Lack of Accessibility

Upcoming Building Research Workshop at Galway University

2013-06-08:  Looking forward to some serious, collaborative and multi-disciplinary discussions on the day … and a barrel of laughs in the process (!!) …

The Informatics Research Unit for Sustainable Engineering (IRUSE) in the Department of Civil Engineering … and The Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research … both at the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) … have jointly organized a 1-Day National Research Networking Workshop which will take place on Monday, 24 June 2013.

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.”

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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:

  • Reliability-based ;
  • Person-centred ;

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 …

  1. Creative Fire Engineering Concepts and Building Systems
  2. Fire-Induced Progressive Damage in Buildings
  3. Human Behaviour and Abilities in a Fire Situation
  4. Building Design for Firefighter Safety
  5. 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 !

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If anybody out there is interested in attending this NUIG Research Workshop … please contact Ms. Magdalena Hajdukiewicz (IRUSE) at: hajdukiewicz1@nuigalway.ie

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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 !

Galway University (NUIG) Workshop Programme & Presentation Abstracts

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (193 Kb)

Galway University (NUIG) Built Environment Research Networking Workshop - 24 June 2013

Colour photograph showing the venue for the IRUSE & The Ryan Institute (Galway University – NUIG) Built Environment Research Networking Workshop, which was held in the New Engineering Building on 24 June 2013. Seen here is Dr. Harald Berresheim during his presentation on ‘The Self-Cleansing Capacity of Our Atmosphere – Limitations on Local to Global Scales’. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2013-06-24. Click to enlarge.

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CJ Walsh Presentation: ‘Sustainable Fire Engineering Design’

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (1.78 MB)

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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.

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Galway University’s New Engineering Building

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 …

Galway University's New Engineering Building - Inadequate Accessibility-for-All (1)

Galway University's New Engineering Building - Inadequate Accessibility-for-All (2)

Galway University's New Engineering Building - Inadequate Accessibility-for-All (3)

Galway University's New Engineering Building - Inadequate Accessibility-for-All (4)

Galway University's New Engineering Building - Inadequate Accessibility-for-All (5)

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.

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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 BuildingRMJM 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’.

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U.N. Disability Rights Convention – World Map of States Parties

2013-03-14:   The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted on 13 December 2006 at the U.N. Headquarters Building in New York.  The Convention was opened for signature on 30 March 2007, when there were 82 Signatories to the Convention, 44 Signatories to its Optional Protocol, and 1 Ratification.  Historically, this is the highest number of signatories to a U.N. Convention on its opening day.  It is the first comprehensive Human Rights Treaty of the 21st Century.  It is also the first Human Rights Convention to be open for signature by regional integration organizations, e.g. the European Union (EU).  The Convention entered into force, as an International Legal Instrument, on 3 May 2008.

According to the United Nations … this Convention is intended as a Human Rights Instrument with an explicit social development dimension.  It adopts a broad categorization of persons with disabilities, and reaffirms that all persons with all types of disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.  It clarifies and qualifies how all categories of rights apply to persons with disabilities and identifies areas where adaptations have to be made for persons with disabilities to effectively exercise their rights and areas where their rights have been violated, and where protection of rights must be reinforced.

I say … that most of the rights specified in this Convention are already contained in other long-established International Human Rights Instruments, e.g. rights to shelter, free movement, education, employment, voting, etc.  The critical issue for people with activity limitations has always been, and remains to this day … Lack of Accessibility … which prevents them from effectively and independently exercising their basic rights and fundamental freedoms as individual human beings.

Substantively … this is a United Nations Accessibility for All Rights Convention.

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The World Map below illustrates the situation, in October 2012, with regard to the very large numbers of States Parties to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

  • 154 Signatories to the Convention ;
  • 90 Signatories to the Optional Protocol ;
  • 124 Ratifications and Accessions to the Convention ;
  • 74 Ratifications and Accessions to the Optional Protocol.

Using the Map, it is simple to identify those ‘other’ countries (nudge-nudge-wink-wink) …

U.N. Disability Rights Convention Map - World Ratifications (October 2012)

Image size 2.64 MB – Click to enlarge.

Since October 2012 …

  • Singapore signed the Convention on 30 November 2012
  • Cambodia ratified the Convention on 20 December 2012
  • Albania ratified the Convention on 11 February 2013
  • Barbados ratified the Convention on 27 February 2013

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HOWEVER … far too many individuals and organizations seem to be content to just settle back and end this good news story at Ratification.  They fail to understand that this is only the beginning !

The real challenge ahead will be to ensure that the Convention is Properly Implemented.

The Target before every State Party is … Effective Accessibility for All !!

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