Ar C.J. Walsh – Consultant Architect, Fire Engineer & Technical Controller – International Expert on : Sustainability Implementation + Accessibility (including Fire Safety) for All + Sustainable Fire Engineering
2020-09-08: Ignoring Britain’s silly sabre-rattling, toothless threats and boorish blackmail attempts reported in the Media during this past weekend, yesterday and today … the actual state of play in the tortuous Brexit Negotiations can best be judged from the following sources …
Michel Barnier’s Presentation to the Institute for International and European Affairs (IIEA), on 2 September 2020 … View it Here on YouTube
This is the European Union (EU), a Single Market of approximately 450 Million consumers. The EU operates under the freedoms and protections of Codified / Written Law, i.e. EU Treaties ratified by all of the EU Member States, EU Secondary Legislation (Regulations and Directives), and EU Administrative Provisions.
A suite of EU Regulations and Directives covers Industrial Products. While there is some flexibility with regard to how Directives are implemented at national level in the Member States, no such flexibility exists with Regulations. Construction Products can only be placed on the EU Single Market if they can be shown to comply with the requirements of the EU’s Construction Products Regulation (CPR) Framework, or in other words, be shown to be ‘fit for their intended use’ in the European Union …
BREXIT ~ IMPLICATIONS FOR THE BRITISH FIRE INDUSTRY
Trade ‘No Deal’ or ‘Minimal Deal’ … from 1 January 2021, Great Britain will be completely outside the European Single Market, and the EU’s Construction Products Regulation Framework. The designation ‘Notified Body’ under that Framework will fall away from British Organizations. Construction Products/Systems manufactured in, or supplied from, Britain will then have to undergo an entirely new EU Testing and Approvals Programme in order to access the European Single Market. Fire Safety related Construction Products will have to be tested, and assessed or appraised, against all 7 Basic Requirements for Buildings together, during the same period of time (see Annex I, EU Regulation 305/2011) …
Mechanical Resistance and Stability
Safety in Case of Fire
Hygiene, Health and the Environment
Safety and Accessibility in Use
Protection against Noise
Energy Economy and Heat Retention
Sustainable Use of Natural Resources
… a process which will be very interesting to observe, since the Fire Industry (particularly England’s Fire Establishment, AHJ’s, etc) dislikes, with intensity, the whole idea of ‘environmental impact’ … the concept of ‘sustainable development’ is hardly understood … and no consideration is given to the reasonable fire safety and accessibility needs of ‘vulnerable building users’ (including people with activity limitations, refugees, migrants, etc).
The tragic 2017 Grenfell Tower Fire, and its sad aftermath, have demonstrated how dysfunctional, and rotten to the core, is the whole national system of Building Fire Safety in England. More than 3 years later … on the evidence to date of an ongoing, incompetent Inquiry and a series of shoddy responses from Government … will survivors and the victims’ families ever receive Justice, and find Peace ? cf. The 1981 Stardust Discotheque Fire in Dublin. Survivors and victims’ families are still waiting for the truth to be revealed.
In parallel, mutual recognition of British Professional Building Designers, e.g. Architects, Structural Engineers, Fire Engineers, etc., within the European Union will cease.
In parallel, British Fire Research involvement in EU Research Networks will also cease … unless a heavy price is paid to be involved as a 3rd Country. British Institutions should forget any notions they might have about Network Leadership.
In parallel, Information and Data Flows between Britain and the EU will be disrupted or cease altogether … unless Britain complies fully with the requirements of EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) 2016/679. As a vassal state of the USA, this compliance may prove difficult for Britain !
EU Fire Safety Related Product/System Manufacturers ~ A Word of Caution !
Many EU Construction Product/System Manufacturers continue to use the services provided by British Fire Test Laboratories and/or Fire Consultancy Organizations located in Great Britain … some of which have already established EU-based dummy companies and letterheads. These British organizations must be avoided altogether. For example, the practice of fire testing in England and later adding a title page of a Full Test Report with an EU location address is entirely unacceptable !
2019-11-11:Kensington and Chelsea’s wilful disdain for the Health, Safety and Welfare of ALL the residents within its functional area … and knowing neglect of its legal and ethical Duty of Care towards ALL … resulted in a significant number of people with activity limitations living high up in Grenfell Tower prior to June 2017 … in spite of the now incontrovertible fact that, in the event of a fire emergency, many would be left behind … to die.
‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.’
Article 1, 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights
London Fire Brigade was an easy target for the Grenfell Fire Inquiry’s Phase 1 Report, made all the more so following some careless, insensitive and ignorant public comments by its Commissioner, Dany Cotton. However, we must clearly distinguish between the behaviour of LFB’s Frontline Firefighters, who were brave and dedicated despite inadequate training, and lack of proper equipment, back-up resources and personnel strength … and LFB’s Senior Commanders … which is another matter.
In England … there is widespread indifference, and some rabid resistance, to answering the desperate needs, and mitigating the agonizing plight, of Vulnerable Building Users during fire emergencies … which includes people with activity limitations, children under 5 years of age, frail older people (not All older people !), women in late stage pregnancy, people with disabilities, refugees, migrants, the poor, and people who do not understand the local culture or cannot speak the local language. British National Standard B.S.9999 (not solely those sections previously contained in B.S.5588:Part 8) and England’s National Building Regulations – Approved Document B: ‘Fire Safety’ – offer only token, i.e. inadequate, protection for vulnerable people in fire emergencies. When a senior representative of BSI, the British Standards Institution, was directly approached by me, and requested to open up B.S.9999 for meaningful updating … the answer was a firm “NO” ! The same attitude is deep-seated among fire research organizations in the country, and among people who develop computer fire evacuation models.
