Fire

Sustainable Fire Engineering Design – Targeting & MRV !

2014-04-20:  Traditional/Conventional Fire Engineering Practice is slowly, but inevitably, being transformed … in order to meet the regional and local challenges of rapid urbanization and climate change, the pressing need for a far more efficient and resilient building stock, and a growing social awareness that ‘sustainability’ demands much greater human creativity …

Design Target:  A Safe, Resilient and Sustainable Built Environment for All

Design Key Words:  Reality – Reliability – Redundancy – Resilience

Essential Construction & Occupancy Start-Up Processes:  Careful Monitoring & Reporting – Independent Verification of Performance (MRV)

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Sustainable Fire Engineering Design Solutions:

Are Reliability-Based …
The design process is based on competence, practical experience, and an understanding of ‘real’ building performance and resilience during Extreme Man-Made Events, e.g. 2001 WTC 9-11 Attack & 2008 Mumbai Hive Attacks, and Hybrid Disasters, e.g. 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident … rather than theory alone.

Are Person-Centred …
‘Real’ people are placed at the centre of creative design endeavours and proper consideration is given to their responsible needs … their health, safety, welfare and security … in the Human Environment, which includes the social, built, economic and virtual environments.

Are Adapted to Local Context & Heritage *
Geography, orientation, climate (including change, variability and severity swings), social need, culture, traditions, economy, building crafts and materials, etc., etc.
[* refer to the 2013 UNESCO Hangzhou Declaration]

In Sustainable Design … there are NO Universal Solutions !

Design Objectives:

To protect society, the best interests of the client/client organization and building user health and safety, and to maintain functionality under the dynamic, complex conditions of fire … Project-Specific Fire Engineering Design Objectives shall cover the following spectrum of issues …

  • Protection of the Health and Safety of All Building Users … including people with activity limitations (2001 WHO ICF), visitors to the building who will be unfamiliar with its layout, and contractors or product/service suppliers temporarily engaged in work or business transactions on site ;
  • Protection of Property from Loss or Damage … including the building, its contents, and adjoining or adjacent properties ;
  • Safety of Firefighters, Rescue Teams and Other Emergency Response Personnel ;
  • Ease and Reasonable Cost of ‘Effective’ Reconstruction, Refurbishment or Repair Works after a Fire ;
  • Sustainability of the Human Environment – including the fitness for intended use and life cycle costing of fire engineering related products, systems, etc … fixed, installed or otherwise incorporated in the building ;
  • Protection of the Natural Environment from Harm, i.e. adverse impacts.

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More Specifically … with Regard to Resilient Building Performance during a Fire Incident and the ‘Cooling Phase’ after Fire Extinguishment:

1.   The Building shall be designed to comply with the Recommendations in the 2005 & 2008 NIST(USA) Final Reports on the World Trade Center(WTC) 1, 2 & 7 Building Collapses.

In one major respect, the 2005 NIST Report is flawed, i.e. its treatment of ‘disability and building users with activity limitations is entirely inadequate.  The Building shall, therefore, be designed to comply with International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’, which was published in December 2011.

2.   The Building shall remain Serviceable, not just Structurally Stable(!) … until all buildings users (including those users with activity limitations waiting in ‘areas of rescue assistance’) have been evacuated/rescued to an accessible ‘place of safety’ which is remote from the building, and have been identified … and all firefighters, rescue teams and other emergency response personnel have been removed/rescued from the building and its vicinity.

The Building shall be designed to resist Fire-Induced Progressive Damage and Disproportionate Damage.  These requirements shall apply to all building types, of any height.

Under no reasonably foreseeable circumstances shall the Building be permitted to collapse !

3.   The Building shall be designed to comfortably accommodate and resist a Maximum Credible Fire Scenario and a Maximum Credible User Scenario.

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Concerted International Research is Needed …

To creatively resolve the direct conflict which exists between Sustainable Building Design Strategies and Traditional/Conventional Fire Engineering.

An example … for cooling, heating and/or ventilation purposes in a sustainable building, it is necessary to take advantage of natural patterns of uninterrupted air movement in that building. On the other hand, fire consultants in private practice, and fire prevention officers in authorities having jurisdiction, 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. The result is that the sustainability performance of the building is seriously compromised.

