European Commission

Urgent ! … Next Generation Architectural Design Concepts

2013-05-30:  Further to the recent post here, dated 2013-04-02 … and this Page on our Corporate WebSite …

Pausing … and stepping back … to consider conventional architectural practice, how architects are educated, and whether or not the professional institutes are helping, or handicapping, the forward progress of Architecture for a Better, More Sustainable World … I am deeply concerned about the future …

1.  Should it be ‘Multi-Disciplinary’ or ‘Trans-Disciplinary’ ?

The word ‘trans-disciplinary’ is confusing to a lot of people … surprisingly, to many at senior levels in construction-related industries, research sectors, and academia … not just in Ireland, but internationally.  The more senior the level, it seems the higher are the walls of that proverbial ‘box’.  But, let me reassure you, thinking outside the ‘box’ is not confined to people in their early 20’s !!

Looking over just the initial list of Consultant Specialists in a complex architectural project … it is the task of the Architect to transform a widely ‘multi-disciplinary’ input into a coherent ‘trans-disciplinary’ output.  These two concepts are very different.

Next Generation Architectural Processes and Procedures are urgently required …

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2.  EU Climate & Energy Policies – Key Driving Forces for Sustainability !

Recently, the European Commission issued this Green Paper … (which, by the way, has absolutely nothing to say about Climate Change Adaptation !) …

European Commission - COM(2013) 169 final Cover

Click to enlarge.

European Commission COM(2013) 169 final – Brussels, 2013-03-27

EU Green Paper – A 2030 Framework for Climate and Energy Policies

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (104 Kb)

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Concerning this Green Paper … Two Important Points …

(i)    Current European Union (EU) Climate and Energy Policies are not just a passing fad … they are here to stay.  With certainty, we also know that they will become more and more stringent … and that higher levels of performance will be mandated … not just on paper or a computer printout … but in reality, for example, in buildings which are constructed and actually occupied by ‘real’ building users.  Refer also to recent findings, in Europe, about the large and growing discrepancy between car fuel efficiencies claimed after testing in a laboratory, and when later monitored under ‘real’ driving conditions.

(ii)   It has now become obvious that the European Commission has lost the plot … big time !   Policies and Actions in closely related fields have been permitted to become fragmented, disjointed, and even counter-productive.  Written into the EU treaties is the term ‘sustainable development’ … an intricate, open, dynamic and continuously evolving concept.  However, senior levels (both political and bureaucratic) in the different Directorates-General of the European Commission have long ago forgotten, mislaid and/or lost the proper meaning of ‘sustainability’ … and the essential interdependency of its many aspects.

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… which brings me to the urgent necessity for Next Generation Architectural Design Concepts

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In Europe … the 1990’s and early 2000’s, taken together, was a period of construction experimentation and research.  We thought we could afford the resources and the lazy times … to try this, that and the other.  Little emphasis was placed on practical implementation in ‘real’ buildings.  However, the scale and immediacy of today’s Sustainable Development Challenges in the Built Environment have, within a few short years and much more quickly than expected, become unprecedented.

The Yanks (Gringos) are very strong on marketing … much stronger than Europe … so let’s examine a small model building … and see if its Architectural Design Concept is both coherent and comprehensive …

Mr. Amory Lovins, of the Rocky Mountain Institute in the USA ( www.rmi.org ) … has produced a very snazzy Visitor’s Guide to the sprawling complex that is ‘his home, bioshelter and office’ in Snowmass, Colorado … a Guide intended for wide public circulation.

Concerning this Building … Three Points of Interest(?) …

(i)    For a fleeting moment … let us imagine that a percentage – not even all – of the vast populations living in Africa, India and China wanted the same sort of lifestyle, including the house, that Amory Lovins possesses.  What would be the resource implications for this planet ??

RMI / Amory Lovins House, Colorado, USA - Exterior - Roof Photovoltaic (PV) Panels

Click to enlarge.

(ii)   In a first construction ‘try’ … separate solar and/or photovoltaic panels fixed in place on a roof … attached to the building, almost as an afterthought … were the norm.  Now, however, these building systems are no longer innovative … they must be properly shown to be ‘fit for their intended use’ (to comply with building regulations and codes) … and they should now be fully integrated into the architectural design concept for the building … which is not the case in the photograph above.  [ Car manufacturers face a similar design challenge today … how to successfully integrate new technologies, e.g. satellite navigation screens, smartphone docking stations, usb sockets, bluetooth, etc., etc., into the front dashboard.]

RMI / Amory Lovins House, Colorado, USA - Exterior - Tracking Photovoltaic (PV) Panel

Anyway … how reproducible is this model building in urban and suburban contexts … in the USA … or elsewhere in the world ??   How many people would have access to sufficient land outside a building to ‘plant’ one, or a series of photovoltaic panels ?   Tracking photovoltaic panels, as shown above ??   And as seen in Italy, with those ridiculous photovoltaic fields (in a post, dated 2011-11-07 ) … good agricultural lands should not be used for this purpose … not now, not ever, never !

RMI / Amory Lovins House, Colorado, USA - Interior - Building Services

Photograph taken by Judy Hill Lovins. Click to enlarge.

(iii)  Sustainable Buildings are ‘high-tech’ … and a very large amount and variety of electronic and mechanical equipment is necessary in order to reliably monitor and tightly control their performance … in other words, to operate a building in accordance with its design specification.  Again … these services should be fully integrated into the architectural design concept for what is, no longer, just a simple dwelling.  Do similar houses without basements, for example, now need a central well-ventilated service room, complete with compact workstation ?

RMI / Amory Lovins House, Colorado, USA - Interior - Battery Array

Photograph taken by Judy Hill Lovins. Click to enlarge.

In my opinion … the Architectural Design Concept for this building is not coherent.  The overall architectural impression is one of a large sprawling house, on a very large plot of land … with many different ‘environmental/energy’-related appendages, or add-ons.  Can you see any coherence ?

It is the task of the Architect to consider all facets of building performance at the earliest stages of design … whether a small building, or a very large complex building … and to integrate those many diverse, but interdependent, facets into a coherent architectural statement … having a conceptual single crystalline shape … while also bearing in mind ‘person-centredness’‘flexibility’, ‘adaptability’, ‘accessibility for all’, and a ‘long and useful life cycle’.

[ An aside … closer to home … we are now witnessing the rise of the ‘Passive House Designer’.  This person, who is able to use a specific computer software package … no less, and no more … need not necessarily be an architect, or have any architectural education/training.  Is it possible to refer to the realized output from this software as ‘architecture’ … or are they merely drab, boring boxes ?? ]

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3.  Sustainable Buildings, Fire Safety & Fire Engineering ?

In the elaborate Amory Lovins Visitor’s Guide above … there is only one mention of fire hazard in the building … and that is in relation to a Passive Clothes Dryer (Page 40).  End of story with regard to the Fire Safety Issues for its Users … and the Fire Engineering Implications arising from a chosen architectural design and chosen construction materials and methods.

When I was referring to a centrally located service room in # 2(iii) above … that room should also be structurally hardened, and fire and smoke ‘separated’ from other spaces in the house.  Or … if the service equipment is located in a roof space, there are implications for roof structural reliability in a fire situation, and the fire resistance of the ceiling construction beneath.  Or … if the equipment is located in a basement, a simple intermediate timber floor construction overhead is inadequate.

Furthermore … an intelligent fire detection and warning system … and a suitable domestic fire suppression system … are no longer luxuries or optional extras, but essential requirements !   Who would want to lose such a valuable investment ??

And insofar as fire safety issues are not being considered … it seems, at all … in the case of most ‘high-tech’, sustainable buildings … and certainly not in the case of the Lovins House … the Architectural Design Concepts for these buildings ‘suffer’ from a gaping hole … an enormous void … they are incomplete and, therefore, entirely inadequate.

Fire Engineering involves much, much more than mere compliance with building regulations and codes … whose fire safety objectives are limited, and whose performance requirements are sometimes inadequate and always minimal.

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Unfortunately … there is a fundamental conflict between Sustainable Building Design Strategies and the current state-of-the-art in Fire Engineering Design.  As an example … for cooling, heating and/or ventilation purposes in a sustainable building, it is necessary to take advantage of natural patterns of air movement in that building.  On the other hand, fire consultants in private practice, and fire prevention officers in Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s), will demand that building spaces be strictly compartmented in order to limit the spread of fire and smoke … thereby dramatically interfering with those natural patterns of air movement.

In everyday practice, there is a vast chasm in understanding and communication between these two very different design disciplines.  As a result, serious compromises are being enforced on Sustainability Performance.  If, on the other hand, adequate independent technical control is absent on the site of a Sustainable Building … it is the fire safety and protection which is being seriously compromised.

A range of critical fire safety issues (fatal, in the case of firefighters) are also arising from the Innovative Building Products and Systems being installed in Sustainable Buildings.

And because the emphasis is on pre-construction design ‘intent’ rather than the ‘real’ performance of the completed and occupied building … all of these problems are being conveniently sidestepped or ignored … and they remain hidden from everybody’s view.

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Sustainable Fire Engineering Design, on the other hand, is the creative response to Sustainable Design … and the powerful drivers of Climate Change Adaptation, and Energy Conservation/Efficiency in Buildings.

Sustainable Fire Engineering Design Solutions are …

  • Adapted to Local Conditions … Geography, Climate (change, variability and severity swings), Social Need, Culture, and Economy, etc., etc ;
  • ‘Reliability-Based’ … the design process is based on competence, practical experience, and an examination of ‘real’ extreme events, e.g. 2001 WTC 9-11 & 2008 Mumbai Attacks, and 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident … rather than on theory alone ;
  • ‘Person-Centred’ … ‘real’ people are placed at the centre of creative endeavours and proper consideration is given to their responsible needs … and their health, safety and welfare … and security … in the Human Environment.

Sustainability continues to fundamentally transform our Fire Engineering, Architectural and Consultancy Practice at Sustainable Design International Ltd (SDI) !