Grenfell Fire Inquiry’s Phase 1 Recommendations – Chapter #33
After hearing the first media reports about the tough Recommendations aimed at London Fire Brigade, I had naturally expected that the other Phase 1 Recommendations would be equally as tough. But NO … they are far from comprehensive … they are fragmentary, lack depth and any sort of coherence. Specifically with regard to Vulnerable Building Users, the Recommendations are pathetically and disgracefully inadequate !
And in case there is any doubt, the status quo in England – and to be fair, in many other countries as well – is entirely unacceptable !!
Few people realize that the fire safety objectives in current fire regulations/codes are limited and constrained. To implement changes to the flawed regulations in England, it will take many years … and, based on recent past history, implementation will be incomplete and unsatisfactory. Residents in high-rise buildings, whether public or private, must no longer wait in vain for this to happen. Instead, the time has arrived to become proactive, and to immediately initiate their own comprehensive programmes of Self-Protection In Case Of Fire … which go far and beyond the pathetic Recommendations in Moore-Bick’s Phase 1 Report.
Fires Similar To Grenfell Tower Are Frequent
[ Paragraph #33.5 ] … although not unprecedented, fires of the kind that occurred at Grenfell Tower are rare.
[ Response ] Not true … misleading, and a complete fallacy !
Just since 2010, fires similar to Grenfell Tower have occurred in South Korea, many in the United Arab Emirates, France, Chechnya, Australia, Azerbaijan, Russia, and most recently in Turkey. Each one of these fires has been recorded and illustrated on our Twitter Account: @sfe2016dublin. Seeing, and understanding, this striking pattern of unusual fire behaviour … a competent person would react and plan accordingly.
Effective Fire Compartmentation Is A Delusion … A Fantasy !
[ Paragraph #33.5 ] Effective compartmentation is likely to remain at the heart of fire safety strategy and will probably continue to provide a safe basis for responding to the vast majority of fires in high-rise buildings.
[ Response ] Not true … demonstrates a fundamental flaw in European fire safety strategizing !
In an environment of lax or non-existent compliance monitoring … the quality of architectural/fire engineering design and the reliability of related-construction will both, inevitably, be poor and unacceptable. Fire loads in today’s residential buildings are also far higher than a generation ago, for example, because of more electrical/electronic equipment and synthetic furnishings. And whatever about first-built, i.e. whether it’s good, bad or ugly, later alterations and other construction work will typically compromise the original performance of fire resisting doorsets and service penetration fire sealing. Modern ‘green’ building materials and construction methods are further aggravating these problems. A competent person would be aware of fire research at the UL Laboratories, in the U.S.A., which confirmed the above developments.
‘ Rigorous enforcement of building codes and standards by state and local agencies, well trained and managed, is critical in order for standards and codes to ensure the expected level of safety. Unless they are complied with, the best codes and standards cannot protect occupants, emergency responders, or buildings.’
U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology. Final Report on the Collapse of the World Trade Center Towers. NIST NCSTAR 1. 2005.
‘Stay Put’ Policies Are Criminal
[ Paragraph #33.5 ] However, in the case of some high-rise buildings it will be necessary for building owners and fire and rescue services to provide a greater range of responses, including full or partial evacuation. Appropriate steps must therefore be taken to enable alternative evacuation strategies to be implemented effectively.
[ Paragraph #33.15 ]e. that policies be developed for managing a transition from ‘stay put’ to ‘get out’ ;
[ Response ] Too little … and far too late !
[ Solution ] Two fatal fires separated in time and space … the 2009 Lakanal House Fire, in London, and the 2017 Marco Polo High-Rise Apartment Building Fire, in Honolulu, continue to clearly demonstrate that effective fire compartmentation is a delusion. Even if carried out by a competent person … it is not possible to establish with reasonable certainty, by means of a visual/surface building inspection alone, whether or not fire compartmentation is effective in an existing building. The London and Honolulu buildings were not fitted with any active fire suppression system, e.g. fire sprinklers or a water mist system.
Buildings must remain structurally ‘serviceable’, not merely structurally ‘stable’, for a Required Period of Time. See the Presentation Overhead below.
Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s), firefighters, client organizations, design teams, and building owners/managers must not, therefore, direct, or even suggest, that any of its building users wait (‘stay put’) in that building during a fire emergency. A competent person always connects building fire performance with its structural performance, and vice versa … and always learns from the evidence of ‘real’ fatal fires.
All Lifts/Elevators Must Be Used For Fire Evacuation
[ Paragraph #33.13 ] When the firefighters attended the fire at Grenfell Tower they were unable to operate the mechanism that should have allowed them to take control of the lifts. Why that was so is not yet known, but it meant that they were unable to make use of the lifts in carrying out firefighting and search and rescue operations. It also meant that the occupants of the tower were able to make use of the lifts in trying to escape, in some cases with fatal consequences.
[ Response ] There is a ridiculous assumption in Moore-Bick’s Phase 1 Report that it is only firefighters who use lifts/elevators during a fire emergency, and that it is dangerous for anybody else to use them.
[ Solution ] In order to adequately protect Vulnerable Building Users … ALL lifts/elevators in a building must be capable of being used for fire evacuation during a fire emergency.
Until such time as firefighters arrive at a building fire scene in sufficient strength and are properly prepared to carry out effective firefighting and rescue operations … Firefighter Lifts/Elevators must be used for the fire evacuation of building occupants/users. Prior liaison and pre-planning with local fire services is always necessary with regard to the use of firefighting lifts/elevators for the evacuation of occupants/users.
A fundamental principle of fire safety design is that there must be alternative, safe and accessible evacuation routes away from the scene of a fire, which can occur in any part of a building during its life cycle ; these evacuation routes must be capable of being used by all building users, including people with activity limitations.
