2014-04-21: Notwithstanding the, by now, well-established existence of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’, a host of other national accessibility standards, and a plethora of accessibility design guidance materials … not every ‘real’ site, or building, or built environment, situation is covered. It would be physically impossible.
Unless it is fixed in your mind … or, more importantly, in the ‘group-thinking’ of an organization … that Accessibility-for-All should be, for example, both independent (i.e. it is not necessary for a person to have an assistant) and inclusive (i.e. friends can do things together and no special deal is made about accessibility for one person) … it can be very difficult to emerge from beneath the weight of those documents referred to above … and to apply important disability-related principles flexibly and adaptively in the real world.
At a recent meeting with some teachers in an Irish school (which shall remain nameless) … I advised that a very good and positive start can be made by discussing together and agreeing on a Disability Policy Statement, which will help to guide future actions. More steps are required, of course, but those will come later.
Model Disability Policy Statement for Educational Establishments
Insofar as it relates to the educational activities of
Name of School/College/University/Institute
and its relationships in the wider local community …
We recognise and respect the rights of people with activity limitations:
to lead a fulfilling life – autonomously, independently, and with dignity ;
to integrate into the civil, political, economic, social, cultural and educational mainstream ; and
to participate in the general life of the wider local community on a basis of equal opportunity with everyone else.
Good Education is an Important Key to Social Inclusion
In order to ensure your autonomy and independence, your civil, political, economic, social, cultural and educational integration, and your active participation in the general life of the wider local community – the principle of equal opportunity shall not prevent the adoption or maintenance of services, systems and policies providing for your support or assistance within this establishment.
[ Discussed and Agreed by the School/College/University/Institute Management Board on …… ]
2014-04-20:Traditional/Conventional Fire Engineering Practice is slowly, but inevitably, being transformed … in order to meet the regional and local challenges of rapid urbanization and climate change, the pressing need for a far more efficient and resilient building stock, and a growing social awareness that ‘sustainability’ demands much greater human creativity …
Design Target: A Safe, Resilient and Sustainable Built Environment for All
Essential Construction & Occupancy Start-Up Processes: Careful Monitoring & Reporting – Independent Verification of Performance (MRV)
Sustainable Fire Engineering Design Solutions:
Are Reliability-Based …
The design process is based on competence, practical experience, and an understanding of ‘real’ building performance and resilience during Extreme Man-Made Events, e.g. 2001 WTC 9-11 Attack & 2008 Mumbai Hive Attacks, and Hybrid Disasters, e.g. 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident … rather than theory alone.
Are Person-Centred …
‘Real’ people are placed at the centre of creative design endeavours and proper consideration is given to their responsible needs … their health, safety, welfare and security … in the Human Environment, which includes the social, built, economic and virtual environments.
Are Adapted to Local Context & Heritage* …
Geography, orientation, climate (including change, variability and severity swings), social need, culture, traditions, economy, building crafts and materials, etc., etc.
[* refer to the 2013 UNESCO Hangzhou Declaration]
In Sustainable Design … there are NO Universal Solutions !
To protect society, the best interests of the client/client organization and building user health and safety, and to maintain functionality under the dynamic, complex conditions of fire … Project-Specific Fire Engineering Design Objectives shall cover the following spectrum of issues …
Protection of the Health and Safety of All Building Users … including people with activity limitations (2001 WHO ICF), visitors to the building who will be unfamiliar with its layout, and contractors or product/service suppliers temporarily engaged in work or business transactions on site ;
Protection of Property from Loss or Damage … including the building, its contents, and adjoining or adjacent properties ;
Safety of Firefighters, Rescue Teams and Other Emergency Response Personnel ;
Ease and Reasonable Cost of ‘Effective’ Reconstruction, Refurbishment or Repair Works after a Fire ;
Sustainability of the Human Environment – including the fitness for intended use and life cycle costing of fire engineering related products, systems, etc … fixed, installed or otherwise incorporated in the building ;
Protection of the Natural Environment from Harm, i.e. adverse impacts.
More Specifically … with Regard to Resilient Building Performance during a Fire Incident and the ‘Cooling Phase’ after Fire Extinguishment:
1. The Building shall be designed to comply with the Recommendations in the 2005 & 2008 NIST(USA) Final Reports on the World Trade Center(WTC) 1, 2 & 7 Building Collapses.
