Grenfell Inquiry Recommendations (1) – Vulnerable People ?

2019-11-11:  Kensington and Chelsea’s wilful disdain for the Health, Safety and Welfare of ALL the residents within its functional area … and knowing neglect of its legal and ethical Duty of Care towards ALL … resulted in a significant number of people with activity limitations living high up in Grenfell Tower prior to June 2017 … in spite of the now incontrovertible fact that, in the event of a fire emergency, many would be left behind … to die.

‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.’

Article 1, 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Colour photograph showing a Firefighter watching the horrific fatal fire scene at Grenfell Tower in London, on 14 June 2017, from a nearby balcony.  Click to enlarge.

London Fire Brigade was an easy target for the Grenfell Fire Inquiry’s Phase 1 Report, made all the more so following some careless, insensitive and ignorant public comments by its Commissioner, Dany Cotton.  However, we must clearly distinguish between the behaviour of LFB’s Frontline Firefighters, who were brave and dedicated despite inadequate training, and lack of proper equipment, back-up resources and personnel strength … and LFB’s Senior Commanders … which is another matter.

Colour photograph showing the London Fire Brigade (LFB) Commissioner, Dany Cotton.  In order to ensure that transformation of the LFB actually takes place in the short term, and is fully effective, Dany Cotton and all of her Senior Commanders must resign now, or be fired !  Click to enlarge.

In England … there is widespread indifference, and some rabid resistance, to answering the desperate needs, and mitigating the agonizing plight, of Vulnerable Building Users during fire emergencies … which includes people with activity limitations, children under 5 years of age, frail older people (not All older people !), women in late stage pregnancy, people with disabilities, refugees, migrants, the poor, and people who do not understand the local culture or cannot speak the local language.  British National Standard B.S.9999 (not solely those sections previously contained in B.S.5588:Part 8) and England’s National Building Regulations – Approved Document B: ‘Fire Safety’ – offer only token, i.e. inadequate, protection for vulnerable people in fire emergencies.  When a senior representative of BSI, the British Standards Institution, was directly approached by me, and requested to open up B.S.9999 for meaningful updating … the answer was a firm “NO” !  The same attitude is deep-seated among fire research organizations in the country, and among people who develop computer fire evacuation models.

Presentation Overhead, in colour, showing the ‘Fire Safety for All’ Matrix, which outlines the scope of its application in the Human Environment and the different social groups to be targeted.  Balanced consideration must be given to people who use wheelchairs (physical function impairment) … and to people with visual, hearing, psychological, and mental/cognitive impairments … and to other vulnerable building users, e.g. people with health conditions.  Click to enlarge.  Matrix developed by CJ Walsh.

Presentation Overhead showing the definition of ‘people with activity limitations’, with its equivalent French translation … also showing from where this term is derived … and who this term includes.  During a fire emergency, confused and/or confusing disability-related language costs lives !  Click to enlarge.


Grenfell Fire Inquiry’s Phase 1 Recommendations – Chapter #33

After hearing the first media reports about the tough Recommendations aimed at London Fire Brigade, I had naturally expected that the other Phase 1 Recommendations would be equally as tough.  But NO … they are far from comprehensive … they are fragmentary, lack depth and any sort of coherence.  Specifically with regard to Vulnerable Building Users, the Recommendations are pathetically and disgracefully inadequate !

And in case there is any doubt, the status quo in England – and to be fair, in many other countries as well – is entirely unacceptable !!

Few people realize that the fire safety objectives in current fire regulations/codes are limited and constrained.  To implement changes to the flawed regulations in England, it will take many years … and, based on recent past history, implementation will be incomplete and unsatisfactory.  Residents in high-rise buildings, whether public or private, must no longer wait in vain for this to happen.  Instead, the time has arrived to become proactive, and to immediately initiate their own comprehensive programmes of Self-Protection In Case Of Fire … which go far and beyond the pathetic Recommendations in Moore-Bick’s Phase 1 Report.

Fires Similar To Grenfell Tower Are Frequent

[ Paragraph #33.5 ]  … although not unprecedented, fires of the kind that occurred at Grenfell Tower are rare.

[ Response ]  Not true … misleading, and a complete fallacy !

Just since 2010, fires similar to Grenfell Tower have occurred in South Korea, many in the United Arab Emirates, France, Chechnya, Australia, Azerbaijan, Russia, and most recently in Turkey.  Each one of these fires has been recorded and illustrated on our Twitter Account: @sfe2016dublin.  Seeing, and understanding, this striking pattern of unusual fire behaviour … a competent person would react and plan accordingly.

Effective Fire Compartmentation Is A Delusion … A Fantasy !

[ Paragraph #33.5 ]  Effective compartmentation is likely to remain at the heart of fire safety strategy and will probably continue to provide a safe basis for responding to the vast majority of fires in high-rise buildings.

[ Response ]  Not true … demonstrates a fundamental flaw in European fire safety strategizing !

In an environment of lax or non-existent compliance monitoring … the quality of architectural/fire engineering design and the reliability of related-construction will both, inevitably, be poor and unacceptable.  Fire loads in today’s residential buildings are also far higher than a generation ago, for example, because of more electrical/electronic equipment and synthetic furnishings.  And whatever about first-built, i.e. whether it’s good, bad or ugly, later alterations and other construction work will typically compromise the original performance of fire resisting doorsets and service penetration fire sealing.  Modern ‘green’ building materials and construction methods are further aggravating these problems.  A competent person would be aware of fire research at the UL Laboratories, in the U.S.A., which confirmed the above developments.

‘ Rigorous enforcement of building codes and standards by state and local agencies, well trained and managed, is critical in order for standards and codes to ensure the expected level of safety.  Unless they are complied with, the best codes and standards cannot protect occupants, emergency responders, or buildings.’

U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology.  Final Report on the Collapse of the World Trade Center Towers.  NIST NCSTAR 1.  2005.

‘Stay Put’ Policies Are Criminal

[ Paragraph #33.5 ]  However, in the case of some high-rise buildings it will be necessary for building owners and fire and rescue services to provide a greater range of responses, including full or partial evacuation.  Appropriate steps must therefore be taken to enable alternative evacuation strategies to be implemented effectively.

[ Paragraph #33.15 ]  e. that policies be developed for managing a transition from ‘stay put’ to ‘get out’ ;

[ Response ]  Too little … and far too late !

[ Solution ]  Two fatal fires separated in time and space … the 2009 Lakanal House Fire, in London, and the 2017 Marco Polo High-Rise Apartment Building Fire, in Honolulu, continue to clearly demonstrate that effective fire compartmentation is a delusion.  Even if carried out by a competent person … it is not possible to establish with reasonable certainty, by means of a visual/surface building inspection alone, whether or not fire compartmentation is effective in an existing building.  The London and Honolulu buildings were not fitted with any active fire suppression system, e.g. fire sprinklers or a water mist system.

Buildings must remain structurally ‘serviceable’, not merely structurally ‘stable’, for a Required Period of Time.  See the Presentation Overhead below.

Presentation Overhead, in colour, explaining the concept of ‘Structural Reliability’ in fire conditions … and defining ‘Required Period of Time’, during which a building must remain serviceable.  Click to enlarge.

Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s), firefighters, client organizations, design teams, and building owners/managers must not, therefore, direct, or even suggest, that any of its building users wait (‘stay put’) in that building during a fire emergency.  A competent person always connects building fire performance with its structural performance, and vice versa … and always learns from the evidence of ‘real’ fatal fires.

All Lifts/Elevators Must Be Used For Fire Evacuation

[ Paragraph #33.13 ]  When the firefighters attended the fire at Grenfell Tower they were unable to operate the mechanism that should have allowed them to take control of the lifts.  Why that was so is not yet known, but it meant that they were unable to make use of the lifts in carrying out firefighting and search and rescue operations.  It also meant that the occupants of the tower were able to make use of the lifts in trying to escape, in some cases with fatal consequences.

[ Response ]  There is a ridiculous assumption in Moore-Bick’s Phase 1 Report that it is only firefighters who use lifts/elevators during a fire emergency, and that it is dangerous for anybody else to use them.

[ Solution ]  In order to adequately protect Vulnerable Building Users … ALL lifts/elevators in a building must be capable of being used for fire evacuation during a fire emergency.

Until such time as firefighters arrive at a building fire scene in sufficient strength and are properly prepared to carry out effective firefighting and rescue operations … Firefighter Lifts/Elevators must be used for the fire evacuation of building occupants/users.  Prior liaison and pre-planning with local fire services is always necessary with regard to the use of firefighting lifts/elevators for the evacuation of occupants/users.

Colour photograph showing a typical sign outside most lifts/elevators around the world … ‘In The Event of Fire, Do Not Use Lift’.  This is a pre-historic dinosaur of a policy which places Vulnerable Buildings Users in immediate and very serious danger during a fire emergency.  Click to enlarge.

A fundamental principle of fire safety design is that there must be alternative, safe and accessible evacuation routes away from the scene of a fire, which can occur in any part of a building during its life cycle ;  these evacuation routes must be capable of being used by all building users, including people with activity limitations.