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SDI Practice Announcement – New 32 Storey Hotel in China

2013-04-02:  Sustainable Design International Ltd. (SDI) is pleased to announce that its Managing Director, C.J. Walsh, has been invited to be ‘Project Design Architect’ / ‘Design Professional in Responsible Charge’ for a New 32 Storey Hotel in Yunnan Province, People’s Republic of China (PRC).

He will have responsibility for the Project’s Architectural Concept Design and General Schematic Design … including the overall architectural character and profile of primary exterior surfaces.

Project Approximate Value = € 65 Million (Euros) … excluding interior design, finishes and furnishing (which could end up doubling, or even tripling, the overall project value).

Sustainable Design International Ltd.  maintains a strict practice policy of Client Confidentiality.

[ If this Type of Professional Design Service Appeals to You, or Your Organization – Contact Us Immediately ! ]

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2012 ‘Understanding China’ Policy Briefing Friends of Europe & EuroChambres

An estimated One Billion People will be living in China’s cities by 2030.  This large-scale and very rapid urbanization demands that a sustainable transformation of their urban built, social, economic and institutional environments commences Today – not at some notional point in a far distant future.

Furthermore … replicating a European approach to sustainable design and construction in other regions of the world is doomed to failure.  Urban Transformation in China must be adapted to Local Geography, Climate, Climate Change, Social Needs, Cultures, Economy, and Local Severe Events (e.g. earthquakes, flooding).  With European support and collaboration … China must, and will, find its own way.

Greening China's Cities of Tomorrow (2012) - Report CoverGreening China’s Cities of Tomorrow (Spring 2012)

Click the Link Above to read and/or download a PDF File (4.42 Mb)

Report on a One-Day China Advisory Council Roundtable, co-organized by Friends of Europe and EuroChambres, which was held in Brussels on 8 March 2012.  This event was part of an ‘Understanding China’ Programme (mid-2009 to mid-2012), co-funded by the European Commission.

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2013 Asian Development Bank (ADB) Guidebook: ‘Increasing Climate Change Resilience of Urban Water Infrastructure’ 

This Guide describes a practical approach to bridge the gap between theoretical analyses of climate change impacts and the planning decisions that need to be made by city authorities and utility managers to increase climate change resilience of the water sector in the city of  Wuhan, Hubei Province, People’s Republic of China (PRC).  It focuses on answering the questions currently being asked by city planners and managers all over the world, as follows:

  • What changes might be caused by climate change ?
  • How will these changes affect services and utilities ?
  • What can we do now to prepare for them ?

The long lead time required to plan, finance, build, and commission city infrastructure facilities means that decision makers cannot wait for more detailed data on the effects of future climate change, especially those relating to local circumstances, but must make investment decisions based on what is known now and what can be readily predicted.  An important principle in this kind of ‘robust’ decision-making is provided by the  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)  tenet that adaptation investments, which move a city’s infrastructure toward sustainable development (such as providing safe drinking water and better sanitary conditions), are justifiable even without climate change.

This Guide is arranged in clear steps to provide direction and information for similar exercises in other areas.  Having grown out of a specific locality and its needs, the principles and solutions developed in this guide are founded on real world situations and problems …

ADB Guidebook: 'Increasing Climate Change Resilience of Urban Water Infrastructure' (2013) - Cover PageIncreasing Climate Change Resilience of Urban Water Infrastructure (ADB, 2013)

Click the Link Above to read and/or download a PDF File (2.31 Mb)

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***  THIS TALL BUILDING IN YUNNAN PROVINCE  &  SIMILAR COMPLEX ARCHITECTURAL PROJECTS  ***

Working within the professional constraints of ‘client confidentiality’ … it is possible to have a general discussion about current building design, construction and operation issues in an international sector which is operating, more and more, beyond national borders … without adequate, or very often any, national and local regulation.  By ‘regulation’, I mean a flexible system of building-related legislation which is operated in conjunction with mandatory and effective technical control.

In order to cope with today’s complex built environment and the enormous variation in the size and scale of construction projects … a ‘flexible’ mix of functional, performance and prescriptive legal requirements is the sharpest and most appropriate instrument.

And you can forget the hype about performance-based building codes coming out of the USA … hot air, and much ado about little !

Of course, the biggest issue of all is the competence of those individuals who work in Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s), i.e. technical controllers.  Even in the most developed economies of the world … there are many occasions when the level of individual incompetence in an AHJ is astounding … and institutional arrangements within the AHJ itself are a mess, i.e. the AHJ is not fit for purpose.

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1.  Sustainable Design – Design Process Efficiency & Proper Preparation for Construction

A tremendous amount of waste is associated with and generated by the processes of conventional building design, construction and operation.  There is a more up-to-date and efficient way of doing things … an essential way for Sustainable Design … and it’s called Building Information Modelling (BIM) !

Furthermore … consider, for a moment, just the initial list of Specialist Consultants who will be engaged directly by the Chinese Client when the project’s conceptual design has reached a sufficiently developed stage.  How can all of these individuals and organizations – listed in the revised and agreed Project Design Agreement – obtain accurate and reliable ‘real time’ information about the rapidly evolving project from a central design library / information database … then feed their new work back into the centre without unnecessary delay ?   How, next, can everyone else who needs to know, be updated with the new design input … again, without delay ?   And perhaps, these consultants may also be based in different countries … working in very different time zones …

  • Building Information Modelling (BIM) Consultant
  • Local Design Institute (LDI) … a local architectural practice which will produce the project’s working drawings, handle local spatial planning and building code approvals, carry out site inspections, and deal directly with construction organization(s), etc., etc.
  • Interior Design Consultant
  • Traffic / Parking Analysis Consultant
  • Curtain Wall Consultant (Curtain Wall, Skylights & Special Roof Structures)
  • Retail Market Analysis Consultant
  • Landscape Design Consultant
  • Quantity Surveying & Cost Estimating Consultant
  • Furniture Design Consultant
  • Geotechnical, Civil Engineering & Structural Engineering Consultant (including structural performance under fire and earthquake conditions, resistance to fire-induced progressive damage and disproportionate damage … and also including climate resilience)
  • Acoustic & Audio-Visual Design Consultant
  • Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing (MEP) Engineering Consultant
  • Integrated Building Automation & Management / Telecom / Security / Networking Consultant
  • Fire & Life-Safety Engineering Consultant
  • Water Feature Consultant
  • Wind Tunnel Test Consultant
  • Kitchen Equipment and Layout Design Consultant
  • Art, Artefact and Accessories Consultant & Procurement Services for Art, Artefacts, and Accessories
  • Tenant Storefront Design Consultant
  • Helicopter Landing Pad Design Consultant
  • Universal Design / Accessibility for All Consultant [including access to the building, electronic, information and communication technologies (EICT’s), and services offered at the hotel … and including fire safety, protection and evacuation for all]

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2.  The ‘Design Professional in Responsible Charge’ !

The Project Design Agreement requests that the Client receive advice on who might be the different Specialist Consultants listed above.  In addition, it will be necessary to demarcate the boundaries within which each Consultant will operate … and, where appropriate, to prescribe a design performance target (see below) for each speciality … which must be ‘realized’ in the completed and occupied building !

Recalling the many previous posts, here on this Technical Blog, concerning NIST’s 2005 & 2008 Recommendations on the 9-11 World Trade Centre Building Collapses in New York City‘somebody’ must ensure that the many individuals and organizations listed above – members of the Larger (2nd Stage) Design Team – use consistent design data and assumptions … must co-ordinate design documents and specifications to identify overlaps and eliminate gaps … must serve as ultimate liaison between the Client, the Local Design Institute, AHJ officials, and the Construction Organization(s) … and must ensure that everybody is on the same communication wavelength, and working towards the same objective in a trans-disciplinary manner.

That ‘Somebody’ … the Design Professional in Responsible Charge … must be the Project Design Architect !

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3.  Some Sustainable Design Performance Targets

Actual construction and building user performance shall be carefully (i.e. reliably and precisely) monitored … and independently verified …

A.   Basic Functional Requirements … the Building shall comply with the Basic Requirements for Construction Works – elaborated in Annex I of European Union (EU) Regulation 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.

See my Post, dated 2011-09-13 … https://cjwalsh.ie/2011/09/new-eu-construction-product-regulation-3052011-halleluiah/

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B.   Good Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) … Two high-level performance indicators have been developed with the aim of protecting Human Health, and are both now referenced in International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’

      –   Radon Activity (incl. Rn-222, Rn-220, RnD) in a building should, on average, fall within the range of 10 Bq/m3 to 40 Bq/m3, but shall at no time exceed 60 Bq/m3 ;

      –   Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Concentrations in a building should not significantly exceed average external levels – typically within the range of 300 parts per million (ppm) to 500 ppm – and shall at no time exceed 800 ppm.

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C.   Energy Conservation & Efficiency + A ‘Positive Energy’ Return + Assured Building User Thermal Comfort

See my Post, dated 2013-09-10 … https://cjwalsh.ie/2013/09/passivhaus-standard-is-not-enough-in-new-building-projects/

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D.   Project-Specific Sustainable Fire Engineering Design Objectives

See my Post, dated 2014-04-20 … https://cjwalsh.ie/2014/04/sustainable-fire-engineering-design-targeting-mrv/

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Climate Change Adaptation – Swallowing Our Own Medicine ?!?

 2013-01-07:   The Dawn of a New Year …

Colour image of a Japanese Print: 'Sunrise on New Year's Day at Susaki', dating from the mid-1830's, by the artist Hiroshige. Click to enlarge.

Colour image of a Japanese Print: ‘Sunrise on New Year’s Day at Susaki’, dating from the mid-1830’s, by the artist Hiroshige. Click to enlarge.

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High Noon for a Festering Planetary Issue … Our Little Planet …

Based on ‘real’ measurements around the world during 2011, the state of Greenhouse Gases (GHG’s) in the Atmosphere is steadily becoming worse … and, following the latest shindig in Doha (UNFCCC – COP 18), the prospect of an effective global agreement on Climate Change Mitigation entering into legal force, anytime soon, is even more remote than ever !