In one major respect, the 2005 NIST Report is flawed, i.e. its treatment of ‘disability and building users with activity limitations is entirely inadequate. The Building shall, therefore, be designed to comply with International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’, which was published in December 2011.
2. The Building shall remain Serviceable, not just Structurally Stable(!) … until all buildings users (including those users with activity limitations waiting in ‘areas of rescue assistance’) have been evacuated/rescued to an accessible ‘place of safety’ which is remote from the building, and have been identified … and all firefighters, rescue teams and other emergency response personnel have been removed/rescued from the building and its vicinity.
The Building shall be designed to resist Fire-Induced Progressive Damage and Disproportionate Damage. These requirements shall apply to all building types, of any height.
Under no reasonably foreseeable circumstances shall the Building be permitted to collapse !
3. The Building shall be designed to comfortably accommodate and resist a Maximum Credible Fire Scenario and a Maximum Credible User Scenario.
Concerted International Research is Needed …
To creatively resolve the direct conflict which exists between Sustainable Building Design Strategies and Traditional/Conventional Fire Engineering.
An example … for cooling, heating and/or ventilation purposes in a sustainable building, it is necessary to take advantage of natural patterns of uninterrupted air movement in that building. On the other hand, fire consultants in private practice, and fire prevention officers in authorities having jurisdiction, will demand that building spaces be strictly compartmented in order to limit the spread of fire and smoke … thereby dramatically interfering with those natural patterns of air movement. The result is that the sustainability performance of the building is seriously compromised.
If, however, adequate independent technical control is absent on the site of a sustainable building … it is the fire safety and protection which will be seriously compromised !
To effectively deal with the fire safety problems (fatal, in the case of firefighters) which result from the installation of Innovative Building/Energy/EICT Systems and Products in Sustainable Buildings.
These are appropriate tasks for a new CIB W14 Research Working Group VI: ‘Sustainable Fire Engineering Design & Construction’ !
The NUIG ‘blurb’ for the day states … “Considering the importance of aggressive energy-efficiency measures in the Building Sector, together with the requirements for a safe, healthy, comfortable (and accessible) Built Environment … this NUIG Workshop will explore the topic of Integrated Modelling and Performance of the Built Environment.”
I was very pleased to receive an invitation to make a Presentation at this prestigious event …
‘Sustainable Fire Engineering Design’ – My Presentation Abstract
Fire Engineering … involves much more than mere compliance with building regulations and codes … whose fire safety objectives are limited, and whose performance requirements are sometimes inadequate and always minimal. More problematically … a fundamental conflict is mushrooming between Safe Sustainable Climate Resilient Building Design and Conventional Fire Consultancy Practice.
However … Sustainable Fire Engineering Design Solutions are:
… and above all …
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.
This Presentation will discuss very rich collaborative research potential in the following areas …
Creative Fire Engineering Concepts and Building Systems
Fire-Induced Progressive Damage in Buildings
Human Behaviour and Abilities in a Fire Situation
Building Design for Firefighter Safety
BMS – Fire Modelling – BIM
Research Output must be targeted at practical implementation in ‘real’ buildings … with actual user/construction performance carefully (i.e. reliably and precisely) monitored !
If anybody out there is interested in attending this NUIG Research Workshop … please contact Ms. Magdalena Hajdukiewicz (IRUSE) at: email@example.com
POST-EVENT UPDATE: 2013-06-27 …
While it was difficult to keep the Workshop Programme, involving a series of short 10-minute presentation slots, on track … discussions during the day were engaging, energetic and extensive.
I happily look forward to a successful and collaborative outcome from the day … Multi-Disciplinary Teams producing Trans-Disciplinary Research Output … which is geared towards practical implementation in ‘real’ buildings, with actual construction and building user performance carefully (i.e. reliably and precisely) monitored !
Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (1.78 MB)
However … and especially since the Workshop had been organized by IRUSE (the ‘SE’ standing for ‘Sustainable Engineering’) … it was indeed very strange to have to clarify the following points, among others:
1. The Minimum Life Cycle for a Sustainable Building is 100 Years … not 50 or 60 years !
2.Future Research Collaboration should be targeted at the multi-aspect ‘Sustainability Agenda’. The word ‘green’ (where only environmental aspects of sustainability are considered) should be actively discouraged, if not banned entirely !
