Ar C.J. Walsh – Consultant Architect, Fire Engineer & Technical Controller – International Expert on : Sustainability Implementation + Accessibility (including Fire Safety) for All + Sustainable Fire Engineering
Media reaction, in Ireland, to this News Release was hysterical and grossly ill-informed !
“A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery ; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.”
2012-12-04: How two Health and Safety Issues are handled at this Construction Site in Osaka, Japan … which, I regret to say, will be of small interest within Europe, where construction-related fatalities and injuries are far too high !
1. Control of vehicular access to, and egress from, the Site. Note the hosing down of the truck’s tyres before leaving, and entering back onto the public street. On this particular day, the volume of site traffic was high.
2. High visibility identification, and insulated protection of, overhead electric wires/cables.
Even before entering the Site … these are Very Good Indicators with regard to how Health and Safety at Work, generally, is managed …
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.
2012-06-09:Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city … still commonly referred to as Salonika by local people … is a very nice commercial city and an important city of culture, but not really a tourist city. One of the highlights of my recent stay there was a visit to the house where Ghazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938) was born … later to become an outstanding Turkish military commander during the ill-fated British and ANZAC Gallipoli (Turkish: Gelibolu) Campaign of the First World War, and afterwards First President of the modern Turkish State. The three-storey house is also a small museum, containing exhibits of his personal effects, many photographs, and documents.
Located at 17 Apostolu Pavlou … the AtatürkHouse is accessed through the Turkish Chancellery, which is around the corner on the main street called ‘Agiou Dimitriou’ …
2012-03-29: The relentless pressure, within the European Union (EU), to bring a greater measure of stability to imported energy supplies … to reduce our overall use of energy … to be far more efficient in the ways we consume those lesser amounts of energy … to find cleaner sources of energy to replace oil, gas, and especially coal … to comply with ambitious targets on climate change mitigation … are all pointing in one direction with regard to design and construction. We are forced to super-insulate new buildings !
Without many people realizing it, however, we change how fire behaves in a highly insulated building … especially when insulation materials are part of the interior finishes, not carefully buried within the construction. [Even the old Building Bye-Laws in Dublin City permitted a cavity in a masonry wall up to 150mm wide !] And, as usual, Building and Fire Regulations are slow to catch up with these important architectural developments.
Let me show you an example of a basement car park in a new hospital (which shall remain nameless !) … where a serious ‘fire’ problem has been festering since it was opened, and occupied, a few years ago.
This hospital could be anywhere in Europe …
The ceiling height in this car park is low … approximately 2 metres above floor level. The ceiling comprises a 6mm off-white calcium silicate board of limited combustibility (for the techies out there – this board is not ‘incombustible’, and it is not ‘non-combustible’) … above which is a 40mm rigid phenolic thermal insulation board … all fixed to the underside of a concrete floor slab.
This phenolic insulation board is very efficient … and during the normal course of events, its job is to stop the loss of heat from the hospital wards and other areas above. A cold concrete floor is also very uncomfortable for people, i.e. hospital staff, having to walk around on it for long periods.
Because the insulation board is efficient, and it is fixed to the underside of the floor slab … in a fire situation, let’s say that a fire starts in a car … the heat from that fire will be reflected by the insulation board back downwards. The result: the fire will be encouraged to spread much more quickly to neighbouring vehicles. And so, in a very short time, we will have a much larger fire … and a much more intense fire … which will be far more difficult to control and extinguish, when the fire services eventually arrive on the scene.
There are a Number of Twists in This Story …
1. For all sorts of normal reasons, there are service penetration openings in the car park ceiling shown above (some small and some large), especially in a hospital which is highly serviced … the overall approach to fire and smoke sealing in this new building is not the best … and workmanship is poor …
… which, together, all mean that it will be easy for fire and smoke to spread upwards into the hospital wards and other areas … in the event of a fire emergency.
