arles, France - Photograph 3

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2009-08-14. Click to enlarge.

3.   Development and Tourism

Heritage is a major part of the tourist industry, but at the same time, because of the mass consumption to which it is increasingly subject, it runs the risk of becoming meaningless, by fluctuating between preservation of museum pieces and theme-park caricatures.  Cut off from its context, the real significance of heritage is drowned out by a feeble reflection, and its very nature is altered by excessive numbers of visitors and the facilities installed for them.

Several courses of action are available, among others:

–   Rendering identification with cultural heritage tangible … by revealing and interpreting heritage in all the richness of its context and distinctiveness, and by encouraging public awareness of history through education and the wider media.

–   Controlling public access … so as both to limit physical erosion and to ensure the comfort of visitors and provide the best conditions for them to understand and appreciate the value of heritage.  Some preliminary reports on trials successfully undertaken at a number of buildings and Grands Sites [designated French cultural landscapes] may help in developing guidelines.

Arles, France - Photograph 4

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2009-08-14. Click to enlarge.

4.   Economics of Development

“The Amphitheatre at Nîmes and the Pont du Gard have brought more to France than they ever cost the Romans.”  This quotation from Abbé Grégoire in the second year of the French Republic remains valid today.  Investment in our heritage produces particularly attractive returns.  The cultural sector fully understands this, but adopts methods that tend to be rather commercial.

This investment must be better directed, by identifying targets and striving more for qualitative results rather than short-term profits.

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Buildings of Historical, Architectural & Cultural Importance !

2009-10-08:  Deeply interested … and ‘luuuving’ … a hands-on and direct involvement in the Sustainable Restoration of Buildings which are of Historical, Architectural or Cultural Importance … or even those buildings which are not so important … I am deeply frustrated and angry when I look around at what has happened … and continues to happen … in Ireland … horrible, damaging interventions and alterations of all kinds … too many of which cannot be undone.

Certain guru-like organizations and individuals must be robustly challenged !

Yes … in everyday practice, there are pressures concerning an improvement of energy performance (BER Certificates !) … an improvement of accessibility performance for people with activity limitations (2001 WHO ICF) … an improvement of fire safety performance, etc., etc. … and, in the next few short years, adaptation to climate change will require serious attention.

BUT – BUT – BUT … in dealing with these buildings (a priceless heritage for our children, and their children, which cannot be replaced !) … some absolutely core principles must influence the minds of decision-makers in client and construction organizations, national authorities having jurisdiction, regulators … and, most importantly, the minds and souls of architects and engineers.  (I am wondering … do engineers have souls ?)

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ICOMOSInternational Council on Monuments & Sites / Conseil International des Monuments et des Sites – works for the conservation and protection of cultural heritage places and is the only global, non-governmental organization of its kind.  It is dedicated to promoting the application of theory, methodology, and scientific techniques to the conservation of the architectural and archaeological heritage.  Its work is based on the principles enshrined in the 1964 International Charter on the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites (Venice Charter).

From practical experience, I have found the 16 Principles of the 1964 Venice Charter to be enormously helpful …

ARTICLE 1    The concept of an historic monument embraces not only the single architectural work but also the urban or rural setting in which is found the evidence of a particular civilization, a significant development or an historic event.  This applies not only to great works of art but also to more modest works of the past which have acquired cultural significance with the passing of time.

ARTICLE 2    The conservation and restoration of monuments must have recourse to all the sciences and techniques which can contribute to the study and safeguarding of the architectural heritage.

ARTICLE 3    The intention in conserving and restoring monuments is to safeguard them no less as works of art than as historical evidence.

ARTICLE 4    It is essential to the conservation of monuments that they be maintained on a permanent basis.

ARTICLE 5    The conservation of monuments is always facilitated by making use of them for some socially useful purpose.  Such use is therefore desirable but it must not change the lay-out or decoration of the building.  It is within these limits only that modifications demanded by a change of function should be envisaged and may be permitted.

ARTICLE 6    The conservation of a monument implies preserving a setting which is not out of scale.  Wherever the traditional setting exists, it must be kept.  No new construction, demolition or modification which would alter the relations of mass and colour must be allowed.

ARTICLE 7    A monument is inseparable from the history to which it bears witness and from the setting in which it occurs.  The moving of all or part of a monument cannot be allowed except where the safeguarding of that monument demands it or where it is justified by national or international interest of paramount importance.

ARTICLE 8    Items of sculpture, painting or decoration which form an integral part of a monument may only be removed from it if this is the sole means of ensuring their preservation.

ARTICLE 9    The process of restoration is a highly specialized operation.  Its aim is to preserve and reveal the aesthetic and historic value of the monument and is based on respect for original material and authentic documents.  It must stop at the point where conjecture begins, and in this case moreover any extra work which is indispensable must be distinct from the architectural composition and must bear a contemporary stamp.  The restoration in any case must be preceded and followed by an archaeological and historical study of the monument.

ARTICLE 10    Where traditional techniques prove inadequate, the consolidation of a monument can be achieved by the use of any modem technique for conservation and construction, the efficacy of which has been shown by scientific data and proved by experience.

ARTICLE 11    The valid contributions of all periods to the building of a monument must be respected, since unity of style is not the aim of a restoration.  When a building includes the superimposed work of different periods, the revealing of the underlying state can only be justified in exceptional circumstances and when what is removed is of little interest and the material which is brought to light is of great historical, archaeological or aesthetic value, and its state of preservation good enough to justify the action.  Evaluation of the importance of the elements involved and the decision as to what may be destroyed cannot rest solely on the individual in charge of the work.

ARTICLE 12    Replacements of missing parts must integrate harmoniously with the whole, but at the same time must be distinguishable from the original so that restoration does not falsify the artistic or historic evidence.

ARTICLE 13    Additions cannot be allowed except in so far as they do not detract from the interesting parts of the building, its traditional setting, the balance of its composition and its relation with its surroundings.

ARTICLE 14    The sites of monuments must be the object of special care in order to safeguard their integrity and ensure that they are cleared and presented in a seemly manner.  The work of conservation and restoration carried out in such places should be inspired by the principles set forth in the foregoing articles.

ARTICLE 15    Excavations should be carried out in accordance with scientific standards and the recommendation defining international principles to be applied in the case of archaeological excavation adopted by UNESCO in 1956.

Ruins must be maintained and measures necessary for the permanent conservation and protection of architectural features and of objects discovered must be taken.  Furthermore, every means must be taken to facilitate the understanding of the monument and to reveal it without ever distorting its meaning.

All reconstruction work should however be ruled out ‘a priori’.  Only anastylosis, that is to say, the reassembling of existing but dismembered parts can be permitted.  The material used for integration should always be recognizable and its use should be the least that will ensure the conservation of a monument and the reinstatement of its form.

ARTICLE 16    In all works of preservation, restoration or excavation, there should always be precise documentation in the form of analytical and critical reports, illustrated with drawings and photographs.  Every stage of the work of clearing, consolidation, rearrangement and integration, as well as technical and formal features identified during the course of the work, should be included.  This record should be placed in the archives of a public institution and made available to research workers.  It is recommended that the report should be published.

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Note on BER Certificates for Historical Buildings in Ireland

Unless and until that magnificent marketing and public relations firm … Energy Ireland (SEAI) … can openly show that the DEAP Software has been properly modified to handle buildings of historical, architectural or cultural importance … and this modification is fully transparent … Building Energy Rating (BER) Certification for these building types must be put on hold.

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