UN WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin No.8 – 19 November 2012

Colour image of Figure 1, from the U.N. World Meteorological Organization's Greenhouse Gas Bulletin No.8 (2012-11-19), showing ... Atmospheric Radiative Forcing, relative to 1750, of Long-Lived Greenhouse Gases (LLGHG's), and the 2011 Update of the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI). Click to enlarge.

Colour image of Figure 1, from the U.N. World Meteorological Organization’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin No.8 (2012-11-19), showing … Atmospheric Radiative Forcing, relative to 1750, of Long-Lived Greenhouse Gases (LLGHG’s), and the 2011 Update of the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI). Click to enlarge.

WMO GHG Bulletin No.8 – Executive Summary:

The latest analysis of observations from the WMO Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) Programme shows that the globally averaged mole fractions of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O) reached new highs in 2011, with CO2 at 390.9±0.1 parts per million, CH4 at 1813±2 parts per billion, and N2O at 324.2±0.1 parts per billion.  These values constitute 140%, 259% and 120% of pre-industrial (before 1750) levels, respectively.  The atmospheric increase of CO2 from 2010 to 2011 is similar to the average growth rate over the past 10 years.  However, for N2O the increase from 2010 to 2011 is greater than both the one observed from 2009 to 2010 and the average growth rate over the past 10 years.  Atmospheric CH4 continued to increase at a similar rate as observed over the last 3 years.  The NOAA Annual Greenhouse Gas Index shows that from 1990 to 2011 radiative forcing by Long-Lived Greenhouse Gases (LLGHG’s) increased by 30%, with CO2 accounting for about 80% of this increase.

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Climate Change Adaptation

Encompasses urgent and immediate actions at local, national, regional and international levels … to reduce the vulnerability and strengthen the resilience of the Human Environment, including ecological and social systems, institutions and economic sectors … to present and future adverse effects of climate change, including variability and extremes, and the impacts of response measure implementation … in order to minimize the local threats to life, human health, livelihoods, food security, assets, amenities, ecosystems and sustainable development.

Climate Change Adaptation is also the most important driving force for Sustainable Human & Social Development.

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A few weeks ago, The World Bank (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, based in Washington D.C.) … an Institution which is not at all shy about dishing out harsh medicine to the Developing World … published a report on Climate Change Adaptation in the Middle East and North Africa/ Arab Region.

What I immediately wondered was … how would we, in the Developed World, like a taste of this same medicine … our own medicine … and would we swallow ?!?

The European Commission has still not produced an E.U. Climate Change Adaptation Strategy or Plan.

In Ireland … our National Climate Change Strategy (2007-2012) has just lapsed, with no replacement in sight … and, confirming a lack of both political leadership and institutional capacity … any mention of the word ‘Adaptation’ creates either panic or apathy … depending on the individual, and his/her responsibilities.

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So … as appropriate, just substitute your own country wherever there is a reference to ‘Arab Region’ or ‘Arab Countries’ in the text below … and see how you feel …

World Bank (IBRD) Report 73482 – 1 December 2012

World Bank Report 73482 (2012): 'Adaptation to a Changing Climate in Arab Countries - A Case for Adaptation Governance & Leadership in Building Climate Resilience'.

Adaptation to a Changing Climate in Arab Countries – A Case for Adaptation Governance & Leadership in Building Climate Resilience

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Selected Extracts from World Bank MENA Report’s OVERVIEW:

Climate change is happening now in the Arab Countries.  The year 2010 was the warmest since the late 1800’s, when this data began to be collected, with 19 countries setting new national temperature highs.  Five of these were Arab Countries, including Kuwait, which set a record high of 52.6 °C in 2010, only to be followed by 53.5 °C in 2011.  Extreme climate events are widely reported in local media, and a 2009 Arab Region Survey showed that over 90% of the people sampled agree that climate change is occurring and is largely due to human activities; 84% believe it is a serious challenge for their countries; and respondents were evenly split on whether their governments were acting appropriately to address climate change issues.  The sample came mostly from the better-educated population, but it shows that there is a firm base and desire for action regarding climate change across the Arab Region.

Colour image showing a Map of the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) / Arab Region. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing a Map of the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) / Arab Region. Click to enlarge.

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Arab Countries can take action to reduce their vulnerability to climate change.  For example, this report proposes an Adaptation Pyramid Framework that assists stakeholders in Arab Countries in integrating climate risks and opportunities into development activities.  It is based on an adaptive management approach, but it also highlights the importance of leadership, without which adaptation efforts are unlikely to achieve the necessary commitment to be successful.  The Framework begins by assessing climate risks and opportunities and identifying options within the context of other development planning.  The next step is to identify and prioritize adaptation options within the context of national, regional, and local priorities.  Finally, adaptation responses will be implemented and outcomes monitored over time.  It is important to take into account the long-term consequences of these decisions, because short-term responses may not be efficient or could lead to maladaptive outcomes.  Other important measures for Arab Region policy makers to implement are discussed below …

Colour image showing the World Bank's Climate Change Adaptation Pyramid - a Framework for Action on Adaptation - which assists stakeholders in integrating climate risks and opportunities into development activities. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the World Bank’s Climate Change Adaptation Pyramid – a Framework for Action on Adaptation – which assists stakeholders in integrating climate risks and opportunities into development activities. Click to enlarge.

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  1. Facilitate the development of publicly accessible and reliable information related to climate change.  Access to quality weather and climate data is essential for policy-making.  Without reliable data on temperature and precipitation levels, it is difficult to assess the current climate and make reliable weather forecasts and climate predictions.  For example, information on river flows, groundwater levels, and water quality and salinity is critical for assessing current and future water availability.  However, climate stations across most of the Arab Region are very limited compared to most other parts of the world and what data exists is often not digitized or publicly available.  Conflict in parts of the region disrupts both the collection and sharing of data.  Information on food production and the main food supply chains (such as changes in agricultural yields and production for important crops, forage, and livestock) needs to be linked with weather and water data to better monitor and understand the effects of a changing climate.  In addition, socio-economic data (including household and census data) and other economic data related to the labour market and production should be collected and made available. 
  2. Build climate resilience through social protection and other measures.  Resilience is determined by factors such as an individual’s age, gender, and health status, or a household’s asset base and degree of integration with the market economy.  Underinvestment in social safety nets – public services such as water supply and wastewater treatment, and housing and infrastructure – make people more vulnerable to a changing climate.  Further, there should be measures in place to ensure equitable access to health care and a quality education.  Such social protection measures include insurance schemes, pensions, access to credit, cash transfer programs, relocation programs, and other forms of social assistance.  These investments and instruments facilitate economic and social inclusion, which creates co-benefits between adaptation and development goals. 
  3. Develop a supportive policy and institutional framework for adaptation.  Basic conditions for effective development, such as the rule of law, transparency and accountability, participatory decision-making structures, and reliable public service delivery that meets international quality standards are conducive to effective development and adaptation action.  In addition, climate change adaptation requires new or revised climate-smart policies and structures at all levels.

Sound adaptation planning, strong governmental/non-governmental co-operation, and plentiful financial resources are all important for building resilience to climate change.  Developing national adaptation strategies are important for prioritizing adaptation activities that respond to urgent and immediate needs, and for setting forth guiding principals in the effort to cope with climate change.  National governments have a key role in developing these strategies and as a result play an important role in promoting collaboration and co-operation.  This co-operation should include the government, civil society, the private sector, and international institutions.  Within governments, inter-ministerial co-ordination is especially critical, because adaptation responses often require activities involving multiple ministries and sectors.  Finally, to do any of the activities above it is important to secure the necessary financial resources.  There are many sources for adaptation funding, but first the Arab Countries will need to build their capacity to analyze their financial needs and generate and manage these resources.

By nature, adaptation to climate change is a dynamic process, and so is the governance of adaptation.  Political change, including those changes originating from the Arab Spring, can provide an opportunity to increase civil society participation in adaptation governance and a move toward a more inclusive approach to addressing climate change issues and building climate resilience.

This report is about climate change, its impacts on people, the systems upon which we depend, and how we might adapt to climate change.  It highlights a number of issues and areas that are being affected by climate change.  One important message of this report is that climate change should be taken into account in all activities – however, this report cannot provide solutions or options for all issues.  For example, the transboundary water issues are already being addressed by international task forces; this report can deal only with how climate change might affect their decisions.  Anticipation of climate change can be the stimulus for improving interventions and accelerating action, which has been seen in countries such as Australia, where water laws and management were extensively changed in response to a prolonged drought and the anticipation of further climate change issues.

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Emergency Services in Europe – Occupational Health & Safety

2012-01-14:  I do hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s Eve !   I spent the time on an interesting project in Cuba … but more about that later.

Before launching into a new, much shorter series of posts on the 2008 NIST WTC Recommendations … I wanted to bring to your attention a related, and recently issued, EU-OSHA Publication: ‘Emergency Services: A Literature Review on Occupational Safety & Health Risks’.

I have touched upon this important issue before.  AND … unfortunately, the lack of any proper consideration of this issue by Spatial Planners and Building Designers continues to receive insufficient attention at European and International Levels !

In its own explanatory blurb …

‘ The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) contributes to making Europe a safer, healthier and more productive place to work.  The Agency researches, develops, and distributes reliable, balanced, and impartial safety and health information and organizes pan-European awareness raising campaigns.

Set up by the European Union in 1996 and based in Bilbao, Spain, the Agency brings together representatives from the European Commission, Member State governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations, as well as leading experts in each of the EU-27 Member States and beyond.’