3. With regard to Good Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) … two high-level performance indicators which have been developed with the aim of protecting human health, and are both now referenced in International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’ … are …
– Radon Activity (incl. Rn-222, Rn-220, RnD) in a building should, on average, fall within the range of 10 Bq/m3 to 40 Bq/m3, but should at no time exceed 60 Bq/m3 ;
– Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Concentrations in a building should not significantly exceed average external levels – typically within the range of 300 parts per million (ppm) to 500 ppm – and should at no time exceed 800 ppm.
Concerning the substantive difference in meaning and scope between ‘sustainable’ and ‘green’ … there is, perhaps, no better way to illustrate this difference than to observe the atrocious ‘Accessibility-for-All’ Performance (Accessibility for People with Activity Limitations !) of the critically acclaimed (?!?) and award winning (?!?) New Engineering Building in Galway University … which flaunts its ‘über-green’ credentials …
Can you believe what’s in those photographs ?? More importantly … can you believe what’s not in those photographs ???? In such a recently completed building … “incredible” is the only answer to both questions.
Under International Law … lack of accessibility, or inadequate accessibility, to the social, built, virtual and economic environments … IS a denial and infringement of the basic human rights of people with activity limitations. It also limits, needlessly and unnecessarily, the numbers of potential users of those environments … which makes no sense at all.
My strong recommendation to Galway University … is to immediately commission a Competent Accessibility Consultant to give the university campus a thorough going over ! You are failing the campus user population … the local community in Galway … and Irish society generally.
My even stronger recommendation to the Architects for the New Engineering Building … RMJM Architects (Robert Matthew Johnson-Marshall) in Scotland, and Taylor Architects in Ireland … is to always commission a Competent Accessibility Consultant on all of your projects … small, medium and large … because you haven’t a bull’s notion about this important dimension of building performance !!
And remember folks … Accessibility has been clearly specified in the new International Standard ISO 21542 as including … ‘access to buildings, circulation within buildings and their use, egress from buildings in the normal course of events, and evacuation in the event of an emergency’.
2013-04-02:Sustainable Design International Ltd. (SDI) is pleased to announce that its Managing Director, C.J. Walsh, has been invited to be ‘Project Design Architect’ / ‘Design Professional in Responsible Charge’ for aNew 32 Storey Hotel in Yunnan Province, People’s Republic of China (PRC).
He will have responsibility for the Project’s Architectural Concept Design and General Schematic Design … including the overall architectural character and profile of primary exterior surfaces.
Project Approximate Value = € 65 Million (Euros) … excluding interior design, finishes and furnishing (which could end up doubling, or even tripling, the overall project value).
Sustainable Design International Ltd. maintains a strict practice policy of Client Confidentiality.
[ If this Type of Professional Design Service Appeals to You, or Your Organization – Contact Us Immediately ! ]
An estimated One Billion People will be living in China’s cities by 2030. This large-scale and very rapid urbanization demands that a sustainable transformation of their urban built, social, economic and institutional environments commences Today – not at some notional point in a far distant future.
Furthermore … replicating a European approach to sustainable design and construction in other regions of the world is doomed to failure. Urban Transformation in China must be adapted to Local Geography, Climate, Climate Change, Social Needs, Cultures, Economy, and Local Severe Events (e.g. earthquakes, flooding). With European support and collaboration … China must, and will, find its own way.
Click the Link Above to read and/or download a PDF File (4.42 Mb)
Report on a One-Day China Advisory Council Roundtable, co-organized by Friends of Europe and EuroChambres, which was held in Brussels on 8 March 2012. This event was part of an ‘Understanding China’ Programme (mid-2009 to mid-2012), co-funded by the European Commission.
This Guide describes a practical approach to bridge the gap between theoretical analyses of climate change impacts and the planning decisions that need to be made by city authorities and utility managers to increase climate change resilience of the water sector in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, People’s Republic of China (PRC). It focuses on answering the questions currently being asked by city planners and managers all over the world, as follows:
What changes might be caused by climate change ?
How will these changes affect services and utilities ?
What can we do now to prepare for them ?
The long lead time required to plan, finance, build, and commission city infrastructure facilities means that decision makers cannot wait for more detailed data on the effects of future climate change, especially those relating to local circumstances, but must make investment decisions based on what is known now and what can be readily predicted. An important principle in this kind of ‘robust’ decision-making is provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) tenet that adaptation investments, which move a city’s infrastructure toward sustainable development (such as providing safe drinking water and better sanitary conditions), are justifiable even without climate change.