This is why there must always be at least 2 Fire Evacuation Staircases in High-Rise Residential Buildings !
The location of lifts/elevators and lobbies, within peripheral building cores, must always be considered in relation to the position of adjacent fire protected evacuation staircases, which must be easily found by building occupants/users, and the areas of rescue assistance adjoining those staircases.
To be used for fire evacuation, a lift/elevator must be ‘fit for its intended use’, must operate reliably during a fire emergency, and must comprise a complete building assembly which meets specific performance criteria.
A Lift/Elevator Fire Evacuation Assembly is an essential aggregation of building components arranged together – comprising a lift/elevator, its operating machinery, a hard-construction vertical shaft enclosure, and on every floor served by the lift/elevator a sufficiently large, constantly monitored lobby for people to wait in safety and with confidence, all robustly and reliably protected from heat, smoke, flame and structural collapse during and after a fire – for the purpose of facilitating the safe evacuation of building occupants/users throughout the duration of a fire emergency.
If a building is located in a Seismic Zone, Lift/Elevator Fire Evacuation Assemblies which can safely operate during an earthquake must always be specified and installed.
Gravity Evacuation Chair Devices, which are not electrically-powered and operate by gravity, facilitate downward movement, only, on straight flights of stairs. Having descended a staircase, with the user having left his/her wheelchair behind, these devices are not fully stable when travelling the long horizontal distances necessary to reach an external ‘place of safety’ remote from a building, perhaps over rough terrain.
If lifts/elevators in existing buildings undergo a major overhaul, or if they are replaced, they should then be made capable of use for fire evacuation.
Lifts/elevators used for fire evacuation must always have a fire protected electrical supply which is separate from the main building electrical supply, in order to ensure that they can continue to operate without interruption during a fire emergency.
In addition to conventional passive fire protection measures, Lift/Elevator Lobbies must also be protected by an active fire suppression system. Water mist is the preferred fire suppression medium, because it is user-friendly, will not greatly interfere with user visibility, uses far less water compared to water sprinklers, and is also climate-friendly. Furthermore, because people with activity limitations will be waiting for evacuation in lift/elevator lobbies, building designers and managers must ensure that these lobbies are properly fitted out with appropriate fire safety equipment, facilitation aids, smoke hoods, signage and communications, etc., etc.
Proper Use of Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEP’s)
[ Paragraph #33.22 ]f. that the owner and manager of every high-rise residential building be required by law to include up-to-date information about persons with reduced mobility and their associated PEEP’s in the premises information box ;
[ Response ] There is No Recommendation or explanation in Moore-Bick’s Inquiry Phase 1 Report concerning the ‘what’, ‘why’ or ‘how’ of PEEP’s.
[ Solution ] A Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan is a person-specific and location-specific document, and is an integral part of the overall Fire Emergency Management Plan for a building. It is intended for regular occupants/users who may be vulnerable in an emergency situation, i.e. those with limited abilities in relation to self-protection, independent evacuation to an external place of safety remote from the building, and active participation in the building’s fire emergency procedures.
In new buildings, which are effectively accessible (including fire safe) for all, Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans are not necessary.
In existing buildings, Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans must not be used to limit or restrict access by an individual to any part of a building and its facilities. To ensure this, sufficient accessibility works must be carried out and appropriate management procedures put in place.
In buildings of historical, architectural and cultural importance, where the historical, architectural or cultural integrity of the building must be protected, Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans may limit or restrict access to parts of a building and some of its facilities. Refer to the ICOMOS 1964 International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites.
There are No Recommendations in Moore-Bick’s Inquiry Phase 1 Report concerning these critical issues.
[ Solution ] There are many fire safety problems associated with high-rise and tall buildings. Evacuation by staircases alone can take many hours ; the physical exertion involved in descending even 10 floors/storeys by staircase is too much for many able-bodied people and is impossible for most vulnerable building occupants/users, particularly people with activity limitations. Passive fire protection of staircases, alone and/or supplemented by pressurization to prevent smoke ingress, is far too unreliable. And heavily equipped firefighters cannot be expected to ascend more than 10 floors/storeys by staircase before carrying out arduous firefighting and search/rescue operations. Furthermore, uninterrupted lift/elevator shafts, extending throughout the full height of a tall building, pose a significant risk of uncontrolled fire spread.
A Floor of Temporary Refuge is an open, structurally robust floor/storey in a tall building – having an exceptionally low level of fire hazard and risk, ‘intelligently’ fitted with a suitable user-friendly and climate-friendly fire suppression system, e.g. water mist, and serviced by sufficient accessible, fire protected lifts/elevators capable of being used for evacuation during a fire emergency ; it is designed and constructed to halt the spread of heat, smoke and flame beyond that floor/storey, and is intended as a place of temporary respite, rest and relative safety for building users before continuing with evacuation, and as a forward command and control base for firefighters.
In a high-rise, tall, super-tall or mega-tall building, every 20th floor must be a Floor of Temporary Refuge, even if the building is co-joined with another building, or there are sky bridges linking the building with one or more other buildings.
Special provision must be made, on these floors, for accommodating large numbers of building occupants/users with activity limitations … and because people will be waiting on Floors of Temporary Refuge, perhaps for extended periods of time, building designers and managers must ensure that these floors/storeys are properly fitted out with appropriate fire safety equipment, facilitation aids, smoke hoods, signage and communications, etc., etc.
Conclusion: Fire Engineering Capacity in England is Lacking
In England … the very important 2005 and 2008 U.S. NIST Recommendations following the 9-11 (2001) Attacks on the World Trade Center, in New York City, were completely ignored. Following the 2009 Lakanal House Fire, in London, the 2013 Coroner’s Recommendations were only partially implemented.