This is why there must always be at least 2 Fire Evacuation Staircases in High-Rise Residential Buildings !

The location of lifts/elevators and lobbies, within peripheral building cores, must always be considered in relation to the position of adjacent fire protected evacuation staircases, which must be easily found by building occupants/users, and the areas of rescue assistance adjoining those staircases.

To be used for fire evacuation, a lift/elevator must be ‘fit for its intended use’, must operate reliably during a fire emergency, and must comprise a complete building assembly which meets specific performance criteria.

A Lift/Elevator Fire Evacuation Assembly is an essential aggregation of building components arranged together – comprising a lift/elevator, its operating machinery, a hard-construction vertical shaft enclosure, and on every floor served by the lift/elevator a sufficiently large, constantly monitored lobby for people to wait in safety and with confidence, all robustly and reliably protected from heat, smoke, flame and structural collapse during and after a fire – for the purpose of facilitating the safe evacuation of building occupants/users throughout the duration of a fire emergency.

If a building is located in a Seismic Zone, Lift/Elevator Fire Evacuation Assemblies which can safely operate during an earthquake must always be specified and installed.

Gravity Evacuation Chair Devices, which are not electrically-powered and operate by gravity, facilitate downward movement, only, on straight flights of stairs.  Having descended a staircase, with the user having left his/her wheelchair behind, these devices are not fully stable when travelling the long horizontal distances necessary to reach an external ‘place of safety’ remote from a building, perhaps over rough terrain.

Colour photograph showing a Gravity Evacuation Chair and how it is used during a fire emergency.  Click to enlarge.

If lifts/elevators in existing buildings undergo a major overhaul, or if they are replaced, they should then be made capable of use for fire evacuation.

Lifts/elevators used for fire evacuation must always have a fire protected electrical supply which is separate from the main building electrical supply, in order to ensure that they can continue to operate without interruption during a fire emergency.

In addition to conventional passive fire protection measures, Lift/Elevator Lobbies must also be protected by an active fire suppression system.  Water mist is the preferred fire suppression medium, because it is user-friendly, will not greatly interfere with user visibility, uses far less water compared to water sprinklers, and is also climate-friendly.  Furthermore, because people with activity limitations will be waiting for evacuation in lift/elevator lobbies, building designers and managers must ensure that these lobbies are properly fitted out with appropriate fire safety equipment, facilitation aids, smoke hoods, signage and communications, etc., etc.

Proper Use of Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEP’s)

[ Paragraph #33.22 ]  f. that the owner and manager of every high-rise residential building be required by law to include up-to-date information about persons with reduced mobility and their associated PEEP’s in the premises information box ;

[ Response ]  There is No Recommendation or explanation in Moore-Bick’s Inquiry Phase 1 Report concerning the ‘what’, ‘why’ or ‘how’ of PEEP’s.

[ Solution ]  A Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan is a person-specific and location-specific document, and is an integral part of the overall Fire Emergency Management Plan for a building.  It is intended for regular occupants/users who may be vulnerable in an emergency situation, i.e. those with limited abilities in relation to self-protection, independent evacuation to an external place of safety remote from the building, and active participation in the building’s fire emergency procedures.

In new buildings, which are effectively accessible (including fire safe) for all, Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans are not necessary.

In existing buildings, Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans must not be used to limit or restrict access by an individual to any part of a building and its facilities.  To ensure this, sufficient accessibility works must be carried out and appropriate management procedures put in place.

In buildings of historical, architectural and cultural importance, where the historical, architectural or cultural integrity of the building must be protected, Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans may limit or restrict access to parts of a building and some of its facilities.  Refer to the ICOMOS 1964 International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites.

High-Rise & Tall Buildings: Floors Of Temporary Refuge & Minimum Staircase Widths

There are No Recommendations in Moore-Bick’s Inquiry Phase 1 Report concerning these critical issues.

[ Solution ]  There are many fire safety problems associated with high-rise and tall buildings.  Evacuation by staircases alone can take many hours ;  the physical exertion involved in descending even 10 floors/storeys by staircase is too much for many able-bodied people and is impossible for most vulnerable building occupants/users, particularly people with activity limitations.  Passive fire protection of staircases, alone and/or supplemented by pressurization to prevent smoke ingress, is far too unreliable.  And heavily equipped firefighters cannot be expected to ascend more than 10 floors/storeys by staircase before carrying out arduous firefighting and search/rescue operations.  Furthermore, uninterrupted lift/elevator shafts, extending throughout the full height of a tall building, pose a significant risk of uncontrolled fire spread.

Colour photograph showing the very narrow, single staircase in the Grenfell Tower, London.  How anybody – ANYBODY – could ever imagine that this staircase would be adequate to serve the fire evacuation needs of a diverse occupant population in a high-rise residential building is beyond belief !  A Syndrome is a cluster of symptoms which occur together and can be taken as indicative of a particular design abnormality.  Click to enlarge.

Presentation Overhead, in colour, illustrating a sufficiently wide fire evacuation staircase … minimum width 1.5m between handrails … which will accommodate Contraflow and the Assisted Evacuation of people in wheelchairs … with a sufficiently large, directly adjoining Area of Rescue Assistance … which will accommodate people unable to independently evacuate during a fire emergency.  The space provided in an Area of Rescue Assistance, on each floor/storey, is calculated in relation to the design occupant/user population of a building.  Even if a building is fully sprinklered, an Area of Rescue Assistance must adjoin every fire evacuation staircase.  Click to enlarge.  Staircase design by CJ Walsh.

A Floor of Temporary Refuge is an open, structurally robust floor/storey in a tall building – having an exceptionally low level of fire hazard and risk, ‘intelligently’ fitted with a suitable user-friendly and climate-friendly fire suppression system, e.g. water mist, and serviced by sufficient accessible, fire protected lifts/elevators capable of being used for evacuation during a fire emergency ;  it is designed and constructed to halt the spread of heat, smoke and flame beyond that floor/storey, and is intended as a place of temporary respite, rest and relative safety for building users before continuing with evacuation, and as a forward command and control base for firefighters.

In a high-rise, tall, super-tall or mega-tall building, every 20th floor must be a Floor of Temporary Refuge, even if the building is co-joined with another building, or there are sky bridges linking the building with one or more other buildings.

Special provision must be made, on these floors, for accommodating large numbers of building occupants/users with activity limitations … and because people will be waiting on Floors of Temporary Refuge, perhaps for extended periods of time, building designers and managers must ensure that these floors/storeys are properly fitted out with appropriate fire safety equipment, facilitation aids, smoke hoods, signage and communications, etc., etc.

Presentation Overhead, in colour, illustrating and explaining the design concept of Floors of Temporary Refuge.  Click to enlarge.


Conclusion: Fire Engineering Capacity in England is Lacking

In England … the very important 2005 and 2008 U.S. NIST Recommendations following the 9-11 (2001) Attacks on the World Trade Center, in New York City, were completely ignored.  Following the 2009 Lakanal House Fire, in London, the 2013 Coroner’s Recommendations were only partially implemented.

With regard to Vulnerable Building Users … there is NO capacity within the English Fire Establishment, including the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), English Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s), and its Building Design and Fire Engineering Communities … to properly respond to … never mind understand … the Fire Safety, Protection and Evacuation for ALL in Buildings.

Avoiding responsibility and pointing fingers at other Organizations appear to be the initial reactions to Moore-Bick’s Phase 1 Recommendations so far.  Refer, for example, to the NFCC Statement, dated 30 October 2019 …




#GrenfellTowerFire #FireSafety4ALL #NobodyLeftBehind #VulnerableBuildingUsers #PwAL #PwD #NeverStayPut #Firefighters #FFsafety #2019GrenfellRecommendations #SFE #GrenfellTowerFireInquiry #LondonFireBrigade #DanyCotton #FireResistingDoorsets #FireCompartmentation #FireEvacuation #MooreBick #FireEngineering #England #Design #Management #HighRiseResidentialBuilding #UDHR #HumanRights


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England’s 2017 Grenfell Tower Fire – Never Again Elsewhere ??

2018-06-12 …

As we approach the First Anniversary of the Grenfell Tower Fire Tragedy, in England, on 14 June … a few days ago, on 4 June 2018, the first batch of Grenfell Expert Witness Reports were uploaded ( to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Website ( for public view.

At this time, in London … multiple, fragmented investigations are taking place into the actual fire incident … the role of the Local Authority, and building management … those involved in the refurbishment (‘tarting up’) design and construction … the fire services, particularly their ‘Stay Put’ Policy and how it adversely impacted on vulnerable Tower occupants during the emergency … and the highly flawed regulatory model of Building and Fire Codes with light-touch Control, which is still operating in England.  One of Murphy’s Laws immediately springs to mind with regard to the intended ineffectiveness of this overly-complex process !

Colour photograph showing Grenfell Tower in the background … undergoing an almost complete ‘cover-up’ … with, in the foreground, mementos of the Fire Tragedy fixed to railings by local residents. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2018-04-29.

Many other countries have adopted some or all of this modern English regulatory model which, after the repeal of an older Bye-Law format, has been shaped by political expediency, cost-effectiveness and general ineptitude … with little or no adaptation to local conditions in the adopting jurisdictions.  Ireland adopted this model with some, but not a lot, of adaptation.