This Guide is arranged in clear steps to provide direction and information for similar exercises in other areas. Having grown out of a specific locality and its needs, the principles and solutions developed in this guide are founded on real world situations and problems …
Click the Link Above to read and/or download a PDF File (2.31 Mb)
*** THIS TALL BUILDING IN YUNNAN PROVINCE & SIMILAR COMPLEX ARCHITECTURAL PROJECTS ***
Working within the professional constraints of ‘client confidentiality’ … it is possible to have a general discussion about current building design, construction and operation issues in an international sector which is operating, more and more, beyond national borders … without adequate, or very often any, national and local regulation. By ‘regulation’, I mean a flexible system of building-related legislation which is operated in conjunction with mandatory and effective technical control.
In order to cope with today’s complex built environment and the enormous variation in the size and scale of construction projects … a ‘flexible’ mix of functional, performance and prescriptive legal requirements is the sharpest and most appropriate instrument.
And you can forget the hype about performance-based building codes coming out of the USA … hot air, and much ado about little !
Of course, the biggest issue of all is the competence of those individuals who work in Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s), i.e. technical controllers. Even in the most developed economies of the world … there are many occasions when the level of individual incompetence in an AHJ is astounding … and institutional arrangements within the AHJ itself are a mess, i.e. the AHJ is not fit for purpose.
1. Sustainable Design – Design Process Efficiency & Proper Preparation for Construction
A tremendous amount of waste is associated with and generated by the processes of conventional building design, construction and operation. There is a more up-to-date and efficient way of doing things … an essential way for Sustainable Design … and it’s called Building Information Modelling (BIM) !
Furthermore … consider, for a moment, just the initial list of Specialist Consultants who will be engaged directly by the Chinese Client when the project’s conceptual design has reached a sufficiently developed stage. How can all of these individuals and organizations – listed in the revised and agreed Project Design Agreement – obtain accurate and reliable ‘real time’ information about the rapidly evolving project from a central design library / information database … then feed their new work back into the centre without unnecessary delay ? How, next, can everyone else who needs to know, be updated with the new design input … again, without delay ? And perhaps, these consultants may also be based in different countries … working in very different time zones …
Building Information Modelling (BIM) Consultant
Local Design Institute (LDI) … a local architectural practice which will produce the project’s working drawings, handle local spatial planning and building code approvals, carry out site inspections, and deal directly with construction organization(s), etc., etc.
Interior Design Consultant
Traffic / Parking Analysis Consultant
Curtain Wall Consultant (Curtain Wall, Skylights & Special Roof Structures)
Retail Market Analysis Consultant
Landscape Design Consultant
Quantity Surveying & Cost Estimating Consultant
Furniture Design Consultant
Geotechnical, Civil Engineering & Structural Engineering Consultant (including structural performance under fire and earthquake conditions, resistance to fire-induced progressive damage and disproportionate damage … and also including climate resilience)
Art, Artefact and Accessories Consultant & Procurement Services for Art, Artefacts, and Accessories
Tenant Storefront Design Consultant
Helicopter Landing Pad Design Consultant
Universal Design / Accessibility for All Consultant [including access to the building, electronic, information and communication technologies (EICT’s), and services offered at the hotel … and including fire safety, protection and evacuation for all]
2. The ‘Design Professional in Responsible Charge’ !
The Project Design Agreement requests that the Client receive advice on who might be the different Specialist Consultants listed above. In addition, it will be necessary to demarcate the boundaries within which each Consultant will operate … and, where appropriate, to prescribe a design performance target (see below) for each speciality … which must be ‘realized’ in the completed and occupied building !
Recalling the many previous posts, here on this Technical Blog, concerning NIST’s 2005 & 2008 Recommendations on the 9-11 World Trade Centre Building Collapses in New York City … ‘somebody’ must ensure that the many individuals and organizations listed above – members of the Larger (2nd Stage) Design Team – use consistent design data and assumptions … must co-ordinate design documents and specifications to identify overlaps and eliminate gaps … must serve as ultimate liaison between the Client, the Local Design Institute, AHJ officials, and the Construction Organization(s) … and must ensure that everybody is on the same communication wavelength, and working towards the same objective in a trans-disciplinary manner.
That ‘Somebody’ … the Design Professional in Responsible Charge … must be the Project Design Architect !