With regard to Vulnerable Building Users … there is NO capacity within the English Fire Establishment, including the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), English Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s), and its Building Design and Fire Engineering Communities … to properly respond to … never mind understand … the Fire Safety, Protection and Evacuation for ALL in Buildings.
At this time, in London … multiple, fragmented investigations are taking place into the actual fire incident … the role of the Local Authority, and building management … those involved in the refurbishment (‘tarting up’) design and construction … the fire services, particularly their ‘Stay Put’ Policy and how it adversely impacted on vulnerable Tower occupants during the emergency … and the highly flawed regulatory model of Building and Fire Codes with light-touch Control, which is still operating in England. One of Murphy’s Laws immediately springs to mind with regard to the intended ineffectiveness of this overly-complex process !
Many other countries have adopted some or all of this modern English regulatory model which, after the repeal of an older Bye-Law format, has been shaped by political expediency, cost-effectiveness and general ineptitude … with little or no adaptation to local conditions in the adopting jurisdictions. Ireland adopted this model with some, but not a lot, of adaptation.
Fire Safety In Ireland ?
On 6 June 2018 … while that investigative activity was hitting the headlines in England … Minister Eoghan Murphy, T.D., Ireland’s Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, quietly published the Report: ‘Fire Safety in Ireland’ … http://www.housing.gov.ie/local-government/fire-and-emergency-management/fire-safety/eoghan-murphy-publishes-report-fire … by a High-Level Task Force within his Department’s National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management, after serious concerns and fears had been expressed in the public media that a similar fire tragedy might also occur in this jurisdiction.
To be crystal clear … this Report is a Bureaucratic Whitewash … an insult to the Public ! Nice sounding technical ‘blarney’ camouflages a failure to deal directly with critical issues, and answer concerns … while other important issues are avoided altogether.
.May 2018 – Ireland’s Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government Report
Expanding on my comments in the Interview with Barry Lenihan, on RTE Radio 1’s Drive Time early evening news programme on Friday (2018-06-08) …
A. Initially, Irish Local Authorities were requested to carry out a preliminary survey to identify all buildings of more than six storeys, or 18m in height. Specifically, they were asked to identify those buildings which had an external cladding system which might be a cause for concern.
This height threshold of six storeys/18m is arbitrary … an external cladding system can be just as much a cause for concern in a building which is lower. Imagine discarded cigarette butts or a rubbish fire at the base of such a system … and the resulting speed of fire spread and development across a building façade !
B. The highly flawed regulatory model of Building and Fire Codes, with light-touch Control, which resulted in the Grenfell Tower Fire Tragedy … we also have. Wake up and smell the coffee Ireland !
At the beginning of the 1990’s, when Ireland had been persuaded by the European Commission to finally introduce legal, national building regulations having a functional format … our National Authority Having Jurisdiction, in desperation, grabbed the then Approved Documents for England & Wales … brought them back to Ireland, put Irish covers on them, and originally called them ‘Technical Documents’ … but, after seeing a tiny ray of inspiring light, later changed their title to the more accurate ‘Technical Guidance Documents’ ! This hunger for adopting all things English which are fire safety related continues to this day … with a similar, ongoing division of Technical Guidance Document B: ‘Fire Safety’ into 2 Separate Volumes.
This may have been a convenient response under pressure … but it has been very short-sighted. It has impeded the growth of a comprehensive and coherent philosophy on Safe, Inclusive, Age-Friendly, Resilient, Sustainable Planning, Design and Construction Codes/Controls which is suited to an Irish context and responsible local needs (not desires!).
C. Everywhere … this Report has a lot – too much – to say about Fire Risk Assessment ! After the Grenfell Tower Fire, however, Fire Risk Assessments must only be carried out by competent persons … and the process of Fire Risk Assessment, itself, must be radically improved ! And of course, prior to any Risk Assessment … a proper Fire Hazard Appraisal must be carried out.
D. To accurately present Fire Safety Trends in Ireland … it is not enough to furnish reliable fire fatality statistics. It is also necessary to produce reliable fire injury statistics … and reliable information on direct/indirect socio-economic losses.
E. The quality of fire safety related construction on Irish Building Sites continues to be very poor and problematic. Fire Compartmentation is nowhere near being adequately – never mind acceptably – reliable ! And during the last few years we have had quite a number of close-calls concerning fire incidents in medium-rise residential buildings.
F.Fire Evacuation for people with activity limitations is still handled atrociously in our current building regulations. This is ironic because, on 20 March 2018 last, Ireland had to be dragged screaming to ratify the U.N. 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) !
Positive Progress By Another Path !
1. Abandon the outdated English functional requirements in THEIR building regulations … and adopt a far better, more up-to-date body of functional requirements which is already on the Irish Statute Books … Annex I of the European Union’s Construction Products Regulation 305/2011. And because there are important horizontal linkages between requirements … immediately finish the ridiculous current separation between Fire Safety requirements and all of the other requirements. And yes … new Technical Guidance Documents will have to be drafted.
.Regulation (EU) 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
2. Yes … ‘Persons Having Control’ of buildings have responsibilities with regard to fire safety. But that is only one side of the coin ! National and Local Authorities Having Jurisdiction have greater responsibilities.
If we are at all serious about Consumer Protection … bad, inadequate, faulty construction must be prevented beforehand … it is too late, too costly and, in many cases, too impractical to correct afterwards. Self Regulation by building design professions and construction organizations is NO Regulation ! Stringent, independent technical control inspections must be carried out on all projects by Building Control personnel … which used to happen in Dublin City/County and Cork City/County prior to the introduction of legal building regulations in the early 1990’s … and, depending on complexity, must also be carried out at critical stages during the construction process.
Building Control Sections in all Local Authorities must be properly resourced with competent personnel, equipment, training and support infrastructure.
