Ar C.J. Walsh – Consultant Architect, Fire Engineer & Technical Controller – International Expert on Sustainability Implementation + Accessibility-for-All + Fire Safety for All + Sustainable Fire Engineering
2016-05-05: A Mickey Mouse Effort would be a polite way of describing the long drawn-out and tortuous process of implementing NIST’s Recommendations in the United States. A better description might be … FUBAR !
15 Years After the 2001 WTC 9-11 Attacks in New York City … absolutely nothing has been done concerning the implementation of a significant number of Recommendations … other Recommendations have been only partially implemented, with many being limited to application in buildings over 128m high (420 feet in ye olde silly imperial units of measure), or else buildings over 22.86m high (75 feet) which have an occupant load exceeding 5,000 people or are essential facilities, e.g. hospitals. And believe it or not, some implementing measures are still being challenged and they may yet be reversed in the years ahead. Forget about discussing the already narrow Fire Safety Objectives in building codes/regulations, or Protecting Society, etc., etc. In essence, it has all come down to that ‘durty’ four letter word: COST !
But read this 2011 Status Report for yourselves. I have kept in touch with the current situation over there.
In 2005 & 2008, the U.S. National Institute of Standards & Technology issued a series of very important [ critical ] Recommendations on badly needed revisions to the Design – Construction – Management – Firefighting Procedures for Very High/Tall Buildings, High-Risk Buildings, Iconic Buildings, and Innovatively Designed Buildings. Many, if not all, of these Recommendations were, and remain, just as valid and just as necessary in the case of other building types … whatever their height.
A lot of effort was expended here, a few years ago, on a detailed examination of the NIST Recommendations. In one respect, the Recommendations have become dated and obsolete. The recent 2016 Brussels and 2015 Paris Hive Attacks have altered how we must categorize and deal with buildings of ‘high-risk’. From the start, however, the disability-related Recommendations only concerned mobility impaired building occupants … a serious flaw.
NIST does not have the legal authority to implement its own Recommendations within the United States. However, implementation by the Model Code (e.g. IBC & NFPA) Organizations has been brutally slow and entirely inadequate.
And … it is very noticeable how so many other countries around the world are continuing to completely ignore NIST’s Recommendations. 9-11 never happened !
2015-01-31: The beginning of this 21st Century is deeply unsettling … history is catching up on us, and old certainties are crumbling before our eyes …
The recent, extremely violent Paris Hive Attacks … which occurred between Wednesday and Friday (7-9 January 2015) … have again shown that co-ordinated attacks on a small number of carefully chosen, low-level targets can be just as effective in causing widespread social and economic disruption in a City as a single attack on a high-level target. Search for our previous detailed discussion, here, on the 2008 Mumbai ‘Hive’ Attacks.
On this tragic occasion, the attacks happened in Europe … not, as before, in far-off India.
Following the 2001 WTC 9-11 Attacks in New York City … the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in 2005 and 2008, recommended that these Building Types should be treated as ‘Risk Priorities’ …
• Tall / High-Rise Buildings ;
• Iconic Buildings ;
• Buildings Having a Critical Function ;
• Buildings Having an Innovative Design.
However, a typical medium-rise office building (in Paris) and off-street supermarket do not fall into the above categories … another indication that the NIST Recommendations must soon undergo a thorough international review and updating.
In the real world, the whole urban and sub-urban infrastructure of a City is at risk from Extreme Man-Made Events … one more risk among significant others, i.e. Hybrid Disasters (e.g. 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident), Severe Natural Events (e.g. earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis) and Complex Humanitarian Emergencies (e.g. mass human migrations, regional famines). And with 50% of the world’s population already living in Cities, and substantial urban population growth projected over the coming decades … it is clear that, in the short to medium term, Cities must become much more resilient. Search for our continuing discussion, here, about Sustainable Urban Resilience.
In this context, compliance solely with the minimal and limited fire safety objectives in current national legislation – from whatever source around the world – is so far from being either adequate or acceptable … that it is no longer worth a moment’s consideration.