In a hospital, not everybody is alert and mobile. It will be difficult to evacuate some people … and it will be nearly impossible, because of their health condition, to evacuate others. In order for a fire engineering strategy of horizontal evacuation to a ‘safer’ part of the same building to be successfully put into effect during an emergency … it is imperative … that the level of passive protection from fire and smoke provided is high … much higher, here, than in the case of an average office building, for example. AND … it is critical … that this high level of protection from fire and smoke is reliable.
In this new hospital building … the photographic evidence clearly shows that both of these criteria have not been met.
2. Another twist in the story concerns the rigid phenolic thermal insulation board used in the car park ceiling … which, as the evidence also shows, is exposed to direct view in many places …
In a short, brochure-type document produced by the European Phenolic Foam Association (EPFA): ‘Phenolic Foam Insulation – The Ultimate Insulation System for the Construction & Building Services Industry’, the following is stated with regard to the fire performance of this material …
‘ Toxic gas emission from phenolic foam is generally limited to carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide with very low levels of other gases.’
However, in a report produced by the National Research Council of Canada: ‘Toxicity and Smoke Aspects of Foamed Plastic Insulation – An Annotated Bibliography’ … the following abstracts can be found …
Toxicity of Off-Gases from Phenolic Rigid Foam
‘ A reference sample of phenolic rigid foam was evaluated for toxicity of off-gases, using various test conditions in the NASA-USF-PSC toxicity screening test method. Test results show that the response of this material to the various test conditions is similar to that exhibited by the majority of other materials previously evaluated by this method. That is, animal response times generally decreased with increasing fixed temperature, and with increasing airflow rate under rising temperature conditions. The authors suggest that formaldehyde is one of the toxicants present although the amount of CO produced at 600°C or higher was enough to be lethal by itself.‘
Toxicity of Off-Gases from Thermal Insulation
‘ Toxicity test data on the off-gases from various thermal insulation materials are presented in this paper. Under rising temperature without forced airflow test conditions, phenolic foams exhibited the shortest times to death, while polyisocyanurate, polyurethane and polystyrene foams exhibited the longest times to death. The introduction of airflow significantly reduced time to death, apparently due to a higher degree of oxidation and more rapid delivery of toxicants. The authors conclude that under the particular test conditions, plastic thermal insulations appear to exhibit less toxicity than cellulosic board and cellulose insulation, with polyimide and phenolic foams being the exceptions.‘
Relative Flammability and Toxicity of Thermal Insulation
‘ Relative flammability and relative toxicity data are presented for 30 samples of thermal insulation materials. There appears to be no inherent, necessary compromise between flammability and toxicity in the selection of materials. Cellulosic and plastics insulations appear to represent significantly different combinations of flammability and toxicity hazards, and require different approaches when planning and designing applications. Polyurethane foam appeared to be significantly less toxic and slightly less flammable than wood and other cellulosic materials. Polyisocyanurate foam seemed to be more toxic than polyurethane foam but still less toxic than the cellulosic materials. Polystyrene foam exhibited the longest time to death while phenolic foam showed the second shortest time to death among the group of rigid foams evaluated.‘
Carbon Monoxide Production from Overheated Thermal Insulation Materials
‘ Carbon monoxide yields were obtained for selected thermal insulation materials. The data are presented and discussed in this paper. Among the rigid foamed plastics, phenolic gave the highest yield of CO under a rising temperature and no airflow test conditions. Polyurethane foams based on propoxylated aromatic amino polyol appeared to produce less CO than polyurethane foams based on propoxylated trimethylolpropane polyol. Under fixed temperatures of 800°C without airflow test conditions, similar results were obtained for the rigid foamed plastics.’
Toxicity of Pyrolysis Gases from Phenolic and Isocyanurate Rigid Foams
‘ Special reference samples of phenolic and isocyanurate rigid foams were evaluated for toxicity of pyrolysis gases, using 6 different test conditions of the USF toxicity screening test methods. Under rising temperature conditions, phenolic foam appeared to be consistently more toxic than the isocyanurate foam. CO level appears to be the factor, which is twice as high from the phenolic foam. The temperatures corresponding to the times to death indicate that the toxicants were evolved below 500°C for phenolic and below 640°C for isocyanurate. These are in agreement with that of the University of Pittsburgh (UP) data. At a fixed temperature of 800°C, there appeared to be no difference in toxicity between the phenolic and isocyanurate foams, although the former tended to produce more carbon monoxide.’