Fire Safety In Ireland ?

On 6 June 2018 … while that investigative activity was hitting the headlines in England … Minister Eoghan Murphy, T.D., Ireland’s Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, quietly published the Report: ‘Fire Safety in Ireland’ … by a High-Level Task Force within his Department’s National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management, after serious concerns and fears had been expressed in the public media that a similar fire tragedy might also occur in this jurisdiction.

To be crystal clear … this Report is a Bureaucratic Whitewash … an insult to the Public !  Nice sounding technical ‘blarney’ camouflages a failure to deal directly with critical issues, and answer concerns … while other important issues are avoided altogether.

.May 2018 – Ireland’s Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government Report

Fire Safety In Ireland    (PDF File, 2.55 MB)

Expanding on my comments in the Interview with Barry Lenihan, on RTE Radio 1’s Drive Time early evening news programme on Friday (2018-06-08) …

A.  Initially, Irish Local Authorities were requested to carry out a preliminary survey to identify all buildings of more than six storeys, or 18m in height.  Specifically, they were asked to identify those buildings which had an external cladding system which might be a cause for concern.

This height threshold of six storeys/18m is arbitrary … an external cladding system can be just as much a cause for concern in a building which is lower.  Imagine discarded cigarette butts or a rubbish fire at the base of such a system … and the resulting speed of fire spread and development across a building façade !

B.  The highly flawed regulatory model of Building and Fire Codes, with light-touch Control, which resulted in the Grenfell Tower Fire Tragedy … we also have.  Wake up and smell the coffee Ireland !

At the beginning of the 1990’s, when Ireland had been persuaded by the European Commission to finally introduce legal, national building regulations having a functional format … our National Authority Having Jurisdiction, in desperation, grabbed the then Approved Documents for England & Wales … brought them back to Ireland, put Irish covers on them, and originally called them ‘Technical Documents’ … but, after seeing a tiny ray of inspiring light, later changed their title to the more accurate ‘Technical Guidance Documents’ !  This hunger for adopting all things English which are fire safety related continues to this day … with a similar, ongoing division of Technical Guidance Document B: ‘Fire Safety’ into 2 Separate Volumes.

This may have been a convenient response under pressure … but it has been very short-sighted.  It has impeded the growth of a comprehensive and coherent philosophy on Safe, Inclusive, Age-Friendly, Resilient, Sustainable Planning, Design and Construction Codes/Controls which is suited to an Irish context and responsible local needs (not desires!).

C.  Everywhere … this Report has a lot – too much – to say about Fire Risk Assessment !  After the Grenfell Tower Fire, however, Fire Risk Assessments must only be carried out by competent persons … and the process of Fire Risk Assessment, itself, must be radically improved !  And of course, prior to any Risk Assessment … a proper Fire Hazard Appraisal must be carried out.

D.  To accurately present Fire Safety Trends in Ireland … it is not enough to furnish reliable fire fatality statistics.  It is also necessary to produce reliable fire injury statistics … and reliable information on direct/indirect socio-economic losses.

E.  The quality of fire safety related construction on Irish Building Sites continues to be very poor and problematic.  Fire Compartmentation is nowhere near being adequately – never mind acceptably – reliable !  And during the last few years we have had quite a number of close-calls concerning fire incidents in medium-rise residential buildings.

F.  Fire Evacuation for people with activity limitations is still handled atrociously in our current building regulations.  This is ironic because, on 20 March 2018 last, Ireland had to be dragged screaming to ratify the U.N. 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) !


Positive Progress By Another Path !

1.  Abandon the outdated English functional requirements in THEIR building regulations … and adopt a far better, more up-to-date body of functional requirements which is already on the Irish Statute Books … Annex I of the European Union’s Construction Products Regulation 305/2011.  And because there are important horizontal linkages between requirements … immediately finish the ridiculous current separation between Fire Safety requirements and all of the other requirements.  And yes … new Technical Guidance Documents will have to be drafted.

.Regulation (EU) No 305/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 9 March 2011, laying down harmonized conditions for the marketing of construction products and repealing Council Directive 89/106/EEC

EU Regulation 305/2011 – Construction Products.  See Annex I

(PDF File, 998 Kb)

2.  Yes … ‘Persons Having Control’ of buildings have responsibilities with regard to fire safety.  But that is only one side of the coin !  National and Local Authorities Having Jurisdiction have greater responsibilities.

If we are at all serious about Consumer Protection … bad, inadequate, faulty construction must be prevented beforehand … it is too late, too costly and, in many cases, too impractical to correct afterwards.  Self Regulation by building design professions and construction organizations is NO Regulation !  Stringent, independent technical control inspections must be carried out on all projects by Building Control personnel … which used to happen in Dublin City/County and Cork City/County prior to the introduction of legal building regulations in the early 1990’s … and, depending on complexity, must also be carried out at critical stages during the construction process.

Building Control Sections in all Local Authorities must be properly resourced with competent personnel, equipment, training and support infrastructure.

Inspections concerning compliance with all functional requirements in the building regulations, including fire safety, must be carried out only by Building Control Personnel.  Chief Fire Officers must not be allowed to manage or be involved in any aspect of Building Control.  On the same project … a Disability Access Certificate Application and a Fire Safety Certificate Application must be inter-linked and overlap sufficiently, showing no gaps in compliance.  Inspections must be carried out in connection with all Certificate Applications.  Building Control personnel must satisfy themselves that actual construction at least matches, if not improves upon, what is shown in design documentation.

Building Control Inspection Reports must be made available for public view.

3.  Firefighters are NOT a disposable Social Asset !  National and Local Authorities Having Jurisdiction … and some Chief Fire Officers … must begin to understand this fundamental truth !

Fire Services in all Local Authorities must each be properly resourced according to local needs … with competent personnel, equipment, training and support infrastructure.  Shared provision of resources looks very neat on paper but, in practice, works very badly.  Refer to the Grenfell Tower Fire and London Fire Brigade having to borrow firefighting equipment from other Fire Services.

After the 2015 Tianjin Regional Fire Devastation, in China, and the 2001 WTC Attacks on 9-11, in New York City … front line firefighters must be supported by Specialist Hazard Appraisal and Structural Engineering Units.

For Firefighter Safety in buildings and to quickly find people with activity limitations waiting in Areas of Rescue Assistance and/or other survivors in different locations … a portable and reliable Thermal Imaging Camera is an essential piece of every firefighter’s equipment.

And Firefighter Safety begins with good building design.  In all but the most simple building types, Circulation Routes must be designed for Contraflow … people moving away from a fire in a building and towards safety while, at the same time, heavily equipped firefighters are entering the building and moving towards the fire.

Colour photograph showing Contraflow on a building staircase … people moving down a staircase away from a fire and towards safety while, at the same time, heavily equipped firefighters are moving up the staircase towards the fire. Click to enlarge.

There is no place for ‘Stay Put’ Policies in Irish Residential Buildings of any height.


Ireland’s 2017 Oireachtas Report: ‘Safe As Houses’ …

December 2017 – Houses of the Oireachtas – Joint Committee on Housing, Planning & Local Government

Safe As Houses ?  A Report On Building Standards, Building Controls & Consumer Protection

(PDF File, 1.01 MB)

This was a good effort by our public representatives … but they missed core issues !


After The Grenfell Tower Fire !

Further to my last Blog, dated 2017-10-10 …

The 2017 Fire in England was not an extraordinary fire.  Since the beginning of this decade, we continue to see a series of such fires: South Korea (2010) – UAE & France (2012) – Chechnya (2013) -Australia (2014) – UAE, Azerbaijan & UAE again (2015) – UAE (2016) – UAE & Russia (2017) – Turkey (2018).

With regard to Command & Control of Large Scale Emergencies … English AHJ’s should have paid attention to the 2005 & 2008 U.S. National Institute of Science & Technology (NIST) Recommendations following the 9-11 WTC Buildings 1, 2 & 7 Collapses.

The Fire Safety Objectives in current Building & Fire Codes/Regulations are very limited.  In Ireland, this is clearly stated in Technical Guidance Document B …

‘ Building Regulations are made for specific purposes.  Part B of the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations is therefore primarily concerned with the health, safety and welfare of persons.  The fire safety measures outlined in this guidance document are intended for the protection of life from fire.’

Only insofar as it is necessary to protect the lives of able-bodied building users/occupants … is there a concern for property protection.

There is only inadequate, token concern for the protection of people with disabilities.

Client organizations, facility managers, building designers, construction organizations … and journalists … must fully comprehend these limits.

In the photograph below … look closely at the External Firefighting Operations at the bottom of the Tower.  There are limits to what can be achieved from outside a building !

Colour photograph showing the developed fire at Grenfell Tower, in London. At the bottom of the Tower, external firefighting operations can be viewed. Click to enlarge.


  • A Fire Suppression System (Water Sprinklers/Mist/Hybrid) is an essential Fire Protection Measure in ALL Medium and High-Rise Residential Buildings … which include Apartment Blocks, Hotels, Hostels, Student Accommodation & Social Housing, i.e. ANYWHERE there is a Sleeping Hazard.