Inspections concerning compliance with all functional requirements in the building regulations, including fire safety, must be carried out only by Building Control Personnel. Chief Fire Officers must not be allowed to manage or be involved in any aspect of Building Control. On the same project … a Disability Access Certificate Application and a Fire Safety Certificate Application must be inter-linked and overlap sufficiently, showing no gaps in compliance. Inspections must be carried out in connection with all Certificate Applications. Building Control personnel must satisfy themselves that actual construction at least matches, if not improves upon, what is shown in design documentation.
Building Control Inspection Reports must be made available for public view.
3.Firefighters are NOT a disposable Social Asset ! National and Local Authorities Having Jurisdiction … and some Chief Fire Officers … must begin to understand this fundamental truth !
Fire Services in all Local Authorities must each be properly resourced according to local needs … with competent personnel, equipment, training and support infrastructure. Shared provision of resources looks very neat on paper but, in practice, works very badly. Refer to the Grenfell Tower Fire and London Fire Brigade having to borrow firefighting equipment from other Fire Services.
After the 2015 Tianjin Regional Fire Devastation, in China, and the 2001 WTC Attacks on 9-11, in New York City … front line firefighters must be supported by Specialist Hazard Appraisal and Structural Engineering Units.
For Firefighter Safety in buildings and to quickly find people with activity limitations waiting in Areas of Rescue Assistance and/or other survivors in different locations … a portable and reliable Thermal Imaging Camera is an essential piece of every firefighter’s equipment.
And Firefighter Safety begins with good building design. In all but the most simple building types, Circulation Routes must be designed for Contraflow … people moving away from a fire in a building and towards safety while, at the same time, heavily equipped firefighters are entering the building and moving towards the fire.
There is no place for ‘Stay Put’ Policies in Irish Residential Buildings of any height.
Ireland’s 2017 Oireachtas Report: ‘Safe As Houses’ …
December 2017 – Houses of the Oireachtas – Joint Committee on Housing, Planning & Local Government
This was a good effort by our public representatives … but they missed core issues !
After The Grenfell Tower Fire !
Further to my last Blog, dated 2017-10-10 …
The 2017 Fire in England was not an extraordinary fire. Since the beginning of this decade, we continue to see a series of such fires: South Korea (2010) – UAE & France (2012) – Chechnya (2013) -Australia (2014) – UAE, Azerbaijan & UAE again (2015) – UAE (2016) – UAE & Russia (2017) – Turkey (2018).
With regard to Command & Control of Large Scale Emergencies … English AHJ’s should have paid attention to the 2005 & 2008 U.S. National Institute of Science & Technology (NIST) Recommendations following the 9-11 WTC Buildings 1, 2 & 7 Collapses.
The Fire Safety Objectives in current Building & Fire Codes/Regulations are very limited. In Ireland, this is clearly stated in Technical Guidance Document B …
‘ Building Regulations are made for specific purposes. Part B of the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations is therefore primarily concerned with the health, safety and welfare of persons. The fire safety measures outlined in this guidance document are intended for the protection of life from fire.’
Only insofar as it is necessary to protect the lives of able-bodied building users/occupants … is there a concern for property protection.
There is only inadequate, token concern for the protection of people with disabilities.
Client organizations, facility managers, building designers, construction organizations … and journalists … must fully comprehend these limits.
In the photograph below … look closely at the External Firefighting Operations at the bottom of the Tower. There are limits to what can be achieved from outside a building !
A Fire Suppression System (Water Sprinklers/Mist/Hybrid) is an essential Fire Protection Measure in ALL Medium and High-Rise Residential Buildings … which include Apartment Blocks, Hotels, Hostels, Student Accommodation & Social Housing, i.e. ANYWHERE there is a Sleeping Hazard.
A Reliable and Credible Fire Detection & Warning System is an essential Fire Protection Measure in ALL Buildings … and must be capable, under the control of Building Management, of transmitting warnings in many formats, i.e. Audible + Visual + Multi-Lingual Voice + Tactile.
Fire Evacuation Routes in Buildings must be designed for CONTRAFLOW … people moving away from a fire and towards safety while, at the same time, heavily equipped firefighters are entering the building and moving towards the fire.
Good Fire Evacuation Route Design is INTUITIVE and OBVIOUS. In many buildings, however, this is not always the reality. Effective Fire Evacuation Signage … comprising high-level signage, low-level signage, with both supplemented by photoluminescence … must be installed in ALL Buildings.
For the purpose of protecting Vulnerable Building Users in Fire Emergencies, ALL Lifts/Elevators in Buildings must be capable of being used for Evacuation.
Fire Risk Assessments must NO LONGER be carried out by people WITHOUT COMPETENCE in Fire Engineering AND Building Design & Construction … and the Fire Risk Assessment Process itself must be thoroughly re-examined and upgraded.
2014-04-13:Further to the Post, dated 2013-01-13 …
There are many essential qualities and features belonging to and representative of a Sustainable Human Environment (including the Social, Built, Virtual and Economic Environments).As discussed here many times before … Accessibility-for-All is one fundamental attribute, under Social and Legal Aspects of Sustainable Human and Social Development.
Another fundamental attribute … Urban Resilience … is now moving centre stage in the world of International Construction Research & Practice.WHEN, not if … this concept is fully elaborated and understood, it will have a profound impact on All Tasks, Activities and Types of Performance in the Human Environment … under All Aspects of Sustainable Human and Social Development.
After working for many years on Climate Change, particularly Adaptation … it was quite natural for me to encounter the concept of Resilience.But the aim of a newly established Core Task Group within CIB (International Council for Research & Innovation in Building & Construction) is to widen out this concept to also include Severe Natural Events (e.g. earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis), ComplexHumanitarian Emergencies, (e.g. regional famines, mass human migrations), Extreme Man-Made Events (e.g. 2001 WTC 9-11 Attack, 2008 Mumbai ‘Hive’ Attacks), and Hybrid Disasters (e.g. 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident) … to set down Resilience Benchmarks … and to produce Resilience Performance Indicators. An imposing challenge !