The EU-OSHA WebSite is located at … http://osha.europa.eu

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY – EU-OSHA ‘Emergency Services’ Publication (October 2011)

Emergency Workers comprise large professional groups ranging from career and volunteer firefighters, police officers, emergency medical staff (paramedics – emergency medical technicians – doctors – nurses) to psychologists.  In major disasters, rescue workers, technicians from large relief organizations, additional medical staff, military personnel, anti-terrorist forces, body handlers, clean-up workers, construction workers, and numerous volunteers are involved.  Depending on the emergency/disaster site, emergency workers need specialization, for instance in water rescue, mountain rescue or rescue from heights.  Current environmental, economic, and political developments and trend data all suggest an increase in the severity and frequency of disasters in the future.  Phenomena that support this assumption include increased energy use, progressive global warming, climate change and pollution, population growth, dispersal of industrialization around the globe, expansion of transportation facilities, and the growing spread of terrorism.  The growing issue of better protection for emergency workers from Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Risks has been emphasized as a priority by many experts.  The demands made upon emergency workers, as well as the OSH Risks they are exposed to, will rise as they are confronted with events greater in both number and severity.

Although the exact number of emergency workers is difficult to estimate, the available figures and the large number of people affected by disasters and in need of immediate help are reliable indicators that emergency workers account for a significant proportion of the European Workforce.  Exact numbers can be given for some groups, such as firefighters.  According to the report by the International Labour Organization (ILO), in European countries there is on average one firefighter for every 1,000–1,200 inhabitants.  There are also a considerable number of volunteer firefighters.

Emergency workers’ priorities are to protect human life, property and the environment, and their most common fields of action include:

  • everyday emergencies (road accidents, crime scenes, gas explosions, fires) ;
  • natural disasters (floods, storms, fires, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions) ;
  • industrial accidents (involving hazardous materials, such as in the nuclear and mining sectors) ;
  • transport accidents (major car crashes, plane crashes, rail accidents) ;
  • terrorist and criminal attacks (bomb attacks, gas attacks, shootings) ;
  • massive public events (negative events during concerts, sport events, demonstrations).

The absolute numbers of emergency workers involved in specific events are often not easy to obtain.  Some figures can be found in media reports.  Around 4,000 emergency workers were involved during mud spills in Hungary (2010); 5,500 police and emergency workers were mobilised to organize evacuation during crowd panic in Duisburg, Germany (2010); 240,000 emergency workers and 2,000 members of the armed forces dealt with forest fires in Russia (2010); more than 500 emergency workers were sent to a mine explosion in Russia (2010); 2,500 rescue workers, including 1,500 firefighters, were sent to the area affected by an earthquake in central Italy (2009); up to 70,000 emergency workers took part in the massive operation after the terrorist attack at the World Trade Center in New York, including policemen, firefighters, and construction workers (2001); 200,000 recovery workers were involved in clean-up activities in 1986–1987 after the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl (1986).

European emergency workers are often involved in dealing with major catastrophes that happen outside Europe.  After the earthquake in Haiti (2010), a 64-member search and rescue team was sent from the UK; more than 500 personnel, particularly rescue workers, were sent by France; 450 troops, 50 doctors, technicians and specialists were sent from Spain; more than 20 emergency workers went from Portugal; a plane with a search and rescue team went from the Netherlands; and three medical teams were sent from Hungary.

All types of emergency workers can be involved in any kind of intervention, and the spectrum of possible demands and risks those workers may encounter is very wide.  They may be especially high when the management and preparedness are poor, and there is lack of or insufficient co-ordination, information and communication, lack of training, and inappropriate or insufficient safety and personal protective equipment.

There are some General OSH Hazards and Risks likely to occur in any kind of emergency intervention:

  1. Demanding work environment: working in remote, difficult to access areas; unstable and extremely difficult weather conditions; and unpredictable hazards at the disaster scene such as the danger of collapse of damaged structures.  High risk of violence.
  2. Emotional and psychological overstrain: dealing with many fatalities and injured people; high responsibility for people’s lives; time pressure; and long, unpredictable working hours.
  3. Physical overstrain: physically demanding work; insufficient breaks; manual handling (wearing heavy protective equipment, transportation of patients, carrying dead bodies, removal of debris).

Additionally, particular types of emergency events are related to the greater possibility of other, more Specific OSH Hazards.  Natural disasters may put emergency workers at risk of:

  • water-borne diseases where there is contact with contaminated water (diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid fever, hepatitis A, hepatitis E, parasitic diseases, rotavirus, and shigellosis) ;
  • infectious (tuberculosis) and blood-borne diseases (HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C) as a consequence of contact with survivors and dead bodies, and the possibility of infection transmitted by needle-stick injuries ;
  • vector-borne diseases (malaria, dengue, St. Louis encephalitis, and West Nile fever) transmitted by mosquitoes ;
  • respiratory and asthmatic problems, including asphyxiation, heat stress, and the carcinogenic effects of volcanic eruptions, landslides and earthquakes, and fires leading to significant release of ash and gases, and dust ;
  • being trapped or seriously injured by debris, working in confined spaces, drowning, confrontation with wild, aggressive or infected, domestic animals.

Industrial Accidents may lead to:

  • fatalities, serious injuries, and short and long-term health problems stemming from accidents caused by explosions, followed by fires and the release of toxic substances; the health consequences may include headache, confusion, fainting, agitation, delirium or convulsions, respiratory complaints, cardiovascular complaints, renal failure, eye and skin problems and gastrointestinal problems ;
  • severe health consequences such as burns, skin diseases, and incurable diseases including different kinds of cancer, Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS) and death as a result of nuclear radiation.

Transport Accidents may involve:

  • the risk of being struck by a passing vehicle ;
  • specific risks associated with accidents involving the transport of dangerous substances, hazardous materials, or stemming from burning fuel or chemicals used in vehicles which have ignited or exploded.

Terrorist and Criminal Attacks may involve:

  • unfamiliar, unpredictable, confused, and complex scenarios ;
  • the risk of death or serious injury, injury from weapons and the prospect of being taken as a hostage ;
  • the risk of being exposed to chemical and radiological hazards ;
  • a possibility of bio-terrorism using biological agents such as smallpox, anthrax, botulism, tularaemia, and viral haemorrhagic fevers which can be easily disseminated or transmitted from person to person and cause high mortality.

Negative Events during Massive Public Events may lead to:

  • specific risks, varying from scenario to scenario, including fire, collapsing buildings, violence, terrorist attacks ;
  • specific hazards stemming from violent behaviour and the unpredictable acts of a panicking crowd, such as people trying to escape from a confined space.

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Emergency Workers are exposed to a combination of many different risks and there may be many possible consequences for their safety and health.  Possible OSH outcomes have been explored by the analysis of relevant statistics and studies.

Although the risk of Fatalities caused by burn injuries is considered to be relatively small, these kinds of accidents continue to happen.  Data from the UK shows that in the period 2003–2008, 22 firefighters died on duty, significantly more than in the previous five years.  From February 1996 to October 2002, there were no recorded fire deaths in the UK among firefighters who actually attended fires, whereas in the years 2002–2005 13 firefighters were killed at fires.  These statistics do not include fatal heart attacks which happened during the emergency intervention, nor road traffic accidents in transit to or from the accident.  Statistics on fatal accidents indicate that in the US, 43% of firefighters’ deaths in 2009 were caused by sudden cardiac death, 34% by internal trauma, 6% by asphyxiation, 6% by stroke, 6% by ‘other’ causes, 4% by burns, and 1% by gunshot.  The high prevalence of fatalities due to cardiovascular overexertion among firefighters (triggered, for instance, by the emergency alarm that abruptly terminates sedentary activity and begins intense exertion, the very high heart rates recorded during firefighting, exposure to extreme heat, and wearing of heavy protective equipment) has been confirmed by many studies.  Also at high risk are emergency medical staff and ambulance personnel.  Fatal accidents can occur as an immediate consequence of vehicle-related accidents, homicides (a higher prevalence of this among emergency medical workers compared to other medical staff has been reported), and terrorist attacks (such as the hundreds of emergency workers who died in the aftermath of the 2001 attack at the World Trade Center).  In Sweden in 2002, 80% of emergency paramedics reported being threatened or experiencing physical violence.  Fatalities are also related to radiological exposure caused by industrial accidents.  Out of 237 emergency workers involved in the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl and later diagnosed with acute radiation syndrome (ARS), 28 died from ARS in the following months, and a further 19 in the years afterwards.

Available statistics indicate the significant prevalence of Non-Fatal Accidents and Injuries among emergency workers.  For instance, the number of non-fatal accidents suffered by firefighters in Finland ranged between 500 and 600 per year during the period 2005–2007 out of a total population of about 19,000 firefighters.  German data shows that accidents while moving, such as being struck or hit by objects, are the most prevalent, following those involving manual handling and dealing with dangerous, sharp, pointed, stiff, or rough-textured objects.  In 2004–2005, the most frequent non-fatal accidents among workers in the fire services of the United Kingdom were injuries while handling, lifting or carrying (41.3%), followed by slips, trips or falls on the same level (27.6%) and being hit by a moving, flying or falling object (8.9%).  Many other studies confirm that back injuries and upper and lower extremity injuries related to transportation of patients and manual handling are the most common types of injuries experienced by emergency workers, leading to many types of musculoskeletal disorders.

In the last 25 years, the Psychological Trauma suffered by emergency and rescue workers has gained the attention of scientists.  Although studies show that the majority of rescue workers may experience stress that does not necessarily lead to diagnosable mental disorders, a variety of symptoms such as strong emotional reactions (shock, anger, guilt, helplessness), cognitive reactions (disorientation, lack of concentration), physical reactions (tension, fatigue, pain, racing heartbeat) and social effects (isolation from family and friends) may for some time after an incident have a negative impact on workers’ wellbeing.  More serious problems such as acute stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) have also been diagnosed.  A Swedish study indicates a prevalence of between 3% and 25% of PTSD among rescue workers there.  In the USA, the national prevalence of PTSD for the general population was recorded at 4%, whereas the highest reported prevalence for a particular group was 25% among rescue workers and 21% among firefighters.  Higher rates of ‘burnout’ and problems with substance abuse have also been recorded in these groups, compared to the general population.