  • A Reliable and Credible Fire Detection & Warning System is an essential Fire Protection Measure in ALL Buildings … and must be capable, under the control of Building Management, of transmitting warnings in many formats, i.e. Audible + Visual + Multi-Lingual Voice + Tactile.


  • Fire Evacuation Routes in Buildings must be designed for CONTRAFLOW … people moving away from a fire and towards safety while, at the same time, heavily equipped firefighters are entering the building and moving towards the fire.


  • Good Fire Evacuation Route Design is INTUITIVE and OBVIOUS.  In many buildings, however, this is not always the reality.  Effective Fire Evacuation Signage … comprising high-level signage, low-level signage, with both supplemented by photoluminescence … must be installed in ALL Buildings.


  • For the purpose of protecting Vulnerable Building Users in Fire Emergencies, ALL Lifts/Elevators in Buildings must be capable of being used for Evacuation.


  • Fire Risk Assessments must NO LONGER be carried out by people WITHOUT COMPETENCE in Fire Engineering AND Building Design & Construction … and the Fire Risk Assessment Process itself must be thoroughly re-examined and upgraded.





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‘Person-Centred’ Design & Climate Change Policy Development

2013-07-01:   Sustainable Design Solutions are …

  • Person-Centred ;
  • Reliability-Based ;    and most importantly
  • Adapted to Local Context and Heritage (fr: le Patrimoine – see ICOMOS 2011) … geography, climate (incl. change, variability and severity swings), social need, culture, and economy, etc., etc.

‘Person-Centredness’ is a core value of Sustainable Human & Social Development … an essential principle in Sustainable Design … an indispensable support framework for Sustainability-related Policy and Decision-making … and an invaluable indicator when monitoring Sustainability Implementation.


Why so because ?

It is the mid-1990’s … in the centre of Dublin City.

Imagine, if you will, a very large historical building having a civic, justice-related function … and also an enormous Energy Bill.  As described in a much earlier post, dated 2009-02-20, and the series of posts which followed on the subject of Building Energy Rating (BER) … we found that the most effective and practical remedy for this gaping and continuously haemorrhaging ‘energy’ wound was to approach the problem though the building’s users, their perception of thermal comfort, and International Standard ISO 7730.

The ‘real’ reduction in energy consumption, the ‘real’ increase in the building’s energy efficiency, and the ‘real’ improvements in building user / employee comfort and morale … were astounding !


'Person-Centredness' (Concept 1)At a 1999 Strasbourg Conference in France … I delivered the following Paper …

Person-Centredness’ of the Built Environment – A Core Value of Sustainable Design


INTRODUCTION from that Paper …

These are interesting times;  the benefits of modern technology have bypassed and long overtaken the stirring thoughts, visions and catch cries of Architects at the beginning of the 20th Century.  However, at this time in Europe, we must now ask ourselves some difficult questions …

“What should be the Design Agenda for the ‘Built Environment’ in the new millennium ?”

“Do we actually understand the ‘real’ needs and desires of ‘real’ people in an inclusive society ?”

It is Sustainable Design – the art and science of the design, supervision of related construction/de-construction, and maintenance of sustainability in the Built Environment – which is currently generating a quantum leap in the forward evolution of a more coherent design philosophy.

Principle 1 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development states …

‘Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development.  They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.’

Deeply embedded, therefore, within this philosophy is the concept of ‘person-centredness’, i.e. that core design value which places real people at the centre of creative concerns, and gives due consideration to their health, safety, and welfare in the Built Environment – it includes such specific performance criteria as:  a sensory rich and accessible (mobility, usability, communications and information) environment;  fire safety;  thermal comfort;  air, light and visual quality;  protection from ionizing / electromagnetic radiation;  nuisance noise abatement;  etc.  An important ‘person-centred’ design aid is the questionnaire survey, which is not only a very valuable source of information, but formalizes meaningful consultation between practitioners and end users.

SDI’s Guideline Framework on achieving equality of opportunity and social inclusion, which is based on a strategy produced by Directorate-General V of the European Commission, shows how further essential elements of ‘social wellbeing’ also relate to person-centredness;  these include partnership between all sectors of society, consensus, transparency and openness.

This paper explores the rational and legal basis for person-centredness of the Built Environment in Europe.  Fieldwork incorporating this innovative approach is also examined.  Finally, a body of principles – a European Charter – is outlined which aims to ensure that new construction works, and renovated existing buildings, perform reliably, are adaptable, accessible and responsive, ‘intelligently green’ (French: intelli-verdure), cost-effective and inherently sustainable.


'Person-Centredness' (Concept 2).


AND BEFORE developing Climate Change Policies which will have such dramatic impacts on human populations, and their lifestyles, around the globe … perhaps those policies would be more effective, in the ‘real’ world and in the long-term … if we looked at the problem through the ‘eyes’ of people !

It will be worth taking a look at an interesting background paper produced by the World Bank in 2009 … whether you agree or disagree with the following statements …

“A lack of citizen understanding regarding the basics of climate science is an almost universal finding worldwide even though knowledge has increased over time.  Especially notable is confusion between the causes of climate change and ozone depletion, and confusion between weather and climate.”

“North Americans know far less about climate change than their counterparts in the developed world.”

“Accurate and complete understanding of information is not a prerequisite for concern.”

“Concern is widespread around the world, but it may also be inversely correlated with the wealth and carbon footprint of a nation, or the socio-economic ‘class’ within a nation.”

“In some studies, more informed respondents reported less concern or sense of responsibility towards climate change.”

“People stop paying attention to global climate change when they realize that there is no easy solution for it.  Many people judge as serious only those problems for which they think action can be taken.”


World Bank Paper 4940: 'Cognitive & Behavioural Challenges in Responding to Climate Change' (2009) - Title PagePolicy Research Working Paper No.4940 (May 2009) – Kari Marie Norgaard

Cognitive & Behavioural Challenges in Responding to Climate Change (World Bank, 2009)

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (290 Kb)

This World Bank Working Paper – prepared as a background paper to the World Bank’s World Development Report 2010: Development in a Changing Climate.  Policy Research Working Papers are posted on the Web at


World Bank Working Paper 4940 (2009) – ABSTRACT …

Climate scientists have identified global warming as the most important environmental issue of our time, but it has taken over 20 years for the problem to penetrate the public discourse in even the most superficial manner.  While some nations have done better than others, no nation has adequately reduced emissions and no nation has a base of public citizens that are sufficiently socially and politically engaged in response to climate change.  This paper summarizes international and national differences in levels of knowledge and concern regarding climate change, and the existing explanations for the worldwide failure of public response to climate change, drawing from psychology, social psychology and sociology.  On the whole, the widely presumed links between public access to information on climate change and levels of concern and action are not supported.  The paper’s key findings emphasize the presence of negative emotions in conjunction with global warming (fear, guilt, and helplessness), and the process of emotion management and cultural norms in the construction of a social reality in which climate change is held at arms length.  Barriers in responding to climate change are placed into three broad categories:  1) psychological and conceptual;  2) social and cultural;  and 3) structural (political economy).  The author provides policy considerations and summarizes the policy implications of both psychological and conceptual barriers, and social and cultural barriers. An annotated bibliography is included.


Is anybody learning yet ?




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Recent Fatal Fire at a Disabled Workshop in SW Germany

2012-11-28:  On Monday last, 26 November 2012 … Fire broke out at a Sheltered Workshop for People with Activity Limitations, located in the small municipality of  Titisee-Neustadt, south-western Germany … not too far from the borders of France and Switzerland.  It was approximately 14.00 hrs in the afternoon … in broad daylight.

German news reports put the death toll at 14 People, including 1 Carer … with 10 People injured.

News reports also state that it took 2 Hours for Firefighters to bring this incident under control.  At the time that Photograph 1, below, was taken … smoke had spread throughout a major part of the building.

Viewers should look closely at the top of the external staircase … then, ask yourselves how any person with an activity limitation can be safely rescued, or assisted to evacuate, by means of a ladder (obscured, at the end of the building on the left) … and, finally, notice the positioning of fire hoses on the ground and on the staircase … some of the many issues which have been discussed extensively here before …

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.


2005 NIST(USA) Final Report on 9-11 World Trade Center 1 & 2 Tower Collapses

–  Recommendation  #17b  –

 To the degree possible, people with activity limitations should be provided with a means for self-evacuation in the event of a building emergency.  Current strategies (and law) generally require these people to shelter-in-place and await assistance.  New procedures, which provide redundancy in the event that the fire warden system or co-worker assistance (e.g. the buddy system) fail, should consider full building evacuation, and may include use of fire-protected and structurally hardened elevators, motorized evacuation technology, and dedicated communication technologies.


At the heart of the impressive show of fire fighting equipment and technology … and the usual reassuring statements by local officials and other people in authority after the event … there is an equally impressive lie …

Photograph by Patrick Seeger(dpa). Click to enlarge.

Photograph by Patrick Seeger(dpa). Click to enlarge.

Current Building Codes and Regulations, Fire Safety Standards, Building Design Practices, and Building Management Procedures … do not seriously consider the safety of People with Activity Limitations … not properly – not adequately – not even INadequately.  Tokenism is the best offer available in just a few European countries.