A Fire Engineering which is ‘fit for purpose’, i.e. is both ethical and professional, in today’s complex and dynamic Human Environment … has an essential and critical part to play in the realization of a Safe, Resilient and Sustainable Built Environment for All !
… this is how we would like to help you … whether you are an individual, or an organization … whether you are located in Ireland, Italy or Turkey … some other part of Europe, the Arab Gulf Region, India, Japan, China … or wherever !
And … we can, if requested or necessary, work in collaboration with local partners in those different geographical regions.
– FireOx International is the Fire Engineering Division of Sustainable Design International Ltd. (SDI) –
Fundamentally, the 9-11 World Trade Center Incident in New York (2001) was an Extreme ‘Real’ Fire Event. It presented the International Fire Engineering Community with a catastrophic failure in conventional practices and procedures related to:
Fire Engineering, Structural Engineering, and Architectural Design ;
Human Building Management Systems ;
Emergency Response by Firefighters, Rescue Teams, and Medical Personnel ;
National and Local Organizations Having Authority or Jurisdiction (AHJ’s) ;
… and with the serious problem of entirely inadequate Fire Safety Objectives in the building legislation, model codes and design standards of the most economically advanced countries in the world.
Those people who understand the building design process, and have experience as construction practitioners, have long realised that the lessons from 9-11 must be applied across the full spectrum of building types … not just to tall buildings. Right up to the present day, unfortunately, many people in the International Fire Engineering Community are either unwilling, or unable, to do this.
Furthermore … Fire Engineering, Architectural Design and Structural Engineering must, of urgent necessity, be seamlessly conjoined … with the aim of removing misunderstandings and the wide gaps in client service delivery between the different disciplines.
In 2002, a series of Long-Term 9-11 Survivor Health Studies commenced in the USA … and in 2005 and 2008, the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) issued a series of Post 9-11 Critical Recommendations concerning the design, construction, management and operation of buildings.
At FireOx International … we have fully integrated this essential design guidance into our frontline fire engineering and architectural practice … we have developed unique and practical solutions for worldwide application, some of which appear in International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’, published in December 2011.
FireOx International’s Commitment to You
As a necessary response to the New 21st Century Paradigm of Real Extreme Event in a Built Environment which is becoming more and more complex … is subject to climate change and severe weather events … and is vulnerable to malign and malevolent disruption –
WE are committed to … the implementation of a Sustainable Human Environment which is Fire Safe and Secure for All, meaning that an ‘appropriate project-specific fire safety level’ is our fire engineering objective, with ‘human health protection’ targeted as a priority … through the use of innovative, reliability-based and person-centred sustainable design practices and procedures.
What is an ‘Appropriate Fire Safety Level’ in Your Building or Facility ?
It is rarely, if ever, explained to clients/client organizations that the Minimal Fire Safety Objectives in building legislation are focused solely on protecting the ‘interests’ of society, not those of the individual … are, quite often, inadequate and/or flawed … and are, always, revised only after the latest tragedy !
To properly protect Your Interests as a client/client organization … we strongly advise that the Appropriate Level of Fire Safety in Your Building or Facility should exceed the minimal level of safety required by building legislation. We would also caution that, in many jurisdictions (e.g. India), compliance with national building legislation is voluntary.
Which raises the issues of whether or not you will actually get what you pay for, and whether or not the Fire Protection Measures in Your Building or Facility are reliable (in other words, will they perform as intended at the time of a ‘real’ fire, which may occur at any time in a building’s long life cycle) !?! Competent Technical Control of Design and Construction, independent of the design and construction organization(s), is essential.
