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
2013-05-22: Whatever Service Providers claim … every day, we experience mobile/cell phone reception variability, drop-off and failure in buildings … whether we are fully conscious of it or not. It’s inconvenient, but all we have to do is change location, even slightly … and ‘re-dial’. However, if we are travelling on a train or bus, and it enters a tunnel … the problem can be annoying, as the situation is beyond our control !
On the other hand, however … not too far from where I live, there is an art house cinema with underground screens on different levels. In this particular case, mobile/cell phone reception failure can be a positive joy – it will not be necessary to listen to someone else’s loud conversations during the film !
BUT … emergency first responders use radio frequency-based communication systems during the normal course of their work … and in the current built environment, these systems can also be unreliable. Improved climate resilience in our future building stock will make matters worse. So, it makes a lot of sense to take this issue seriously now !
Fire Departments equip their firefighters with a Radio Frequency-Based Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) … also known as an Automatic Distress Signal Unit (ADSU) … which sends out a signal to a fire incident base / control centre / command post when the firefighter is motionless or in distress, with a clear indication of his/her location … or, if necessary, a general warning can be sent from the fire incident base / control centre / command post to all firefighters to evacuate a building immediately … for example, if extensive structural collapse is imminent.
Recently, the National Institute of Science & Technology (USA) issued Technical Note 1792. I have just a few short comments to make before jumping into the document …
1. The Empire State Building and a Subway Station in New York City are both iconic building types … and unusual, in the context of the USA generally … but not so in Europe, with our long tradition for ‘hard/heavy’ construction. Challenging environments for radio frequency-based communication systems are encountered in our basement / underground building types, and low-rise complex building types … never mind high-rise and tall buildings.
2. Outside buildings, adequate external access routes for Firefighting Vehicles are mandated in building codes and standards … and Firefighter Lifts are provided inside buildings, etc., etc., etc. Facilitating reliable radio frequency-based emergency communications should become a normal part of thinking about … and designing for … Safe Firefighter Access. And … before new buildings are occupied, it should become routine to carry out an emergency communications check, as part of a wider collaborative effort between Building Management Teams and Local Fire Services.
3. This NIST Technical Note is further evidence … as if any more evidence were needed … that it is a continuing and difficult process to fully implement the 2005 & 2008 NIST WTC 9-11 Recommendations. To date, the easier low hanging fruit (system and procedural inadequacies !) have been tackled, which may be presented and/or described as substantive changes in building codes and standards … mere window dressing … tokenism, at its worst ! However, as discussed here before many times, some European countries continue to completely ignore these important NIST Recommendations.
March 2013 – NIST Technical Note 1792: ‘Performance Analysis of RF-Based Electronic Safety Equipment in a Subway Station and the Empire State Building’.
Radio Frequency (RF) PASS Tests were performed in a New York Subway Station and the Empire State Building because these types of structures provide challenging RF propagation-channel environments. In the Subway, the RF PASS systems were limited in their ability to communicate beyond the initial entrance level. Without the use of repeaters, most of the systems could communicate only a short distance beyond the bottom of the stairwell that connected the token booth corridor to the street. Two systems used repeaters to extend the coverage area. When a repeater was located at the base of the stairwell leading up to the street, those two systems were able to communicate the RF PASS alarms between the street level and the first passenger platform. However, with only a single repeater, neither of the two repeater systems was able to communicate between the external receive site and the second passenger level. This suggests that for structures with sizable subterranean sections, a repeater system will likely be required to reach an external incident command post. If the structure has multiple subterranean levels of increasing depth, a multiple-hop relay system will likely be necessary to ensure the reliability of the communication channel.
In the path-loss measurements and analysis performed at five frequencies, ranging from 430 MHz to 2405 MHz, there are several important insights. Based on the upper adjacent values in the box-plot statistical representation of the path-loss data from the Empire State Building (see Figure 36), path-loss values of 140 dB to 175 dB are possible for high-rises. For the Subway, the path-loss values exceed 210 dB to 240 dB at the lower two passenger platforms (see Figure 35). The frequency dependence is more pronounced for the Empire State Building results, but less apparent in the Subway data. Thus, while a system may function well at the lower end of the frequency spectrum in the above ground portions of a large building, the subway results demonstrate that subterranean structures can cause path-loss values greater than 200 dB across the 430 to 2400 MHz range.