AND … as Urbanization is proceeding at such a rapid pace in the BRICS Countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa) and throughout the rest of the Southern Hemisphere … ‘practical’ and ‘easily assimilated’ trans-disciplinary output from this CIB Task Group is urgently required.In other words, the work of the Task Group must not be permitted to become an exercise in long drawn out pure academic research … the clear focus must be on ‘real’ implementation … As Soon As Is Practicable !!
A New and Updated Groundwork …
The ethical design response, in resilient built and/or wrought form, to the concept of Sustainable Human & Social Development.
SUSTAINABLE HUMAN & SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
Development which meets the responsible needs, i.e. the human and social rights*, of this generation – without stealing the life and living resources from the next seven future generations.
*As defined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights … and augmented by UN OHCHR Letter, dated 6 June 2013, on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
The CITY (as Region)
A geographical region, with open and flexible boundaries, consisting of:
(b)A large resident population of more than 500,000 people (social environment) ;
(c)A supporting hinterland of lands, waters and other natural resources (cultivated landscape) ;
together functioning as …
(i)a complex living system (analogous to, yet different from, other living systems such as ecosystems and organisms) ;and
(ii)a synergetic community capable of providing a high level of individual welfare, and social wellbeing for all of its inhabitants.
A general condition – in a community, society or culture – of health, happiness, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development.
A person’s general feeling of health, happiness and fulfilment.
A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.[World Health Organization]
The complex network of real and virtual human interaction – at a communal or larger group level – which operates for reasons of tradition, culture, business, pleasure, information exchange, institutional organization, legal procedure, governance, human betterment, social progress and spiritual enlightenment, etc.
The social environment shapes, binds together, and directs the future development of the built and virtual environments.
Anywhere there is, or has been, a man-made or wrought (worked) intervention by humans in the natural environment, e.g. cities, towns, villages, rural settlements, service utilities, transport systems, roads, bridges, tunnels, and cultivated lands, lakes, rivers, coasts, seas, etc … including the virtual environment.
A designed environment, electronically generated from within the built environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.
The virtual and built environments continue to merge into a new augmented reality.
The intricate web of real and virtual human commercial activity – operating at micro and macro-economic levels – which facilitates, supports, but sometimes hampers or disrupts, human interaction in the social environment.
In this post (and a series of future posts) … I find it most necessary that the 2005 & 2008 NIST Recommendations now be presented for everyone to read. Yes, some of Recommendations apply specifically to Tall and Very Tall Buildings … and Building Designers in India, China, Brazil, Russia & South Africa (BRICS), the Arab Gulf Region, Europe and North America, etc., should be fully aware of their contents.
BUT … I am also strongly convinced … precisely because I am an Architect, a Fire Engineer and a Technical Controller … that most of the NIST Recommendations apply to ALL Buildings … so catastrophic was the failure exposed on that fateful day (11 September 2001) … in all of our common design and construction practices … and our operation, maintenance and emergency response procedures !
1.Extract from Paragraph #9.2, Chapter 9, NIST Final Report on the Collapse of the World Trade Center Towers – Report Reference NIST NCSTAR 1 (2005) …
NIST believes that these Recommendations are both realistic and achievable within a reasonable period of time, and that their implementation would make buildings safer for occupants and emergency responders in future emergencies.
NIST strongly urges that immediate and serious consideration be given to these Recommendations by the building and fire safety communities – especially designers, owners, developers, codes and standards development organizations, regulators, fire safety professionals, and emergency responders.
NIST also strongly urges building owners and public officials to: (i) evaluate the safety implications of these Recommendations for their existing inventory of buildings; and (ii) take the steps necessary to mitigate any unwarranted risks without waiting for changes to occur in codes, standards, and practices.
2.At the time of writing … it is important to point out that although they are related Structural Concepts … and there is still, to this day, a lot of confusion about these concepts in the USA … it is important to clearly distinguish between …
The failure of a building’s structural system (i) remote from the scene of an isolated overloading action; and (ii) to an extent which is not in reasonable proportion to that action.
Fire-Induced Progressive Collapse
The sequential growth and intensification of distortion, displacement and failure of elements of construction in a building – during a fire and the ‘cooling phase’ afterwards – which, if unchecked, will result in disproportionate damage, and may lead to total building collapse.
3.Recommendation 2, below, would certainly need to be understood and implemented within today’s additional design constraints of Sustainable Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience to Severe Weather Events. Therefore … Design Wind Speeds must be increased, accordingly, for ALL Buildings.
4. As such a high level of performance is expected … indeed demanded … of a Sustainable Building … Sustainable Fire Engineering must be ‘reliability-based’. In other words, it must have a rational, empirical and scientifically robust basis … unlike conventional fire engineering, which is yet aimlessly wandering around in pre-historic caves !
5. Finally … there is no use trying to hide the fact that progress on implementing the NIST Recommendations, within the USA, has been lamentably slow. Outside that jurisdiction, the response has ranged from mild interest, to complete apathy, and even to vehement antipathy. The implications arising from implementation are much too hard to digest … for long established fire safety professionals and researchers who are unswervingly committed to the flawed and out-of-date practices and procedures of conventional fire engineering and, especially, for vested interests !
However … is it either in society’s interest, or in the interests of our clients/client organizations … that, to give you a simple example which is relevant close to home, British Standard 9999 (published on 31 October 2008): ‘Code of Practice for Fire Safety in the Design, Management and Use of Buildings’ takes absolutely no account of any of the NIST Recommendations ? As far as the British Standards Institution is concerned … 9-11 never happened … which I think is an inexcusable and unforgivable technical oversight !