You should carefully consider the following spectrum of issues which may be directly relevant to Your Project. Following a process of consultation with you, we then develop Project-Specific Fire Engineering Design Objectives … bearing in mind that you must also comply with safety at work, anti-discrimination, and environmental legislation, etc … maintain business continuity, etc … be energy efficient, etc … and be socially responsible, etc …
– Protection of the Health of All Building Users … including People with Activity Limitations (2001 WHO ICF), Visitors to the building or facility who may 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 or Facility, 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 (social – built – virtual – economic) … including Fitness for Intended Use and Life Cycle Costing of fire engineering related products and systems, etc … fixed, installed or otherwise incorporated in the building or facility ;
– Protection of the Natural Environment from Harm, i.e. Adverse or Damaging Impacts.
FireOx International – Our Fire Engineering Services
WE will advise you on Fire Safety Policy, Fire Safety Strategy Development, Fire Safety Implementation … and, whether you are within or from outside the European Union, on CE Marking of Fire Protection Related Construction Products ;
WE understand the process of Design, particularly the new language of Sustainable Design … and we will produce Creative Fire Engineering Solutions for Your Project ;
WE are thoroughly familiar with the intricacies of Building Sites … and we will verify and/or validate Design Compliance during construction, and at project completion … and, if requested or necessary, as a completely Independent Technical Controller ;
WE communicate easily and effectively with other Professional Design Disciplines, including architects and structural engineers … and we will act as fully participating members of Your Project Design & Construction Team … and, if requested or necessary, as the Design Professional in Responsible Charge** ;
Are adapted to Local Geography, Climate/Climate Change, Social Need, Culture, Economy … and Severe Events (e.g. earthquakes, flooding) ;
Are ‘Reliability-Based’, i.e. that design process based on practical experience, competence and an examination of real extreme events, e.g. 2001 WTC 9-11 & 2008 Mumbai Attacks, and 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident … rather than theory alone ;
Are ‘Person-Centred’, i.e. that design process which places ‘real’ people at the centre of creative endeavours and gives due consideration to their responsible needs, and their health, safety, welfare and security in the Human Environment.
It is there, not here, that we define Sustainable Human & Social Development … and describe how our Practice is responding to this open, intricate, dynamic, and still evolving concept. The resulting transformation in how frontline services are provided to our Clients/Client Organizations ensures a much more comfortable ‘fit’ to their needs … and a greater level of protection, safety and security for society !
[** 2005 NIST(USA) Final Report on 9-11 World Trade Center 1 & 2 Tower Collapses
– Footnote 49 –
… the Design Professional in Responsible Charge – usually the lead architect – ensures that the (Design) Team Members use consistent design data and assumptions, co-ordinates overlapping specifications, and serves as the liaison with enforcement and review officials, and with the client or client organization. ]
2012-04-16: Following the 9-11 World Trade Center Extreme Fire Event, in New York City …
The National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST), in the USA, recommended that Fire-Induced Progressive Collapse be particularly considered in the case of …
High-Rise Buildings ;
Iconic Buildings ;
Buildings Having a Critical Function ;
Buildings of Innovative Design.
However, as recently discussed … in order to avoid the wide confusion which the term ‘Fire-Induced Progressive Collapse’ is continuing to cause at international level … the preferred term should now be Fire-Induced Progressive Damage.
AND … CIB Working Commission 14: ‘Fire Safety’ – Research Working Group IV: ‘Structural Reliability & Fire-Induced Progressive Damage’ … would strongly caution that Fire-Induced Progressive Damage and Disproportionate Damage are fundamental concepts to be applied in the design of all building types.
[ A height threshold of 5 Storeys for the consideration of Disproportionate Damage, in the Building Codes/Regulations of many jurisdictions, including Ireland, is entirely arbitrary.]
So … what is Fire-Induced Progressive Damage ? And what is the relationship between this structural concept … and Disproportionate Damage ?
Leaving aside all of the crazy conspiracy theories about the collapse of World Trade Center Building No. 7 … is it possible for Conventional Fire Engineering to directly confront what actually happened ? Unfortunately … the reaction still, even today, is to bury the head, ostrich-like, in the sand … and ignore WTC 7 and the 2008 NIST WTC Recommendations (Final Report NCSTAR 1A) !