Occupational Diseases described in the literature are related to the development of different types of cancer as a consequence of radiological exposure, such as the increase in cases of thyroid cancer revealed in a study of Russian emergency workers involved in the Chernobyl disaster.  There are also several epidemiological studies which refer to respiratory disorders experienced by emergency workers, including firefighters, rescue workers, clean-up workers, and police officers who were exposed for several months to dust and hazardous toxic pollutants at the WTC disaster scene, showing that WTC-related lower respiratory symptoms were experienced by 60% and upper respiratory symptoms by 74% of the studied sample.  Respiratory symptoms include the ‘World Trade Center cough’, a persistent cough that some workers developed after exposure to conditions at the site, and which was accompanied by respiratory symptoms severe enough to require medical leave for at least four weeks.  Other serious health problems caused by exposure to hazardous materials and dangerous combustion products include various types of cancer, asbestosis, skin disorders, changes in biochemical and blood parameters, reproductive problems, and even general shorter life expectancy.  Many studies, however, show ambiguous results, and further research in this area is needed.

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The nature of emergency work makes it impossible to eliminate, or often even significantly reduce, the amount of risk to which personnel are exposed.  However, there are many primary and secondary preventive measures which may provide better protection.  Some examples of preventive measures at international and national levels include the development of common co-operation and communication procedures, and the introduction of specific laws or policies to protect emergency workers.

Preventive measures at the company level include:

  • better management (communication and co-ordination) ;
  • comprehensive risks assessment ;
  • appropriate preparedness and training (for instance, workers should obtain knowledge about what hazards can be encountered at the disaster scene, the possible physical and mental reactions to them, and how to protect themselves against negative outcomes) ;
  • vaccination ;
  • providing appropriate personal protective equipment, protective clothes, safety equipment (for instance, gas detectors, radiation alarm systems, mosquito nets), and ergonomic equipment (firefighter robots, syringe needles that incorporate safety features) ;
  • providing primary and secondary prevention of mental health problems (psychological preparedness, post-intervention psychological support and help, and long-term psychological care when needed) ;
  • long-term care and health surveillance alongside mandatory medical examinations, including workplace health promotion projects that provide workers with appropriate and safe keep-fit facilities.

Although major disasters and accidents are always to be expected, past disasters and more recent events demonstrate that communities are still often not fully prepared for dealing with major disasters.  It is also clear that the protection of emergency workers against OSH Risks exhibits shortcomings.  This literature review indicates some areas in which additional research and actions are necessary.  General preventive measures begin with reducing the vulnerability of people to disasters, and reducing the severity of the damage that might be caused by a disaster, resulting in a smaller number of emergency workers needed to take part in disaster control.  The OSH of Emergency Workers should be also taken into consideration in the earliest stages of building design, such as by making it possible for lifts to be used during an emergency, and in the formation of emergency response plans at international, national, and organisational level.  Rehearsing different terrorist attack scenarios can serve as a way to predict possible hazards for emergency workers.  Also essential is the further development of personal protective and other safety equipment, especially against multiple hazards and bio-terrorism, and taking into consideration the possibility of physical overstrain and the difficult working environment of emergency workers.  Further longitudinal research on the negative health effects of dangerous substances is needed, including studies on the toxicological properties of the combustion of new products which are constantly being developed and introduced to the market.

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Buildings & Firefighters Not Yet Safer ! – 10 Years After 9-11 (II)

2011-09-20:  Continuing on from where I left off on 11 September 2011

Applying the Recommendations contained in the 2005 & 2008 National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST – USA) Reports on the 9-11 WTC Buildings 1, 2 & 7 Collapses to the everyday practice of Architecture and Fire Engineering has been a central part of our work for many years.  Long discussions on this subject have taken place within CIB (International Council for Building Research) Working Commission 14: ‘Fire Safety’ … and I also chair Commission 14’s Research Working Group IV on ‘Fire-Induced Progressive Collapse’.

My particular interest in Disproportionate Damage and Progressive Collapse reaches back as far as the late 1980’s !

So I was intrigued, amused … and at the same time, highly concerned … to read the following Letter to the Editor of the Irish Times Newspaper, on Saturday 10 September 2011 …

Recalling 9/11

Sir, – One of the most important factors in the tragedy of 9/11, and one that has received scant attention, was the mode of failure of the towers.

They were struck high up on their structures and failed via progressive collapse.  Had they been designed this side of the Atlantic, they would not have collapsed.  These were flimsy structures. –

Yours, etc,

Jim Ryan, Chartered Structural Engineer,

Waterfall, Cork.

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JIM …  If the WTC Towers (which were not flimsy structures !) had been designed on this side of the Atlantic … they would have collapsed.

Furthermore …  If the Towers had only been completed last week in the USA, Ireland, England & Wales, India or China … they would still collapse, if a similar event were to occur next year.

To be crystal clear …  What we witnessed, on Tuesday 11 September 2001, was a Collapse Level Event (CLE) which exposed, very harshly and cruelly, a catastrophic failure in all of our common Design and Construction Practices and Procedures used in/by/as …

  • Architectural Design | (Ambient) Structural Engineering | Fire Engineering ;
  • Building Management Systems ;
  • Emergency Responders | Firefighters | Rescue Teams ;
  • Technical Control Organizations Having Authority (AHJ’s) or Jurisdiction ;
  • Fire Safety Objectives in Building Legislation, Codes and Standards.

To the average ‘person in the street’ …  Whether he/she lives in Manhattan or Chicago in the USA, Dublin or Cork in Ireland, Cardiff or London in Britain, Dilli or Mumbai in India, Beijing or Shanghai or Hong Kong in China … it is unacceptable that buildings collapse … entirely unacceptable !!

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COLLAPSE OF WTC BUILDINGS 1, 2 & 7

JIM …  Unless you believe in conspiracy theories, please study the 2005 & 2008 NIST(USA) Reports on the 9-11 WTC Buildings 1, 2 & 7 Collapses.  The 2 Final Reports can be downloaded from this Page on Sustainable Design International’s Corporate WebSitehttp://www.sustainable-design.ie/fire/structdesfire.htm … along with other key documents and links.

Some indication of the enormous quantity of 9-11 WTC Incident Documentation issued by NIST(USA) can be seen below …

Colour photograph showing the enormous quantity of 9-11 WTC Incident Documentation, issued by the U.S. National Institute of Standards & Technology, which is still readily available for the public to access and download.

Colour photograph showing the enormous quantity of 9-11 WTC Incident Documentation, issued by the U.S. National Institute of Standards & Technology, which is still readily available for the public to access and download.

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PUBLIC SAFETY 10 YEARS AFTER 9-11 ?

If it is entirely unacceptable to the Public that buildings collapse … in how many National Building Codes does the following Critical Public Safety Equation appear today ?   The answer is NONE !

Colour image showing Page 21 from my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing Page 21 from my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

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Is there some fundamental reason why Levels of Safety for the Public should vary so much from one country to another ?   NO, there is not !

Within Europe, and in relation to the New EU Construction Product Regulation 305/2011, which I discussed here a few days ago … the European Commission, in a discussion document dating back to the mid-1980’s, suggested that the only way to effectively realize a Single Market for Construction Products would be to introduce Harmonized EU Building Regulations in all of the EU Member States.  Of course the Member States, at the time, went ballistic at the very mention of this idea … and it was quickly withdrawn.  I take great pleasure in repeating that important idea today.

Jim …  The Critical Public Safety Statement above is fully consistent with … and meets … the ‘Basic Requirements for Construction Works’ in Annex I of EU Regulation 305/2011.

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However, in relation to any one EU Member State … let’s take Ireland as an example … compare a situation where, in a remote rural location, it might take almost an hour for a sufficient fire service presence to arrive at the scene of a building fire emergency … with a similar situation in the middle of a city, or large town, where the time required will not be greater than 15 minutes … then, although the Level of Safety for the Public can be / should be / must be the same in both situations … I would expect, in the remote rural location having a poor fire service support infrastructure, that the range of Fire Protection Measures to be employed in a typical building would be more extensive, and the performance expected of those Measures would be higher … in order to achieve an Equivalent Level of Safety in both rural and urban locations.  Is that not a rational idea ??

Unfortunately, that’s not how the present systems work … National or European !   Levels of Public Safety differ from one country to the next … and from one region, within any one country, to the next … without any good reason … and without meaningful consultation and the full understanding of the Public.

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BUILDINGS & FIREFIGHTERS ARE NOT YET SAFER

JIM …  In spite of all of the spin coming from the other side of the Atlantic … and discounting criminality and fraud in construction practices … Buildings and Firefighters are not yet safer … because the large, difficult, complex flaws and failures in Conventional Fire Engineering have not yet been aggressively confronted … and properly solved.

In a post last year, on 18 October 2010 … I referred to the Cul-de-Sac of Current Fire Engineering … and illustrated a typical architectural detail in a Dublin Building – a common detail also to be found in India, China, USA, England & Wales, etc., etc – which demonstrates a Fundamental Flaw at the very core of conventional thinking and practice.

On Thursday next … 22 September 2011 … at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar and Workshop in the RDS, Dublin … I will present this flawed detail … and a solution which is fully compatible with … and answers … the NIST Recommendations !

BUT … would anybody like to show me where any National Building Codes have been revised and updated to solve this Fundamental Flaw ?

Colour image showing Page 33 from my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing Page 33 from my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

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Colour image showing Page 35 from my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing Page 35 from my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

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Colour image showing Page 36 from my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing Page 36 from my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

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Colour image showing Page 37 from my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing Page 37 from my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

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Colour image showing Page 38 from my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing Page 38 from my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

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A CASE STUDY OF ENGLAND & WALES

10 years after 9-11 … there are two reasons for taking a closer look at England & Wales (Britain)

  • The Building Regulations for England & Wales were used as the model for the Irish Building Regulations, which were first introduced here in the early 1990’s.  And, in the absence of Harmonized European Standards … British National Standards tend, with only a few exceptions, to become the default Irish National Standard ;
  • British National Standards are being applied in many different parts of the world outside England & Wales … in most cases, without any proper consideration of content … or adaptation to local conditions.