The testing completed here focused on RF PASS system performance and RF propagation-channel measurements in a high-rise and subway station. While a primary goal of the effort was to look at the correlation between the system performance and path-loss behaviour, a secondary goal was to gather path-loss data in two high-attenuation settings. Thus, parameter values for log-normal distributions that will allow simulation of the measured path-loss conditions are included in this report. The authors hope that the data presented here, along with future sets of data, can be used to develop a complete suite of test methods, not only for RF-based PASS systems, but also for other RF-based electronic safety equipment. The path-loss values obtained here are general and could be used to develop standards for other equipment as the need arises for standards for these systems.
In Ireland …10 UHF Channels have been allocated to the Fire Services for use with hand portable radios …
2011-12-08:NIST WTC Recommendations 29-30 > Improved Fire Education … GROUP 8. Education and Training – Recommendations 29 & 30 (out of 30)
2011-12-15: You know what is coming soon … so Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to One and All !!
1.There were 2 Important Reasons for undertaking this Series of Posts …
(a) The General Public, and particularly Client Organizations, should be facilitated in directly accessing the core content of the 2005 NIST WTC Recommendations. Up to now, many people have found this to be a daunting task. More importantly, I also wanted to clearly show that implementation of the Recommendations is still proceeding far too slowly … and that today, many significant aspects of these Recommendations remain unimplemented. Furthermore, in the case of some recent key national standards, e.g. British Standard BS 9999, which was published in 2008 … the NIST Recommendations were entirely ignored.
As a golden rule … National Building Codes/Regulations and National Standards … cannot, should not, and must not … be applied without informed thought and many questions, on the part of a building designer !
(b) With the benefit of hindsight, and our practical experience in FireOx International … I also wanted to add a necessary 2011 Technical Commentary to the NIST Recommendations … highlighting some of the radical implications, and some of the limitations, of these Recommendations … in the hope of initiating a much-needed and long overdue international discussion on the subject.
” Architecture is the language of a culture.”
” A living building is the information space where life can be found. Life exists within the space. The information of space is then the information of life. Space is the body of the building. The building is therefore the space, the information, and the life.”
C.Y. Lee & Partners Architects/Planners, Taiwan
[ This is a local dialect of familiar Architectural Language. However, the new multi-aspect language of Sustainable Design is fast evolving. In order to perform as an effective and creative member of a Trans-Disciplinary Design & Construction Team … can Fire Engineers quickly learn to communicate on these wavelengths ?? Evidence to date suggests not ! ]
Not only is Sustainable Fire Engineering inevitable … it must be ! And not at some distant point in the future … but now … yesterday !! There is such a build-up of pressure on Spatial Planners and Building Designers to respond quickly, creatively, intuitively and appropriately to the relentless driving forces of Climate Change (including climate change mitigation, adaptation, and severe weather resilience) and Energy Stability (including energy efficiency and conservation) … that there is no other option for the International Fire Science and Engineering Community but to adapt. Adapt and evolve … or become irrelevant !!
And one more interesting thought to digest … ‘Green’ is not the answer. ‘Green’ looks at only one aspect of Sustainable Human & Social Development … the Environment. This is a blinkered, short-sighted, simplistic and ill-conceived approach to realizing the complex goal of a Safe and Sustainable Built Environment. ‘Green’ is ‘Sustainability’ for innocent children !!
(a)Organization for Economic Co-Operation & Development (OECD) – 2012’s Environmental Outlook to 2050
Extract from Pre-Release Climate Change Chapter, November 2011 …
‘ Climate change presents a global systemic risk to society. It threatens the basic elements of life for all people: access to water, food production, health, use of land, and physical and natural capital. Inadequate attention to climate change could have significant social consequences for human wellbeing, hamper economic growth and heighten the risk of abrupt and large-scale changes to our climatic and ecological systems. The significant economic damage could equate to a permanent loss in average per capita world consumption of more than 14% (Stern, 2006). Some poor countries would be likely to suffer particularly severely. This chapter demonstrates how avoiding these economic, social and environmental costs will require effective policies to shift economies onto low-carbon and climate-resilient growth paths.’