3. Some Sustainable Design Performance Targets
Actual construction and building user performance shall be carefully (i.e. reliably and precisely) monitored … and independently verified …
A.Basic Functional Requirements … the Building shall comply with the Basic Requirements for Construction Works – elaborated in Annex I of European Union (EU) Regulation No.305/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 9 March 2011, laying down Harmonized Conditions for the Marketing of Construction Products and Repealing Council Directive 89/106/EEC.
B.Good Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) … Two high-level performance indicators have been developed with the aim of protecting Human Health, and are both now referenced in International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’ …
– Radon Activity (incl. Rn-222, Rn-220, RnD) in a building should, on average, fall within the range of 10 Bq/m3 to 40 Bq/m3, but shall at no time exceed 60 Bq/m3 ;
– Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Concentrations in a building should not significantly exceed average external levels – typically within the range of 300 parts per million (ppm) to 500 ppm – and shall at no time exceed 800 ppm.
C.Energy Conservation & Efficiency + A ‘Positive Energy’ Return + Assured Building User Thermal Comfort
‘ For many Weak and Vulnerable People, today’s Complex Human Environment is inaccessible and unsafe … a hostile ‘reality’ which prevents independent functioning and participation in a local community; it is a blatant denial of their human rights.’
Relevant Human Environment (social – built – virtual – institutional) Factors … factors which are external, or extrinsic, to the context of a person’s life and living situation … include policies and standards, negative attitudes and stigma, lack of services, problems with service delivery, inadequate funding, lack of accessibility in the built environment and to electronic, information and communication technologies, lack of consultation and involvement, and an absence of reliable data and evidence.
Accessibility for All …
Take a really close look at the photograph below … and see a staircase which, in spite of all the legislation in the EU Member States, contravenes almost every accessibility-related design guideline. It is far from being an unusual scene in our European Built Environment …
Now, imagine the consequences of one, tiny slip …
Which is why our concern must be with Accessibility for All … which includes consciously thinking about children under the age of 5 years, women in the later stages of pregnancy, and frail older people (not all older people !) … and how they use and interact with their surroundings.
In addition, however … our attention must also turn to the large numbers of people, in all of our societies, with health conditions which result in serious impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions. As a prime example, consider the Big-4 Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD’s): Cardiovascular Diseases (e.g. heart attacks and stroke), Cancers, Diabetes, and Chronic Lung Diseases.
These 4 NCD’s – targeted in a World Health Organization (WHO) Global NCD Campaign – share health risk factors (tobacco use, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, harmful alcohol use) … cause more than 36 million deaths annually (almost 80 % of deaths, from such diseases, occur in low and middle-income countries) … and result in a high proportion of disability (66.5 % of all years lived with disability in low and middle income countries).
NCD’s can limit one or more of a person’s major life and living activities … such as walking, eating, communicating, and caring-for-oneself. Examples of common NCD-related impairments include paralysis due to stroke, and amputation as a result of diabetic neuropathy.
When Easily Assimilated Signage IS Essential in Buildings …
Good Architectural Design IS ‘intuitive and obvious’ for building users … design characteristics which are critical in the case of Fire Engineering Design. However, what is intuitive and obvious in Ireland may not be so intuitive and obvious in Turkey … and what is intuitive and obvious in Europe will certainly not be intuitive and obvious in Africa, India, or China.
Architectural & Fire Engineering Design must, therefore, be adapted to Local conditions … culture, social need, etc., etc.
When a building is NOT ‘intuitive and obvious’ for the broad range of potential building users … easily assimilated signage IS essential …
International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’ was published in December 2011, as a full standard. In its Introduction, ISO 21542 is linked to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) … almost like an umbilical cord.
The scope of ISO 21542 covers public buildings. The Accessibility Agenda in the U.N. Convention is very broad … so much standardization work remains to be completed at international level.
Concerning Accessibility Symbols and Signs … reference should be made to ISO 21542: Clause 41 – Graphical Symbols … and on Pages 106, 107, 108, and 109 … the following will be found:
Figure 66 – Accessible Facility or Entrance ;
Figure 67 – Sloped or Ramped Access ;
Figure 68 – Accessible Toilets (male & female) ;
Figure 69 – Accessible Toilets (female) ;
Figure 70 – Accessible Toilets (male) ;
Figure 71 – Accessible Lift / Elevator ;
Figure 72 – Accessible Emergency Exit Route.