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Colour image showing the Cover Page of Approved Document B: 'Fire Safety' ... Volume 2 - Buildings Other Than Dwellinghouses ... from the Building Regulations for England & Wales. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the Cover Page of Approved Document B: 'Fire Safety' ... Volume 2 - Buildings Other Than Dwellinghouses ... from the Building Regulations for England & Wales. Click to enlarge.

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The Institution of Fire Engineers (Ireland) Annual Fire Conference, which was held last year, on Wednesday 20th October 2010 … in the Dublin Fire Brigade Training Centre, Marino, Dublin … threw up some interesting ‘notions’ for consideration by a diverse range of participants.

One curious proposition … repeated quite often during the day … was that Approved Document B, in the British System of Building Regulations, was basically still a sound document … and that it should pass an upcoming major review with little difficulty.

I don’t agree … Approved Document B is inadequate and dysfunctional !

With regard to Structural Performance in Fire … instead of referring to Approved Document A – Structure … the reader is referred to Appendices at the back of Approved Document B, which only reinforce the erroneous concept of Single Structural Element Fire Protection …

And along with its many other major problems … see my post, dated 2009-06-14 … British Standard BS 9999 takes no account of any of the 2005 & 2008 NIST Recommendations, Fire-Induced Progressive Collapse or Disproportionate Damage … and, in fact, directly conflicts with aspects of the Building Regulations for England & Wales …

Colour image showing Page 51 in the Appendix of my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing Page 51 in the Appendix of my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

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In order to take a close look at Approved Document B … I used the vehicle of a Notional Hotel Project in Cardiff, Wales … similar to the Early 1990’s Dublin Hotel Project shown above …

Colour image showing Page 52 in the Appendix of my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing Page 52 in the Appendix of my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

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With regard to properly showing Fitness for Intended Use of Fire Protection related Products and Building Systems … instead of referring to Regulation 7 … the reader is again referred to Appendices at the back of Approved Document B … which explains why we have such serious problems, i.e. lack of Durability and very low Resistance to Mechanical Damage, with the Thermal Insulation Products used for the Fire Protection of Structural Steelwork …

I also had to quote from Part D of the Irish Building Regulations to fill a gap in the British Regulation 7

Colour image showing Page 53 in the Appendix of my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing Page 53 in the Appendix of my Overhead Presentation on 'Sustainable Fire Engineering' ... scheduled for this Thursday, 22 September 2011, at the ASFP Ireland Fire Seminar & Workshop ... to be held at the RDS, in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Click to enlarge.

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EU Accessibility & Ratification of UN Disability Rights Convention

2011-01-15:  Recently, I was waiting … and waiting … for the first mention of this important news to pop up on any of the European Disability Networks … the Formal Ratification by the European Union (EU) of the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities … on 23 December 2010 last.

History in the making !!

This U.N. Convention was adopted on 13 December 2006 (2006-12-13), at the United Nations Headquarters in New York … and was opened for signature on 30 March 2007.  It entered into force, i.e. became an International Legal Instrument, on 3 May 2008 (2008-05-03).  A copy of the Convention can be downloaded, here, on this Site … in my post, dated 31 October 2009.

Finally, on Monday 10 January 2011 … via ICTA-Europe, EDeAN, and the EU Press Release below … it was announced …

EU Press Release IP/11/4 – Brussels, 5 January 2011

EU Ratifies UN Convention on Disability Rights

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (25kb)

So much for instant communication in our much-vaunted Information / Knowledge / Smart Society !!

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Ordinarily, this news would be nothing to get excited about.

BUT … since the Lisbon Treaty entered into force on 1 January 2009 … the European Union now has a legal personality all of its own, separate from those of the individual EU Member States.  See Article 47 in Title VI – Final Provisions – of the Treaty on European Union (consolidated version).

This is the first time that the EU has become a party to an international treaty.

The 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is now part of the European Union’s Acquis Communautaire, i.e. the extensive body of EU Law.

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The consequential impacts flowing, therefore, from the EU’s Ratification of the U.N. Convention … at both European and Member State (National) levels … will be very, very interesting to observe during the immediate short term.  [A note of caution … be patient, and allow for a short period of ‘bedding-in’ at the start.  See below.]

The European Commission, for example, must now take full account of the Convention in the drafting and implementation of any new legislation, policies and programmes … in fact, all of its activities.

The European Court of Justice must also take full account of the Convention in all of its work.

This will, inevitably, heavily influence what is … or is not … happening with regard to social and other policies at national level in the Member States.  Many Member States (16) have already ratified the Convention … and more power to them !   BUT among these 16 … the Czech Republic and Denmark have not yet ratified the UN Convention’s Optional Protocol … how strange … and unacceptable !!

Some Member States … and I am thinking specifically of Ireland … will have to be dragged, screaming, to the point of ratification.  And even when that position has been reached … proper implementation will always be an issue.  Just consider, for a moment, Ireland’s uncaring and ham-fisted approach to implementation of the 1989 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child … which it did actually ratify way back on 28 September 1992 !   See my post, dated 30 November 2009.

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Accessibility of the ‘Human Environment’ – A Harmonized EU Understanding !

As far as the European Union must now be concerned … and all of the EU Member States … Preamble Paragraph (g) and Articles 9, 10 & 11 of the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – together – form the basis of a harmonized understanding for Accessibility of the ‘Human Environment’ … which includes the Built Environment, the Social Environment, the Economic Environment, and the Virtual Environment … concepts which I have defined, here, many times before.

Preamble Paragraph (g)

Emphasizing the importance of mainstreaming disability issues as an integral part of relevant strategies of sustainable development,

Article 9 – Accessibility

1.  To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas.  These measures, which shall include the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility, shall apply to, inter alia:

     (a)  Buildings, roads, transportation and other indoor and outdoor facilities, including schools, housing, medical facilities and workplaces ;

     (b)  Information, communications and other services, including electronic services and emergency services.

2.  States Parties shall also take appropriate measures:

     (a)  To develop, promulgate and monitor the implementation of minimum standards and guidelines for the accessibility of facilities and services open or provided to the public ;

     (b)  To ensure that private entities that offer facilities and services which are open or provided to the public take into account all aspects of accessibility for persons with disabilities ;

     (c)  To provide training for stakeholders on accessibility issues facing persons with disabilities ;

     (d)  To provide in buildings and other facilities open to the public signage in Braille and in easy to read and understand forms ;

     (e)  To provide forms of live assistance and intermediaries, including guides, readers and professional sign language interpreters, to facilitate accessibility to buildings and other facilities open to the public ;

     (f)  To promote other appropriate forms of assistance and support to persons with disabilities to ensure their access to information ;

     (g)  To promote access for persons with disabilities to new information and communications technologies and systems, including the Internet ;

     (h)  To promote the design, development, production and distribution of accessible information and communications technologies and systems at an early stage, so that these technologies and systems become accessible at minimum cost.

Article 10 – Right to Life

States Parties reaffirm that every human being has the inherent right to life and shall take all necessary measures to ensure its effective enjoyment by persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others.

Article 11 – Situations of Risk & Humanitarian Emergencies

[My Note: An outbreak of fire in a building would be a situation of serious risk.]

States Parties shall take, in accordance with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters.

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Accessibility of the ‘Human Environment’ – Competent & Effective EU Implementation !

Within the European Union as a whole, because it is a party to the Convention in its own right … and also within the individual EU Member States … Articles 31 & 33 of the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – together – mandate that implementation is taken seriously … that it is competent and effective … and, most importantly, that independent monitoring and verification is a fundamental part of the process.

Article 31 – Statistics & Data Collection

1.  States Parties undertake to collect appropriate information, including statistical and research data, to enable them to formulate and implement policies to give effect to the present Convention.  The process of collecting and maintaining this information shall:

     (a)  Comply with legally established safeguards, including legislation on data protection, to ensure confidentiality and respect for the privacy of persons with disabilities ;

     (b)  Comply with internationally accepted norms to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms and ethical principles in the collection and use of statistics.

2.  The information collected in accordance with this article shall be disaggregated, as appropriate, and used to help assess the implementation of States Parties’ obligations under the present Convention and to identify and address the barriers faced by persons with disabilities in exercising their rights.

3.  States Parties shall assume responsibility for the dissemination of these statistics and ensure their accessibility to persons with disabilities and others.

Article 32 – International Co-Operation

1.  States Parties recognize the importance of international co-operation and its promotion, in support of national efforts for the realization of the purpose and objectives of the present Convention, and will undertake appropriate and effective measures in this regard, between and among States and, as appropriate, in partnership with relevant international and regional organizations and civil society, in particular organizations of persons with disabilities.  Such measures could include, inter alia:

     (a)  Ensuring that international co-operation, including international development programmes, is inclusive of and accessible to persons with disabilities ;

     (b)  Facilitating and supporting capacity-building, including through the exchange and sharing of information, experiences, training programmes and best practices ;

     (c)  Facilitating co-operation in research and access to scientific and technical knowledge ;

     (d)  Providing, as appropriate, technical and economic assistance, including by facilitating access to and sharing of accessible and assistive technologies, and through the transfer of technologies.

2.  The provisions of this article are without prejudice to the obligations of each State Party to fulfil its obligations under the present Convention.

Article 33 – National Implementation & Monitoring

1.  States Parties, in accordance with their system of organization, shall designate one or more focal points within government for matters relating to the implementation of the present Convention, and shall give due consideration to the establishment or designation of a co-ordination mechanism within government to facilitate related action in different sectors and at different levels.

2.  States Parties shall, in accordance with their legal and administrative systems, maintain, strengthen, designate or establish within the State Party, a framework, including one or more independent mechanisms, as appropriate, to promote, protect and monitor implementation of the present Convention.  When designating or establishing such a mechanism, States Parties shall take into account the principles relating to the status and functioning of national institutions for protection and promotion of human rights.

3.  Civil society, in particular persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, shall be involved and participate fully in the monitoring process.