If, however, adequate independent technical control is absent on the site of a sustainable building … it is the fire safety and protection which will be seriously compromised !

To effectively deal with the fire safety problems (fatal, in the case of firefighters) which result from the installation of Innovative Building/Energy/EICT Systems and Products in Sustainable Buildings.

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These are appropriate tasks for a new CIB W14 Research Working Group VI: ‘Sustainable Fire Engineering Design & Construction’ !

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Disability Access Certificates (DAC’s) – Parts M & B ? (II)

2009-10-18:  In everyday practice, the usual short introductory text in Technical Guidance Document M (Ireland) which refers to a linkage between ‘access and use’ of a building with ‘fire safety’ has little impact, because it is not explained … and is typically ignored.

In general … the basic problem is that this issue is hardly dealt with … at all … by Local Fire Authorities right across the country in their handling of Fire Safety Certificates … and where it does become part of the process, it receives inadequate attention.  There are exceptions.

A major drawback with the current vertical approach to our Building Regulations … each of the Parts has its own separate Supporting Technical Guidance Document … is that people are not sufficiently aware of the important horizontal linkages between the different Parts.  For example, all of the other Parts must be linked to Part D.  Quick, run to find out what Part D covers !   Another two examples … Part B must also be linked to Part A and Part M … and Part M must also be linked to Part K and Part B.

So … while grudgingly having to accept that the scope of TGD M should have some limit, under the current flawed system … a precise intervention with just one or two sentences, at critical places in the guidance text, would help to improve the overall consideration of fire safety issues, relevant to Part M, by building designers … and client or construction organizations.

Here are a Few Suggestions for Discussion …

1.  Revise Paragraph #0.6 of Draft TGD M (2009) & Add a Title …

Fire Evacuation for All

” Accessibility encompasses the full range of activity related to buildings: to approach, enter, use, egress from under normal conditions, and evacuate a building independently during a fire emergency, in an equitable and dignified manner.  Provision for access and use must, therefore, be linked to provision for fire evacuation.  For guidance on design for evacuation, reference should be made to Technical Guidance Document B (Fire Safety).”

Note:  No such guidance is contained in TGD B (2006).  It would be a great wonder if any person with a disability could actually evacuate a building which had been designed in accordance with TGD B.  To take a simple example … all of the ‘stairways’ in Table 1.5 of TGD B – Minimum Width of Escape Stairways will not facilitate contraflow or the assisted evacuation of mobility and visually impaired people.  Furthermore, those minimum widths specified in the Table may have a clear width which is 200 mm less.  See Methods of Measurement, Paragraph #1.0.10 (c) (iii) … ” a stairway is the clear width between the walls or balustrades, (strings and handrails intruding not more than 30 mm and 100 mm respectively may be ignored) ” !   What an incoherent mess !!

2.  Insert New Sentence at the End of Paragraph #1.1.1 of Draft TGD M (2009) …

Objective (Approach to Buildings)

” Consideration should be given to the use of the approach and circulation routes around a building as accessible routes to a ‘place of safety’ during a fire emergency.”

3.  Insert New Sentence at the End of Paragraph #1.2.1 of Draft TGD M (2009) …

Objective (Access to Buildings)

” Consideration should be given to the use of all entrances to a building as accessible fire exits during a fire emergency.”

4.  Insert New Paragraph at the End of Paragraph #1.3.4.1 of Draft TGD M (2009) …

Passenger Lifts

” Manual handling of occupied wheelchairs in a fire evacuation staircase, even with adequate training for everyone directly and indirectly involved, is hazardous for the person in the wheelchair and those people – minimum three – giving assistance.  The weight of an average unoccupied powered wheelchair, alone, makes manual handling impractical.  Lifts in new buildings should, therefore, be capable of being used for evacuation in a fire situation.  For guidance on the use of lifts for fire evacuation, reference should be made to Technical Guidance Document B (Fire Safety).”