Toxicity of Pyrolysis Gases from Phenolic, Isocyanurate and Polystyrene Rigid Foam Insulation
‘ Samples of phenolic, isocyanurate, and polystyrene rigid foam insulation were evaluated for toxicity of pyrolysis gases, using four different test conditions of the toxicity screening test method developed at the University of San Francisco. The test conditions were 200 to 800°C rising temperature and 800°C fixed temperature, each without forced airflow and with 1 L/min airflow. On the average over these four particular test conditions, phenolic foam appeared to exhibit the greatest toxicity and polystyrene foam appeared to exhibit the least toxicity.‘
As already discussed in an earlier post , dated 2011-01-13 … we know that Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odourless, colourless and toxic gas … and because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, CO can kill before you are aware it is there.
So … it will be easy for Fire, Visible Smoke and Carbon Monoxide to spread upwards into the hospital wards and other areas of this building … in the event of a fire emergency.
This Hospital’s ‘Fire’ Problem & Its Solution
The ‘fire’ problem in this hospital has been allowed to fester for a number of years because the issues shown in the photographs above are either inadequately addressed … or not addressed at all … in Ireland’s Technical Guidance Document (TGD) B … a document which is intended merely to present some supporting guidance for operating Part B: ‘Fire Safety’, in the 2nd Schedule of the Building Regulations.
Unfortunately, all parties directly responsible for this hospital debacle are under the very mistaken impression that the guidance in Technical Guidance Document B is prescriptive regulation. This is a major error ! Furthermore … TGD B is fundamentally flawed … and it is particularly inadequate when the building type is a health facility.
To Correct This ‘Fire’ Problem … a Fire Suppression System should immediately be installed in the basement car park. At the same time, if not before … ALL Service Penetration Openings in the concrete floor slab should be properly sealed so that, during a fire incident, the passage of fire and smoke and CO into building spaces above the slab will be prevented. And … the quality of workmanship, on site, must be high !
An appropriate number of Carbon Monoxide Detectors should be installed in the hospital wards and other areas above the concrete floor slab.
The ‘Institutional’ Problem
The procedure of having to submit so-called Compliance Reports with applications for Fire Safety Certificates, in Ireland, only confirms … and reinforces … the very mistaken impression in everybody’s minds that the guidance in Technical Guidance Document B is prescriptive regulation.
In the case of a different hospital … let me give you an example of a text contained in one such Compliance Report … submitted to an Irish Local Authority, sometime during 2004 …
Single Steps at Final Exit Doors
It is noted that Clause 184.108.40.206 of TGD-B is ambiguous vis-à-vis steps located on the line of final exit doors, i.e. as opposed to a condition where there is a step beyond the line of a door. Accordingly, it is reasonable and appropriate to make reference to the current England and Wales Approved Document B (2000 Edition) for guidance on this issue in so far as Technical Guidance Document B is based on an early draft of the Approved Document. It is noted that the UK AD-B in Clauses 6.15 and 6.21 specifically allow single steps at final exits provided they are located on the line of the doorway in question. Furthermore, the recently issued Northern Ireland Technical Bulletin E (1994) also allows such steps, subject to the riser not exceeding 180mm. On the basis of the foregoing, single steps are considered acceptable at the final exit doors subject to the riser not exceeding 180mm and the step being located on the line of the door.
This is mindless, incompetent nonsense … and it was accepted by the Local Authority.