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The European Union’s Disability Strategy 2010-2020 [COM(2010) 636 final]

The general approach to, and the quality of, Accessibility Implementation in Europe … when compared, for example, with Japan … is pathetically inadequate.

It is quite amazing, therefore, that the texts which deal with Accessibility of the ‘Human Environment’ in the EU’s Disability Strategy Document 2010-2020 … are weak and far too vague … basically, meaningless claptrap drafted by desk jockeys / ‘suits who do not know’ !   We did not achieve a ‘Europe Accessible For All’ by 2010 (see below) … do you see it ??   And … at the current rate of progress, neither will we achieve a ‘Europe Accessible For All’ by 2020 !

The European Union’s Accessibility Strategy, related Policies and Programmes … and the monitoring, targeting and independent verification of Accessibility Implementation … all require a radical overhaul !

All those Officials in the European Commission who are involved, in any way, shape or form, with Accessibility of the ‘Human Environment’ would do well to RE-READ AND MEDITATE DEEPLY on the contents of the 2003 Final Report from the Group of Accessibility Experts, which was established by the European Commission itself …

EU 2003 (EYPD) Expert Group on Accessibility

October 2003

2010: A Europe Accessible For All

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (294kb)

I was a Member of that Expert Group !

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AND SOME WIDER CONCERNS …

1.  The European Union HAS NOT RATIFIED the UN Disability Rights Convention’s Optional Protocol.  If the Union is so Open and Transparent … and so committed to Human and Social Rights for All EU Citizens … somebody, somewhere, has to scream out loud “Why is the EU Not Ratifying this Optional Protocol ???”.   And … we demand an honest answer !!!

Optional Protocol – Article 1

1.  A State Party to the present Protocol (‘State Party’) recognizes the competence of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (‘the Committee’) to receive and consider communications from or on behalf of individuals or groups of individuals subject to its jurisdiction who claim to be victims of a violation by that State Party of the provisions of the Convention.

2.  No communication shall be received by the Committee if it concerns a State Party to the Convention that is not a party to the present Protocol.

2.  The EU Code of Conduct between the Council, the Member States and the Commission setting out internal arrangements for the implementation by and representation of the European Union relating to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Above, I talked about a short period of ‘bedding-in’.   BUT … get your teeth into the ‘meat’ of this document … which indicates that it might be a much longer and more difficult process !?!

Official Journal of the European Union (15 December 2010) – 2010/C 340/08

EU Council – UN Disability Rights Convention – 2010 Internal Code of Conduct

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (729kb)

3.  At EU Council … How Important is this Issue Considered ?   In the 37 Page Report on the Justice and Home Affairs Council Meeting, which was held in Brussels from 2-3 December 2010 … the adoption of the above Internal Code of Conduct rated just a very brief mention on the last page.  It was not mentioned, at all, among the Main Results of the Meeting !

4.  Will Disability Networks, at both European and Member State (National) levels, have the stamina … and be sufficiently competent and focused … to rigorously monitor European Union Implementation of the UN Disability Rights Convention ??   And … will these Networks be courageous in challenging the EU Institutions … if Implementation is found to be Inadequate ???   I’m not so sure !

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European Union Economic Governance – Too Late For Dithering !

2010-12-22:  November & December 2010 … when the shit really started to hit the international economic fan ! … there has been an excess of hysterical nonsense in the Irish Media concerning growing European Union (EU) Economic Governance … and a perceived erosion of Irish National Sovereignty.  How sad ?!?

Economic Environment … the intricate web of real and virtual human commercial activity – operating at micro and macro-economic levels – which facilitates, supports, but sometimes hampers or disrupts, human interaction in the Social Environment.

Social Environment … the complex network of real and virtual human interaction – at a communal or larger group level – which operates for reasons of tradition, culture, business, pleasure, information exchange, institutional organization, legal procedure, governance, human betterment, social progress and spiritual enlightenment, etc.

However, let me sketch out an altogether different and much more positive picture !

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Thesis – My Argument

[During 2009, I first raised this issue in meetings of the IIEA (Institute of International & European Affairs) Economists’ Group, in Dublin.]

Towards the end of 2010 … we can now see that Inter-Governmental Economic Governance in the European Union has failed … miserably.  This has not only destabilized the EuroZone … but the entire European Union, itself, as a political entity … and will continue to do so … until Economic Governance is brought much closer to, and fully within, the Community Method … which is a lengthy and complex process.

Back in 2009, however, when the Financial Markets were not in such a mad frenzy … it would have been natural to imagine that an interim stage in this process would most probably be to adopt an Open Method of Co-Ordination.  This is no longer an option … being too little, too late, to calm the Markets.

Throughout this process of reform, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the National Central Banks can, and must, retain their independence … as legally mandated in European Union Primary Legislation, i.e. the Treaties.

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Three Concerns I have had for some time …

–  Economists don’t know the Community Method from the Rhythm Method, and they are ill-equipped to deal with matters of Mainstream European Union Institutional Reform ;

–  The use of Economic Performance Indicators in the EU Stability & Growth Pact is simplistic and crude … and, therefore, very problematic ;

–  Economic Performance Indicators must be improved … qualitatively … and be mainstreamed in considerations, and the implementation, of Sustainable Human & Social Development … as legally mandated in the EU Treaties.

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Mr. Olli Rehn, European Commissioner for Economic & Monetary Affairs recently delivered a speech at the Institute of International & European Affairs, in Dublin …

Mr. Olli Rehn, European Commissioner

9 November 2010

Reinforcing EU Economic Governance: Relevance for Ireland

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (39kb)

However … instead of trying to desperately backfill the holes and gaps in the current, failed Inter-Governmental Method of Economic Governance in the European Union … Commissioner Rehn should be clearly identifying the proper target as the Community Method of Economic Governance … and plotting an appropriate course to reach that target … as soon as practicable !

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This is a useful background document … and includes a lot of information about the EU Stability & Growth Pact

European Commission & General Secretariat of the EU Council

June 2007

EU Economic & Monetary Union – Legal & Political Texts

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (2.66 Mb)

Since Ireland joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973 … after 10 years of accession negotiations ! … an ‘informed’ view of European Integration has always been that the different Countries are pooling their national sovereignty, in an expanding range of specific areas, for the greater benefit of all their citizens.  This has certainly been the experience of Ireland.  And … let us also not forget that Irish Politicians and Senior Civil Servants have participated directly – at all stages – in the development of the EMU Legal & Political Texts listed.  There is no such thing as a Domineering ‘Brussels’ Big Brother !

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This is the most recent update of the EuroZone’s Economic Performance Indicators

European Commission, Directorate-General for Economic & Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN)

2 December 2010

Key Economic Indicators for the Euro Area

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (360kb)

It is now widely acknowledged that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is neither a reliable nor an adequate indicator of Sustainable Human & Social Development.  But … that is another story … for another day !

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Community & Inter-Governmental Methods of Governance

The Community Method is the expression used for the most common and effective operating and decision-making mode of institutions in the European Union.  It proceeds from an integration logic, with due respect for the subsidiarity principle … and has the following salient features:

  • European Commission monopoly of the Right of Initiative, with a strong monitoring role in implementation ;
  • should consensus not be achieved, widespread use of Qualified Majority Voting in the Council of the European Union ;
  • an active, participatory role for the European Parliament ;
  • uniform interpretation of EU Law by the Court of Justice.

In contrast to the … Inter-Governmental Method … which proceeds from an inter-governmental logic of co-operation between EU Member States … to a large extent outside the institutional framework of the European Union … and has the following salient features:

  • the European Commission’s Right of Initiative is shared with the Member States or confined to specific areas of activity … with little, if any, monitoring role for the Commission in implementation ;
  • the Council of the European Union generally acts unanimously … and unilaterally ;
  • the European Parliament has merely a consultative role ;
  • the Court of Justice plays only a minor role.

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Open Method of Co-Ordination

The Open Method of Co-Ordination (OMC) developed as an instrument of the 2000 Lisbon Strategy, and provided a new framework for co-operation between the EU Member States, whose national policies could thus be directed towards certain common objectives.

Under this method of governance, the Member States are evaluated by one another (peer pressure), with the European Commission’s role being limited to ‘lite’ surveillance.  The European Parliament and the Court of Justice play virtually no part in the OMC process.

The Open Method of Co-Ordination takes place in policy areas which fall within the competence of the Member States … such as employment, social protection, social inclusion, education, youth and training.

It is based principally on:

  • jointly identifying and defining objectives to be achieved (adopted by the Council of the European Union) ;
  • jointly established measuring instruments (statistics, indicators, guidelines) ;
  • benchmarking, i.e. comparison of the Member States’ performance and exchange of best practices (oversight by the European Commission).

Depending on the areas concerned, the OMC involves so-called ‘Soft Law’ Measures which are binding on the Member States to varying degrees but which never take the form of ‘Hard Law’ Directives, Regulations or Decisions.  Thus, in the context of the Lisbon Strategy, the OMC required the Member States to draw up national reform plans and to submit them to the European Commission.

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Colour photograph showing the last resting place, in Arbour Hill Cemetery Dublin, for many - not all - Executed Leaders of the 1916 Revolution. The Memorial was designed by G. McNicholl. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-10-24. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the last resting place, in Arbour Hill Cemetery Dublin, for many – not all – Executed Leaders of the 1916 Revolution. The Memorial was designed by G. McNicholl. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-10-24. Click to enlarge.

Ireland’s National Sovereignty in 2010/2011 ?

On a beautiful sunny day, this past autumn … I again visited Arbour Hill Cemetery in Dublin … the last resting place for many Executed Leaders of the 1916 Revolution … an event which finally initiated an irrevocable process of terminating a prolonged period of barbaric external imperial domination and cultural cleansing of the indigenous population …

Colour photograph showing, in the background, a latin cross and the Irish language version of the 1916 Proclamation of Independence inscribed on the stone wall, with the simple grass-covered graves of Executed Leaders in the foreground. Detail of the 1916 Revolution Memorial in Arbour Hill Cemetery, Dublin. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-10-24. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing, in the background, a latin cross and the Irish language version of the 1916 Proclamation of Independence inscribed on the stone wall, with the simple grass-covered graves of Executed Leaders in the foreground. Detail of the 1916 Revolution Memorial in Arbour Hill Cemetery, Dublin. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-10-24. Click to enlarge.