5.  Insert New Paragraph and New Sentence at the End of Paragraph #1.3.4.2 of Draft TGD M (2009) …

Internal Stairs

” To allow sufficient space to safely carry an occupied wheelchair down or up a fire evacuation staircase, and to accommodate contraflow, i.e. emergency access by firefighters entering a building and moving towards a fire, while people are still evacuating from the building to a ‘place of safety remote from the building, the clear unobstructed width (exclusive of handrails and any other projections, e.g. portable fire extinguishers, notice boards, etc.) of the flight of a single, or multi-channelled, stairs should not be less than 1 500 mm.  The surface width of a flight of stairs should not be less than 1 700 mm.”

Note:  See Footnote (5) to Table 1.5 in TGD B (2006) … ” The minimum widths given in the table may need to be increased in accordance with the guidance in TGD M: Access for People with Disabilities.”   DUH ?

And …

” For the purpose of safe assisted fire evacuation of people, the rise of a step should not have a height greater than 150 mm, and the going of a step should not have a depth less than 300 mm.”

6.  Insert New Sentence at the End of Paragraph #1.5.1 of Draft TGD M (2009) …

Objective (Facilities in Buildings)

” Consideration should be given to the use of relevant facilities within a building, by people with disabilities, for the purposes of fire safety, protection and evacuation.”

7.  Insert New Sentence at the End of Paragraph #1.6.1 of Draft TGD M (2009) …

Objective (Aids to Communication)

” Consideration should be given to the use of relevant aids to communication, by people with disabilities, for the purposes of fire safety, protection and evacuation.”

Note:  More guidance could be provided under each of the individual paragraphs of Section #1.6 of Draft TGD M (2009).  See Draft International Accessibility-for-All Standard ISO 21542.

8.  Insert New Section #2.6 of Draft TGD M (2009) …

Fire Safety in Dwellings for People with Disabilities

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‘Sustainable Fire Engineering’ – Important Indian Presentation !

2009-09-08:  It is really enjoyable to be back behind my desk, here in Dublin.  Apologies for the prolonged absence.

Since the middle of June last, my travels have taken me to Turkey, France, Italy, the south-west of Ireland to attend my cousin’s wedding in Cork … and back again to Bengaluru (Bangalore) in Southern India to make an important Keynote Presentation at the 2009 Fire & Safety Association of India (FSAI) National Fire Seminar: ‘Engineering a Safe & Secure India’, which was held on Friday, 28th August, at the Leela Palace Hotel.

My Presentation Title & Abstract

Sustainable Fire Engineering: Fire Safety, Protection & Evacuation for All

India, like other economically advanced developing countries, is at an important crossroads.  Difficult, resource-dependent decisions must be made in the next few short years concerning the rapid implementation of a Sustainable Built Environment across a vast country, i.e. one which must serve local needs and meet regional performance requirements during a long life cycle … one which will be adaptable to climate change, variability and extremes … will be in harmony and dynamic balance with the Natural Environment … and, not least, will be super energy-efficient.

Citizens of Developed Nations also have legitimate expectations.  They will express anger when they witness recently constructed buildings in seismic zones collapse, in an earthquake, like a deck of cards (China 2008, Italy 2009) … or they discover that federal/state authorities having jurisdiction, which are funded by their taxes, are ill-prepared to respond effectively to intentional traumatic disruptions to the Social Environment (New York 2001, Mumbai 2008).  Retaining the public’s confidence in national institutions is a fundamental political priority.

In the case of all new High-Rise Buildings, Iconic Buildings, and Buildings of Innovative Design or having a Critical Function … Trans-Disciplinary Building Design Teams must, at a minimum, properly respond to the Recommendations of the 2005 & 2008 NIST(USA) Final Reports on the 9-11 WTC 1, 2, and 7 Collapses.  In practice, the majority of these Recommendations should be applied to the design of all new buildings !

Fire Engineers, competent concerning the processes of ‘real’ building design and construction, must begin to understand the ‘real’ people who occupy or use buildings, every day of every week, in all parts of India … and that they each have widely differing ranges of human abilities and activity limitations.  Just as they are different from each other, they will react differently than expected in a ‘real’ building fire emergency.