For this reason, the General Public in ALL of our societies and Clients/Client Organizations in ALL countries should also be fully aware of the contents of these Recommendations …
2005 NIST WTC RECOMMENDATIONS
GROUP 1. Increased Structural Integrity
The standards for estimating the load effects of potential hazards (e.g. progressive collapse, wind) and the design of structural systems to mitigate the effects of those hazards should be improved to enhance structural integrity.
NIST WTC Recommendation 1.
NIST recommends that: (1) progressive collapse be prevented in buildings through the development and nationwide adoption of consensus standards and code provisions, along with the tools and guidelines needed for their use in practice; and (2) a standard methodology be developed – supported by analytical design tools and practical design guidance – to reliably predict the potential for complex failures in structural systems subjected to multiple hazards.
a. Progressive collapse* should be prevented in buildings.
[ * F-19 Progressive collapse (or disproportionate damage) occurs when an initial local failure spreads from structural element to structural element resulting in the collapse of an entire structure or a disproportionately large part of it.]
The primary structural systems should provide alternate paths for carrying loads in case certain components fail (e.g. transfer girders or columns). This is especially important in buildings where structural components (e.g. columns, girders) support unusually large floor areas.*
[ * F-20 While the WTC towers eventually collapsed, they had the capacity to redistribute loads from impact and fire damaged structural components and sub-systems to undamaged components and sub-systems. However, the core columns in the WTC towers lacked sufficient redundant (alternative) paths for carrying gravity loads.]
Progressive collapse is addressed only in a very limited way in practice and by codes and standards. For example, the initiating event in design to prevent progressive collapse may be removal of one or two columns at the bottom of the structure. Initiating events at multiple locations within the structure, or involving other key components and sub-systems, should be analyzed commensurate with the risks considered in the design. The effectiveness of mitigation approaches involving new system and sub-system design concepts should be evaluated with conventional approaches based on indirect design (continuity, strength and ductility of connections), direct design (local hardening), and redundant (alternate) load paths. The capability to prevent progressive collapse due to abnormal loads should include: (i) comprehensive design rules and practice guides; (ii) evaluation criteria, methodology, and tools for assessing the vulnerability of structures to progressive collapse; (iii) performance-based criteria for abnormal loads and load combinations; (iv) analytical tools to predict potential collapse mechanisms; and (v) computer models and analysis procedures for use in routine design practice. The federal government should co-ordinate the existing programmes that address this need: those in the Department of Defence; the General Services Administration; the Defence Threat Reduction Agency; and NIST. Affected Standards: ASCE-7, AISC Specifications, and ACI 318. These standards and other relevant committees should draw on expertise from ASCE/SFPE 29 for issues concerning progressive collapse under fire conditions. Model Building Codes: The consensus standards should be adopted in model building codes (i.e. the International Building Code and NFPA 5000) by mandatory reference to, or incorporation of, the latest edition of the standard. State and local jurisdictions should adopt and enforce the improved model building codes and national standards based on all 30 WTC Recommendations (2005). The codes and standards may vary from the WTC Recommendations, but satisfy their intent.
b. A robust, integrated predictive capability should be developed, validated, and maintained to routinely assess the vulnerability of whole structures to the effects of credible hazards. This capability to evaluate the performance and reserve capacity of structures does not exist and is a significant cause for concern. This capability would also assist in investigations of building failure – as demonstrated by the analyses of the WTC building collapses carried out in this Investigation. The failure analysis capability should include all possible complex failure phenomena that may occur under multiple hazards (e.g. bomb blasts, fires, impacts, gas explosions, earthquakes, and hurricane winds), experimentally validated models, and robust tools for routine analysis to predict such failures and their consequences. This capability should be developed via a co-ordinated effort involving federal, private sector, and academic research organizations in close partnership with practicing engineers.
NIST WTC Recommendation 2.
NIST recommends that nationally accepted performance standards be developed for: (1) conducting wind tunnel testing of prototype structures based on sound technical methods that result in repeatable and reproducible results among testing laboratories; and (2) estimating wind loads and their effects on tall buildings for use in design, based on wind tunnel testing data and directional wind speed data. Wind loads specified in current prescriptive codes may not be appropriate for the design of very tall buildings since they do not account for building-specific aerodynamic effects. Further, a review of wind load estimates for the WTC towers indicated differences by as much as 40 % from wind tunnel studies conducted in 2002 by two independent commercial laboratories. Major sources of differences in estimation methods currently used in practice occur in the selection of design wind speeds and directionality, the nature of hurricane wind profiles, the estimation of ‘component’ wind effects by integrating wind tunnel data with wind speed and direction information, and the estimation of ‘resultant’ wind effects using load combination methods. Wind loads were a major factor in the design of the WTC tower structures and were relevant to evaluating the baseline capacity of the structures to withstand abnormal events such as major fires or impact damage. Yet, there is lack of consensus on how to evaluate and estimate winds and their load effects on buildings.
a. Nationally accepted standards should be developed and implemented for conducting wind tunnel tests, estimating site-specific wind speed and directionality based on available data, and estimating wind loads associated with specific design probabilities from wind tunnel test results and directional wind speed data.
b. Nationally accepted standards should be developed for estimating wind loads in the design of tall buildings. The development of performance standards for estimating wind loads should consider: (1) appropriate load combinations and load factors, including performance criteria for static and dynamic behaviour, based on both ultimate and serviceability limit states; and (2) validation of wind load provisions in prescriptive design standards for tall buildings, given the universally acknowledged use of wind tunnel testing and associated performance criteria. Limitations to the use of prescriptive wind load provisions should be clearly identified in codes and standards.