Photograph by Patrick Seeger(dpa). Click to enlarge.

Photograph by Patrick Seeger(dpa). Click to enlarge.

According to Spiegel OnLine International …

The rescue was difficult because some people panicked, said Local Fire Chief Alexander Widmaier.  “We are dealing here with people who naturally do not respond rationally”, he said.

IF this is an accurate news report, and bearing in mind that it is also a translation … I SAY …

Let us be generous and kind … Local Fire Chief Alexander Widmaier has NO awareness or understanding of People with Activity Limitations and the daily challenges they face in moving around and using a built environment which is inaccessible and unsafe.

According to AFP OnLine …

Gotthard Benitz, of the Titisee-Neustadt fire service, told AFP earlier that the fire began on the ground floor of the building which also had a basement and an upper floor.

“The victims were all on the same floor where the fire was”, he said adding this was the only area to have sustained fire damage and the stairwell had remained smoke-free meaning those on the other two floors had been able to use it.

He also said firefighters were prepared for dealing with an emergency at the workshop as practice fire alarms were regularly carried out there, with the last one having been last year.

The head of Caritas in Germany, Peter Neher, told ZDF public television that emergency practice drills were done regularly.

IF this is an accurate news report, and bearing in mind that it is also a translation … I SAY …

Gotthard Benitz should also look at the top of the external staircase in Photograph 1 above.  IF there are no circulation hazards, e.g. ice, or obstacles, e.g. fire hoses … able-bodied people can easily go up or down a staircase … people who use wheelchairs or other mobility-aid devices cannot.

In their respective positions of responsibility … Gotthard Benitz and Peter Neher should both understand that all building occupants must be facilitated in acquiring the skill of evacuation to a ‘place of safety’, by way of a safe and accessible route.  An emergency practice drill, although carried out regularly once a year … is ENTIRELY inadequate … and will achieve Very Little.

Skill:  The ability of a person – resulting from training and regular practice – to carry out complex, well-organized patterns of behaviour efficiently and adaptively, in order to achieve some end or goal.

Standard fire evacuation training and practice drill procedures must be adapted to the individual-specific abilities of People with Activity Limitations.


BUT … the new International Standard ISO 21542 is a very small step in the right direction.  See yesterday’s post.

This situation will only improve to a significant degree, however, when People with Activity Limitations, and their Representative Organizations, begin to act decisively, in unison, and with serious intent …


Self-Protection from Fire in Buildings – Personal Check List for People with Activity Limitations

1.     Upgrade ‘My’ understanding of Accessibility

Ease of independent approach, entry, egress, evacuation and/or use of a building and its services and facilities, by all of the building’s potential users – with an assurance of individual Health, Safety and Welfare during the course of those activities ;

2.     Be assertive (not aggressive) with regard to ‘My’ own self-protection in emergency situations ;

3.     Concerning ‘My’ safety … demand that Building Management actively engages in Meaningful Consultation – and receives your Informed Consent ;

4.     Become familiar with the Fire Defence Plan for the building, and know ‘My’ part well ;

5.     Practice – practice – practice … become skilled in evacuation to a Place of Safety ;

6.     Become involved, and participate directly in the Building’s Safety Procedures.


Self-Protection from Fire in Buildings  – Must-Do List for Representative Organizations & Groups

1.     Upgrade ‘Our’ understanding of Accessibility in a Social Context, its Current Vocabulary, and its Complexity … groups of individuals wish to socialize together … this is now, afterall, a recognised human and social right !

Ease of independent approach, entry, egress, evacuation and/or use of a building and its services and facilities, by all of the building’s potential users – with an assurance of individual Health, Safety and Welfare, and group Wellbeing, during the course of those activities ;

2.     Be assertive (and aggressive) with regard to the availability of proper Data and Statistics – we must clearly identify ‘Our’ problem with the many restrictions placed on our participation in local communities ;

3.     Produce a working statement of an Individual’s Rights – on 1 Page (!) ;

4.     Issue clear guidelines on Reliable Advocacy ;

5.     Become involved, and participate directly in the improvement of Building Codes and Regulations, Fire Safety Standards, Building Design Practices, and Building Management Procedures ;

6.      Demand resources to Monitor ‘Effective’ Implementation … and Target Relevant and ‘Practical’ Research.




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Accessibility-for-All … New Context … Same Old Problems !

2012-04-21:  The context for considering and properly implementing Accessibility-for-All has changed … changed utterly … but some old problems persist, and stubbornly remain …


     A.  At the time of writing, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) has been ratified by 111 Countries and the European Union.

Concerning Accessibility of the Built Environment … UN CRPD Preamble Paragraph (g), and Articles 9 – 11 – 12 are the most immediately relevant.  These texts can be easily found elsewhere on this BLOG … please use the ‘search’ facility at the top, right-hand corner of the WebPage.

With the innovative, and internationally accepted, understanding of ‘Accessibility’ – as distinct from ‘Access’ – contained in ISO 21542 : 2011 … the concept meaning: approach and entry to a building, circulation within and use of all the building’s facilities, egress from and removal from the building’s vicinity during normal circumstances, or evacuation in the event of an emergency and movement – via a safe and accessible route – to a place of safety which is remote from the building … it is now possible to deal with Fire Evacuation of Buildings through Article 9 (Accessibility) of the UN CRPD, where it is more in scale … more at home, so to speak … rather than through Article 11 (Situations of Risk & Humanitarian Emergencies), which had to be the case before.

     B.  ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’ … is the important new International Standard mentioned above.  It was published in December 2011.

Ireland has no National Standard (or Code of Practice) on Accessibility.  So, in the absence of an appropriate Harmonized European Standard, ISO 21542 must take precedence over the National Standards of any other European Union Member State.

Here, however, there is a very large fly in the ointment … the guidance text in the 2010 Technical Guidance Document M has been ‘lifted’, almost en masse, from a British National Standard on ‘Access’ … not ‘Accessibility’.  And this flawed process has imported some serious errors into Irish Accessibility Design and Construction Practice … despite my warnings to the relevant authorities.  Please refer back to this post , dated 2009-06-14.

Scope of ISO 21542 : 2011

ISO 21542:2011 specifies a range of requirements and recommendations for many of the elements of construction, assemblies, components and fittings which comprise the built environment.  These requirements relate to the constructional aspects of access to buildings, to circulation within buildings, to egress from buildings in the normal course of events and evacuation in the event of an emergency.  It also deals with aspects of accessibility management in buildings.

ISO 21542:2011  contains provisions with respect to features in the external environment directly concerned with access to a building or group of buildings from the edge of the relevant site boundary or between such groups of buildings within a common site.  It does not deal with those elements of the external environment, such as public open spaces, whose function is self-contained and unrelated to the use of one specific building, nor does it deal with single family dwellings, other than those circulation spaces and fittings that are common to two or more such dwellings.

     C.  Of direct commercial interest within the European Union (and in any countries outside the EU who wish to trade with the EU and the European Economic Area) … Accessibility-Related Construction Products are now included in the framework of the (relatively) new European Union 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.  [The old EU Directive 89/106/EEC has been repealed … it is finished, it is gone, it is no more !   There will, however, be a suitable transition period from old to new.]

Construction Product (EU Reg.305/2011)  means any product or kit which is produced and placed on the market for incorporation in a permanent manner in construction works or parts thereof and the performance of which has an effect on the performance of the construction works with respect to the basic requirements for construction works.

Construction Works (EU Reg.305/2011)  means buildings and civil engineering works.

Basic Requirement for Construction Works No. 4  in Annex I of the new EU Regulation 305/2011, states the following …

Safety and Accessibility in Use

The construction works must be designed and built in such a way that they do not present unacceptable risks of accidents or damage in service or in operation such as slipping, falling, collision, burns, electrocution, injury from explosion and burglaries.  In particular, construction works must be designed and built taking into consideration accessibility and use for disabled persons.

This is a suitable location for ‘Accessibility’ in Annex I … intimately connected to ‘Safety in Use’.  However, there is one potential drawback.  Specifying the level of safety in an EU Member State is the sole responsibility of the Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s) in that Member State.

An Accessible Building is a Safer Building … but a Safe Building is not necessarily ‘Accessible’.  ‘Accessibility’ is a completely different concept to ‘Safety’.  EU Member States have no basis in EU Law … no justification whatever … for arbitrarily deciding on which level of ‘Accessibility’ is appropriate within their territories !



With all of this New International Context on Accessibility finally in place … I continue to encounter the same old problems …

     1.  Bad Product Design

An enormous quantity of cheap, atrociously designed … you could almost use the word ‘ugly’ … Accessibility-Related Construction Products are imported every year into Ireland, from Britain.  This is one good reason, although not a very satisfactory reason, why architects hate ‘accessibility’ in buildings.  Building users notice fittings and fixtures … and if the fittings and fixtures are ugly … the building is ugly !   But occupational therapists, for example, are also specifying these types of products every day of the week here.

This has got to stop.  Proper attention must be paid to Good Design of Accessibility-Related Construction Products.  An Accessible Building does not have to look like a Hospital Ward !   And Good Design does not have to mean ‘expensive’ !!