Yesterday, on an adjoining page here … I uploaded a New CIB W14 International Reflection Document on ‘Structural Reliability & Fire-Induced Progressive Damage’, with 2 Appendices. Scroll down to the section headed ‘April 2012’.
This is a Reflection Document issued by CIB W14 Research Working Group IV: ‘Structural Reliability & Fire-Induced Progressive Damage’; its purpose is to examine the ‘hot form’ structural concept of Fire-Induced Progressive Damage, and to propose a critical update to fire engineering design practice. It is also intended to encourage a wider discussion about some of fire engineering’s fundamental tenets, and the future direction of our profession in a rapidly evolving trans-disciplinary approach to the design, construction and operation of a Safe and Sustainable Built Environment.
The Document is written in a simple, generic language which is accessible to design disciplines outside the International Fire Science and Engineering Community. The next phase of this CIB W14 Innovation & Research Project will certainly require the use of a more technical language, complex calculations, computer modelling, etc … and much closer liaison with CIB W14’s other Research Working Groups on Connections, Design Fires & Design Fire Scenarios, and Performance Criteria.
I wish to sincerely thank those individuals and organizations who have contributed to the work of our Research Working Group IV.
Finally, the myth surrounding NIST’s 9-11 WTC Recommendations, i.e. that they are only applicable in the case of Very Tall Buildings during rarely occurring extreme events … must be completely demolished, and obliterated from the face of the earth !
Climate Change Adaptation is already demanding a much higher level of building resilience.
C.J. Walsh, FireOx International – Ireland, Italy & Turkey.
Chair – CIB W14 Research WG IV.
Update 2012-04-20 …
In response to a discourteous and unprofessional comment about the above CIB W14 WG IV Reflection Document, posted by Mr. Morgan Hurley (Technical Director at the Society of Fire Protection Engineers in the USA) on the LinkedIn SFPE Group WebPage … I wrote, as follows, this morning …
Good Man Morgan !
Relax … there is no need to become defensive quite yet. WG IV’s Reflection Document is simply intended to raise issues … ask questions … and solicit comments from within and, more importantly, from outside the International Fire Science and Engineering Community.
Perhaps of more direct relevance to the SFPE Membership, in the USA, might be the following …
NIST Report: ‘Best Practices for Reducing the Potential for Progressive Collapse in Buildings’ (NISTIR 7396 – February 2007) … is a good document on ‘disproportionate damage’, but it has nothing to say about ‘fire-induced progressive damage’. These two structural concepts are related, but they are not the same.
When discussing Multi-Storey Steel Frame Buildings, on pages 18 and 19, of NIST Report: ‘Best Practice Guidelines for Structural Fire Resistance Design of Concrete and Steel Buildings’ (NISTIR 7563 – February 2009) … what happened to WTC Building 7 on 9-11, and the 2008 NIST WTC Recommendations (NIST NCSTAR 1A), are conveniently and completely ignored. Instead, there is a launch straight into the BRE Fire Tests at Cardington, and computer calculations, in order to justify a very flawed design approach. How crazy is that ?
Hope to see you there next week … we missed you at the last CIB W14 Meeting in Paris !
1.At last, we arrive at the Group 8 Recommendations ! At this stage … my impression is that the NIST Team began to run out of steam, because these two short Recommendations barely scratch the surface with regard to the significant education and training needs of the many different design, construction, management, operation, maintenance and emergency response disciplines engaged with, and confronted by, the Built Environment … every day of every week.
After a careful reading of all 30 NIST WTC Recommendations, I hope that you have satisfied yourself/yourselves that these Recommendations must be applied to ALL Buildings … not just Tall Buildings. At various times … Iconic Buildings, and Buildings having a Critical Function or an Innovative Design have been specifically mentioned. And look back to Recommendation 22a … tunnels and subways also made an appearance ! The proper focus for the International Fire Science and Engineering Community must be on the Built Environment as a whole.