I use the word ‘accessibility’, and not ‘access’ … because Accessibility has been defined in ISO 21542 as including … ‘access to buildings, circulation within buildings and their use, egress from buildings in the normal course of events, and evacuation in the event of an emergency’.
A note at the beginning of the standard also clarifies that Accessibility is an independent activity, i.e. assistance should not be necessary … and that there should be an assurance of individual health, safety and welfare during the course of those (accessibility-related) activities.
During the very long gestation of ISO 21542, an overwhelming consensus emerged in favour of using the term Accessibility for All … thereby sidestepping the thorny issue of different design philosophies which are described as being accessibility-related but, in practice, are limited and/or no longer fit-for-purpose.
The Accessibility Symbol used throughout ISO 21542 is shown above. I know that a small group of people from different countries worked very hard on this particular part of the standard. My only contribution was in relation to the inclusion of Figure 72, concerning Fire Evacuation.
This ‘accessibility’ symbol is an attractive, modern and, of course, abstract representation of a concept … a person with an activity limitation using a wheelchair. The symbol succeeds very well in communicating that concept.
However … as an Accessibility for All Symbol … encompassing people with other than functional impairments, e.g. hearing and visual impairments … and children under the age of 5 years, women in the later stages of pregnancy, frail older people … and people with the four main types of non-communicable disease discussed above … is this symbol, also, limited and no longer fit-for-purpose ??
Shown next, above, is the proposal for a new Area of Rescue Assistance Sign … which is contained in ISO 7010:2011 / FDAM 115 (2013). While it is nice to finally see this Safety Sign appear in the mainstream of safety signage … the title being proposed for the sign and the explanatory texts which accompany it are very problematic …
The technical term being proposed – Evacuation Temporary Refuge – is too long and too difficult to understand ;
The explanatory texts which accompany this Sign are very confusing and misleading.
This problem has arisen because the people who drafted ISO 7010:2011 / FDAM 115 (2013) hadn’t a bull’s notion that ISO 21542 even existed !
In ISO 21542, we use the term Area of Rescue Assistance … which is easy for everybody to understand, including building users, building managers and firefighters, etc., etc.
We also explained, in ISO 21542, that a Place of Safety is a remote distance from the building … not anywhere inside the building !
Mainstreaming Disability …
U.N. CRPD – Preamble
(g) Emphasizing the importance of mainstreaming disability issues as an integral part of relevant strategies of sustainable development,
As ‘disability’ moves closer towards … and is integrated and fully included in the ‘mainstream’ of sustainable community life and living … it is absolutely imperative that individuals and organizations who make up the Disability Sector become much more cohesive (far less fractious within) … that they begin to fully understand the practices and procedures of the mainstream … and actively and robustly engage with that mainstream.
It is ridiculous, for example, that a large amount of the Sector’s energy is still being diverted into meaningless meditations and endless tracts on whether it is ‘universal design’, or ‘design-for-all’, or ‘inclusive design’, or ‘facilitation design’, etc … when an entirely new design paradigm is being demanded by a world (our small planet when seen from the moon !), which is experiencing enormous levels of human poverty, natural resource shortages, human rights violations, and severe weather events. The overriding priority must be ‘real’ implementation … Effective Accessibility for All !
While the wider international design community is working hard on developing an array of Accessibility Symbols to facilitate different health condition and impairment categories, and to suit different environmental situations, e.g. a fire emergency in a building … I recently encountered another interesting contribution …
… 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. ]
2012-11-27: On Friday last, 23 November 2012, I had the great pleasure of being invited to attend the 2012 IIEA/TEPSA Irish EU Presidency Conference, which was held in Dublin Castle, Ireland. The Programme was interesting and diverse … but lacked a vital element …
Session 1 – Priorities of the Irish EU Presidency ;
Session 2 – Economic Governance & Economic Monetary Union ;
Session 3 – Innovation & the Digital/Energy Interface ;
Session 4 – The European Union in the World.
[ IIEA – Institute of International & European Affairs ] + [ TEPSA – Trans-European Policy Studies Association ]
Although the serious problem of Youth Unemployment in Europe was discussed (from an economic perspective), and the Ageing Society received a passing mention … there was hardly any consideration of EU Citizenship and the many other Soft Social Issues … with, surprise-surprise, no reference at all to the Weak and Vulnerable Groups of People in all of our countries.