(b)U.N. World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Greenhouse Gas Bulletin No.7, November 2011
Executive Summary …
The latest analysis of observations from the WMO Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) Programme shows that the globally averaged mixing ratios of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O) reached new highs in 2010, with CO2 at 389.0 parts per million (ppm), CH4 at 1808 parts per billion (ppb) and N2O at 323.2 ppb. These values are greater than those in pre-industrial times (before 1750) by 39%, 158% and 20%, respectively. Atmospheric increases of CO2 and N2O from 2009 to 2010 are consistent with recent years, but they are higher than both those observed from 2008 to 2009 and those averaged over the past 10 years. Atmospheric CH4 continues to increase, consistent with the past three years. The U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Annual Greenhouse Gas Index shows that from 1990 to 2010 radiative forcing by long-lived Greenhouse Gases (GHG’s) increased by 29%, with CO2 accounting for nearly 80% of this increase. Radiative forcing of N2O exceeded that of CFC-12, making N2O the third most important long-lived Greenhouse Gas.
(c)International Energy Agency (IEA) – World Energy Outlook, November 2011
Extract from Executive Summary …
‘ There are few signs that the urgently needed change in direction in global energy trends is underway. Although the recovery in the world economy since 2009 has been uneven, and future economic prospects remain uncertain, global primary energy demand rebounded by a remarkable 5% in 2010, pushing CO2 emissions to a new high. Subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption of fossil fuels jumped to over $400 billion. The number of people without access to electricity remained unacceptably high at 1.3 Billion, around 20% of the world’s population. Despite the priority in many countries to increase energy efficiency, global energy intensity worsened for the second straight year. Against this unpromising background, events such as those at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and the turmoil in parts of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have cast doubts on the reliability of energy supply, while concerns about sovereign financial integrity have shifted the focus of government attention away from energy policy and limited their means of policy intervention, boding ill for agreed global climate change objectives.’
[ Not just in the case of Tall, Super-Tall and Mega-Tall Buildings … but the many, many Other Building Types in the Built Environment … are Building Designers implementing the 2005 & 2008 NIST WTC Recommendations … without waiting for Building and Fire Codes/Regulations and Standards to be properly revised and updated ?? Evidence to date suggests not ! ]
3.Separate Dilemmas for Client Organizations and Building Designers …
As discussed earlier in this Series … the Fire Safety Objectives of Building and Fire Codes/Regulations are limited to:
The protection of building users/occupants ; and
The protection of property … BUT only insofar as that is relevant to the protection of the users/occupants ;
… because the function of Building and Fire Codes is to protect Society. Well, that is supposed to be true ! Unfortunately, not all Codes/Regulations are adequate or up-to-date … as we have been observing here in these posts.
Just taking the Taipei 101 Tower as an example, I have very recently sent out three genuine, bona fide e-mail messages from our practice …
Toshiba Elevator & Building Systems Corporation (TELC), Japan.
To Whom It May Concern …
Knowing that your organization was involved in the Taipei 101 Project … we have been examining your WebSite very carefully. However, some important information was missing from there.
For our International Work … we would like to receive technical information on the Use of Elevators for Fire Evacuation in Buildings … which we understand is actually happening in the Taipei Tower, since it was completed in 2004.
The Universal Design approach must also be integrated into any New Elevators.
Can you help us ?
[2012-01-10 … No reply yet !]
Mr. Thomas Z. Scarangello P.E. – Chairman & CEO, Thornton Tomasetti Structural Engineers, New York.
Knowing that your organization was involved in the structural design of the Taipei 101 Tower, which was completed in 2004 … and in the on-going design of many other iconic tall, super-tall and mega-tall buildings around the world … we have been examining your Company Brochures and WebSite very carefully. However, some essential information is missing.
As you are certainly aware … implementation of the 2005 & 2008 National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) Recommendations on the Collapse of WTC Buildings 1, 2 & 7, in New York, on 11 September 2001 … is still proceeding at a snail’s pace, i.e. very slowly. Today, many significant aspects of NIST’s Recommendations remain unimplemented.
For our International Work … we would like to understand how you have responded directly to the NIST Recommendations … and incorporated the necessary additional modifications into your current structural fire engineering designs.
Many thanks for your kind attention. In anticipation of your prompt and detailed response …
[2012-01-10 … No reply yet !]
Mr. C.Y. Lee & Mr. C.P. Wang, Principal Architects – C.Y. Lee & Partners Architects/Planners, Taiwan.
Knowing that your architectural practice designed the Taipei 101 Tower, which was completed in 2004 … and, later, was also involved in the design of other tall and super-tall buildings in Taiwan and China … we have been examining your Company WebSite very carefully. However, some essential information is missing.