At All Levels in a Typical Construction Project … there are also pressing education and training needs. It is of little use if the Project Design Documentation is 100% … and the people actually installing the passive fire protection measures or the active fire protection systems on site don’t know which end is ‘up’ ! The Project Design Documentation, in whatever format, is merely a means to an end … a fully realized and occupied Building, which is fire-safe.
Preferably … we should be discussing the mandatory Re-education and Re-training of Practitioners in the different Disciplines … [CPD (Continuing Professional/Personal Development) is not at all sufficient !] … accompanied by a very necessary Re-engineering of the Stakeholder Professional and Educational Institutions … and other related Organizations, particularly National Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s).
Our Best Hope for Transformation … lies with the current crop of third-level undergraduate students in the different disciplines. And, as we are discovering with the introduction of the Structural EuroCodes in the European Union, it will take perhaps 5-8 years of continuous student output to transform pre-9/11 conventional fire engineering … into a post-9/11 and post-Mumbai fire engineering which is properly ‘reliability-based’ and ‘person-centred’, i.e. Sustainable Fire Engineering !
As for the Future, and Some Conclusions to this Series … coming shortly to a computer monitor screen near you !
2005 NIST WTC RECOMMENDATIONS
GROUP 8. Education and Training
The professional skills of building and fire safety professionals should be upgraded through a national education and training effort for fire protection engineers, structural engineers, and architects. The skills of building regulatory and fire service personnel should also be upgraded to provide sufficient understanding and the necessary skills to conduct the review, inspection, and approval tasks for which they are responsible.
NIST WTC Recommendation 29.
NIST recommends that continuing education curricula be developed, and programmes be implemented for: (1) training fire protection engineers and architects in structural engineering principles and design; and (2) training structural engineers, architects, fire protection engineers, and code enforcement officials in modern fire protection principles and technologies, including the fire resisting design of structures; and (3) training building regulatory and fire service personnel to upgrade their understanding and skills to conduct the review, inspection, and approval tasks for which they are responsible. The outcome would further the integration of the disciplines in effective fire-safe design of buildings. Affected Organizations: AIA, SFPE, ASCE, ASME, AISC, ACI, and state licensing boards. Model Building Codes: Detailed criteria and requirements should be incorporated into the model building codes under the topic ‘Design Professional in Responsible Charge’.
NIST WTC Recommendation 30.
NIST recommends that academic, professional short-course, and web-based training materials in the use of computational fire dynamics and thermo-structural analysis tools be developed and delivered to strengthen the base of available technical capabilities and human resources.Affected Organizations: AIA, SFPE, ASCE, ASME, AISC, ACI, ICC, and NFPA.
2011-09-11: From the beginning of the past week, news media (printed and on-line), and the television and radio schedules have all been full of articles, stories, opinions, and interpretative and speculative pieces about the 9-11 World Trade Center (WTC) Incident in New York, and its tragic aftermath. Today is the 10th Anniversary … a long ten years since that sunny Tuesday morning in Manhattan !
BUT … is anybody out there asking the questions: “Are Our Buildings Safer ?” … and … “Are Our Firefighters Safer ?” AND … if you do ask those questions … are you able to distinguish between solid, reliable information and ‘spin’ ?
So many Irish people, and people of Irish descent, were directly involved in this traumatic event … working inside the WTC offices, as stockbrokers … or outside, as maintenance personnel, or firefighters, policemen and women, or as members of the emergency medical services …
The previous post about the United Nations Gaza Flotilla Report, I hope, created an uncertainty in your mind … a worrying thought regarding political interference and the negative, and very often, destructive influence of vested interests … which is a necessary frame of mind to have, also, for an essential discussion – on the 10th Anniversary of the 9-11 WTC Incident – about the Safety of Our Buildings, particularly High-Rise Buildings, Iconic Buildings, and those Buildings having a Critical Function and/or an Innovative Design … and the Safety of Our Firefighters.