I have seen many well designed Accessibility-Related Construction Products, available in the EU marketplace, which have been manufactured in countries such as France, Germany, Italy, and China.

Why can we not access these products in Ireland ??

     2.  No Product Approval

The National Building Regulations/Codes of EU Member States … and all EU Safety at Work legislation … demand that building products and systems must be properly shown to be ‘fit for their intended use in the location of use’.  End of story … very simple !   Regrettably, few people take any notice of this legal requirement.

Late last year, however, I encountered a Chinese Company which manufactured some nicely designed Accessibility-Related Construction Products.  I suggested to one of their sales personnel that, in order to place their products on the market anywhere in the European Union (or the European Economic Area) … there was an urgent need to update their existing ‘CE Mark’ Product Approval Documentation.  When I checked more closely, this Documentation was dubious.  I then suggested that they should place a correct, up-to-date and relevant CE Mark on their construction products … as a matter of priority.  And I received the following reply …

” i’d like to suggest that maybe you can pay for the cost to do this CE, and after you place orders in our factory, we promise return that back to you, and if you like, maybe you can act as our agency in Ireland, will you ? “

[ The sum of money being discussed here was €1,000.]

This proposal was off-the-wall, as we say here in Ireland.  But, I found it impossible to get annoyed … because this strange and weird understanding of the CE Mark, particularly in relation to Accessibility-Related Construction Products, is rife among European Manufacturers also … and European Notified Bodies.  How crazy is that ?

Perhaps my most unusual experience, back in the mid-1990’s, was having to explain to a Manager in a TÜV Laboratory, in Germany, that a Full Test Report must be issued to a Test Sponsor … after the test(s) has/have been completed.  This task required two to three hours of heated discussion !

And … in the absence of any reference to ‘Accessibility’ in the now repealed EU Directive 89/106/EEC … I have encountered some European Manufacturers of Accessibility-Related Construction Products … who, being fully aware of the value of a CE Mark, have used the backdoor method of the EU Medical Devices Directive in order to obtain a CE Mark.  And these were definitely not medical devices !

There is no effective control over the CE Marking of Construction Products within the European Union.  This is no reason to ignore the system … or to abuse the system.

However … if many more people paid attention to the legal requirement, and necessity, of Proper Product Approval and the CE Marking of Accessibility-Related Construction Products … and the professional duty and responsibility to check that compliance/conformity is properly shown … we would have a more Accessible and much Safer Built Environment !!!




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Sustainable Fire Engineering – IABSE Lecture 1 December 2011

2011-11-14 …

On Thursday evening, 1st December 2011, at 19.00 hrs … in the Dublin Institute of Technology … I will present an IABSE-Ireland Sponsored Lecture on the subject: ‘Sustainable Fire Engineering IS THE FUTURE !’.

This Presentation has been in continuous development across a snaking international path … Dubayy (UAE) in 2008 … Lund (Sweden) and Bengaluru (India) in 2009 … Dilli (India), Zurich (Switzerland) and Dublin (Ireland) in 2010 … Paris (France), the IFE’s International Fire Conference in Cardiff (Wales) and the ASFP-Ireland Fire Seminar in 2011 … and on 1 December next, in Dublin, I will be introducing some tough new realities for fire engineering generally … not just in Ireland …

Colour photograph showing the impact of witnessing the 9-11 WTC Incident in New York. Sustainable Fire Engineering must be 'reliability-based' & 'person-centred'. But ... do building designers, including fire engineers, actually understand that the people who use their buildings are 'individuals' ... each having a different range of abilities ? Photograph by Marty Lederhandler/AP. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the impact of witnessing the 9-11 WTC Incident in New York. Sustainable Fire Engineering must be 'reliability-based' & 'person-centred'. But ... do building designers, including fire engineers, actually understand that the people who use their buildings are 'individuals' ... each having a different range of abilities ? Photograph by Marty Lederhandler/AP. Click to enlarge.


IABSE Irish National Group Sponsored Lecture

Dublin Institute of Technology, Bolton Street – Michael O’Donnell Room (259)

Thursday, 1 December 2011 @ 19.00 hrs / 7.00 p.m.

CJ Walsh: Sustainable Fire Engineering IS THE FUTURE !  (Lecture Flyer, PDF File, 259 kb)


The aim of Sustainable Fire Engineering is to realize a safe and sustainable built environment.

Responding ethically, in built and/or wrought form, to the still evolving concept of sustainable human and social development … a principal objective of Sustainable Fire Engineering is to design for maximum credible fire and user scenarios … in order to maintain a proper and satisfactory level of fire safety and protection over the full life cycle of, for example, a building … and for a Sustainable Building, that life cycle is 100 years minimum.

Sustainable Fire Engineering must, therefore, be ‘reliability-based’ & ‘person-centred’.

This presentation will examine the authentic language and meaning of sustainability … and will then track how this impacts on the professional practice of fire engineering.  Special mention will be made of Fire-Induced Progressive Collapse.


See you all there !   And I will be looking forward to a lot of challenging feedback on the night !!




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BER Certificates & New Improvements to French DPE System

2011-09-15:  Further to my post, dated  8 June 2009 …

On 13 September 2011 … the French Ministère de l’Écologie, du Développement Durable, des Transports et du Logement announced 6 measures to improve their National DPE (Diagnostic de Performance Energétique) System … equivalent to our BER (Building Energy Rating) System in Ireland.

In the context of my earlier post, you will find these improvements interesting …

Colour image showing the recently announced revision to the National DPE (Diagnostic de Performance Energétique) Building Rating System in France. The new system will enter into force on 1 January 2012.

Colour image showing the recently announced revision to the National DPE (Diagnostic de Performance Energétique) Building Rating System in France. The new system will enter into force on 1 January 2012.


Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet et Benoist Apparu, Secrétaire d’Etat chargé du Logement, ont présenté, Mardi 13 Septembre 2011, 6 Mesures pour Améliorer et Fiabiliser le Diagnostic de Performance Energétique (DPE).  Pour plus de transparence, une amélioration des méthodes de calcul, une meilleure formation des diagnostiqueurs et un contrôle plus efficace de la profession.

Rendu obligatoire depuis le 1er Janvier 2011 par le Grenelle Environnement, le  Diagnostic de Performance Energétique (DPE)  est amené à jouer un rôle de plus en plus important dans les décisions d’acquisition ou de location de logements.

Un Outil Apprécié des Français

La Performance Energétique des Bâtiments représente un double enjeu: elle permet d’améliorer le pouvoir d’achat des Français par une meilleure maitrise des dépenses d’énergie, et par ailleurs, elle participe à la lutte contre le changement climatique.

[ Aujourd’hui, le secteur du bâtiment représente 42.5 % des dépenses d’énergie.  Il est le plus gros consommateur d’énergie en France parmi l’ensemble des secteurs économiques. ]

Désormais connu du grand public, le dispositif bénéficie d’une image positive auprès des Français puisqu’en Mars 2011, 80% des ménages considèrent la consommation énergétique du logement comme un critère de choix très important, et 60% déclarent que s’ils étaient appelés à mettre leur appartement en vente, ils envisageraient de faire des travaux pour en améliorer la performance énergétique.

« Le DPE a été très rapidement adopté par les Français et est devenu un critère essentiel pour guider leur choix d’acquisition et location de logement.  Il était donc important d’en faire un outil dans lequel ils ont une entière confiance.  Les mesures qui vont être mises en place ont pour but de faire de l’étiquette énergétique un outil de référence incontestable, permettant aux Français d’améliorer leur pouvoir d’achat en évaluant et en maitrisant mieux leur consommation d’énergie » ont souligné les Ministres.

6 Mesures pour une Etiquette Energétique Fiabilisée

Ce programme s’axe autour de 6 mesures portant sur plus de transparence, une amélioration des méthodes de calcul, une meilleure formation des diagnostiqueurs ou encore un contrôle plus efficace de la profession.

     1. Une Meilleure Transparence vis-à-vis des Particuliers:  Le diagnostiqueur devra à présent expliciter les données qu’il renseigne auprès du particulier à travers un relevé détaillé.  Cela permettra au particulier d’être entièrement informé sur la façon dont a été réalisé son document.  La remise d’un document officiel limitera également le risque de DPE ‘frauduleux’.

     2. Amélioration de la Méthode de Calcul:  Pour un résultat plus fiable, il s’agit d’augmenter le nombre de données à analyser afin de faire un calcul plus précis de la performance énergétique.

     3. Utilisation de Logiciels Validés par le Ministère:  Pour un meilleur encadrement des logiciels utilisés, il s’agit de limiter la liste de logiciels autorisés à générer des DPE aux logiciels ayant été soumis à une procédure d’évaluation menée entre 2008 et 2010 par le ministère et l’Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Energie (ADEME).

     4. Une Base de Données des DPE sera Mise en Ligne:  Les statistiques permettront, entre autre, de nourrir l’élaboration des stratégies nationales et locales.