The standards development work can begin immediately to address many of the above needs. The results of those efforts should be adopted in practice as soon as they become available. The research that will be required to address the remaining needs also should begin immediately and results should be made available for standards development and use in practice. Affected National Standard: ASCE-7. Model Building Codes: The standard should be adopted in model building codes by mandatory reference to, or incorporation of, the latest edition of the standard.
NIST WTC Recommendation 3.
NIST recommends that an appropriate criterion be developed and implemented to enhance the performance of tall buildings by limiting how much they sway under lateral load design conditions (e.g. winds and earthquakes). The stability and safety of tall buildings depend upon, among other factors, the magnitude of building sway or deflection, which tends to increase with building height. Conventional strength-based methods, such as those used in the design of the WTC towers, do not limit deflections. The deflection limit state criterion, which is proposed here is in addition to the stress limit state and serviceability requirement; it should be adopted either to complement the safety provided by conventional strength-based design or independently as an alternate deflection-based approach to the design of tall buildings for life safety. The recommended deflection limit state criterion is independent of the criterion used to ensure occupant comfort, which is met in current practice by limiting accelerations (e.g. in the 15 to 20 milli-g range). Lateral deflections, which already are limited in the design of tall buildings to control damage in earthquake-prone regions, should also be limited in non-seismic areas.*
[ * F-22 Analysis of baseline performance under the original design wind loads indicated that the WTC towers would need to have been between 50 % and 90 % stiffer to achieve a typical drift ratio used in current practice for non-seismic regions, though not required by building codes. Limiting drift would have required increasing exterior column areas in lower stories and/or significant additional damping.]
Affected National standards: ASCE-7, AISC Specifications, and ACI 318. Model Building Codes: The standard should be adopted in model building codes by mandatory reference to, or incorporation of, the latest edition of the standard.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Summit, which was held in Denmark from 7th-19th December 2009 … should be a very loud wake-up call for Europeans. When the ‘real’ political action was taking place towards the end of the Summit … the European Union was out to lunch … nowhere to be seen … irrelevant to global events !!
The Fracture of the 2007 UNFCCC Bali Consensus at the 2009 Copenhagen Summit … the sharp division between the ‘have’s’ and the ‘have-not’s’ of our small planet … signals one more stage in the development of a process which, I believe, began back in September 2003 … when the World Trade Talks collapsed in Cancun, Mexico. At least, that’s when I noticed that the world’s political map was beginning to change dramatically. Geo-political adaptation ?
Anyway … I certainly was not happy with the Balance of the media reporting from Copenhagen. So, I have added Links which will bring news and views directly from other locations …
– Brazil, China, India, Russia, Venezuela, Turkey & Cuba ;
2009-03-06: In August 2008 … I travelled to Bengaluru (Bangalore), in the south of India, to attend a Fire Conference organized by the Fire & Safety Association of India (FSAI).A year earlier, I had been with them in Chennai (Madras), also in the south. My own father, Con, had been a teacher in the north of the country from about 1930 onwards, so I had always wanted to see the country for myself. He was caught there, by the way, during the 2nd World War and could only travel back home, to Ireland, in 1947.
Much to the amusement of local people, the means of transport I decided to use … guaranteeing a vivid experience of the varied local sights, sounds and smells … was an Auto-Rickshaw … a three-wheeled scooter, with an open yellow cab on the back.It is a common form of transport in the large cities of India. This was a serious effort … no messing around in the sealed cocoon of an air-conditioned taxi !
These 2 Photographs were taken during the rush hour traffic, early one morning, in Bengaluru. The roads were jammed solid with traffic … every type of vehicle … crawling along at a snail’s pace.The driver of my Auto-Rickshaw was bent over the handlebars … always coughing … heaving a loud, jagged-rough, deep cough …
The reason for his coughing … you can see an actual pollution haze to the right of the frame below … a haze so thick, that it almost had to be parted with your hands in order to see ahead …
This is the reality of everyday life on the ground in one of the economically more advanced ‘developing’ countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa (BRICS) – where far too many people are chasing the dream of our reality in Europe … a reality created from the plunder, over hundreds of years, of those same ‘developing’ countries.
This is why the European Union must lead by ‘real’ example when it comes to Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation.But, is it ‘real’ ????
This is why Ireland must begin to properly face up to its responsibilities under Kyoto I, the EU 2020 Targets, and a probable Kyoto II International Agreement to be finalized in Copenhagen towards the end of 2009.
This is why the United States of America must stop prancing around our fragile planet like a spoiled, immature child … and engage seriously with the rest of us.We have lost all patience !
On 28th January 2009, the European Commission issued COM(2009) 39 final …
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee & the Committee of the Regions – Towards a Comprehensive Climate Change Agreement in Copenhagen.
On Page 2 of the Communication, the Executive Summary commences …
‘ The successful conclusion of the international climate change negotiations in Copenhagen at the end of 2009 is a key priority for the European Union (EU).Now that the Climate & Energy package has been adopted, the EU must step up its contacts with third Countries, both in the UN context and beyond.’
A paragraph later, it continues …
‘ In order to limit the global average temperature increase to not more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, developed countries as a group should reduce their emissions to 30% below 1990 levels in 2020. The EU has set the example by committing to a 20% reduction in its emissions compared to 1990 levels by 2020, irrespective of whether or not an international agreement is concluded. This is by far the most ambitious commitment by any country or group of countries in the world for the post-2012 period.
The EU is willing to go further and sign up to a 30% reduction target in the context of a sufficiently ambitious and comprehensive international agreement that provides for comparable reductions by other developed countries, and appropriate actions by developing countries. Developing countries as a group should limit the growth of their emissions to 15-30% below business as usual.’