Based on a Keynote Presentation before International Council for Building Research (CIB) Working Commission 14 : Fire and Sub-Committee 3 & 4 Members of ISO Technical Committee 92 : Fire Safety, at Lund University in Sweden … and his fire safety texts which have been fully incorporated into International Standard ISO DIS 21542 on Accessibility-for-All, currently under development and due for publication before the end of 2010 … CJ Walsh’s Presentation, at the FSAI National Fire Seminar in Bengaluru, will focus on ‘Fire Safety, Protection & Evacuation for All’.

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Part B – Careless Disregard for Firefighter Safety ?

2009-05-15:  Firefighters have two functions:

         fighting fires ;   and

         rescuing people who are trapped in buildings, or for some reason, cannot independently evacuate a building which is on fire.

 

 

Compare for a moment, therefore, Part B5 in the Irish Building Regulations …

 

B5  Access & Facilities for the Fire Service

 

A building shall be so designed and constructed that there is adequate provision for access for fire appliances and such other facilities as may be reasonably required to assist the fire service in the protection of life and property.

 

 

… with Essential Requirement 2 of the European Union (EU) Construction Products Directive 89/106/EEC …

 

2.  Safety in Case of Fire

 

The construction works must be designed and built in such a way that in the event of an outbreak of fire:

– the load-bearing capacity of the construction can be assumed for a specific period of time ;

– the generation and spread of fire and smoke within the works are limited ;

– the spread of the fire to neighbouring construction works is limited ;

– occupants can leave the works or be rescued by other means ;

– the safety of rescue teams is taken into consideration.

 

 

Can you spot the difference ?   Go to the last indent in Essential Requirement 2.

 

There is a complete and careless disregard for Firefighter Safety in the Irish Building Regulations … it isn’t even mentioned.  And forget about any references to ‘firefighter safety’ in the guidance text of Technical Guidance Document B … there are none.

 

 

In July 2003 … the results of a U.S. Firefighter Disorientation Study, examining firefighter fatalities in the years 1979-2001, were released.  This important Study was prepared by Captain William R. Mora of the San Antonio Fire Department in Texas.

 

Firefighter Disorientation – loss of direction due to the lack of vision in a building fire – is one of the oldest, least understood and deadliest hazards of firefighting inside a building.  And according to the U.S. National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) … disorientation usually precedes firefighter fatality.

 

Capt. Mora’s Study focused on 17 building fires in which disorientation played a major part in 23 firefighter fatalities.

 

In the cases studied, the typical Disorientation Sequence was as follows:

 

A fire in an enclosed building with smoke showing occurs.  The arriving fire services immediately initiate an aggressive interior attack to search for the source of the fire.  During the search, the source cannot be located and conditions deteriorate with the production of heat, smoke and prolonged zero visibility.  As firefighters perform an emergency evacuation due to deteriorating conditions, hoseline separation occurs or tangled hoselines are encountered.  Disorientation then occurs as firefighters exceed their air supply, are caught in flashovers or backdrafts, or are trapped by a collapsing floor or roof.  When a firefighter is not located quickly enough, the outcome is a fatality or serious injury.  The disorientation sequence usually unfolds in a building that does not have a sprinkler system or one that is inoperable.

 

The 17 Buildings displayed a wide range of architectural features … including differences in size, height and type of construction.  In 100% of the fire incidents, however, the buildings had an ‘enclosed’ design with very few windows or doors (necessary for prompt ventilation and emergency evacuation by firefighters) in relation to the size of the building.  They also included basements.

 

This ‘enclosed’ form was the result of Architectural Design or alteration after construction was completed.  When owners altered a building, pre-existing windows or doors were closed up using materials such as plywood sheeting or brickwork.

 

 

 

Another Issue … a Fundamental Principle of Fire Engineering Design … after the WTC 9-11 Incident in New York … is to always ensure the provision of Alternative, Safe & ‘Intuitive’ Evacuation Routes for ALL building users.

 

Fully understanding the different functions of firefighters … and giving proper consideration to their safety … why aren’t Alternative, Safe and ‘Intuitive’ Fire Attack Routes for Firefighters provided, as the norm, in buildings ?

 

 

What is ‘Intuitive and Obvious’ Design for Fire Evacuation, anyway ?

 

 

Are Architects and Fire Engineers given any education or training about …

 

         Visuo-Spatial Learning ?

         Proprioception ?

         Cognitive Psychology ?

 

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