     5. Une Montée en Compétence des Diagnostiqueurs, en augmentant le niveau de difficulté des examens.  Jusqu’à aujourd’hui, un seul examen existait, à présent 2 niveaux de difficulté seront mis en place selon la mention (mention « bâtiments d’habitation » ou « tous types de bâtiments » – tertiaires, publics, privés, etc.).

     6. Un Contrôle plus Efficace, avec pour les particuliers, un annuaire des diagnostiqueurs mis en ligne par le ministère, et la mise en place d’une enquête de la Direction Générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes (DGCCRF) dans le secteur du diagnostic immobilier dans le cadre de sa mission de protection économique du consommateur …

L’ensemble de ces mesures, qui entreront en vigueur dès le 1er Janvier 2012, permettront l’amélioration d’un outil encore récent, mais dont l’utilité et l’efficacité sont déjà démontrées.




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Disability Access Certificates (DAC’s) – Acceptable Accessibility ?

A few weeks ago … in a post dated 20 October 2010 … Japan in April & May 2010 – Accessibility-for-All ! … I discussed some of the many aspects which, together, facilitate a high level of quality in ‘real’, or actually realized, Built Environment Accessibility Performance in Japan … and I illustrated that quality with a number of photographs.

In time, I will add more photographs from my valuable ‘Accessibility in Japan’ Collection !

Note:  Built Environment … Anywhere there is, or has been, a man-made or wrought (worked) intervention by humans in the natural environment, e.g. cities, towns, villages, rural settlements, roads, bridges, tunnels, transport systems, service utilities, and cultivated lands, lakes, rivers, coasts, seas, etc. … including the Virtual Environment.

Note:  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.

Note:  Virtual Environment … A designed environment, electronically-generated from within the Built Environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.

However … many of these aspects are missing in European Approaches to Accessibility-for-All … and, typically, the level of Accessibility Performance which we are used to experiencing, and accepting, is inadequate, sloppy, poor … and to be direct and honest … BRUTAL !!


As far back as 2001 … in an Introduction to a Page on our Corporate WebSite illustrating the Inaccessibility of European Union Institutional Buildings … specifically, the European Parliaments in Brussels and Strasbourg … I wrote …

‘ Many times each year, our work takes us to Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg.

In spite of all the rhetoric from European politicians, and the extensive body of European legislation actually in force at national and regional levels in every Member State … the inaccessibility of Institutional Buildings is shockingly and unacceptably bad … in some cases, dangerously so !

Yet, these buildings should represent, in built form, the ideals, values and aspirations of the peoples of Europe – as expressed in the EU Treaties.

What a bitter disappointment ! ‘


Today … France, in particular, continues to be a depressing experience … where Talk is far, far too cheap … and Good Accessibility Performance is still all too rare !!

Last Thursday, 25 November 2010 … I attended a Paris Meeting of the Editorial Team for the CIB W108 Report: ‘Sustainable Climate Change Adaptation in the Built Environment’.  My airline flights from Dublin brought me in and out through Terminal 1 of Roissy Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport in Paris.

A spanking new automatically operated Métro (shuttle) … CDGVAL … connects Terminals 1, 2 & 3, various Multi-Storey Car Parks and Train Stations within the Airport Complex …

Colour image showing the Airport Complex Plan of Roissy Charles De Gaulle in Paris. Note the New CDGVAL Métro ... an important interconnecting transportation system. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the Airport Complex Plan of Roissy Charles De Gaulle in Paris. Note the New CDGVAL Métro ... an important interconnecting transportation system. Click to enlarge.


Colour photograph showing the new, automatically operated CDGVAL Métro at Roissy Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. Yet another magnificent example of Sloppy French Accessibility Implementation ! Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-11-26. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the new, automatically operated CDGVAL Métro at Roissy Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. Yet another magnificent example of Sloppy French Accessibility Implementation ! Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-11-26. Click to enlarge.


IF … you search hard enough on the CDG Airport WebSite, you will find these three highlighted short sentences under content with the title Personne à Mobilité Réduite’ … total rubbish and complete bullshit when you actually see the airport’s buildings and many facilities.  And … as usual, in French, the disability-related terminology is evil … and sucks !

‘Aéroports de Paris assure l’assistance des passagers handicapés et à mobilité réduite dés leur arrivée, et tout au long de leur parcours dans le terminal.

Aéroports de Paris a depuis longtemps entamé une démarche d’équipement et d’adaptation de ses terminaux pour faciliter les déplacements de tous.

Aujourd’hui, les problématiques d’accessibilités sont systématiquement prises en compte dans l’aménagement de nos infrastructures.’

Colour photograph showing the Door Threshold Detail of the new, automatically operated CDGVAL Métro at Roissy Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. In totally new construction ... an unacceptably huge difference between platform height and the shuttle's floor ! This is also now a trip hazard for everyone !! Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-11-26. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the Door Threshold Detail of the new, automatically operated CDGVAL Métro at Roissy Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. In totally new construction ... an unacceptably huge difference between platform height and the shuttle's floor ! This is also now a trip hazard for everyone !! Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-11-26. Click to enlarge.


Why is this relevant for us now … here in Ireland ?

The new scheme of Disability Access Certification, closely modelled on the existing highly problematic scheme of Fire Safety Certification … is undergoing a normal, introductory ‘teething’ process within this jurisdiction … and many questions about interpretation of the law and its operation are being asked.

Important Clarification:  The Guidance Text contained in Technical Guidance Document M … is not Law … is not Prescriptive Regulation … is not ‘Deemed to Satisfy’ … and … because the guidance is so incomplete, incoherent and inadequate … does not even indicate Minimum Accessibility Performance !

Part M Functional Requirements – Access for People with Disabilities     Second Schedule of the 1997 Building Regulations – As Amended by the Building Regulations (Amendment) Regulations, 2000 – Statutory Instrument No.179 of 2000

Access and Use     M1     Adequate provision shall be made to enable people with disabilities to safely and independently access and use a building.

Sanitary Conveniences     M2     If sanitary conveniences are provided in a building, adequate provision shall be made for people with disabilities.

Audience or Spectator Facilities     M3     If a building contains fixed seating for audience or spectators, adequate provision shall be made for people with disabilities.

Definition for This Part     M4     In this Part, ‘people with disabilities’ means people who have an impairment of hearing or sight or an impairment which limits their ability to walk, or which restricts them to a wheelchair.

Application of This Part     M5     Part M does not apply to works in connection with extensions to and the material alterations of existing dwellings, provided that such works do not create a new dwelling.


Today in Ireland … Talk IS too cheap … and Good Accessibility Performance IS almost non-existent !!!   Yes … and that even includes the work of those mighty superheroes in the Office of Public Works (OPW).

Furthermore … the big fun will really start when the New Part M Requirements come into operation on 1 January 2012 … and we will enter a surreal Alice’s Wonderland of Accessibility Ambiguity

Part M Functional Requirements – Access and Use     Second Schedule of the 1997 Building Regulations – As Amended by the Building Regulations (Part M Amendment) Regulations, 2010 – Statutory Instrument No.513 of 2010

Access and Use     M1     Adequate provision shall be made for people to access and use a building, its facilities and its environs.

Application of The Part     M2     Adequate provision shall be made for people to approach and access an extension to a building.

M3     If sanitary facilities are provided in a building that is to be extended, adequate sanitary facilities shall be provided for people within the extension.

M4     Part M does not apply to works in connection with extensions to and material alterations of existing dwellings, provided that such works do not create anew dwelling.




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French Term ‘Développement Durable’ – A Critical Error

Happy New Year (2010) !   Buona Fortuna a Tutti e Tutte !!

Time to get serious again.  Does anything about this next little anecdote sound familiar ?

The country is France … a critical error is discovered … there follows much beating of breasts, many tears are shed, apologies all over the place … but …. everyone keeps going forward, exactly as before.  No … not the infamous Thierry Henry Handball Incident.  Something different … something technical … something which continues, day after day, to add to the international confusion about the meaning of Sustainable Development, or to be more precise Sustainable Human & Social Development !


In January 2009, the French Sénat considered a Proposed Amendment to the Grenelle de l’Environnement Legislation

From the Official Record (No 631 – 22 Janvier 2009) … Article 1ER

I.   A la deuxième phrase du premier alinéa de cet article, remplacer les mots:

développement durable

par les mots:

développement soutenable

II.  En conséquence, procéder à la même substitution dans l’ensemble de ce projet de loi.

The purpose of this Amendment … Objet

Cet amendement a pour but de revenir aux sources du concept de développement soutenable telles qu’énoncées dans le Rapport Brundtland de 1987 et par le Sommet de Rio de 1992.  C’est «un modèle de développement qui satisfait aux besoins de la génération présente, a commencé par ceux des plus démunis, sans compromettre la capacité des générations suivantes à satisfaire les leurs».  Cette définition de la soutenabilité du développement s’oppose radicalement à celle de la durabilité du développement qui peut être prônée par toutes et tous, notamment les grands groupes industriels et financiers, sans que soit pour autant mise en œuvre une réelle politique de protection de l’environnement.

The Proposed Amendment was defeated.