By ‘Our Buildings’ … I don’t just mean buildings in Ireland, or Europe … I mean buildings on every continent of our small planet. And … such a discussion must be trans-disciplinary, involving the use of simple language only … because it is necessary for each discipline to clearly understand what the others are saying (this rarely happens !) … and the discussion must also be transparent to, and be easily assimilated by, the general population in all of our societies. And by ‘Our Firefighters’ … I mean firefighters worldwide.
Concerning the Gaza Flotilla Report … we could ask …
Would the Findings and Recommendations have been different … if there had been 4 independent and obviously impartial people on the Panel of Inquiry instead ? The answer is … yes, of course ! And …
Why did UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon nominate President Álvaro Uribe (Vice-Chair), an ‘ultra’ rightwing politician from Columbia … and Mr. Joseph Ciechanover Itzhar, an Israeli, to serve on the Panel ? I will leave you to answer that for yourself …
The important point I wish to make is that the community of International Fire Science and Engineering – just like every other ‘human’ community – is not immune from these sorts of malevolent influences !
LONG-TERM ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF 9-11
Just five weeks after the 9-11 World Trade Center (WTC) Incident in New York … I found myself in Manhattan for the purpose of making an important presentation to a conference which was taking place not far from Madison Square Garden … while staying Down-Town in Battery Park City, at an apartment within the Security Zone. Yes, I was worried and fearful before going … but …
Environmental Impact: Any effect caused by a given activity on the environment, including human health, safety and welfare, flora, fauna, soil, air, water, and especially representative samples of natural ecosystems, climate, landscape and historical monuments or other physical structures, or the interactions among these factors; it also includes effects on accessibility, cultural heritage or socio-economic conditions resulting from alterations to those factors.
On first arriving in the city, by taxi from Kennedy Airport … I witnessed, at first hand, the racist hostility of a policeman towards our coloured Asian driver, who had simply asked about the procedure to pass through the Security Zone Boundary. Later, walking near the WTC Site, I would encounter the ‘macho’ behaviour of many National Guardsmen on security duty.
At the conference, I met a person who was literally unable to speak – could not even bear to talk about – the 9-11 Incident.
Everywhere south of Canal Street was in a terrible, horrific condition.
The weather, fortunately, had remained generally very good … sunny, with a light breeze coming in from the sea. Then, unexpectedly, one day towards the end of my stay … the sky was overcast and the air stood still … in lower Manhattan, it assaulted my eyes, nose and the back of my throat. Many times, during that particular day, I retched … but could not vomit ! Yet, a representative of the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) announced that there was no problem with air quality ! Meanwhile, in Mid-Town, everything ‘appeared’ normal.
10 Years Afterwards … people, communities and the country (USA) are all still suffering … physically, mentally and psychologically … from the 9-11 WTC Incident … unable to ask for help, or perhaps, too proud or ashamed to speak up.
Why are so many Key Institutions and Organizations in the International Building Sector still desperately trying to ignore and/or deny the Recommendations in those 2 NIST Reports ?
Why have National Building and Fire Codes/Regulations and Standards not yet been revised to respond, properly and satisfactorily, to the NIST Recommendations ?
Why can we not yet use All Lifts (Elevators) in a Building during a fire incident ? Why are Lift (Elevator) Manufacturers still actively resisting this necessary change ?
The answers to the questions are NO … and NO … minor revisions (tinkering at the edges) have been made to Codes/Regulations & Standards in some countries … and, generally, progress on implementing the NIST Recommendations is proving to be very slow … too slow ! Most surprisingly, no revisions have been made to Codes/Regulations & Standards in many countries.
To illustrate tinkering at the edges … refer to the USA’s International Building Code (2012 Edition) … which, despite its grandiose title, is really just another of the USA’s National Model Building Codes … and check out this very disappointing Article: ‘Evolution of Building Code Requirements in a Post 9/11 World’, by David Drengenberg and Gene Corley, in the recently published Special Issue III (2011) of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) Journal … which is available at http://www.ctbuh.org/