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On the wall behind the graves … the 1916 Proclamation of Independence is inscribed in the Irish Language, and also in English …

Poblacht na hEíreann

THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT OF THE IRISH REPUBLIC

TO THE PEOPLE OF IRELAND

IRISHMEN AND IRISHWOMEN:  In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.

Having organized and trained her manhood through her secret revolutionary organization, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and through her open military organizations, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, having patiently perfected her discipline, having resolutely waited for the right moment to reveal itself, she now seizes that moment, and, supported by her exiled children in America and by gallant allies in Europe, but relying in the first on her own strength, she strikes in full confidence of victory.

We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible.  The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people.  In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty:  six times during the past three hundred years they have asserted it in arms.  Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State, and we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades-in-arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations.

The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman.  The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.

Until our arms have brought the opportune moment for the establishment of a permanent National Government, representative of the whole people of Ireland and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women, the Provisional Government, hereby constituted, will administer the civil and military affairs of the Republic in trust for the people.

We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God, Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine.  In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.

Signed on Behalf of the Provisional Government,

THOMAS J. CLARKE,

SEAN Mac DIARMADA,          THOMAS Mac DONAGH,

P. H. PEARSE,          EAMONN CEANNT,

JAMES CONNOLLY,          JOSEPH PLUNKETT.

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As We Approach the 100th Anniversary of the 1916 Revolution … Ireland has failed to implement and foster the social values so eloquently elaborated in the 1916 Proclamation of Independence … widespread, deeply ingrained corruption infects our economic environment … and the institutions of national governance are dysfunctional and no longer ‘fit for purpose’ … while individuals within those institutions rise in rank according to their own natural level of incompetence.

Politically … Ireland has not yet properly matured as an Independent State.

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Ireland’s Relationship with the European Union … I am more than a little curious as to why Ireland is not associated with Declaration No.52, which is annexed to the Treaty of Lisbon

52.  Declaration by the Kingdom of Belgium, the Republic of Bulgaria, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Hellenic Republic, the Kingdom of Spain, the Italian Republic, the Republic of Cyprus, the Republic of Lithuania, the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg, the Republic of Hungary, the Republic of Malta, the Republic of Austria, the Portuguese Republic, Romania, the Republic of Slovenia and the Slovak Republic on the symbols of the European Union

Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Hungary, Malta, Austria, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and the Slovak Republic declare that the flag with a circle of twelve golden stars on a blue background, the anthem based on the ‘Ode to Joy’ from the Ninth Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven, the motto ‘United in diversity’, the euro as the currency of the European Union and Europe Day on 9 May will for them continue as symbols to express the sense of community of the people in the European Union and their allegiance to it.

Yes … we have a lot to discuss before 2016 !

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Update:  2013-06-03 …

On Friday, 31 May 2013, at the Institute of International & European Affairs (IIEA) in Dublin … I attended the third seminar in a series organized to mark Ireland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union (January to June 2013) … the seventh such Presidency … and 40 years since Ireland officially joined the European Economic Community (EEC), on 1 January 1973 … after a long, long, long accession process …

‘Economic Sovereignty in an Age of Globalization and EU Integration – Economic, Legal and Political Perspectives’

[ For full information about this IIEA Economic Seminar:  www.iiea.com ]

Because the seminar was not only very interesting, but is directly relevant in the context of this post … and the remarks of Mr. Peter Sutherland, Chairman of Goldman Sachs International and the London School of Economics, and former Irish Attorney General, former European Commissioner and former Director-General of the World Trade Organization, caused quite a stir in the printed media on the following day … here is Paper 2 from Seminar Session I … which went to the heart of discussions on the day …

Prof. John W O’Hagan, Dept. of Economics, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

Shared Economic Sovereignty: Beneficial or Not, and Who Decides ?

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (635 Kb)

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Update:  2014-07-04 …

Economists exist and operate in a special bubble … in their own little isolated world of quasi-science and fantasy, where everything in ‘our’ society is seen merely as an input, or fuel, for economic development.  And when they talk about Sustainable Economic Growth … believe me, their notion of ‘sustainable’ is altogether different from our understanding of that word !

European Union Economic Governance

It should come as no surprise to learn, therefore, that economists are blissfully unaware that the EuroZone’s current directionless (and dysfunctional) economic governance is causing enormous instability and harm to the whole political entity that is the European Union …

EU Economic Governance & The European Semester - Who Does What and When, Every Year

Flow chart diagram, in colour, showing how it is proposed that The European Semester will operate … which EU Institution will do what, and at what stage every year.  Source: Council of the European Union.  Click to enlarge.

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This issue is too important for all of us … to be left to economists and national politicians, alone, to muddle through !

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MACLAREN Strollers – Bad Consumer Protection in Europe ?

2009-11-11:  In the case of the recent recall of MACLAREN Baby Strollers in the USA … it is troubling to witness what is NOT happening here in Europe … either at the level of the European Union (EU) and its Institutions … or, at national level, in EU Member States.

ALL are failing the European Consumer !!

IF the Maclaren Stroller’s hinge mechanism poses a fingertip amputation and laceration hazard to a child when a consumer is unfolding/opening the stroller … ANDMaclaren has received 15 reports of children placing their finger in the stroller’s hinge mechanism, resulting in 12 reports of fingertip amputations in the United States … HOW ARE THESE PRODUCTS SAFE IN EUROPE ????

Maclaren Baby Strollers are sold in the Americas, Oceania … and throughout Europe and Asia …

Colour photograph of one model of the Recalled MACLAREN Baby Strollers in the USA.  Photograph from U.S. CPSC WebSite.

Colour photograph of one model of the Recalled MACLAREN Baby Strollers in the USA. Photograph from U.S. CPSC WebSite. Click to enlarge.

 

On 9th November 2009, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)www.cpsc.gov … issued the following Press Release #10-033 …

Maclaren USA Recalls to Repair Strollers Following Fingertip Amputations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in co-operation with the firm named below, today announced a voluntary recall of the following consumer product.  Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed.

Name of Product:  Maclaren Strollers

Units:  About one million

Distributor:  Maclaren USA, Inc., of South Norwalk, Conn.

Hazard:  The stroller’s hinge mechanism poses a fingertip amputation and laceration hazard to the child when the consumer is unfolding/opening the stroller.

Incidents/Injuries:  The firm has received 15 reports of children placing their finger in the stroller’s hinge mechanism, resulting in 12 reports of fingertip amputations in the United States.

Description:  This recall involves all Maclaren single and double umbrella strollers.  The word “Maclaren” is printed on the stroller.  The affected models included Volo, Triumph, Quest Sport, Quest Mod, Techno XT, TechnoXLR, Twin Triumph, Twin Techno and Easy Traveller.

Sold at:  Babies’R’Us, Target and other juvenile product and mass merchandise retailers nationwide from 1999 through November 2009 for between $100 and $360.

Manufactured in:  China

Remedy:  Consumers should immediately stop using these recalled strollers and contact Maclaren USA to receive a free repair kit.

Consumer Contact:  For additional information, contact Maclaren USA toll-free at (877) 688-2326 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or visit the firm’s Web site at  http://recall.maclarenbaby.com/

To see this recall on CPSC’s WebSite, including pictures of the recalled products, please go to:  http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml10/10033.html

 

What is Maclaren itself saying on its own  U.S. WebSite ?   Bear in mind that standards … no matter where their origin … are never perfect, and are always requiring revision and regular updates.

IMPORTANT NOTICE

Consistent with our unwavering commitment to child safety we are providing U.S. consumers notice of a voluntary recall of all Maclaren umbrella strollers sold in the U.S.  In cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, we are providing free of charge to all affected consumers and retailers a kit to cover the stroller’s hinge mechanism, which poses a fingertip amputation and laceration hazard to the child when the consumer is unfolding/opening the stroller.  The affected models include Volo, Triumph, Quest Sport, Quest Mod, Techno XT, Techno XLR, Twin Triumph, Twin Techno and Easy Traveller.

Maclaren USA’s Umbrella Strollers meet all U.S. ASTM & JPMA compliance standards.  These certifications guarantee our umbrella strollers meet the maximum safety standards available.  The voluntary recall is to alert the operator when opening or closing the stroller of the possible risk of injury.

Safety is our first priority and through this voluntary effort we urge consumers to contact us immediately to obtain the kit which consists of hinge covers designed specifically to fit all Maclaren strollers.

Maclaren stresses all operators read the instruction manual prior to use which contains valuable safety tips and service recommendations.

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Even though it is slightly premature, by just a few weeks, to be quoting what the Consolidated European Union Treaties, as amended by the 2007 Lisbon Treaty, have to say about Consumer Protection … it still makes interesting reading … and, anyway, the legal intent of Article 169 was not actually amended by the Lisbon Treaty …

Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, Title XV

Article 169

1.  In order to promote the interests of consumers and to ensure a high level of consumer protection, the Union shall contribute to protecting the health, safety and economic interests of consumers, as well as to promoting their right to information, education and to organise themselves in order to safeguard their interests.

2.  The Union shall contribute to the attainment of the objectives referred to in paragraph 1 through:

     (a) measures adopted pursuant to Article 114 in the context of the completion of the internal market ;

     (b) measures which support, supplement and monitor the policy pursued by the Member States.

3.  The European Parliament and the Council, acting in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure and after consulting the Economic and Social Committee, shall adopt the measures referred to in paragraph 2(b).

4.  Measures adopted pursuant to paragraph 3 shall not prevent any Member State from maintaining or introducing more stringent protective measures.  Such measures must be compatible with the Treaties.  The Commission shall be notified of them.

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END

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