What happened was later explained by Yann Cohignac … on the French WebSite (!!!) …

Le «développement durable» est un oxymore: un développement perpétuel ne peut en aucun cas être durable.  Il vaudrait donc mieux parler de «développement soutenable».  Cette opinion, défendue par certains sénateurs, a agité les premiers débats autour de l’examen de la Loi 1 du Grenelle de l’Environnement.  Mm Muller et Desessard, ainsi que Mmes Blandin, Boumediene-Thiery et Voynet avaient ainsi déposé un amendement pour opérer un changement sémantique dans l’ensemble du texte.

Objectif: rétablir le sens des mots.  Car, selon Jacques Muller (PS, Haut-Rhin), «notre modèle de civilisation est insoutenable au sens physique et biologique, car nous n’avons pas de planète de rechange, mais également au plan éthique.  Le développement industriel productiviste, qui n’est ni durable, ni généraliste, est la négation de la solidarité avec les générations futures et entre les habitants du village planétaire».  Et de dénoncer les entreprises qui pratiquent le greenwashing, «se contentant de spots publicitaires et de campagnes de communication mâtinés de développement durable sans rien changer à leur politique exclusivement orientée vers le profit à courts termes».

Ce qui fait dire au sénateur que «dans un monde aux ressources limitées, c’est une aberration de parler de croissance durable du PIB.  Par respect pour ceux qui aspirent simplement au développement, nous préférons parler de développement soutenable, écologiquement et éthiquement».

Trop Tard Pour Changer

Au Sénat, on a reconnu que l’expression «développement durable», tirée de l’anglais «sustainable development», était très mal traduite.  «Toutefois, l’article 6 de la Charte de l’environnement, adossé à la Constitution, fait référence au développement durable», répond Bruno Sido, rapporteur de la Commission des affaires économiques du Sénat (sans parler du ministère même du «développement durable»).

Et surtout: «les Français se sont appropriés l’expression, quelque fausse qu’elle soit.  Comme la bataille contre l’usage incorrect de l’expression “bien achalandé”, c’est une cause perdue.  Mettons plutôt notre énergie à défendre les idées qu’à changer les termes.  Avis défavorable».  Amendement refusé, donc.  La traduction impropre de l’expression sera ainsi durablement utilisée dans l’Hexagone.  Une exception culturelle française de plus.

Les Raisons de la Confusion Sémantique

En 1992 a lieu le second Sommet de la Terre, à Rio de Janeiro (Brésil).  L’expression «sustainable development» est alors concrétisée grâce au Rapport Brundtland: elle est largement médiatisée auprès du grand public, et traduite en français «développement durable».  Dans une première traduction des travaux de la Commission Mondiale sur l’Environnement et le Développement, c’est en effet le terme «développement durable» qui est retenu.  Une seconde traduction, par les Editions du Fleuve, préférera «développement soutenable», adaptation littérale de l’anglais «sustainable development».  Mais il est trop tard: l’expression est entrée dans les mœurs et déjà défendue par les tenants de la «durabilité».

Toutefois, certains relèvent régulièrement l’erreur de traduction.  De nombreuses ONG utilisent ainsi de préférence le terme de «développement soutenable» pour insister sur les dangers qui pèsent sur la biosphère face aux activités humaines.  Les adeptes de la décroissance, eux, considèrent que l’expression «développement durable» est un oxymore: les deux mots révèleraient une contradiction, puisque les ressources naturelles sont finies et non infinies.




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BER Certificates – A Major Infra-Red Survey in Paris (VIII)

2009-12-19:  Still recovering from the shock of the 2009 Copenhagen Accord (!!!) … something has to be said before talking about Paris or France again.  It’s funny looking back, now, to last November …

Wednesday Evening (2009-11-18) – Soccer World Cup Play-Off – Ireland v France – Stade de France 

I admit it … I was not a believer before the match … and was expecting that Ireland would be blown out of the stadium.  However … at the kick-off, I found myself glued to the television.  It was a blatant, intentional and obvious handball by Thierry Henry.  There might be a simple explanation … perhaps, he is a fan of Gaelic Football and somebody gave him a present of a DVD last Christmas !

Après le Match en Irlande 

There is nothing so boring as listening to the English go on … and on … and on … and on … about that 1986 Diego Maradona Goal.  Pay-back time for Las Malvinas ?   In Ireland, let’s stop the whinging … and move on.  We can be a great team – not just a good team – at the next European Championships in 2012 !

Anyway … back to Paris

Colour photograph of a Multi-Storey Paris Apartment Block (1975-81).  Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph of a Multi-Storey Paris Apartment Block (1975-81). Click to enlarge.

Early last spring (2009) … as a Special Project in preparation for Copenhagen … some very intelligent people in the Office of the City Mayor (who understand the value, but also the limitations, of marketing campaigns !) … organized that 500 typical buildings of the city, from each of the different historical periods up to the present day, would be surveyed using Infra-Red Thermography.  To complement the building surveys … an aerial survey of the whole city was also carried out.  The results will be placed in the public domain … for all in Paris to see … during 2010.

Colour thermograph of the Same Multi-Storey Paris Apartment Block (1975-81).  Parts of the building where most heat is being lost are shown in red.  An accompanying vertical surface temperature scale is also shown on the right of the image.  Click to enlarge.

Colour thermograph of the Same Multi-Storey Paris Apartment Block (1975-81). Parts of the building where most heat is being lost are shown in red. An accompanying vertical surface temperature scale is also shown on the right of the image. Click to enlarge.







The following Project Description was contained in the French Design e-Newsletter ‘Maison à Part’ (, dated Friday 23rd October 2009.  This description is more interesting and informative than a similar description on the City Mayor’s WebSite ( !


Une Thermographie Parisienne Instructive … 

Colour photograph of a Multi-Storey Paris Block of Flats (1945-67).  Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph of a Multi-Storey Paris Block of Flats (1945-67). Click to enlarge.

A l’occasion des Journées Parisiennes de l’Énergie et du Climat du 22 au 25 Octobre 2009, la ville de Paris présente pour la première fois les résultats de la campagne de photographies en infrarouge de la capitale.  Cette carte thermographique permet d’analyser les bâtiments énergivores.



Colour thermograph of the Same Multi-Storey Paris Block of Flats (1945-67).  Parts of the building where most heat is being lost are shown in red.  An accompanying vertical surface temperature scale is also shown on the right of the image.  Click to enlarge.

Colour thermograph of the Same Multi-Storey Paris Block of Flats (1945-67). Parts of the building where most heat is being lost are shown in red. An accompanying vertical surface temperature scale is also shown on the right of the image. Click to enlarge.



A six semaines de l’ouverture de la Conférence des Nations-Unies sur le Changement Climatique à Copenhague, la ville souhaite montrer son engagement dans la lutte contre le réchauffement climatique.  C’est tout l’objet des deuxièmes journées parisiennes énergie et climat, qui se tiendront du 22 au 25 Octobre au Palais Brongniart à Paris.  L’occasion également de découvrir pour la première fois, lors d’une exposition, une carte thermographique des immeubles parisiens.  Réalisée sur 500 bâtiments de style et d’âge différents, elle permet de se rendre compte de toutes les déperditions d’énergie et de trouver ainsi les solutions adéquates.  Chaque Parisien pourra ainsi découvrir sur une carte géante de Paris, son immeuble et sa performance énergétique.


Des Prises de Vue Révélatrices … 

Colour photograph of a Large Paris Residence (Before 1850).  Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph of a Large Paris Residence (Before 1850). Click to enlarge.

Mais d’où viennent ces photos ?   “La nuit du vendredi 6 mars 2009, l’ensemble du territoire parisien a été thermographié depuis un avion” est-il expliqué.  “La thermographie aérienne est une technique qui permet de mesurer la température à la surface des toitures à l’aide d’une caméra infrarouge et d’analyser la déperdition de chaleur des constructions.”   Ainsi, “plus le toit apparaît rouge, plus il est chaud, ce qui signifie qu’une partie de l’énergie dépensée pour chauffer le logement est en fait perdue dans l’atmosphère.”  Une campagne de prises de vue des façades à l’aide d’une caméra thermique – l’hiver en début de soirée, lorsque le thermomètre est en dessous de 5°C – réalisée par la ville permet de compléter l’ensemble.

“Chaque grande période de construction à Paris est analysée sous l’angle architectural et thermique, avec des préconisations de travaux pour chacune” précise les organisateurs de l’exposition.


Colour thermograph of the Same Large Paris Residence (Before 1850).  Parts of the building where most heat is being lost are shown in red.  An accompanying vertical surface temperature scale is also shown on the right of the image.  Click to enlarge.

Colour thermograph of the Same Large Paris Residence (Before 1850). Parts of the building where most heat is being lost are shown in red. An accompanying vertical surface temperature scale is also shown on the right of the image. Click to enlarge.



Courant 2010, un Site Internet représentant chaque type d’immeuble devrait être mis en place, grâce auquel chacun pourra “tirer des préconisations générales” en matière d’économies d’énergie pour son propre immeuble, même si “cette photographie ne remplace pas un diagnostic thermique”, a précisé à l’AFP l’adjoint à l’environnement de la Mairie de Paris, Denis Baupin.  Le Site montrera quatre photos de façade par bâtiment, la couleur rouge symbolisant les pertes d’énergie les plus importantes.




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