As you are probably aware … implementation of the 2005 & 2008 U.S. National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) Recommendations on the Collapse of WTC Buildings 1, 2 & 7, in New York City, on 11 September 2001 … is still proceeding at a snail’s pace, i.e. very slowly. Today, many significant aspects of NIST’s Recommendations remain unimplemented.
For our International Work … we would like to understand how you have responded directly to the NIST Recommendations … and incorporated the necessary additional modifications into your current architectural designs.
Many thanks for your kind attention. In anticipation of your prompt and detailed response …
[2012-01-10 … No reply yet !]
So … how many Clients, or Client Organizations, are aware that to properly protect their interests … even, a significant part of their interests … it is vitally necessary that Project-Specific Fire Engineering Design Objectives be developed which will have a much wider scope ? The answer is … not many !
How many Architects, Structural Engineers, and Fire Engineers fully explain this to their Clients or Client Organizations ?
And how many Clients/Client Organizations either know that they should ask, or have the balls to ask … their Architect, Structural Engineer and Fire Engineer for this explanation … and furthermore, in the case of any High-Rise Building, Iconic Building, or Building having an Important Function or an Innovative Design … ask the same individuals for some solid reassurance that they have responded directly to the 2005 & 2008 NIST WTC Recommendations … and incorporated the necessary additional modifications into your current designs … whatever current Building and Fire Codes/Regulations do or do not say ?? A big dilemma !
A common and very risky dilemma for Building Designers, however, arises in the situation where the Project Developer, i.e. the Client/Client Organization … is the same as the Construction Organization. The Project Design & Construction Team – as a whole – now has very little power or authority if a conflict arises over technical aspects of the design … or over construction costs. An even bigger dilemma !!
4.The Next Series of Posts – 2008 NIST WTC Recommendations
In the new year of 2012 … I will examine the later NIST Recommendations which were a response to the Fire-Induced Progressive Collapse of World Trade Center Building No.7.
5.Please … Your Comments, Views & Opinions ?!?
The future of Conventional Fire Engineering ended on the morning of Tuesday, 11 September 2001, in New York City … an engineering discipline constrained by a long heritage deeply embedded in, and manacled to, an outdated and inflexible prescriptive approach to Codes/Regulations and Standards … an approach which is irrational, ignores the ‘real’ needs of the ‘real’ people who use and/or occupy ‘real’ buildings … and, quite frankly, no longer makes any scientific sense !!
On the other hand … having confronted the harsh realities of 9/11 and the Mumbai ‘Hive’ Attacks, and digested the 2005 & 2008 NIST WTC Recommendations … Sustainable Fire Engineering … having a robust empirical basis, being ‘person-centred’, and positively promoting creativity … offers the International Fire Science and Engineering Community a confident journey forward into the future … on many diverse routes !
This IS the only appropriate response to the exciting architectural innovations and fire safety challenges of today’s Built Environment.
2009-05-04: At my request … Agenda Item #6 for the CIB W14 Meeting, recently held on the campus of Lund University in Sweden (see post: 2009-04-30), covered the following subject …
‘ 2005 & 2008 NIST Recommendations on WTC 9-11 Incident – Fundamental Implications for Fire Engineering Design & Practice ‘
I began the presentation by explaining that architects are frustrated people at the best of times …
[It is a never ending, soul-destroying struggle to faithfully realize an architectural ‘vision’ on a building site … especially in the absence of craftsmen/women and access to a wide range of well-designed, ‘approved’ construction products.]
… but, I have been intensely frustrated for some time … as a fire engineer … in particular, for the following reasons:
1.Negative, Irresponsible Attitude of European Lift Manufacturers
In order to effectively solve the issues of safe fire evacuation for people with activity limitations … and the timely evacuation of everyone in tall buildings … we must have lifts/elevators capable of being used for evacuation … all lifts/elevators … in all building types.This should be the norm … the standard specification.
Ever since 2003, however, when I was a Member of the European Union (EU) Expert Group on Accessibility, I have been pressing Mr. Luc Rivet, Secretary General of the European Lift Association (ELA) to ensure that the Association acts responsibly and makes this happen in Europe … now … not at any far distant point in the future.The time for ‘pretty’, meaningless talk at conferences, seminars and workshops has ended.
The ELA still refuses to act responsibly !