How often, anymore, does anybody encounter a step … 180mm high, or of any height … at the front entrance to a new building ? Building designers have finally understood the message that new buildings must be accessible-for-all … and a single step, in any situation, is a trip or a fall accident waiting to happen. Now imagine the situation where people are attempting to evacuate an average office building, for example, during a fire emergency … and they encounter a single step at the final fire exit !?! Now really stretch your imagination … and imagine where people are trying to evacuate a hospital !!??!!
The System is not only entirely dysfunctional … it is corrupt !
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.
A valuable and essential facility in the grounds of Kanazawa Castle, Japan … entered directly from the exterior … is this Accessible Toilet Room / WC / Bathroom / Hygiene Room / Rest Room / Sanitary Room (whichever term you are familiar with) provided for public use. There is no attendant permanently present, and no camera surveillance of the external entrance area. However, it is regularly cleaned and properly maintained during the Castle’s opening hours.
The following photographs show a far more ‘developed’, ‘civilized’ and ‘person-centred’ approach to the design and fit-out of these public facilities (quite common in Japan) … than here in Europe.
Real Accessibility-for-All in action … with no messing around …
It has been a harsh experience to leave the last post undisturbed for a few weeks ! It was necessary … and I feel better as a result.
Back to the present … and in any jurisdiction, news of Firefighter Fatalities and/or Injuries is very distressing. It has been remarkable to note, however, how some countries, e.g. Japan, are expending significant time and resources on developing innovative ways to improve firefighter safety in buildings … while most countries are not. Over many years, I have formed the clear impression that, generally, firefighters are regarded in much the same way as soldiers, i.e. they are a disposable asset … ‘Theirs not to reason why / Theirs but to do and die’ … etc., etc. This situation is entirely unacceptable, and in need of urgent resolution !
On 6th & 7th July … in Cardiff, Wales … I have been invited by the International President of the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE), Mr. HG Tay, to make a presentation on ‘Sustainable Fire Engineering’ at the 2011 IFE International Fire Conference and Annual General Meeting. I am greatly honoured by this invitation.
During the course of that presentation, I will be referring to Firefighter Safety … but much more needs to be said, beforehand, in relation to the untapped contribution of building design to greater levels of firefighter safety …
It may be obvious for some (but, believe me, not for all !) that with regard to fighting fires in buildings … Firefighters have 2 Basic Functions :
to rescue people who are trapped in a Fire Building (i.e. a building which is on fire) … or people who, for some reason, cannot independently evacuate the building (e.g. people with activity limitations) ; and
to fight those fires, and ensure that they are properly extinguished.
Note: Extinction of a fire is confirmed only after a thorough visual inspection by a competent person.
DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION
In a previous post, dated 13 December 2010… I said that it was no longer ethically acceptable to ignore the issue of Firefighter Safety in the design and construction of buildings … because design can make a major contribution to their safety.
Unfortunately, Firefighter Safety must continue to remain an ethical issue because Building Regulations in most countries rarely, if ever, refer to this important aspect of design and construction. Safety at Work Legislation has a related, but different, intent.
Regrettably, most of the building design professions either have no Code of Ethics … or there is a Code which is ‘lite-lite-lite’, i.e. very weak on ethics … or, worse still, they have a Code … but it is called a Code of Professional Conduct, the principal intent of which is to preserve and protect the profession and its vested interests.
At European Level …
Essential Requirements 1 & 2 (of 6 … for the time being) … in Annex I of European Union (EU) Council Directive 89/106/EEC, of 21 December 1988, on the approximation of laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to Construction Products … state the following …
1. Mechanical Resistance & Stability
The construction works must be designed and built in such a way that the loadings that are liable to act on it during its construction and use will not lead to any of the following:
(a) collapse of the whole or part of the works ;
(b) major deformations to an inadmissible degree ;
(c) damage to other parts of the works or to fittings or installed equipment as a result of major deformation of the load-bearing construction ;
(d) damage by an event to an extent disproportionate to the original cause.