Furthermore … I don’t know whether they were invited to the Dublin EU Presidency Conference … and if they were, whether they couldn’t attend … but I did not notice a significant presence of representatives from Irish Disability Organizations at this important event.
Conference Delegates needed to hear that the European Union is for All of its People … not just its Citizens ! That distinction is critical.
Which sets the scene, in an odd way, for the following e-mail message I recently sent through the EUropean Concept for Accessibility Network (EuCAN) … a network of European Accessibility Experts, co-ordinated from Luxembourg by Mr. Silvio Sagramola …
To EuCAN Network Members:
With some concern, I have been following the discussion about Access Officers.
Allow me to explain.
Once upon a time … at a meeting of the EuCAN Management Team in Luxembourg … there was an intense discussion about ‘Accessibility & Human Rights’. Now that the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has been adopted, entered into force, and been ratified by the European Union and many, though not all, of the EU Member States … I hope that this issue has finally been resolved.
Therefore … the immediate, Pan-European Accessibility Agenda can be found in Articles 9, 11 and 19 of the Convention … all within the context of Preamble Paragraph (g).
BUT … is any organization yet working with this Agenda … and, most importantly, implementing it properly ?
AND … let us not forget that Independent Mechanisms to Monitor Implementation are an essential component of the same Agenda (Article 33.2) … at European, national, and sub-national levels, right down to individual public and private organizations !
Accessibility has been clearly specified in the new International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’ as including … ‘access to buildings, circulation within buildings and their use, egress from buildings in the normal course of events, and evacuation in the event of an emergency‘.
The flawed framework, founded on the term ‘Access’ alone, is now obsolete. And, therefore, the Access Officer is no more. Let us all finally agree that the responsible individual, whether he or she, is an Accessibility Officer !
If the EuCAN Network is to have a useful and constructive future, this is the New Legal & Normative Environment which it must confront, carefully examine … and, in support of which, it should produce design guidance, decision-making computer software tools, etc., etc … for the practical purpose of ‘real’ implementation.
AND … any proposed EuCAN Programme of Action (2013-2015) should also include a review and updating of past publications.
Some Points To Note:
1. Although the European Union ratified the U.N. CRPD on 23 December 2010 … European Commissioner Viviane Reding (Justice, Fundamental Rights & Citizenship) stated at a Dublin Meeting, in answer to my direct question, that some Member States are offering stiff resistance to integration of the Convention into the EU System. Why isn’t the European Disability Forum on top of this ? But also … the European Union has not yet either signed, or ratified, the Convention’s Optional Protocol.
2. At the time of writing … Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Norway (EEA) … have still not ratified the Convention. Why not ? Where is the outcry from disability organizations in those countries ??
In Ireland, unfortunately, national decision-makers would rather commit ritual suicide outside government buildings than acknowledge an individual citizen’s human rights. And, if Ireland ever does ratify the Convention, proper implementation will be very problematic.
Am I exaggerating ? Not at all … just look at how Ireland has implemented the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which it ratified back in September 1992.
3. In EU Member States that have ratified the U.N. CRPD … the Convention is not always being implemented properly.
4.Preamble Paragraph (g) of the U.N. CRPD is even more important, now, for this reason … the United Nations has started to develop the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. It is essential to fully integrate Ability/Disability Issues into this process. Making a submission to the U.N. could be an interesting task for EuCAN.
5.The Fire Safety Texts contained in ISO 21542 are essentially just a bare minimum … and they are mostly in the form of recommendations (‘should’), not requirements (‘shall’). There is a great need to add extra detail to those texts … and to convert them into requirements. Making a series of submissions to the International Standards Organization (ISO) should be a task for EuCAN.
EUropean Concept for Accessibility (EuCAN) – Extract from 2001 Mission Statement
The fundamental basis of a European philosophy for accessibility is the recognition, acceptance and fostering – at all levels in society – of the rights of all human beings, including people with activity limitations … in an ensured context of high human health, safety, comfort and environmental protection. Accessibility for All is an essential attribute of a ‘person-centred’, sustainable built environment.
An Effectively Accessible Europe for All
Now that a Comprehensive Legal and Normative Environment for Accessibility has finally been created in Europe … there is a vital need for EuCAN for serve … and a vital role for EuCAN to play.
However … Concerted Action must be directed at Implementation … Effective Implementation … ‘real’ accessibility which works.