2.Crass Inadequacy of British Standard BS 9999 : 2008
Of interest to me … but not a cause for undue concern … except that far too many people in Ireland are already giving this Standard the status of Default Irish National Standard … and too many people in other countries are doing likewise …
On 31st October 2008, the British Standards Institute (BSI) published British Standard BS 9999 – Code of Practice for Fire Safety in the Design, Management and Use of Buildings.It took many years to draft this new national standard.
During all of that time, however, it is not clear to me that the simple idea of considering the Recommendations contained in the 2005 & 2008 NIST Reports on the WTC 9-11 Incident ever saw the light of day within the BSI Technical Committee which drafted BS 9999. The whole basis for the British Standard might have to be entirely re-examined … how awfully dreadful !?!
This amazing technical oversight has ensured that BS 9999 became inadequate on the very day that it was published.
Furthermore, although I had received assurances from certain people that British Standard 5588 : Part 8 would be properly incorporated into DD 9999 during the earlier stages of its development … in fact, this never happened.
Far too late in the drafting process, BS 5588 : Part 8 appears to have been shoe-horned into DD 9999.The resulting disability-related texts in the new Standard are vague … and represent a step backwards from BS 5588 : Part 8.And, there were many problems even with that earlier British Standard.
Finally, it has become blatantly obvious to me that nobody from BSI should ever again be allowed near the fire engineering terminology for any International or European Standards.BSI has polluted the international terminology of fire engineering.
Let me give you an irritating example which has had a seriously adverse impact on fire safety in buildings, in many countries, down through the years …
The term Fire Door has no meaning, and should not be used … Not Ever … Never !
It still leads to endless confusion on building sites … and very poor construction.It has been a disaster, in my own direct experience … and for everybody else associated with fire safety in buildings … including fire prevention officers in Local Authorities.
On the other hand, the term Fire Resisting Doorset / Shutter Assembly means:
‘ A doorset / shutter assembly, suitably installed or mounted on site, the function of which is to resist the passage of heat, smoke and flame for a specified time during a fire.’
A single concept … explained in simple language that anyone can understand.
I could go on about BSI and British Standards … but, I would rapidly bore myself to sleep !
Presentation at the CIB W14 Lund Meeting …
International Fire Engineering must – now – evolve as a direct result of the WTC 9-11 Incident in New York.This necessary evolution has been delayed for far too long by selfish vested interests.
And it is essential that an Empirical and Rational Basis is clearly identified for the practice of Fire Engineering Design in the 21st Century, i.e. after 9-11.Architects and Engineers, specifically, are desperately seeking reliable design guidance.
The Recommendations of the 2005 & 2008 NIST Reports must, at the very least, be applied to the design of ‘High-Rise’, ‘Iconic’, ‘Critical Function’ & ‘Innovative Design’ Buildings.In a previous post, dated 2009-01-13, I had proposed that the Recommendations should generally be applied to High-Rise Buildings of more than 7 or 8 storeys and Iconic Buildings of more than 2 storeys. This is merely good fire engineering practice.
There are valuable lessons, from the NIST Reports, to be applied to the Fire Engineering Design of ALL buildings. This is demonstrated in the Lund Presentation … and, for any ‘Doubting Thomas’ out there, the collapse of WTC Building 7 makes this absolutely obvious.
For a more detailed discussion about the WTC 9-11 Incident and to download the 2005 & 2008 NIST Reports, please visit this Page on our Support WebSite …
Extensive content relating to other key words and phrases in the Lund Presentation can be found elsewhere on the Site.
Importance of the CIB W14 Lund Meeting …
The discussion which followed my Lund Presentation was lively and very interesting.This gave me an opportunity, throughout the rest of the meeting, to tweak the Proposed Future Work Programme of CIB W14 towards a more substantive consideration of the Recommendations from the 2 NIST Reports and the Continuing WTC Health Monitoring Studies.
Reluctantly … I will be the Project Leader for an International Team which will examine Fire-Induced Progressive Collapse over the next three years.
I will also be a Member of another Team which will examine Human Behaviour in Fire for a similar period.At the meeting, I indicated that I will be concentrating on Fire Evacuation for People with Activity Limitations (2001 WHO ICF).‘People with Activity Limitations’ is translated into French as ‘Personnes à Performances Réduites’.
Another Page on CIB W14 : Fire Engineering will soon be added to this Technical Blog.