2. Safety in Case of Fire
The construction works must be designed and built in such a way that in the event of an outbreak of fire:
– the load-bearing capacity of the construction can be assumed for a specific period of time ;
– the generation and spread of fire and smoke within the works are limited ;
– the spread of the fire to neighbouring construction works is limited ;
– occupants can leave the works or be rescued by other means ;
– the safety of rescue teams is taken into consideration.
Sweden … has incorporated all 6 Essential Requirements of EU Construction Products Directive 89/106/EEC into its National Building Regulations … but has omitted the reference to the ‘safety of rescue teams’, i.e. Firefighter Safety. Why is that ?
Ireland, along with England & Wales, has not incorporated the EU CPD Essential Requirements into its National Building Regulations. There is no requirement, in Part B of the Building Regulations of either of these two separate jurisdictions, to consider Firefighter Safety in the design and construction of buildings.
In these three specific cases, taken as a simple example, this is a serious legal flaw … especially since the European Template, above, has existed since the late 1980’s !
Let me illustrate how Building Design & Construction can make a major contribution to improved levels of Firefighter Safety …
A. Accessible Internal Staircases Having Sufficient Unobstructed Width
From a building user’s point of view … the success of a building depends, to a large extent, on the ‘quality’ of its circulation spaces. During the design process, however, an architect is typically concerned with the relationship between different functions and spaces … while, at the same time, he/she is shaping and moulding the internal and external forms of the building.
The full range of tasks and activities in these circulation spaces is rarely, if ever, considered by the building designer. The subject is not covered in Architectural Schools … and in later professional life, a reluctance to carry out Building Post-Occupation Evaluations (POE’s) reinforces this low level of awareness.
Some Tasks & Activities in Building Circulation Spaces …
Access to the building’s spaces and use of its services and facilities ;
Egress from the building during normal, everyday circumstances ;
Independent Evacuation, in the event of an emergency ;
Assisted Evacuation by others, or Rescue by Firefighters, for those building users who cannot independently evacuate the building, e.g. people with activity limitations ;
Firefighter Access & Reconnaissance, in the event of an emergency ;
Firefighter Attack, as they approach the proximity of the fire scene ;
Firefighter Removal from the building, by colleagues, in the event of injury, impairment, or a fire event induced health condition ;
Firefighter Withdrawal at the successful conclusion of firefighting operations.
The photograph above was extracted from this 2010 Poster Presentation …
Daniel DiRenzo, Cherry Hill Fire Department, New Jersey, USA
Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (1.73 Mb)
No matter what the jurisdiction … no matter what Building Regulations do or do not require … it is clear that, during a ‘real’ fire emergency, patterns of circulation are not simple … and they cannot easily be segregated into categories with simple titles. They are complex … and, quite often, they overlap.
In the case of the firefighter removal on a staircase (shown above) … there is a necessity to consider another type of ‘Contraflow’ … where the injured, or impaired, firefighter with two of his/her colleagues rendering assistance are together moving away from the scene of the fire … while other firefighters are moving in the opposite direction, towards the fire.
In all but the most simple and smallest building types, this is what a Fire Evacuation Staircase should look like below … having a clear unobstructed staircase width, between handrails, of 1500 mm … with a stair going/tread of 300 mm, and a stair riser of 150 mm. Proper attention by the designer to Accessibility Design Criteria will also make the staircase far, far easier … and safer … for Firefighter Movement …
B. Accessible Façade Walkways in High-Rise Buildings
With today’s powerful drivers of greater energy conservation and efficiency in buildings, adaptation to climate change, and a paradigm shift in thinking on the reduction of adverse environmental impact by buildings … External Façade Design is rapidly evolving … becoming far more complex and, in many cases, comprising multiple ‘skins’.
Just check out this architectural feature, below, in an Osaka (Japan) High-Rise Hotel … which not only serves as an accessible route for evacuation and/or rescue in the event of a fire incident … but also permits much easier access for maintenance and window cleaning.
This architectural feature should be mandatory in the case of high-rise buildings with a single, central core …
Building Design can make a substantial contribution to greater Firefighter Safety !!
BUT … who is raising the awareness of building designers about this issue ???